I made it! As of two-and-a-bit weeks ago, I have now been resident in France for a full year. I would have written about it on the day, but I actually celebrated my ‘anniversary’ by being in another continent – where I was a) making the most of every precious minute with friends and family I very rarely see, and b) very infrequently connected to the internet. Hence the tardiness of this announcement. I’m sure you understand.
I was pretty well-acquainted with France and French culture before I moved here, but as you can imagine, I have learned plenty about my adopted nation/city in this past year. Regrettably, my French is STILL not back up to the same standard I had reached after spending two months here during a university summer break several years back, but that is something I have resolved to really work on over the next few months. The fact that my department’s working language is English certainly makes things easier for me from a job perspective, but I had definitely anticipated using more French in my day-to-day life than I do. No matter; I shall just have to get creative. Fortunately, that’s something I do fairly well.
On a more positive note, I can now make my way to a whole variety of places around Paris without having to check my route before I head out. I know where pretty much all the arrondissements are, and which metro lines a lot of the stops are on. I have established my boulangerie, and patisserie, and crêperie. Actually, I have three crêperies: one for savoury crêpes, one for sweet crêpes (both street vendors), and one for sit-down galettes. I know where to get (in my opinion) the best chouquettes (from neither ‘my’ boulangerie nor ‘my’ patisserie as it happens), and the most authentic-tasting fondue savoyarde, and I’ve pretty much got my favourite local restaurant’s menu committed to memory. I’m fairly sure I’ve found the best hot chocolate in Paris, although there is one other place I need to try to confirm (or disprove) this notion. And I’ve long since found my go-to bookshop. A magic one, at that.
One of the nicest parts about having come a full circle is that there are now things coming back around that I am looking forward to revisiting, having experienced them last year. The Jardin des Tuileires in all her blazing autumnal glory for one. The Christmas markets, for another. (And now I know which ones are worth paying a visit to, and which ones I won’t bother with.) The Christmas period in Paris generally, actually – it’s a wonderful time of year wherever you are, but, unsurprisingly, Paris does it pretty spectacularly. And my little apartment, with a bedecked tree in the corner, spiced candles burning, and fairy lights strung here and there, is just about the coziest place I’ve ever set foot in. Last December, I was genuinely daydreaming about home from my desk by about 2pm every day – just because it really was so flipping cozy.
The sunset from my 7th floor, more-window-than-wall office is something else I have just been (visually) reminded that I enjoyed immensely this time last year: the candyfloss hues and dusky blues over the city on one side, and the river and forested hills on the other are truly lovely. In a few more weeks, I’ll start keeping more of an eye on those huge windows as 6pm approaches: I’ll know it’s time to go home when the Eiffel Tower starts to sparkle for the first time every evening.
It seems odd now to think that the original plan was to spend just a year in Paris. I am so very glad that intention evolved into something more open-ended; as much as I have experienced in the past year, I think I would feel that I had only just arrived if I was to be leaving already. And there is still so much to discover. Paris is absolutely teeming with hidden gems and insider secrets – I’ve barely even scratched the surface!