Saturday, January 8, 2011

When it snows in Paris

Ohmygosh, it is snowing. People on the street stop in their tracks in their amazement. Look down at their ballerinas and loafers in despair, only now realizing that this might not be the most adequate shoe wear in wintertime. Hang their car keys on the hook and vow not to take them up until it thaws. Cancel their vélib-subscription. And take out their warmest Canadian-Goose-jacket, with furry hood. Just in case.

Paris is definitely not prepared for snow of any kind. It is already flabbergasted when several snowflakes come soaring down from the sky, thanking the weather gods if it melts on the ground. When there are snowy gusts or even snowstorms that wrap the city overnight in a white cloak, everybody freezes in their activity and waits for the inevitable to happen. However, when even the public transport workers freeze in their activity and wait, the inevitable will roll around even more quickly and ferociously. The inevitable looks a bit like this (with a true snowball effect):

- The city doesn’t have enough snowploughs or salt or other equipment to clear the streets, so most people either slide around on their way to work or take the metro. (This winter, the city used 1/3 of their supply of salt in one weekend. Go figure.)

- Since they can’t use their car, everybody tries to use the metro.

- The metro lines, not used to so much traffic, breaks down.

- People who don’t know about this continue to try to get on, leading to a huge “pedestrian jam” in the main switching point Chatelet.

- Airports can’t clear the tarmac well enough or de-freeze the planes, so they get shut down as well. Occasionally, an airport terminal will have to be evacuated because the snow threatens to destroy the roof (happened around Christmas in Charles de Gaulle).

- The parks can’t be cleared of snow either, are apparently too dangerous for public liability reasons and are closed off.

- Nevertheless, people somehow manage to get in and go skiing and snowboarding. On a slope that wouldn’t even qualify as hill in Switzerland. In a closed-off park.

- It therefore seems as if at least (and only?) the snowboarders are happy when it snows in Paris.

End of Semester = Christmas Time?

I haven’t posted for so long that I am nearly embarrassed to start again, but honestly, those last weeks in Paris didn’t include that much blog-worthy. Highlights were visiting the Monet-exhibition in the Grand Palais (which included paintings from around the whole world and gave an enormous insight in his artistic method, since you could see two nearly identical paintings of the same scenery one next to another, with only changes in lighting or the seasons to distinguish them), exploring Paris anew with Erica in the worst snow storm ever (secret tip – we discovered that Shakespeare and Co. has an upstairs reading room, the cosiest thing imaginable, with old books which are not for sale, but only there in order to be read while the rain or snow is pounding on the windows), going to tea time with Aude to this amazingly posh tea room (Mariage et Frères? or something similar) where waiters in white smokings would pull out the chairs for us and serve us steaming hot pots of tea and delicious scones, and seeing the Youth Symphony Orchestra, also with Aude and her mom, play – leading us to the conclusion that clearly, we have already wasted our years, because what are we doing bumming around in school while others play that amazingly on stage?

Other than that, my days were filled with reading, summarizing, writing, reading, summarizing, writing, presenting, reading, summarizing, pulling my hair out over quantitative data – I had to finish up 5 papers (including a 20-pager) in 2 weeks and was going nuts. Well, it is done. It may not have been done as brilliantly or with as much insight as my teachers expect, but it is done. Plus, now I know more about the Operation Condor, the RAF, Jobbik, the Serbian Radical Party, the legal interpretations of the Iraq war, and Germany and France’s stance on that war than ever before – if any of these topics interest you, though, please don’t ask me. I am done with them. =P

What I do love about Paris in wintertime – when I am able to leave the house in a futile attempt to relax from the stress – is the atmosphere that gives the city a warm, hospitable glow. The lights. The Eiffel tower sparkling in the darkness. The Christmas markets – in La Defense, St.-Germain-des-Près, on the Champs-Élysee – that try to tempt you to have a glass of mulled wine and a Nutella-crepe. Everything about Paris in winter screams – or rather, whispers in a soothing voice – cosiness, relaxation, and the promise of a warm cup of tea in your house. Except when it starts to snow. But that is a story for another post.