Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Paris Syndrome

I know it hasn't been long since my last post and last time it was a bittersweet goodbye to London and a welcome back to Paris but I was excited. After what happened on Thursday evening I have been left with a taste of the less pleasant side of Paris that is not all beautiful museums and old streets. Paris is very well known for pickpockets and thieves, especially on the metro so you are always warned to be careful, and I thought I was, but as I was walking up the steps out of the metro station Palais Royal, on my way home from class, I had just put my headphones in and put my phone in my pocket when some pathetic excuse for a human had the audacity to steal my phone out of my pocket off my headphones. Obviously, I noticed as soon as the music in my headphones stopped and I turned around, assuming my phone had just fallen out of my pocket, but clearly this cretin had already disappeared with my phone.

Losing, or having your phone taken kinda makes you feel like you are missing a limb because the first thing I went to do was call my phone company to cancel my phone, but clearly, I couldn't do that. Then I wanted to look up the nearest police station to report it, couldn't do that either. I won't bore you with the minute details of the events of the rest of that night, but in short, I went to 4 different police stations, two of which were closed and the last one refused to help me. I was shaking from being so shocked at what had happened and this French policewoman shouted at me and slammed the door in my face, refusing to help on the basis that they didn't want to because they were understaffed. I quote 'if your phone is stolen now it will still be stolen in the morning'. I was shocked at her attitude, yes I know this happens every day, and yes I know the likelihood of them finding my phone is zero, but still, let's keep up the pretence that the police actually are in some control of this.
After the stress of Thursday evening, it was all I could do from getting back on the Eurostar and getting out of here, my illusion of Paris was broken. I came back to my flat and had a comfort cheese toastie with the cheddar I brought back from the UK and seriously re-considered why I am actually here, why am I putting myself through this.

Now, a couple of days later and a bit of distance and perspective, I'm kicking myself for putting my phone in my pocket in the first place, and I do now realise it is not the end of the world, I have insurance for a reason and I can get a new phone, the awful pit in my stomach from being a victim of theft is slowly fading and I'll forget about it soon enough.

However, what this has done is shatter the illusion of Paris that I think I was stuck in. Going on about the beauty of the city is all well and good, but in reality that doesn't mean much. In reality, this city is loud and noisy and dirty and full of people looking out for themselves. Sometimes there is a glimmer of hope when you meet people who go out of their way to help, but ultimately they are few are far between. Just one example of this is the amount of visible homeless people in Paris, yes, the homeless are in London too, I might be wrong, but I feel like this is something we care about in the UK, and something we want to change - if I ever see anyone selling a big issue I always buy it, I always want to help, but in Paris I don't get that same feeling, and that breaks my heart. There is so much inequality here, the homeless, undocumented migrants, the vivid racism, problems that every city suffers from the world over, but I don't feel like anyone really cares here.
I'm not branding Paris and saying it's all bad and I hate it here, that's not true, but the romance period has worn off now, and I'm left with the brutality of the city which in some ways makes me more aware of what I've got to do, but also means I'm pretty sure I couldn't come back here on holiday.

The Paris Syndrome is supposedly a real condition, and while I don't suffer from this, I understand the premise because once all the hype has died down of the first few weeks, what you are left with is a place that is pretty much like everywhere else.

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Dis-placing Me

I'm writing this as I'm stuck on the Eurostar on the way home after one of the best weekends away. Yes, I mean stuck, the train is literally not moving because people are on the track - thanks Ashford, so now is as good a time as any for a new blog post. This post is called Dis-placing Me because, after a weekend away - and by that, I actually mean back in London, I've decided I wanted to write about the difficulty of living in two different countries - two different worlds. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity of living in Paris, but it is not always a bed of roses.

The biggest challenge I've realised is that home no longer a place but the people that make it so. Of course, my home is my family, but my family is more than just parents and siblings, they are the friends who are now stuck with me for life (you poor people know who you are) and the ones I've only just begun to get to know.

However, I say all of this, nothing compares to the feeling of home I get when I step off the train into London - there is just something about the huge, sprawling, magical city that lets me know I'm back where I'm meant to be. It's a strange feeling and something that I didn't quite realise until the end of this year, and considering I have never actually lived in London proper, I'm not too sure where it has come from but I so don't care - London is home now, London is me.

Now that I've realised London is where I'm meant to be for the foreseeable future, and even though I've only just moved to Paris, I'm so excited to get my own proper London flat that isn't a student place and that I can begin to make my own. I feel so adult and so lame that this is what I'm getting excited about - picking out sofas and china patterns (already decided by the way) but I don't care. I think I'm so excited to be in my own little sanctuary partly because, while I'm starting to feel more at home in Paris, it is not quite my base, and I think knowing that I am really only going to be there until next summer (I'm thinking end of May at the moment) means that I'm slightly hesitant to become more invested and established, which is silly but takes time I know.

I am feeling more at home in Paris with every week that goes past, I've met some amazing people (again you know who you are) and I'm so pleased I've found them to make this transition so much easier. I'm not going to lie though, leaving Elliott at the station to get the Eurostar this evening I did have a little tear up, sat on my lonesome from Bromley South to St Pancras I had happy tears that I was so lucky to have now got two amazing places to split my time for the next 7-8 months and many incredible people, but it doesn't make it easier leaving, saying goodbye to the people in the UK that actually mean home to me.

The only picture I have from the entire weekend - Elliott winning (again)

It was so strange, we went back to Egham last night (for any new readers this was the town I went to university in for 3 years) for the first time since my graduation in July. I knew I was going to have to go back at some point and I was slightly apprehensive because this place meant so much to me as an undergraduate, this place really was my home 100% for the last 3 years and leaving it was one of the hardest things I had to do. Yet, being back last night and today it hit me again that this place was no longer home because most of the people that made it home had changed or moved on, it was sad but also a good realisation that actually the memories I'd made will always be with me but it was time to move on and that coming back actually wasn't going to help me at all, so I don't think I'll be back for a while.

I've finally made it back to my flat now so I'm going straight to bed, but I hope you enjoy my ramblings and I'll make a more concise post about the first half of term in Paris next week.

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Sunday, 15 October 2017

de la nouvelle reine de Versailles...

This past weekend has been pretty warm in the city of Paris, around 25 degrees at times - not great for global warming as it is most definitely mid-October but it provided me with beautiful weekend weather to see another side of Paris.

Ironically, one of the most touristy full days that I've had since being here wasn't actually in Paris. On Saturday, me and a few others caught the train out of Paris to Versailles and we weren't disappointed. I have decided in my next life, or this one if it works out, I will be the next Queen of Versailles (granted they haven't had one since the 18th Century but still). There are no words to accurately describe how beautiful this place is, but I'll try - and some pictures might help too.

The Gardens at Versailles (credit: Morgan Amsrud)

As we all agreed, living in the heart of Paris is incredible, but sometimes, like yesterday, getting out the city the is needed, a chance to see some trees, grass and fresh air and the gardens at Versailles is the ideal peaceful escape. While entrance to the palace itself is free for EU students under 26, entrance to the gardens is 8 euros, but personally, I think it is worth every penny.

(credit: Morgan Amsrud)

The gardens are huge, you can walk for miles and miles and still not have even walked half way round. Around every corner there is some beautiful walkway or elaborate gold fountain or lake, and the classical music that is alternately played throughout the garden is not only peacefully relaxing but transports you back to a time when ladies in royal dresses would have wandered through the trees. There is always the option to rent a row boat up one of the lakes, or get a golf buggy to give you a bigger opportunity to see more of the garden, but as it was such a beautiful day, an ice cream by the water was all we needed.

All the selfies (credit: Mafe Cera Torne)
The Palace itself is worthwhile a visit, but be prepared to be surrounded by thousands of tourists, as we were, but even in a place as big as this you can't help feeling like cattle being corralled from room to room. My favourite room was obviously the infamous hall of mirrors, but you can see why the peasants weren't too keen on the royals when everything is laced in gold while the people were starving...
The Hall of Mirrors (credit: Morgan Amsrud)

All in all 10/10 day, while Paris is breath-taking, sometimes taking a break from the hustle and bustle is needed to appreciate it even more. 

Below is my list of things I want to do or places to go while I'm here to make the most of it, so expect various blog posts on all of these places and more - let me know if you think there is anything missing or you can recommend! 
- Visit the Louvre
- Tour the Catacombs 
- Day trip to Disneyland
- Go to Maison de Victor Hugo
- Walk up the steps to Sacre Coeur 
- Have a Paris Christmas party with secret santa
- Visit Ernest Hemingway's favourite cafe
- Take a tour of some of Paris's markets
- Have a meal at prive de desserts

Already ticked off:
- Versailles
- Drinking on the Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower at night
- Visit the Musee d'Orsay
- Go to Shakespeare and Company bookshop
- Walk along the Seine and pont neuf

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Friday, 13 October 2017

Bienvenue à Paris

Welcome Back!

I know it has been a while and I know I owe you all avid readers a huge apology for the silence the past month, so sorry!

As you might be able to tell, I have finally moved to Paris! After months of huffing and puffing, to-ing and fro-ing and winding literally ALL of my friends up with my indecisiveness and then my completely overwhelming nerves the week before I left, I finally made it here and have somewhat been settled in the month that I've been here - I can't believe it's been that long already.

Walk to The American Library in Paris, Sunday morning
Paris itself is amazing and beautiful and sexy as hell if a city can be all those things. I walk out my front door and in one direction is the Place des Victoires, in the other direction is the pyramids of the Louvre, all within a 2-minute walk. There is a boulangerie around every corner and the Seine is a stone's throw away. Although Paris is not all romance and baguettes, its pretty close - my walk to uni takes me through the Louvre, the Tuileries, across the Seine, right past the Musée d'Orsay, how this is normal?!

Vive la France!

While it has taken a while to adjust to life in France, and there are definitely a few little things I miss about the UK (Dairy Milk, cheddar cheese, fresh fruit and veg that doesn't cost a fortune), it's not so bad here. One thing I love is that I get the chance to practise my French - I am no way near fluent and doubt that will happen anytime soon, but it is great to most of the time be able to understand people and at least attempt to respond - although this can also backfire when I can't understand someone and really need to - so don't underestimate the power of hand signals and body language at times! I hope that my French will be better by the time my course is finished, but that does take effort as I spend much more of my life in English than I thought I would.  My flatmates are English, my course is in English, my uni is English and my friends are all English-speaking because it is our common it will take a bit of effort on my part, but I'm gonna keep at it.

Walk to Uni
I'm back home next weekend which I'm actually really looking forward to, but I know Paris will still be here when I get back - and so will the mountain of work that a Masters degree seems to require - shocking, eh? International Relations is a completely new subject for me which makes it slightly harder to catch up on things like theories and concepts, but I do enjoy the change of pace from undergrad life - however, I am now 100% sure that at the end of this masters I will be done with education for a while - yet still not time to hit the real world I think!

I'll try and be more regular with my posts from now on, all probably unapologetically Paris themed. Let me know if there is anything you want to know about Paris or want me to write about, otherwise, you can look forward to another Paris post hopefully by the end of next week!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

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