Jeanna Packard's Blog

Christmas in Paris II

Posted in Uncategorized by jpackard on January 13, 2011

When I review my Christmas photos I realize that what is missing- the spark that would make a viewer say ‘yeah, now that is why it is such a romanticized city’ – is that I was a normal person without a film-crew, staged backdrop, or a lover who was just coming from or going off to war.  (And I did not see or smell Jude law – reference to his recent cologne ads where he tells a beautiful woman that she doesn’t have to know his face to recognize him because his sent (the audience must assume it is a pleasing odor) will reveal him.)

And although nearly all my photos are a bit muted by overcast skies and snow turned to sludge, I think the classic black and white picture and capture the Paris in the postcards.

As mentioned in an earlier blog  I arrived in Paris around 9 a.m. after a less than ideal start to my holiday.

I had no idea where I was going, until my friend Jeff responded to my text message and gave me directions to his apartment.

Jeff is a college friend of my godmother’s and even though we hadn’t ever met face to face, he had been a huge support since I’d arrived in France. He sympathized with all the culture shocks and frustrations I was experiencing, and he offered to help me improve my situation in any way he could. When the holidays were approaching he offered me his apartment to enjoy alone while he was out of town for Christmas.

I was waiting for his reply and sitting patiently in my cramped window seat on the French TGV train, while other passengers filtered down the walkway. Eventually I grabbed my black suitcase and progressed toward the exit, wrapping my jacket a bit tighter as the cold filtered in.

By the time I reached the platform that cold had invaded and opened my bag on the spot to retrieve a scarf, and extra sweater and gloves.

Jeff confirmed my directions, and I hit the metro system.

Paris was busy, but not rambunctious. On the walk to Jeff’s apartment there were streets lit with Christmas lights and vendors selling fresh fish, bread and cheeses. Dozens of men, women and children rapidly wove in and around the market commotion, heads down and shoulders hunched to combat the cold air.

My ideas of Paris came from postcards and movies. To me it was a sublimely romantic city where one was chic by association and everyone walked the streets in stilettos and intricate outfits straight from the runways. Men would play accordions and groups of people would be sitting outside the cafes smoking and discussing politics, poetry and art.

It was too cold for lingering out of doors and the café chairs were vacant. Boots replaced stilettos and I have no idea what people were wearing under their winter coats. There was no music in the air, but the occasional car horn pierced the general street and market noise.

In general, Paris wasn’t that much different from other French cities I’d visited. There was certainly a higher concentration of well-known tourist sites, and therefore a higher concentration of tourists, but I saw the same black coats, somber expressions and distant looks on the metro and sidewalks.

One major difference was the amount of people who knew English.

On my way to meet my friend Becca my first night in the city I stopped and asked a woman some directional questions in French. She responded in English. I clarified in French. And again she spoke back in English.  I was annoyed because I was proud of my language skills and she completely disregarded my effort. Normally, I get a pat on the back and ‘wow, you speak French so well for a foreigner!’ I don’t speak well but I like the encouragement.

My friend, Becca, a few of her friends and I went out to bars and one club and everyone we met could converse with us in English, but like the woman I’d asked for help, they tended to speak in English with us whether we invited the language or not.

During the week I benefited most from hanging out with a friend, occasionally relaxing in Jeff’s apartment completely alone and never feeling like I had obligations. Becca and I became overly indulgent, waking around noon, preparing a huge brunch, then leaving the house around 3 or 4 p.m., starting our nights out after midnight and making our way back around 3 or 4 a.m. Sometimes we completely missed the daylight. In my photo album Becca is holding a coffee cup in one hand and a wine glass in the other- I think this summarized our routine fairly well.

This was a contrast to how I’ve been living in the south for the past few months, where I’m restricted to another’s rules under a foreign roof. It felt good to live however I wanted for five days.

For me, Paris wasn’t about the Eiffel tower, but instead I approached the city with a French attitude: I self-indulged and went about making myself happy without necessarily following anyone else’s recipe.

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2 Responses

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  1. Heidi said, on March 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Very well written and entertaining Jeanna! as usual I always enjoy your writing because like a good novel I can live vicariously through your adventures! I know I don’t tell you often enough how much I enjoy your writing. Love you! Mom

  2. Philipp said, on October 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Dear Jeanna,
    My name is Philipp von Plato. I would like to get in touch with you regarding your blog. Is there any e-mail address I could contact you at? I would be grateful for an e-mail at: philipp_von_plato@internations.org.
    Best Regards,
    Philipp


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