A Week In

I’ve been so tired that I have not been able to think or write.

I arrived here on the 1st September, full of energy. So much that I’ve already made many mistakes.

It was going to happen.

Le Arc de Triomphe & La Grande Arche go unnoticed, as does the architecture, everything that I was in awe of in May. I’ve been out plenty, but to nowhere that I really wanted to see. I’ve been relying on t+ tickets whilst waiting on my Imagine R Navigo card, which has left me no real freedom to explore.

I had one ticket left when my navigo arrived, and Friday I took my first opportunity to be a tourist.

I found an empty bench beneath the Eiffel Tower, and I updated my diary, which bristles with life. Inside I have train tickets and a page slightly smeared with soil from the Louvre. It’s more than just a textual record of my life.

The tower is still so astonishing to me, even as a regular sight everyday. I remember when my mum sent postcards to my Granny and Grandad’s house in 2008. All these sights I now live upon, deeply ingrained in my consciousness as far back as then. It was my first exposure to a city beyond the waters of my small island. Now, I am here filling in the gaps of my imagination with my own experiences.

Many people, including myself, come seeking a non-touristic route. It’s very difficult in one of the most visited cities in the world. Life here can be very much moulded to the needs of tourists. As a friend of mine says ‘the city is very different from the rest of France’, so perhaps if a French lifestyle is what you are after, maybe it is not to be found in Paris.

And all around me, as I wrote, I could see this moulding. Beneath the tower the path can be the same colour as the grass (well, where it should be, at least). No blade or weed grows. Desire paths beyond mere convenience. Probably, if I should guess from the desire to get The Picture.

It’s just a manifestation of a larger, almost imperceptible change occurring everywhere in the city.

I might go as far to suggest that the non-tourist route is difficult to find unless you live here. When you breathe the rhythms or feel the pinch of a weekly budget. The mindset is completely different from the short stay.

Last Wednesday, at work, I found myself riding a scooter (not an electronic one) through these strange streets. The kids led me around, showing me their area, and spots that they liked to visit. It was amazing except for those annoyingly common cobblestone driveways.

We baked cookies together, at which point I remembered that just last month I was writing on dark topics like state violence. What a trajectory!

Then later on Friday night, I discovered that even the pubs here are not as I expected. My friend tells me that this is where a lot of international students, especially literature majors, and young people gather. Nothing like the dreary atmospheres I am used to.

And one of these pubs in the Latin Quarter (remembering that a pub is a meeting place for the common working person) had a dress code.

I’d say these experiences just feel different when there is no rush. You know you’ve got a year, not four days.

I’d like to say that I am enjoying my time here. There is no pressure to research heavily beyond my own impulse. I can choose my path, now. Occasionally, I tear up at the thought of some people I have left in England, but not to the extent that I used to when I left home in the past.

Maybe that is growth?

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