Monday, January 12, 2009

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....


  1. Peter I'm glad you wasted no time in figuring out the most cost efficient way to get drunk in Europe. I'm also glad you find space in every post to mention something about Asians. :)

  2. haha good call on not speaking of that night! so terrible...