American Tidbits in Paris

I used to think that keeping up with two blogs wouldn’t be so difficult but it now seems impossible that Paris has 24 hours in a day. I can never complete any to-do list I compose! I guess not having time to everything you want is a good sign though (unless it involves you succumbing to Facebook) because you’re staying occupied. However, most of my to-do lists are the same as when I was in Madison. Email, skype, watch Glee, go get oreos and pretzels, plan Spring break vacation (sauf la dernière partie). In fact, staying “American” is très facile in Paris. Everyone can speak English- both reluctantly and eagerly, most menus come in English and French, the food at restaurants cater to Americans (unless you’re mid-westerm- the nightmare of not having milk everyday has been one thing that is not easy to wake up from), lots of American bars, American movies, and for those that are nostalgic for easy English reads, there are bookstores with English books.

A couple of weekends ago (already I can say “a couple of weekends ago”!), my friends and I had an American weekend where we ate at an American diner (which, I’m pretty sure my obsessiveness of the place has already been passed on to my blogs), watched an American film (curious? 127 hours. Rent it! But have water handy. And maybe a pillow to cover your eyes and ears), and went to the English/American bookstore I mentioned earlier “Shakespeare and Co.” Ever since our first visit back in February, we try to get there at least every week or so and just decompose. It’s kind of our Hogsmeade link from Paris to home. Or our portal. Or even our Room of Requirement (can you tell I’m reading Harry Potter right now???).

The front of the bookstore

Yesterday, my friend Kendra and I came from le Parc de la Villette (we had to partir early because of our sudden motion sickness that we had enough foresight to foresee… it just seemed so much fun at the time. The pictures fool you into thinking we were enjoying ourselves… minutes later I had my hands on my knees…) to take une pause at our bookstore. After only a few minutes of wondering aimlessly among the books, an old woman appeared and invited everyone in sight for tea and cookies upstairs at George’s! After spending twenty minutes trying to discover this “House of George” (which raises some questions- who is George? Is this an English tea party? Where are we again???) we entered an apartment wedged between the two joint bookstores. And so begins my tale of the “House of George”.

Kendra and Christina on the swings… caution: may make you dizzy

Given that I am a terrible “short-story” kind of person and pretty much stick like glue to the long versions of stories (even as I’m typing this I’m emphasizing this quality of story-telling), I hope you find it as hilarious as Kendra and I did. We arrived quite a bit later, but discovered that we just missed introductions. We had to take the floor with our bits of cookies. In this tiny room, overcrowding with young poets and worn books squeezed into bookshelves, we sat and introduced ourselves. Clearly the old woman, whose name was something along Penilous, was the mama bear of this tea party. After Kendra summed up ourselves and it was my turn for the introduction I said “Hi, I’m Sigrid and I pretty have the same story-“ And Pen interrupted me unapologetically and said “No, no one has the same story…” and begin one of her many wonderful insights into the world as Pen sees it (and that’s how… Pen sees it… Glee anyone?). Soon after the introductions were over, we started in with poems. The guest of honor, as Pen put it, was a student from Pittsburg who visited Shakes many times in the past, and who- surprisingly enough- knew George! She read a few of her many intriguing poems that caused me to eagerly applaud the young talent. Another boy read his poem and one from his professor about orange trees, a Greek/Russian/ Polish woman read her poem entitled “My Pretty Garden” and it was what you’d expect from an old woman- sweet. And then came the self-proclaimed great poems of Pen (I just noticed the irony of her name). She started with a poem called Hour Glass written in an hour glass shape, like so:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Blah blah blah blah blah

Blah blah


Blah blah

Bah blah blah blah blah

Blah blah blah blah blag blah blah blah

And was a poem about words and choosing the right word and if it can stand alone without having someone breathe for it. The entire poem had not a lick of punctuation and must be read aggressively and swiftly with precision. She carried it out well. If not perfect. I remember her saying in a voice resembling something between a priest and the Ghost of Christmas Past “out and in in and out” with funky hand gestures resembling her giving birth- but was actually demonstrating her releasing words from within. After she read this poem, she shamelessly admitted, “I am a great writer” in her English accent- “Don’t tell me I’m not! I should be after 50 years!” and yes, I agree… but yikes! Confidence is an important skill to have if you want to stay motivated in your discipline. She read another poem and reread her opening line “I heard the footsteps of the flowers spring” many times and told us how powerful she thought it to be. I absolutely loved her bulletproof confidence in herself. By the end of the tea party, Kendra and I walked out with beaucoup de thoughts in our exhausted minds. We tried to remember together in the midst of our giggling what had just happened in that tiny room. We walked out with new acquaintances (an old French couple who were the absolute sweetest- they offered to meet in the future for coffee) and a slew of motivation to write. Highlights from Pen: “The mind alone carries your memory-it is the strongest device to have- not your internets and electronics”, “love is never wasted, even if it is lost”, “art is labor, it is not chance; for he who dances well, has learned to dance”. And by the end, we left with the mystery of George. We gathered that there was a 97 year old man in his bed named George Whitman. After researching, he has a father by the name of Walt. However, the writer Walt Whitman died in the late 1890s, George wasn’t even born yet. Even so, Kendra and I found a little magic that day.

The wonderful thing about living in a city like Paris, is that it’s easy to make it your home, yet there are countless of things to make happen and discover. Most weeks, I am paralyzed with the overwhelming decisions of what to do every day. Paris is a long stretch from a small city like Madison, but I think it is vital for every individual to experience large/middle/ and small sized cities. As much as I am in love with this enchanting city, I don’t think I could ever make it my permanent residence. Paris is the jet plane of French cities: constantly moving and morphing rapidly, hardly able to keep up.

Here’s me trying to keep up:

-A trip to Rouen and Giverny for the the day: We got to see the gardens of Monet and a churchy town. Both incredible sights. The trips arranged through Accent have all been so great because it’s a joy to travel with everyone. AND there’s always a coach bus to deliver us from point a to point b.

-Went to Amsterdam and I would recommend it in a heart beat.

-had my first macaroon and who knew they make rose petal flavored? I sure didn’t but my tongue enjoyed it.

-Versailles trip! Definitely takes the entire day. And then some. You must take enough time to absorb the grandeur of the chateau. Oh, and the child who pretending to be Mickey in Fantasia. He was the conductor of the orchestra and the fountains

Fountains and le petit garcon at the Versailles Chateau

-oh and like I mentioned earlier, got sick from the classic carnival rides from my youth. If I couldn’t handle the merry-go-round years ago on wrist-band night, why did I think I could ride the swings? Oy vey. Lesson learned! Also, we went on an 80s 3D simulator ride, much like the Stars Wars ride at MGM, only there was no story line and the ride was incredibly jittery. We left utterly confused with “WTF” thought bubbles over our heads.

once upon a time I was happy to swing…

2 thoughts on “American Tidbits in Paris”

  1. Sigrid!
    I miss you sooo much! I’m so glad I was able to read this and kind of feel like we caught up! 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you are having fun and doing so much! What an amazing experience!! I knew you’d love it there. We need to skype again very soon…because I miss you! (haha can you tell I miss you?) I can’t wait to hear more and see your beautiful face (not to mention the bangs!)!

    love love,

  2. Sigrid,
    Although you are my gorgeous cousin, this is by far one of the best posts I have ever read. I look in eager anticipation to the day we are reunited as Badgerly cousins and you tell me all about your travels! xoxo

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