So I’m sitting in my Paris studio, letting my last night as a temporary resident of France slowly drift away and trying to gather some thoughts about what exactly has happened here the last two months. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll fully realize the impact of this trip until I’ve been removed at least a month or so. It’s one of those things you can’t take notes on while you’re in the middle of it, like maturing or sleeping. You can only look back and then suddenly realize there was something bigger going on you weren’t aware of. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
But for now, here’s a random top 10 list to recap my time in Plélauff and Paris. In no particular order…
- Public transportation: Hell, not just Paris, but all of Europe is so much better connected than the U.S. The high-speed trains are awesome (and France’s in particular are supposed to be some of the best). Don’t even get me started on the cool rent-a-bikes. And of course, I’m really gonna miss the Paris metro. I’ve tried the metro systems in four major international cities now (New York, Seoul, Bangkok, Paris) and I like the Paris metro the best. Then again, I’m a bit partial to the area.
- Crêpes: Didn’t eat out much at all here, but I definitely loaded up on crêpes. The sit-down crêperies are cool, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of taking a bite out of a fresh street crêpe in your hand while you’re walking through snow. And how lucky was I to find that the best crêpe vendor I came across was right by my metro stop.
- (Real) Winter: It was below freezing the majority of the time I was here. And I loved it! I’m always going to remember that the first time I experienced a real winter season (aka non-Californian) was in France. But I really am looking foward to getting back to 70-degree sun and beaches.
- Teaching English to “French villagers”: It was only for a month, but I don’t think many people can say that they’ve taught English in a small French town in the middle of nowhere. It was so nerve-racking and fun.
- Christmas: I already mentioned some of my more thoughtful musings about Christmas in rural France, but I forgot to mention what we actually did to celebrate. All of us at the Camina Centre had a big fancy-pancy meal, complete with starter, main course, cheese, and dessert (and of course drinks—I tried kir for the first time). And then Marie-Pierre gave us a free dance lesson. You ever had to do those group/line/couple dances in elementary school with that crazy music with all the fiddles? Ha ha, we had a blast.
- Poverty: Just because it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world doesn’t cover up the fact that the poor are in great numbers here in Paris. There was a particular woman who would beg at the market I always went to and I tried (very sheepishly and feebly) to interact with her. People always talk about how things like music and math know no language barriers. Well, it’s the same with poverty.
- Laundromats: I don’t know if it’s just a Paris thing, but the “lavaries” here are no joke. 3+ euro for a medium-sized load? 1 euro for 10 minutes of drying? No wonder I decided to wear my underwear longer by turning them inside-out. Just kidding (or at least that’s what I’ll let you think…)
- Nutella: I’m an official convert. Move over cereal—Nutella and bread is now the staple breakfast meal. I hope I’m not let down by the American-made Nutella which is actually made with different ingredients than the French counterpart.
- La Roue de la Fortune: Otherwise known as The Wheel of Fortune. When I was in Plélauff, Lisa and Daniela had their dinner schedule revolve around watching the French version of Wheel of Fortune in Marie-Pierre’s living room. It didn’t take long before I was also trying to guess the answers while eating my pasta. It’s so much better than the American one. The set has cool lights. The rounds are more exciting. The two hosts are some mean French guy and his cute dog. And I guess it helps to have former Playmate of the Year Victoria Silvstedt as the “Vanna White” for the show.
- Dog crap: Yeah, that’s not what you think of when you watch all those movies filmed in Paris, but there’s dog crap everywhere! Ok, I’m being a little unfair, but I was literally always looking at a slightly downward angle while walking the streets to make sure I didn’t have a fail moment with a pile. And this is apparently after a move by the city to clean up the doggy doodoo.
Well, til the next adventure…