Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You sound like you're from London

Home away from home. That’s how I would describe my weekend. Spending less than two full days in London reminded me of the life I left back in December.

Friday morning: Travel time
Per my usual self, its a race against time to get everything in order before my 11 a.m. train to London. After almost an hour of trying to print my train ticket, I hurriedly jammed a dress or two, a pair of black skinny jeans and a toothbrush into my weekend bag making sure to leave room for any purchases I will undoubtedly make at Topshop. There are so many thoughts running through my head as I prepare for my trip. The truth is I am more excited about seeing old friends than about visiting the city itself. So with a half empty bag and a whole heart, I'm out the door and on a train to St. Pancras station.
As I sit in a window seat, I look out to freshly snow covered plains and freezing grape vines. Living in Paris, it’s easy to forget how much more there is to France outside of its capital. As I look out the window, I make plans to spend a weekend in the countryside near the water. But that has to wait. For now I’m off to Londontown.

Friday afternoon: 'Ello poppit
London is very different from Paris or the States. It’s kind of a funny city actually. When I hear the woman overhead in the tube say “Picadilly Line, mind the gap” I think I’m in a Harry Potter movie. I expect her to say “Sixth floor, Department of Mysteries,” but she never does.
I arrive at the Boston University dorms in Kensington barely three hours after leaving Paris. My friends are anxiously awaiting my arrival and bombard me with hugs at the front door. We monopolize the front entrance hugging and laughing because our excitement cripples our ability to multitask. I didn’t realize just how much missed the beautiful faces of my best friends until I saw them.
After a solid ten minutes of hugging and chatting, as all girlfriends do, we finally step out of the entryway and into the kitchen for a quick bite. I sip on coffee as the other girls recount their Thursday night. We seven girls sit around the kitchen table excitedly talking over each other just like back at home. For the first time since coming abroad, I am reminded of the Boston I left.

Friday afternoon: I can't be stopped
Topshop. All Saints. Topshop. Don't even get me started...

Friday night: The London Bridge is falling down
I slip into my new beaded white crop top from Topshop before making myself a Gin and Tonic to start off the night. My go-to drink is even more fitting tonight. When in London right? The London girls inform me that we're going to a drum and bass club tonight. Um okay? Usually clubbing isn't my scene but again, when in London...
My friends and I make our way down to South London and find ourselves walking under the arches of the London Bridge. We find the club, built into the stone-walled arches of the bridge, with dozens of people huddled near the door. You can hear the bass pounding from 20 feet away.
After a short wait, a lazy security check, and an expensive cover charge, we make our way inside. The interior of the club isn't much different looking than exterior. The stone walls deepen the grimy underground look that the club was going for. The two dance floors are crowded with people following the beat of the overpowering bass. This place is not for the lighthearted tourist looking for a generic night, which is what makes it even better.
Now usually, I don't dance. I just don't. My awkward, neurotic personality does not translate well onto the dance floor. But tonight, everyone is on their own dance floor doing whatever they want and moving in whatever way feels right. I find myself letting loose--a rarity, as one of my friends pointed out the next morning. By the end of the night I'm on the bass speakers dancing freely to the heavy beats and watching the chaos from above.
In the early hours of the morning, the girls and I call it a night. We run down the arches of the London Bridge, half-deaf from hours of dubstep resonating in our ears and infiltrating our brains. When we get home, the girls fall like dominos into their respective beds and I doze off to a continuous humming in my ears.

Saturday afternoon: Roaming evocative streets
“You’ll like this place,” my friend told me. “It’s very you.” Instead of going to Portobello Market with the rest of my girlfriends, I boycott the generic tourist destination and flee to the seedier outskirts of London with my British friend. Needing more time to recuperate from last night’s marathon, we don’t set out until mid-afternoon.
As I step of the Camden Town tube stop and into the fading daylight, I am once again reminded of home. This time it's a different home: San Francisco. Camden Market reminds me of a combination of Haight Street and the Mission, a little touristy, a tad dirty, and very eclectic. Stores selling records, punk clothes, and rave paraphernalia litter Camden High Street. I bought a double LP at a record store for 3£ by some british band I made sure I didn't know. Some people collect shot glasses as souvenirs, I collect records.
My friend and I walk down the bustling main street, full of people who would fit in very well in San Francisco. My nostalgia has me wondering further down the street as the sun sets and the cold winter night begins, so my friend and I grab a pint to warm up before heading home.

Saturday night: Pints on pints on pints
It is common knowledge within the group of girls that tonight is going to be a calmer night. So we go to O'Neills pub in Soho, a four floor Irish pub right off Piccadilly Circus. While last night was one aspect of London nightlife, tonight is a different one. I spend most of the night on the fourth floor terrace drinking pints of Caffrey's and London Pride, while keeping warm next to the heater and making friends with a crew of Irish boys.
Despite our initial plans to call it an early night, my friends and I make it home later than planned and stay up for another couple of hours, talking around the kitchen table. We cook pasta and eat chips, just like any regular night back in Boston. We stay up because we know that if we fall asleep the weekend will be over.

Sunday morning: Goodbyes
Another late start to the day, due to deep late-night conversations, the crew rolls out of bed and stumbles over to a small british breakfast joint. Everyone has the tell-tale signs of an exhaustive weekend: oversized sweaters, bar stamps on each hand, and blood-shot eyes. We piece together the weekend over plates of huevos rancheros.
After paying the bill, we drag our feet out the restaurant door and towards the tube station trying to prolong our time together. But the time finally comes for us to part ways. As much as we wish it wasn't, time is ticking and I'm running late for my train.
The goodbyes ensue. I maintain that this is not a goodbye but a "see ya later." As I give my last goodbye hug, I wipe a tear from one of my friend's faces. We all know it's ridiculous of her to be crying, but we understand that this weekend has meant more to us than every other weekend abroad so far. With that in mind, I head off to my train, with a heavy bag and a heavy heart.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

La gourmande

I used to pride myself in having a baby sweet tooth, craving the occasional cookie or brownie after dinner. Sweets were never my first choice. I'd grab the cheeseburger over the chocolate cake. But this baby sweet tooth has evolved into a full on grill à la Lil Wayne. I stop at every boulangerie and patisserie window I pass by--which is conveniently at every corner--drooling over the fruit tarts and fondants au chocolat.

Carbs. The food group that I used to run away from like the plague is now my primary food group. And when I say carbs I mean baguettes. And pains au chocolat. And viennoises au chocolat (essentially just a sweet baguette with chocolat chips. Healthy I know.) I am perpetually craving bread. It must be in the air, like the French breathe bread-insfused oxygen. Well, it is in the air. When I leave my apartment in the morning I smell the newborn baguettes coming out of the oven of my local boulangerie. When I transfer trains I see the melted chocolate oozing out of the pains au chocolat in the subway café. And when I step out of the metro, I resist the urge to stop by each of the five boulangeries in the two block walk to class.

In a city where galettes are displayed in the front windows of boulangeries calling you from the street, how does one resist? They're like kittens begging to be picked out of the window and taken it home, warming your heart and stomach. Don't be alarmed if I become the crazy galette lady.

Friday, January 27, 2012

College Fashionista in Paris

I was just photographed for College Fashionista. Take a look at the article here

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ma première semaine

My first week in Paris has flown by. This week has landed me in many places, whether it be driving down the Seine on a bateau mouche, cramming in between dozens of bodies on the métro in the morning, hailing a cab at 2am on the Champs Elysées, walking around the Eiffel Tower eating sandwiches with new friends or sitting at a café with old elementary school friends. So much has happened in so little time that I don't even know where to start.

The other day, as I was roaming the aisles of the supermarché somewhere in between the jambon cru and the petits suisses, I found myself reading, "un euro soixante-dix" instead of one "euro seventy". Bizarre. I haven't thought to myself in French since I lived here as a child. Later, as I walked down the wrong street, I said to myself, non, j'ai dû prendre l'autre rue. Again, I stopped to try and comprehend why my thoughts were in this other language.

I think that it might be because I am coming to terms with this new life. I feel comfortable living in a city that to some may seem completely foreign, but to me was once home.

I will admit, the first few days were difficult. I was uneasy with my French, I was apprehensive about meeting new people, and part of me was still back in the States. But after a couple of nights' rest next to Sélénon and the January french Vogue, I found the confidence that I had forgotten.

I now walk like I know where I am going because, well, I now know where I'm going. I step off the métro and no longer awkwardly look left and then right to orient myself. I wear all black. All of the time. I drink red wine with lunch, dinner, and everything in between. And I pick up the daily paper Direct Matin on my way out of the apartment.

Although it has only been a week since I first dragged my jet-lagged self to this place that I now call home, I have high hopes for the next four months. Four months may seem like a long time, but I know that they will come and go in the blink of an eye. I am already beginning to have thoughts of prolonging my stay in Paris. Who knows, four months might turn into the rest of my life!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dites bonjour au petit chat!

This is Sélénon, le petit chat. He is the best kitty in the world. He's such a French cat. In the morning, he drinks milk and and eats baguette with butter. He spends most of his days sleeping in a little ball on the couch near my room. When I come home, he's in the foyer laying on his back waiting for me to scratch his little white tummy. I'm in love.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First day

I thought it all was going to be such a hassle. I thought it would be more difficult. I don't know why but I imagined Charles de Gaulle airport bustling with French families and international businessmen trying at all costs to get to their destination. I thought customs would be a long line of half-asleep Americans and crying babies. I thought my bags were going to be lost and shipped off to Dubai. I thought the Cabernet from Napa I brought as a housewarming gift would break in my suitcase tie-dying my clothes against my will.

Instead, my flight arrived forty minutes early to an empty airport--of course it was empty, France is closed on Sundays. The customs officer smiled politely as he barely looked up from my passport and motioned me to enter the country. I even snagged a baggage carrier so that I wouldn't have to push my suitcases (which, by the way, each weigh as much as a chubby 6-year-old) all the way to the taxi line. And the cab driver only honked at another driver once! La chance!

So after a 55€ taxi ride, I found myself standing on the corner of Rue Chaptal and Rue Blanche, right smack dab in the middle of 9e arrondissement of Paris in front of a large green double door. I entered the building after punching in the code I was given and was greeted by my host family at the second set of doors.

M. et Mme. Auban are very French. A grey haired woman in her late fifties bobbed up and down like a teenage girl at my arrival. Her husband, a tall man with a thin grey mustache that stretches over his crooked smile, calmly took my alarmingly large suitcases and welcomed me into his home, a beautiful apartment built in the 1830s. The walls are all painted white and stretch for miles as they meet the high ceilings at the decorative panels. A chandelier hangs from the large living room. After that, Mme. Auban took the reigns and showed me to my new bedroom, a spacious room with a view of the the salon de thé across the street and the flashing tabac sign above the corner brasserie (I would call it a bar, but doesn't brasserie sound so much fancier?)

She brought me around the neighborhood so as to familiarize myself with the area before my official first day tomorrow. It's still hard to believe that I'm in Paris right now. I keep having to remind myself to pay attention to everything surrounding me. For now, I am jet lagged and I am le tired, so I think I'll have a nap.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Enlightenment in Packing

With less than 36 hours until I plop myself into seat 33A with my ice coffee in one hand and Nyquil in the other, I think it's time to start packing. I have put it off long enough but packing is so stressful. If I'm not worried about forgetting something, I'm worried about bringing too much. There's nothing worse than being half-way across country wondering if you remembered to pack a bathing suit for that one weekend you might spend in Spain, except for maybe arriving in your new home in Paris and realizing that the 25 dresses you've hauled almost 6,000 miles are not going to fit in your matchbox closet.

As I open my closet doors and pick up a couple of items from each drawer--a black and white striped maxi skirt, a pair of high-waisted brown wide legged pants, a flannel shirt, a little black dress etc...--I am reminded of the moments I spent wearing them and the memories that are forever sewn into each garment. The hot summer days dancing in the kitchen. The hectic work hours running along Newbury Street. The cool breezy nights smoking on the porch.

In a sea of clothes, I sit in the middle of my room playing dress up like a five-year-old who has a lunch date with her teddy bear. I meticulously plan countless outfits that I may or may not wear--a slightly annoying habit that does not bode well with my indecisiveness. But after hours of imagining what to wear while running in the Parisian rain, strolling down the Champs Elysées in the springtime, or biking along the Seine, I realize that packing has made me intoxicated with the limitless possibilities during my semester in Paris.

Yes, I do not know what the future holds for me in Paris, but I have this newfound desire to plunge into the unknown that I have feared for some time now. Le désire du grand peut-être. I have this overpowering need for something genuinely unpredictable. I have become all too familiar with familiarity.

So as I haphazardly toss my clothes into my suitcase, I now imagine myself putting on my favorite dress, stepping out into the streets of Paris, and stitching along the seams of my clothes new memories, right next to the old ones. While I may not know what is waiting for me in Paris, I know that at least I will be well dressed.