Last week for the first time since arriving to Paris, I began to feel a little lost. A combo of hitting 21, reaching the seventh month of my stint in France and still not knowing what I am doing or where I will end up this summer has provoked some rather perplexing thoughts. My life is now spilt between three different places: London, Warwick and Paris –all of which hold very fond yet different memories. The prospect of post-Erasmus blues is forever apparent, and I’ve started to realise how increasingly ambivalent I am becoming about returning to Warwick to finish my degree. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I study, however this year has been a completely different experience and a getaway from the Warwick bubble. A move from cosmopolitan life as a carefree Erasmus student in la ville lumière with so much to discover and enjoy to one as a stressed final year student in the middle of nowhere spending most of my time swotting in the library is not exactly attractive right now.
However, for the moment, I intend to make the most of whatever time I have left here in Paris. Wednesday evening was spent at a usual fortnightly Apérismus gathering – other than the standard getting mistaken as German throughout the night and a way too keen Italian trying to hit on me, there’s nothing that exciting to write about here. On Thursday I prepared Hotel Paris for yet another booking, this time from my two London girls Helena and Nadia. After picking up Nadia from Gare du Nord and checking her in at my place, we headed over to St Michel where I started my next Parisian tour. Whilst some things have started to get really repetitive (I think I have been up l’Arc de Triomphe at least five times), I have been lucky that there has been quite a bit of variation in what my guests want to do. The core of Helena and Nadia’s requests during their long weekend mainly revolved around la bouffe française (food), which is something that is fairly easy to cater for. As a result, our first stop was a usual spot of mine for some crêpes. This is the first time I went around lunchtime and was able to make the most of the formule du midi – two crêpes (savoury followed by sweet) with a cider for around nine euros. It always helps to know where the offers are at when living in a city where money just goes all the time. I then whisked Nadia off on my standard tour of le quartier latin – Notre Dame, the Seine (which was flooded), the Sorbonne, the Panthéon and the Jardin du Luxembourg. I also finally scooped my Sorbonne hoodie from the minute official merchandise shop. There is only one hoodie and a few other trinkets on sale – thinking about the immensity of Warwick memorabilia on offer on campus, it’s clear that English and French uni cultures are poles apart. The salesman was quite a comedian, asking me if I had received good enough results during the year to deserve my student discount. The hoodie was put to good use straightaway – it’s still fricking freezing here, j’en ai marre! We then defrosted back at mine with a hot chocolate and enjoyed a French style picnic consisting of bread, Camembert, grapes, biscuits and wine to keep us occupied (and awake) whilst waiting for the late night arrival of my second guest, Miss French, arriving from her Erasmus placement in Spain at around one in the morning.
Like the dedicated little student that I am, I went to class on Friday morning whilst the girls snoozed blissfully away and met them afterwards for a late petit déj around Abbesses. I had passed this quaint little sit-in boulangerie-bistro called Coquelicot several times, yet it had always been too packed. A popular place obviously, and now I can see why. This place epitomizes what I call a true petit déjeuner français – a bowl of hot chocolate with fresh out the oven baguette or brioche, accompanied by a choice between French jam, honey or caramel au beurre sale (or why not all three?!) The fact that the hot chocolate was served in bowls really took me back to the two week French exchange I did during sixth form where I struggled to understand why each morning my hot drink was not in a mug, but in what I regarded as a cereal bowl. After my speedy spin around Montmartre (one positive of bringing so many visitors here is that I now know a lot of side roads), we hopped on the metro to start another one of my regular tourist routes, starting at l’Arc de Triomphe and promenading all the way down Champs-Elysées, through Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries before stopping off for a famous Angelina’s hot chocolate. My company were pathetic when it came to conquering his divinely rich and velvety beverage, flagging after half a teacup! It must be the Belgian blood in me, but I always manage to wash down a hot choc here just fine. After leaving the girls to go tutoring, I was welcomed home with an array of goodies for dinner miam miam!
On Saturday I thankfully got to visit some things that I myself had yet to have seen. First, we went to the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is undoubtedly best known for having a collection of Monet’s renowned water lilies (Nymphéas in French – learning new vocab all the time!). The paintings are cleverly displayed in two oval rooms in order to depict the daily cycle from dawn till dusk – how each tiny little brushstroke contributes to their immensely vivid detail is quite something. Despite arguably being the highlight of the visit, the museum also contains works by Paul Cézanne, Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Rousseau which are equally impressive. I’d say the museum is just the right size for someone like myself who can appreciate art, yet whose concentration will slip after several hours. Unlike the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie can definitely be conquered in one visit. We continued our highly cultural day with a visit to the Haut-Couture expo currently on at Hôtel de Ville. As with the last exhibition I went to there on Paris Hollywood, it was extremely busy, so much so that it did partially spoil the visit. Though as it’s only on until June and is obviously very popular, the queuing outside and the crowdedness once inside is understandable. The dresses on display designed by greats such as Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix are amazing and form a fashion timeline proving how often things come back à la mode. We then stopped off at Bastille for patisserie happy hour at Miss Manon – this has been such a find of mine that I’m pretty proud of. The Londoners’ visit then winded up with dinner opposite Notre Dame, where myself and Helena had the most amazing salads served in bowls made of bread – only en France!
Coquelicot: 24, rue des Abbesses, Paris 75018