I was sat in my History lecture today and we were discussing the representation of Paris in Woody Allen’s film Midnight In Paris (incidentally I can’t stand the film – I blame you Owen Wilson) and I was thinking about what I thought Paris was going to be like when I moved here.
I seem to remember thinking I was going to be going to lots of galleries and sitting in bars having deep meaningful conversations with dark, handsome strangers who were painters or sculptors. I’ve been to a few galleries but no such luck on the handsome strangers’ front. It’s weird the impression that everyone has of Paris and its creative soul. In the imaginations of most it smells of cigarettes and has this ethereal presence that can’t help but enchant every visitor. There is the classic quote from Hemmingway that “if you are lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast” and I think that is what I expected of Paris.
The point of this blog was always to document my travels around the city and what jackanapes I got up to here but I don’t think I envisaged the extent to which I think the city has changed me. I took the title of this blog from a book I read about Paris. The Dud Avocado is about an American girl who moves to Paris and aims to go more native than the natives. She is the mistress of a civil servant, she ends up as an extra on a film in Biarritz in a bid to become an actress, she loses her passport and declares herself a citizen of the world but the main thing she does is that she finds her true self in Paris. It might seem a bit corny but I think it’s the perfect place to do just that. I haven’t quite gone to the extent that the character in The Dud Avocado goes to but I think I’ve managed to push my boundaries here and challenge myself.
I’m not sure when exactly it was that I started feeling comfortable here but I’d say it was in the last 10 months or so. The architecture, the language and the people themselves were all things I felt I had to get to grips with. The architecture must seem like such a weird thing to say but I think I felt when I first moved here like I had to fit in with the city around me and that included looking appropriate in the setting. When I used to live by the Eiffel Tower I’d always have this monument staring down at me watching my every move when I walked out of my front door in the morning. Eventually I got used to it, but it took a while I can tell you. Now I keep getting asked whether I’m fluent in French yet to which my answer is not really. I mean I’m so much better than I used to be and I think a lot less about what I’m going to say and it all comes a bit more naturally. I just don’t feel like I’m quite there yet, maybe it is just that I haven’t fully grasped all the French tenses yet but hopefully soon that will happen. Parisians get a hard rep for being a little bit frosty which is true to a certain extent but if you try with them they’ll love you forever. When my family came to visit in the summer we went to this restaurant/bar on Rue Cler for Happy Hour pretty much every day for their St Germain liqueur cocktail. The restaurant was staffed by your typical Parisian waiters – quite cocky but essentially lovely. They could tell we were English from a mile off but as soon as I started chatting to them in French they absolutely loved us and came over to talk pretty much every time we went there.
I expected to be a lot more intimidated of Paris than I ended up being and for that I’m so glad. I’d say I still have some expectations of the city but that I need to go out and make them happen. Maybe soon I shall meet my tall, dark, handsome stranger in the next bar? Paris has taught me to go out and look for that next opportunity and to embrace what happens to you. Go with the flow it might just work out for the best.