The Beginning of the End
Wow, what an absence. I have been wanting to blog for over a week, but when there’s a ten page paper to write (in French gah) and a BWL checklist to complete (Before We Leave) blogging and journaling get pushed down the priority list. We’ve been amping up the cultural activity frequency, on account of the fact that we leave on FRIDAY. Can’t even believe an entire semester is almost over. Let’s chat about some general Parisian things I’ve been noticing. Because it’s one thing to come to Paris and see everything every other tourist sees, but it’s another thing to stay here long enough to pick up on the real beat of the city, the real character of Parisians. I’m not pretending I’ve got them all figured out, but I feel like I know them better than just a combination of interactions across shop counters. Three months is not nearly enough time, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.
First of all, they are very proud of their city and very opinionated about any changes that occur in it. The Christmas decorations went up a few weeks ago, and they are everywhere. There isn’t just one section of town where everyone goes if they want to get in the Christmas spirit, they’ve got every section of town covered. And it’s not just about getting in the spirit, it’s about showing off their city. The lights on the Champs Elysées were different for the first time this year, and from what I hear, there was a general feeling of disdain for the new-age, economically-savvy colored rings on the trees. Traditionally, the trees on the Champs were covered in actually string, twinkle, Christmas lights, and Paris is very upset at the break in tradition. These decorations are in the Place Vendôme, and Parisians happen to like these ones.
“Pretty but discreet,” as my French teacher summed it up, with a pleasant little smile on her face as she looked around the square.
The tree in front of the Notre Dame might have to be my personal favorite.
And one more shot of a random street off the Champs Elysées.
Secondly, Parisians love their language. As I’ve been learning in both my grammar and phonetics class, so many of the rules of French are “pour la musique,” or for the sake of the sound. Screw the grammar, we’re going to make these eight words exceptions to the rule because it’ll sound prettier. Plus, Parisian French is unbearably fast. They tend to drop the “e” sound if it doesn’t have an accent; they just blow right past the vowels, and the result is a tangle of consonants and gargle sounds that sound like French, but are completely undecipherable to a non-Parisian. “Je ne sais pas” gets shortened to “shay pas.” Apparently people in the south of France are more likely to pronounce their e’s, and my phonetics professor put on this hysterical and exaggerated nasal accent that practically made them seem like idiots because they say “maintenant” instead of “maint-nnt.”
One of my favorite examples of the pride in the language was from my grammar class. My teacher came across the word “éphémère” in one of the exercises, which means “fleeting” or “ephemeral” and stopped the entire progression of the exercise, just to write that word on the board and tell us it was one of her favorite words.
Sans accents, c’est un peu lourd, non? Mais ajoutez les petits papillons au dessus du mot, les jolies accents, et il commence à voler.
Without accents, isn’t it a little heavy? But add the little butterflies above the word, the pretty accents, and it begins to fly.
So I’ll miss that, I think, the love and respect the French have for their language. The love and respect I have for their language.
I’ll also miss just walking around. Stumbling across things at different times of day, when they look completely different.
The Pantheon in the morning:
Behind St Sulpice at sunset:
In front of St. Sulpice at sunset, where I waited for the bus with all my old lady friends:
The Louvre in the evening:
The last sparkle of the night of the Eiffel Tower, when the yellow lights shut off and all you’re left with is the white sparkle:
And then standing under the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the night with your best friends on the way home when it’s completely shut off and scary and oppressive, but still just as majestic as ever:
The weather has been pretty rocky here lately, too. The following two pictures were taken within twelve minutes of each other:
One last little Paris story before I sign off and leave all the activity summaries for another day.
Took the bus successfully again last week, only the second time, but this time I took it home from one end of the city to the other. So many old ladies returning from their day out shopping. On the bus you find everyone that’s too old to use the metro. I hadn’t realized it before now, but there really are so few seniors on the metro, because you’ve gotta deal with staircases on staircases on staircases just to get from the platform to the exit or from one line to another. Even I’m exhausted sometimes. But about halfway through my journey, I noticed a little sign on the window of the bus: Qui a la classe, laisse sa place. It rhymes in French, so obviously sounds much sweeter, (plus it’s in French to begin with, which is always pretty even when it doesn’t rhyme, IMO) but in English it means: He who has class will give up his seat. I loved that.
Stay tuned for accounts of cultural activities and pictures. Lots of pictures. Perhaps before the weekend is out?
So nice to talk to you all again, my dears. Or I suppose talk at you.
One more week!