Monday, 30 January 2017

Into The Abyss

Oh dear, I'm trying to be funny and avant-garde again. Please don't hate me. I implore you. I saw this idea on Vogue where they videoed various models going through their handbags and discussing what they had to say about them. I liked this kind of materialistic psychoanalysis so I thought I might try it for myself. 

First I have to decide which bag I'm going to analyze. I sporadically change between three or four different bags depending on the season, my mood and whatever is closest to hand. One rucksack purchased from Decathlon for the grand total of 4€, a Mowgli book bag, my prized possession my beautiful Longchamp bag and finally the one I'm using day-to-day currently a handbag I bought from Monoprix in a vain attempt to look more Parisian. The usually all contain the same kind of thing so let's start with the nitty gritty. 

A book - It has usually either been started or it has been put in there as a prompt to remember to read on the metro instead of just staring into space or playing on my phone. I'm always reassured by the number of people who read on their commutes in Paris and it makes me feel part of the club if I'm sat with my nose in a good P.G.Wodehouse among fellow bookworms while on the way to work. 

Chocolate - For those low moments when the crowds have got too much or the day too long and you just need a little pick me up. To stop me from constantly snacking though it is usually dark chocolate or something not too sweet. Sometimes if I have recently been to the UK then this can be substituted for Werthers Originals because they are the ultimate pick me up. 

Tissues - The pollution in Paris means that I am nearly constantly sniffly with a cold or cough so it is essential to have some on hand. This is also a hangover from my babysitting days which comes in handy when flying. You never know where the motion sick toddler is going to be and if they will puke on you. Like I say, best to be prepared just in case. 

Dior Perfume and a lipstick or three - If you're having a really crappy day is anything much better than a quick spritz of perfume and some lippy to brighten up your day? Well I certainly don't think so! It's a trick that has been passed down through generations of my family because it represents our armour and with that we can take on the world. 

Betablockers - I was very wary about going on medication to help deal with my anxiety mostly because I didn't want to acknowledge what was really happening with my mental health. The betablockers are designed to reduce my blood pressure so that when I feel a panic attack coming on I can take one to counter-attack the physical effects. I try to be as open as possible about what I take and why so that the people around me understand what is going on! 

Moleskine diary - Those who know me well, know that I am not the most organised person in the world. In an attempt to not forget anything I have to do I made the decision to sort my life out and put everything into my diary. From plans for the weekend to an idea for dinner tonight, it all goes in the diary. I'm also keeping a track of every book I read this year in the notes section because my aim is to read at least 40 books this year. 3 books down we shall see how I get on!

All of these items are usually accompanied by receipts that have been flung in the depths of my bag when I've been trying to pack all of my shopping into a space too small for the items I've purchased before the person behind me starts having their items scanned. Currently there is a tupperware full of Yorkshire Tea because the French simply don't understand a good brew even if it were to come up and hit them in the face. Hence the need to carry a personal supply with me wherever I go. It's hard to say what exactly all of this says about me but I would hazard a guess that is is quite obvious when you look in my bag that I am a dysfunctional, disorganised wannabe writer who feels faint for often than she would like to! 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Girls Just Want To Have Fundamental Rights

I don't usually get political on here. It's not that I'm not a political person but I just never set out to make this a forum for my sometimes crazed and confused opinions on current events. There is however an issue that I feel so strongly about that I feel a compulsion to express myself here. 
Last weekend thousands of women marched in order to protest against the injustices we face every day. I am intensely proud of all of the women who went out to speak up for what is right. Part of me wishes that I could have been there, however recently I have been particularly struggling in big crowds so it was best for me to stay away. I hear lots of garbage about feminism from people who don't really understand it. "But surely if it's about equality why do you stand up for just women's rights?" and "I'm not a feminist because I shave my armpits." are two phrases I've heard many times when asked about my views on this subject. For me feminism is all about equality of opportunity. I want every single person to be able to choose how they live their lives. Whether that's a man who wants to stay home with the kids or a woman who wants to go out to work. The same goes for the other way around. It really irks me when people assume that because I'd like to be there with my children for the first years of their lives that it isn't my choice or that I'm closed minded. It just happens to be something that is important to me. 
It still shocks me that people are unaware of the issues women face every single day. I am by no means an expert but I do experience inequality in my life. I would be surprised if any man had every experience the crippling fear you feel when someone leers at you on the street or when someone makes an obscene comment because you happen to be wearing a short skirt. It scares me that women still have to demonstrate like they did this weekend that we do have a voice but it also encourages me that there are hundreds of thousands of women who are able to stand up for their beliefs. Could this have happened 60 years ago? I doubt it. 
My aim with this post is not to alienate anyone, if I have done that then I am sorry. However, this subject is so important to me I just had to set it down in words. I'm a feminist. A strident feminist. One who wants to be paid the same as her male counterparts. One who wants someone to open the door for me because I'm a human being not because of my gender. One who enjoys wearing makeup because I enjoy it. One who has always read books aimed at young boys because they were always more exciting. All in all, I just want to live in a world where it isn't your gender that matters it's the quality of your contribution to society that counts.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Itching Wanderlust

A strange title for a post I am sure many people will identify with! Wanderlust as I am sure you are aware is the desire to travel. A sentiment expressed neatly in a single German word that runs through my veins every single day. When I first moved to Paris, all I wanted to do was to experience something new. I will try everything once if it means I might feel more like a local. Jazz bar in Saint Michel? I'm in. Fireman's Ball? Of course! I never got around to organising the long interrailing trip whilst at university and now I am starting to feel like I should have. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live in a foreign country as well as chance to explore a few corners of the world. However, now that I have started working I am being to wish I had spent those long holidays we were so used to roaming the continent that I call home. 
I would like to point out at this moment that I would never do this by train. The overnight train to Venice has put me off that particular fantasy! This year, I am aiming to have a fe mini breaks. That is if time and money permit. The list of preferred destinations is currently: Bordeaux, Berlin and Amsterdam. Although not necessarily in that order I feel like these are all close enough but intriguing enough to make the most out of a weekend in a new city. If anyone can suggest another city beginning with A then this could be my ABBA year! 
I'm not the world's best planner of things to do on holiday. My ideas tend to revolve around finding the hotel with the best deals or how to get to and from the airport. When Mike and I arrived in Copenhagen, we soon realised that we hadn't actually planned what we were going to do. This doesn't mean we wasted our holiday though. I feel like the first time you visit somewhere you have to try and get to know its personality. You can only do that by exploring it. Days spent wandering down countless roads, peering into quirky shops and lunches spent sampling the local cuisine are in my opinion the only way to travel. I love a museum as much as the next woman but how much does it tell you about the city you're in? I suppose that's why I am More Native Than The Natives though! 
I will finish here with an apt quote from one of my favourite eccentric Frenchmen, Marcel Proust "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Thursday, 12 January 2017

100 Posts and Counting!

I'm going to try and make this short as many of you know I have a tendency to ramble on a bit too long. I've hit a big milestone today. I've have officially published 100 posts on this blog. When I started this experiment I wasn't even going to tell anyone about it. I was going to keep it secret. Just for me and whoever stumbled across it. Soon I found that it was a good way to communicate with friends and family back home. I could tell stories about my life using a medium that was easier for me to express myself in. It saved me from repeating the same anecdotes every time I meet with someone for a catch up. I find it hard to open up to people when I first meet them so this blog is a good way for me to express my personality without all the awkward social contact that stresses me out. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone reading these words. Whether you are a first time reader or a frequent More Native Than The Natives visitor, your continued support really motivates me to carry on. Recently, I have got to a place where all of the admin that had been left by the wayside last year during all of the turbulence. I'm happier. I have fewer things weighing over my head. I can now focus more on making this blog better. I didn't believe that I could ever take it this far. I usually back down or forget about side projects so to get to this stage is really a big deal for me! I'm going to celebrate this weekend before getting back to it and writing more and more posts, hopefully about more and more interesting topics. If there is anything about Parisian life, anxiety or the world of a wannabe hipster millenial then please let me know. If the first 100 posts were about me talking about my life then I would like the next 100 to be increasingly about what my readers want to know about. For now I'm going to continue what I enjoy doing best and that's writing. Thank you for your continued support - you have given an awkward twenty-something a lot of happiness. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

An Ultimate Guide: The Only Bakeries You Need To Know

It is super easy to get really fat in Paris. When there are sweet smells coming from every bakery you come across then it is rather hard to resist. With a sweet tooth like mine, I end up finding myself frequenting bakeries quite often in order to try all of the delicious items they have on offer. French patisserie is the best in the world. In my unbiased opinion. The do everything, from gorgeously savoury bread that is perfect for cheese to sticky pastries that feel like your calorie consumption for a whole week, they really know how to do it all! Therefore I have complied a short list of some of the bakeries you should try out when peckish in Paris.

Pain Pain
If you make it up all of the steps of Montmartre to see the Sacré Coeur then you will need a little pick me up on your way back down to reality. Funky wallpaper, great coffee and even better desserts make Pain Pain on Rue des Martyrs a great little spot to take the weight off you in. I had only ever walked past at night until just a few months ago and I must admit it definitely did not disappoint!

Pierre Hermé 
I think I've told this story before but it's a good one so I will tell it again. In my first few months here I received a strange message from Mum telling me to go to a certain address after a particular time. It turned out she had ordered some breakfast treats for me to ease the awkward first few months of living alone in a foreign country. I seem to recall the croissant being my favourite item in the care package. Weirdly, I'm not the biggest fan of croissants as they can be too flaky and messy for me but this one was top notch.

Yuzu flavoured écalir? Why not?! A Japanese/French bakery in the heart of the 2nd arrondissement, Aki is a great local treasure. If you want katsu curry followed by a green tea mille-feuille then you need look no further. The hustle and bustle of this shop adds to its atmosphere and they get through customers at an astonishing rate by serving you at lightening speeds. 

Maison Privat
Now we come to the pièce de la résistance of French baked goods. This one won't be in the travel guides but by all accounts it should be. Try everything. No seriously, you have to. I've been living around the corner for nearly 6 months and I have made a jolly good stab at trying to eat my way around the counter. The Kouig' Aman (a Breton pastry that is basically sugar and puff) is to die for but impossible to pronounce and their pissaladière with anchovies, onions and olives is incredible. The efficiency of such an immaculate establishment is only bettered by the warm, delectable baguettes they have on offer. Don't expect to just walk in though, there is always a queue. 

There are many more spectacular boulangeries and bakeries in Paris, I have no doubt about that. However, these just happen to be a few of my favourites. There is something quite personal about patisseries and bread in France. Everyone likes something different. Some people ask for a well cooked baguette, others like their pain de campagne sliced. I pretty much just like it all, but I will never pass up an opportunity to eat chouquettes! I'm feeling rather hungry now that I've written that. Anyone for cake?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Is That A Fish In Your Ear?

I've always loved language. This fact is probably self-evident thanks to my degree and nature of my blog. I pontificate about minor points of detail throughout my linguistic life nearly every single day. Hence why I thought I could probably get a lengthy blog post out of it! I've stolen the title for this piece from one of my favourite linguistics books. It deals with the complexities of translation and all the problems that come with it. Let me first begin with a little anecdote...

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Something rather funny happened to me the other day. It wasn't funny at the time, however now I look back on it I can see the humour in what took place. A Tuesday evening after work, I went to the supermarket over the road from my flat to finally do some food shopping. I've been lax recently in terms of cooking so it was about time I got something new and interesting in. The interesting part came when I got to the till and there was a discrepancy with my change. This guy knows I'm English. We see each other at least twice a week. It was incredible to me that he could assume I wouldn't pick him up on giving me 3€ instead of 10€! It was at this moment I went into full Parisian mode. For the first time ever, I got properly angry in French! I was so proud of myself I may have skipped up the stairs to my flat my correct change firmly in my wallet.

Little things like this happen to me everyday. I get lost in conversations because I don't understand what is going on so people assume I'm quiet which is definitely not the case. I've been reading a book that was a Christmas present from my favourite sister. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris. It's a bit out there so if you like your reading material conservative then this isn't the book for you. I've been laughing out loud (not something that is often done on the metro) at the passages where he describes learning French. It is reassuring to know that at least one other person struggles as much as I do. 

I've been learning French for nearly 10 years now but sometimes I'm still all of a quiver when asked a simple question. This encounter in the supermarket did one thing for me though. It proved to me that I can do it. My language skills are good enough for me to express my dissatisfaction and surely that's half of being French?! I may bang on about it but this does make me feel like I am on the cusp of becoming truly more native than the natives, who knows maybe another 10 years and I'll actually sound like one!

I realised mid-way through planning this post that when I am reading in French I no longer translate in my head word for word what is written or at least my processing ability has improved dramatically at any rate! I find the code-switching difficult. That's the term for when your brain has to switch between two languages in a short period of time. Some people can does this in seconds with no discernible difficulties but you will find me still using French syntax after a day at the office even if I'm talking to an anglophone!

Monday, 2 January 2017

An Ultimate Guide: The Only Restaurants You Need To Know

New Year = New Me. A me that eats out at a lot more incredible restaurants I hope! I don't know how I can still think about eating when for the past two weeks all I have done is consume copious amounts of food. However, following on from my post about French cooking I thought I would recommend a handful of my favourite eateries in the City of Light. I will give a bit of a disclaimer - they aren't all French restaurants. My mum and I when we came to view my first flat created a motto: When in Paris, eat tapas. French food is unbelievably good but sometimes you need to mix it up a bit. So let's start where it all began...

La Bodega: This is the very tapas bar that the infamous phrase was created for. I have been half a dozen times now since Mum and I stumbled across this place completely by accident and I have never been disappointed. They have great Spanish wine, patatas aioli that are SUPER GARLICKY but delicious and classical guitar music played live. If you don't mind sitting on the street among clouds of cigarette smoke and cute fluffy dogs then this is the place for you. The staff are super friendly and let you go at your own pace ordering as and when you want to. If you go then you have to order the albondigas (succulent meatballs in a tomato sauce), the calamari and the croquettas with cheese and ham. You may have to roll yourself home rather than walk! 

Hero: Another place that Maman Goodbody and I like to frequent. This time it is Korean Fried Chicken. Sounds weird, but hear me out. The décor is super chic thanks to the muted tones and soft lighting which helps the chilled out vibe of the establishment. I love the sticky and garlicky fried chicken with a side of rice and kimchi. Whereas anyone else I have been with orders the super spicy one which is equally scrumptious! Have a cheeky cocktail even if it is just for the name and relax after a long day exploring P-town. 

Chartier: If you ever come to visit me then this is where I take you. I won't even apologize for it. Classic French food. Great prices. Hilarious service. What more could you ask for? Well, Mike once asked for a steak haché which is basically a burger without a bun and he was told he couldn't have it because "That was for children not men." Honestly you couldn't make it up. If you want to try snails and classic desserts then you can but if you fancy steak with chips then you can get that too. For a tired evening where you want something quick but tasty with heaps of Gallic panache thrown in for good measure then you can't go wrong with Chartier! 

Le Refuge des Fondues: Let's end this piece on a weird note. I shall try and set the scene. Four sophisticated ladies have spent a day swanning around Versailles in a golf cart but to nourish their souls they decide to try out a fondue restaurant recommended to them. It's in Montmartre. How cool, how hip. We walk in to be greeted by a man wearing a Metallica T-Shirt and walls plastered with signatures and graffiti from previous patrons. Two of us have to jump over the table to sit on the other side, helped my Mister Metallica who then poses two questions to us. Red or White? Meat or Cheese? Hoping for the best we go for 4 White 1 Meat and 1 Cheese. He comes back with a plate of meats and cheeses, some bread and four baby bottles of white wine. Yes, you did just read that right. Baby Bottles. Quirky doesn't even describe this place. We munch the nibbles until the main act arrives. Two bubbling cauldrons, one filled with oil to cook the meat in and one of cheese to dunk bread and potato into. It's a hearty meal and I have been back several times after this because it is just so much fun. Plus the limited choice means that everyone relaxes knowing that no one will get a better dish than them, because it is all the same! 

Writing about all of that has made me quite peckish now, maybe I'll go out for dinner!