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Becoming Parisienne

Me with pear tart and red nails, lips, and scarf

I don’t technically want to become Parisienne. In fact the longer I’m here the more obstinately patriotic I become (Ed if you are reading this, I hope you are beaming with pride). Paris has definitely changed me though. I have learned about indulgence, about savoring the moment, and about joie de vivre.

I’ve decided to make the most of my last few months here by revelling in this beautiful, buttery, boozy city. So here is my five point (P-A-R-I-S) plan:

eat Pears

 

 

 

 

 

Pear and almond tart from Yannchantrelle, Paris

 

Pears are such a fancy wintertime treat. I feel like an aristocrat from a pre-refrigeration era when I eat them. That portly yet elegant shape, that juicy and subtle sweetness. I’ve been trying to incorporate more pear in my life in various ways. The other night the Swede poached pears and then served them with a calvados reduction and vanilla ice cream. In fact my usual go-to pastry the croissant aux amandes has been temporarily replaced by the tarte aux poires. I say temporarily because I plan on eating so many pears in the coming weeks that I get sick of them and won’t be able to look at even a pear-shaped woman without throwing up a little. I’m so going to abuse pears.

I also intend to get my hands on some Poire Prisonnière, or prisoner pear. Could that name get any better? These poor captive pears are selected early on in life and carefully sealed in bottles or decanters while still on the tree. They continue to grow and develop in their little glass cages until they reach maturity at which point they are plucked with decanter and all, drowned in pear brandy, and placed on shelves in high-end liquor shops. When you see them there is definitely that “how the hell did they get that huge model ship in that tiny bottle” sense of wonderment. How marvelous!!!

Poire Prisonnière by Manguin

drink Apértifs

I don’t know why I never got into this before. Whenever a waiter would greet my table and ask if I wanted an apértif I would decline without thinking. Perhaps it was too indulgent. Who needs a cocktail before downing a bottle of wine anyway? The longer I am here though the more indulgent I’ve become and suddenly a pre-dinner drink sounds totally delectable and damn near essential. A longtime fan of bubbly, my new drink of choice is the Kir Royal, a mix of champagne and crème de cassis.

Cassis, or black currant, itself is becoming a fast favorite, especially in the form of cassis macarons, so rich in color and flavor.

wear more Red

Essie in A-list

The stereotype is true. Parisians LOVE wearing black. In the winter that is the only color you see on the streets. Maybe Johnny Cash could pull it off, but I can’t stand dressing like I’m going to a funeral everyday. Then again, I don’t want to look like an overzealous, colorful tourist all the time either. So I’ve decided that the winter of 2011 is going to be a red lips, red nails winter. I’ve always had a penchant for red lips. It’s the only color that actually looks good with pale hair AND pale skin. As for the red nail polish, I used to associate red nails with hookers. But on shorter nails and in a slightly deeper hue, the image becomes more refined. To achieve this new flushed look, I use Fresh’s lip gloss in flirt and Essie nail polish in a-list.

Initiate conversation, in french

I may never be fluent in French.

It’s a sad realization I came to during a job interview last week when I was told by my interviewer (an American no less) that my french was “barely passable”. I was aghast. I’ve been studying this bloody language my whole bloody life! And therein lies the rub…

A friend of mine’s father is a very learned man. He speaks a handful of languages well, but he doesn’t speak French. Why? Because he learned it in high school. All the others he learned in the field out of a necessity to communicate in order to survive. Maybe I’ve just studied too much French. I’ve slaved over it and dissected it like a dead language but I haven’t LIVED French. Despite living in Paris, I haven’t lived in French. The odd jobs I’ve done since being here have hinged on my ability to speak English. The friends I’ve made are for the most part expats and the universal medium of communication is, not surprisingly, English. What’s more I live with a Swede. So much for my own FrenchSleeping Dictionary (I am referring to that bawdy Jessica Alba film where she plays a Sarawakian native solicited to teach a handsome English colonist the local language via a “show and tell” of her lady bits).

I may not have a French bedfellow, but there are plenty of unsuspecting Parisians who can serve as my linguistic guinea pigs. It just takes some guile and courage. That’s where the apertifs come in.

wear silk Scarves

Women going wild for Hermès scarves at the Soldes

Last week, in honor of the Paris-wide soldes (bi-annual government regulated sales in late January and June) Hermès put on a sale of a selection of its merchandise. MyLittleParis, bless them, sent out an email stating the time and place. At the site, there was a line for the mandatory coat check which took a good fifteen minutes but was totally worth it, if for nothing else than to see a bunch of white middle aged women vying for a front row position at the coveted rainbow silk counter.

While most people were filling clear plastic bags with enough scarves and ties to stitch together a circus tent, I settled for one of each: a sophisticated gray tie for the Swede and a red astrological scarf for me, to commemorate the recent earth shattering shift in my horoscope.

So that’s my plan for the next few months. Eat more pear, drink more apertifs, wear more red, initiate more french, and wear more scarves. With a little effort it shouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate all these elements into my everyday life. Then I can go back to drinking beer and speaking Amurrrican with the knowledge that I gave the whole Parisienne thing my best shot.

Practical Info:

For up to date info on private sales, deals, and steals around Paris: MyLittleParis.com

For more information of Poire Prisonnière liquor by Manguin: Manguin.com

For delicious pear and almond tarts: Yannchantrelle, Paris (16 Rue Oberkampf in the 11th tel. 01.43.55.96.49)

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hah! Sophie, you’re awesome. I miss you sometimes.

    Glad you’re enjoying Paris.

    February 3, 2011
    • Sophie #

      What a welcome blast from the past! Hope you’re well Morgan!

      February 4, 2011
  2. The section on living in French rather than just studying it really struck a chord with me. I’m sort of in the same boat. Even though my wife’s French, we’ve always spoken 90% English in our relationship and no matter how hard we try we eventually slip back into it. Plus working mostly as an English tutor has kept me in a bit of a bubble, and I can go days without speaking much French at all…such a shame! It’s something I need to work on.

    Best of luck with your quest to take advantage of all the good stuff Paris livin’ has to offer!

    January 18, 2012
    • Sophie #

      It is really difficult to thoroughly immerse yourself in French when you speak English at home. My boyfriend is Swedish so we communicate in English mostly…sometimes Swedish, which clearly does nothing for my French skills. I have since left Paris and I regret that I didn’t speak more French when I was living over there. Seize the day my friend! You are so fortunate to live with a native French speaker! Though I understand that it is awkward to change your primary language of communication once you’ve already laid the groundwork in one language. For instance, with my Croatian friend that I met at the Sorbonne, we still only speak French together, even though she happens to speak perfect English as well. We met in French and it would be weird to switch over to English at this point. I think at home you just have to designate certain hours when you only speak French. I’m trying to do that in Swedish but in 10 minute chunks until my skills improve.

      January 23, 2012

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