Nicole Howell | Paris, France | Post 4
As of April 8th, I have exactly one month left before I leave Paris and return to the States. I say this in every blog post that I’ve written so far, but the time is flying by so fast that I can hardly process it. I know that I will be so happy to be back at home with my friends and family, but the thought of already having to say goodbye to Paris is a sad one that I’m not quite ready to reckon with yet.
Speaking of friends and family, I’ve been lucky enough to see some of them these past few weeks! Two of my friends from Vassar came to Paris with their families during their spring break, and I got to catch up and spend time with them. The highlight of their visit was definitely when I took them on a pastry shop/bakery tour and hit up most of the places I’ve already talked about in other blog posts! Food is a really important part of my study abroad experience (maybe a little bit too important), so it was really wonderful to get to share that with people I care about! Highlights were the financier praliné at Hugo & Victor, and the tarte au citron at Des Gâteaux et du Pain. I don’t have a picture of either of them to share with you, but trust me when I say they were really, really good.
My family came to visit me last week, and even though I was in class some of the time, the rest of my time was spent showing them around the city! Having my family come was also great because I finally got around to seeing some of the “touristy” things that I hadn’t seen yet—the big two being the Palace of Versailles and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Versailles was beautiful (especially the Hall of Mirrors), but by the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted, and while Notre Dame may be one of the most famous sites in Paris, it doesn’t make my list of favorites. What does make my list of favorites is the tiny, lesser-known Sainte-Chapelle, located just behind Notre Dame. It’s a Gothic-style chapel that is unassuming from the outside but filled with the most spectacular stained-glass windows I have ever seen. After climbing up the cramped stone staircase entry, seeing this magnificent architectural masterpiece was one of the most striking experiences I have had since coming to Paris. I could have sat in that chapel all day, staring at the windows as their colors changed each time the sun outside weaved in and out of the clouds. Unfortunately, my family was visiting for a short time so we had to move on rather quickly to other places and things, but something tells me that despite the limited time I have left here, I’l definitely be stopping by Sainte-Chapelle again before I leave.
Acting as tour guide and translator for my family was both fun and exhausting, and it was also a moment of affirmation that I’ve been really benefiting from my time here. At the beginning of the semester, I was nervous even walking into a restaurant to ask for a table. Now, I’m calling restaurants on the phone to make reservations (something I don’t like doing in English, let alone in a foreign language), arguing with taxi drivers who won’t give us a price-estimate for the ride, navigating on the Metro and RER like a pro, going up to French strangers on the street to ask for directions when I’m not navigating like a pro, and so on. I’m not sure when this sudden rise in comfort level happened, but recently I’ve noticed that I’m feeling more and more like I belong here. This semester has been full of more independence than I’ve ever had before, and I feel empowered by the fact that I’ve embraced and grown from it. I think this is what will make leaving Paris so hard next month; I’m finally really starting to feel comfortable living here, so it’s unfortunate that I’m running out of time.
That being said, I still have a month left and plan to make the most out of it that I possibly can. I’m planning on doing some traveling inside France but outside of Paris, and now that the weather is starting to be really beautiful I hope to do a little more exploring of the city. Even today, I went to do my homework in the park, and while wandering back to my apartment, I came across the beautiful Basilique de Sainte-Clotilde . Apparently it’s been around the corner from my apartment this whole time, but somehow it took me three months to stumble across it. Not to sound like a hopeless Parisian romantic (Paris is after all a city and not a movie set), but moments like these are what remind me of what a special place Paris is, and how lucky I am to be here, and to appreciate the time I have left here (even if it’s not nearly long enough).