24 hours in Paris

Paris in the 1920s is not *that* far away from the Paris cafe culture of today…

I realised how much I like my life when in the space of a weekend I went from the elegant streetside cafes of Paris – perched on a spindly chair outside Notre Dame in the pouring rain – to the über kitschy tearooms of Chelsea, where I drank Lapsang Souchong from a wafer-thin china cup and eavesdropped on gossip.

I was over in Paris to re-sit my Chemistry GRE. I flew out on Friday evening, sat the test and touched down in the UK at 9.30pm Saturday night. The reason for such a stupidly short trip was budget alone – Paris was the first foreign city I sampled as a child and still has the aura of refined magic about it. I’d love to spend a full weekend there.

Navigating the City of Lights felt easy – I got from the airport to the hostel, then from the hostel to the GRE test centre, then back to the central area without delay or hassle. I had a wad of Google Maps on my person at all times to prevent any misdirection. The biggest challenge was getting to London Luton airport in the first place: I’d naively under-estimated the challenge of getting out of London at 5pm on a Friday and (more by luck than skill) made it to the check-in desk 5 minutes before it closed.

The test…well, I’m glad I got it out of the way…again. I calmed myself down in the 10 minutes before the exam by thinking about Philadelphia and soldiered on through the questions as carefully as I could. A third attempt at the test would look worse than a low score, so I’m taking comfort in the fact that I won’t ever have to deal with the damn thing again. I find out in 6 weeks what my score is. I’m not stressing about it because the test isn’t worth stress. I believe that my low Chemistry GRE score damaged my applications last year, but there were plenty of other factors that didn’t help me. Factors I’ve also been addressing this time around. I’m happy to deal with my scores when they are unveiled, and plan my strategy appropriately then.

By the time I emerged from the test centre it was afternoon and raining in a dull, persistent way. A romantic stroll around the city was out of the question, yet I didn’t really feel in the mood for a museum. So I sought out a stereotypical Parisian cafe where the waiters are dressed in dinner jackets and bowties. Hiding myself under the awning out of the rain I curled up into my damp clothes, cuddled the chocolat chaud and dreamed – as I always do – of possibilities.



6 thoughts on “24 hours in Paris

  1. This post doesn’t show up on my reader… I saw it on Twitter, maybe something to check out with WordPress?

    I also think of places when I need to calm down, it works really well. I guess it takes us out of our reality for a minute or more and allows us to take some artificial distance. At the moment, I think about a little bach in New Zealand’s mountains. I think about next time I’ll be there and how peaceful it will be and it calms me 🙂

  2. It’s so true! I was reading ‘Hemingway’s Walks in Paris’ when I went there and was amazed at how unchanged it was based on the book’s descriptions of the general atmosphere.

    • My mother (who lived in Paris for several years) had some photographs from Parisian cafes taken in the 1920s & 30s that occupied our kitchen. There was such a strong atmosphere in those images, I think it’s fantastic that this atmosphere hasn’t been completely erased my modernisation and the influx of tourists.

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