Paris in black and white edition: 2 by Jessica Lee

 I came back from Europe a few months ago, and I have all these pictures of Paris which I don't know what to do with, so I figured I might as well share them with the community.

I spent two weeks in Paris practicing my French, getting ignored by the French, then eventually taking a bus to Brussels.

Actually, the story is a little longer than that. Let me explain.

Paris is magical to me because it gets romanticized in basically every movie we see about this city. Examples: Midnight in Paris, Amelie, Moulin Rouge... Even if the plot isn't very romantic like The Da Vinci Code, the background scenes of Paris are gorgeous. To finally be in a place which is hyped universally by almost everyone in my network/media/influences was wonderful.

When I first arrived and saw the architecture, I was floored and fell in love with the city.

Then, after seeing my wide-open bag, a hostel staff warned me about pick pockets, and my fondness towards Paris died down a little but I was still enamoured with the city.

I love the smaller streets, the smell of fresh pastry wafting through the air, being able to find a specialty cheese shop on almost every corner and of course, all the rich history that seems to swallow you into its world. You simply can't be in a place like Paris and not imagine all the generations that have lived on these same streets.

But of course, a walk through Paris though beautiful, is sometimes lonely when you're only one. Parisians have a reputation of being snobs, which I found out unfortunately is mostly true.

There was an incident when I was trying to ask questions in French at a post office, and when my French vocabulary wasn't strong enough to get my question across, the clerk, who was in her late twenties, just ignored me and went back to reading her book. It wasn't until I was rescued by another customer who spoke both English and French that I got the answer I needed.

If you want to learn about customer service, don't go to Paris.

Anyway, I digress. Please don't let me stop you from going to Paris because of that one incident, in fact, I recommend going just to see what it's all about. I actually met a very funny and nice Parisian man in my third go-around to Paris, so no not everyone is a snob.

One of the reasons I love Paris so much is because it has so much art and culture, not to mention history. Like a difficult novel, you may not like it, but it's good for you, just so you know what it's like, so you can be informed and have an legitimate opinion on it.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned shopping yet.

Well, I'm getting there. Keep in mind, these photos are only representative of the first few days I spent in Paris.

I mostly gravitated towards food on the first couple of days, which by the way, Parisian grocery stores have the best selection of brie. It's less than two euros for a whole block of cheese! In Canadian dollars, that's around $3. In Canada, good cheese starts from around $6, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered cheap good cheese in the grocery stores.

Dining out was slightly more expensive than back home, but I still went out a couple of times just to see what it was like. Disclaimer: I also gained a couple of pounds specifically from Paris, I think. I am blaming the croissants, but they are the most delicious thing in the world when they are still hot from the oven so I have no regrets.

I will be posting more photos from Paris as I edit them in the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy them!

Paris: la vie en rose by Jessica Lee

I have so many photos to share from Paris. There's no way I could share them all in one post, so I'll go slow. Maybe a couple for each day.

When I flew into Paris, it was night. I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport and took the RER (train) to Gare du Nord (major train station).

I remember walking to my hostel, which was expensive for a hostel ($30/night), but also really fancy. I got lost somewhere along the way, but it brought me to so many beautiful scenes. I realize I spend a lot of my time lost when I travel. It's frustrating most of the time, but there are some moments when I discover something really cool that's off the beaten path.

I've pretty much accepted that I am not good with directions in a new city unless the city is like New York, where the streets are all numbered and the city is laid out like a grid.

In Europe, many times, streets are laid out like Pentagons (Paris, Barcelona), and it's slightly difficult for someone used to grids (like North Americans) to navigate. Anyway, I digress.

One of the main things I love about Paris is that everywhere you go, it's picturesque. You don't even have to be at the touristy areas such as Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or Champ de Mars, to get a good photo. Everything is just designed elegantly. The whole city is photography-friendly with cobblestone streets, old majestic buildings and beautifully-dressed locals. And when you enter the cafes, the pastries are aesthetic as well.

My first day in Paris, I had to tell myself to calm down with all the photos I was taking. You know when you get too excited about something and sometimes stop breathing? That was me. But I love that feeling of excitement. It's one of the reasons I love travel so much. I love seeing new things and feeling that sense of wonder and joy. It's a feeling of realizing how lucky you are to be standing where you are, and wanting to share that joy with the whole world. I don't think you can ever get that kind of feeling sitting in a cubicle. This is why I travel.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan by Jessica Lee

When I was in the fourth grade, we learned about Canadian geography. We were given maps of Canada we had to colour and label with the different provinces.

I learned how to spell the names of all Canada's provinces through spelling tests. Never in a million years though did I think I would be actually living in the Prairies.

I arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a couple of days ago and will be here for the next couple of weeks. I'm one of the participants of the nation's Explore Program, a five-week French immersion program partially funded by the Canadian government.

I have no clue what I am doing here. In the Prairies. Last I remembered, my first and second choices for where I wanted to go were Quebec City and Montreal, the French-speaking capital and party-city of Canada. But of course, life doesn't always go the way you want it to and one must learn to adapt. And so that's what I am doing. Adapting.

We began the program only a few days ago and everyone signed a contract where we promised to only speak in French during the time we are here and let me tell you, life has been tres difficile! (very difficult)

Last semester in University, I took a beginner's French course so I can sort of follow along, but it's frustrating as a writer with a huge vocabulary (in English) and generally very opinionated person to be reduced down to simple sentences and occasional silences. It takes much more effort to make small talk and to keep up with the conversation.

I am not sure where this adventure is going, but I will keep you updated as I go along.

French aspirations by Jessica Lee

I met a French guy who said I could address him as "tu" instead of "vous"!

I am thrilled. I have been practicing my French for the last couple of weeks and am super excited to have someone to parle Francais with so I can go to France faster and order things off of menus.

Je besoin un pain au chocolat si vous plait!