Sunday, 20 February 2011

English pubs in Paris

As an extremely light drinker you wouldn't expect me to be hanging around in pubs; certainly not two within 3 days. It's where people congregate so that's sometimes where I need to be. For me, it's a lengthy and expensive exercise visiting Paris but this week I've done it three times in order to meet people and maybe establish friendships and contacts.

On Monday, as you know, I met Rachid on Valentine's Day to discuss couchsurfing, guiding and matters philosophical. That was at an English pub called The Lions. It is situated at 120 Rue Montmartre 75002. Being an English pub it is also a sports bar. There were little flags of all nations decorating the interior but none of them were of New Zealand. I found this a bit disappointing since NZ is part of the British Commonwealth. Even Australia was represented, Turkey, Japan but the opportunity to query the barman concerning the omission eluded me.

On Thursday I made my way back to the second arrondissement, past the Thistle scottish pub, to the Frog & Rosbif english pub at 116 rue St Denis. I had agreed to assist with a group wishing to improve their english speaking skills. We were rather a cosmopolitan group: Danielle from Cameroon, Nigel from Wales, Jason from the USA, Erkin from Turkey, Mamed from Mauritius. We all ensured each person got a chance to contribute to the conversation. It appears the group wants to meet weekly but this may prove too expensive for me. It costs 20 euros each time I come in my train and metro changes. I was interested, listening to each person's stories and questions but I think I prefer being more actively involved in someone's language learning. it doesn't use any of my training and I suspect I only add a little bit of multicultural colour. Most of the group seem to have a religious leaning at the same church which doesn't interest me at all. We'll see. I probably need to be focussed on looking out for myself, employment-wise, than helping others but social contact is important too.

Saturday dawned somewhat wet. That was disappointing as I had scheduled to go to Paris again, this time to meet Jean-Pierre. Oh well, I strapped on my camera bag, grabbed my brolly and headed off to the train station. This time I was visiting the 11th arrondissement, Place de la Bastille, a cafe called Indiana. By the time I arrived the rain was very heavy and my brolly was barely coping. It was clear I would not be doing much sight-seeing.

I located Jean-Pierre and we sat down to a hot drink and introductions. He lived many years in Manhattan in the US and so speaks English quite well. He is a consultant for sales and marketing in the women's ready-to-wear fashion market and has had an interesting life. Like me he has been a teacher and has a daughter as an only child. His daughter is four years older than my Laura. Jean-Pierre is very forthcoming and is happy to speak at length about his experiences. Perhaps he can keep an eye open for any opportunities for me to obtain a longer work contract. I don't know, but I'd certainly appreciate any efforts he can make on my behalf.

After a while the cafe became uncomfortable (check out the rain-drenched table in the photo)so we set out under my tiny umbrella, treading carefully between the puddles, along some of the oldest streets in Paris. I've been to the Marais before. I enjoy this part of Paris. As we passed Place Leon Blum by Boulevard Voltaire the decision was made to abandon the walk and have a hot drink at his apartment nearby. This gave me a chance to blow dry my sodden hair and dissipate some of the chill.

It's always a bit of a culture shock when I visit french apartments. They are so small and usually lacking in amenities NZers would take for granted. I look at the very modest existence I had in NZ. It seems wealthy compared to french apartment existence for the average person and my own studio situation. Unless you can afford a detached house and garden in France you just cannot have the space and amentities most people can have in NZ. The percentage of income spent on housing is frightening. A state house in Otara is more palatial than living in an urban environment in Europe. Jean-Pierre is fortunate he can look out onto some trees and grass from his windows and I can too from my wee studio. After more conversation I needed to head back home as trains to Cafeolait become rather sparse from early evening. Again, I arrived back at Paris Montparnasse to discover there was no train to Chartres leaving until 10.30pm. It was almost 9.30 so I took a train to Cafeolait. It's not direct and takes an hour to visit all the stations along the way, and then there's the walk home. Normally I choose a seat that can afford me a fleeting glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, just before passing through Meudon but I couldn't see the Eiffel Tower because of rain and fog. This interminable winter.

As I sat in the train I had time, again, for reflection. I considered myself and I considered where I want to live. I'm more and more certain that living in Cafeolait must come to an end if I am to have a half-way interesting life here. Paris is where I am comfortable. It's a very large city but I feel safer there than in Auckland. There are a few spots in Paris I wouldn't hang out in but generally I'm completely at ease there, even when I get lost (often). I'm becoming more skilled at planning my transport itineraries.

As the weather improves Paris is the only place that seems to have any 'life' to it, for me. I'm single. I don't have friends and family, I am not retired therefore Cafeolait has shown me all it can offer and it's much too quiet, too limited. I must find a way to live in Paris- horrendously expensive as it is. I'm a city girl who appreciates the beauty, space and tranquility of the countryside but I need the facilities and energy that a large city can offer- opportunities, adventures, chance meetings, entertainment, creating a social network.

And then there's me and who I am. I'm content with myself. I like the motivations and dreams and efforts, daily experiences and hopes that define me. I have so much to offer, there's a 'potential' aching to get out with the right opportunity. Walking the quiet streets of Cafeolait last night I felt open, enlarged. I cannot squeeze myself back into the box I used to live in in New Zealand. There's no going back, I don't fit the space I used to occupy.

There are many moments when I am afraid, afraid of my choice to sacrifice all for the hope of realising my dream. Such a dreadful risk. If I can't stay in France it will be an emotional and financial disaster. I can't even afford to go home and live in my old house. So instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance I'm asking for something extraordinary to happen. I'm ready, I'll work for it, my heart is open and my soul needs it to grow. And I'm ready for that extraordinary person I need to meet and love who'll be worthy of everything I can give.

Photos of the pubs, a wet cafe, the Paris metro


Defogger said...

Wonderful to read of your weekend, and I love how you finished, focused on your expanding desires and restrictive fears, and decision to go hell for leather to enable opportunities to present themselves.

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