Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Is Paris Home?

I'm darting around all over the place at the moment. After a splendid weekend in Berlin and an interesting experience with delayed flights and poor customer service at Tegel Airport, I'm now getting excited for my next trip. That's right. On Friday I am heading back to Blighty after over 3 months away. This got me thinking. I spend so much time trying to go more native than the natives and to have a comfortable life here, does that mean I consider it as home? Or at least do I feel at home in Paris? 
Stepping off the plane onto familiar land felt comforting after a weekend jam packed full of weird and wonderful new experiences. I forget how alienating it can be to be surround by a language you haven't quite grasped. At that moment, Paris felt an awful lot like home. It didn't feel like I was in a foreign country. I knew how things operated and what the people around me were saying. Suddenly, I felt a lot more relaxed. Sure I get this feeling when I step off the plane in the UK but I expect that. It was the shock of how comfortable I felt that really struck a chord within me. 
I suppose that this is what nearly 4 years living abroad gives you. A sense of comfort even if you aren't a native of the country. My little flat is my sanctuary and my Parisian neighbourhood is like a cosy blanket there to look after me when I'm feeling miserable. 
Home for me is a feeling more than a place. It feels like the cup of tea you manage to drink at just the right moment where is it perfectly brewed yet cool enough to drink and soulful enough to heal pain. Home is a long soak in the bath with the door closed to the outside world, scented candles, a glass of wine and a good book. Home is the smell of freshly baked bread as you walk on past the bakery after a long day at work. Home is the happiness of being surround by your loved ones. 
Do I feel at home in Paris? In short, yes. But do I feel at home in other places? Definitely. I feel at home in quirky caf├ęs found on holiday that you can't resist going back to. I feel at home when I'm curled up with my best friends while we put the world to rights. I get home-sick when I'm here in Paris but it isn't necessarily for being in a certain place. It is a desire to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling that is so difficult to describe but so magical when you feel it that only comes around when you have no cares in the world because at that very moment you are content in yourself and have the people you love surrounding you. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

In Search Of Being Parisian.

I shared an article on my Facebook page the other day that listed all of the signs that you were ever so slightly French. My favourites were about being snooty towards supermarket bread and talking only in shrugs and hand gestures. Two things that definitely apply to me. It got me thinking. This is basically the idea behind my blog isn't it? Trying to define what it is that makes us go More Native Than The Natives! My life is currently littered with daily occurrences that make be believe that I am slowly but surely turning to the cheese-eating side. 
Take today for example. I spent a good 15 minutes on the phone ranting in French as I tried to reorganise the delivery of a parcel to my home address. After being handed from pillar to post and around the houses several times, I finally got to speak to the person who could help me. I thought, no wonder the French get so stroppy with such horrific systems in place to help customers. After insisting that this parcel was incredibly urgent I managed to negotiate its delivery for first thing Monday morning. Thus proving that being snooty and not caving into being a polite British woman actually gets things done! 
I should clarify that usually I am delightful to whomever is trying to help me but sometimes when you're at the end of you tether you just have to get things done the French way. The same goes for trying to get people to stop being anti-social on public transport. Usually I just don my cap of English politeness and stiff upper lip but recently I've taken to giving people who dare to eat smelly sandwiches or listen to loud music the most almighty glare that the obviously feel my stare burning into what soul they have left that they stop.  
All in all, I think that in certain situations we should all be much more French. They say that one of the benefits of living abroad and studying another language is that you have the ability to see the world through another pair of eyes. Being a touch more Gallic certainly has its benefits, so I say let's be more snooty!! 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Tongue in Cheek Travel Tips!

Currently, I'm getting very excited about a cheeky trip to Berlin this weekend to visit one of my best friends so I've been trawling the internet for handy tips on how to make traveling that little bit easier. I've never been a great flyer. I tend to panic and get quite anxious during the whole airport process. Since moving to Paris I've had to learn how to get through the stressful arena that is an airport terminal. Reading articles about how best to get through this circle of hell, I suddenly realised something. These so-called experts had no idea what they were talking about. In fact, I was much better at this travelling lark than they were! Ok, I should probably clarify a little bit so that I don't sound too big-headed. I am the Queen of Short-Haul. I have yet to sufficiently earn enough money to be able to book myself an overnight flight to New York so these tips are best for those who like me, tend to frequent budget, orange-tinted European airlines! 
First, make sure you've tactically stowed your liquids somewhere that is easy to get to without having to open up your entire suitcase in front of a massive queue of people who start to judge you for the abundance of Double Deckers you have in you bag. The chocolate bar that is not the public transport. Also, be careful about the bag you put them in. Usually I just use the same old one but recently it split thrusting my makeup to the four corners of Liverpool John Lennon. The security guy was less than sympathetic telling me he would have to bin all of it, even though I had actually brought a bag to put it in. Tears streaming down my face, he eventually handed me a brand spanking new bag that he just happened to have in his pocket. So in summary, turn on the waterworks if it looks like you aren't going to get your way. 
Next, you have to do a recce of all of the available food outlets. This is of course only applicable if you haven't already brought some snacks with you. I must admit the only thing that made traveling on Boxing Day bearable was the feast my Mum packed for me, complete with sandwiches, Christmas Cake and whatever else I could carry! Eating helps to stop you from being bored. An even better solution to boredom is a good book (hopefully something quite weird) and a tube of Pringles next to you so that you can do both at once.
Talking of books, you need something engaging enough so that if you happen to have forgotten your headphones or your iPod has lost charge that you can block out the screaming children around you. (On a side note, there really should be quiet sections on planes like there are on trains.) I tend to try not to take anything too 'worthy' with me when I'm travelling. The in-flight magazine will always look more relaxing an option than sitting down to read In Search Of Lost Time. Agatha Christie works well; although not Death in the Clouds as you don't need that kind of imagery. Equally something funny and inappropriate so you can chuckle away to yourself works wonders. 
If all of this fails then a cheeky mini-bottle of wine or a G&T on the plane along with a suitably glam eye-mask to block out the nutter sitting next to you works wonders. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Sunny Days Are Back Again!

Finally, the weather in Paris is starting to brighten up. I'm not a massive fan of the oppressive heat during the summer but I do love the city when it starts to warm up slightly and people venture out of their apartments out into the city. The incessant rain beating down on my skylights never fails to make me want to crawl back into my nest after a long day at work. I love winter for its cosiness. I love bit, hearty meals and chunky knit jumpers. I love drinking cups of tea and going to bed early. Having said all of that there is something magical about Paris when the sun comes out. 
The better weather pushes me to go outside and explore. I apologise now for the number of photos I will be posting to Instagram of blue skies and Haussmann buildings. The city wakes up from its wintry hibernation and dusts itself off for the fun to start again. There were people sat outside basking in the sunshine along the banks of the Seine in true Parisian style and I even sat outside to eat my lunch today to make up for my hibernal Vitamin-D deficiency. 
Can you feel nostalgia for a place you are still living in? If so, then I've definitely been bitten by that bug. Walking past the Eiffel Tower yesterday, I had butterflies in my stomach just like I had the first time I saw the giant construction. The sun was high in the sky and the Sunday afternoon atmosphere was in full swing. I was in no hurry so I could revel in the architectural quirks of the arrondissement and peer into shop windows to see what delights they had to offer, I can say I truly felt relaxed. 
It isn't often that I feel completely at ease. In fact, it hardly ever happens anymore. From work stresses to my general anxiety, it can be hard to switch my brain off. However, when I'm trundling through the avenues of the Left Bank I am suddenly much more at ease. My mind is more often than not trying to work on new ideas for the blog and how on Earth I can achieve my dream of writing a novel. In fact this post is a product of those afternoon wanders in the sunshine as I collect my thoughts and process what is going on in my life. I take time to reminisce and to mull over ideas. I watch life go on around me and savour the amble of everyday life going on around me. 
Is there any clear message or narrative to this post? Not especially, yet again I try to entertain my loyal readers with the inner workings of my mind. Today is a more positive day to start a hopefully more positive week. I'm itching now to leave the office and trundle around the neighbourhood exploring but alas I have to get back to work and the slog of modern life. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day

I've been having a rough week. I'm not sure why, but my mood just hasn't been very good. Today when I came into work I thought the highlight of my day was going to be the Mars bar I had snuck in my bag as I walked out the front door this morning. Turns out that wasn't to be. I haven't even eaten it yet. You may ask me why this habitually hungry blogger hasn't jumped at the chance to eat her daily intake of sugar in one go yet. Well, I've been on a natural high. That high is inspiration. 

I'm welling up slightly as I write this but I'm just so proud of all of the women and men who are speaking out today and celebrating all of the incredible things that feminism has done for us. A day filled with positivity and solidarity is just what the doctor ordered. I'd like to thank all of the inspirational women in my life for showing me that I can do anything and that my dreams are worth fighting for. 

Thank you to my Mum. You have shown me that if I put my mind to something that I can do it. You've taught me to be supportive, kind and above all else strong. A constant source of inspiration, I simply don't know what I'd do without you. 

Thank you to my Gran. How can I begin to thank you for all of the lessons you have taught me? I took a leaf out of your book this morning as I looked in the mirror at my tired, pale face and reached for the lipstick to show the world just what I'm made of. 

Thank you to my Sister. You are the matter-of-fact voice that brings me back down to Earth when I'm wandering with my head in the clouds for too long. Who know where I'd be without you. 

Thank you to my Friends. My girl gang, my fellow gin drinkers and lovers of gossip. You were there through the rough times. You knew when I needed to speak, when I needed to drink coffee and eat cake and most of all when I needed to heal. 

There are hundreds of other women I would like to thank for everything they have done. Whether through being a friend, a member of my family or even just the women who write positive comments on my Instagram, I'd like to say this to you. You are enough. You are strong. You are incredible. You can do anything. 

Friday, 3 March 2017

An Ode To Liverpool

When the plane touches down on the tarmac I breathe a sudden sigh of relief. It's the sign that I'm home after weeks, sometimes months of being away. What am I looking forward to? The familiar sound of Scouse voices around me, normal chocolate bars and the chance to catch up with friends and family. I adore everything French but even the most native of expats misses home every so often. This is my love letter to the city that I will always call home. Where shall I start? With the flight home of course!

Paris Charles De Gaulle to Liverpool John Lennon is a nice short route. Quite often I ponder whether the two men ever realised they would both have their names used to identify airports. I'm guessing probably not, but it always amuses me. Anyway, let's get back to the point. As soon as get through security at CDG I instantly feel like I'm home. The throng on people around me all jabbering away in the accents of my hometown have this weird way of making me relax. Sat with a mini-bottle of wine, I can start to plan all of the things I'm looking forward to doing during my dashing visit to the UK. 
I board the plane and for once in my life there is the welcome sign of fake tan. It isn't just the cabin crew's uniforms that are orange! I haven't quite made a traveling home playlist on Spotify yet but it will happen. Maybe even this afternoon. An hour to concentrate on my book and hope that no one sits next to me/there isn't a screaming child nearby. Then we've touched down. Liverpool here I come!

After I've embraced my family who have been waiting patiently for me to appear out of the automatic doors, we zip off into town to feed our grumbling bellies. The question is where do we go? Part of me says the Paris-inspired Maray should be the feeding hole where we quench our thirst and munch until our hearts are content. I get told off for being quite simply too bloody French. Mowgli is a firm favourite as is Miyagis. Bold Street is our oyster. A cocktail in Berry and Rye will finish my first night back in Blighty off perfectly before we head back over the river to home sweet home and to all the home comforts I have been dreaming about. Chippy chips, proper cup of tea, my Mum's cooking and most of all the family dog who snubs by offer of a cuddle in favour of her disemboweled toy squirrel. 

Why do I love Liverpool so much? That's a hard question to answer. So many reasons flood my mind when I start to ponder on that special something. I miss the friendly chatter of the supermarket workers. I miss the familiar faces that always pop up even when I pop into town just for a quick errand. I miss the hustle and bustle of the crowds walking around and about usually partaking in our Number One Regional Sport - shopping! In fact, all of these things that I miss could be boiled down into one simple word: community. So thank you Liverpool for all the things you have given me. This is my ode to you. O' great city that has served me so well for so many years. You will always have a special place in my heart and on my desk in the form of a purple bin desk tidy so that I never forget my roots.