It’s been 3 months since I moved my nomadic life back to Buckinghamshire and not one day goes by that I’m not reminded of, think about, miss or crave Paris at least once. I always feel the most creative during the petites heures du matin, so I decided to write a few words, brought to life by some of my favourite moments caught on camera throughout my year here. A lot of this is personal memories or even satirical comments I may have said to myself at one time or another (remember, I lived alone haha) so it may be unrelatable but it’s okay, it’s more for me to look back on than anything else – as is a lot of what I write in this blog. I hope you all appreciate it just the same…
Move here, a mere 20 year old British girl, on your own.
Cry your eyes out as you hug your family and friends goodbye, then laugh about it hours later as you see the Eiffel tower coming in to land and you realise everything will be okay.
Discover the cruel, disorientating and emotional world of Paris real estate. End up having to fork out an obscene amount of money on something called “agency fees”. Cry a little as you hand over your 2 months’ rent + security deposit but remind yourself that you’re so happy to be here. Picture yourself living in a bel apartment several storeys away from the bustling street below which you can gaze down on disdainfully from your balcony, eyeing the Eiffel tower in the distance. [End up hearing a lot of honking cars at 8am and live directly above a kebab shop instead, in no clear sight of the Tower. Tell yourself it’s okay because it’s still Paris.]
Watch your life go through phases. Spend the first couple of weeks working long hours at your dream job; a blur of “pardon” ‘s and metros and 7am alarm clocks and willing the weekend to come and willing time to speed up until you can see your family. And then before you know it it’s April and you’ve only got 2 weeks left and you don’t want to leave.
Spend the first couple of weeks googling “romantic walks for one” as you acknowledge there’s no one else to take advantage of the beautiful weather with you.
Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive Paris is, how when you walk out the door, €20 immediately gets deleted from your purse. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in the centre of Paris. You sneer at those with a postcode that doesn’t begin 75.
Adorn your apartment with posters and photos and gig tickets and metro billets so that everywhere you look, every wall has an imprint of a memory.
Go out for cheap wine in the Latin Quarter because the Internet told you so. Fall in love with a boat bar where you can smoke and drink and dance the night away until 6am. Walk over the Seine bridge as the sun’s coming up to grab the morning métro home and feel like this is where your life is really coming together.
Meet guys on a night out who will be your friend for the first couple of weeks. They’ll try and help you transition into city life when really all you want them for is to make up the numbers when you have friends visiting. They’ll take you to strange bars in the 18e but it’s okay, because once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.
Spend hours perusing the aisles of Monoprix / Carrefour / Marché Franprix because you get lost in the local Tescos let alone in foreign aisles. Spot a lone jar of Marmite and well up because you’d forgotten such wonders existed. Accidentally buy a bottle of red cap, full fat milk because the milk cap custom from the UK is lost somewhere across la manche.
Eat a dodgy crepe but tell yourself it tastes amazing because it’s made in Paris. Do the same thing with wine and macarons (which, aside from the pretty colours, you don’t see what all the fuss is about.)
Buy a trench coat because everyone wears one here and you’ll do whatever you can to blend in.
Lose yourself by exploring various quartiers on foot, their different rhythms and their luxuries and their cafés. Trick yourself into thinking that you know the area really well and then literally lose yourself down a backstreet trying to find your way back.
Encounter a lot of tramps. A lot. At first it will be heart wrenching and jarring but like everything else, they too will become the norm.
Go home for Christmas and run into old friends from school. Have a blasé attitude about it when they tell you how jealous of you they are, but deep down inside, know they have good reason to be.
Go home to the tranquility of Buckinghamshire and feel relieved to be away from the energy and the bustle of the city of lights. Spend the first few days eating and sleeping and talking non-stop, getting back to your routine at home. Spend the last few days fidgety and anxious and ready to get back to her. Realize that Paris has your heart in its hand and isn’t going to let you go.
Certain moments of living in Paris might stick out to you. Like the first time you saw the view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero and it looked so serene like it was almost a fake backdrop. And the sky was so clear and blue as if it were all planned. When your bag got stolen in Stalingrad and you had to break into your apartment and your mum had to bail you out. When you’d drag your sister around Paris at 3am looking for a kebab shop that you know isn’t open. When that lady lent you money at the laverie before you were aware how expensive washing your clothes was. When your boss would perk you up with a Starbucks soya chai latte because she could tell you had that Wednesday slump. When you take an hour and a half detour home to avoid the métro lurkers at 6am. When your best friend comes out to visit you and you nearly cry after 3 weeks of not a single, familiar face. When you eat an incredible meal and you wonder if your palate will ever be the same again. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around and felt like you were a part of it all.
Reflect on your unconditional love you have for the city, because although you had your ups and downs, it will always be the place where you lived, and survived, on your own abroad for a year.
When you leave Paris, this will probably be the only time that you live here. Eventually your trip will seem so far away and sometimes you’ll even wonder if it really happened. Don’t worry. It did.
Paris tu me manques