While I have been mending a broken heart since leaving the City of Light, it seems some love affairs never have to come to an end. I knew I couldn’t stay away from Paris for long. As soon as I saw the Eurostar sales, there was no hesitating involved. My ticket was booked in an instant.
I’ve not found acclimatisation back over this side of the Channel easy. Hit by culture shock and rejection, I was at an all-time low and yearning to go back to France. A lot has changed in the few months I’ve been back. I was soon forced to snap out of my melancholic mulling. It was back to reality with a summer job and my return to Warwick after sixteenth months. Swapping the Erasmus carefree lifestyle for that of a stressed finalist was quite a blow.
Returning to Paris was the most effective of cures. I even got to see the city in a new found clarity – after being told off by my optician I have started wearing my glasses permanently and my prescription has doubled. I cannot believe I ‘saw’ so many wonderful things last year through hindered vision. How on earth I managed to navigate myself around the metro in a blur for a year is beyond me. I had been strolling around one of the most beautiful cities in the world and adventuring around the rest of France as blind as a bat. I could not help but think that I had wandered around Paris for the best part of a year without ever truly seeing it. All the more reason to return and appreciate its splendour in the clarity of 20:20 vision.
And my, Paris has never looked so beautiful. The sun was beaming with not a single cloud in the sky for my entire stay. For once no one could joke that the English girl had brought the temps du merde from the other side of the Channel. Paris seemed happy to have me back.
Everything seemed pretty surreal, like time had been suspended the past few months. As everyone said, like I had never left. I made my everyday ligne 2 route from Gare du Nord to Alexandre Dumas and trailed my suitcase along rue de Bagnolet. I was returning to my old residence, though I would be heading up to the 6eme and not the 7eme étage. Boryana would be my hostess for the next four days – what a peculiar feeling to be a ‘guest’ in the city where I used to live.
After a much needed catch up (only so much can be done over whatsapp and facebook chat), we went and did what we gourmands do best: bouffer. I had to visit my favourite patisserie Miss Manon in le Marais which has an amazing ‘happy hour’ deal including a patisserie and hot drink for 7 euros. Nicely filled up, we took in the festivities and the local banter. While admiring the Christmas lights, we were rather confused to hear what sounded like a sheep roaming the streets. A local then informed us of the mec fou who is a bit of a celebrity in the coin apparently, riding his bike from le Marais to République bahing all the way to shift promenading Parisians out the way. Rather good tactic if you ask me. As usual, no flânerie in the city is without an event.
I was then reunited with my two first true friends I made in France, Caroline and Grégory. While making friends in France may be regarded as harder and takes more time than the rather instant connections students make in England, a French friend is usually a friend for life. Over drinks in a bar with several more Sorbonne students, it really felt like I had never actually left Paris.
The next day Boryana and I made our way up to Montmartre for a bit of breakfast and to admire the sun glistening cityscape from the highest viewing point in the capital. I was gutted to see that my usual place was closed (I had forgotten about French Mondays), though thankfully another good café is never too far away in Paris. We were very flattered to be mistaken as francophones by the waiter serving us (though he was probably just happy to hear some French with all the tourists yabbering away pigeon English!) We then did a tour of the Christmas market outside of Sacré Coeur and made the most of the tasters before looking down at the sun-kissed capital from the top of the butte. The beautiful weather more than justified me taking photos – I had not always been this lucky with weather during my time here! It was also perfect for strolling along the streets and soaking up Parisian life once again. We even managed to stumble across a few things we had never discovered before. Our first by chance discovery was Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (no, not Notre Dame), a neoclassical church in the 9th arrondissement. We then found Paris’s miniature sister statue of Liberty not too far from the Tour Eiffel. I always knew it was somewhere around there but had never gone looking for it – things do tend come to you after all. It just goes to show that you can live somewhere for a year and still have things left to discover.
While Boryana went to class, I wandered leisurely around the quartier Latin and the Seine. This was the first time I could remember leisurely strolling around the city in a long time – my life had become so manically busy, especially in the last five months. It was nice just to saunter along without any particular destination in mind. I went to Shakespeare and Company (not too far from Notre Dame) for the first time and picked up some free books they were giving away. The interior is beautifully quaint, though their prices are as dear – I think I’ll stick to Amazon for now. When Boryana was done we headed over to Champs-Elysées for the Christmas market oozing with atmosphere and crammed with stalls selling traditional produce and handmade crafts. Enjoying hot chocolate and mulled wine on a cold Winter’s evening, we were also tempted to try out vodka crêpes to put some fire in our bellies! We decided to opt for more conventional choices however.
I was happy to catch Casse-tête chinois, Cedric Kaplish’s final installment in his Erasmus inspired series. I won’t give anything away seeing as its not out in England for a while!
The next morning I took advantage of the free Brassaï expo on at Hôtel de Ville while Boryana had class – I would definitely recommend it to anyone going to Paris anytime soon. I then met up with Boryana and Caroline in Place de la Sorbonne – though our lunch plans were slightly delayed due to a Japanese documentary team asking if they could film us for a reality TV show. While at first excited at the prospect of a minute of fame across the other side of the world, we cringed at having to pretend to eat lukewarm pasta and chat while we really wanted to go enjoy a meal in the warmth of a restaurant. Once free from our two seconds of stardom, we gave our freebie meals to sans domicile fixe along boulevard Saint-Michel. We then ate sushi ironically enough.
I was once again proving to be the bad influence Erasmus student as Boryana had to do her lesson prep in a café due to her being such a good hostess and keeping me entertained. It was strange to find myself on several occasions back in the Sorbonne (my student card from last year fooled security). I went for another wander while the girls had class and took a must pit stop at Galeries Lafayettes. The day ended with drinks and a catch up with our Italian friend Adriana who also lured back by the city’s Parisian charm.
My Parisian break was coming to an end, as much as I did not want to leave. We made a return trip to my favourite breakfast place Le Coquelicot. There so much choice we opted for minis of everything as to not miss out. We took a walk around the gardens in the Musée Rodin seeing as the weather was so wonderful. We were then dazzled by the Cartier display at the Grand Palais, which includes the tiara Kate Middleton wore at the royal wedding. Before I knew it, I was saying farewell to Caroline (though I will be seeing her for the New Year) and rushing back to Boryana’s to collect my things. Boryana was an amazing hostess till the very end, insisting on accompanying me to Gare du Nord.
I was gutted to be leaving for a second time. There were quite a few people I had not managed to see seeing as I had come during the last week of the French term. Though, as in August, it is never really the final goodbye. I am pretty sure Paris has a part to play in my life for years to come.