Friday, September 20, 2013

My Work'ation: Part Three - A Long and Luxurious Bath in French Culture

...continued from My Work'ation: Part Two - These Are My Favourite London'y Things

I will confess that, even with good friends in Riyadh who are from France, the French intimidate me.  That, plus having begrudgingly left the robust happiness of London and my British friends who had spoiled me, created apprehension about being in Paris.  As much as I hate to admit it, I wasn't doing a very good job of even giving Paris a chance to woo me when I first arrived.

Musee D'Orsay
I do have a miniscule justification for this (okay, absolutely tiny almost non-existent justification).  Anyone who's been in Paris, even my French friends themselves, will admit that there's a coolness to the city.  Parisians flow on a river of non-chalance.  Nothing seems to be impressive to them.  They appreciate life and all it has to offer, but don't feel the need to get excited about it.  Something could happen that would make me want to jump up and down with glee, clapping my hands and giggling like a little girl; a Parisian would react by simply saying, "That's good," with slightly raised eyebrows and one nod of his head.  Sometimes I think that all those cigarettes they smoke are laced with a strange version of marijuana that makes them exist in perpetual chilled out aloofness.

Inside the Louvre
This is not a bad thing.  It can be a little unnerving, especially for me considering that I resonate with people who exude warmth.  To be around a culture that is more reserved with their warmth causes me to have a hard time relating.  When I can't get a "read" on people I have a tendency to avoid them.  Well, that and the language barrier doesn't help either.
At the gardens of Chateau de Versailles
I wondered how I was going to handle this challenge.  I was concerned that it would hamper my ability to find the appeal of Paris.  Turns out that it put me in a perfect position to be motivated to take advantage of tours.  So, off I went on adventures to Notre Dame, the Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, Musee L'Orangerie, and Jardin des Tuileries.  I roamed around the city on a tour bus.  I visited Chateau de Versailles.  I even traveled to Monet's garden in Giverny.  I learned so much French history and took in so much art during my weekends in France that I might as well have been adopted by Paris.  I was ready to buy a beret and start smoking.  The only thing stopping me was my inability to speak French...oh, and the warm versus cool personality factor.  Not sure if I could master a cool demeanor.

LaDuree - French Pastry makers extraordinaire
While I was definitely getting familiar with Paris' past, I still felt uncomfortable with it's people.  Okay, so maybe not all of it's people.  To be honest, 85% of the Parisians that I encountered were actually quite friendly.  The restaurant waiters make up the other 15%.  That did not prevent me from eating, however, and what I ate was bread.  Those of you who know me well know that I don't eat a lot of bread.  In fact, I tend to not eat it at all.  With all the hype about Paris' bread I had to at least try it.  Oh, excuse me a moment............. ah, okay, that's better.  Sorry, I had to pause and grab a napkin to wipe the drool off of my chin.  French bread is AMAZING!  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  My favourite part of the day was to sip a cappuccino while eating pain au chocolate.  My second favourite part of the day was to sip a cappuccino while eating a croissant.  My third favourite part of the day was to sip a glass of wine while eating a french baguette smothered in creamy butter.  Of all the adjectives that are within this brain of mine, I could not begin to properly describe the deliciousness of the bread in France.  I don't ever want to eat bread anywhere else but in France for fear it may hamper my ability to remember my experience with French bread.
Denise, Scott, and I enjoying wine at the Eiffel Tower
The eating factor in Paris did not happen alone, luckily for me.  Even so far away from a population of people that I'm comfortable with, I still managed to connect, with old classmates in fact.  It still amazes me to think of the serendipity that placed me in Paris on the very weekend that my friends, Scott and Denise, were visiting on their anniversary.  It was such a strange and amazing feeling to be sitting at a restaurant, in Paris, chatting about the fun parties we had back in Halifax and the "goings-on" of all our old mutual classmates.  I felt like a piece of my history - the person I was before becoming the person I am - was sitting there with me while Scott, Denise, and I updated each other on our lives.  And then, when Scott suggested we buy a bottle of wine and drink it, picnic style, on the lawns in front of the Eiffel tower I realized that I couldn't have asked for a better night in Paris.  Top it off with seeing the tower's light show at midnight and it was yet again confirmed that I have an amazingly fantastic life.

Daniel and Chelsea enjoying pear cider on the train
The friend connections did not end there, though.  Heading off to Monet's garden in Giverny I only expected a nice day of bike riding and flower smelling.  It wasn't long, however, that I realized I had some cool people surrounding me on this tour that were worth getting to know.  Daniel and Chelsea were my English-speaking saviors after a week of being surrounded by Parisian natives.  Sadly, we had a very short period that we would all be in Paris at the same time.  So, only one night of revelry at a Paris restaurant was to be spent together.  We made it a good one with far too many politically incorrect jokes and far too loud bursts of laughter, for the Parisian's taste, at least.  Meeting Chelsea and Daniel was definitely a cherry on my Euro-trip sundae and I would've loved to have had more time to get to know them better.  Alas, it was not to be and so the rest of my time in Paris was spent taking in the sites to the fullest extent, albeit alone. 

A view of Paris courtesy of Denise
It wasn't so bad to be in Paris by myself.  It really is an amazing city and it's easy to get lost in it's esthetics.  The French certainly know how to take a city and make it beautiful.  I'm not typically one who can look at something man-made and consider it stunning, but Paris definitely came close.  Just standing on one of the many bridges crossing the Seine I would get a feeling of openness and expansiveness and yet there are buildings all around.  The city planners back in the day knew what they were doing.  While standing in Place de la Concorde (the square where Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were beheaded) I can look to the east and see the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre beyond that; I look west and I can see in the distance L'Arc de Triomphe; I look north and see two stately and identical stone buildings separated by a road that takes you to Eglise de la Madeliene, a pompous looking yet beautiful church that Napolean had built; I look south beyond the Pont de la Concorde (a bridge that crosses the Seine) and see the prominent building that houses the French National Assembly.  This is just one example of the symmetry in the city that is almost hidden until you stop to take notice.  Without even taking pause, however, you can feel the balance of it all.

L'arc de Triomphe - courtesy of Denise
Paris bridges - courtesy of Denise

It is odd for me to feel balance and calm when I'm in a city.  Typically, I can only gain a true state of peace when I'm in the forest or when I'm rocking a solid meditation session.  So, when I felt a sense of intense peace in Paris I was, essentially, blown away.  It wasn't Paris' architecture that did it for me, though.  It was the art.  But, that's a whole other story to be saved for the next blog entry.

Stay tuned for My Work'ation: Part Four - A Love Affair With Light and Colour

In Joy,


  1. Enjoyed reading it after a long time, seems every moment was splendid!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.