Direction Étoile, prochain train dans une minute.

I grew up in a very small town in Michigan.  Calling it a ‘town’ might even be too generous – I think it was technically just a ‘township’.  Anyway, it stretches across a vast three miles, and one thing you won’t ever see is any form of public transportation.  No taxis, no buses, and absolutely no underground train system.  Oh, I’m sorry, I lied.  There’s the little bus that takes the old people to and from the local retirement home.

In the months leading up to my big move to Paris, I tried to familiarize myself with Paris’s metro system.  After a day or two of copying what I now know are the RER lines (i.e. not actually any of the 16 metro lines that I would end up using daily), I gave up feeling overwhelmed trying to navigate this intricate maze of underground trains.  I had had experience with metro systems before (London, New York, Milan), but those were only during short vacations.  I wasn’t actually living in the city and in no way did I have any of it memorized.  Also on these vacations, it was usually someone else who took the initiative to guide the rest of us and I just tagged along, rarely taking note of where we were.  So naturally I was worried that it would take me months to understand the complicated ways of the Parisian underground.

Turns out, I’m a natural.

Within a week I was metro-ing alone, no longer using a map or the Paris metro app on my phone.  French people would even stop and ask me for help with directions!  I will admit that on more than one occasion I did accidentally give wrong directions to lost metro users, but I probably never saw them again.  I hope.

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I was living in the 15th arrondissement.  My metro was Pasteur (and I guess Sèvres Lecourbe as well, but Pasteur was a tiny bit closer).  I loved this location.  If you enter through Pasteur, you have access to lines 6 and 12.  Line 6 is, in my opinion, the best metro line.  It’s “une ligne aérienne”, which means it occasionally comes above ground, revealing the most gorgeous views as it snakes between les rues de Paris.  The journey between Pasteur and Passy is truly magical.  Especially the seconds between Bir-Hakeim and Passy as it goes over the Seine and you get the most amazing view of la tour Eiffel and le Sacré-Cœur way off in the distance.

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Line 6 will get you to the Eiffel Tower, Place du Trocadéro, and the Arc de Triomphe.  Whenever I was feeling upset or depressed, I would take line 6 from Pasteur to Trocadéro and walk down from Place du Trocadéro to the tower, and then walk next to the metro all the way home.  It was a beautiful promenade that never failed to lift my spirits.

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The only thing that annoys me about taking the metro is this: no one smiles.  If I’m talking with a friend and start laughing, people start dishing out the dirty looks.  I usually just respond by saying “C’est pas interdit de sourire, hein…” and then they piss off.

Compared to metro systems I’ve used in other cities, Paris’s is definitely the most user-friendly.  Everything is signposted, the trains are almost always on time, and the lines are color-coded !  Line 6 is a cute mint green color : )  New York’s metro is the absolute worst, hands down.  Uptown, downtown, express trains – what??  Using the Paris metro was a treat after using the New York metro.  Just don’t be alarmed if you see a group of homeless people camping out at the bottom of the stairs in Montparnasse, or a man peeing against the wall, or a drunk guy spitting up on the back of a metro seat.  The smell can also get pretty intense.  But BESIDES all of that, I love the metro !

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Damian in Paris’s oldest metro station.

I also mentioned the use of buses as public transportation.  While in Paris, I probably took the bus about six times.  I steered clear of it because the bus routes just seemed way too confusing (same reason I didn’t want to learn the metro lines), but I think when I go back to Paris I’ll use it more.  When you take the bus, you’re above ground and can actually see where you’re going.  Although I love the metro, I love Paris more, and it’s silly to spend half of the day underground when there’s so much beautiful architecture to take in!

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I’m also going to make use of the Vélib’s when I move back to Paris.  I only used them twice.  Once to sit and eat milk and cookies with German.  The second time I was riding on the back of German’s because I was breaking in my new shoes and my feet were killing me.  I do not recommend trying this – I was scared for my life.  Trust me when I say, there is only room for one person on a Vélib’.

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More pictures of the metro, cause this post needs it, right?

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André modeling.

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Empty metro…

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Andrew modeling on the other side of the tracks.

Bisous.

The List

You would think that after having lived in Paris for nine months, I would have checked off every item on my “Things To Do Before I Leave Paris” list.  Wrong.  I somehow managed to leave all of the big things until the last, I kid you not, week of my stay.  Things like going to the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Marmottan, and countless others.  Although, strangely, I don’t at all regret it.  I spent my last weeks doing other things and making amazing memories with amazing people.  And to be fair, I had already been to both the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre when I first came to Paris two years ago, but of course didn’t spend nearly enough time in either of them, as I was only in the city for literally 12 hours.

There were a few things on my list that I was able to check off, thanks to German and Mathieu:

– have one last crêpe at the crêpe stand in front of the Eiffel Tower by the carousel

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– take a picture with the “LOVE ME” graffiti on the Pont d’Iéna

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– film an OOTD in Place de la Concorde

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– visit the Père Lachaise cemetery

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– visit Rue Princesse (mainly because Ycare has a song called Rue Princesse)

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– climb the Arc de Triomphe

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– ride the shortest metro line (3bis)

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That’s Mathieu with his little Pink Floyd backpack!

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– take some photos of me and my then boyfriend, Mathieu

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– go to the first bakery I went to when I first came to Paris two years ago and order something in French (something I had been too scared to do the first time around)

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– picnic on the Champs de Mars

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Don’t look at the girl in front taking a selfie, but look at the couple in the middle who are just enjoying the hell out of this moment.

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– take a photo in a Photomaton booth in the metro

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– go to a typical French café

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Ended up going to a bunch my last week.

Paris was good to me.  I did so much, but I still have so much to do the next time I’m there.  That’s why I love this city.

Bisous.

C’est pas grave.

If there’s one thing I learned while living in Paris, this is it.  C’est pas grave.  As someone who lives and still struggles with anxiety, this is a difficult concept to understand and to accept, but when you hear it literally on a daily basis, it starts to sink in, and you begin to believe it.  Je vais rater le dernier métro!  – C’est pas grave.  Merde, il pleut encore! – C’est pas grave.  Je parle pas le français aussi bien que les autres! – C’est pas grave.  After a few months, I found myself giving this same response to others who were stressed.  I realized my mentality had completely changed.  I had stopped worrying about the little things.  There is so much good in life and worrying about things that you have no power over is the dumbest thing and a huge waste of time.  You’re going to miss the last metro?  Good, that means you can walk.  Paris is beautiful, go explore it on your way home.  It’s raining again?  Paris is just as beautiful sous la pluie.  Grab an umbrella and go take pictures before the rain stops!  You don’t speak French as well as the others?  Practice.  Make some real French friends!  They would love to help you improve.

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Sous le métro Sèvres Lecourbe

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Rue Lecourbe

Without going into too much detail (it’s a long story), there was one night where I had a breakdown in Montmartre.  It was my first major breakdown since leaving America, which made me feel like such a failure.  I felt a mix of feelings – angry and disappointed, because I had been doing so well and I felt like my mind had betrayed me by allowing this to affect me so deeply.  Sad and embarrassed, because tons of curious Parisians were watching this train wreck happen in the streets of Montmartre.  Scared – what if this is the beginning of me getting bad again?  What if I can’t pull myself out of this?  Crossing roads without looking for oncoming traffic, sobbing hysterically, I managed to grab a taxi.  Through heavy  breaths, I was able to give my address to the driver.  Then I let go of the last bit of control I had been holding onto and cried and cried and cried.  Pourquoi vous pleurez??  I was annoyed that the driver had asked me anything, knowing that now I was going to have to calm myself down in order for him to understand any response I was going to give him.  Trying to control the sobs, I explained what had happened.  He immediately responded Mais c’est pas grave ça!  Je pensais que c’était plus pire que ça!”  He laughed and so did I.  He took my hand and held it until I stopped crying.  Somewhere between Pigalle and Pasteur, I realized (thanks to this kind stranger) that I had the power within me to overcome this.  This wasn’t a failure unless I let it defeat me.  The next day I tried again and ended up conquering my fear.  I was extremely proud of myself.

It’s one of my favorite French phrases because it’s so true – vraiment, c’est pas grave.

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Boulevard Raspail

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Petite balade dans le Jardin des Tuileries.

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La tour.

Bisous.

Presque au revoir

Salut tout le monde!  As this is my first post, I’ll try to keep it short – see if I’m even cut out for this sort of thing.  While this definitely wasn’t one of my first adventures during my year abroad, it is one that I have thought about every day since returning to America.

After meeting German at Sèvres Lecourbe, we nipped into a nearby Marché Franprix and bought ourselves a bag of chips and a cheap bottle of wine.  Not too cheap.  Parisians seem to know their wine, and we certainly didn’t want to appear cheap in such a classy city.  With our picnic in hand, we headed to the Champs-de-Mars.  After a couple minutes of indecision, we finally chose our spot.

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 German opened the bottle, I opened the chips, and we settled in, knowing that this would be the last time we would spend an evening relaxing in front of the tower.  Knowing how to open a bottle of wine is a skill that you learn really quickly when you’re living in Paris, and I’m assuming in France in general.  I’d recommend always carrying a bottle opener in your bag just in case, because trust me, you will be needing it.  Just make sure you take that out of your bag before trying to get into a museum!

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Crossing Pont d’Iéna – not my best idea.

We walked towards the Seine and I made German stop to take a picture of me with this graffiti I had seen over a year ago on Tumblr.  Amazed that it was still there, I took plenty of pictures.  Even if you haven’t been to Paris, I’m sure you’ve probably seen it.

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LOVE ME.

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Place du Trocadéro

It seemed to be overcast everywhere in Paris except over the Eiffel Tower, which made for some awesome pictures.  Our plan was to head to the Arc de Triomphe, so we continued walking.  It was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken.  Wandering through the streets of Paris while the sun was setting over the blue rooftops.  It really is the most beautiful city in the world.

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Sweater – Petit Bateau

Pants – Tinsel

Shoes – Vans

Bag – Vincent Van Gogh Museum Gift Shop in Amsterdam

Bisous.