How I lived in Paris

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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…

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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 foottheir 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

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Un Jour à Paris

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Wake up feeling refreshed after a long sleep. Appreciate that this was your first lie in on a Monday morning in 8 months. Take several hours getting dressed dancing around in your apartment to David Bowie. Perhaps today might be the rare occasion that you can nicely style your hair? Resign yourself to the fact that your hair will look messy regardless of time spent preening it. Pack sunglasses, novel and Navigo in your satchel and head out the door. Jump on the metro and remember to grab the Direct Matin. Read up about les manifs that made you take a 30 minute detour the night before to your chosen destination. Jump off at Hotel de Ville for an exhibition which you spend less time inside than you did outside queuing for it. Enjoy feeling cultured nevertheless and feel relieved that at least it is not raining. Thank Steve Jobs silently for a phone that can also guise as a camera. Snap a couple of photos sneakily under the prying eyes of security. Peruse the books on offer at the gift shop before settling for a couple of postcards at just one euro each. Besides, the books would be mainly for show on your coffee table anyway…

Exit and walk along the river bank of the Seine and enjoy the view. Head towards Ile Saint Louis and wonder why it’s so quiet. Affirm that you prefer Ile Notre Dame for its bustle than the latter. Sit down in the same park that you sat in the same day that your mum left you in this diverse city. Reflect how much you’ve changed and be grateful for your year abroad experience, all of its ups and its downs. Watch an alpha pigeon peacocking a potential mate. Grudgingly notice that the plumes of the pigeons are really rather pretty in the sunlight. Blame the sunshine for this positive outlook.

Jump on the metro again to Montmartre. Order your favourite salad at your favourite resto with your favourite friends. Take them to the chocolate museum where a cocoa covered Notre Dame now stands where the increasingly disintegrating chocolate Eiffel Tower once stood. Check your reflection in the glass cube that now surrounds it. Bloody [hungry] tourists.

Feel thirsty so head to a place on the street corner. Feel ashamed of the neighbouring Americans who nonchalantly order the waiter in English without any attempt to speak the language. Sit in the sunshine with the book your colleague published wishing you could write as well as she. Suppress the Brit in you craving a pint of Pimms and instead order a café noisette. Realise much of your day has been governed by the sunshine.

Walk downhill to the metro and ignore the various chides of Hello, Ni hao, Hola and even Bonjour from the men you pass. Wonder why they thought you were French then acknowledge that you’re dressed in black and white. Again. Catch line 4 and get acquainted with everyone’s personal smell more intimately than you would have liked. Walk along your road and smile your habitual hello at the street veg vendeur. He wonders why you’re not passing him at 6.45pm as usual like every weekday.

Collapse at home and kick off your heels. Ponder how Carrie Bradshaw runs around several inches taller all day everyday. Realise you should really use this time to advance on your Journal de Bord. Dismiss being sensible and write this post instead. 8 days to go.

A Lesson on Friendship and Fashion

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As sorority women, it’s our obvious nature to align ourselves with girls and what’s more – to have more girl friends than guy mates. The friendship recruitment process is murky water to navigate; an experience that is prone to blood (tears) being shed and one that you are forced to grapple with from a very young age with little to no life lessons. There are the unwritten rules in friendships, you see: it is only life that has trained us to gradually learn who are the girls we want to be compatible with, and conversely, not. Right from the Year 2 playground spats of “you’re stealing her away from me”  (in this instance, I was the popular ‘her’ being fought over), to dreading P.E lessons in Year 6 as your selection of potential partners were few and far between (ahem, none), to physically sitting girls down in high school to discuss the longevity of their future in your clique (for this I blame the untimely arrival of Mean Girls, which in its wake stirred a Mean Girl within all of us). So  it is safe to say I’ve experienced the vast, colourful and mostly unpretty spectrum of Girl World.  I like to think that now, after 21 years and a true veteran in the friendship battle field, I have learnt how to just about get along, side-step all dramas, to shy away from the ones that will hurt you and put time and effort into the ones you don’t want to lose.

Having come out the other side, this is not to say cattiness does not still infiltrate my life from time to time. Notably last month, when an old friend text me out of the blue not to exchange pleasantries and catch up, but to insult me and accuse me of fundamentally changing as the person I once was, into the fake, judgemental and fashion-conscious person that I supposedly am today. Hearing that hurt. But her grounds for saying them based on a deluge of judgements (pot, kettle, black) about me that were wholly untrue were what made me most outraged.

Fashion is hardly the breeding ground for friendships. I know. Through talks with colleagues and through my personal experience working in Paris for 8 months, I can confirm that the devils wearing Prada and the Anna Wintours of the world do, indeed, not only exist, but here thriveIn an environment where the shoes you wear on your feet are judged long before the words coming out of your mouth, it can be easy to get swept along in this pretentiously preened sartorial bubble that floats above the lowly professions of less glamorous jobs below.

But that is not to say that we all partake in it. Or that this loftiness holds any truth in it at all. I was determined to work in a fashion company, but not because I love to buy clothes (which I do) or because I hope to make it as a model (which I don’t, but wouldn’t complain, mind…) For me, it was through my love of writing and blogging about trends that attracted me, and something I have been cultivating for well over a year now with my various writing outlets. Through this, I was successful in attaining an internship in trend forecasting in the editorial department, a role in which I work hard at everyday. For this, I am proud of myself. But does this make me a bad person?? Look at the Leandra’s, Bip’s and Susie’s of the world. In this current climate, the fashion industry is no longer only reserved to the upper dwellers and podium catwalks, but instead the street style and blogging websites from the girls-next-door. They are the ones fuelling the fashion dialogue. Their front-row squatting photos are inspiring, their pithy words are the Holy Grail and they are successful because authenticity bleeds through. They are real girls interacting with real fashion. Therefore, is it not natural that we would also try to emulate this in the hope that we too can carve our own gold stud-laden path? Guilty, yes, of the odd fashion catwalk image posted here or the mirror shot of our #ootd (outfit of the day) Instagram’d there. But that is not fair grounds to peg us as “body conscious”, “judgemental” and “arrogant” simply because we work in fashion.

While on your year abroad, you start to find out who your true friends are. The kind that will make an effort to keep in touch with you no matter how busy both your schedules are, and the ones that you can slot straight back to normal with despite being months (and 340km) apart. An upsetting experience though falling out with her was, perhaps it is natural, even inevitable, for you to prune your social circle as you move through adulthood. My only logic was to put it down to jealousy, and although it is a natural trait within all of us, you don’t expect to hear it – or for it to ultimately severe – your relationships with your friends.  I’ve reached a maturity and self assurance in my life where I have a degree of clarity about which friends deserve my full attention and those who do not. Because I’m not trying friends on for size anymore. I know what I want, I’ve got the friends that count, and I’m ready to walk out the shop.

A Happy 2013!

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Happy Christmas and a Happy (belated) New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely time celebrating. I went back to London for 10 days and it was great to spend a lot of time with my family and Dan, eating LOTS of food and being spoilt! There’s nothing quite like home comforts. I was very happy with my presents that I gave/received also: for me I got books, socks, perfume, rings, nail varnish, clothes and a Mulberry purse from Dan! I was over the moon, the boy did good. For New Year’s, Dan and his friends threw a party for everyone, borrowing PA systems, DJ decks, hiring bouncers, wristbands, and decking out a venue in town. They joked that it was much like a grown up school disco, which is actually, embarassingly accurate! Except perhaps without the worrisome parents lurking on.

For me, the New Year always brings excitement. It’s like a fresh, blank page for you to start anew and to carry on bettering yourself. On reflection of 2012, I’ve had an absolutely amazing year packed with things that I wish to continue on into 2013. I went on holiday to Amsterdam, Paris and Italy with Dan, and to Brussels to see my friend Sophie as well. It took a lot of hard work of saving which all paid (pun) off in the end with three incredible trips under my belt – especially completing my dream of exploring Italy! So one of my resolutions for 2013 is to work hardsave and enjoy even more holidays this year. With a week in New York for my 21st birthday already booked, a potential festival abroad & vacation with my family to Singapore, I feel like this might be achieved!

Another of my resolutions of 2012 was to see as much live music as possible. I always seem to find out about tours AFTER all the tickets are sold, or think that the money could be better spent on, say, a pair of shoes. But being so close to London as well as living in Sheffield during term time, I wanted to make the conscious effort to see more music. Not going to a festival last summer was my one regret and don’t think I did as well as I’d hoped…!

Ben Howard @ Leeds Met Student Union 28th February  2012

Noah & The Whale @ O2 Academy Sheffield, March 22nd 2012

Kiddo @ Le Zebre de Belleville Paris, 17th September 2012

Flight Facilities Frequently Flying Tour @ Le Social Club Paris 3rd November 2012

No Doubt @ Maison de la Mutualité 6th November 2012

Florence & The Machine w/ Spector @ Paris Zénith, 27th November 2012

Another goal I said to myself at the start of last year was to secure my dream internship, move to Paris and to make the most of living there. I’m happy to say I have managed to achieve all three! Interning in the fashion industry, living in a sweet little apartment and having fun with all my friends means that these last four months have just flown by! I am now exactly half way through my year abroad, and I still feel like I’m nowhere near to achieving everything I want to have by the time I leave. The first period was more a ‘settling in’ time and getting to know the city. I’m constantly adding to my Bucket List of things I want to have seen and done, which is a good way of measuring how successful I am at achieving this. So my third resolution is to be even more adventurous and say ‘yes’ to everything.I don’t want to leave at the end of April and think, “Did I really experiment/visit/try/eat everything I could have?” Because before all too long I will be packing up my things and flying home!

Another goal for 2013 is to be more organised, and to write moreI want to be updating this site about once a week which I hope I can keep up for the whole year! I enjoy writing, even if I feel like I’m just writing to myself half the time, and I’m thinking more and more that it might feature as, or part of, my career when I’m older. Who knows…

And finally, my last aim (along with everyone and their cat) is to be healthier and happier. Recently, I’ve become much more aware of what I’m putting in my body and how that makes me feel, i.e eating a greasy burger the morning after the night before always tastes amazing but makes my hangover 10x worse! At work I’ve been drinking a lot of green and herbal tea and I can massively feel the difference in my energy levels and concentration throughout the day. I have also found that eating a lot of (the dreaded) carbs can make me feel sluggish and bloated, so this year I want to be more conscious of what I’m feeding myself and my diet. Maybe even work out a bit! (… That does not count as ‘in writing’.)

What are you dreaming of achieving this year?

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“Et que demain si j’ai des petits, je veux qu’ils soient heureux dans la vie.” Jacques Dutronc

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While I’m abroad, why not make the most of being able to hop over to other European neighbours? And so it happened that I visited my friend, Sophie, in Brussels for a short weekend away. What can sometimes happen boarding a train like the Eurostar, or in my case the Belgian train, Thalys, is that you often forget that you have now entered another country. I was abruptly reminded of this as I disembarked and was greeted by Sophie and her friend, Kevin, to whom I forcefully planted a second ‘bisous’ onto his unassuming left cheek. Puzzled, I pulled away from our embrace, only for Sophie to tell me after the awkward salutation that in Belgium, you only ever kiss once, not twice as I was accustomed to in Paris. “Well Liz, you’re certainly not in Kansas Paris anymore.”

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Feeling tired and slightly more well-acquainted with Kevin than he probably would have liked, the three of us walked out of the station and towards the Christmas markets in the centre of town where we got some vin chaud and a bite to eat. Despite the constant rain, our moods were not dampened as we walked around the bustly, illuminated town centre. We even managed to catch the Christmas tree in the centre of town being turned on! Kevin proved his worth as a Belgian local by taking us to a clandestine underground bar called Delirium Cafe tucked away down a cobbled street – noted in the Guinness Book of Records for stocking over 2000 different beers from 60 different countries. I ordered a strawberry flavoured beer which was delicious – and a welcoming refreshment after my long day at work. The interior itself was also something to marvel: all the tables were old upturned beer kegs and decorating the ceiling and walls were different coloured caps, making this place the perfect threshold for beer experimentation.

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That evening, Morgane (our host) and Kevin took us to Madame Moustache, a hip bar where its gimmick is like a speak easy meet rogue hangout. With a relaxed atmosphere, leather booths and a spacious dance area, I think you would be guaranteed a good night and a dance here. The music they played was familiar also, ranging from charts to jazz to indie, so we danced until the early hours before getting a free ride home thanks to their taxi friend!

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The next day was a terrible attempt on mine and Sophie’s part to get some Christmas shopping done. Although we did stumble across a very cute vintage market with a live orchestra performing below! We left empty handed through force of restraint but I did treat myself to some Belgian dark chocolate later on (when in Rome etc…)

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Sunday was my last day in Brussels with my train booked for 2.30pm, leaving us with little else to do that morning other than have a small lie in and pack! We had mentioned the night before that we wanted to head out and grab some brunch somewhere in town, but the lovely girlfriend insisted she would cook it all for us instead. We were woken by the smell of frying eggs, freshly baked baguettes and croissants, mozzarella and tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and balsamic, fresh fruit, brewing coffee and greasy bacon! I could not believe the extent to which Maeva went out of her way to accommodate for us, considering we were strangers to her just a couple of days ago. The kindness and hospitality of our hosts was humbling. It might also sound strange to admit but this was the first since being on my year abroad that I had to survive an entire weekend completely in French. Spending most of my spare time either with my boyfriend or my university friends, my French usually only extends as far as asking for the bill when I’m not at work. Having to think in French 24/7 was challenging but incredibly fun, I just wish it was more of a regular occurrence. Although a short stay, being able to stay with locals was a massive plus as we were given a true insight to the best hangouts of the city. I will definitely need to go back to Belgium another time though; next stop Bruges!

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“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

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So, I’ve been a terrible blogger. Life towards the latter part of 2012 caught up with me due to extreme hen pecking in other aspects of my life; work was utterly non stop with translations of Trend books and my weekends were used purely to catch up on missed sleep! However, as this blog is as much for me as it is for those who read it, I wanted to update it and catch up with what I’ve been up to the last couple of weeks as a nice online souvenir. Something for me to read back on when I’m missing Paris, re-immersed in my student life in my 4th year at Sheffield.

On the bright side, I have managed to tick quite a few things off my bucket list. One of them was visiting the Père Lachaise cemetery of Paris in November, which spans across 110 acres and is by far the largest I have ever visited. If ever there was somewhere à la mode to be buried, this is it; continuing to be the most prestigious cemetery in Paris with inhabitants including Edith Pilaf and Frederic Chopin. Dan and I strolled through the graveyard maze, kicking the autumnal leaves, admiring the moss-covered mini chapels and the crumbling headstones. Soon, we stumbled across Oscar Wilde’s tomb! Slightly marred by the iron fencing surrounding it and the host of fans’ scribbles on his grave, it was eerie yet hauntingly romantic. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find Marcel Proust’s grave, but this beautiful cobbled site is definitely a must-visit at least once in your life.

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Boyfriend coat – Topshop

Jumper – H&M

Peter pan collar blouse – Topshop

Jeans – BDG via Urban Outfitters

Boots – ASOS

Bag – Marc b

“May angels lead you in.” – Jimmy Eat World

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Angels didn’t lead me in, but the interns did. It was Alexandra’s last day at Promostyl after having worked here for 6 months, so we all went out for a celebratory goodbye lunch at Café des Anges. Situated just a short walk away from work and north of Place de la Bastille, this place truly deserves the title of  “une perle cachée” of Paris, of which I’m trying to build a list of. I have a bad habit of eating/drinking at places and then immediately forgetting the name of them, making me appear seemingly clueless about this diverse city I live in. So here we go:

Inside thsi bistro boasts typical American-diner décor and small clusters of tables tucked beneath red checked tablecloths, gig posters and scrawlings of the day’s “Plats du Jour”. It was a drizzly day, busy with all the other Parisians escaping the office for a lazy Friday afternoon lunch, so our order perhaps took longer than normal (this went unnoticed by me.) While we waited, we were given complimentary paté and bread to tide us over, great! If you do visit, opt for the burgers: either the “Burger des anges” or like me, the “Burger Cot Cot”, which was large chicken breasts with celeri-remoulade sauce, bacon, a fried egg on browned toast, fries and a salad. A little alarmed by the dolls heads (were these the “angels”?!) watching down on us as we ate, this did not distract from the great tasting food at just a little over €10 each.  My friend ordered the “Cob Salade” which looked equally as impressive, if you are feeling on the healthy side.

Generous and delicious food soaked in good ambience and cheap prices, the only thing missing was a midday apéro.

66 rue de la Rocquette, Bastille, Paris 75011