“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
This spring, I’m risking my job, waistline, and bank balance and moving to Paris for four weeks to follow my dreams. What started off as a fascination for the French language, culture and way of life has snowballed into an obsession over the years. There are/will be many regrets in life that I will have to live with, but not moving to Paris is something I can’t stomach. Ideally, I’d love to move for a year or more. But for the moment, four weeks will have to do. 😉
“Four weeks in Paris? What will you do? All by yourself, are you bat crazy? Won’t you get bored? Traveling solo in the city of love?”
If I had a penny for every time I heard that. Well, I probably won’t be able to do much, but let’s say these concerns have been echoed quite a few times, especially the part about me being cuckoo.
For me, Paris isn’t just about the Eiffel tower, chocolate macarons or lovelocks on a bridge. It is a city that is steeped in history, where each crumbling wall and each narrow alley has a story to tell. It is a city that begs to be discovered by having as much free time as possible, to stroll around its cobblestone squares, people-watch at the jardins (or gardens), to picnic along the Seine, while listening to the sound of accordion players right outside in the Parisian metro. I crave to uncover the true heart of the city, where the tourists do not stray. I want to immerse myself in the traditions and culture in a way that makes me feel like I have truly experienced and witnessed a glimpse of Parisian life.
Unlike most of my other trips, the chance to do this snuck up on me, and everything was just so “gone on a whim”. I applied for my visa two weeks before my departure. Funny story actually… I got all my documents ready the midnight before my appointment and showed up at the French Consulate five minutes late (of course! Apparently being fashionably late is a very Parisian thing to do, so you know, that’s how I roll). But luckily (or not) for me, there was another struggling applicant ahead of me, so my tardiness went unnoticed. Since getting my French visa had been a cakewalk the previous time and I was hoping for a similar situation. The applicant ahead of me, a student who wished to move to France for a semester, was almost in tears at the end of the interview. When it was my turn, I anxiously walked over to the officer and submitted my documents. He asked me – “Why do you wish to go to France for four weeks?” For some reason, this perfectly appropriate question took me by surprise and I stupidly stuttered in response “I’m going to learn French at the Alliance Française in Paris”. “What, what, what?!” As I heard myself say that, I wanted to kick myself because that was not what I was planning to do, I wanted to go to France to travel, plain and simple. While I had certainly contemplated registering for French classes at AF Paris, I had dropped the idea almost immediately because of how insanely expensive the classes were. The officer then replied, “Where is your registration letter? I will give you your visa when you show me your registration letter”. All my further clarifications were shot down and I was sent back.
To get out of this self-induced predicament, I ended up enrolling myself in two weeks of AF’s cheapest classes. I consoled myself by saying destiny had struck a pretty good bargain with me. Visa in exchange for a chance to better my French and make some new friends. Quelle bonne chance, oui?
Fast forward three weeks and here I am, day 2 in Paris, stumbling my way around daily life and living the dream, looking forward to improving my French, ordering baguettes and losing myself in the Parisian metros.
Two days before landing here, I found a charming apartment in the 18th arrondisment through Airbnb. I am sharing it with a French girl, who works as a freelance graphic designer. She and her boyfriend received me when I landed and they seem like jolly nice people. Her boyfriend works as a graphic designer too, for Louie Vuitton. (Oh la la!) When I landed, it was the Easter long weekend and all restaurants were closed. My roommate offered me some, wait for it, Dal soup for dinner. Hahaha! I couldn’t believe my luck. I had been on the road for over a week and I was craving for some comfort food and Voila! How uncanny! It was actually a lentil soup with carrots, but close enough. 🙂
I have not done much since I landed; I went to AF Paris to take up a test, so they could determine which level to put me in. The professor who evaluated me, was very impressed with my French accent, and told me it was very Parisian. While my French is still quite basic and I have a long way to go, hearing him say that, I was as the French say “sur un petit nuage” or “I am so happy, I feel like I’m a on a little cloud.” All those hours obsessing over nuances finally paid off.
Once that was done, I walked around aimlessly in the 6th arrondisment, a spring in my step and a soppy smile on my face. Suddenly the whole world seemed a brighter place.
P:S Thanks to Elena, for proofreading my post.