‘Respirer Paris. Cela conserve l’âme’. (Victor Hugo)
(Inhale Paris. It keeps the soul).
Yesterday I had lunch with Jun ichi and Maria (Japanese and Russian respectively), following a long session of phonétiques and the daily grind of morning classes. I seem to recall muttering ‘boof’ into the headset (or something equally as daft), during our trial exam two weeks ago, so when I got my results back with 17 marks out of a possible 20 at the end of the lecture, I began to believe there is in fact a God- a language one at that.
‘And what in your Godly heck does B or TB actually mean,’ I quietly pondered, making sure I wasn’t busted speaking to myself in public.
Bien or très bien are common marks on our French papers and only now, as I type this post with my little miracle positioned beside my iPad on the desk, have I come to realise this very simple marking system.
Over lunch, we spoke about our lives in Paris and what it actually means to us. ‘I suppose for me, I have enjoyed taking my life into my own hands,’ I explained, adding ‘it is such a good change and I honestly couldn’t feel better about this decision – I mean, so much has happened in a short space of time’. Ju Ni Chi was busy with a very rare piece of tuna while Maria had gone for the faux filet and as an added bonus, the waiter had just winked at one of us. The mood was buoyant and a caraf of wine had also landed on the table.
‘And I suppose, at this particular stage in my life it is more important than ever to just have a go, breathe it in and see what happens’ I finished. Jun ichi looked up from his tuna, ‘out of anyone you know, and in your current situation, you have the best odds at wining a Nobel Prize,’ he said laughing, before adding earnestly, ‘this moment is an opportunity’.
As much as I was content with a smattering of B’s and TB’s on my phonétiques exam (deep, recorded sighs and all), I must add, that I was suitably impressed with his optimism and positive outlook on life in that particular moment.
With feet larger than an elephant and a chronic disposition to blisters, I have to order most of my shoes online. Paris has a very limited supply of anything resembling a size 42 and for those of us with larger than life pieds, this can be a minor disappointment. I have a healthy supply of mens tennis shoes acquired in the end of summer sales, but from time to time I like to wear a more feminine take on a lace up. Therefore, on Saturday morning when I got a notification in the mail advising that my new shoes were in a Chronopost holding zone 40 minutes away on foot, I almost re-injured my right Achilles which is currently bandaged with a bullet proof blister pad, as I did a little dance by the mailbox.
After lunch with my new friends, I made the forty minute trek to the Chronopost depot on the banks of the Seine. I rounded endless corners and took in the sights and sounds coming from the beautiful green spaces that flank the median strips of the 15th arrondissement, breathing in huge doses of Paris. Children rushed by on scooters, marking the end of the school day, and the Eiffel Tower loomed closer with every step. Old ladies bustled by with their shopping caddies and the metro rattled above on the open line as it left Bir Hakeim, heading east.
It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and with every step (bullet proof bandage and all), I pondered the words used in the opening line of this post written by Victor Hugo, many years before I arrived. At the end of the day, I met with a charming couple who are part time residents in France, and who were about to start their journey back to Melbourne after almost 8 months in their village deep in the south in a part of France – not too far from the Spanish border.
‘Why Paris?’ they asked with genuine interest and as loyal and avid readers of pinningmywords.
With that, we launched into two very happy hours of non stop chatter about Paris, and the ability that this city has to inspire and keep the soul alive in more than a handful of imaginable ways- sometimes through the simplest of things like reading the newspaper, or observing a conversation on the next table. Even a trip to the mail depot is capable of reawakening the mind, stirring a part of the soul that could perhaps feel very different in a another landscape.
As Audrey Hepburn said, ‘Paris is always a good idea’. Quite simply put.
Pictured: my journey to Chronopost.