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Strangers world

street-lights-abstract-city-colours-cool-evening-lights-night-photography-street-1050x3360After reviewing my previous post The place we call home, I felt somewhat unsettled and anxious. It read as if I was trying to convince myself that Paris was indeed my hometown. It reminded me of that weird feeling I had last time I was there: as I was getting off the metro ram it was as if I had never felt more disconnected in my life. It was strange as I can’t think of a more familiar location for Paris. And now I am left thinking, shouldn’t where my home is be nothing but obvious?I am not even sure how to define home anymore.  Is it simply the place where we are born and raised that classifies as such?

I have lived in Paris for a total of ten months over the past eight years. I caught the traveling bug at the age of twenty and it took me eight years to get it out of my system (at least sufficiently for me to stay in one spot for more than a year). I do go back there sometimes, to visit friends and family. Nowhere near as much as I wish to though. But when I do, I am inevitably left with a certain feeling: that I am now a stranger everywhere I go.

This is the dark side of leaving, the one that no one wants to talk about: travelling for too long shapes you, in most cases into a positive and tolerant person, but it changes you nonetheless. You gradually become open-minded and sensitive to others. After a while, you no longer feel French, English or American let’s say, but like a Citizen of the World. Your looks change, your accent fades, your cultural background blends in with others so to become your own and uniquely odd identity. You stop referring to your country as much or comparing and rating everything to how it is done back home. You rarely get homesick and when you do, it is a sort of distant nostalgic memory that surface, one that you have difficulty connecting with. Social media stalking starts to become part of your routine, the only way to keep in touch with closed ones you tell yourself . It might well be so but what it certainly stirs are feelings of loneliness, isolating you even a little further. Looking at their pages, you are reminded of all the things you are missing on. Even a friend’s picture of a simple after work drink can affect you deeply. And finally you live on your life to make new connections here only to realize that they will never truly get you, understand you as people did over there.

If it sounds bad, that’s because it is. Thankfully, the wonders of travelling make up for this downside. I am sharing my thoughts here for us to never forget where our roots lie and to try as much as we can to water and nurture them. It is very easy to forget where we are from so let’s not. And for the issue of home, I’m just hoping that I haven’t found it yet. Will keep on looking anyway.

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My enchanting commute through Loire Valley

In August 2015 my boyfriend and I moved to Nantes after having lived for three years in the Hague. Neither one of us could understand a word of what people said (actually, it was just me), so coming back to France felt quite refreshing. I can hear you think,  3 years and she didn’t learn any Dutch? Well it wasn’t a lack of trying, I actually followed an optional class at university when I arrived. But even with academic support, I found that language extremely difficult to grasp. I remember my first attempt to speak it: I was out with my friends and ordered a beer in dutch. Two minutes later the waitress came back with a green tea. That’s how bad my pronunciation was. After that it felt more efficient to just stick with English.

It’s been 6 month now, time flies so quickly… I’m finalising an internship in Angers, but as I live in Nantes, I have an hour commute to get there. And this is where I am writing you from, the 8:47 train, heading towards Saumur.  I just wanted to share some of the pictures I took of the Loire Valley countryside, which definitely makes the commute more bearable.

Living in a city, as I always have, tends to really disconnect you with the essential, our inherent roots that we all share. I can tell you that the Parisian metro scene during peak hour is no picnic.

I don’t know about you but when I start stressing out, thinking of simple things such as laying down on the grass is incredibly soothing (better to actually do it I agree, but grass is becoming a rare find in the urban jungle). And this is what this commute does to me: I stare as far as my eyes can see into the green valleys and hills, mixing in the blue horizon. I watch quietly how the sun  gently shines on this peaceful setting.

I hope these few shots reflect on the simple beauty and essence that this region offers. What about you, is there a favourite place to let your mind wander?

On the verge of adulthood

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“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them”. Dr. Seuss

As some of you may already know, I’m 29 years old. I think it is safe to say that what most people expect from me at this age is a reliable and responsible attitude, one of an adult that is. Hence, my age must clearly define me as a grown up, I mean obviously I cannot still be a teen in my late twenties. So how come I’m miles away from feeling like one? As a kid, I use to think that the day I’ll turn 18 (legal drinking age in France), would be the day I’ll be forced into adulthood. Couldn’t have been more wrong… The only thing that happened on that day was waking up with one of the biggest hangover of my life, as if someone was smashing my head with a shovel. I thought perhaps it isn’t our age that defines our maturity, but rather our actions. At the top of my head I’m thinking of the usual drill: driving, paying bills, working, moving out, falling in love, etc.… Well I certainly do all those things (except for driving, you don’t really need to in Paris), but doing them doesn’t make me feel any wiser.

In my mind, there is this chalky line drawn on the floor, one that separates me from a world of commitment and duties, the one line that all of us most eventually cross (except for Peter Pan, lucky bastard flew right over it). I don’t believe I’m an isolated case here: I see a whole generation resting in the comfort of youth and dreading to cross that freaking line once and for all. Society dictates all of it: poor job prospects call for longer study period while forever relying on our (amazing) parents for financial support. But the key societal trend holding us back isn’t economic but rather social. People marry late. That’s a fact. In the US alone, we are looking at a 4-year gap for first marriage between 1980 and 2010. And with late marriage comes late childbearing. I don’t know about you but the world I’m living in is one that favors independence, freedom  and youth over family, routine and obligations. Of course I’m contemplating the idea of finally starting my life with my boyfriend. That said, in my head, it is a one way street, where turning back isn’t optional. Especially with kids. The reality is that I still want a life full of excitement, long journeys and discoveries (see picture, *sigh*), but this sort of life seems incompatible with marital obligations.

I realize this means I’m not ready to settle down, but what I am here worried about is if I will ever be…? Now tell me, where do you stand on this line?

M

The place we call home

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

5199-Le-21eme-Adam-Katz-Sinding-Jean-Charles-de-Castelbajac-Paris-Fashion-Week-Spring-Summer-2014_AKS9331It should be noted that only Parisians are allowed to complain about Paris. No one else. Not even French people. Actually, especially French people. For those who travelled to France or lived there, you probably noticed that Paris and the rest of the country haven’t got much in common. We don’t look, speak or even think the same way. That said people’s attitude is probably what varies the most. Yes I know, Paris is far from perfect, believe me I experienced the finest as well as the unsettling and plain weird. But you’d have to live there for many years just to get a realistic overview of its qualities and flaws and to earn the right to bitch about it. The latter should nonetheless be done in an objective and respectful manner. I say respectfully because no matter what my feelings are at the time, I’ll always be in love with this city. Paris to me is just like with every great love, it’s complicated.

My hairdresser the other day told me that he wasn’t a fan, never really was. That he didn’t like the crowd there, the vibe, the pace, and so on. He stayed in Paris for a week. How anyone can pass an informed judgment on this city in 7 days baffles me. He sounded like an expert on the subject, as he did everything that was worthy of doing, such as… wait for it… climbing the Eiffel Tour! For the record, Parisian do not go up there, and neither do we stroll down the Champs Elysees. There is nothing Parisian about these spots, trust me. You’ll just end up getting ripped off.

It’s upsetting really to see people so quick to disregard a place with such incredible history, culture and character. They go in with so many preconceived ideas and planing down to the last detail that they leave no room for magic and astonishment. Paris just become one giant tourist attraction, where each recommended spot has to be ticked off. And that’s it. To denigrate Paris is something that I take very personally. It’s a bit like talking shit about my boyfriend. And this particular relationship is something of a one-way street: you have little impact over it, but it definitely fashions you, whether or not you want it too.

I worked part time in a French restaurant and a customer told my supervisor that I sometimes appeared cold, distant, even a little blue. When he heard that I was from Paris he totally got it. And with that comes the widely accepted stereotype that all Parisians are snooty and pretentious. Now this is a terrible reputation that we have here, and some of it is true I have to confess. That said, we are mostly reserve: I find people who display extreme enthusiasm over things plain fake. And by fake I mean dishonest. Believe me, there are things that do send me over the moon, but serving you an onion soup isn’t one of them. But beyond this, it really is just part of our culture. It’s just the way we are and feel comfortable being. It isn’t against anyone, so don’t take it personally.

I miss this city… most of the time. Even when I go back, I still discover new places, streets, shops and restaurants. I still get lost, sometimes intentionally. A little tip if you ever go there: lose the map and start walking. It’s the best way to enjoy this city, trust me. And remember that in Paris you’re never truly lost; just stumble on a metro stop and you’ll be sorted.

M

Hi there!

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Hello everyone, I’m Mathilde, 29 years old, french and living in Nantes.

The idea behind ‘a french girl in France’ is to offer a french perspective on what this country is really about. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of blogs out there on the beautiful country that is France, but most english written ones are by foreigners. This time you’ll be able to discover it through the lenses of a native, born and raised in Paris, now living in Nantes. From food to culture, art to literature and travels to experiences,  this lifestyle blog will make you feel as if you’re right there with me.

So that’s me and I am thrilled to be soon sharing with you the ups and downs of ‘a french girl in France’.

Stay tuned.

M