Even though many things in this list are very basic and expected, these are the details that made me happier in France.
- Delicious food you don’t need to go on a scavenger hunt for
I would miss little specialty stores, especially those filled with a wide array of strongly smelling cheeses. I have barely bought anything in them during my time in and around Paris. However, the idea of going to a shop whose owner knows all ins and outs of his specialty product excites me a lot. I would also miss the normality of going to street shops/markets to buy fruits and vegetables. I would miss market streets in general. I would miss fresh orange juice you could press right in the supermarket. I would (just like a typical French) miss perfect fresh bread. And, my love – Sunday brunches! I would miss Sunday mornings you start with your family and/or friends having prolonged multi-course meals.
- Almost tangible presence of Africa
Because of the colonial ties France has with Africa or for some other reason, the continent’s development and culture is to some degree on the mind of les françaises. For example, in my Innovation & Entrepreneurship class one project was based on the idea of connecting African entrepreneurs with European investors. Or when I went to learn new dance patterns at Paris Salsa Congress, a third of the workshops I attended were focused on Africa-influenced movement. In HEC there are at least a Moroccan and an Algerian club, which take HEC students to visit these countries once a year. I would miss being reminded of African life, the life outside of the “western bubble”.
- Parks, flowers and water I always stumble upon
Even though Paris is a very urban city, it is at the same time green and filled with nature. The amount of trees, lawns and flowers is almost overwhelming. Every time I make it out into the city, I accidently end up in at least one calm green square. It is normal to turn the corner and stumble upon a park or a boulevard lined up with trees. And even if somehow I manage to walk around all of the green areas, I still see numerous flowerbeds covering balconies that face the streets. (It is my dream now to recreate on of the flowerbeds in my room in the French House back at UVA.) On top of greenery, there is water: Seine and ponds. Seine has a Parisian-like grandiose presence. I like it most when I walk out of a narrow street and find myself on a long bank of the river, feeing free of busy life that surrounded me a minute ago. I also like the river in the evening, when it attracts young people and animated conversations fueled by wine. However, no matter how much I enjoy Seine, I prefer Parisian ponds. If I left Paris right now, I would definitely miss grabbing a chair next to the central pond in Jardin du Luxembourg. I would miss spending two hours simply sitting there under the sun, watching children play with miniature sailboats and listening to music/podcast or talking to a friend. I would miss these slow natural islands.
(To be continued…)