Lucy Ferriss

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I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

A Long Sojourn in Paris

February 12, 2018

Five weeks, now, of living in Paris. I’m here to teach in Trinity’s abroad program, but I’m also here to live again in the midst of a city, to live again in a world where outside my apartment and my classroom, my language is French. I cannot rid myself of my accent. I cannot expand my vocabulary to where I can explain to the plumber about a torn gasket without looking up “gasket” in Google translate. But I can make jokes with the cheery woman at the swimming pool who opens my changing room for me; I can exchange opinions with M. Dominique upstairs. I have the Métro map in my head, along with the distances underground between lines. Later in this blog, you'll find a brief snip of Eurofolk, whom I've heard in the Concorde station perhaps four times now.

            All this winter has seen rain in Paris. The Seine seethes, dun brown and coiled in its current, along the walled sides above the walkways and trees that we think of for a riverside picnic. The houseboat dwellers pull themselves by rowboat over to the flooded steps and squelch up to land to get their groceries. For a few days we had wet snow, and everything closed. Our apartment is on the rez-de-chaussée, 6 rue Darwin, halfway down the hill in back of Montmartre, just below the Lamarck metro stop where the elevators are out and you climb 108 steps from underground. I said it wouldn’t matter because winter would be gray anyhow, and thus far I was right – though today I look out my huge window by the courtyard and see a rhombus of blue sky above the tiled roofs.

Miranda, fashion cat, and Don at the farm

           We’ve been to Greece since we got here – more on that, perhaps, later. We’ve been to the Limousin to visit my cousin Miranda de Toulouse-Lautrec on her very muddy farm, where her dogs ate the fudge we’d brought from the States for her. We’ve been to various museums, both as a couple on the weekends and, for me, with my students. But mostly we’ve settled into a quotidian life here. On Monday evenings, I sing with the Paris Choral Society (conducted by a Nebraskan, so rehearsals are all in English, though much of the choir is French). On Tuesday evenings, I take a drawing class. On Thursday evenings, I take a tennis clinic. In between, I swim at the art-nouveau Piscine des Amiraux. Except for the singing, all these things are walking distance – down the hill and then off in one direction or another. As you go up the hill, things get more expensive, more self-consciously French, more touristy. As you go down the hill, you find the tiny neighborhood restaurants and wine shops; and, farther down, the mixing of races and ethnicities, so suddenly the market is halal and the restaurants serve Turkish or north African food.

I love the outdoor market. Don, not so much. He doesn’t like the haggling. Nor does he like the expense of the smaller shops. He’d just as soon go to the grocery store, whichI avoid like the plague. Much of this has to do with language. Some, though, has to do with living in the heart of a city, which I did in NYC but he has never done. Cities are places of intense privacy and intense community. We’re all negotiating the space. (cont. in next post!)

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