Montmartre Cemetery

I am going to try very hard to write and post an actual update before I start knitting, because once I start knitting, we all know that I’m not putting it down until I have to drag myself to bed.

In the last month+ since I’ve updated, I have:

  • moved to a new apartment on the opposite side of the city
  • spent a week in Spain
  • gone to classes and done a lot of homework

But today, we’re just going to focus on today, because live in the moment, or something.

Today was supposed to be my first day back in class after a week off and a trip to Seville, but this morning I got an email from my history professor canceling class for today. This was a particularly good day for a surprise extended weekend because Taylor Swift’s new album came out, and it was actually sunny and nice out which is super rare for Paris and will only get rarer as it begins to rain and never stops. I decided to take advantage of the good weather and went to the Montmartre Cemetery, which is pretty close to where I live now, but still manages to be – I kid you not – uphill both ways.

Maybe it’s kind of morbid, but I really love cemeteries. The cemetery in Appleton is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I spent a lot of time there in undergrad. I predict the Montmartre Cemetery will similarly feature prominently in my life in the next year.

Interlude for a brief love letter to English adverbs. English adverbs, I love that I can put you ANYWHERE, thus making that last sentence possible. I wish French adverbs would let me do that.

The Montmartre Cemetery looks like a pretty typical French cemetery, which means mausoleums and lots of sculptures and ceramic flowers. It reminded me more of the cemeteries in New Orleans than any others that I’ve seen in the US. I’m not exactly sure what the Montmartre Cemetery’s claim to fame is, except that it’s the largest and there are a lot of famous people buried there. They have maps so you can track them down, but I opted to just wander this time. I found the grave of someone who was born in 1864 and died in 1966, and another grave with the name Luc Picard on it. I am choosing to believe that this is an ancestor of Jean-Luc, perhaps even the ancestor he was named after, but of course his grave wasn’t on the map of famous tombs. I’m sure it will be in another 450 years.

One of the most exciting things about the cemetery, though, is that there were cats! I’m not sure if this is just the cool place to hang, or if it was just because it was sunny and the gravestones were nice and warm for kitties to sit on, but I saw a bunch of cats. I will most definitely be trying to find cats on my future visits. (The next will probably be Saturday, which is Toussaint.)

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And now, a picture of a cat on a tombstone. I like the idea of cats sunning themselves on my grave after I’ve died.

The Metro

My mom told me I should update even though I haven’t been up to anything very adventurous lately. She suggested writing about what the metro smells like. So, to expand on that idea, here are some fun facts about the Paris metro.

  1. It does not really smell like pee. The one in New York does, and I vaguely remembered the Paris metro smelling like pee, but it generally does not smell disgusting.
  2. The metro and the RER are similar, but not quite the same thing. The RER is farther underground than the metro in most places, and it goes faster, farther outside of Paris, and has fewer stops. I live on an RER line, and it’s four stops from where I live to my school, which covers 2.5 miles in just under 10 minutes. Taking the metro makes me impatient now because I have been spoiled.
  3. I know of at least one metro station that has condom dispensers in it. Like the tampon dispensers that you find in women’s public bathrooms, except you put in a Euro and get a condom. Even though I already mentioned that it doesn’t really smell like pee, I would not have thought that that many people were getting it on in the metro.
  4. Weird things happen in the metro, and nobody bats an eye. The other day, I saw a guy carrying around a tree.
  5. A lot of metro stations have vending machines, but I have never seen anyone eat or drink on the metro. Or even while waiting, come to think of it.
  6. The metro theoretically stops running at 1 on weeknights and 2 on weekends. But if you need to transfer at, say, 1:30 on a weekend, you learn that 2 maybe actually means 1:30, and you end up having to take a taxi back home.
  7. Quite a few Parisians play Candy Crush on their iPhones and iPads on their way to work, just like Americans. Cultural differences? What cultural differences?
  8. During orientation, we were warned to avoid the stop Châtelet-Les Halles, which is right in the middle of the city where (almost) all of the metro lines intersect. It’s big, and confusing, and supposedly dangerous, and you can walk underground for over a kilometer in order to transfer. My only problem with Châtelet is that I never end up finding the right exit, so I end up pretty far away from where I’m supposed to be, but it does not seem particularly dangerous.
  9. The Paris metro is divided into different zones. Zone 1 is all of Paris itself, and zone 5 goes all the way out to the airports. When you get a Navigo pass, you can choose which zones you want to have access to, with more zones costing more money. But on weekends, the zones don’t matter and you can go wherever you want, even if you only paid for zones 1 and 2 like I did.
  10. There are people with rolling suitcases everywhere in Paris. They bring their luggage all over the place. They take it with them on metro lines that don’t run to the airports or train stations. They get off the metro and carry their luggage up the escalators and out onto the street in front of Notre-Dame. They get their luggage stuck in the entrances and exits. Sometimes they are very careless with their luggage and roll over your feet. When you are wearing sandals. And you begin to understand the universal hatred of tourists.

Saperlipopette!

Today did not start out super great. A few days ago, I had bought some cranberry juice, because if I am going to be one of those people who gets recurring UTIs, I should probably drink cranberry juice every day of my life. This morning, I went to the communal kitchen to get a yogurt and a glass of cranberry juice, but the cranberry juice was nowhere to be found. This is not the first case of food going missing in the communal kitchens here, but it is the first case that I know of from my kitchen. My yogurt was still there, as was the milk that expired two days ago. Everything I put into the fridge is labeled, so it’s not like someone could have mistaken it for their own cranberry juice (nobody else had any cranberry juice anyway), and there was still more than half of the container of cranberry juice left, so someone took or drank the whole thing, they didn’t just drink a little bit and hope I wouldn’t notice. So, now I don’t trust anyone and I am extremely bitter. The next time something goes missing, I’m going to buy a mini fridge. I have no idea how I’d get a mini fridge into my room, but if it becomes necessary, I’ll figure out a way.

After that, I went to the coffee machine downstairs to get a latte, but it just gave me a shot of espresso. So then I went to the coffee machine in the international house next door, and that one gave me milk in my latte, but no sugar. At that point, I gave up and went to Starbucks, because there is nothing quite like a hot pumpkin spice latte on an 80-degree day in France. That’s when the day started improving, too. I went to Conforama to buy bed accessories. I like how the term “bed accessories” sounds kind of erotic when, in fact, this is my bed now:

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It is colorful and polka dotted, and very non-erotic. Cozy, though! It makes my whole room look much homier. And here is the ugly, scratchy bedding that I no longer have to use:

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(Note the absence of a fitted sheet. Yeah.)

I paid with my debit card at Conforama, so the cashier asked for an ID. When I showed him my driver’s license, he said, “You’re from America! Are your parents Mexican?” I’m not sure if French people just think that all Americans come from Mexico, or if he’s taking part in the long tradition of people asking me if I’m Mexican. (For the record, no.)

And now, let’s conclude with some French vocabulary: Saperlipopette! It’s an interjection to indicate surprise that has been out of use for a sadly long time. I intend to bring it back into style. (I will try to refrain from titling every blog post “Saperlipopette,” but I make no promises.)

I’ve been in Paris for four days now. I figured I wouldn’t update this blog, though, just to bore you with things like observations about French culture, or what it’s like to go grocery shopping in France, or my visit to Notre-Dame. Those things are all boring and pale in comparison to my first real adventure, which happened today.

First, I woke up and went to the bathroom. Then, I did a quick workout in my room, and then I went to the bathroom again. Then I took a shower, and then went to the bathroom again. Then I had breakfast, and then went to the bathroom again. This all happened before 10:30, within an hour and a half of waking up. Perhaps you have noticed that this is not a normal number of times to visit the bathroom in a 90-minute period. I drank a lot of water. I went to the bathroom several more times, feeling very grateful that the family member who informed me that France just has holes in the ground instead of toilets is completely wrong. I began to accept that I probably have a UTI.

I called my school to find out how to go about seeing a doctor, and a few minutes later, I had an appointment set up for 4:30 today. I leave for orientation tomorrow, so I really needed to start on antibiotics as soon as possible. Not to mention the fact that UTIs are just insanely uncomfortable.

I left really early for my appointment because it was kind of far away, and I wanted to factor in some extra time in case I got lost. I didn’t get (too) lost, so I got there 45 minutes early. I waited for about fifteen minutes, and then the doctor called me in. She spoke English really well, so I didn’t need to use the index card of medical terminology I had looked up this morning. She wrote me a prescription and gave me directions to a clinic down the street where they did a urine sample. The receptionist at the clinic didn’t speak English, but she was very nice and spoke slowly. Numbers are my weakness in French, so when she asked for my date of birth, I said one thousand nine hundred four twenty ten nine, instead of one thousand nine hundred four twenty nine (1999 instead of 1989), and she gave me this incredulous look and said, “You’re not fifteen! You mean 1989.” I am taking this as official confirmation that I actually look like an adult now. Victory!

After the urine sample, I took my prescription to the pharmacy next door. The prescription was for antibiotics that dissolve in water. I already took the first one, and then there’s only one more dose that I have to take in two days. This is amazing. I wish all antibiotics were like that. No enormous pills to gag on. It tasted kind of like Gatorade. And guess how much the antibiotics cost even without insurance? Ten Euros. The moral of the story is that if you don’t have insurance and need to get an infection, try to be in France. (I do have insurance, and they’ll be reimbursing me for the ten Euros. Even better!)

I ran into two other significant things on my way to the doctor today. I’m enough of a tourist that I felt the need to snap a picture of my first Eiffel tower sighting:

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And even more importantly, I also saw this:

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If you don’t recognize it, you don’t watch enough Cupcake Wars. This is the Fauchon as in, “And Florian Bellanger, owner of Mad Mac Macarons and former executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Fauchon.” I thought about getting some macarons on my way back, but decided to wait until another time when I’m not feeling crappy when I can pay proper homage to my cupcake judging hero.

How to Pack for a Year Abroad

Baggage restrictions make packing for a year abroad a challenge. Luckily, the internet is full of advice for how to do this, and I decided to take a stab at my own approach. So, here are what I consider to be the essentials of an effective packing list.

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1. Yarn in a variety of colors. A few neutrals plus one accent color is standard packing advice for clothing, so I’m just applying this idea to yarn, too.

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2. Knitting needles of various sizes.

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3. Knitting notions, including a cable needle, tape measure (for measuring your knitting), tapestry needles (for weaving in the ends in your finished knitting projects), stitch markers, and a knitting gauge, because there is no way you’re going to remember which size all those knitting needles are.

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4. A book of knitting stitches, for inspiration.

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5. Some finished knitting projects, because it’s cold in France.

6. All the yarn you will need to knit a sweater. You’ve never knit a sweater before, but you bought all the yarn for it a year ago, so might as well bring it with you and put it to use!

7. A knitting book or magazine with the pattern for that sweater you’re going to knit, because you should probably not improvise on your first sweater.

8. A stylish bag for carrying around all of your knitting gear.

After packing all of this, there is obviously not a whole lot of space left in your luggage, but don’t worry. With this method, you won’t need to pack any clothes! Just knit yourself an entirely new wardrobe once you arrive at your destination. Or even on the plane, if you’re lucky enough to be on an airline that allows knitting needles in carry-on luggage. (Sadly, not France. Sniff.)