On being a tourist in your own city

I like to think that Paris is home for me. Over the last couple couple of years, I’ve adopted a relatively loose definition of home, as the life of a college student who travels and studies abroad is anything but consistent. It took me a day to call Tawonga home, a few weeks for the University of Puget Sound home, a little longer for Tacoma, and about six weeks to get there with Paris. There is, without argument, a difference between a house and a home. One view is that your body resides in a house, your soul in a home. Others look at it less metaphysically, but assert the similar proposition that a home entails a deeper connection. You like your home more, and it is therefore harder to let go. To me, it is about attitude. Anywhere can be a house, it necessitates physical presence and accommodation. What sets my viewpoint apart from the majority I believe, is that I think anywhere can easily be a home if you let it. For a home to welcome you, you must welcome what it has to offer. It takes positive thinking, and always seeing the better side of things, which isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, I find positivity to be an essential part of living. While you may have to crawl in the dark for the greener grass, it is always there.

It is in that that I’ve been able to call Paris, and the house that I live in home. Just as the family I live with welcomed me, I’ve welcomed the home, from small breakfasts, to eternal usage of French. Paris as a whole may not have the same open arms but I’ve welcomed it by exploring as much as possible, trying as many new things as I can, and talking to as many people as I can. Additionally, I’ve taken stock of what I have, and use that to thrash the things I’m disappointed about. I have a hard time with the language, can’t be outdoors as much as I like, it is cold and don’t have too much time to ride my bike here. But that doesn’t really matter since I live with an incredibly welcoming family that cooks great food and engages me in great conversation, I have over 40 free museums with some of the best art in the world at my disposal to see, I’ll probably never eat better food and drink better coffee everywhere I go, I have great friends, I can wear ties and suits everyday if I want, I work in a incredible gallery and can travel easily, to so many places. In a second, the negatives are overcome. The secret to positive thinking, is putting more stock in the positive things, even if the negatives blatantly overpower them. Attitude is everything. Luckily for me, the positives do outweigh the negatives, so the positive thinking is just a bonus.

Another thing I have going for me is the city that is now my home, is one of the top tourist locations in the world. That means, every hour of every day, I can see something beautiful, historical, jaw-dropping or all of the above. I like to take the Metro line 6 home in the evening because it goes aboveground and I can see the Eifel Tower light up above the Seine. It is a sight I will never tire of, and is infinitely better than looking at my shoes on an underground train. I’ve noticed the Parisiens don’t see the Eifel Tower when we go by it, and that makes me sad. I like to think the little things like that make my life more of an adventure, always seeing something wonderful.

Yesterday I had about an hour in between meeting a friend, and meeting some moms for my work opportunity. When you have a little bit of free time to kill in Paris and don’t want to spend money you either

a) wander around and sightsee (or just wander),

b) window shop (which has the possibility of not being free) or

c) sit on a bench or the banks of the Seine and take it in.

thanks internet! notre dame

It was to cold to sit and window shopping felt too risky at the time, so I wandered. I came upon Notre Dame, walked by it and took in its beauty for a few minutes. The intricate architecture is pretty astounding, especially amongst an evening sky. I nearly walked by before I thought, why not walk in. Let me preface, I’ve been in France for 7 weeks now, and haven’t even seen Notre Dame (or so I thought). So I went in, and once again was astounded by the multimedia effect of a grand cathedral. There was a service going on, and a man in blue robes chanted an eerily beautiful Latin prayer while the tourists fretted bout the interdiction of flash photography. I felt pleasure about residing in a tourist city, not feeling the need to rush and see every single thing. It was more enjoyable to randomly come upon one of the most visited sights in my city on accident.

To make the story a bit more embarrassing, I then walked around the building, through the very nice, and of course in French fashion, very orderly park in between the Seine and the cathedral. I saw the park continued around the back and recognized immediately the rear end of the church! I ate lunch while wandering in my first weekend here in Paris, completely obvious to the architectural wonder I was enjoying. I guess that’s the downside to being a resident rather than a tourist. I keep my nose out of guidebooks and maps, so its possible to miss things like that. But c’est la vie and I learned it eventually.

I had  revelation during my wandering, the realization that I should never spend time too idly here. There’s so much to do and see. I’ve got two ideas. One is explore the Louvre and other museums more. I can get in for free, so a 30 minute trip to the Louvre to see Michaelangelo’s two marble nude slaves, or other things like that is easy and way worth it.

The trust steeds that are the Velib

The other is to use the Velib. The Velib is the massive bike sharing program Paris has instituted over the past 5 years or so. In many strategically placed locations, over 20,000 bikes are available at my disposal. The bikes are far from ideal, but its pretty awesome and progressive in the best way. There are also countless kilometers of bike lanes in Paris. I’ve finally figured out that I can pay for a yearlong subscription very cheaply online and use the bikes whenever, and they are no extra charge for 45 minutes. So with spare time, I will pick up a bike, ride to a new quartier (neighborhood) and take a peek around. I’m also going to remember my camera more.

Not much new coming up that I’m expecting, although Eric and Patrick get here on Friday from Germany, and Rebekah from Brighton. It therefore promises to be a great weekend of exploring, and fabulous reunions. A tant tot!

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