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Anchor 2

Paris In Three Seasons

Translated February 17, 2022
Originally PostedNovembre 17, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the past three years, I have been lucky enough to say that the city of Paris has been a regular part of my life. I have known it as a guest, as a tourist, and like a Parisian. 

 

  • From July – August 2018, I studied in Paris for a month and a half. 

  • From September 2019 – April 2020, I worked in Brest, Brittany, yet I made frequent trips to Paris. 

  • As of September 2020 – the present day, I completed a Master’s degree in Paris. Thus, residing for a long term stay in Paris. 

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Paris, the city of lights

July – August 2018

            I remember my anxious feelings when I first arrived in Paris for a study abroad program. I spoke with my friend about the size of the city. Even if Paris seemed smaller than other European capitals, it did not change the fact that I had never lived in the heart of a European capital.  

 

            Also, Paris in the middle of summer is a beast that would scare any introvert. Simply take the metro during rush-hour to understand how the massive crowds can come to resemble that of a huge wave of people capable of drowning you. In that moment in time, I was more used to the wild nature of northern Florida. The great, dark pine trees, who are like guardians of nature. The sea with its salty breeze. And the tranquil nights where one can see the moon and the stars whilst gathered around a cozy campfire with an infinite amount of marshmallows and even warmer company still.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            I tried to explain to my friend my absurd feelings with an equally absurd analogy. I told him, “I think Paris is like the popular girl from school. And Montréal is like ‘the girl next door.’ Paris is too much. To better study French, perhaps it would have been better to look for a program in Québec or Louisiana or maybe even Belgium.” The truth was that this was my doubts, fears, naivety, and immaturity speaking. During that time, I was not very confident in my French-speaking ability. That was one of the reasons why I was so afraid of spending time in Paris. That was one of the reasons why I saw Paris as something insurmountable.        

 

            During this study abroad program, I went to Paris with my classmates from Florida State University. We stayed at the Cité International Universitarie de Paris in the 14th arrondissement (district) of Paris. 

 

            Even if I traveled with my classmates, even if I was close to other Americans, even if I had some friends, that did not stop me from spending most of my time on my own. I walked through the beautiful gardens of the cité, in Montsouris park, and alongside the grand boulevards and avenues of the 14th arrondissement. It was a brutally warm summer and even the small weight of my camera began to felt like a heavy burden. I spent much of my solitary time walking around taking photos, listening to music, and thinking about French culture, and the French themselves. 

 

            In the 14th arrondissement of Paris, there is a place where the sun sets in between a street of buildings; and it is magnificent. It is everything that one dreams of when one thinks of Paris. The burning auburn light is brilliant against the honey-colored walls. It is breathtaking. 

   

 

 

 

 

 

            I was lucky to be in Paris when France won the world cup in 2018. Even in the quiet corner of the 14th arrondissement, there were grand celebrations. Sseeing the French celebrating together was nice, amusing, and simply pretty cool. Although I was more of a spectator than a participant. With my camera, I was content to capture the celebrations.

     

            It is impossible to go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower. The last night of our stay, our small group of friends and I went to the Eiffel tower. We spent the evening together. It was the first night where we felt the need to put on a jacket, sweater, or at least, a scarf. After a summer of heat waves, we could feel the first winds of autumn. Even if it was still some time until it arrived, the cold and bitter fingers of autumn are long, and we knew that our summer in Paris was had ended. 

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The wild nature of Northern Florida

I completed my undergraduate studies in northern Florida.

During those four years, I became more accustomed to being around nature than being around a big city.

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Paris, like a dream

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Celebrations at la place Denfert-Rochereau in the 14e arrondissement of Paris.

September 2019 – April 2020

            For seven months, I lived in the northwestern region of France called Brittany in a city called Brest. There, I worked as an assistant English teacher. It was part of the program called T.A.P.I.F (Teaching Assistant Program in France). It was an expansive experience of the mind and self. 

 

            When applying to T.A.P.I.F., hopeful applicants are told that a lot of applicants wish to work in Paris. I wanted to work in Paris as well, but I understood that the position in Paris is highly competitive. Thus, it was preferable to apply to another region. I love the sea, the wild coast, and the waves that crash against the shore. I love the rain, the rocky terrain, and wild fields oversaturated with green and the vivid colors of wildflowers. So, my choice to apply in Brittany was an easy one. Because of this, I was also able to discover another side of France. I had never heard of Brest, Quimper, Roscoff, etc., but now I adore all of Brittany. 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

            And I was able to travel to Paris like a French tourist from the countryside, like a “provincial.” Sometimes, I had to spend the night there due to a layover, or sometimes I simply spent some vacation days in there in Paris. One of the great benefits of working as an assistant English teacher was that there was a lot of days of vacation. And each time I traveled, I stopped in Paris. I began to truly know the train stations well, such as Gare Montparnasse, Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon. And I truly began to know well the underground streets of the metro that connected them all together. 

 

            There is a different feeling arriving in Paris by train knowing that you will only be there for a couple of days, not for school or work, but just for vacation. It is more exciting than one living in the French countryside might like to admit. 

 

            My favorite memories are of the concerts I went to. 

            In November 2019, I saw the electronic musician Flume. I saw him at La Villette.

            In February 2020, I saw the rock band Pvris. I saw them at the Moulin Rouge. 

            Both artists were terrific, but I will always have a preference for the rock genre.

            Pvris were electrifying. For two hours, they really connected with the audience. 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            I bought the tickets the same night of the concert. And that is one of the greatest advantages of Paris; there are all sorts of shows, spectacles, and events available every day. Even though I grew to love Brittany, I never went to any concerts there. The concerts in Brittany were not my type of genre of music. But in Paris, anyone could find any type of event that would truly interest them. 

 

            During these short, one-two day sojourns in Paris, I would sometimes walk the same streets I once did when I was a student, studying abroad. Sometimes, I would think of my old friends. Even if I missed them, I knew that I was growing as a person. I felt myself habituated more and more to Paris and to France. 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            From one moment to another, I stopped feeling like a tourist. I was used to being on the outside, always looking in. During this time in my life, I felt both like an outsider and someone on the inside. I felt a bit like Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

 

            In this moment in time, I was already thinking about returning to school for a Master’s degree. To my surprise, I found an English literature program in Paris. So, I began to dream about an entire year in Paris. I was anxious and excited to live in Paris once more. I thought that after I finished my work as an assistant English teacher in Brest, I could move to Paris. 

 

            Unfortunately, it was also around this time that Covid-19 was beginning to spread around Europe and the rest of the world. The great waves of people in the metro, train stations, and airports became something of nightmare for me once more. This time it was not due to being an introvert, but because of something else… something far more dangerous. 

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Brest has a peculiar charm

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Pvris at Paris 02/20

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The same streets I used to wonder around

September 2020 – November 2021 (the present) 

            When I arrived in Paris to study, I was lucky to find lodgment at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. It was amusing as I had stay there during my study abroad program in 2018. Thus, the way from the airport to the 14th arrondissement was a path I was familiar with. There were less people on the RER B. And the world was hidden in masks and kept at a social distant. This changed the face of Paris, the city of lights. Everything seemed a bit calmer, more tranquil, yet at the same time, the pandemic never allowed one to feel at ease. Nonetheless, I had arrived at Paris to study for an entire year. 

 

            I walked through the same streets as before. I walked through the same gardens of the Cité international, through the same Parc Montsouris, down the same Boulevard Jourdan. I walked alongside the tramway. I heard the turbulent arrival of the RER B. I saw the chaotic crossways of Porte d’Orléan. Yet this time, I had less fear and less anxiety. I felt calmer and a bit more like an “expatriate” - a term that has come to mean different things for different people. Even if my French was not perfect, I was no longer afraid to try to speak to others. And it certainly helped that I understood French better. Paris, and the French language, was no longer the great and beautiful beast that it once was in my eyes. 

 

            I became very familiar with the 14th. The same lion de Belfort where the Parisians celebrated the world cup a couple of years ago became like a guardian to me. Beyond him, I felt out of my comfort zone. Inversely, whenever I saw him, I felt like I was close to home. 

 

            The word “home” is important. When I spent about a month in Paris studying abroad in 2018, I never said that Paris was “home.” When I worked in Brittany, I never said that Paris was “home,” obviously. Yet, I never said that Brest was “home” either. But finally, when I did my master’s program, I could finally say that Paris was a bit like “home.” It was evident enough when it come out in conversations. I realized that sometimes I would say to my mother over the phone that I was on my way “home.”  Sometimes, I would text a friend that I would be back “home” right away. Sometimes, I would say to a classmate that I would share the class notes as soon as I arrived “home.” 

 

            In 2018, I left Paris in the middle of august. In 2020, I returned at the beginning of September. I came back to Paris almost at the exact moment that I left. Though two years had gone by, the city was the same. I was welcomed by the arrival of autumn ; this time autumn was not so menacing and did not signify the end of my time in France but rather the beginning. 

 

            It is easy to say that Paris in Autumn is not as beautiful as Paris in the summer. It is true that it rains, it is cloudy, sometimes gloomy as the days get dark, and it is often cold. But there is beauty in sad things as well. I found Paris in autumn to be a different kind of lovely than Paris in the summer. One of the most beautiful things about Paris in autumn - something that I do not really hear people talk about much - are the golden trees. In the northeast of the United States and some places of England, there is beautiful foliage of apple red, auburn-orange, toasted browns, and touches of evergreens. But Paris, with her beautiful honey-colored buildings, sunset-tinted lamplights, faded leaves, and golden trees, is equally special, enchanting, and romantic during the autumn season. 

     

 

 

 

            Every day, I had the luxury of being able to ask myself if I wanted to spend the day in Montmartre or in the Luxemburg Garden or in the Île de la Cité. Every weekend, I could have asked myself if I would like to spend the day at Versailles or at Giverny or at Deauville. But I could also ask myself if I preferred to spend the night in rather than going out. 

 

            Those lazy days are essential to feeling “at home.” Those days where you feel like doing nothing are a luxury. Those days where you do not want to do anything except lay down on the sofa all day and not worry about missing anything are the are the evidence to whether one really does feel at home or not. To know if you truly live somewhere and you’re not just an overly long-staying tourist, one should be able to spend the night in and feel all right. To feel as though you are not missing out on anything because everything will still be there waiting for you later on. 

            If you are okay spending a Saturday night simply passing by a bakery for a baguette, maybe stopping for a drink or two at the local café down the street, and calling it a night, then I think you can say that you truly feel at home. 

 

            Nevertheless, if you desire to do something for the evening, there will always be the Trocadéro metro stop. And the Eiffel tower, with its brilliant shining lights, will always be there waiting for you – whether as a guest, tourist, or Parisian.           

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Paris in autumn

The golden trees of Paris 

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Paris, the city of lights

Bio Contact (Afternoon)

BIO

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Miguel is a writer, editor, photographer, videographer, and content creator. He has had an interest in literature ever since a young age and has developed a passion for visual storytelling over the years. He is fluent in English & Spanish, proficient in French, and learning Japanese. Recently, he graduated from the Columbia Publishing Course, Oxford. Prior to that he obtained his Master of Arts degree in Literature from The University of Kent Paris.

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