Friday, 20 November 2015

One Week On

Having time to reflect is always good. It’s something I’ve been doing quite a lot of this week. Taking time to sit and think about what has happened and how we are going to cope is something I think everyone needs to do. One evaluates how they see themselves in light of catastrophic events like those we experienced last weekend. It could so easily have been any of us that were at that fateful concert which makes me ponder my own fatality. It may seem morose but the attacks have reminded me how fragile life is. Perspective is a wonderful thing. The attacks last weekend have shaken the whole city. A city that has had its personality shaped by those who have stood up for what they believe in, for freedom and equality against repressive regimes. Paris is a beacon for all free thinkers amongst us, a symbol of love, culture and the good times.
I have seen so many posts on Facebook and other social media saying that we should also be praying for Beirut etc. This is true. However it does not negate our mourning. Our sorrow is not to be compared with that of another city; neither is better nor worse than the other. All loss of life is tragic. Paris is a city where anyone can say they are a Parisian no matter their nationality, creed or race. I am proud to call myself a citizen of this great city, it is truly like no other and what befell us Friday night last week was apocryphal.

There is a French word that has become particularly apt for me this week: rassemblement. It means coming together; something Parisians have been doing since the attacks. The fortitude of the residents of such a city makes me glad to call it my home. Still trying to process what happened find solace in the amazing reactions of the Parisians. When I started this blog I set out to become a native of this my favourite city and now I truly feel like I belong here. These attacks have shaken me so much because I feel a part of the city like it is an organic part of me. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think how thankful I am that I live here and no terror attack can change that. 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paris Attacks 13th November

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. Following the attacks last night it is hard for any Parisian to carry on as normal today. I look out of my window at Notre Dame and I see less than a quarter of the normal thoroughfare that goes through there every day. I would like to thank all of the people that reached out to my friends and I last night – some of you I speak to everyday, others I haven’t seen it years. It is testament to human resilience that so many of you cared so much to ask if we were ok.
I have never been scared like I was last night. Running away from Les Halles shopping centre because we heard someone shout there was shooting inside is a memory that will never leave me. But I had a family friend point out to me that we should not let this taint our views on such a wonderful city. From the #porteouvertes last night to all of my friends rallying round to make sure each and every one of us was accounted for proves that in spite of it all we won’t let it affect us.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

Paris and Literature

Paris is a city of literature. It’s pretty difficult to be a French student and to not have read a book that is either completely set or partially set in the City of Light. In fact it is hard to think of any major writer in the 20th Century that didn’t either live in Paris at some point or visit it. I’m thinking Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Orwell… the list goes on. Before moving here I would search out books that involved this beloved city of mine in order to learn more about its character. I would like to share some of these books with you dear readers. Hopefully they will be new to you but if not I would like to say you have very good taste in novels.
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Termed the Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Paris, this has to be one of my all-time favourite books. In fact the name for this blog was taken from a line in this particular novel. If you are in need of a book that makes you laugh, cry and contemplate your own existence then this is for you. It follows an American girl called Sally Jay Gorce, who vows to go more native than the natives and live life to the extreme in Paris. You follow her on a journey of self-discovery with a few entertaining side-notes along the way. It was loosely based on the author’s own experiences in Paris which lead you to think what a magnificent time she must have had.
From A View To A Kill by Ian Fleming
It would be very lax of me to not include a James Bond story in this selection as many of you know I am a massive fan of Fleming’s writing. This short story of his bears no relation to the classic 80s film featuring Christopher Walken and Grace Jones however that is not to its detriment. Bond has to investigate the murder of a motorcycle dispatch rider which leads to much intrigue. In my humble opinion the James bond novels are so good because they are such a good example of post-war escapism that you can still feel yourself slipping into another world when you read them today.
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Now for a book set in Paris that is actually in French! Fellow students of ULIP will probably hate me for putting this one on my list as it is one of our studied texts, but hey I like it. Georges Duroy is just scraping by when he bumps into an old army pal who gives him a job on a newspaper where he uses his position (and affairs with his friends’ wives) to move up the social ladder. It is a truly very funny book with some really absurd moments that will leave you questioning why you thought turn of the century literature was dull! But please never watch the film with Robert Pattinson in as it doesn’t do the novel justice.
Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
I read this book very recently and I must admit it might be the best book I have read all year. Many of you may be familiar with the Inspector Maigret stories of which this is the first. I won’t spoil too much of the plot because it is just such a charming read that you need to go to Waterstone’s and buy it now but all I will say is that I may happen to love it so much because his office in the book could be one of the ones that I can see out of the window in my bedroom!

I hope that these recommendations of mine will inspire you to read more literary delights that involve such a poetic place as Paris. Novels set in any location are only truly good when the author knows that city inside out otherwise there is just no integrity to the piece.  All four of these certainly make you feel like you are there in the city with the characters at that point in time which I think is what good literature is all about. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Paris Uncovered: Part Three

In the third instalment of my recommendations for how to experience Paris in the most native way possible I tackle three neighbourhoods that are not my usual destinations for a cracking night out but they have some hidden gems that are well worth trying out.
7th Arrondissement
In my first year in Paris I lived half in the 15th and half in the 7th so I know the area pretty well indeed. It can be seen as quite a quiet area trust me it has more to do than just going up the Eiffel Tower. Da Rocco is an Italian deli that is a stone’s throw from uni which makes lunches of escalope Milanese or Bresaola and artichoke ciabattas far too tempting. This family run establishment at 119 Rue de Grenelle caters to the crowd that flock in for their working lunches from the embassies that surround it. But if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite not too far away at 47 Rue de Babylone is Coutume, which has to be in the top 5 coffee shops in Paris. It may be slightly hipster with conical flasks instead of water jugs on the tables and its medical diagrams on the walls but they serve one of the best Chai Lattes I have ever consumed.
8th Arrondissement
You can hardly get away from the constant bombardment of Christmas related paraphernalia around this time of year. Unfortunately, I’m just going to add to that! The Christmas markets that open up annually on the Champs-Elysees are some of the best you can go to. From ice-skating to drinking mulled wine, you can do it all. This year they are even having the actor, Jean Dujardin coming to switch on the lights.
9th Arrondissement
Paris is the fashion capital of the world so it is about time that I recommend a department store to you all. Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann is one of the best. The sublime window displays and the gorgeous clothes inside make this place a delightful location to wander around and gaze at lots of pretty things. The magpie in me certainly comes out when I walk through the jewellery counters which luckily are so out of my price range they are no danger to my student loan.  Also in the neighbourhood you can find one of the most entertaining bars in the city. Dirty Dick has already featured on my blog but I can’t help but mention it again. This ex-brothel has been transformed into a tiki bar in every hipster’s favourite area – South Pigalle. So get yourselves along to Rue Frochot and drown your sorrows in something that is on fire and very alcoholic.