A bitterly cold spell swept over most of Europe during mid-January, which meant that I finally got to see Paris under a white dusting. Yes, I know, what a cliché, but I have to admit that it was extremely beautiful. I braved my way through the evening blizzards to the family I tutor and was pretty surprised to be greeted by bises upon entering from the father (who may I add is rather good looking). He also insists that I must ‘tutoyer’ himself and his wife, which I always forget and end up switching between vous and tu. I have been learning French since I was eleven, yet I don’t think I’ll ever fully get my head around the mode of address here. Whilst I had learnt the vous is a sign of respect used to address those who are older than you and especially for those who you work for, it would seem that the informal version tu is taking over due to various debates arguing that the use of vous is dated and implies a social hierarchy. Oh, how the French language never ceases to make things complicated! Instead of starting the lesson right away, the family asked me about my Christmas holidays, gave me a belated present and showed me their skiing photos. The kids’ attention span was also slightly shortened by the continuing flurry of snow whirling down outside!
I then made my way to my friends’ Vicky and Erica’s place in Montrouge, a commune situated in the Parisian suburbs for an Italian-themed night with homemade lasagne. Seeing as their apartment is slightly outside of what is officially deemed as Paris, it is a lot more spacious than anything students can get or afford in the centre. Just as in London, the transport system was pretty off the rails due to the snow, which did result in me getting on and off three different buses as some drivers were refusing to continue driving. As a result, myself and Anna decided to walk to the nearest metro to get home, which meant we could enjoy the snow before it became all mushy and horrible the next day. Whilst very pretty and all the first day, the snow became rather irritating just like anywhere else! The next day, I found myself once again treated to international cuisine thanks to my Spanish friend Cristina, who cooked for a group of us at Grégory’s. Sampling sangria, tortilla, paella and birthday cake made with melted Spanish chocolate and sweets, we were all more excited than ever for our trip to Madrid planned for the week after. I then learnt that the French too play the card game ‘Arsehole’, though it is more tastefully called ‘Le Président’ (but it also goes by the slightest less tasteful ‘trou du cul’!) That evening I also had my first taste of French theatre and went to see an adaptation of La vida es sueño, a metaphysical Spanish play written in the 17th-century. Reflecting upon the fine line between illusion and reality and delivered in rather flowery, poetic language (and in French obviously), it was a challenge for me to follow, though very enjoyable all the same. For my final night in Paris before heading to Madrid for the weekend we celebrated Cristina’s 21st in the Latin Corner bar, known as a specifically feminine destination due to the good looking half-naked male bar staff dressed merely in a pair of boxers. Though this isn’t the only attraction – the bar, decorated rather bizarrely with bras suspended from the ceiling (which apparently is a collection left by former customers) has a lively Hispanic-like atmosphere and serves very good cocktails. Seeing in the menu that ‘sexy dances’ were available from 20 euros, the gang all chipped in for Cristina’s birthday present, which was such a laugh. Cristina’s reaction was absolutely priceless – apparently this is now a tradition for all the girls’ birthdays… seeing as mine is coming up in March I’m bracing myself! Those amongst us that are Sorbonne students also made a quick appearance at the latest Apérismus celebrating the end of partiels (exams) – I felt like a bit of a hypocrite seeing as I haven’t had any!
After getting back from an amazing weekend in Madrid (blog entry to follow soon), it suddenly hit me that it this week is my last week here without any lessons. This prompted me to do a spot of touristy adventuring, starting with Place des Vosges and la Maison de Victor Hugo in the Marais district. Inaugurated in 1612, Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris and became the prototype for all residential squares in Europe. The square’s most famous former resident is undoubtedly Victor Hugo, acclaimed for classics such as the Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables. Preserved by the government and now a museum, it is possible to visit the house in which he lived with his family for 16 years and wrote many of his famous works. For anyone needing a kill an hour whilst hanging around Bastille, it’s definitely worth a trip – the museum is pretty small, though very interesting and displays some fascinating artifacts of Hugo’s life there.