Epilogue: We’ll always have (a video of) Paris

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from this shaky video, filmed throughout our last month in Paris and quickly cobbled together back home, is that I really need to get some sort of camera stabiliser. The second lesson is that it was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful place to live for half a year. Adieu.


This is the way the year ends, not with a bang but my belongings in a clingfilmed box

Kneeling on the dusty floor of terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle airport, surrounded by my worldly belongings and trying desperately to shove half of them into a cardboard box, I was struck by my failure to have nailed this whole travelling lark. Confusion over the requirement to separate my luggage allowance into more than one case meant I had lugged a 39kg one across Paris, only to find out it was far too heavy for the baggage handlers to carry- and fair play to them, this valise was lourde.

And yet, despite making me feel like I really had learned nothing this year, my unforeseen forage through my possessions hit me with a wave of nostalgia. The oven glove I’d bought in Monoprix to replace the frankly ugly one the apartment came with, the baby blue trousers I wore on my first day in the office, far too many orange bags to muster, my Navigo card, its edges gently frayed by time and pockets, faded books purchased from the bouquinistes along the Seine. Little scraps of Parisian life, gathered together in my bag, and now spread inelegantly all over an airport floor.

The disgusting glove provided, presumably to make us feel more at home.

The disgusting glove provided, presumably to make us feel more at home.

The whole situation was so laughable that I couldn’t help bursting into giggles at regular intervals. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if I were approached by security for suspicious behaviour at that stage, a girl stood alone with a sagging suitcase and a cardboard box covered in airport luggage wrap, wearing a straw hat and a leather jacket, laughing uncontrollably.

The box, the suitcase and I were all happily reunited and made it home yesterday, which means my year abroad has officially come to an end. I’ve signed the forms and closed my bank account, cancelled my phone contract, and returned home. As quickly as I had made my little life in Paris, and in Bologna before that, I have unmade it again. Setting up homes on such a regular basis has made me realise what I really need to feel at home, not just materially (although that requires 39kg worth of stuff, to be quite precise), but also more personally, and it is not a lot. Access to good pastry, coffee, friends, rectangular pillows, a decent sofa, time to write, sunshine.

If you had told me 11 months ago that I would be feeling quite so nostalgic now, making such hazy lists of loves lost, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. I had heard the stories from students in the year abroad about what an ahhh-mazing time everyone had on their year abroad, and they had made me nervous and panicky, unsure I could live up to this feat everyone else seemed to manage. But I think that the rosy glow of I did it, when you can say “why yes, I did live in this little flat in Paris when I was 21” comes quite a lot later in the game.

Essentially, what I am trying to say is the beginning of the year abroad is a bit rubbish, and I think that is true for everyone, or at least everyone I have spoken to. Under the shadow of your expectations, it can be a very lonely and daunting place, until you make it into a home. But I did. And Paris was one of the best homes I’ve ever had.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Paris is somehow big and small all at once, a patchwork of little bits of city that never feels too overwhelming. Its arrondissements each have their own characters, and are filled with their own characters, and it has been an absolute pleasure to get to know them over the past 5 months. Its buildings are never too high to suffocate you, the Eiffel Tower literally shines out like the North Star to guide you home, and its pastry is plentiful and delicious. I did not expect to fall for Paris the way I did, but I truly loved living there. It was a very easy place to make a home and a life, even if the paperwork was tiresome (I’m sorry, I could not avoid mentioning the paperwork in my final blog. Have I ever told you how much paperwork there is??).

Well, voilà, there you have it. I travelled south, and my skin turned warmer– although it didn’t turn brown, unless you count my mucky knees from whatever is on the CDG terminal floor. I travelled south and spoke Italian and French, ate extremely well, voyaged around on trains, buses, planes, metros and even a giant helium-filled balloon, made friends, made lists and made tortellini. If this is the way the year ends, with me looking back on it and smiling like I did at the contents of my cardboard box, then I’m very happy with that.

“La canicule” is French for heatwave

Never has the title of my blog been more apt than during this last week in Paris (for those who don’t know, it comes from this Belle and Sebastian song). Temperatures hit 39 degrees, a peak I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in my life before and would be quite happy to avoid ever experiencing again.

Being a Brit, and never having blogged about the weather, I feel I have so far betrayed my national stereotype, but I am going to fully make up for that now. It was hot. Really really hot. It has just about cooled down, which means I am able to sit down and type this without sweat dripping from my pores into my keyboard. This time last week, I was sitting on the balcony desperately eating ice cream, wondering how sleep in a non-air-conditioned flat that was 33 degrees was going to work. It turns out, it wasn’t.

My main issue with the heat was clothes. I believe you can divide people’s dress sense into two categories: summer dressers, and winter dressers, and I am committed to the second camp. I like jumpers, I like black skinny jeans (sorry not cool anymore, but nothing beats them), I like turtlenecks that make me look a little bit like Steve Jobs more than any other item of clothing. I love wool and tweed and leather. I do not, however, know how to be chic in the heat. Having a job means slobbing about in tiny cotton shorts and a vest top is hardly an option, but neither is my loyal work wardrobe of jeans and a nice top.

I am lucky enough to work in an air-conditioned office, but to get there requires a metro journey. Not at all the dream in a heatwave. Tubes are sticky and smelly at the best of times, but during la canicule they were unbearable- imagine Dante’s descent into hell, only a bit hotter. For the first time, I made no effort to get a seat, in the knowledge that the distinctive sound of thighs ungluing themselves from faux leather is not one anyone needs to hear in the morning.

I ended up resorting to some pretty strange tactics to cool down, including putting wet socks on my feet (didn’t work), putting my pyjamas in the freezer (didn’t work) and crowning myself Chief Air Current Implementer, attempting to create a draught between the flat’s two windows…. didn’t work. It was less “travel south until your skin turns warmer”, more “travel south until your skin is swathed in a permanent layer of warm sweat”.

To top it all off, on Friday morning my best friends in the world descended on Paris to visit me, which obviously sounds great, but actually they selfishly made the flat even hotter. I joke, of course (but have I made it clear how hot it was??): it turns out Paris is a pretty cool place to herd about town, even when it’s not cool at all.

Les Berges de Seine, in my opinion, are the coolest of the many cool places Paris contains. On our short, hangover-fuzzy visit there, we climbed a giant hexagonal structure, lazed in hammocks and played Uno in a tipi. Cool and cooling, and I hear Paris Plages is due to kick off there any time soon. Add to that Bastille Day on Tuesday and the Tour de France making its final leg along the Champs Elysées in a couple of weeks time, and I’m starting to think I could bear this heat, if only to stay in Paris a little while longer…


An unexpected French love affair

Paris has long been the city of romance, the ideal location for lovey-dovey couples to come and stare into each other’s eyes and romantically clamp a piece of metal on a bridge (to be later removed, to the chagrin of still-lovey-dovey couples and the probable relief of no-vey-dovey couples).

My own Parisian love affair has been of a rather different nature, and one that would make it difficult to leave a padlock on a bridge with my loved one even if I so desired. Said hypothetical love lock would have to say EG RG, because it is with tennis, and specifically the French Open, Roland Garros, that I have fallen hopelessly in love over the last two weeks.

I have never been a big sports fan, neither playing nor spectating, but something about tennis has taken hold of me. It began with seeing the Eiffel Tower, a giant green tennis ball dangling between its first and second levels, and wondering what exactly it was for. A couple of weeks later, I found myself over in south-west Paris, wandering around the grounds of what Wikipedia informs me is widely considered to be the most physically demanding tennis tournament in the world.

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Roland Garros has a wonderful evening visitors ticket system which allows you to enter the grounds after 5pm for just €12, granting you access to any of the outside courts and giving you the option to queue and pay extra to upgrade, if desired. I was quite happy just to be there, even if it was during the colder first week of the tournament. We managed to catch a Murray, Jamie to be precise, playing a successful game of doubles, as well as joining an excitable crowd outside the big screen on Suzanne Lenglen to watch Frenchman Monfils pull off a fifth set victory against Cuevas.

I think it is the set system, which once seemed so unnecessarily confusing to me, that has turned me into a tennis supportrice. Risking stating the obvious to anyone who knows anything about tennis, but the set system ensures that even after a dreadful first few points and a loss of the first and even second set, it is always possible to bounce back and come out on top. It’s why it looked like Murray might actually beat Djokovic, why even at the last few moments of the fourth set in the final between Djokovic and Wawrinka, it was always possible that either of them might win. Even as a newbie to the sport, I know I have been watching incredible tennis over the past two weeks- another bonus of tennis: it’s all over in an intense, nail-biting fortnight.

And there are some incredible places in Paris to watch the tennis. This year, Roland Garros dans la Ville took up residence on the Champ de Mars, just before the Eiffel Tower, which made for a pretty exciting spot to lie on the grass and watch. And friends’ flats with pizza deliveries are even better spots for when a storm rolls in.

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It’s also been a great way to pick up a lot of new, very specific vocabulary. Une manche (a set), un jeu décisif (tie break), égalité (deuce), les ramasseurs de balles (ball boys/girls). More info on the incredibly tricky process of getting to be a Roland Garros ball boy/girl can be found here (click Le Docu top right).

I never expected to fall in love with tennis in Paris, and I never expected it to be such a whirlwind affair: racing across Paris to find a bar with a TV, surreptitiously checking the scores at work, and getting to go to the tournament itself. It was a short but sweet fortnight, though, and I will treasure my overpriced souvenir ball for many years to come. Even if I might just cheat on RG with Wimbledon in a few weeks time…

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An exposé of expositions

My flatmate and I have a list. It is entitled “Things we want to do/Feel we ought to do/The thought of which will get us through the 9:30-5:30/10-6 slog”. Catchy, n’est-ce pas? The idea of the list is not a complex one; it is worryingly easy for weeks to go by at work and then weekends to laze on past in lie-ins and errands, without me really managing to do anything Parisian. As Nigel, the darling of a character in The Devil Wears Prada puts it: “I’ll be able to go to Paris and actually see Paris”. We get this opportunity every single weekend (!), so it would be foolish not to take it. Still, sometimes you need a little push out of bed on a Sunday. Ergo, the list.

We have done, it must be proudly declared, quite a few of the list items, which differ vastly from my battered Lonely Planet guide’s top 12: buying art supplies at the old haunt of Picasso, Adam in Montparnasse, sipping coffee in Amelie’s café, drawing flowers in Monet’s garden at Giverny. And in amongst these things, we have managed to push our cheese-reinforced derrières (sorry Bec, I am only really referring to my own) in the direction of quite a few expositions. My penchant for themed rather than diary-style blogging means that I actually visited some of these some time ago, but I’m going to blather on about them like it was yesterday anyway.

Kicking off with a distinctly British number, over at the Philharmonie de Paris the David Bowie Is exhibition was host to of the first weekend jaunts. Whilst initially disappointed that it hadn’t been renamed David Bowie Est, I conceded that perhaps this would cause confusion as ‘est’ also means ‘east’ (although it actually was in the East/Est of Paris, so I can only see that being a bonus). Exhibitions about music often struggle with the music itself, unable to blare tracks from several screens or sets of speakers at once for fear of it all making a horrible mixed-up mess. But someone behind this one had had the clever idea of teaming up with Sennheiser to give each visitor a set of location-activated headphones; simply wander near a screen with a music video on it for the accompanying music to start playing, disturbing nobody and enhancing the musical fun. I went in a casual admirer, and left an intrigued fan.


Sennheiser clearly hadn’t managed to similarly seduce the team behind the Aardman exhibition into the same practical sound solution (®). Taking place at Art Ludique- Le Musée (pretty much literally FUN ART – THE MUSEUM), the only fault with this one was the sound. Videos in each room were on very short loops, with very loud volume, which unfortunately got quite annoying quite quickly. Still, nothing could take away from the joy of Aardman humour, and I was happy to see that so much had survived the devastating Bristol fire a few years ago. Equally, the repetitive sound loops have made the phrase “I know! Let’s play shadow puppets!” a flat staple to scream in a heavy Scottish accent in quiet moments. Thanks, Nick Park and co.!



Finally, on a rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago we decided we’d had quite enough aimless fun and ought to visit something relevant to our degrees. With both of us studying cinema for our dissertations, the Lumière exhibition at the Grand Palais seemed an excellent start- or at least better than actually trying to write them. And it was wonderful once again, with a recreation of the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, the very first room which you could legitimately call a cinema screen when the projector rolled on December 28, 1895. Sitting there and watching the first film, with the workers leaving the factory, I was struck by how little of the essence of cinema has changed since; it always was and always will be a mirror unto ourselves.

Now do excuse me whilst I go copy and paste that into my dissertation- and add “write dissertation” onto the list.

Making bridges, or why nobody in France works in May

It’s Wednesday evening. I’m sitting in my comfy trousers whilst my charming flatmate cooks dinner (they’re not pyjamas, I swear. I mean you could wear them as pyjamas but I don’t so they’re proper clothes. Who even asked your opinion?). And yet it’s not just any Wednesday evening; it’s also the start of the weekend!

I should explain why. France is famed for its dreamy 35 hour working weeks, generous minimum paid holiday allowances and laws on extra pay for overtime. Whilst as an intern I might not quite qualify for all of these, I do get to partake in the joy of the many, many jours fériés, or bank holidays, that France has gifted its populace. If you are ever considering working in France, might I humbly suggest that you insist that your contract includes May? The reason for this is quite simple: there are 4 bank holidays in May alone, meaning there is only one week where you actually have to do Monday to Friday.

Equally, France does not follow the UK’s example in keeping bank holidays confined to Mondays and Fridays. Sounds annoying, not attaching them to the weekend? Perhaps so, but it also allows for the quite delightful option to faire le pont, or make the bridge. This means, if a bank holiday falls on a Thursday, say, as it does tomorrow, many workers will choose to use one of their days off on the Friday, thus making the bridge to the weekend and getting a full four days off. And if most of the office is already doing it, and you ask on Wednesday afternoon if there’s much point in you coming in, they’ll probably tell you not to bother either.

Sur le Pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse...

Sur le Pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse…

I’ve only had a full time office job for about 2 months now, so you might think the joy of this has been lost on me, but far from it. I’ve never felt sorrier for proper adults with their proper jobs. I’m not sure this is widely known amongst the student body so I feel I must warn you all: once you start, you have to work 9-5, 5 days a week, basically FOREVER, with a few days off a year. Your time is no longer your own. FOREVER. It’s quite amazing how precious these long weekends become, especially when they’re all squeezed into one glorious month where it feels as if nobody does any work. “Personne ne travaille en mai’ (Nobody works in May), as a colleague admitted to me.

The only issue I am now faced with is the croissant dilemma; we always buy croissants at the weekend, but when the weekend is four days long, is that just too much pastry for two humans? No. No such thing.

Taper GCSE French dans la mille

Taper dans la mille; to nail it

I’m not usually one to give up at the first hurdle, but there are a few things that, after a length of time spent learning French too depressing to count, I’m just not sure I’m ever going to quite get right.

The first is “Bonjour”. It shouldn’t be difficult; it’s the only French word most non-speakers know, and it doesn’t have a particularly tricky pronunciation, but I don’t seem to be quite nailing it. I say it at least 5 times during the journey from the front door of the office to my desk (security guard, receptionist, other lift-users, smiley craftswoman in the workshop, colleagues in office), and every time wince slightly at how it just doesn’t quite seem French enough. And I know it’s not, because whenever I walk into a shop and proudly proclaim greetings, the reply often comes in English- and I’m making such an effort to look Parisian (black on black on black) that I’d like to hope it’s not just my appearance that marks me out as a foreigner. It is simply a difficult word to get absolutely spot on. It reminds me of the time I coquettishly asked a French friend where in France my accent came from, did I sound like tutors I’d had from Paris or the sunny south or the Alps? “Angleterre”, she honestly giggled.


Next, numbers. I’m sorry France but sort them out. At least Swiss/Belgian/Canadian French has made an effort inventing septante, huitante, nonante for the numbers 70, 80 and 90, because apparently this was seen as a mad thing to do by the French themselves, who’ve settled for sixty-ten, four-twenties and four-twenties-and-ten. Fair enough.

Except no, it’s not fair enough. Because they also insist on listing their phone numbers in neat little pairs, and so when I face my fear of the ringing office phone and try to take a number, what I’m actually doing is a difficult exercise in complex mental maths.

Imagine the scene in English:

“I’ll ask her to call you back. Could I take your phone number?”

“Yes, sure. It’s zero six, sixty-twelve, four-twenties-two, four-twenties-thirteen, sixty-ten-eight.”

I’m getting (marginally) better at it, but it’s still an elusive skill; when someone says sixty-twelve, for instance, I’ve already written a 6 before I realise that actually sixty plus twelve is 72 so I need to cross out that 6 and write 7 and oh no they’ve said the rest of the number and hung up.


Given that I haven’t mastered these basic skills, despite having first been taught them an embarrassing number of years ago, I have managed to achieve that goal of all goals; my level of French fluency actually beginning to interfere with my English. The problem is, it’s not happening exactly as I’d like; it’s the azerty keyboard that’s made its way into my unconscious. I get home to my safe qwerty laptop and type almost all my words with a Q where an A should be, try to hold shift to write a full stop or number, and get confused when the accented characters are no longer where they’re supposed to be. Maybe I’ll achieve full keyboard fluency in my remaining three months here. Though I’ll mostly just be happy if I can say how many days that is in French- four-twenties-thirteen sounds about right.

Running Paris

Although this title might suggest otherwise, no, nobody has asked me to be in charge of Paris. Although, often I wish they would, because there are certain things about the city that make absolutely no sense to me. First amongst these things is the topping-up system on the French métro equivalent to the Oyster card, the Navigo. The way it works is that you top up your card for a month at a time, but instead of running from a month from the day you buy it, it runs for the month you’re in; top up for March and you can use the metro until the end of March.

All sounds quite neat and simple, until you realise that this involves long queues of grumpy Navigo users waiting to top up their cards on the 1st of April, and not just because it’s a cruel April fool but because this actually is the system. Why the cards don’t just last for a month from their purchase date, thus staggering the top up times and eliminating these queues, I can’t understand. And that’s just one reason why I should run Paris.

For now, I’m contenting myself with just running in Paris. For more on why I’ve chosen to do such a strange thing, please see here (and also please donate if you are that way inclined). My training, if it could be called such a thing, is going reasonably well. Well, it’s going. I have been on some runs.

GPS proof that I have done some running!

GPS proof that I have done some running!

It turns out Paris is a surprisingly pleasant city to run in. I had visions of coughing my way through polluted, congested streets, running quickly more to get away from rapidly approaching vehicles than to improve my average pace. But there are many lovely parks; I enjoy Parc André Citroën’s futuristic right-angles, the gently curved paths of the Champ de Mars and the floating island that is the Île aux Cygnes. The Parisians seem to enjoy them to, especially on a Sunday morning along the banks of the Seine, where many of them can be seen running merrily along.

They really do seem to wear a lot of clothes, though, even when it’s pretty balmy. I still haven’t seen anyone in less than full leggings and a long-sleeved top, and I have come across many people in a full tracksuit, as well as one woman in a puffer jacket (shudder) and scarf. I’m impressed by their heat management, especially as I suffer from serious red face when I get going.

The other oddity I have noticed is not found so much amongst the runners, but along the other Parisians. When running along a pavement that is perfectly wide enough to accommodate 2 or 3 people, individuals tend to walk right in the middle and refuse steadfastly to move one way or another to let me pass. It’s not just when I’m running either, so I can’t blame it on a general annoyance towards other people trying to get fit (been there, understand that). People just don’t like moving out of the way for others. Being British, I tend to be the person that eventually gives in and goes on the road, but I do wonder how far I’d have to run towards someone before they made any effort to move. If I ran Paris, I’d definitely make a by-law on that.

Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants

…mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent.

(All adults were children once, but few of them remember it.)

According to some recent(ish) research, adolescence stretches right up to the age of 25. Which is good, because I’m 21 and I feel like I’m only half-managing the adulthood thing. I go to work, 10-6, Monday to Friday, then I come home and do things like cooking with herbs and drinking wine but not in order to get drunk. I go running. I have supermarket loyalty cards. I take the metro with the rest of the commuters, and I sigh at tourists peering at the map at Madeleine, their backpacks taking up my precious commuter space, now that I am important and a contributor to the economy.

Thing is, the whole thing feels like a charade. At some point somebody is going to realise that I am not a proper adult at all, that I am just playing a big game of pretend. I take an unprecedented amount of joy from hopping off the metro before it’s fully come to a halt, mostly because I think (hope) that all the tourists are thinking, ‘Mon dieu! Look at that Parisienne! She is so sleek and stylish!’, at least until I wobble and have to regain my balance. I still giggle internally when I ask for a baguette at the boulangerie, because the whole thing is just one big GCSE speaking exam. I am playing at being French, I am playing at being a member of the rat race, and I am most of all playing at being a grown-up.

In some ways it’s fun. I like feeling like I have some importance, and a place to be, but it has also made me terrified about how little time proper adults have. How do they get anything done?! I’m at work at nearly all the useful hours of the day, when the shops, bank and post office are open, then I get home and I’m too knackered to do anything. At the weekend, I need Saturday to do all the errands I couldn’t manage during the week, especially in France, where everything is nonsensically shut on Sundays. Thanks, France. I have two useful days a week, and you’ve blown one of them straight out of the water before I even got a chance to try to get up before midday. Then I try to pack in something touristy, and lo and behold Monday rears its ugly head again.

I’m also not sure anyone else is really a proper adult. Maybe everyone is just pretending. One of my favourite pieces of journalism from last year spells this out better than I ever could; this Oliver Burkeman blog on how we’re all totally just winging it, all the time.

I’ve often thought of my experience of adulthood thus far as one of incrementally discovering that there’s no institution, or walk of life, in which everybody isn’t just winging it.

The other thing I have realised, in my sessions of profound thinking on the 20 minute metro journey, is how hardened this whole process makes most adults. As the quote I opened with, from the timeless Le Petit Prince, suggests, adults simply forget their childhood and get wrapped up in the pretending-to-be-adults game. They (we? No, sorry. Not yet) all become too busy, too important, too stressed, too tired, to be nice to each other. None of those are good excuses, in my book. You should always be nice. Just be nice. It is not difficult. And it makes the world nicer. I shall now refute all the above reasons to not be nice:

1. You are too busy to be nice.

So is everyone else. Or rather, we all pretend we are because it makes us feel important. It doesn’t take any longer to say things politely.

2. You are too important to be nice.

The Queen is extremely important, and is always lovely to everyone she meets. You should always be aware that you can, and should, be judged on how you treat those supposedly beneath you. If you’re rude to the waiter, you’re probably not going to get a second date.

3. You are too stressed to be nice.

The worse you’re feeling, the better you probably will feel by being nice to someone else and them being grateful for it.

4. Someone else was not nice to you first.

I have found one of the greatest ways to annoy unfriendly people is by overcompensating and being extra friendly to them. They’ll hate it, and they won’t be able to say anything.

5. You are too tired to be nice.

Oh, alright then. We can’t all be saints, all the time. But still, just don’t be a dick.

Be excellent to each other. I promise it makes all this pretending to be an adult much more bearable. Maybe even admit you’re just winging it too; we were all children once, and still are. Adolescence doesn’t end at 25, because adolescence doesn’t end. We’re all just floundering through.


Untourist Paris: Sink plug shops are not in the guidebook

There are certain parts of Paris that don’t quite make it into the guidebooks. I’m not talking about secret bars and cafés; I’m afraid I don’t yet have any regular Parisian haunts that I’ve discovered and am now revealing to you. I mean the shops where you buy an ironing board, where you can find a replacement sink plug, and insider knowledge of which metro, train and bus are required to get to the nearest IKEA. It’s not very glamorous, this part of life, but it is a fact of life, and one that is quite the struggle when you don’t know which shops to go to.

For this is the problem with these particular Parisian addresses not being listed in the guidebooks, or on Trip Advisor: I had no idea where to go. Aside from IKEA, that stalwart of reasonably priced duvet sets and small fluffy rats to place in the fruit bowl à la Ratatouille, I did not know where to start. It sounds an easy thing to find, a replacement plug, but where do you start? It’s hard enough in a familiar city sometimes, but in one you don’t know at all, and that’s foreign, it’s basically impossible. After around 2 hours of searching, I found one, but then 4 days later found there was a shop literally 2 minutes from my door that sold them cheaper. C’est la vie.

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The obligatory trip to IKEA, meanwhile, was much more fun because I got to go there with Rebecca, my chère chère flatmate, sharer of copious bottles of €3 wine and fellow woman on the quest for cheap tea towels. Though I missed the ease of a trip there in my mum’s car (not to mention the generosity of her purse), our little Swedish-tinged adventure to Thiais actually turned out to be quite amusing. I think making our way through the bus, train and metro back, Rebecca with a rolled up mattress on her head, me with an enormous holdall of household essentials/small fluffy rats, may be one of the highlights of my time here so far. It probably still won’t make it into the Lonely Planet top 10, mind. But traversing the underground maze that is Invalides, replacing the lyrics of Destiny’s Child Independent Women Pt. 1 (‘This Jömna on my head? I bought it!’) to the tune of our purchases, is still going firmly in the mental happiness bank.

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The one shocker of the trip was the complete lack of what I would term normal pillows. The French sleep on square pillows. Square. This was completely incomprehensible to Rebecca and I, given that it is just not a useful shape for a pillow to be. You have one of two options; first, to lie completely on the pillow thus elevating your shoulders too- defeating the point of the pillow which is to maintain your head higher than the rest of your body and prevent neck strain. Alternatively, you can just lie on the bottom half as if it were a proper rectangular pillow, but this forces your toes off the end of the bed and frankly seems like a waste of good feathers. Having lived with these things for almost a week, I don’t think I’m ever going to be a convert, but I can attest to their usefulness in sitting up in bed in the morning. Maybe the French just adorent breakfast in bed.

This week I also started my first ever proper office job. I won’t be blogging about my work for reasons of professional integrity (oooooh I have professional integrity now), but for those of you that are interested, I will be working as an intern in communication and image for Hermès until the end of July. I will say, though, that my first day lunch in the Jardin des Tuileries overlooking the Place de la Concorde, with the Eiffel Tower glimmering in the midday sun, was not half bad. Levons notre verre à la vie parisienne.

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