A Day in Paris

Here follows a somewhat “typical” day…

Wake up, consume three or four cups of filtered coffee. Procrastinate by joining netflix and start to watch Arrested Development for probably the ninth or tenth time. Be amazed at how fucking brilliant it is. Still.

Break self-made promise of going to the gym to instead decide to go into town to buy leggings. Because, you decide, you will need more leggings for when you do actually make it to the gym.

Go to the metro. Use one of the tickets you purchased under the pretense that it was a “carnet” (booklet) designed for people who qualify for reduced fair. And hey, you still have your student card from way back in Nice, so you’ll be right if you ever get checked up on.

Be rejected by the turnstile. Pause. Hmm.
Wait patiently for the information booth person to return. Their screen has a sign saying they’ll be back in some minutes. Hope that this sign hasn’t been there all day.

Become impatient. Notice other people jumping the gates. Decide against method. Notice the exit gates stay open for three seconds after someone exits. Try to go in that way (it’s much less ungainly than jumping the turnstile). Get rejected and beeped at.

Wait impatiently. Consider jumping over. Think unto yourself that you shall be good, it’s the least you can do as you’ve avoided the gym for five days now.

Finally the lady shows up and tells you you’re not under 12 and the TWO carnet’s you’ve bought are invalid and you need your receipt and you can fill out this form and send it to head office or somewhere to maybe-probably-not get a refund. You don’t have the receipt, but take the form just because it seems easier.

Line up to buy another, more valid ticket. As you are searching for your wallet, you let a lady go in front of you. She yells out to her husband (behind you) asking if they should get a carnet for their two kids. You give them yours. They ask if you’re for real. Yeah, why not, you were an idiot and bought two whole freaking wrong carnets. Someone may as well benefit. They are lovely and impressed and offer to give you money, which you kindly thank them for but reject. You instead accept four normal tickets. Cos hey, you’re not Mother Teresa and you really want leggings.

Catch the metro feeling all smug and righteous and good. Alight the metro and do not give any money to any of the homeless people, nor their dogs. Question exactly how good you are. Feel terrible. Decide to keep some coins in your jacket pocket to donate to the next few homeless people you pass. Promptly forget. Fuck.

Buy leggings and one pair of pajama pants. (The last pair you had were ripped right through the bum when you fell down the stairs and rolled your ankle looking after five dogs and four cats.) You need the PJs so Sam, your landlord, doesn’t have to see you in the same pair of trackies every single evening.

On a whim, go into a department store and buy Clairns skin products. Just cos the lady is lovely and recognises that you don’t have to, should you not desire to, wear make up all the time. Bless her. She also gives you three little samples and sprays you rather generously in Calvin Klein’s One. Thank her and wish her a good day.

Return to the metro, get off halfway home (you must walk more if you’re going to avoid the gym so consistently) and stop at a café that really gets how coffee should be made. Don’t be satisfied with just a coffee, no no! have the formule, go on, you’ve walked a few blocks, you probably maybe don’t deserve it, but whatever. The formule, which is to say, the meal, the dessert AND the coffee, is a bargain. It’d be stupid to NOT get it. You do not regret it. Upon paying and leaving, you ask where you can print a page around this neighbourhood.

Walk into a shop with a heap of Indian men talking animatedly and ignoring you. Interrupt them, ask for a computer and then fail to log into your email cos you can’t make the @ symbol on a french keyboard. Have each of the men take turns in offering advice, until at last you succeed and print your page. Get flustered when you think they are charging six euros and the relax when you realise that you’re still terrible with numbers above sixty (cos they’re fucking retarded in France and say stuff like “sixty-ten; sixty-fourteen; four-twenty-eighteen. Maths in English is not my forte. Still isn’t in French) and it’s only seventy cents.

Walk a new way home, getting purposely lost just to see if your sense of direction is as good as you think it is. Stare at some work dude sitting in his truck who is staring at you and kind of raising his eyebrows at you. Grimace at him and turn away from him, shaking your head. Be pleased when you realise you’re now only a block from home.

Fill out the form you printed and send it off to the casting director of a film clip that you may or may not be participating in next week. You have talked on the phone to Audrey and you know not what actually happened. You said “sorry I didn’t get that, can you talk slower” a bit and then when that became too embarrassing, you just said “yeah…ok…sure…”. The best scenario is that you may get to be in a film clip with Chinese Man, a french hip hop group. The worst scenario is that the Indian men whose computer you used may be running a massive phishing scam and you lose all of your money, or something. Who knows, who cares, you’re in Paris!

Do your laundry, let the kitten attack your hands and computer cables, and PJ pants tie string things. Get an extra seven claw jabs to the thigh, shoulder (You’ve taught him to perch on your shoulder like a parrot) and one cheek. Write a blog post to avoid going to the gym STILL. Unpack your leggings and realise you’ve got no more excuses… Damn.

Paris, Sam and Nox

Right, so… I live in Paris now. That’s kinda weird. I know I’ve been living in France for six months and all, but Paris? Paris! Yesterday I went for a walk and accidentally bumped into the Cathédral Notre Dame. I don’t know how you accidentally bump into an iconic site like that (other than walking all over the annoyingly-easy-to-get-lost-in streets), but the buzillions of tourists reassured me it wasn’t some other crappier cathedral. And get this – I live around the corner from Père Lachaise cemetery, where the likes of Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried. So while France has been swell (and indeed more than swell) so far, the real fact of the matter is that Paris has that (wait for it…) je ne sais quoi (ugh. sorry).

Travelling in 2015 is immeasurably easier than in 2003. The internet is now not just a hub for sending emails once a week/fortnight/month… the internet is now a go-to on where to go, where to stay, where it’s cheapest, where it’s chicest, where to eat, what to do, who to do it with, how to do it, et cetera. Instead of thumbing through an increasingly worn edition of Lonely Planet on a shoestring to find a cheap and nasty hostel, it’s possible to book someone’s actual real life house/apartment/cottage/tree house to stay in. Airbnb, kids (there are actual tree houses on there. I want one). If you haven’t already, airbnb, kids. For the pure voyeurism if nothing else. Did I mention the tree houses?

Since using airbnb to hire a campervan with a foldout tent on the roof last year on Maui, it has been my choice for choosing where to stay. Yet again, in Paris, it came up trumps.

Sam’s apartment in the 20th arrondisement is large (probably géante by parisien standards), light, modern, within walking distance to the metro and heaps of cool shit (see above: cemetery, cathedral) and equipped with a kitten (who we will no doubt discuss further).

Sam is a 20/30 something divorcé who works as an IT guy for a realty company. He was born and bred in Paris. His two older brothers live in Paris as well. His parents go between Paris and their country home because they are in retreat. That’s the fancy French way of saying retired. Sam likes pop music, but not rap or reggae. He goes to the gym (salle du sport) on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays he goes to Rock dance classes. On the weekends he roller skates 20kms around Paris with a group of like minded skating enthusiasts.

I know all this cos I can speak French real good. lol. jks. Not only is Sam friendly but he is ever so patient with my French. Though he speaks a bit of English, he’s grateful that I’m blundering my way through, butchering his language. When he says something really quickly (everything he says, so it’s not really quickly it’s just normal French speed), I smile and nod like I have an idea of what’s going on … then I admit defeat and ask him to speak slower, or to repeat himself, or sometimes I’m just like “quoi?”, which means “what” and I think is pretty rude and not even what the French say. They would say “comment?” meaning “how” or more likely “what was that again?”, “you mean…?” “please repeat what you’ve just said, I’m not sure I heard and/or understood”. But “quoi” just tumbles out of me, kinda panic mode.

I’m not at a point where I think in French. I am still thinking in English and translating. And still trying to remember the right verbs (nouns, adjectives, genders…), and then the right conjugations, the right tenses. Don’t even get me started on pronouns. Saying “I’ll give him to you” (as in, I’m just going to bed and have to hand Sam the kitten cos otherwise he will fuck shit up as I’m trying to sleep) I have to think…

I him you give will.

Or is it

I you him give will

That’s French grammar for you.

So I try to put that in French, talking about four hundred times slower than usual, also trying to get my accent on point (ha. lol. jks.) and I end up with
Je le lui donnerai?? (Those question marks are pronounced the most)
And Sam just smiles and says
Je le te don – “I him you give”, without any of that future tense bollocks. I think that’s what it was. 12 hours later and I can’t be sure. Damn.

Anyway, I’m sure Sam must think I’m some sort of imbecile, not only due to my French skills, or lack thereof, but also because as he showed me around his apartment I was full of wonder at some of its features.

Take, for instance, the bath/shower (fuck OUI, I have a bath!). Tis inset into the wall. Yep, good. Tis normal tap operations. Yep, good. There’s a squeegee (la raclette) to stop water-marks forming from Paris’ hard water. Yep, still good. But wait! Tis not a shower curtain, no no! Nor even a regular glass door, fool you for even considering it. Tis a two part sliding window door. One part slides up – chk-chhhk – and then the other part slides along the bath edge – shhhhhh-chk – and there you have a screen to stop the water pouring all over the lovely squishy, fluffy bath mat. Magic.

I react as that feature deserves. With bewilderment and awe. And yes, it does seem, in retrospect, as if I may have arrived from a developing nation, rather than Australia. Secretly I’m hoping Sam thinks of Australia as a little outdated and simple. Don’t know why, other than it amuses me.

Speaking of amusing, did I mention I got a kitten chucked in with the apartment? He’s called Nox. Which is derived from INOX, which is French for stainless steel. He’s grey & white and six months old and was abandoned at one day old with three siblings, one of whom died, and the rest were saved by a dog and then Nox was taken by Sam, and now they live in harmony. And chaos. He is a kitten after all. He flips from ultra affectionate, purring and napping on my chest as soon as I lay down to hyperactive cable-eating devil cat. He loves hiding under my bed and attacking my feet as I walk around. He also loves to attack my computer screen, walking across the keyboard creating all kinds of new windows, audio malfunctions and weird error messages. He also like to check behind the screen for the creatures that appear in it. He likes to bite the screen and leave deposits of soft kitten fur all in the keyboard. And on the other hand, he loves to cuddle and purr and is simply adorable. (Speaking of adorable, did you know the French for purr is ronron? Onomatopoeia is great.) I’m sitting here, at the dining table, typing one handed as Nox gently purrs while simultaneously death kicks and bites my other hand. Which is difficult and painful and means I have to stop now.

tlucu.ugj..jtugjcu  (Nox says Hi)


photos: marseille and end of vendanges

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Marseille, the city of matching Adidas tracksuits. Where it doesn’t seem to matter who you are – age, gender, ethnicity – you really should get around in a matching pant/jacket Adidas combo. Sometimes even a little Adidas fishing style hat. But don’t take it too far… it’s best to jazz things up a little and wear Nikes on the feet. Or Reebok. Just don’t go ALL Adidas. That’d be weird.

Marseille, the city of markets. In which you can find fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh charcuterie, patisserie and bread, fresh seafood, fresh cheese. Basically all your fresh produce needs. Also in the markets, you may find all of your double, queen or king sized mattress needs are met. And all of your shoe needs, sneakers or heels. All of your deodorant, makeup, hair care needs. All of your sunglasses, handbags, wallets, phone case needs. All of your belts, jackets, football jerseys. All of your soaps and raw shea butter needs. All of your undies, bras and socks. Essentially all of your day to day needs are met in the markets around here. On Sunday you can even satisfy your nintendo 64 needs, both consoles and games.

Marseille, the city where guys will straight up hold eye contact from one hundred metres and, without blinking, approach and then say something to the effect of “do I know you, am I bothering you, I think I’ve seen you twice today, can we have a conversation”. And I scowl and pretend I don’t understand and then feel a little bit grumpy and defensive and regret the fact that I could’ve had a conversation and learnt some more French, at the very least.

I’ve been here just under a week. I love it. It’s big and sprawling, but very easily accessible. I bought a transport ticket – a weekly pass to get around on Bus, Tram and Train – and it worked like a charm. For the first day. And then on the second day it didn’t. And I asked why. And the information lady was uber helpful and pointed out that I had bought something something (speaking in french), when I should’ve bought the something something. I thought I had? Did I have a receipt? Why Oui! Oh, no, you just got a daily ticket, when for only five euros more you could’ve had a whole weeks worth of transport. So I coughed up the whole thirteen euros and got the right ticket. (So while I think I’m nailing French, it still pays to be vigilant, especially when buying things from machines. They’re not the best. Or maybe they are. Maybe I should’ve just swallowed my pride and pressed the union jack symbol and switched the language on the machine… a lesson worth seven and a half euros…)

Anyhoo, I’ve spent my days walking around, making my feet sore, listening to Marc Maron interviewing interesting people (for those of you playing at home, in need of a podcast, WTF with Marc Maron is pretty decent. Would recommend). I’ve spent countless hours looking for graffiti and weaving in and out of shops on the hunt for homewares. God knows why. I don’t. I mean, sure I want cool home wares. But for a home in Australia. So now I have to carry around my awesome 1960s tea set (sugar bowl, milk jug and cream jug) all the way up to Paris, or send it home. Neither of which is the best scenario for porcelain. But what can you do, when you’re presented with a twelve euro bargain?

My French is still progressing. The other day I managed to recharge my mobile credit all by myself. That was kind of a “fuck yeahhhh” moment. Even though it’s pretty similar – choose one for this and two for that – in English.

From harvest, I now I know how to say “head butt”, which may or may not come in handy. Other phrases I have include “sleep well?” “these mosquito bites itch a fair bit, huh?” “would you like a beer? A wine? Rosé, white or red?” “where is your granddad?” “that’s your grandma’s bottle” (living with baby Mathilde has improved not only that, but also “heads shoulders knees and toes”
I can also keep up a semi-decent conversation with strangers about who I am, where I come from and what the hell I’m doing so far from home. I still can’t conjugate to save myself, and I have a habit of saying everything in both the masculine and feminine forms just to be sure.

(so, yeah, French has a gender for words. Like a table is a lady, as is a car. A bed will be a dude. And not only that, but when you describe these items, their adjectives have to agree with their gender. So she’s a beautiful car and he’s a handsome bed. That type of stuff. Impossible for a non-native speaker to ever remember, so I just go around saying “he/she is a beautiful/handsome bag you have” And people will smile as if I was a mildly learning-challenged infant and correct me. I will pay no attention to the correction, so next time I can say the exact same thing… d’oh.)

It seems that here, speaking French, I have a German accent. One guy took a stab at german, then english, swiss, belgian, irish, lithuanian, romanian, italian, american and canadian all before I had to tell him Australian. I don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, chances are he’s never heard an aussie speak french before, but on the other hand, I want to be recognised for the true blue ‘strayan I am. Strewth.

So next on the agenda, is getting another hair cut and a colour. I should start looking at key words for my appointment tomorrow… I wonder what “perm” is in French…?

After that, I’m going to Lyon for two days and then I move to Paris, with the idea that I’ll be there until I return in March next year. I’ve got ears on the ground (I wonder what the idiom is in French. I wonder if that’s even the idiom in English.) for a job in Paris, but I’m not overly fussed, as this walking around cities thing is very bloody enjoyable. On vera, which is French for we shall see.


Photos – Les Vendanges (inc. Chateauneuf du Pape, Buisson, Avignon, Les Dentelles)

This gallery contains 69 photos.