Tuesday, January 29, 2013

montmartre at night

Maddie, Metin & I ventured up to Montmartre Saturday evening for aimless strolling (the french verb 'se promener' would be applicable). We literally traveled 'up' to this hilled neighborhood in the 18e arrondissement.

When we arrived at the metro station Abbesses (you might recognize this spot from the movie Amelie), hoards of people stood at the bottom of the exit staircases as if they were waiting for something. We couldn't figure out if this loitering was normal or if there was something above ground to be avoided. It wasn't till climbing breathlessly up long, steep flights of the winding staircase when Maddie and I realized that the people had been waiting for an elevator. Montmartre is extremely elevated, I later read that this famous staircase boasts 200 some odd stairs. The walk upwards was well worth it, though, as art covers the walls you hike past during this little workout. 

After exploring the cobblestoned streets for a few hours, the sun set and we ducked into a small cafe for an early dinner. The tradition of dining and lingering seems to be imperative to our adaption to the Parisian lifestyle. No matter how little you order at restaurants, the waiters hardly ever make you feel rushed and as if your seat will soon be filled with their next customer. In France, the dining experience is leisurely and important: it's a time to relax, chat, ponder, and of course to savor over 'la nourriture'. You rarely see cell phones on the table, people take advantage of being face-to-face and often speak close, intimately.

 In trying to adjust to this new city & especially this new country (I guess you could say continent, too) my good friend Eve reminds me that Paris is not as foreign as it may seem, it's merely big sister to our beloved West Village in New York City. Though the Montmartre neighborhood is far more elevated and much more grandiose than our tiny village, there are definitely elements of the buildings and cafes which make me feel right at home. I assume obviously that the West Village is more influenced by Paris than the latter is by the former, but sometimes it's overwhelming to be in that place of origination that people so often refer back to in film, art, architecture.

Near the end of the evening we set up camp on the outdoor terrace of a historical bar in Le Marais, ordering drinks and people-watching for hours...it makes me so excited thinking about more nights to be spent outside once it starts to warm up..

xx jacqueline harriet

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

paris, sprinkled with snow

When I was younger (i.e. elementary-high school), I was the type to constantly countdown till what I would consider to be worthy and major events in my life. Every moment was equivalent to the ticking of a clock, till the next deadline or my next bi-annual trip down to Southern California....a ticking down until the moment I would graduate from high school and move to a big city.
In preparation for my trip to Paris last week, I focused on experiencing home without the burden of nerves and expectations surrounding my upcoming study-abroad experience. I've come to adopt a more "happy-go-lucky". For the most part, this attitude serves me well. I "live in the present" more and more (as my best friend Jess would phrase it). 
As I satiated my thirst with multiple glasses of milk as my plane flew over Canada, to Iceland, and finally landed in France, I spaced out reading books, staring off into space instead of weighing the importance of this memorable adventure to come. The reality of Paris didn't hit until those final moments of my flight, when the plane descended onto a snowy runway at Charles de Gaulle airport.

The first two or three days in France were a blur, I stayed tucked away in a hostel located in a random with three girls from my program, where we all shared our excitement and confusion about the next four months of life in Paris.  I spent so much time awake in the wee hours of the morning in the lobby of my hostel trying to fight my aversion to the Pacific Coast time zone, that I didn't get to see and appreciate this new city (new country, too) until probably three days after arriving.
I didn't bring my camera around in the beginning, as I wanted to sort of let myself take in the culture without having to find a way to frame it. By the end of the week,  Maddie and I moved into a beautiful two-level apartment adorned with antiques in the 16e arrondisement, only a short walk from the NYU campus. Paris finally started to feel like a homebase. (I'll make a post about the apartment and neighborhood itself within the next few weeks..we lucked out, paying less than NYU dorm rent and yet we have our own bedrooms and a view of the Eiffel Tower!).

This weekend was the first opportunity for free time to explore PARIS sans hoards of NYU students and administrators. Metin & I spent late Saturday evening walking through the snow in my neighborhood, without a destination in mind. Aimless walks are always the best way to get a feel for a new place. We watched on as French teenagers met in the middle of the quiet street for a night out, doing their customary greeting kisses on each other's cheeks (bisou bisou), slipping in the thick snow and starting snowball fights as adults watched on and smiled as if they felt nostalgia for their own childhood. I don't feel much older than those high schoolers, but I still felt this little pang of jealousy for their adroitness in a city like Paris at such a young age. For a moment, I felt like the adults who were smiling at the adolescents' innocence.

On Sunday morning, Metin & I headed to Le Marais where we visited with Logan who was in town for the weekend. In Paris, Sundays are observed as a time to rest, therefore the majority of the shops and restaurants and attractions are closed. Le Marais, in the 3e and 4e arrondisement is know as a predominantly Jewish and Gay neighborhood and is one of the few areas of Paris where the city still feels alive on the day of rest.
We walked around freely, eventually wandering away from Le Marais and revisiting some of the famous spots we had seen on a walking tour with our school program.

So far I'm enjoying this liberating experience, but it's also a difficult adjustment. Living in NYC was a huge change, but this is far different when you consider the language barrier and the unfavorable dollar exchange rate. I've had little time and money to enjoy famed Paris food (save for pain au chocolat) and subsisted off of yogurt and grapefruit juice most days (trying to stretch those Euros as much as possible).

I have far more cultural differences and tid bits to discuss via blogpost over the next few days and weeks, sadly I've been sick for the last few days so I'm focusing on saving up my energy and exploring more this weekend.
À bientôt!

xx jacqueline harriet

Sunday, January 13, 2013

rainy christmas

I consider myself a fairly non-religious but spiritual Jew who lights the menorah on Hannukah if I remember or if I happen to be provided with the supplies to do so. And yet, I celebrate a commercial Christmas with my immediate and distant step family by opening presents and partaking in gluttony. Despite my Jewish origins and practice, I have to say: I love Christmas.

Every year, my step family congregates at the grandparents' ranch in Placerville for the holiday. Only since having moved to New York City have I really begun to embrace this 100 acre spot of repose. I love to come here in the wintertime, and the fog was especially picturesque on this rainy Christmas.

My younger step brother Nate and I are in the middle age-wise, so while the two older grandchildren converse with the adults, we often roam the ranch with the two younger cousins.