#8 The Clown Diaries - My favourite things about France so far!
First thing is first, I have concussion. It means I now speak in a similar way to how Tigga would have if he had taken a huge dose of morphine whilst living in the one-hundred-acre-forest.
This has led to me being even worse at French than normal. I attempted to ask for a 'tap water' in a restaurant but instead accidentally asked to "Taste the tap water". This resulted in the waiter bringing the water over in a carafe, pouring me a small glass and then asking me to try to see if it was okay. Very embarassing.
Secondly, I have been going to the gym.
Well, I have been to the gym ONCE. And that was enough. I went with fellow first year Oliver. Oliver is a 27 year old tour guide who rides a skateboard. Imagine Marty McFly but with black leggings, a turtleneck and a cardigan. He talks like Alan Rickman and in class will often state non-sequiters such as "Who doesn't have a crush on their mum?" and "Green Tea is where IT IS AT". We get on well.
The reason I have only been to the gym once is because I am still working out if I belong there. It seems I am the only person, next to Oliver, who wants to do any excercise. The gym appears to be a local hang-out for a group of suited men who all carry Violin cases - who either sit on the rowing machines and whisper or play table football in the corner of the Weights section. Yes, there is Table-Football in the gym. Unlike Oliver who seems to fit in very well in the gym - as he just spends a lot of time in the corner planking, I get a bit shy trying to do my squats in the same room as these guys. In fact, it has made me long for the bright neon lights of my local YMCA gym back in London... and the hoards of huge hench armed men with skinny legs who haunt them....
Thus, with only two weeks to go before I return to the UK I have been reflecting on all the beautiful things I have observed while living in the city of love. Despite the rising popularity of the National Front, living in France does have its eccentric positives, such as:
1) It is A FACT that there is nothing funnier than French Men on Bicycles. If you can't imagine this, imagine Gerard Depardieu on a bicycle. Exactly. I put it down to the number of big baguettes they tend to be packing.
2) Full-moon spectacles are a BIG thing here - mainly on small children and men over the age of 45. Dumbledore in his prime would have loved it.
3) Every car in France has a dent in it. Perhaps this is why there are so many french men on bicycles. The french attitude to driving is best defined as cavalier. Driving in Paris is a huge dangerous game of Dodgems but with Clios and Citroen Picassos.
4) Food - Food in france, to put it simply, is SEXY. If you want to imagine HOW sexy, imagine Juliette Binoche eating a croissant*. Exactly.
The attitude to food in France is unlike anywhere else I have every been to. The attitude to buying food and dining out is eloquent, patient and healthy. The french treat it like an artform. You can't rush when buying your food. The shops are artistic and visually sumptuous in their layouts. From the delicacy of the pastries freshly made in every individual boulangerie, to the careful mise-en-scene of the window displays in the butchers, there is an artistry to the way food is presented, sold and served. The fruit and vegetable section of the markets is as bright and bold as the colours at Nottinghill Carnival.
These ways in which food is presented have a huge impact on your own behaviour and relationship with food. I've always had a tricky time eating, suffering with lots of body insecurities as a teenager and young woman, yet despite the fact I have gotten significantly curvier since I've moved to Paris, (something my old body-conscious self would have hated), I feel much more alive and proud of the body I have here, as it seems to have come from something far more healthier and happier. I get excited going shopping for food now, something which I never had before I came to France.
5) French Women.
Again, think of Juliette Binoche eating a Croissant.
My inner feminist-fan-girl has erupted whilst in France.
Sure, personally I think they wear far too much grey over here, but the persona of the french woman, especially in Paris, is charismatic, unique and classy as hell.
Typically they are wraith-like (I have no idea how considering how good the food is), they don't wear make-up, their hair is often naturally coloured, shampoo is apparently, according to my french family, 'not fashionable'... It's all about letting your hair 'naturally clean itself', and they are always carrying a book - usually with tiny font. If you travel around Paris it becomes clear that the French have perfected the art of growing old gracefully. Happilly, this art seems to involve lots of wine and crucially, the key seems to be 'don't be ashamed of growing old'.
Personally, my favourite thing is that I can’t remember the last time I shaved since I got here. The insecurity to shave has disappeared whilst moving to the city of light. On a night out in Bastille it is so common to see hairy armpits and unshaved legs. The concept that I used to faff about shaving as a teenager seems so perverse and bizarre now. It is liberating.
However, let us not get too excited about how great France is. There is nothing like two Australians who will bring you back down to earth when you go slightly Europe-Crazy.
My two friends from Adelaide have been doing a journey around Europe. They have travelled to Italy, Russia, Poland, Holland, Spain, Portugal and finally, France.
After chatting to them about their travels and all they had seen I asked:
"What has been the most amazing discovery you have made from your journey around Europe?"
"And Mayonaise on Chips."
Screw you Eiffel Tower, you've been told.
*This does not work if you swap Juliette Binoche for Gerard Depardieu