Paris shall be my home for the next
six months. I am a University of Otago student who is on
exchange and headed to Paris Ouest University to study
classic French cinema.
In between I'm planning on wandering around Paris just like
all the other hapless tourists. Sometimes I have to pinch
myself to believe that I will be studying in the same city
where Cosette fell for Marius (at the Jardin du Luxembourg),
where George Orwell scrubbed dishes and where Edith Piaf sung
to enchanted crowds.
I wanted to arrive in Paris in style and so I took the
Eurostar. In New Zealand, high speed trains simply do not
exist and I do not think they will for a very long time. This
is why when one is in Europe one must make the most of the
high speed rail network. The Eurostar is like no other train
ride in the world and this is partly due to the unique breed
of passengers you will find in your carriage.
I was sitting next to a writer who whipped out his brown
leather notebook when we were passing beneath the English
Channel and started to scribble down little verses of poetry.
He had pulled down the tray table from the seat in front to
write and was writing so intensely that the tray was jiggling
up and down. I didn't want to disturb him so I went for a
stroll through the carriage.
There were businessmen pounding the keys on their laptops,
teenagers staring nonchalantly at their iPad screens and
perfectly coiffed women flicking languorously through the
pages of Vogue.
On the Eurostar you can buy strawberry cheesecake in a jar. I
ate mine while staring out at the little villages of northern
France blanketed in snow. Roads weaved through the snow like
black ribbon. The Eurostar has its own bilingual magazine
called Metropolitain with humorous little articles
about life in Paris and London. You should really have a read
of it sometime.
As the Eurostar chugged into the Gare du Nord I stared out
the foggy window. The rooftop of Sacre Coeur was barely
distinguishable above the hazy grey Parisian sky. Smoke
billowed from chimney tops. Little attic rooms dotted the
skyline. I imagined sitting in one of those attic rooms and
looking down at the lights of Paris at night.
If you don't want to be swept away by a sea of people at the
Gare du Nord, you have to stand your ground. This might mean
shoving past people who get in your way. This worked out for
me just fine because my colossal backpack acted like a
battering ram. "Watch out for pickpocketers. Il
faut faire attention, hein," warned my friend who rescued me
and showed me the way to the metro. My pack was so
heavy that it felt like I was giving a piggy back ride to an
obese 12 year old.
Paris is associated with glamour. Fashion week, models,
decadent gateaux, dashing young men roaming around in
designer Hermes suits, a romantic wine on a balcony at
sunset. In reality Paris is just like any other big city. It
is filled with crime, homelessness and doggy do.
Every day I walk past a homeless person curled up in a
sleeping bag under a bench at a metro station. Despite this,
Paris happens to house more museums than almost any other
city in the world. And the museums are astounding.
It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I saw
Rodin's L'Age d'Airain up close at the Musee d'Orsay. Behold
those sculpted muscles.
- My high school French teacher took our class out for
escargot once at the French restaurant next door. Since then,
I grew to adore studying French. I continued my studies at
the University of Otago and now I am completing my Bachelor
of Arts with Honours in French. I will be looking into film
adaptations of the novels of a writer called George Simenon.
So here I am in Paris studying French cinema at Université
Paris X. My favourite things about Paris are gooey strawberry
macarons, the Louvre and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at
night. Paris is beautiful, but I still miss Dunedin's St