Editor's Note: Reflections on a Disaster
Yes, that’s me, the day before I left Paris, and that’s the device I use to type this little blog on. I won't be adding to the blog. I'm not sure if it's indefinite or not. I'll be back in Paris for Fete de la Musique but it's unknown whether that will be for a week or permanently. I'm in America waiting to hear what the French say about a visa. We'll see how it goes. If they let me back in I might have new misadventures to regal you with. xfingerscrossedx Actually let's hope it goes more smoothly.
I'd like to keep the blog alive but I'm sure I've given all that I've learned as a first timer who went to Paris with zero knowledge of anyone or anything. There were many bad, a few good, but at the end of the day I went in thinking I would hate the city, and ended up loving it.
I don't think I want to live in Paris forever. I get the travel bug too often, and I've never been good at commitment. I get bored too easily, I change my mind too often, and I'm far to mercurial to know how I'll feel tomorrow, much less a year from now, but I do know that I would like to see more of that pretty bitch. At least enough to feel like I've discovered all that I can and then move on to a new city (could this mentality also be why my relationships don't last...?).
Maybe someone finds this useful. Maybe it dies in some dusty old virtual filing cabinet. Who knows.
Because, Of Course
Not to be outdone of course I spent what I thought was my last full day (long story) in Paris giving Montmartre another go. I tried not to have a negative opinion of the place so I thought 'find some good in the bad'. And then I took a wrong turn and ended up in the farthest northern reaches of Paris (at Porte de Clignancourt and Porte de la Chapelle respectively).
And yet I still didn't feel unsafe (*cough* tripadvisor posters scaring people). But I will say GPS sucks ass. I could not figure out whether to go up or down because it doesn't take into account that you're walking, and what direction you're going in. I kept walking aimlessly thinking I'd hit Clichy before realizing I was actually going north and was at the last metro stops. Finally I just gave up on finding the right number and hopped on whatever metro. I had to make two changes but at least you can get home, no matter where you are.
I just have to face it, Montmartre and I don't get on. There are too many stairs and too many tourists. Not to mention creepers. That scene in Clueless when that dude jumps on Cher and she pushes him off? That's how the dudes in Montmartre are. Always trying to grab you, or they get right up on you. Learn to say two things before you go "not interested" (which usually doesn't work), and "fuck off".
Maybe when I've totally disassociated it (I can't even watch Amélie anymore), I can see it from an unbiased point of view. But until then it's the home of an asshole, and I much prefer medieval Paris anyhow. My love for Le Marais... what can I say? It can't be put into words.
On To the Last Minute Advice...
I'm trying to think if there's anything else I can really say... some tiny hints that don't require entire blog posts. I'm sure I'll keep updating this post when I start thinking of little snatches here and there.
One piece of advice, go with Orange. They were the best carrier I had. I had Bouygues for the first month and they sucked. There was a giant dead spot in Marais and on St. Louis. My phone connected to SFR sometimes (in the 10e for some reason?), but my phone just stuck with Orange after a while and I never had a problem with them.
Spend your days trying out zee French, no matter how bad you sound, or how much your French friends make fun of you. And when people try to switch to English, don't let them! I didn't even hang out with any Americans and yet I still didn't pick up much.
Though saying 'metro' was my Achilles heel but now that bitch ain't got nothing on me. I'm trying to convince Cedric to speak French at me. At the very least so I won't feel sad about not being there anymore. Not hearing it everywhere I go is the hardest part. I miss all of the chatter.
Oh and that myth that French people don't speak English, is just that, a myth. Everywhere I went, except once to the dry cleaners, everyone spoke English. Just like you have a hangup about how you sound in French? French people think the same way about speaking in English. Or maybe they just don't want to be bothered by tourists.
Buy the book when taking the Metro. It's cheaper buying in bulk, and you'll use them eventually. Even better the pass. You don't realize just how much you'll use it. Despite my bouginess and love of taxis, I'll conceed the metro is quicker (and cheaper). I guess that's another upside to socialism, no airs about taking public transport.
Ask for VAT refund slips if buying anything over €145. If the store doesn't offer on the spot refunds, you'll need them before taking your receipts to the airport, where they get stamped, and then you mail off everything. If traveling during tourist season don't expect a refund for up to three months.
Make sure you have all of your electronics otterboxed before you leave. Everything is like double the price in France, and then even more because you're paying in Euros. I prayed I wouldn't drop or break my iPad or cell phone because I didn't want to have to replace them. I'd see a price tag for an iPhone and I couldn't help but laugh. €709? I hope French people make a yearly pilgrimage to Boston (no tax) to buy their electronics. if you're like we Americans, and upgrade your iProducts every September, you're really getting ripped off.
And make sure you have extra headphones. Seriously, headphones are your bestfriend. No one (usually) bothers you when you have them in. And unless you're out with someone else, you'll use them every time. When mine broke I cursed myself because I didn't bring another pair and I knew that I wouldn't be able to find the ones I used. Even if I did, they'd cost double what I pay for them in America.
Pack lightly. I know what you're thinking, you're going to France you need to dress to the nines. Please no. That's how I could always spot a tourist, because she always looked ridiculous. You're not Carrie Bradshaw, this isn't Sex and the City. French girls don't put that much effort into their clothes. It's a simplicity you'll soon get used to.
Walk everywhere. You will be surprised just how quickly you'll pick up a sense of direction and eventually you'll be able to maneuver those streets like a boss. It's kind of sad actually how little some Parisians know about their city. Seeing all of the little nooks and crannies and using Wikipedia will eventually turn you into a master. Just walking everywhere led me to 11 of the 20 arrondissements on sheer accident and I'm glad because I saw many places that I probably wouldn't have otherwise (like finding a basketball court in Marais. French height being what it is, do they make the hoops shorter?).
Grocery stores are closed on Sundays (or close at 1pm), and if you're looking to score some bread, veggies, fish or meat, you're out of luck on Mondays, unless you go to the grocery store. One Eric Kayser and Maison Gaumer on Monge are open on Mondays though. That's just smart business.
Monoprix on St. Michel is cheaper than the Carrefours in the area, and Franprix on Rivoli is more expensive than both. In fact most places on Rivoli are much higher than on St. Michel. I guess going to where the students are means better deals? Although happy hour is better in Marais than it is in the Latin Quarter. Oh and Monoprix takes American Express, Carrefour does not.
Learn to order wine everywhere you go. The French are absolute shit at mixing a cocktail. I think they got progressively worse with each place I went to. I guess they haven't caught on to the art of "mixology". At one point I think I was just drinking straight up soda water. I don't know why it's impossible for them to mix some liquor and a chaser but it's no bueno. Don't waste your money.
Try to stay away from the American Embassy unless you really, really need them. Going to that place is a ducking nightmare. I couldn't even get in. I had to call a consulate officer to come to the gate. And yes I know the guards aren't American, but they're assholes. One of them told me I couldn't walk on the "American side of the street" so I told him "fuck off" and threw the V sign at him and apparently he complained. Now normally I don't tell perfect strangers to fuck off, I'm Southern after all, but they tried to get me to jump through hoops, and I don't care who you are, I don't play that way.
Apparently you can only cross to the Consulate through the "specified crosswalks". The Consulate officers aren't any better. The one I talked to had some attitude on her. Don't get me wrong, I gave as good as she did, but it took everything in me not to have a 'Hold My Gold' kind of moment. I can be the nicest person, but do not test me, I will go full hood on your ass. Eventually I had to be transferred to someone else because "I was too rude". But to be fair, those people are the worst, and the consulate does NOTHING to help you. They are the most useless organization. I’m convinced that it’s just there to provide those people with a free vacation/life in Paris. Useless tossers.
Paris for the Beginners of this World
So that's that. I'm sure I'll keep updating this post. I have a shit memory but like lightening it will come to me later on and then I'll chastise myself for forgetting something really important.
I never expected to write a blog, and I never expected it to be seen by anyone. The boughettoness and hastiness of poorly crafted articles didn't give it away? Mostly I just needed an outlet. But I've been seeing traffic here and there and I hope people have taken something away from the Murphy's Law tragedy I call my life.
That was something that was really important to me when I first started this experience. I am a nerd, and I research everything. I wanted to be prepared for what it would be like to move to this city but all of the blogs about moving to Paris were a lot of candy coated, sugar fluff dreams. Being the pessimistic realist I am, I know life isn't sunshine and kittens, and that's why this blog borders on the negative sometimes (sorry).
My most popular, and most negative, posts have nothing to do with Paris itself. Which is a little heartbreaking. I guess depressing, slit your wrist type situations make people feel better (to laugh at?) because the Julien Benais posts seem to be what gets ya'll talking. I get a lot of feedback with regards to that whole situation, and I'm sorry to disappoint but this is one tale that won't be wrapped up in a pretty little bow.
At the end of the day just enjoy Paris. There are many things I wish I could do differently in my travels. Mostly I wish I could find someone who is just as impulsive and spontaneous as I am so I can stop doing this shit on my own. But despite that, I guess I wouldn't change much. Being on my own teaches me to fend for myself. It would have been nice to have an easy, drama free trip, but I know a lot more than I should know so I guess at least I'm prepared for the harsh realities of this cold, cruel world.
If you end up being a solo dolo traveler like myself, learn to enjoy it. It’s not fun to not have someone to "share" things with, but it's a little empowering to do these things on your own. I was really surprised by how many people I met who were shocked that I was there by myself. Paris isn't exactly Liberia, ya know? If you're a fellow western first worlder, you're just going from one cushy little country to another cushy little first world country, but this one comes with lots of bread, and cheese, and wine, and socialism.
One more important thing, don't put too much emphasis on what you "should" do. I got so tired of people judging how I spent my time there. So what that I enjoyed spending my days on the Seine and never went in the Louvre (as an art history minor I should probably have my degree taken away). But the Seine is my happy place. The place I go to to feel calm and reflect. I met some weird people, and I saw some strange things, and for me that's enough. What's worthwhile for you, might not be for them. Fuck it, and fuck them, do what you want. It's your experience, live it doing what makes you happy.