Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An American in Paris: Notes on the French

Obviously I have only been in Paris for three weeks... but after these three weeks I have come to a few general conclusions as a foreigner that I want to note...

1. The French love kissing.. its true, just like you hear, like in the movies, etc. And not in places you think either, but places that Americans might consider strange and somewhat obnoxious (especially for those without anyone in Paris to kiss). They s'embrassent in the Metro stops, on the metro train (where sometimes I find it hard to stand without toppling on an old, frail French woman), in the streets (they especially love to stop in front of people)... which brings me to my next conclusion on the same topic. I sometimes wonder whether the French enjoy their kisses (which often come between sweet nothings passed back and forth, audible enough for those around and can be anything from a peck to a minute of embrace), or if its an elaborate play, designed and coreographed by the French government to "garder l'air" of Paris as the city of love that we all believe as Americans who learn about Paris. This sounds silly, but the French government seems to have a pretty good control... on a lot of things that Americans would not find necessary. I'm not sure whether I believe yet that the French kiss for their own satisfaction or for the satisfaction of those around them, it seems to be too spontaneous and common, as if they are looking for a crowd of foreigners to stop and look and say "Oh my, Paris really is romantic, isn't it?" In addition, I find myself seeing all French lovers as having what we might call "puppy love." This applies not only to the youth, but through the young adult faze and even to people around the age of 50, who also seem to enjoy stopping in an alley or in the middle of a crowded street to kiss for no less than 25 seconds and whisper sweet nothings. The love seems to be an act, crafted so cunningly by some puppet master as a cruel joke to all those of us who had the misfortune to grow up anywhere else. No one in Paris appears to be single (this rule only applies to public places, not to bars or clubs however... for reasons that both make sense.. why would a happy couple frequent clubs, and also for reasons I have yet to understand). The puppet master is always at work, and dare I say does a very fine job. Don't turn to quickly or you may bump into two people with locked lips.

2. I've noted this before, but the French are eternally cold... which is perfect since they can do nothing without a fabulous scarf wrapped around their necks. The problem is, they seems to bring it upon themselves. Stores, cafés, schools, and even bars are cold in Paris, so they are forced to wear layers.. which sadly hides their thin and beautiful bodies. Its not only that they are cold, but that they seems to fear, loathe, and admire those who feel differently. This applies especially to exercise, for which the French seem to have a predisposed distaste for. Example: Gyms in Paris cost around 300 euro a month... if that doesn't stop you from exercising, I don't know what will... additionally, the gym at our school is a pathetic excuse for a place to work out. As I run down the Promenade Plantée, I notice I am the only one wearing shorts... the few French who are running (for excercise) are bundles up in sweatshirts or sweaters, pants, gloves, hats, you name it. Now I am writing this as of January 28th, but it is around 40 degrees, easily running weather in small shorts and a long sleeved shirt (underarmour perhaps) in the States. Not only is it the attire, but the looks I get for wearing what I am are a mix between horror, curiosity, jealousy, and confusion (as if to say... "how are you not on the ground in a block of ice poor boy?")

3. The French are not rude, as I will attempt to explain, but they come across as such. (they are instances where of course they are rude, by any definition) The French instead have a notion of time, abstract from any real sense of the word, and certainly abstract from any understanding that Americans hold. Often there are instances where being American does seem to warrant extra rudeness, but often I notice behavior to ALL people, even to the French, that I would consider rude by American standards, especially when it comes from people in the service industry who we would expect must be extra helpful and polite. For the French, time standing is different from time moving. When they stand (and sit), time does not actually move forward, and if it does, minutes last hours. Thus, meals in France (nice ones at nice places) take hours and have many courses. There is no hurry to eat for the customers, or to serve (for the waiters and staff). In lines, people seem fairly patient, even though one usually waits at least 10 minutes, sometimes even 20 or so, to check out at a grocery store (keep in mind, people don't buy cartloads, they buy 5 to 10 items.. in America there would be no lines at all for this). When they move, time apparently flies by at light speed, as if they are all on fire and its following them and the only way they can avoid a terrible and tragic death is arriving at their destination and sitting down. They have no time for people in the street who are in their way (unless of course, refering to my first point, they must stop and kiss... its as essential as a glass of water apparently). If they don't get from point A to point B in half the time it would take an American, they feel shame greater than a traditional tribal family must feel when one of their own takes a spouse from a rival village. One would assume that slowing down the moving and speeding up the sitting would suffice as a perfect middle ground, but this is not so, for reasons I do not yet comprehend. 

4. After a few weeks in Paris, you might be inclined to think that the city sits amongst a vast desert, three times as large as the Sahara, because for some reason, water in this town is as hard to find as the lost Ark. First of all, there are not bubblers (water fountains for those not from Milwaukee)... but thats not even the issue here. Sitting down at a French restaurant, water is not immediately brought to your table (GASP! I know... as Americans we are used to heaping glasses of ice water immediately as we enter a restaurant and never being able to finish it). Instead, you must ask (with great care) for "de l'eau" in a carafe. Make sure to ask for it in a carafe or they will bring you expensive Evian.. no, no, you want the free stuff. The problem is, they bring you but a small wine bottle of tap water, often enough for only 4 small wine glasses of water that sit upon every table in Paris... even when you have 6 or 7 people. Apparently, Paris is always in a drought, because to get another bottle is a task so epic, the combined might of all of Mount Olympus MIGHT be enough to force your French waiter/waitress to bring you another carafe... ten minutes after you asked. And don't even THINK about ice.. no, in France there is NO ice (this is an overstatement of course) but it appears they only enjoy filling your glass with ice when you get a 15 euro drink from a bar or club, diluting it enough to taste like.. well... water and ice). Even McDonald's appears to be suffering from constantly broken ice machines. It's all very unsettling. Safe to say, when you leave a restaurant in Paris, you are as thirty as a camel and now you have the difficult task of sticking it out until you return home or buying a 3 euro (5 dollar) bottle of Evian at the nearest market.

5. One positive thing... you don't have to leave a tip! When you see a price, both tax AND tip are included. This is, beyond imagination, one of the most amazing things about living abroad. (It is also why American waiters/waitresses hate foreigners). When you go out to eat in America (of course I'm speaking about a high school/college age) with your friends, the most difficult task is figuring out the tip, who has enough singles or change to leave, and then who owes who a dollar because they only have a $20. In Paris, NO MORE! The price you see is the price you pay. That's all I have to say about that... just in case you think you have to leave a tip, you don't (although it's appreciated.. its rare)... so don't... you're already paying up the ass as it is. Oh, this applies to drinks at bars too... WOHOO!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Adventures in the night

Thursday we went back to Le Club Mix for another raging dance party... I think its already becoming tradition. After all, its free for foreigners.. and I do love being foreign. Being a little less drunk this time had its benefits. For example, I learned (which I failed to recognize the last time) that the bathrooms are completely open and unisex.. its one big room with urinals, stalls, and sinks... with a turnstyle to get in and out. People can literally watch you pee. How fun. I also noticed that the platforms where you dance are much smaller than previously thought.. they fit about 5 people on each.. we somehow managed to cram like 10 tho.

The night was already fabulous when they started playing, who else, Britney. Europeans love Britney, and American pop music in general, but they are always behind the times. Songs we raged to a few years ago are popular now (and they think they are so far ahead of the Americans.. hah) This night however seemed to be the exception. Womanizer and Circus premiered, to my pleasure, along with a mélange of Katy Perry and T-Pain. Still, the climax (seriously) was when Jump Around came on... now imagine taking all of the students in madison jumping to this song, and turning them into beautiful europeans, hot and sweaty in a huge dance club at 2am in the morning... yea... Priya managed to push some rando girl off of the dance stage to make room and view to other Madisonians who would understand the hype. 

Yesterday Anna came! FORMIDABLE! bearing gifts of expensive liquors. Very excited after our super-Parisian street greeting like two long separated lovers, we started drinking at around 6... very early here.. and with Jen, headed to meet up with the rest of the people at our school for free beer! Rage. The basement of our school is a cool cheap bar where students hang out to pregame for the bars, which are a pregame for the clubs. Also, you can smoke in here.. like the only place left in Paris. After we proceeded on to random bars in the Bastille area, meandering our way around Paris à nuit. Being sure to stop for gyros for sustenance before dancing all night, we stuffed ourself, and headed to the club. It was a big absynthe party (although bottles were 150 euro so we still stuck with cheaper drinks.. still 10 euro each.. ugh.. this city) and throwing out that we are students at ESCP (ok Jen and Anna faked it) we got to skip the cover charge of 20 euro.. love it) 

Lets just say that the night ended with Anna, Kabir, and I literally walking miles back home because Paris is full of taxis at night, just no empty ones. Literally, maybe 200 taxis passed us all full. Of course the metro stops at 2:00am also, bullshit, so that was not an option. Interesting to note, a few boulangeries were open at 3:00am... which I dont understand, seeing as they bake things in the morning, no less than 20 hours beforehand. I guess thats drunk food for Parisians.. croissants and crèpes. Why are they all so in shape..? When we arrive chez nous, Jen (who left after us) is there to get her keys from my room. 

That night, Anna and I spooned.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey Michelle, lookin' good!

This was my first week of class. I have three... Advertising and Media on tuesdays at 1:30, Marketing Research on wednesdays at 1:30 and Int'l Business Management at 9am on thursdays (such a big workload I know). The classes are three hours long which is no fun, but having them once a week is grand!

We walk into our first class yesterday where a harsh German of 30-ish pushes (more like flips) his greased hair out of his eye and greets us in an unmistakable accent. The class is decent, it appears there is no homework in any class, just a project and one exam. Oh, and because we can miss two of 10 classes without penalty.. I could in theory take two more weeks off of school. Europeans learn nothing apparently.. and this is one of the TOP business schools in Paris. Yikes!

Today was Marketing Research where a relaxed and almost too-friendly Brit greets us.. until we learned he wasn't a Brit at all, but another German. His accent really threw me. He, however, is nothing like his comrade, he waited about 15 extra minutes for more students to arrive late and strolled round the class leisurely for the remainder of the 2 hours and 45 minutes left, with the exception of the three breaks he gave us to chat amongst ourselves and get coffee.

By the way, Katie and I came to a general conclusion that France smells like three things and only three things at any given time. Cigarettes, urine, or fresh-baked croissants. The first is a general haziness of Paris.. and it may be more of a feeling than a real physical actuality. The second is almost entirely contained to the metro... which is odd because the metro is highly efficient in terms of trains and general transport and often nicely decorated. The third is more often than not it seems, since there is a boulangerie/pattiserie on every corner and on every corner that there is not, there's a brasserie/café which sells pains et croissaints et tartes.

Shopping in Paris is unmatched. They have Soldes (sales) every year in January and June (I think... it may be may.. or july) where everything is 50% to 70% off... H&M is already cheap.. try it now. There are, of course, thousands of new, Europe-only stores that are even better and more fab with sales equally as good. Converting to dollars sucks... but I try not to think about that. I found an amazing leather messenger bag for 24 euro... it was on sale.. and the woman rang it up wrong. Score! Suuchhh a big score. My purchases for that day also consisted of socks, a scarf, and a button down short for 11 euro. yes.

Well, last night was Obama's inauguration. For those in the States, an 11am or noon viewing must have been thrilling. However, en France, his speech came at 6pm.. a little early to start partying for the Parisians.. but that didn't stop the Americans. 

We heard of several bars and a club actually throwing a party Obama-style.. I guess they do love him over here, so at 5:30-ish we headed off to find some booze and TV showing our beloved new halfzie Barack. After much drinking (especially by me) and waiting for some friends to arrive (a homeless man pulled the emergency stop on the metro.. delaying them by an hour) a few of us proceeded to a club called Queen for the Obama party. It may have been the strangest thing I have ever witnessed. A usually gay bar on the Champs-Élysées in Paris transformed to a giant dance hall blaring American 60's, 70's and 80's music to miles of streaming American flags and a GIGANTIC TV screen of Barack and friends. Fun, but safe to say it got old. This is a place to rage until 7am usually, but we called it quits after a couple hours. I told the bounces who asked us why we were leaving so early "Il y a TROP de musique américaine ici" to which he replied "Are you not American (translated)?" .... hahaha... yes, yes I am bouncer/coat check man... but how do I explain. Oh well.

Rachael, I owe you a drink just for being there to endure all of that with me ;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day of Rest

After the weekend, a nice 1pm wake up time was just what the doctor ordered. Paris seems to be faithfully gloomy, minus the one beautiful day we experience when we saw the Sacré-Coeur. On the other hand, its around 40 degrees, where as in Wisconsin its about -20. One should also remember its the middle of winter. Its supposed to get up to 50 tomorrow!

I went for another run on the Promenade Plantée, so beautiful. I ran this elevated parkway (the only one in the world, complete with wooden archways crawling with vines, perfectly groomed hedges and trees, and a view of the absolutely picturesque apartments of Paris) for a total of 2 minutes when I went down hard, and what should have been a disaster for more than one bone in my body. It was slippery.. and I was jamming to Rihanna... Of course this happened in front of no less than 10 French people, and they all came over to check on me. A kind old couple approached me in my shock (it was good that I looked in shocked because for half of the things they said that I couldn't understand I now had a good excuse). The woman rummaged through her purse and gave me a kleenex for the blood on my knee and elbow (the second i would only realize until later). Nonetheless, the French people strolling through the gardens were quite sympathetique to me. Wearing my shorts I was so out of place on the rest of my run. The French, being eternal cold, do not wear shorts, not even to exercise in apparently... although I'm being hasty in making my judgments since I have never lived here for spring or summer.

The day looked up and I had plans to meet my friend Jen who just arrived in Paris for the semester a few days ago. We met near the Marait area... where the Jews and the Homos love to mix. The most beautiful people in the world congregate here to shop, walk the small beautiful cobblestone streets, sit at cafés, and just generally be seen. And beautiful, even for Paris. Wow. Luckily, Jen's friend also speaks French, so the three of us with our adequate knowledge of the langue maternelle of our host country strolled the streets of Paris for a couple hours conversing in the native tongue. Formidable!

When I returned home, we booked our train tickets to London in two weeks or so... its hard to know or care what day it is here with our thus-far leisurely lifestyle... which is not a bad thing at all.

Promenade Plantée/Rage

Promenade Plantée... Look it up on wikipedia or something... It is right above my apartment, and it is where I now run. OMG

So last night we partied on the Seine.. yea no big deal. A dance party on a cruise boat going down the Seine River in Paris with a bunch of European students. What did we do to deserve this shit?! Soooo ballerrrr

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fact: I Love Paris

Best day of my life... fo'real yo

Our group decided that taking the test which covered everything we learned this past week in school was faaar over-rated, so we didn't. Instead of getting up at 8, crawled out of bed at around 10. We had planned to have a long, adventurous day... and we did. 

First, the Louvre. This thing is fucking huge. Shit. Where to start? Duh.. Winged Victory? Mona Lisa anyone? Which MILE of the museum shall we explore first. We made our way around about .001% of the museum in a hour or so we were there. (Oh, our school gets us free passes... for the year!... by saying we are étudiants d'histoire. amazing.) Realizing we live a 10 minute metro ride away, and that it was beautiful out, we decide to explore the pyramid and the rest of the exterior of the museum. Easily distracted as we are by a beautiful Paris afternoon, we spot the Eiffel Tower in the distance and think "Why not?" We've seen it at night, a day-time view would be nice... and so we meander.

Ok, France is a fashionable place, of course... but the people jogging in the streets and paths in this area... wearing sweaters... SCARVES... for running??!!? Really. We have pictures.

We may have misjudged the distance to the tour and after a while decide it would be a perfect day to go to the place I have been waiting to see for many many years... Le Sacré-Coeur.. the sexy white basilica at the top of the hill (mountain more like... try climbing those stairs) in Montemartre. Most beautiful thing in the world. Climbing up those stairs and looking out over Paris for miles... also fucking amazing. Near the top was a frenchie singing with a guitar to a crowd of people. French songs? Not a chance. We heard Torn as we approach. Amazing! The Sacré -Coeur was literally breathtaking. I was somewhat shaking from being in its presence. Rage!

That night we went to this club called Le Mix. Every thursday its Erasmus night (which is the exchange program study abroad thing for Europeans) All you have to do is prove your not French and there is no cover charge. Thus, its a gigantic sweaty club BOOMING with American and Euro dance music full of people from around the globe. Every thursday... yes! There is nothing that comes close to the amazingness of this place at all in America. Why do we live there again? Its open till 7am. RAGE! Also, finding beautiful people to take home must be so easy for the regulars. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So many dead people, so little time

The title refers to the fact that after class, Wednesday we went to Le Cimitière Père-Lachaise... which is the most astoundingly gigantic graveyard right in the middle of Paris. It's miles long, and sprawls across and up a huge hill, so when you look up it looks like an undead village of grave-houses and at any moment one might come out and say "hello" although I suppose in this case "bonjour." Non? When you look down from the top, you can see a few miles of graves... and not just ordinary graves, there are almost all huge, beautifully designed graves, mausoleum style. This is cemetery where Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Delacroix, Chopin, and many others are buried. Its eerily very beautiful, especially in the still winter-esque, around-dusk time we were there.

The next day (today as of writing this post) was by far the best day in Paris, and perhaps one of the most memorable in my life.

School Sucks...

Our second day was awful, school-wise. Being the badasses we are, Priya, Molly, and I decided to skip the second have of our orientation (which turned out to be an actual class of French history, European history, French figures in history, etc.) and instead head to Notre Dâme. Yes... skipping school is Paris is the most rewarding this EVER! It didnt help that one of the professors was an American now living in Paris... and not any American, one of those "now that I'm French I disown my heritage and am far to superior to all of you still-American Americans...." and she was a bitch in general. And soooo boring.

We took the metro to Ile-de-la-Cité, the island where Notre Dâme is located... and the first vestiges of today's Paris we all know and love, and love to hate. I showed my superior skills in the art of the French language by asking the cutest old couple of French men, "Savez-vous où se trouve Notre-Dâme" with a mix of "exusez-moi"s and "pardons" and an accompaniment of agreeable "oui"s and "d'accord"s when they told me it was ok that I couldn't find it, being so "caché" being many tall buildings. I was then complimented heavily on how well I speak French, and changed my mind again that, in fact, I do not hate the French.

Notre-Dâme was great. So beautiful... but what isn't here. We proceeded to explore the area and found a treasure of petits cafés, stores, etc., but as it was beginning to rain a tad we headed home. Since it was still early in the evening we decided to look for a smaller museum, and found one housing all of Monet's works. After an hour or searching for the infamous "Water Lillies" we all but gave up. Priya was NOT happy that this painting was no where to be found... seriously? what a gyp. (Ok, 5 euro to see all of Monet and upwards of 10 other artists' works, maybe the word "gyp" is a little hasty.. not to mention un-PC... i think...) ...Until...! we stumbled across the gift shop, which had a secret staircase leading to all of the famous works from Monet. Why the sign wasn't more clear is beyond belief, but we would have missed almost 2/3rds of his works. There it was. "Water Lillies" Oh Priya was so happy, like a child on Christmas morn. 

More happened that day but oh well... The next day was our last day of classes for our orientation. Thank effing GOD.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Off to school, mommy

7:30am is early in the US. 7:30am in France is, surprise, surprise, also very very early. For some unknown reason, our orientation this week is at 8:30 from mon to thur. Why is this such a disaster? Because I only have to get up that early once a week from next week on out. This is the first time I have seen the sun rise in Paris... ok I have to be honest. Its one of the first times I've left my apartment before the sun was setting. Jet lag and alcohol keep us all down for the count come next morning, or any semblance thereof.

We met at ACCENT where Lorna, the tallest Brit who you ever did see, led us to ESCP where we would be taking our classes. Being dumb Americans, we had not yet charged our Metro passes (but to be honest, you cannot charge them until monday for the week or else your wasting your money, and it was monday at 8. The weekly pass doesnt roll over at all). She had to supply us all with here own.

I don't think she likes us.

The Paris Metro is the easiest metro system I've seen (although I've only seen 4), so arriving at the ESCP took us just 15 minutes. I should mention that there is no coordination among the metro stops in Paris. Some of them have art sculptures and paintings, some have interest facts about French history, many of advertisements for the sales going on, and a few look like they were firebombed during WWII and were never rebuilt. This is also a good time to mention that the only word you would really need to know to get around Paris is "pardon." Nasal that "n" as much as possible. When I first arrived I tried to say "pardonnez-moi" and "escusez-moi" but was met with blank stares. So, the 15 minute trip still means we were 10 minutes late, and the Swedes, Mexicans, Brazilians, Portugese, Koreans, and any other nationality represented in our orientation class was already there. Yes, good first impression. "Bon travail" for the Americans.

One group fascinated me. The Swedes... and not only because of their ridiculous flowing blonde hair or oversized glasses or holier-than-thou attitude (ok that's a lie.. just one of them, the rest of them were very, very nice. We sat 3 for lunch, and I talked to two with Summer for a good 20 minutes.) They spoke perfect English, and it may be safe to say, better than many Americans... although half of them had British accents, most of the rest had American accents, and one may have learned her English part of the time in Sydney, part of the time in Stockholme and part of the time in Mombai. Anyway, we had our orientation, learned of the location of the cheapest bar in Paris (in the basement of our school) had some lunch, and of course I proceeded to get lost more times than I can count.

When we left, some of our friends headed to the Marait to do some shopping, while I on the other hand went back to ACCENT with Summer's company to hope and pray to Jesus Christ, Allah, and all of my ancestors dating back for as long as I can remember for my baggage to be there. Nope, but Kabir's other bag is there. We bring it back, and just as I get to my door, I hear the room phone ring. Rushing like I never have before in mhy entire life, I whipped out the keys, turned the 708 full turns it takes to unlock our possessed doors which close and lock automatical but take a key to unlock from the inside, answered the phone and heard "Bonjour?" My bags? YES... no. One of my bags.. awesome. We head BACK to ACCENT and grab my bag (albeit the larger one) and, partially ecstatic, partially defeated, head out the door. Back to the apartment, then to Monoprix for some groceries. I attempt to speak with the man at the checkout line but he fails to speak audibly, or in English. One of the two was all I needed, but in his defense, it was late, he looked bored and tired, and if I was him I would have hated my job and not cared much anyway to answer my question.

Three more days of this bullshit and home free....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meena

you better read this girl... since you told me to write these blog things ;)

Ooh la la

Today is sunday, and we were on a mission. Oh yes... today, we are tourists. Although I should mention that the "day" started when we woke up at three. So unlike me, Paris is dangerous. Our first destination, the Eiffel Tower. We arrived just as the sun was setting, and managed to take more pictures in 10 minutes than I have ever taken in my life. And of course, we had to take them from a mile away, a half mile, 5/11th of a mile, 4/9th of a mile, 3/7th of a mile, and 10 other stops along the way. I must say, we had perfect timing. As we walked under the Tour Eiffel, it began to spasm and orgasm with a display of lights both beautiful and dizzying. More pictured ensued of course. 

We found our way to a cafe nearby and I enjoyed a delicious sandwich of ham and cheese on baguette. I'm still astounded that mayo costs .9 euro. From there we headed to the Champs-Élysées.. and holy shit. The street was beautiful in and of itself with a massive parade of trees with Christmas lights and bâtiments suited for royalty to live in, but the stores it contained were equally as amazing. We passed on our journey, 1. The headquarters of Louis Vuittain, 2. The nicest McDonald's in the world (no trashy Mickey D's for the French) and most importantly 3. all of the most beautiful people in the world.

I never knew that there was really a distinctly French facial construct until just now, and they are very, very lucky. Everyone in this fucking city is gorgeous, and they don't even have to try. They have dark hair, beautiful complexions, sharp features... and on top of it, they are all skinny. Oh and if that weren't enough, they all know how to dress. I swear that the French are born with an innate ability to dress perfectly, and the ability to do it blindly. I think that they must reach in their closets when they wake up, throw a bunch a clothes in the air, twirl around, and whatever lands on them they walk out the door with... and it works every time. Even down the scarf (which every French woman AND man knows how to wear flawlessly) looks thrown around their necks in the most careless and haphazard fashion... and I stand here and try for 5 minutes to copy it and fail every time. WTF

Apart from the Parisians themselves, every fucking building in this city is absolutely beautiful. They don't really have skyscrapers in Paris, although that may soon change (the city has many plans to modernize the skyline a bit... and of course it will in done in the most carefully aesthetic fashion). From the apartment buildings to the museums to the cafés, everything is beautiful. Well, just don't look down, the ground could use a good sweep, but I'm willing to overlook that. Everything  just... looks like its supposed to, I guess.

The next day (well today as I'm writing this) we have our orientation for the ESCP-EAP (the business school we will be attending)... like I will be wasting my time studying.. haha.

So, Paris is not Madison... who knew?

We arrived at ACCENT (our dorm-style housing situation which they call "studio apartments" as a consolation prize) in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. To be honest though, our situation is amazing. We are on the Avenue Daumesnil just near the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a long, bustling road with more stores, cafés, boulangeries, and bars than exist in the entire state of Wisconsin. Heading down the Rue du Faubourg for a few minutes places you in the center of the Bastille (you know... "The Storming of the Bastille") where a giant obelisk with golden statue atop welcomes you to a whole new area of shops, restaurants, clubs, etc. The Bastille may not be the most chic area of Paris, but it'll do for our first weekend in the City of Light.

Friday was rather hectic, trying to really settle in into a new life in a new country where they speak a language that thinks itself far superior to our own, while at the same time admitting its slowly dying from the tide of English flowing in from all directions.  In our apartment complex are a group of students from U of I. We like them. They drink. They don't speak much French but Kabir, Summer and I can try to translate for the group. Oh, we woke up at 1:30pm, which made it harder to get alot done.  That night, we geared up for our first night out in Paris.

Wine is $2.50 a bottle at the Monoprix (the nearby Wal-Mart-esque store but oh so much classier... my first love, however, vodka, is $10 for a .75L bottle. Most unfortunate. We choose wine. 

At this point, we still had not received our luggage, and I, in all my glory, was going out in the same shirt I had worn when I woke up in Milwaukee 2 days before, the same shirt I wore on the plane (all THREE planes from Chicago to Philly to London to Paris). Yes, I am a rockstar. We are super cool for our first night, and 15 Americans head out to the Bastille in search of booze, dancing, and Parisian lovers. First we went into an Irish Pub. Now, you may assume that being an IRISH pub in Paris, they would be welcoming to foreigners. You would be wrong. Assholes. (Although we may have had it coming. The bar itself only really fit 10 people). We split up and heading down a small side street off the Bastille and found a bar called "Rotounde" where we ordered the cheapest thing on the menu.. 25 euro bottles of wine. The bar was complete with a damn good DJ and huge plasma screens with anime... yup. The wine by the way: delicious. Around 2, and a bill of 100+ euro later, we were ready to find a "discotheque" to dance the night away. Before we left, I made sure to awkwardly walk into the women's bathroom (they were poorly labeled). By the way, I put my six semesters of French to good use finally when I asked the waitress, "Où se trouve les salles de bain?" Way to go me! I have made note after my first two days that Parisians enjoy putting all of their toillettes on another floor, which makes it difficult after several glasses of wine.

She told us about a club called "Wax" down the street. Super classy sounding, I know. It may have just been the fact that we were in the most romantic city in the world, but I wasenthralled with the club from the minute we entered. (I realized later it was a little sketch, the French are super handsy, especially in this place). It also may have been the pounding fusion of familiar American jams and European-style dance beats, but for at least he first half-hour I was in heaven. More than the actual experience, I was just fascinated that this was only the FIRST of the countless clubs we have at our disposal now.

Safe to say, we are not yet European. We left around 4:00am as people were streaming into the club. I'm so confused... when is bar time? Oh wait... never.

Saturday, Kabir and I explored the city (I forget what our actual mission was) only to find a demonstration down the Avenue Daumesnil up to the Bastille comprised of Arabs of all shapes and sizes raging on about Gaza. A sight indeed. Keep in mind that we are already confused where we are headed, and now imagine a stream of hundreds and thousands of people chanting French and Arabic ("Allaaaahhh Akbaaarrr" was heard many times) as you're trying to make your way to buy groceries. The best part: EVERYONE was wearing a koofeeyah (if you don't know that word, you did not live at 225 W. Gilman St. #2) but I am still sure you know what I am talking about. Those Palestinian-inspired checkered scarves (usually black and white or red and white but ranging from purple to the rainbow-colored one my roommate gave me for Christmas). They were not contained to the Arabs however, French adults and youth wore them up and down the streets, apparently in support of the march. Traffic was at a standstill. If only my luggage had arrived yet I could have joined in.. FUCK. I saw the most interesting mix of people, including: 1. A group of Asian teens wearing gothic clothing speaking French and STILL mispronouncing their Rs, 2. A group of black women around the age of 25 wearing pink and green and other florescent colored make-up literally oozing from a variety of facial crevices, 3. More white people than you will ever see wearing clothing originating in the Middle East, and 4. A group of  the most polite policier you will ever encounter wearing riot gear.

I do love this city.

Also, I refuse to speak of that night.

The next day we were super-tourists....

Paris je t'aime... US Airways je vous déteste...

So this is not my first or second day in Paris, instead it's my 5th, but since my luggage just arrived at 5pm today (well only one of them thus far), one would be tempted to think otherwise. UGH

We met at O'Hare at around noon, myself and mes trois amis, Summer, Priya, and Kabir (yes look at how multicultural we are) prepared to take our 4 o'clock flight from Chitown to Philly. We are so prepared. However, the airport is not. US Airways, the assholes of the air, are scrambling to get their servers back online and their computers working. (Yes, these people are flying the deathtrap in the air we will be in for the next 10+ hours). As it turns out, Philly is also having severe weather, and there are two hour delays. The skank at the front counter thinks it would be wise to separate from my companions and take the earlier flight in case this flight is delayed so much that I miss my connection from Philly to Paris. I oblige. I am an idiot. I sprint to the gate to find the plane has taken off. Luckily we are still in the US and I know how to make a fit in English better than in French and I get a ticket for the later flight again. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is cause for an even greater headache later. The others join me (actually sitting at the wrong gate anyway... they all look the same OK!) and we head to the correct gate a minute further down the hall.

I buy an orange from the cart nearby... questionable freshness indeed.

We board the plan on time, but instead of taking off asap, the pilot wants to deice, and after taking so long to move to the runway, decides we must deice again.. oh yea.. and AGAIN. MOVE YOUR ASS. By the time we take off it is 3 or so hours late. Much turbulence later, we land in Philly. We now have -5 minutes to get to our connecting flight to Paris. Luckily I am slightly in shape and can run fast and long. I spring ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, I nor none of my companions planned for the plane to leave 5 minutes before its set time. I am having so much fun. Out of breath, a man is driving the others in a little airport jeep and I hop on. We make our way to "Special Services" (yes, that name is ominous) because the people who work there should literally be called "special."

This woman is the MOST incompetent person I have ever met in my life. Oh... My.. God... if only I had a sharp weapon. Ok we sit there for an HOUR trying to find a flight. The next flight direct is not for 24 hours.. awesome. There is a flight from Philly to London Heathrow and then to Paris. GREAT! No wait, only 2 seats, two people have to go on standby.. fine. Wait, can we get seats on the direct flight tomorrow if we miss standby....? No? Awesome. Wait why does the French man next to us have a direct flight to Paris for tomorrow morning? Oh yes we would like that flight! Its full now? great..... We'll try standby.

We get to the counter by the gate and the one sane person working for US Airways tells us there are plenty of seats to Heathrow in London. What? There is also a meal, thank GOD. We get on. 

Were in London. 

London is boring because people speak English (and not well). The airport is too big to function. We are sure they don't transfer our baggage... but we have a half hour to get on our flight to Paris.

Hey! We're in Paris! We wait for our bags for an hour.. no sign. We head to the bureau d'Air France (oh we switched to Air France for the last leg of the trip) because US Airways can get us from Philly to Paris, or Philly to London, but apparently not FROM London to Paris. Dumb. At Air France we fill out claims for our baggage. J'adore Air France. They apologize and give us 100 euro for the day to buy things we need for the first day. Perfect... Oh, except that I'm in the fashion capitol of the world without any CLOTHES. Thank GOD I wore my Nudie jeans and one of my pea coats on the plane. Seriously..

Our taxi man speaks French with an asian accent. AMAZING!!!!
(Later we went to a chic wine bar called "Routonde" where our asian waitress speaks with impeccable French. I already love this town... but all that will follow)