Paris

Mastering Parisian manners

There is a commonly held belief that Parisians are rude. So common, in fact, that the Parisian Chamber of Commerce has published a guide for Parisians on how to handle tourists of different nationalities. I am not making this up. It is called Do You Speak Touriste? In my experience, Parisians aren’t rude so much as incredibly blunt, with an endless capacity at pointing out what should have been obvious. Tact? Not their forte. But seeing as I am often at risk of an aneurism when faced with people’s lack of common sense, I rather appreciate Parisians’ approach. Furthermore, it grants me carte blanche: they can be as blunt as they chose, I will reply in kind. I find it rather freeing, frankly, since diplomacy, tact and restraint are not instinctive concepts for moi.

Exhibit A: success

On Friday, I was told by a Parisian employee at the airport to stop “talking down to him, from my high perch of condescending attitude.” I replied, curtly, that if being asked repeatedly the same question due to his inability to provide an on-topic answer was condescending attitude, he must receive a lot of it – rather than pass a comment on my communication style, could he please finally provide me with the requested information?

And then I danced a jig, bc clearly I’ve fully integrated into the Parisian lifestyle.

Exhibit B: less success

Today, I got to the Paris office before lunch, and was happily reunited with my colleagues (internal audit). I really enjoy them – good thing, too, since I find myself spending a whole lot of time with them! We went for a coffee break on our floor, for a quick chit chat and update on our lives. One of them just got married, another one was going on vacation, and me? Well, I had just been to Toulouse. I was mid-explanation/demonstration of the really cool outdoor salsa festival I’d attended, when the head of Group Tax unexpectedly walked in. He stared at me as I twirled, blinked, and sighed. “Normally, I would find anyone dancing salsa in front of internal auditors, of all ppl, slightly odd. But somehow, I do not find it surprising when it’s Vanilla. I did feel a slight earthquake earlier this morning on my floor, but said to myself – impossible, Vanilla is only arriving tomorrow. I should have known. Vanilla, you do realize that it is not standard behaviour to dance salsa at the office when in Paris? We typically adopt a more restrained demeanor. Unless… of course. This IS your more restrained demeanor.”

Defiantly, I told him of my successful moment with the Parisian airport employee. Group Tax congratulated me on my mastery of Paris manners, and then asked me if I had danced salsa throughout that interaction?

Hmph. Who would have thought that a tax guy would have a sense of humour? #ifwearegonnabedealinginstereotypes #brownsocks

I’m a creature of habit

This time last year, I was getting ready for a hybrid work-pleasure trip to France for my 3rd 30th bday. Today, I’m sitting at my desk, watching my inbox fill-up with reminders of my impending trip to France that begins tomorrow.

  • 4 days in Toulouse (pleasure – sight-seeing à la touriste)
  • 4 days in Paris (work)
  • 2.5 days in Nîmes (pleasure – a mini dance festival)

I’m really digging work’s habit of sending me to France around my bday. This is a habit I am embracing wholeheartedly – may it continue for as long as I turn 30.

Like last year, I intend on cramming all of my clothes into 2 carry-on bags, to facilitate flopping about cities. Like every trip ever, my plane is leaving in 24 hours and I haven’t started packing. I haven’t even done laundry. I’ve no idea what to bring, the weather, anything. Will I rush home after work, and get cracking? Nah. Dance class, y’all. No way I am skipping my weekly 4-5 hour dose of kizomba. #priorities Will I have an exhausted meltdown tonight, as I try finish packing at 1 or 2am? You know it. #thepoweroftradition

Still…

I’m hyper. What else is new?

Solo tripcations are my new fave thing

I should have seen this coming.

Teacher is an artiste – not a practical bone in his body. It’s part of his charm. Sometimes.

Teacher forgot to check the visa requirements for entering the United Arab Emirates… and it looks extremely unlikely that he will be granted one for next week’s Kizomba festival in Dubai. Just like that, I went from the gal who knew the guy who knew EVERYONE to the gal who’ll know NO ONE. Oye. Even better? Teacher told me not to worry, I should just come back to Mtl, and take my vacation at a later date, at another festival. Bruh. NO.

Imma reread the cheat sheet of How to Make Friends at a Dance Festival from Madrid: hell nah, I am not missing out on this sick opportunity just because of my anxiety of not knowing anybody, or because any festival without Teacher can’t be as fun as a festival with Teacher. This will be one big adventure. Alone.

Alone.

Unlike my last 2 trips to Paris, where I socialized constantly with current and former colleagues, this trip I’ve spent my evenings alone. I adore my French coworkers – to the point that I consider them as real friends – but I’m maxed out. This work trip has felt like a break – not because the workload was light, it wasn’t! – but because I’ve distanced myself from the constant clamour of friends, family, coworkers and my trainwreck dating life*. I’ve enjoyed my routine of walking around Paris and trying a new restaurant every night. I no longer feel conspicuous eating on my own.

As I head to Dubai, I think I’ll achieve a similar balance. Dynamo’s brother and sis-in-law have to work, so I’ll be on my own during the days but surrounded by their love in the evenings. Perfect. I’ll explore, or not. I’ll nap on the beach, or not. I’ll maybe even catch up on work, or not. Next weekend, the dance festival takes place in the late afternoon and evenings, so I will have my mornings to myself, before dancing the night away. Surrounded by people, but on my own.

It’s silly that such a simple thing like travelling alone can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. In fact yesterday, I almost didn’t go to a very hip/trendy/bohemian area of Paris, bc I felt my aloneness would be too conspicuous; but then I decided that was bullshit and I should view this as practice for Dubai. Obvi, as a woman, I must always consider safety. But as a street-smart woman, I’m very capable of keeping myself out of any real trouble. So this fear I feel of travelling alone? It’s actually a fear of being judged. Once upon a time, that fear would have stopped me.

Not anymore.

#YOLO

#thistripisjustwhatthedoctorordered

#boardingtheplanerightthisinstant

*I’m not gonna lie, I’m loving the break from boys. After recent drama with Beaut, Hickster and a few others, two weeks of no contact with any of them feels like detox. Maybe I should become a nun.

Follow the church spire 

I’m staying at the same hotel in Paris as during my last trip. It’s conveniently located, reasonably (for Paris) priced and clean. Every day, to and from my 30min walk to metro – I walk the first 5 metro stops in order to take in a feel of Paris – I’ve seen a church spire coquettishly peaking out between buildings in the 9th arrondissement.

Tonight I finally opted to turn down the street and check it out.


It is called Église de la Trinité, built in the 19th century as part of Baron Haussman’ attempt to unify the urban look of Paris. It holds no particular significance, other than its beauty.


My view from the window of the café across the street as I enjoy supper (an omelette with salad and fries – how French! – and a tall glass of wine).


Did I ever mention I love it here? I love it here.

Suitcases: tricky concept

I need a vacation, yeah? And I am going on a vacation. So far so good. Packing? Not so good.

Last night I had a full blown anxiety attack when packing for my Paris/Dubai trip.

The breaking point came when I couldn’t fit my beach towel and the 7 pairs of shoes I absolutely needed. I cried a little bit. But then, I gave myself a talking to, “Vanilla, you are a competent, smart career woman. Problem-solve this! Be proactive. Google. Google will help. Google “How to pack for two different climates”, and everything will work out.” Everything did not work out. Instead, I tried on every single article of clothing from my summer wardrobe – what! At any point in time only 2/3 of my summer wardrobe fits me, and it isn’t always the same two thirds… I am female. My weight and shape changes dramatically from year to year! I haven’t worn that stuff in a year, my body has changed a LOT! Last year, I was muscular and an Amazon. This year I am #skinnybitch except I happen to be PMSing and bloating right now which means that omgomgomgnothingfitsmeIamsogross.

After 2 hours of packing, I was exhausted from the physical effort of changing in and out of outfits, and had my shampoo and flipflops packed. It was midnight.

I ended up resorting to the tried and true method of packing:

Pretty sure I have my toothbrush. I think. I have two pairs of sunglasses, so that counts for something, right?

Croissants: Swiss vs French

Here I am, at the Geneva airport, waiting to board my flight home to Montreal. My first trip of 2017: done.

A last minute request from head office brought me to Paris for work. I never knew it was possible to love a job/career/company as much as I do mine. Sure, there are aspects of it that drive me nuts, definitely there are some tasks that numb my soul, but what job doesn’t include that? Overall, I believe in what I do, respect my company, am thrilled by the coworkers I am meeting. This is good stuff.

I love work trips because they allow me to see past the perfect veil of tourist traveling. My favorite part is listening to my French coworkers as they sit for their déjeuner at the company cantine – their expressions, their topics of conversation, their customs, the nuances between France French and Québec French. Noticing the tiny differences between our cultures. I’m aware of how they differ from us, from all my interactions with the French immigrant population in Montreal – it’s the topics of memes and endless jokes. But it is jolting to become aware of how they deem that I (we) are different from them, when I am on their land. 

My love affair with France grows stronger with each visit. And with the backdrop of American turmoil shedding gloom over the world (I won’t even attempt to describe the pervasive mépris the French feel for Americans & American politics right now), walking the streets of Paris, seeing everywhere the juxtaposition of past and present, the scars of battles won and lost on buildings that are older than the entire North American continent (as per Western historical chronology) continues to make me feel that weird mix of sorrow and joy – I feel alive. This post from my trip in June resonates again and again.

I took the TGV Friday after work to go visit my friend in Lausanne for a mini weekend getaway. She is Canadian and was my coworker back in my audit days: I worked with her on several of my most intense mandates. I always admired her for her intelligence, beauty, drive and efficiency. 4.5 years ago, she moved to Switzerland to marry her Swiss-Canadian boyfriend; they now have a beautiful toddler, live in a house with a view of Lake Geneva and radiate happiness. While her first years in Switzerland were filled with homesickness, she now loves it. The fresh air, the quality of life, the absence of all the North American noise and consumerism. She says she has time to breathe and look around her.

And boy, oh boy, is there ever a lot to see.

With every visit to Europe, my Dream grows stronger: I will live here one day. I must. My soul demands it.

Sick in Paris, le zut alors

I’m back in Paris this week, for work. Just like that. Apparently, I’ll bring value to a special project that is getting fast-tracked from inception to execution and roll out. So wee, here I am, and I might be back in the spring du coup.

Its my third visit to France within 8 months for work. It blows my mind. I have trouble reconciling that I, Vanilla, have insights and inputs valuable enough to merit that kind of company spend. Part of me knows how hard I’ve worked to get here, part of me knows that I deserve these opportunities, but a huge part of me feels like an imposter and the rug will be pulled out from under me at any moment. The terror of joy.

This current (French) manifestation of my joy-terror feels suspiciously like the worst case of jet-lag of all time. I landed in Paris Sunday morning at 9am – as my hotel room was not ready, I walked aimlessly about town, trying to stay awake. I decided to go to the Louvre, as it has been 15 years since I’d last been: it would be like window-shopping, browsing bougie style. 25 euros later, I made my way to the Mona Lisa, laughed at the dozens of people taking bad selfies of themselves with La Jaconde, and almost fainted from exhaustion. 25 euros for 25 minutes. Win! 2pm, back at the hotel, got my early check-in. 3pm, asleep. Woke up at 5:30am today feeling like a marching band had taken up residence in my brain.

Behold the pics I managed to take before my body decided to hibernate:

 

Today I had fever, chills, a brain that was 100% wool and 0% grey matter, weird pasty tongue and dry mouth, and my kidneys hurt. I also lost my appetite. Do you know what sucks more than just losing your appetite? Losing your appetite in Paris. I see all those macarons, baguette, profiteroles, I am aware that my time here is limited and that I cannot find the equivalent in Montreal so I should eat up… and I just can’t do it.

The universe has a petty sense of humor. Hmph.

Zut alors.