I Moved to Paris and Everything is Different. // Year Abroad Diaries #001

As they say at gigs, here we, here we, here we fucking go.

Your favourite unavailable and chaotic blogger is back. Nobody asked, I highly doubt anyone wanted, but when has that ever stopped me? As is concurrent with my life I’ve run out of other things to do and so I’ve come back to writing as a form of entertainment. I wish I could say it’s going to last this time, but we all know the reality is far from that. I’m opting for a much less “professional” “lifestyle blog” approach this time though, which should make it more sustainable. I love writing, I don’t do it enough, and I have far too many opinions to express, so here we are. 

Since I last wrote in February, a lot has changed. The big thing being that I now live in Paris, France; aka I’ve added another country and another house to the chaotic mess of half-nested places I inhabit in the North of England. That’s right, I have finally made it to my third year of university, and thus the ever-looming and slightly terrifying year abroad. And because I’ve moved to a completely new place, and because I’m interning rather than studying, I have absolutely zero friends to hang out with, so instead of telling them my thoughts I’ve ended up putting them here.

I’ve only lived in France for about 3 weeks, but already I don’t think I’d be able to sum up all the strange differences and bizarre learning experiences. Instead of being greeted by a napping housemate on the sofa with whatever shitty daytime TV is on at the time in the background when I get home, I’m now greeted by a 3 year old, whose incessant babbling I rarely understand. Instead of waking up 10 minutes before a lecture and arriving in a caffeine-infused haze, I wake up over an hour before work to catch rammed commuter trains across central Paris, and grumble when they’re inevitably delayed every other day. Instead of being able to get a pint for less than 2 quid in the SU every day of the week I treat myself to one €7.50 beer a month, because who the fuck can afford to get drunk in this hellscape of a capital? I only moved one country across but literally everything feels different. 

I am, largely, enjoying myself though. I’ve gone into it with an open mind when it comes to all of this chaos, and I’m treating it as a kind of sabbatical year, even though here in France I’m working a 9-5 internship everyday. However, that “grind” doesn’t feel like as much as it sounds. I spend most of it in an office, doing fairly simple tasks and learning something new everyday. It’s mentally demanding sometimes, sure, and I feel awkward from time to time interacting with my colleagues in my second language, but at least so far I’m finding it really refreshing. When I left England I left my third summer in my current job, and I think what must be my fifth or sixth year working in customer service. I was so exhausted and jaded by dealing with the general public day in day out, being on my feet for 8 hours a day and never having a routine. I grew too accustomed to that life, and it didn’t me anything in terms of personal or professional development anymore. Paris is.

Literally every day I have to deal with some form of bullshit that is forcing me to develop as an individual, and whilst at times it feels frustrating, it’s ultimately extremely rewarding. I haven’t really had to do anything that pushed me too far out of my comfort zone since going to university, beyond what I’ve done in student politics. In comparison, even the most basic of things are a learning curve here. I’ve had to battle with 4 different banks, figure out how to buy and cook a meal that isn’t canned beans and bread (vegetarians in France have been done dirty), navigate my way around the biggest place I’ve ever lived by far and adapt to everything closing at 13h on a Sunday. Oh and all that’s happening in a second language that it turns out I distinctly lack confidence in. So, basically, I feel like superwoman when I do a basic human task without fucking up somehow. It’s like being a really stupid baby again, only your parents aren’t around to conjure up your rent in cash when your bank won’t let you make any more withdrawals. 

In some ways it really should be getting easier from here. I’ve done all of the base set-up tasks and I’m starting to figure out what my routine is. I’m even getting back into running after my injury, and that in turn is helping me get to know my neighbourhood. However, I still don’t have any friends, which for now is fine because my girlfriend is here and I’m still enjoying the newness of it all, but when she and all my other pals go back to Durham in October I’m going to have to find someone to talk to, or risk living vicariously through Instagram and Snapchat until I can visit. So, that’s the task for this week: find friends that aren’t the 3 year old I now live with.

Hopefully by the next time I write I’ll be able to tell of all the new friendships I have blossoming. What’s more likely is that I embarrass myself in front of the first person I attempt to befriend and decide that maybe hanging out with 3 year olds isn’t so bad after all.

 

-Megan, listening to the new Taylor Swift album (you could say I’ve changed for the better yes)

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Milano, Italy; The Ultimate Travel Guide

Hello lovely people,

Milano is considered the fashion capital of Europe to many, but I think it’s Italy’s best kept secret when it comes to backpacking. Situated in the Northern Lombardy region it is a vibrant and thriving city, with everything from urban neighbourhoods to Italy’s largest church. Whether it’s relaxing with an aperativo or taking a ride to the nearby Lake Como, Milano has something for everyone.

Quick Facts
Currency: Euro
Language: Italian (very few people speak English, which is great to see!)
Airports: 3 – Bergamo, Linate & Malpensa
Public Transport: Metro, buses & tram (€4.50/day)
Safety: 4/5, I travelled here alone and never felt at risk, except a few catcalls

Visit Duomo Cathedral
Duomo is far from underrated. The building is quite the feat to behold, with some beautiful white architecture. You can enter the cathedral and attached museum for €3.50, but I chose not to because whenever I looked the queues were always pretty long. I still loved sitting in the square and just taking in the architecture instead (because we all know I love a nice building).

Walk around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Now, you can probably tell by the way I dress myself that I know virtually nothing about fashion, so it might seem unusual for me to reccomend the main high fashion shopping mall. However, to bang on about architecture again, it’s a stunning building. I adored the glass roof and intricate wall design, so just walking around was definitely worthwhile. I’d also reccomend going to the nearby streets for cheaper shopping, you’ll find the awesome European brands Bershka, Pimkie and Pull & Bear.

Explore Santa Maria Delle Grazie
I love me a good church, always necessary to pray the gay away (too spicy?). This one is much smaller than Duomo (obviously), so I was able to visit the quieter interior and grounds easily. Inside there were lots of different Catholic shrines and art, which I actually found really interesting.

 

Eat & walk in Semipone Park
This is a fantastic place to eat a picnic lunch and watch as people cycle through the park (why do Europeans cycle so much?). After eating my lunch I wandered a little and it was really lovely to be back in a green space after the bustle of Duomo.

Discover Isola’s street art & the Bosque Verticale
Isola was one of my favourite districts. It’s a working class area with a huge community feel that has progressively been gentrified with the introduction of industry. The Bosque Verticale is a pair of residential towers that appear to have trees growing out of them, and it’s so cool to see nature in the middle of an area dominated by skyscrapers. However, the real gem of Isola is the street art. There’s some truly stunning pieces that are best discovered by wandering, but if you’re short on time head to Porta Garibaldi station and see the way artists have made it their own.

Eat gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale
Could you really go to Italy and not try out the ice-cream? Located in the heart of the Isola district, this gelateria is family-run and classically Italian. There’s lots of choice and the gelato is so tasty!

 

Visit Lake Como
Como is around an hour away by train, and definitely worth a day out. I want to write a full post on this truly stunning location, but for now I’ll just say DO IT.

Drink aperativo (tbh I’d go just for this)
The Italians have got this one right. At around 6pm bars and pubs begin to fill with people going for a post-work cocktail, but there’s an amazing catch. Buying a drink means that you’re entitled to a pre-dinner buffet! I don’t understand how this only happens in Northern Italy, because it’s fabulous. I paid anywhere from €2.50 – €6 for my aperativo depending on what drink I ordered and where I was. You cannot miss this one.

 

Head to the Navigli district to see the canals
Fair warning, this area has become a little overrun with tourist traps, but the canals were so worth it. I visited at sunset and loved seeing the sunlight reflect on the river, truly stunning. There are also a lot of small artists’ studios alongside the river to watch out for. This is considered a “good” location for aperativo, but I found that the prices were ridiculously inflated in comparison to less touristy areas, so I’d say it’s one to avoid when you’re drinking.

Learn something new at the Museo Nazionale de Ciencia e Tecnologia
This was a really interesting museum, and absolutely huge. I specifically loved their exhibits on nutrition, the history of CERN and television. As a pansy humanities student science is usually quite foreign to me, but this place was very accessible for those of us who aren’t scientifically minded. Furthermore it was housed in a great building, and I loved the way the exhibits were laid out. Definitely one to remember your student card for, as the entrance fee goes from €10 to €7.50 when you present one.

 

So it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved my trip to Milano. It was the perfect balance of relaxing and adventure before university begins again, and I would really reccomend it. Aperativo has absolutely ruined me though, when is the UK going to wake up to that one?

Have you ever visited Milano or Italy? Where should I go next?

-Megan, listening to Radio X and writing with my housemate BECAUSE I HAVE HOUSEMATES NOW AND IT’S EXCITING