Rentrée & Picnic

It’s that time again: time for my annual welcome back to Paris and the crazy life post. I know things have grown rather uncommunicative around here…it’s truly been la grande sieste, and while I cannot promise that I will do better or apologize for last year, I can say that I am excited to be back and have another adventure. And maybe this year, I’ll be better at telling you all about what I get up to.

One of the greatest aspects of this trip, however, is the sense of security I feel. As I begin my second consecutive year in the City of Lights I can’t help but feel more sure of myself and my place in this city. Navigating is a breeze and I’m approaching the overwhelming bureaucracy with a calm attitude I would have found baffling last fall. I now know that (as the French say) “tout s’arrange.” Everything will work out. So I don’t stress as much. But there are the inevitable stresses about a new year and the financial struggles that this magnificent city brings. Expect lots of “how to attempt to save cash” posts in this space in the coming months. Which, if you can do while looking fabulous is really what Paris is all about, right?

So, what does an expat do when she first gets back to Paris? She has a picnic, of course! And maybe some dessert too, but I’ll save that for later. Nothing terribly fancy, just a galette jambon fromage from my favorite crêperie. And a bottle of fizzy water. Eaten, bien sûr at the Luxembourg Gardens. Bliss. 

 

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April 3rd

Another rainy day in Paris. Nothing much to report but, as always, this city manages to be beautiful no matter what the weather. Especially when inviting boulangeries are involved.       

Wishing you sunny weather wherever you are! Or at least delight in the grey.

And just like that…

Sometimes I’m struck by just how many firsts I’ve experienced in a foreign culture. I learned to navigate public transportation, secure and shop for an apartment, open a bank account, and start my first “real” job, all while living abroad. And today, for the first time in my life, I visited a police station.

I feel rather fortunate to have never had the occasion to visit one before, but it wasn’t until I walked through the intensely guarded doors and stood timidly in the hushed and unfriendly lobby that I realized why. Police stations freak me out. I wasn’t even guilty and I felt on edge as I waited for my summoner…a certain Monsieur Blanc.

Let’s rewind a couple of days, shall we? To Sunday afternoon, the day my phone and wallet were stolen.

In all honesty, it was my fault. I was at a cafe with a friend, we were drinking tea and chatting and I let my bag hang off my chair near the ground instead of keeping it closely guarded in my lap. When I went to grab it a few hours later, my phone and coin purse were missing. The guys who had stolen it were long gone. I was frustrated with myself and sad, but resigned to the fact that it was gone forever. I didn’t even file a police report…I hadn’t seen what the guys looked like and how could the police find one lost cell phone? Instead, I counted my blessings. It was an old phone that I had been hoping to replace. And the wallet they took was actually just a small coin purse with 8€ inside…hardly a great loss. By some miraculous stroke of luck I’d swapped it earlier, leaving the larger one filled with cards and i.d. at home.

The real sorrow was the loss of the phone itself. It’s silly, but I get quite attached to my technology. That phone had gone to Mali with me, school in Minnesota, and Paris two times. It had taken nearly all of the photos you’ve seen on this blog and many more. It was my companion in my first interviews with musicians and helped me document concerts for the Current. So I was sad to see it go. And I was quickly faced with daily inconveniences…when one item serves as your watch, your alarm clock, your map, your calendar, and your camera you miss it REALLY quickly.

But by some rare alignment of the universe, I received an email a few days later from the police. They had found my phone, could I come to the station? And so an hour later I was escorted past armed men into the lobby to wait for him.

Monsieur Blanc (Mr. White in English…I cannot believe that’s his name) found me quickly and guided me through a maze of hallways to his office. It looked as you would expect…several small desks in a darkish room with a larger office for the captain (a very brusque woman who liked to yell as she interrogated people on the phone). How to describe M. Blanc and his partner? I kid you not, these two could have been in a movie and no one would have batted an eye. Blanc was wearing a dark grey sweater with black elbow patches and was well groomed with short hair…he had a kind of Gerard Bulter, Richard Armitage-y thing going for him except he wasn’t QUITE as handsome. More real, more tired. And very kind. His partner had short blond hair, sneakers and big glasses. The geekier looking of the two…Robin, in other words.

M. Blanc took my statement and told me a little about what they knew had happened. Apparently the two guys were arrested within a half hour of stealing my phone. They both confessed to it, and probably gave the police more detailed information than I was able to. They were to go to trial later that day and likely to prison after.

Giving my statement was weird and hard. I felt extremely self-conscious (how much detail should I give and do I sound stupid?) and I could only approximate details. Worse, I had NO IDEA what they looked like— I’d been tunnel-focusing on the person I was talking to. M. Blanc showed me their photos anyway (to check), and they looked like normal guys. Older than my students, but otherwise no different. Unfortunately, they had 7 phones on them (mine included) and my wallet (which was still full of cash…la chance!). So when M. Blanc asked if I wanted to file a complaint, I hesitated. Against all odds I had all of my stuff back, and no matter what these guys did or what type of people they were, my heart broke a bit when I saw them. Apparently they were caught because they were “behaving strangely,” but I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d have gotten away had they been white. And as relieved as I am to have my belongings back, I don’t like the idea that I may have gotten them due to racism. In the end I agreed because Blanc insisted that it was better for “la justice” but I’m still not sure it was the right choice.

I was grateful when M. Blanc finally led me back through the station and out the French door. He told me that he’s from Toulouse and advised me to visit and profiter du soleil. He shook my hand, made sure I knew where I was going, and sent me on my way. And that was that. Fist trip to the police station and statement made, all in French. If that isn’t an expat accomplishment, I don’t know what is. And best of all, my dear, tired phone and I are reunited. I honestly feel like the luckiest girl. I never dreamed I’d see it again, nor so promptly. No matter what, this encounter has left me with a very deep respect and appreciation for the French police force, who, throughout this entire experience, treated me with great gentility. The gallant Monsieur Blanc had three more phones to return before the business was done, and I am so grateful to him for his patience and kindness during the whole ordeal. May need to plan a visit to Toulouse in the coming months…

Instagrams to follow.

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Home for the Holidays

Hello all!

Happy New Year!

I find it so hard to believe that we are here already…time is just flying. I hope you all had a great holiday. Mine was lovely, and much too short. I got to go home and enjoy some quality time in the Midwest with my fam, and I honestly cannot remember a time when I was more grateful to be back. Paris is lovely, but as we all know, there is truly no place like home for the holidays. We even had a turkey dinner (very unusual for us) for Christmas dinner since I missed Thanksgiving!

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Feasts like these definitely make coming home worth it…

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As do corgis…

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And Christmas trees…

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Oh, right, and my family…

In true Mallory style, I think I gained about 5-10 lbs eating leftovers, and as much Thai and Mexican food as I could (sooooooo yummy) and really dragged my feet about leaving…what’s new? But coming back to Paris has been ever so lovely in its own right, and this city is doing its very best to remind me why it is superior to anywhere I’ve ever lived. My little apartment – or nest as my mother likes to call it – is cozy and warm and the chilly grey weather is just begging for me to take a long wander with some hot chocolate. And are bars ever more inviting than when it’s blustery out? I think not.

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Just look at this…don’t you want snuggle, and cozy, and nest in a space with shelves and soft lighting like that’s? Well too bad, there’s no room for you.

At any rate all of this, I hope that you all also had lovely holidays and are starting your new year in comfort and happiness. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

xox
M

Thanksgiving in France

This post is a bit belated, but in my defense, Thanksgiving is a busy time. I’m always amazed by how crazy things get here around Christmas time. All of Paris is decked out in festive lights, classical Christmas tunes are being blasted in cafes and all along the Champs-Elysées and the Christmas markets are officially open for business.

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An example of the cheesy goodness that Christmas markets can yield. Full post coming soon…

With all of that bustle, it’s easy to forget about Thanksgiving (one of my favorite holidays) and get swept up in the pre-Christmas prep. For that, I am somewhat thankful. As I have said before, Thanksgiving is an incredibly special day for me. In past years, it has become the day when, recently liberated from a grueling trimester at college, I finally let myself relax and cozy in with the fam. I’d spend it mostly in the kitchen with Mom, working on the feast that would be our dinner, and we’d laugh and tell each other stories while listening to great music on the radio. It’s such a family-oriented event that being away always instills a certain homesickness that (no matter how good my circumstances) I can never shake. But I have to say, this year I had quite a lovely Thanksgiving in Paris.

I started the day at school – bright and early – giving my students a presentation on American geography, quizzing them about French regions, and schooling them on Thanksgiving tradition. Then I let myself wander around a bit – it was that perfect, not quite cold, not quite warm weather – and do some window shopping before heading home for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast (featuring duck as the main course) with family friends.

A screening of the Lord of the Rings followed…because it is the most comforting thing ever and I needed a little Tolkien in my life…

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Who doesn’t need regular doses of Tolkien in their lives?

The real fun came this weekend, however, as I was invited to a fellow teacher’s for a SECOND Thanksgiving celebration. This one was completely different from the homey-dinner I had and also SO MUCH FUN. I met so many interesting and cool people, played mafia and card games, and ate a ton of amazing food. (I also, evidently, took no photos because I’m a lamo who forgets these things.) My contribution to the feast was a pumpkin pie – courtesy of the food goods store Thanksgiving (located in the fourth), which provided the pumpkin and condensed milk.

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The Parisians were skeptical of my use of pumpkin, but then agreed it was really yummy. Umm…yes.

The weekend was topped off with a trip to WH Smith, where food god David Lebovitz was doing a book signing. It felt totally appropriate to finish Thanksgiving with buying my first real cookbook – and let me tell you, she’s a beaut.

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It was also WAY cool to meet the author, who is totally the sweetest man ever and has kept me well stocked in all the goodies Paris has to offer with his comprehensive “Paris Pastry Guide” app – check it out fellow ex-pats…seriously golden recommendations.

So, in spite of not getting to spend my favorite holidays with those I adore most, I must say that Thanksgiving has been utterly lovely and reminded me of how absolutely fortunate I am. I still cannot believe that I am living in one of my favorite places, doing something I love and working with such incredible people. Thinking about it all just makes me giddy and so excited for what is coming next. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I’m thankful for all of you readers – both those that have been with me since my last Parisian voyage (and somehow stuck through all the boring middle bits) and those that have recently joined the ride. I’m so grateful to all of you who take the time to read my words. It means so much. So thank you, all of you, and thank you Paris for the wonderful past three months. Happy Thanksgiving!

In which I explain a lot

I seem to remember writing you all with an assurance that I would soon be writing you again and it would be SEPTEMBER and I would be in PARIS. Oops. Perhaps that was a little ambitious of me, as it is currently NOVEMBER. Either that or I’m a lazy slob. Take your pick. Maybe it was a little of both. Here’s a pretty picture of Paris to make up for it…

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It turns out that my fatal error was in believing that my “rentrée” would be simple and uncomplicated. I’m not sure what gave me that impression, since moving to a new country is never easy especially when it involves starting a new job, and not participating in a hold-your-hand-all-the-way style study abroad program. Silly Mallory, so naive. Here’s another picture…

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It also happened that this “rentrée” was especially difficult due to a number of unforseen issues. As I’ve already mentioned, Paris has a habit of kicking you around a bit – I suspect it operates somewhat like law school…throwing all the crap at you early on so that only the truly devout remain – and Paris was not in the mood to be gentle. On top of that there was some general shittiness (thank you universe), resulting in a rough couple of months. I don’t want to go into the nitty gritty of all the woes I’ve suffered, but I thought I’d break things down into a series of episodes just to bring you all up to speed…

Epidosde 1: In which Mallory tearfully says goodbye to her mother and flies across the ocean in the bulkhead. She hates the bulkhead but is proud of her ability to secretly keep her purse behind her calves unbeknowst to the flight attendants.

Episode 2: In which Mallory is picked up from the airport by the woman she willing be living with and au pairing for, and generally feels tired and uncomfortable.

Episode 3: In which Mallory (on her second day in Paris) meets the entire extended family of the family she’s au pairing for, cannot leave the apartment, and feels generally homesick, tired, and overwhelmed. This is where the “Oh god, what have I done!” feels begin to sink in.

Episode 4: In which Mallory is thrown headlong into au pairing and has no more time for “Oh hell, what have I done” moments because there is not time. She has to pick up children and clean the kitchen and collapse into bed instead. Also pet the attention-whoring cat…

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Episode 5: In which Mallory wonders if maybe she shouldn’t start blogging, but doesn’t have time.

Episode 6: In which Mallory hears that her grandmother is dying, and simultaneously starts wondering whether the au pairing thing was a good idea. She has lunch with a friend to talk her down.

Episode 7: In which Mallory visits the school where she will be teaching for the first time and falls in love with all the teachers and is generally excited. Meanwhile…au pairing.

Episode 8: In which Mallory discovers that she cannot manage teaching and au pairing due to a conflict of hours. Stress eating and generally frantic behavior are the “regle du jour.” Because tarte au citron makes everything better…right?

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Episode 9: In which Mallory somewhat ungracefully exits the au pairing job and finds herself riding the metro with all her worldly possesions.

Episode 10: In which Mallory is very grateful for her friends in Paris and the fact that she will never be homeless and living out of a carboard box by the Seine.

Episode 11: In which Mallory searches for an apartment, teaches, and stresses. She thinks about blogging occasionally, but is more preoccupied by trying to find somewhere to live.

Episode 12: In which Mallory gets a vacation TWO WEEKS after starting to teach (!) and enjoys her free time with her mother who (in the best mom move in history) comes to visit, snuggle, and buy Mallory yummy dinners. Because moms and mussels DEFINITELY make everything better…

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Episode 13: In which Mallory finds a place to live and discovers that French bureaucracy is actually the worst thing ever. Because it’s bureaucracy…but in French.

Episode 14: In which Mallory secures the apartment and discovers more French bureaucracy as well as what a “cheap” studio looks like (hint: it’s smokey and tiny).

Episode 15: In which Mallory defeats French bureaucracy and things simmer down. She begins her “amenagement” and FINALLY sits down to type up a blog post…

So there you have it! That is what I’ve been up to for the last few months! And with luck and a generally less stressful life I’ll hopefully be writing much more now. In the meantime, what about you guys? What’s new in your lives? Any exciting new developments? Crazy moves?

Till next time!

xo,
M

A quick update…

Hi there!

It’s been a while! So much has happened and I cannot wait to share but just a quick post today…time is short and I SHOULD be cleaning the bathroom…oops. Here are a few things that have been going on recently:

1.)I graduated college – That sounds big. It kinda was. Still kicking myself and having stress dreams about upcoming papers/classes that I will never have. Because that’s a thing.

2.) I saw and reviewed Nickel Creek for the Local Current blog – Such a great show and so cool. They are still on tour so you should definitely try to see them.

3.) I went on vacation to Vermont with my family – I should do a picture recap. Vermont is really beautiful. And relaxing. Also good food.

4.) I’ve ordered my weight in stuff that I’m convinced I need for Paris next year – For reals…you’d think Paris is a desert.

So perhaps you can see why I’ve been so absent lately. I really needed this summer to relax and unplug. It was so nice to just ignore the world and hang with the family, especially since I’ll be seeing a lot less of them this year. This weekend we are headed to my cousin’s wedding in Colorado (woot!) and I’m so happy I get to spend some time with my grandma before I head out. After that, I have less than a week before going to Paris. That’s right…LESS THAN A WEEK. We like to do it crazy here.

Final note before I go: there may be some changes with the blog in the next week or so. I’m talking big changes…like maybe a name change. DON’T FREAK OUT. I’ve been thinking about switching things up for a while now and I’m not sure exactly how things will stand when everything shakes out. But I’m excited about what’s in store for this blog (did someone say “Patisserie Pilgrimages”???).

Hope all is well with you, my dears! Enjoy the last of your summers! Next time you’ll hear from me it will be September and I will (hopefully) be in FRANCE!

xo,

m

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS! (that rock my world)

So I have some news. Big news. I mean really really big news. Lifechangingly big news. I….

GOT A JOB IN FRANCE!!!

Sorry for the all-caps but that is my excitement level. Especially because I didn’t just get a job anywhere, but in PARIS.

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Remember all the love?

I am so thrilled that I’ll have the chance to go back to one of my favorite cities next year. Feeling so very very lucky. I’ll be teaching English, and apparently we have significant time off which will mean LOTS of time to find adventures and type them up for you. I’m so very excited to embark on this experience and share it with you. Not to mention this blog will be so much better. Small town Minnesota has not proved to be the most inspiring travel blogging environment for me.

I love you Minnesota but there are only so many pictures of snow worth sharing...

I love you Minnesota but there are only so many pictures of snow worth sharing…

So that’s the new big thing in my life. Although I do like to keep busy, as you all know well. I’ve posted several more times in the Local Current blog…which has been exciting and fun for me…if not a little bit terrifying. I also got to go up to their offices a few weeks ago for a “training day”. It was amazing. First of all — prettiest workspace ever. I can has job please? (I would share pictures but I thought that taking them during the tour would be weird and creepy…people trying to work, and all.) Anyways the day was absolutely wonderful. I met my editor—who is the best person in the world. I know…I’m crazy lucky to have such a great/loveable editor. I also met a lot of the really amazing staff and directors of the station, including Barb Abney (!) who is totally my favorite dj. Oh, and I met lots of other super cool young music journalists, who make my writing attempts look amateur and who are totally going to run the world someday. I also met Jim DeRogatis…and got to hear people drop all of the “Almost Famous” references. It was beautiful.

Otherwise, not much else to report, other than the fact that I am well aware of the incredible dip in blogging lately. I feel confident, however, that next year will be much better for my online presence. The absence of obligatory 15 page research papers is BOUND to leave more time and energy for internet word vomiting.

In the meantime, what’s up with you? If you’re still around? I feel like it’s been so long that you all will have flown the coop by now. But if you didn’t, leave a comment and tell me about the new things in your life! You all are so cool!

xo,
mal

 

dear blogosphere…

…I love you.

Did you know that? I do! I have been neglecting you for many months, it is true, but my deep appreciation is still there…buried under mountains of this…

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and this…

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and some of this…

 

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not to mention this…

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and of course this (to compensate)…

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Yes, I’ve been in the doghouse for quite some time. Such is the case senior year…or so I’m told. My main priority has been finishing my comps project — a 20-page French paper wherein I focused on THIS GUY:

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Jean Fouquet, a French court painter who was totally made of awesome. I briefly discussed him in an earlier blog post, so I’ll spare you a long schpiel, but I focused on his portraits (including a super famous one of Charles VII) and I have to say I had so much fun writing this paper. Also many frustrations, because that is a heck of a lot of research and, even worse, a LOT of writing in French!

Nonetheless, I have finally reached spring term and things are looking up. I’m going to have a reasonable course load, and I plan on doing all of the fun extracurriculars, basically just soaking up all the good things I can about college before I leave. One of those extracurriculars will be blogging, so hopefully, you’ll see more of me in the coming weeks!

In the meantime, I hope that your Aprils are sunny and warm and nothing like the slushy, cool, it’ll-probably-snow-5-more-times weather of Minnesota. And I hope that you are well.

xo

mallory

#pandasunite

I’m going to break protocol here and admit something truly heinous…and hope that you will forgive me.

This year, for the first time in my life, I have watched ABC’s hit drama, The Bachelor…and it is exactly as horrible as you imagine it would be.

I am judging myself so hardcore right now...

I am judging myself so hardcore right now…

I think that senior thesis stress has literally reduced my brain to a pile of mush…it feels like the vast majority of things I consume of late has been total garbage, but I found solidarity in a group of girls, and we gather to yell at the tv screen on Monday nights and then discuss the drama…and it’s really fun.

In many ways, I don’t regret this decision. I feel it was high time I understand just how low the bar is for American television, and it is baffling and enlightening to watch modern women voluntarily waltz around on television competing for the affections of one, arguably sexy man. On the other hand, it explains a lot about American culture, the backlash against feminism, and the way foreigners perceive American women, so I am thankful that I will be able to go forth, armed with legitimate arguments about what is wrong with the show in the future.

I am also thankful, however, because this season has (apparently) been “revolutionary” including women who delivered “brutally honest” comments about their experiences on the show with “el bachelor”. My personal favorite of all of these women has been the enigmatic Sharleen Joynt, an opera singer based in Germany.

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I should admit that I am biased. I love classical music, I have friends aspiring to be opera singers and I once considered going to conservatory to pursue a similar goal. So I got this woman. I liked her style — more refined and less conventional (I literally wanted almost everything she wore), her voice, her taste (she likes good conversation and food…ie let’s go on a date and become best friends please?), and let’s face it, when I saw this tweet I knew I adored her:

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But above all, I appreciated her honesty about who she was and how she experienced the show.

Sharleen never dumbed herself down for the camera, and she never lied about feeling more of a “connection” with JP than she had. She admitted to their chemistry, to the capacity to have a good time with him, but was also very upfront about her doubts. She openly called the process “inorganic” (Sharleen also had the best vocabulary and grammar of any of the participants). Eventually she even left the show, admitting to herself, Juan Pablo, and the audience that she did not feel this was where she belonged or that she was capable of a sustainable relationship with him. (This, of course came dramatically on the heels of interviews with JP where he professed his profound interest in her.) In Juan Pablo’s own words, “that took guts” and I applaud her. Her exit was more dignified than any past Bachelor contestant and she really shaped a new reality for the show. She proved that being different, or, as she said “a panda in a room full of bears” is not necessarily a bad thing — a monumental lesson for women everywhere. What’s more, she walked away from what would have likely been a shallow love, put her own interests first, and placed herself in a position to make a better future. You go girl.

I think what truly struck me about Sharleen was her refusal to compromise her identity, her integrity, and her standards for anything. She proved that those are valuable assets worth fighting to maintain, and ultimately more useful than any shallow, half-baked fairytale romance. Granted, it was not an easy nor a fun choice and she got  hurt on the way. But I applaud her guts, her spunk, and (if I may say it) her moxy. Nor do I have any doubt that she will find an appropriately smart, charming, and sexy man in the future. #pandasunite indeed.