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…I love how in Paris in the briefest moments, you can end up having random conversations with absolute strangers in a way that leaves you with a smile. This happens to me more in Paris than in any other city, and even extends to the seemingly rigid and soul-less guards that protect President Hollande’s residence.
The moment I’m referring to traces back to last Sunday, when my best friend and I, with our tired wobbly legs, were returning from our running group’s 10km affair (another thing I love about Paris: running groups that force you out of your lazy slumber). We decided to make our return along the ultra posh Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, because we were, after all, dressed in our ridiculous running clothes, and sometimes we enjoy breaking convention by making a scene :-).
Along the way down “designer lane,” we approached the president’s residence. Before passing by, we were stopped by one of the guards. I wasn’t surprised, as we certainly stood out, but when we told him of our Canadian and Mexican origin, he immediately seemed to warm up to us (maybe “President Dump” can learn something from this…).
The next thing I knew, we had become best friends with this guard, sharing our hopes and dreams, he in his perfect French, and me with French sentences spoken in Canadian tones. He didn’t seem to mind.
His name is Thierry.
Thierry composes music in his free time.
Thierry hopes to one day write the musical scores for films produced in France.
Thierry is a dreamer.
Now for all you cynics out there, you’re probably wondering how Thierry can protect the president and surrounding citizens, when he’s busy telling my friend and I all about his hopes and dreams. It’s a common concern, but let me assure you that while Thierry’s eyes sparkled as he shared his most profound wishes, those shining eyes never once stopped surveying the scene around him. And his hands never loosened their grip on his intimidating automatic weapon. So take heart, concerned Parisians, Thierry understands his responsibilities. I hope I see his name in the credits of a film one day, because even though he’ll otherwise always be a stranger, for a brief moment, through Thierry we accessed the hope that lives in all people. And it’s something that happens to me often in Paris…
…Wow, that was a long love note. Thierry is clearly an attention whore. Well the rest of my notes are much shorter…
…I love how when it’s cold in Paris, and your nose is running from the cold, and you know you have a long way to walk, and you have every opportunity to be miserable, you’ll encounter some beautiful part of Paris you’ve seen many times, only that then, in that specific moment, in the right light, and with the absence of a crowd…what your eyes observe will silence all your bitchy complaining. There are many beautiful cities, but when it comes to the abundance of beauty, this quality is specific to Paris, where seemingly around every corner, there lies some stunning architecture, or a charming street, or endearing shops, and I could go on and on…
…I love how Paris is an emotional-eater’s paradise, a place where at a moment’s convenience and for just a few euros, you can stuff your face with all manner of viennoiserie, and let yourself be enveloped in amounts of butter that will make you forget about unpleasant things, like elections and the horrifying people they represent, and…as long as you can remember to go for a 10km run so the butter doesn’t find a permanent home on your ass, well…I’ll call it guilt-free emotional support at its finest…
…I love that when you put on your coat at midnight, because you think you’re about to leave a quaint little French party, it’s suddenly 2am, and you’re in the kitchen, having the most laugh-out-loud addictive conversation with people you’ve just met, even though you’re still ridiculously wearing your coat. I love how at last you’ll realize that it’s time to be rid of the coat, because of course you’re not going to leave, as the champagne flows and the laughter flows along with it. I love how at these various parties and gatherings and wine bars and apéros, you can arrive a near stranger and leave with new friends. And I love how it always somehow happens that in Paris, these friends take the form of people from everywhere; France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore, England, Colombia, India, Brazil, the US, and on and on and on. I love that in Paris, I always feel like a citizen of our common home, which is earth, a place where no one should feel unwelcome, and I love that when I’m in Paris, I never, ever do… ❤
Well…yes, no, no, and no (did that cover everything?)
Nothing is forgotten, but the streets of Paris seem full to me, and the only danger I’ve encountered so far is temporarily forgetting that drivers in Paris are always trying to run you down with their cars or scooters or giant looming buses. How had I forgotten this obvious fact after living in Paris twice? Perhaps the streets of Canada had made me a bit complacent, because in Canada the symbol for “walk” means “hello pedestrian, you dear sweet pedestrian, please enjoy this time frame, in which you are the king of the world.” You can skip, dance, or even crawl across the street in Canada, and the driver waiting to make the left turn has to sit there until you’re done.
Fast forward to Paris in 2016, and I found myself as a very comfortable pedestrian. That is until…4:30pm today, when I was nearly flattened like a human pancake on Rue de Rivoli.
This gentle “flattening” reminder is one that I will never forget, and one that I’ll interpret as follows: don’t trust anything with wheels in Paris (except for those attractive cops who roller-blade in the streets and smile—but only in summer, I think).
The other main aspect of returning to Paris revolves around the upcoming half marathon (only 12 days away!), and I, the non-runner type, who is registered to make it to the finish line.
In the last seven days I’ve run four times in Paris, with fitness levels ranging from “I’m going to vomit into that garbage can” to “Hey, that actually wasn’t bad!”
It started with 4km on day two in Paris, went up to 9km on Sunday, and was a cool 7km this afternoon. Through it all, I’m starting to slowly convert the naysayers who laughed when I said that I would do this (well not all of them…you bastards). Most importantly, I’ve started to build my biggest motivation, courtesy of the greatest competition of all…which is myself. As I outlined in my previous post, I am a hyper-competitive person, and that’s all the motivation I need. And so, as long as I can push myself to the finish line, I’ll be pretty ridiculously happy, but you won’t be able to see my face, since most of it will be buried inside the 6,000-calorie brunch I shall enjoy soon after I finish.
And the best part of all about the race? My teammates and I are raising money for a damn good cause (the Red Cross). I talked all about that in my previous post, but here’s the link to donate if you’ve somehow forgotten, because forgetting is the only reason you wouldn’t have donated yet, right? RIGHT??? (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=FootstepsinParis&isTeam=true)
Aside from all the running I’ve been doing this past week (look at what a cocky running snob I’ve become!), I’ve been reconnecting with the people I call my “Paris family,” and every single moment has filled me with happiness. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but even when I’m on my own, remembering a dinner I had, or a recent conversation, or a sunny stroll with a friend, I’m filled with an immense sense of gratitude (oh god, this is so cheesy). Maybe it means that Paris is magical, or maybe it means that amazing people gravitate towards other amazing people, and we are all just so fucking amazing (and humble too). Or maybe…maybe it just means that home is where the heart is. If that’s the case, then Paris sure feels like a special kind of home right now.
Now that I’ve filled this post with so much cheese, I will tell you that this past week in Paris, I had blue cheese, and I actually loved it! This is significant, because before that moment, I had never even liked blue cheese!!! I can’t remember the name of the cheese at this particular moment, but it was orange with flecks of blue, and it was absolutely delightful (Paris, eh? The new experiences never end…)
The last time I wrote about Paris, the tone was necessarily grim, and though we all remember November 13th, “joie de vivre” stays strong. This resilience is one of the many reasons why Paris is so inspiring, so thank you for that, great city!
Speaking of Paris…six or seven months ago, I was told of the existence of a Paris half marathon in March. I was also told that we should and could and would run it. My response was laughter, followed by “yeah sure,” and an eye-roll that Whatsapp couldn’t see. It was one of those crazy schemes you talk about but hopefully forget, because who actually wants to run 21 kilometres?!
Before 2015 ended, I was reminded of this promise. Had it actually been a promise? Is laughing and rolling your eyes while sarcastically saying “sure” considered legally binding? Apparently so, because the Paris half marathon is 34 days away, and yes I have officially registered.
In the grand scope of the world, a half marathon is only a “half” marathon, and the people who run a “full” one are the people who are actually crazy (42 kilometres?! You’re a PERSON, not a Honda Civic. Take a seat).
In the smaller scope of myself however…I am not a runner by nature. I mean…I guess most humans aren’t, unless they’re being chased, but I don’t actively seek out opportunities to run, at least not for longer than twenty-five minutes. I also don’t use a Nike running app to share on social media, so everyone can know how I’m way more active than they are, and in turn feel guilty about their twelfth Oreo cookie.
Though I haven’t yet used an app to athletically shame others (key word being “yet“), my routine has required a brisk and harsh change since signing up. I’m one of those people who loves theories like “interval training,” where you can actually get a good workout by sprinting hard for two minutes and walking for five, then multiplying that by four, and being finished your entire workout in twenty-eight minutes. I’m also one of those people who owns the T25 workout DVDs, where you can actually get an amazing workout with only 25 minutes of effort! (which by the way is insanely hard, and I always have to stop and take water breaks when I’m doing it). Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, pictured here is my tantalizing T25 workout DVD collection. I mean really, how can anyone say “no” to the shirtless man with the sixteen-pack abs, who’s telling you to “GET IT DONE”?
What was I saying? Oh yeah…running for over two hours? Or however long it takes me to struggle to the finish line?
It’s mad I tell ya, mad! The only time I was thrilled with lengthy exercise was during a day of hiking in Switzerland, and only because it contained the most beautiful views I’d ever seen in my life.
But wait…there is a flip side.
The flip side to choosing a challenge beyond one’s skill level is…being a competitive person, and accomplishing it out of spite. Once my competitive nature takes hold, any challenge is suddenly realistic. After that, my Aries nature takes hold, and I picture my astrological symbol of the ram crushing the competition with metaphorical horns. That’s all it takes, baby.
And so…I am excited. Very, very excited.
As an added plus, the training thus far has not been as horrible as I’d imagined, and with each incremental workout, I’m enjoying running more and more (oh god, I’m about to become one of THOSE people…). Even so, I’ve been training on a treadmill, and I seriously need to get outside. This of course means that two weeks from now…rain or shine, I’ll be pounding the Paris pavement, and seeing how closely I can follow the recommended training schedule (which I started five weeks late, no biggie). All I know is that I seriously need to catch up, because the last seven days have included the stomach flu, a hacking cough, a clogged nose, nasal drip, and absolutely zero running.
But that’s okay! Because today is the first day of the rest of my training life, and I’m clearly super excited about it:
If my own competitive nature isn’t enough to help me finish the race, my friends and I are running on behalf of the British Red Cross. I really respect the Red Cross charity and all that it does with swiftness and transparency, so much so that I sent out donations in people’s names instead of Christmas presents this year. Everybody was really thrilled about that, because any reaction aside from being thrilled would’ve made them seem like assholes (entrapment!). Little did I know that a few months later I’d be making my own appeal to others, but here we are, which brings us now to the five ascending pressure stages of fundraising:
After this post, I will have completed the first three items on the list, and despite the expected paltry success rate of 0.5 percent, our team of three has actually gotten some donations! For that, I thank you, but we are only 18% of the way there. Furthermore, while I may limit my level of hustle when I’m trying to sell my books, there is no upper limit to how shameless I’ll be when I’m hustling for a worthy cause.
That’s right guys, I’m comin’ at you with items #4 and #5, so you might as well make it less awkward by donating in advance! Here’s the link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/FootstepsinParis
See you in Paris,
PS: I offer my sincere thanks to anyone who’s able to donate. We’ve all got our own priorities, and charities are a personal thing, so I greatly appreciate any amount you’re able to give!
PPS: I’ll be back in Paris from mid-Feb to mid-April, to train/try new hangouts/finish a script, so expect regular updates on this blog and on instagram! (“Paris is always a good idea“—> quote from my coffee mug, est. 2013)
If you’ve spent any time in the last month on my Facebook page, you’ve seen me talk about the impending book release inspired by my two stints in Paris (as well as by this blog). As of this moment: it’s alive, it’s out there, but all I care about now is sharing some of it here. Sharing is important when it comes to this book, since this book is my attempt to write something that’s in “some way” a guidebook, but that’s in another way a jaunt, a fun escape that has nothing to do with being practical and planning a trip. The fact that it’s indeed useful when planning a trip to Paris (with over 130 places vividly described along with a summary), well that’s just the icing.
And so, what I’d like to focus on now is the “meat” of the book, and who doesn’t love a slab of meat with their icing? So here are some meat slabs and meat shreds, which represent what this book is all about: being there, seeing it through my weird-ass eyes, and living it through my weird-ass tangents (kind of like this blog, now that I think about it…)
Read on and enjoy!
On trying to make your first French friend at a quiz night:
“The French woman and I were on the same team, and one of our teammates was a very intense mega-dork. I’m sorry but there’s no other way to put it. Like he would accuse nearby tablemates of copying our answers, slam his fist on the table when none of us knew the answer to an obscure question on cinema, and one time I even caught him foaming at the mouth. As all this was happening my eyes would go wide or I’d raise my eyebrow or I’d roll my eyes; basically I was having a lot of eye-related reactions. Letting you know I don’t like you via my eyes is one of my biggest flaws; I just can’t hide it, so it’s a wonder I got a business degree and spent several years in the corporate world. Little did I know that the French woman was having a similar “eye-related” tic, and when our eyes finally met, I knew right away that we’d be friends. Mutual distain for other people; it’s the cornerstone of all great friendships.”
On the sort of intense poser you’ll see on the Seine River boat ride:
“The consistency of the posing on the boat ride impressed me, as the wife always had her one thumb in her jeans pocket, I guess as a way of saying that her face might be stern, but she’s pretty casual and likes to have fun.”
On resolving not to like a falafel place just because Lenny Kravitz liked it:
“The word of Lenny Kravitz’s endorsement must’ve spread, since this one always has a bigger lineup than the one across the street. Did he even go there? I don’t know; it’s all word of mouth at this point. Even if he is the official ambassador for L’As du Fallafel, is his endorsement enough to sway me? I think not. Like I will NOT “go your way,” Lenny Kravitz, not until I’ve tried it for myself.”
On meeting new people at a wine-tasting, particularly a French man with murderous “laser eyes:”
“With each new wine we sampled, either I was getting fatter or he was getting fatter; what else would explain how our bodies kept getting progressively closer? Weird. The other thing of note was that he’s one of those people who not only stares directly at you the entire time he’s speaking, but also stares directly through your eyes and out the back of your head. Like why are you trying to kill me with your psycho laser eyes? (Oh I’m sorry; did you think this was turning into a tale of Parisian romance?)
Not long after that, the tasting concluded, and as I gathered my stuff from the basement, laser-eyes cornered me and asked if he could take me out for ice cream. All the various wines I’d tasted added up to a full bottle, so I was really in no position to be having a sexy cold dessert with this man I’d only just met. That’s the thing about Paris; adventures aren’t hard to find, but it’s always important to check yourself before you wreck yourself. I mean come on, ladies, none of us wants to be drunk on a first date. Class before ass. That’s enough sayings for now.”
On trying to reconcile the outrageous price of a simple dessert at the restaurant beloved by “celebs:”
“I was tempted to ask our super-model waitress if perhaps the berries had been pickled in unicorn tears, thus explaining the hefty price.”
On drinking wine by the canal versus drinking wine at the riverbank:
“The area by the canal gets very crowded on summer nights, and as it’s pretty small in width, the buzz of conversation tends to permeate the air. The difference here compared to the river, is that here it’s mostly just friends hanging out, with less of that insidious agenda defined by “trolling for ‘hos” (see: riverbank drinking at night).”
On the group dynamic you’ll encounter in the Catacombes ossuary:
“Once you’re inside and down the many stairs, you’re basically left to your own devices. They let people inside in small groups at a time, so it’ll just be you and a handful of people navigating the tunnels together; let’s hope they’re not A-holes.”
And later…the conclusion of the group dynamic in the Catacombes ossuary:
“The picture-taking reflex is normal, but the standing in front of skulls, hugging your boyfriend, and smiling as someone takes your picture? Smiling whilst posing amongst the dead? What the hell, boys and girls? These two posers were a couple of the people in my “group.” I guess there are two A-holes in every bunch.”
On the strangeness of the TV subliminal messaging at the Japanese/Chinese buffet:
I can’t forget to mention something very weird about Matuya Panda. In the back of the restaurant, there’s a flat-screen TV mounted to the wall. The volume was muted, but over and over on a loop, this infomercial for a weight-loss contraption kept playing. It was one of those scenarios where you can actually lose weight by being a lazy turd, via a vibrating elastic band; all you have to do is wear it around your belly for like an hour a day. So there we are (this time it was Carlos, Tara, and I), eating a huge Japanese buffet, while this super-model woman in the infomercial (who is clearly not the same woman in the “before” pictures”), looks all hot and sexy, due to this vibrating elastic band she’s wearing around the house. She wears it while she’s reading the newspaper, watching TV, painting her nails…she wears that stupid band and it gives her a six-pack of abs. As I ate the fifteenth chicken dumpling, I started to wonder if a conspiracy was afoot. So their plan is: I’ll eat the buffet, feel guilty with that infomercial playing in the background, run home and call the number, order myself a vibrating weight-loss band, and then Matuya Panda will get a 10% kick-back from the manufacturers. You sly devils.”
On my close-call with Bradley Cooper at the Luxembourg Gardens:
“Twenty-four hours after one of my “lie in the sun” recovery days in the gardens, I learned that Bradley Cooper was now lying on that very same lawn. I’m pretty sure some of my alcohol sweat that was still attached to the lawn had now absorbed into his body.
Bradley Cooper IS WEARING MY DNA.
This sounds like a very random fact I shouldn’t care about, but listen my friends, in the summer of 2013, Bradley Cooper was a big deal in Paris. It had nothing to do with his movies, and everything to do with him being the official spokesperson for Magnum ice cream bars. I have no idea if this advertising contract extended to North America, but in Paris at least, he was on bus shelters in every neighbourhood in Paris, wearing a tuxedo, looking at me seductively, and offering me a Magnum ice cream bar. And to think I missed him lying on the grass by one day! In these times of “missed connections,” one can’t help but ask oneself: with just one different decision on how I’d chosen to spend my time, could my life have gone in a completely different direction? (And yes, I’m completely ignoring the fact that he was lying on the grass with his girlfriend)
Picnics on the lawn and soaking up the sun; these two things are relaxing. Yep, that’s basically what I was getting at.”
I hope you enjoyed what you read so far. If you’d like to buy the book, the links are below; it’s a full-length book of 79,000 words (i.e. 70 times more what you read right here), so definitely some good bang for your buck. If, alternatively, you’d like to start by reading the first few chapters for free, you can do that on Wattpad here. And if, alternatively, you’d like to eat a sandwich, you can do that too (there are no fixed options on my blog; I believe in freedom).
I’ll return to the blog in the new year, but now I am rather excited to bake cookies and brownies and other sweet-tooth things, to be merry, and to catch up on my reading; it’s what the winter solstice is for…
À bientot in 2015!
Amazon US link (also available at all international Amazon websites):http://www.amazon.com/Vicarious-Paris-account-insights-nightlife-ebook/dp/B00R3RZ6RA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1418821869&sr=8-5&keywords=romi+moondi&pebp=1418823072163
Epub version for you Nook or iPad at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/502498