10 days down and I’m already living like a Parisian. I know where the 10 metro connects to the 12 and where there’s a 50 cent café machine in select buildings. I know how to order food in French and how to navigate crowds of tourists. I know the places that are gluten-free friendly and I know that they are few and far between. (I also know that it’s excruciatingly difficult to walk past a patisserie every 10 meters when you have Celiac Disease.)
Of course, 10 days isn’t enough to know everything. I still get lost every 10 seconds, I only understand about 10% of what is being said to me, and I have to pronounce things 10 times over before I am understood myself. Nonetheless, I’ve had 10 days of continuous adventure.
My travel partner and fellow dancer, Jess and I arrived early in Paris to combat the dreaded jet-lag. We stayed at a hostel just around the corner from the residence we are situated at for the duration of the program. Free breakfast, a cheery staff, and a quaint, residential area—I would do it again. Even if the breakfast was laden with gluten and I fell down every single wooden, spiraling stair-step in that establishment, I would do it again. You know, I kinda miss those morning hot chocolates and the flashy fish and flower paper that bordered the walls. But then again, this is kinda the view from my room now:
Jess and I used our downtime to be both tourists and explorers. Thanks to Lonely Planet, not only did we witness the sights and sounds that attract thousands of people daily (like the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles), we discovered the hidden gems of Paris that only seasoned locals seem to frequent. We (along with two other dance majors, Natalie and Katrina) embarked on the “Literary Walk” and journeyed to the places where James Joyce finished Ulysses, where Earnest Hemingway lived from 1921 to 1925, where George Orwell stayed for a time and chronicled in Down and Out in Paris and London, and where Jack Kerouac favored dwelling in the 1950’s. We also tried to find the Shakespeare & Company bookshop at 12 rue de l’Odéon that Hemingway wrote so passionately about in A Moveable Feast, only to learn that 12 rue d l’Odéon ceased to exist during World War II. (We found the actual bookstore, relocated to 37 rue de la Bûcherie, the following day where we scribed anonymous letters to be placed inside the books of global recipients.)
But we didn’t stop there. We enjoyed tea time in the Mosque of Paris (possibly the best honey-sweetened mint tea I’ve ever tasted), we ate the color purple next to “The Thinker” at the Rodin museum, we visited a Japanese synagogue-turned-French cinema and delighted in Brasserie eats in its secluded bamboo gardens, and we ate crêpes in the loft of an all mosaic cavern restaurant. (I never truly realized how gustatory our escapades have been.)
I knocked some items off my “Somewhat Atypical Study Abroad Bucket List” too. I most definitely gawked at the “Lady and the Unicorn” Tapestries at the Cluny Museum (fo freeeee). In fact, I entered that dimly lit gallery four times: once to look, once to sit, once to read, and once to take a selfie. I also ate chips and guacamole outside the Chateau de Versailles (an optimal recovery meal after my ballet class in the Hall of Mirrors). While it wasn’t cake, it was a meal fit for a queen. Lastly, I’ve totaled 13 cafés and cappuccinos during my stay thus far. Does that qualify as an embarrassing amount?
On a more recent adventure, Jess and I ventured to the bank of the Seine where we were briefly approached by some French men on their way to celebrate a job promotion. Upon leaving, one of the men complimented my freckles. Conveniently forgetting the French word for “thank you”, I politely smiled and nodded. To which he responded, “don’t be weird.” He disappeared into the night but I remained on my cobble stone ledge and thought; weird is what sent me on a wild goose chase for a book store that closed in 1940, weird is what compelled me to purchase a scoop of “Violet” at a museum, weird is what placed me in a plush red seat of an empty theater, weird is what made me tear up in the presence of Vaslov Nijinsky’s grave, weird is what brought me to my knees in front of a two-dimensional medieval unicorn. If for one second I took that man’s advice and was not weird, I would not be nearly as gratified as I am right now.
So if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 10 days in a foreign country, it’s: be courteous, be respectful, be polite, be aware, be conscious, be reverent, be smart, be kind, be caring, be calm, be cool, be collected…but above all else, be weird.
(P.S. More things dance related in posts to come!)