By Lucy Friedmann
I first came to Paris in third grade; and I don’t remember much. I was going through a watercolor phase. My dad and I would spend hours in the Jarden du Luxembourg painting with our pocket-sized watercolor sets. The rest is a blur. My mother swears that my favorite museum was the Musée Picasso; and that I bought a pair of green ballet flats that were “not a great purchase” because of the discomfort they brought to my feet.
Being back in Paris now, as an almost full-fledged adult, I realize that that visit does not count. I can’t say that I’ve been here before. I was eight years old; bright eyed, curious, open to adventure, yes, but no where near mature enough to fully enjoy this unique piece of Europe. Spending the summer here has proven to me that this city cannot be seen under adult supervision, under the legal drinking age. Freedom makes Paris come alive, open its doors, show its true colors. I can honestly say that I have fallen in love this summer, not with a man, but with a city.
To wander. That verb undoubtedly belongs to Paris. The best days spent here are those with no set plans, no places to go, just a city and two feet to walk it. It is by far my favorite activity, followed closely by eating, of course. Before coming here, I wrote a long article describing the neighborhoods to visit, the shopping to seek out, the streets to walk down. I hate to admit it but I have followed none of my own advice. Yes, my wandering has taken me into the Haut Marais and one of my first shopping adventures involved a friend and Le Bon Marché. But I have determinedly walked indeterminately. Days outside of class have been left to spur-of-the-moment museum visits and getting lost. And I can honestly say that it is the only way to get to know Paris.
I will follow-up, however, my discussion of Parisian fashion; and boy, did I underestimate the level of dressiness in this city. While I intended to always look nice, in an attempt to “go native,” some of my fellow classmates were not so prepared. Parisians look put together all the time! About halfway through my program, the majority of my class, including myself, fell ill with colds and viruses; you name it, we had it. One afternoon, my roommate and I, lying in bed, too sick to leave the dorms, got hungry. Not wanting to sit through a formal lunch, we decided to run to La Grande Épicerie, Le Bon Marché’s to-die-for supermarket, conveniently located right across the street from our dorms. But then we realized: we were in sweatpants. You can’t wear sweatpants in public in Paris. Granted, our leisure wear was head-to-toe Lululemon, considered in the United States to look very put together. Not in Paris. We threw on sundresses, she rebrushed her hair, I put on a little foundation. In that moment, we were so frustrated that we had to put in effort just to grab some groceries. We yearned for the ease of dressing in the United States.
This experience got me thinking. The expectation in Paris to look your best at all times is amazing. Although it is hard to appreciate as a sick individual, such a trend shows that people care about how they appear to the world, about putting their best selves forward. In a way, their outer appearances reflect their inner motivations. It’s so beautiful and makes for the best street fashion!
Speaking of street fashion, I’ve gotten into the habit of sneaking some pictures of ultra chic women that I see while sitting at a café or walking down the street. See below for a few!
By the end of my program, I will have spent five weeks here in Paris. Although I miss some American creature comforts, leaving this city will be heart-wrenching. I have loved every moment here, from eating true French fare at the little restaurant around the corner to spending hours upon hours in the Latin Quarter, always ending up at Shakespeare and Company. And how can you beat the style! The pulse of fashion permeates the air, the streets, everyday life. Sometimes I wish Americans dressed as chicly as these Parisians! But while I will still look to them for fashion inspiration when back in New Haven, I probably won’t be able to fully adhere to their fashion code. Come midterms and finals period, I will be seen in the library in Lululemon garb. And I’m okay with that fact.