Chapter 22 : Crêpes, baguettes and the TMG quartet

Paris. Synonymous with all that is aloof, stylish and delicious. The only city where a restaurant’s set menu is a savoury crêpe followed by a sweet crêpe, where going out without make-up is more common than being caked in the stuff and where the locals cannot be prized away from their trusty baguettes, even while jogging.* And lucky lucky me just spent a weekend there – safe to say it was amazing!

The next best thing to securing a kick-ass year abroad location (no hard feelings, Regg, but you coulda been a bit more happening..) is having friends with a kick-ass year abroad location. I congratulate past me on having the foresight to befriend Ellie and Bec, who are now sharing a flat right in the centre of Paris for the latter half of their year abroad. Result.

Naturally, Han and I invited ourselves over to grab a slice of the elusive Parisian dream.

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I’ve been to Paris twice before, but I think that this was the first time I really got it. Hanging round with locals is a major boon,** and my eyes and ears were free to take in everything around me as long as I could keep up with Ellie’s marching pace, which for the average human would count as moderate to intense exercise, depending on fitness levels. The secret, I conclude, is to make like the French and never ever try too hard. Naturellement, we moseyed up to the Eiffel Tower and along the Champs Élysées, but these weren’t the things that made the trip for me (unless you count the frappé latte I picked up en route). Far more memorable were the moules frites in a gorgeous café tucked away in a lazy flea-market, complete with eccentric motherly waitress and live french music. Another highlight was sourcing out the best baguette in Paris (we watched the judging process – it’s rigorous!) and using it as the base of a fondu and wine night. Mmmm.

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Me with not one but two prize winning baguettes. There’s a pretty awesome cake in the box as well.

Just to make sure the tourist edge wasn’t lost, we went to the Sacre Coeur, the Amélie café and a Picasso museum as well. Cultural.

I have to admit I was aghast at my French. Having gone from basic fluency at A-level (bit of an exaggeration but I was definitely WAY more confident), my language skills seem to have slowly diminished at Cambridge as Italian barged its way to the front of my mind. Typical Italian. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak French, Italian would come out, so I asked ‘quanto?’ instead of ‘combien?’ to a nonplussed salesman, replied ‘si’ instead of ‘oui’ to everything and got unnecessarily excited whenever I saw an ice cream parlour. Then, in some kind of cruel irony, as soon as arrived in Milan I was throwing about ‘mercis’ like it was my job. Even as I floundered over the basics of the language, though, I still felt like I was absorbing something of the Parisian vibe.

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Fitting in like a local along the Seine.

From a language student’s perspective, I ought to have left feeling rather dejected with my efforts – my degree will say ‘French and Italian’, which is essentially a lie: I got Ellie to do most of the talking for me this weekend. However, the only sadness I had room for was disappointment that I wasn’t staying for longer. Ellie and Bec might be glad to have their living room back, but I’m already pining for croissants fresh from the boulangerie! Five weekends to go until I’m home for good, let’s see if the next one – Pompeii! – lives up.

*This is not stereotyping. This is something I saw.

**When did we stop saying boon? I demand its immediate reinstatement in the common tongue!

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