I’ve been here just over 24 hours and I have already been reminded over and over again how long it takes me to get the nerve up to do anything. AGES. When I went out for my first wander last night and realised everything was still actually open after 5pm, I decided I needed a pastry. And then proceeded to walk past every damn patisserie I saw because I was trying to work up to asking for something in French. I am not joking, I walked for nearly an hour until I got so fed up with myself I had to say, ‘OK KATE, THAT’S IT, YOU ARE WALKING INTO THE NEXT PLACE YOU SEE WITH BREAD PRODUCTS AND BUYING SOMETHING, ANYTHING. DO IT. DO IT NOW.’
So I did. I got a wee brioche. It was pretty good. I managed to mess up two short French phrases but still ended up with what I asked for. So. Hurdle one.
Sometimes I’m good at being on my own, but sometimes I’m really, really not. I am incredibly shy, and I’m also for some reason intimidated a lot more by French than most other languages. There’s no logic behind this so I can’t really explain it. And it has nothing to do with the people, who I’ve never found to be anything but lovely and friendly. I don’t know where this stereotype of French people being rude came from because I’ve never had an example. They’ve been nothing but accommodating and helpful regardless of the fact that I butcher their language every chance I get. But I still find it really hard to get past my standard hesitation to get out of my comfort bubble.
Anyway, I did a bit of shopping after that. Bread (went for the ‘Tradition’ over the ‘Baguette’ on my friend Yann’s advice, which was SOUND), butter, yoghurt, wine, chocolate. You know. The essentials. And dropped that all back at my lovely airbnb before heading back out for dinner at the place my host recommended nearby. La Souris Verte, who squeezed me in even though they were busy and served me my first ever steak tartare with some amazing fried potatoes.
I then took a walk up to the Sacré-Cœur to take in the view (and walk off my raw, bloody, tasty meat). I didn’t stay for too long because some dude tried to ‘make friends with me’ and get me to follow him to the Moulin Rouge or something. Pain in the ass. I never felt unsafe (there are police with big guns EVERYWHERE at the moment too), but it’s just annoying to feel like a target just because you’re a single chick. So I headed home to drink more wine and plan my next day’s wandering.
Today I spent most of the day walking. I took the metro down to the river and walked along trying to find coffee. Pro tip: there’s not an awful lot of coffee going on directly on the river. At least not between Invalides and Notre Dame. So I turned away from the river and went into the first ok place I saw (it was now 10.30, needs must) which was fine, but the better stuff came later when I had coffee and a pistachio raspberry pastry at a patisserie on the other side of the river in Marais.
In between, I popped into Notre Dame, because I felt like I should probably do a tourist thing. Also it’s pretty impressive of course. I love the gargoyles. And there are all sorts of crazy details like these faces on some of the joints in the ceiling.
After that it was more wandering, all the way up to the canal, at which point it was nearing 2pm and I was hungry, so the same overcoming-my-immense-shyness-so-I-can-actually-eat-lunch process started again. I ended up in a nice place on a corner, Le Valmy, where I had some super nice duck leg in mushroom sauce with green beans and peppers, TWO glasses of wine, and a chapter of H is for Hawk in between people watching.
This is when I should have metroed it home, but I just went ‘meh!’ and walked in that general direction with the intention of getting some other cake or pastry on my way. Which I did, but it took ages and the inner-crazy went into full gear fueled by exhaustion and the need for a food coma.
So I am wandering around Paris half-cooked on food and wine and this is what is playing in my head: Alan Cumming. Singing Cabaret. On a loop. Don’t ask me why.
And then, from some small corner of my brain, a voice mischievously suggests:
ELI GOLD IN A CORSET!
And I snigger involuntarily while I wonder what on earth possessed me to walk around in THESE BOOTS. Which may well make me look less of a tourist, but they were not really made for walkin’ straight through the day. Ooft.
This is what it’s like when I spend a lot of time alone in a foreign country. (And even at home really.)
By the time I got back I was so shattered I took an hour nap. Paris has seriously taken it out of me. I’m still incredibly tired but I’m going out in a bit to meet the girls who stayed in my flat while I was in Finland in the summer. This is good, because they’ll make local decisions for me, and I don’t think I have the energy left to do that tonight. But I’m sure I’ll get my second wind.
Tomorrow I will make way more use of the metro. The weather is really gorgeous but I don’t think I can manage another full day of walking AND stuffing myself. And I haven’t even had cheese yet!
I really like this city, but I have to say I probably would rather come back with another person. Mostly because of my (largely language-barrier-based) shyness, but another person also means you get to try twice as much different food.