Apparently only people who know me in person read this blog. Often they know me quite well. They know I love cliches and stereotypes, they know I always just say what I think frankly and never use sarcasm, and they know I have absolutely no sense of humour, let alone the dark ones. Therefore, this post is just going to be like all the other articles about Paris and you definitely have to read those cliches all over again. This blog is going to be so mainstream I am very confident some magazines like Cosmo or Seventeen will pay me for this article, because it once again confirms Paris as a wonderful, hopelessly romantic city all teenage girls will LOVE.
Haha sorry for the troll. But seriously, click away if you were expecting those things about Paris.
The first thing we did (yeah, “we”, I was STILL with Aukse) after arriving in Paris was getting to our host family. This was the first time I couchsurfed with a family (a dad, a mum, two lovely adorable french kids) and with a Parisien family it taught me many lessons. Firstly, my French was horrible. To all my French course-mates in HKU who have studied French for more than 1.5 years: you will feel the same. You may have better grades than I do at uni, but you will feel like a mute as I did. At uni our brains were primed with grammar and literature we can perfectly write a short essay on Rousseau but in real life I couldn’t even understand what the kids were saying. But of course, I was staying for a whole week so at the end I was definitely getting better. After Paris I went back to England and to my French-speaking friends I was just using French for a while and I could feel I was making progress.
Secondly, life in Paris is as hard as that in Hong Kong. For the first time in my travels I feel there is a city where people struggle even more than us in Hk just to make ends meet. I am not saying the Parisien family was poor, definitely not, but they had seen it and they told us what is in reality. Once I asked why so many French families prefer cats over dogs and they answered because space at home is usually not enough for a dog (and of course some people really liked cats). Youth finding a job is especially difficult and we have seen many young people, perfectly healthy, sitting on streets or metro begging for money. We have even seen, one night after a walk to see the sparkling Eiffel Tower, a young black man being chased by motorcycle gangsters because he was selling key chains in the “wrong” place.
Thirdly, French people, they live an interesting domestic life in their own terms. Households are probably not the cleanest in the world. Please don’t get me wrong – I am definitely not saying my host family is dirty, not at all. However, there indeed are facilities I don’t quite understand and I wasn’t brave enough to ask. For instance, there were no washing basins in the toilets and we had to wash our hands in the bathroom or in the kitchen.
Also, husbands (or French men in general) are so different from those from Chinese culture. French men are modest and they don’t feel they need to show their manliness. My “host dad” cooked dinner for 2 nights and I was amazed because (sorry dad) my father set an egg on fire while trying to fry it. My host dad agrees with my host mum on most of the domestic decisions even though he had contrary preferences. There was one time we asked a question about some preferences. The couple were discussing how to answer and he said to my host mum “I prefer what you prefer.” and though my host mum was sarcastically responding “bravo” we can tell they loved each other very much and maybe this somehow is the secret of French marriages.
Fourthly, other than liberty, equality and fraternity I feel (especially) in public life French people live according to righteousness. In the workplace you should always tell your colleagues, even your boss if they have done something wrong (whereas in Hk some people either ignore unfair job conditions and some create opportunities for others to make mistakes so they can take their position). In the metro people show disguise to those who don’t stand on the right and obstruct others who want to walk, as well as those who try to take the metro without buying a ticket. There indeed are crimes in Paris and I never felt safe underground taking the metro but regarding French people as a nation, they make as much sense as German and Finnish peoples do.
Enough of lessons and I will tell what I have really done in Paris … To be honest I have visited very few museums or tourist spots and I couldn’t even recall my favourite spot or favourite piece of work. Yet, I have spent a great amount of time sleeping in parks, drinking coffee and watching people in cafes, writing, and just chilling in FNAC or stationery shops … Not very typical, but I had fun.
My favourite park was Jardin du Luxembourg, for it has really nice fountains and not that much people than the one in Tuileries. That was the first park I went so maybe that also explains why. Anyhow, sleeping in parks in Paris was great because the weather was fantastic most of the time we were there, which means I can get tanned. There were plenty of chairs, a lot of people and I just couldn’t feel more comfortable sleeping in public. Of course I don’t really mean sleep-sleep, but taking a nap, getting sunshine on my body and just relax with friends … life couldn’t be better 😉
We also visited a lot of cafes. Cafes in Paris were perfect because 1. most of the time the coffee was good, 2. most of the time they have free wifi, 3. most of them were pavement cafes we could watch the passer-bys and have fun observing the city. We also spent a lot of time writing our postcards or diaries there. At one point my pens were out of ink and I had to find a shop. I found a small shop in 1e Arrondissement, on the streets behind Concorde, which turned out to be more than 20 years old. There I discovered disposable fountain pens, lead holders and many other fun stuff. Having that said, I also spent a lot of my travel money there …
One last thing I did in Paris I want to mention, was meeting my lovely flatmate in Sheffield Julie and spending a day with her. It was absolutely coincidence we could meet up because we had different plans for our Easter break. Somehow we worked out to explore Paris together and I was really happy because by the time I saw her, we haven’t seen each other for probably 2 weeks or more. We were only living together for 5 months and so 2 weeks were a lot. Anyhow, we spent the day going here and there (luckily Julie was a great map reader), eating fast food (which was actually pretty nice) and you know, just having a fun time. So thanks for the lovely memory Julie 🙂
I spent a whole week in Paris so apparently there are still a lot of things I have done or seen but didn’t include in this blog entry. It was quite a spontaneous trip because at first I was planning to spend the whole of my 3-week Easter break touring in France. I ended up spending only a week in Paris (and a day in Lille, but). Also, I thought I would be going alone, but me and Aukse met up in Brussels. Many told me to not miss out Musee d’Orsay or some other spots in Paris they loved, but after seeing so many museums in the previous 2 weeks I feel it is the best for my brain to calm down, absorb and try again in the future. I was nervous about visiting Paris and asked opinions from friends who have been there, at the end I had a freaking chilling trip, according to my own pace, which feels awesome. There was a day Aukse couldn’t fly home according to her plan because French airport workers stroked. I responded to this “crisis” in an unexpected way I feel I am more assured of my own beliefs and my way of life. All in all, I loved the things I have done and places I have seen in Paris. Most importantly, I discovered my own very special way of travelling and I am satisfied with it. I will probably be more able to write shit that looks deep but actually means nothing but boasting or feeling self-claimedly sophisticated, but I honestly don’t care. To finally end this blog, here is a list of other “hipster” things I did in this trip which I may find quite amusing to recall when I read this blog again :
– Read a chapter of the Second Discourse in front of Rousseau’s tomb
– Slept on a piece of grass in Versailles and suddenly everyone did so
– Watched Shaun le Mouton in French in a cinema (did I mention it was in French ? Does anyone get me here when I say “I watched Shaun the Sheep in French” ????? If you don’t, I will tell you what I really mean – Shaun the Sheep is a movie without lines. :0) )
– Refused to enter Louvre because there were “too many tourists” even when the French workers haven’t decided to strike yet
– Visited Petit Palais instead because everything is in French and you have to pay for the exhibitions – feeling classy
So that’s it !!!