IN PARIS WITH YOU

Last weekend I visited one of my best friends in Paris, where she is now living and working for the second half of her year abroad. I think it’s pretty self-evident that my experience in Paris would have been far different and let’s face it, so much better had our terms in Paris coincided. One of the main problems that I faced in Paris was loneliness, making friends and even having enough confidence to leave my room some days. I can say without a doubt that having the bubbly, sociable butterfly that is Roz Farr there with me would have fixed all of these troubles and Paris would have been much more successful for me in different ways than it perhaps was. Anyway, enough of that and let’s get onto my little weekend break and how Paris compares as a tourist to as a demi-resident / billy-no-mates who can’t afford anything after a weekly shop and a takeout coffee nor can they really communicate very well with anybody, not that there’s anybody to communicate with etc, etc.

10 / 3 / 2018

So here’s a little about my cheeky weekend away in the city of lurrve with my best mate. I arrived at 15.30 on Saturday 10th March after a 6 hour Flixbus from Lyon. After a little miscommunication, we were finally reunited (hurrah!) and headed straight to take some cute pics on the most instagrammable street I’ve ever seen in my life, Rue Crémieux.

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Roz @ Rue Crémieux
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Dream Home

This was swiftly followed by a quick stop at the Bastille en route to a pre-dinner freshen up. We had already chosen our supper destination based on Trip Advisor reviews and mouth-watering instragrams under #eastmamma and #bigmammagroup. Nothing was exaggerated, the truffle pasta was indeed to die for and we shared a lovely bottle of wine. Get there early, especially if you’re headed there on a Saturday like us because you will have to queue to be seated or even to be put on the bookings for later that evening.

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Roz w/ food & wine @ East Mamma

 

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Me w/ wine @ East Mamma
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LA PÂTE À LA TRUFFE  @ EAST MAMMA

11 / 3 / 2018

We used Sunday as our main tourist-y day and set out to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, perfect photo opportunities on a sunny day (it’s got to be done) and the Parc du Champ-de-Mars being an ideal lunch spot for a little Sunday picnic.

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Roz & Tour Eiffel
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The 80s called and they’d like my denim suit back. Tant pis!
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Very happy Roz w/ picnic
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Me w/ picnic

Our picnic spot was also the sight of my first ever real-life encounter with the well known, French cliché “c’est la vie”, though it was under slightly different circumstances than one might expect. The gentleman’s dog had decided that our picnic spot was better suited as his toilet.

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Roz w/ Arc de Triomphe
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Me @ Arc de Triomphe
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And again.
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Roz @ Arc de Triomphe 2.0
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Looking like a Cool Coffee Mom

We spent the early evening at a café listening to some very cool jazz and got Chinese food a little later on (an experience in itself), before heading back to bed and booking a holiday to Palermo with our dear friend Emma! Although I’m  feeling that holiday hangover / weekend blues on this Tuesday evening before an early start tomorrow, I had an absolute blast this weekend AND my dad is visiting me this week! We’re even off to Geneva on Saturday, so deffo stay tuned for that – I hear it’s great.

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STUDENT NIGHT OUT: Cardiff VS. Paris

Hourra! c’est le weekend!

I think that if any Cardiff University student is doing uni right, even if they don’t want to admit it and somewhat without their noticing, they themselves have become a connoisseur of a night out Cardiff-style. However, the same cannot be said for my partying habits in France thus far. I have been “out out” a grand total of twice. So, perhaps I am under qualified, even completely unqualified to type about the differences of a Cardiff student night out vs. a Paris student night out, but here goes regardless. These are five things I did note.

ONE: Girls aren’t pally in the loo. As with all the other points about to be made, I learnt this one from experience. Drunken compliments aren’t readily accepted, there are no drunken compliments to be received and there are certainly no toilet selfie / group shot opportunities to be taken advantage of as there are in the bathrooms of Blighty.

TWO: Every night out, even as a non-smoker, consists of several trips to the smoking area, especially in the Cardiff SU. Whether it’s to find old friends, make new ones, for the half-fresh air or the scheduled regroup and gal chat, there will be trips to “smokers”. Fumoirs (or smoking rooms) make this trip smelly, suffocating and aren’t even all that sociable.

THREE: Cardiff is cheap as Chip Alley. You will realise this more than you ever have and more than you ever will again as a student in Paris, day and night. In all fairness, this probably hasn’t been helped by the pre-drinking sessions held in bars, rather than in somebody’s grimy living room.

FOUR: Drunk food sucks. Who wants a bloody crêpe for the journey home? Not me that’s for sure. Anybody who knows me, also knows that I’m all about the cheesy chips (cheese and onion pasty and pickled onion are favourable add-ons, though not necessary. Miss u Abdul, c u next week).

FIVE: Speaking of the journey home, it’s a trek and a half for me from the centre of Paris at nighttime. So, not only is there no nipping past Family Fish Bar on the way back from the SU, there’s no “nipping” anywhere.

SIX: A club pic is a club pic. . .

22770777_1514494675266180_346558237837642731_oYOLO (lash) @ Cardiff University Students’ Union

21768799_1654657731275242_6435886014820733356_oKiss My Erasmus @ Café Oz Chatelet

BOIS de BOULOGNE: Ladies of the Day

Call me naïve, a country bumpkin. Call me what you will. But until today, prostitution was an almost abstract idea. A practice confined to BBC Three documentaries, the windows of Amsterdam and 19th century French literature. One is never really exposed to much of the sex industry in the sleepy border villages of home. When I say “never really” I mean not, and when I say “not much of” I mean none at all.

I like to think I’m fairly street smart even savvy (notwithstanding innate irrational fears and barely leaving my room after dark) but I was shocked. Completely stunned in fact. In my defence, it was hardly a subtle realisation or first encounter. It was more of a bare arse cheeked, perspex pleaser heeled and suspendered kind of realisation or first encounter. You know the sort?Two of the first three Google reviews on the Bois de Boulogne mention what a great place it is for the whole family to hang out in so again, in all fairness, I feel like I was right to be a little taken aback by the roadside “butt naked” lady of the . . . absolute broad daylight. A couple of further sightings of scantily-clad ladies, multiple parked-up white vans and a quick Google search of “Bois de Boulogne prostitutes” later and I was ever so slightly less in the dark about what on earth was going on around me. Vice was quick to inform in the following article, boldly titled in true Vice style but insightful, “Paris’ Prostitutes and Their Fabulous Trucks” (https://www.vice.com/prostitutes-trucks-bois-de-boulogne) that the park, steeped rich in a history of sex work was well known to Parisians as a modern day, ongoing “red light district”, unlit. I guess I’m not quite there on the Parisienne front, nor will I probably ever be. Having read a Zola and being halfway through Bel-Ami, both of which are social criticisms aligning social downfall with sex and littered with references to the Bois de Boulogne, I feel rather silly and a little as though it was a glaringly obvious fact, in hindsight. It’s a wonderful thing.

It all seemed such a bizarre juxtaposition. Old couples on afternoon strolls, dog walkers, and young picnicking families against a background of not only beautiful, historic woodland but also sex workers, working out of parked vans in the early afternoon. Despite France having passed a law in April of last year in an attempt to push for an end to prostitution and fight against human trafficking, and public solicitation having been outlawed since 2003, the roadside business went somewhat unnoticed by the old couples, dog walkers and young families and only really seemed daunting and bizarre to me, the bumpkin Brit abroad. Perhaps this non-reaction completely vouches for the age-old concept that the French are the most sexually liberal Europeans and have vastly different social constructs entirely when it comes to sex. On the other hand, maybe it only goes as far as to prove that I am naïve and not even a tiny bit street smart nor savvy.

Of course, the entire social and ethical issue of prostitution and sex trafficking is absolutely infinite, often so gravely serious and dangerous, that I by no means think this post does any more than scratch at the surface. However, today’s outing and experience really did get me thinking and even interested in looking much further into the subject of the “world’s oldest profession”, its history and modern day manifestations. So much so in fact that it may become the subject of my first “Year Abroad Project” to send back to Cardiff. If my plan is deemed academic enough, I think I could make it work.

 

YEAR ABROAD : FIRST WEEKS IN PARIS / STRUGGLES & OBSERVATIONS

This one’s really for those of you who may be embarking on a year abroad in the near future. If you’re not, you’re all welcome too I guess.

Ok, so I’m not here to tell you it’s all going to be terrible but I am going to be brutally honest about a few of the struggles I had upon my arrival in Paris and during my first couple of weeks here. Before you get reading, start worrying and over thinking, it’s not all doom and gloom and of course, it does and will improve exponentially throughout the year and then no doubt, settling back in for fourth year at Cardiff will be the next challenge! The plan here is also to throw in a few little cultural observations I’ve made at the end, so don’t get too disheartened and do carry on reading!

TRANSPORT

As with moving to any new city, getting about the place is one of the first hurdles you will encounter. Therefore, public transport must be at the top of your to-do list upon arrival. Having lived fairly rurally back home, I have driven myself everywhere since the age of 17 and in Cardiff, as I’m sure you are all by now aware, everywhere is within walking distance. Of course, I have used the tube, and various other forms of public transport when travelling, but it has never been part of my everyday. If like me, you also have a dodgy sense of direction, Apple / Google Maps or Citymapper will become your new best pal. Once you have your daily commute down, the rest (including all of the getting lost) becomes exploring. The cost of public transportation is obviously city dependant but I would advise looking into some kind of travel pass (e.g. Navigo card in Paris) to make this aspect of your year abroad life as economic as possible.

HOUSING

Accommodation was my top pre-departure concern. I had somewhat underestimated how difficult it would be to find somewhere even remotely affordable in central Paris. This has resulted in me living in a semi-suburban Air B&B room in a shared flat, which is working out well for the most part but has left me a little further away from other students than I would have perhaps liked and will definitely look for in Lyon. Thus, be organised and start looking for somewhere to live ASAP. It can be a little scary when you’re on the verge of homelessness just days before your flight but if it comes to that, remember there are always temporary options and it could be easier to find somewhere once you’re actually in your new country.

EXPENSES

Moving from the Welsh capital to the French, there has certainly been a jump in expenses so your finances are another boring adult measure to bear in mind. I’ve been learning the hard way thus far.

LANGUAGE & CULTURE

Now for the language barrier. This one was of course to be expected. Your target language is going to sound a little different in context and when spoken by your native peers than it has ever done in the confines of a classroom spoken by your numerous teachers over the years. I’ve got all my hopes set on the idea that only time will improve this aspect, practice makes perfect etc. In all honesty, when moving to a major European city the “culture shock” that everybody speaks of isn’t going to be massive, you’ll probably only notice a few little quirks.

BEING LONELY

I read somewhere recently that Paris is known as a lonely city and this reinforcement of something that I had been feeling, in turn made me feel much better about it and changed my outlook on this experience completely. As cliché as it may sound, your year abroad really is a time you can utilise to “find yourself” (as much as I tend to despise the term). Being alone is sometimes something we all need to embrace and self-entertainment, whether it be exploring your new home, studying or reading, is most definitely a valuable skill.

BAGUETTES, BERETS AND BICYCLES

To put all rumours to bed, there aren’t men with handlebar moustaches walking around in striped t-shirts with strings of garlic or onions about their necks. There are however plenty of beret wearing ladies, lots of people on bicycles and people walk around with many a baguette (often nibbled at, as I think I have demonstrated rather well below) under one arm / in an artsy tote bag.

SMOKING

Everybody smokes. Ok, not everybody. But people of every age, on every street corner, are smoking. The smoking break at a nearby office looks to a passer-by somewhat like there has been a fire drill given the amount of people who have left said building.

MILITARY / POLICE PRESENCE

Perhaps it’s coming from a small town into a big city that has made me realise the heightened military and police presence, but armed police literally seem to be everywhere. Like ants on the ground.

NOBODY QUEUES

As much as I hate to make generalisations, nobody in Paris queues and you’ve got to be much more assertive en route to the till or whilst embarking the métro.

GREEN DOESN’T MEAN GO

A green man means proceed with caution not go. Vehicles can (and will) still come at you from the left. This one, fortunately, I haven’t learnt the hard way.

EXPRESSION & EMOTION

People get visibly angry and cry in public. It’s so very un-British.

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MARVELS of MONTMARTRE: Amélie, Dalí & Artist’s Square

Being here two weeks in advance of my classes has had its tribulations.  However, it has also given me plenty of free time to do some exploring. As a hardcore fan of the film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, Montmartre seemed like a natural and obvious place to begin. The endless steps were most definitely rewarded by the spectacular view from the Sacré-Cœur and my fangirl moment outside the Café des 2 Moulins.

7/9/2017 / Amélie Sites

IMG_7403Sacré-Cœur

IMG_7385Misty Parisien Cityscape

IMG_7423Spot the moulin!

IMG_7446Café des 2 Moulins, where Amélie works!

IMG_7448Le Moulin Rouge

 

12/9/2017 / Espace Dalí

Espace Dalí was also on my week “To Do” list. An interest (and to some extent a confusion) in Dalí and the surreal was sparked back in my French Cinema module at Cardiff last year upon watching Un Chien Andalou, a surrealist short film by Dalí and Buñel – definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already seen it! The exhibition is kind of small but in the same way it’s intimate, thus allowing you to get around everything on offer super easily, sculpture and painting alike.

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« Le surrealisme, c’est moi! »

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« L’éternal féminin rend l’homme semblable à un crétin »

 

Artist’s Square

My visit to, and through, Artist’s Square was less orchestrated and was more of a visit en route. I was mesmerised by the artists at work and spent a good half hour walking up and down the line of portrait works, watching. I had absolutely no intention of being painted myself until I was called over by one of the men who didn’t have any work on offer, wanting to paint me “for fun” and not obliging to buy anything. Of course, not having any other plans, I thought why not? I ended up buying the painting.

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In all honesty, the lower half of my face is a little off but I do like it as a painting nonetheless. It also means I’ve got a great little artsy souvenir of my first week in Paris, and my first week as an Erasmus student, forevermore!

YEAR ABROAD : UPON ARRIVAL À PARIS

As a Modern Foreign Languages student, my degree involves an Erasmus year abroad study or work placement in this, my third year. I have just arrived in Paris and quite frankly, that’s both so very exciting and absolutely terrifying all at the same time. Until very recently my year abroad has seemed like a distant, abstract idea. It has done for years.

But now it’s here and let’s face it, shit got real.

When I started the application process from Cardiff earlier this year, I felt a shift in my apprehension surrounding the move. I had been utterly petrified for months, but it started to seem a bit silly fearing something that I’d not only signed myself up for but something that is ultimately, by all accounts, set to be the best year of my life. However, in all honesty this positivity didn’t last for long and I dreaded it again all summer long.

Over the course of last Autumn semester we had several presentations on the subject of our year abroad from financing to destination choices and I subsequently sent in my preference form for approval and consideration. My first choice had been Lyon, my second was Paris and my third, Belgium. I had chosen to study. After all, the rest of my life is for proper work, eh? After a meeting regarding my choices, I was placed in Paris for the Autumn semester (September – December 2017) and Lyon for the Spring semester (January – May 2018). Although I only study one language and should therefore only have one placement, I am super happy that I get to switch it up a bit post Christmas like all my dual-honours, two language buddies.

Anyway, I thought I’d touch base in hopes of sharing the whole process from conception, and ultimately throughout its fruition. Let’s leave it for now with the motto used by the city of Paris for centuries; FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR which relates to the idea that she has been “tossed by the waves but does not sink”.  And hell, as Paris is surrounded by cliché let’s also hope that whatever kind of waves Paris has got in store for me that I don’t bloody sink either.

P.S. I can see the Eiffel Tower from my bed!

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