Sunny Sundays and a Good Book…

Over the weekend I found myself almost exclusively in vintage shops and Book stores, I will write about the vintage stores next time as they are quite a culture unto themselves… today though, I thought I would right about some of the book stores I have found and the areas surrounding them.

It seems a bit of an odd topic to be writing about given the limitless museums and other cultural phenomenon available as a topic, However, the concept of a lazy afternoon of flipping through books is synonymous with the ‘take your time and drink some wine’ attitude of Paris.   I consider myself quite the book hoard and enjoy nothing more than a cosy spot with a coffee and something to get my literary teeth round, so this felt like something worth writing about.

The street where you will find Shakespeare and Co.

Rue de la Bûcherie, where you will find Shakespeare and Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

 

The Shakespeare Book Company is a little book shop nestled away beside the Notre Dame, the bookshop itself is quite famous, but you could easily walk past it and not even know.It is made up of two stores, one second hand, where you can find fantastic leather bound and first edition treasures-although impressive, it is a little expensive for a uni student. The other is full to bursting point with books both old and new, the shelves pile right to the ceiling and books are stacked precariously on tables. Its the kind of place  you really have to go when its quiet, as there isn’t much room to move, and you have the time to flip through the multitude of  titles ranging from fashion to poetry and fiction. Ladders lean against walls for those short of stature and the whole place echos the kind of charm of yester-year.

Shakespeare and co.

Inside Shakespeare and Co.

One of the few Bookshops in Paris catering to an English audience you can find pretty much anything you need from best sellers to the more obscure bespoke titles. Up a curling flight of stairs there is a children’s section even I envy, a large selection of second hand books and a room where they have poetry readings every Sunday, open to the public. The staff are refreshingly humorous and warm, and every treasure you take home is stamped on the inside cover so you remember the special place you bought it. It is a MUST see if you are ever in Paris, just left of centre of the tourist trap, there really is no excuse not to go.

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One of the many Alternative titles you will find here.

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Chanel is a Parisian Must

As you walk away from the Notre Dame, towards Metro Stations ‘Saint Michele’ and ‘ Cluny – La Sorbonne ‘ you find a charming area where the cobbled streets are flanked by streetside vendors selling crepes, (a Nutella Crepe being a cultural must), falafel, bars and cheap Brasseries offering three course french menus for any budget.  Further down you will come across the church of
Paroisse de Saint-Séverin, even if you are not especially religious, like the Notre Dame its appeal lies in its beauty, where faith is not required to appreciate it. What sets it apart from the other hundreds of churches in Paris is the stained glass windows, although many classical pieces are a part of the building, there are also several windows that are more more modern and alive with colour an pattern, the opposite side of the church has a dozen modern art pieces also on display.

Librairie Galignani is the First English bookstore to be established on the European continent, it was founded in 1520. I was referred here by one of my lecturers, a New Yorker who specialises in luxury branding and has been living in Paris for the last 15  years. He is the sort of guy who has sussed out some of the best local spots to visit and what to avoid.  I was originally looking for a text book for class.(as a side note, in terms of academic material for business, Marketing and Management, this place is THE place to go) Galignani is much more your traditional book shop, although less of a personal experiance than Shakespeare and Co. the size of the shop itself, its central location and the quality of books it has on offer makes it the go to place for anything academic  or travel related.

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The entrance and plaque-stone of Galignani

Just a block up the road is W.H.Smith, this is the most obviously ‘enlish’ of the book shops. Taking up two stories of the building, at first it is like walking into an Angus and Robinson or any other run of the mill chain store, however walk in a little further and you will find  a HUGE amount of English paraphernalia, magazines from all corners of the globe (including the Australian Women’s weekly cooking series) and an entire food section with food stuffs from england and Australia. To my delight they also had Vegemite!! W.H.Smith also has a huge academic section worth looking at, especially their arts and fashion section which is fantastic.

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W.H.Smith

The essentials for surviving Paris...

The essentials for surviving Paris…

Both these stores are on the Rue de Rivoli, one side of which is made up of the Tuileries Gardens, despite it being winter, these gardens are exquisite and overlook the Eiffel Tower. If somewhat cliche, there are plenty of chairs and benches to break the spine of a new book with a coffee, take in the world and feel ever-so french….

The Gardens

The Gardens

Taking in the view....

Taking in the view….

But First You Must Fall in Love….

So, as its Valentines Day in Paris, I thought stick with the theme of the day and write about the love affairs in the city of romance…or rather, love affairs with the city of romance.

A few nights ago I was sitting in a cafe next to Notre Dame (as cliche as it was), talking to a fellow CSU student, Naomi, who has been on exchange since last June, admittedly seeking some comfort in the familiar twang of her/our accent.

Having been here just on 6 weeks i am still adjusting, and I have at times struggled with the culture shock of living in Paris, although rare it would hit in the oddest ways, missing the fresh, clean smell of home or simply the convenience of walking into a shop and asking about a dress or wine without the inevitable language barriors. Some days I love Paris and other days in the selfishness of homesickness, I loath it.

In the kind of chat only girls have, I vented to her about it, Naomi had been through this phase, but was now at the point where she never wanted to leave. The way she explained it was through paraphrasing a saying here, that ‘you must fall in love with Paris’.

Exclusive Valentines day Macaroon from Luduree- rasperry and lychee.. mmmm

Exclusive Valentines day Macaroon from Luduree- rasperry and lychee.. mmmm

Valentines Day Girl date at the Luduree cafe on the Champs Elysee

Valentines Day Girl date at the Luduree cafe on the Champs Elysee

This I found quite provoking, the first weeks I was here I was so over the moon to be here, and now I look back I can liken that euphoria to that of when you first have a crush, or start dating someone; that giddy, laughing, smile-all-the-time, rose-tinted-glasses effect. After this phase come the dreaded morning-after effect where you realise what you got yourself into, where all the little flaws and discrepancies become apparent and the shine fades away.

Paris, and the effect it has on people is much like that.

So many couples visit Paris, seeing it as the Mecca for romance and folly, which it is in so many ways, you only have to visit a famous monument and you will see all levels of soppiness and hand holding. Because for the time those couples are here, everything is perfect, even a rainy day cant spoil it.  However it does not last, and like a one night stand or fling its glimmer dies quickly, and you are faced with reality. That is unless, it is True Love.

The way I see it, a visit to Paris, is a lustful fling of a relationship. it fulfils a dream or fantasy, and you can ignore all the faults because it isn’t going to last, so you are free to live in that moment. However to live in Paris, you must fall in love with it unconditionally, regardless of its flaws.  When you move away from the polished, sandstone tourist districts, museums and designer stores, Paris is like any other city, it has its problems. Some areas have a feel much more similar to areas of Sydney than what you would expect of Paris. Away from the balconied buildings and ornate alcoves, Its dirty and gritty, there is a huge amount of homelessness, crime, and at times it can feel like you are constantly looking over your shoulder or holding your purse.

I must admit I have seen some of the more sinister side to Paris, I was pickpocketed only a few weeks ago, thankfully it was only camera that was taken. But dispute this, there is a slow growing warmth for the city growing in me, which is what love often is, it isn’t always like the movies where it occurs on site, for the rest of us mortals its a slow, organic process where you realise one day ‘ you know what? I actually, propperly love (insert name)’.

Paris has a spirit, a culture and a personality that it does not apologise for, you simply must take it as it is, love or hate it.

I think it is something you simply have to stick to, where you get over the forlorn speed-bump of things not being perfect and glittery,where like any great love, and you accept it for what it is, flaws and all….

Coming home…

(Before my family and friends back home have a “freak out”, no, I have not jumped on a plane back to Aus. ;))

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”  ~Robin Hobb

A couple of days ago, I booked my tickets to come back home. Sure, it is not until July, but already I am excited. That doesn’t mean I am not having fun here, but there is something special about those people (friends and family) who have known you for a very long time. I think this becomes even more important the older you get, as these people understand you and your history in a way that new friends are usually not able to do. So I am looking forward to family dinners, and beers at the local, and riding my bike, and sitting with friends and not having to say a word without anyone thinking I am being rude or unsociable. I am looking forward to walking into a shop and not having to use all my concentration to understand what people are saying to me. I am looking forward to Melbourne’s kooky weather, and going to watch the footy, and meat pies with sauce. And as I have been thinking a lot about my Australian home this week, and the concept of home in general, it seems fitting that I tell you guys a little bit about my Swedish home.

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Home is a place where you feel comfortable – a place where you belong – a place you feel safe. Home has been described as the place where we live, the place where we came from, or it can be something less tangible – a feeling or sensation you carry with you throughout life, no matter where you are. Home can be immovable or portable, places or people, a way of life or a path you have chosen to follow. But however you choose to define it, your home is your centre, and it is from here that everything else in your world is referenced against.

“Where thou art – that – is Home.”  ~Emily Dickinson

I arrived in Sweden for the last week of summer, and was greeted with blue skies and sunshine. And, even better I was greeted at the train station by a group of students from Örebro University. These students were “fadders” and as far as I know there is no direct english translation for this word, but basically they are senior students at the university assigned to help new students integrate into the university community. This includes socially, academically and physically. I guess “student mentor” is the closest I could get, but I am not sure even that fully explains what a fadder is. But after being awake for over 30hrs, with a long overnight transit in Copenhagen, it was the physical integration that was top of my list.

So all equipped with bus cards, we jumped on the number 3 bus and headed in to the arrival camp at the University. This was where we would get important information about our stay in Sweden, but more importantly, it was where we would find out where we would be living while we were here. I had chosen, like the vast majority of students, to take the University allocated accommodation, which is either corridor-style living or apartment style living. You do not get to chose which sort of accommodation you receive, and the University (despite many pleas on our facebook page) would not tell us where we were assigned until our arrival in Örebro. Each type of accommodation has its own advantages and disadvantages – in corridor style you have your own bathroom, but (usually) less space, and you have to share a kitchen with up to eight people – in the apartments you have more space, only share a kitchen with one or two other people, but you also have to share a bathroom.

As I am happier about sharing a kitchen than a bathroom, I was happy to find I had been allocated to corridor living in an area called Tybblegatan. (gatan is Swedish for street, so it is quite literally Tybble Street) Tybblegatan is across the road from the university (it takes me about 5 mins to walk to the main entrance to the university) and is one of the three main areas of student accommodation. The other two areas are called Studentgatan (Student Street :)) and Brickebacken. Studentgatan, as its name implies, is all students and is on the University grounds. Because of this, and the fact it is closest to all the Uni bars, it is renowned as the “party” area of the accommodation complexes. Brickebacken is about a 15-20 min walk from the Uni, and is where all the apartments are. It is furthest form the Uni and from the centre of town, so its big drawcard is it is a bit quieter and, of course, the advantage of being in an apartment rather than a corridor.

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A view across the park to my apartment block in Tybblegatan – mine is the one on the corner behind the little tree.

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A close up of my window – being right on the corner at the back I get a view over the parkland. At the moment it is beautiful white snow.

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It is not just students who live in this area – these pretty apartments (with balconies) are where the rich people live.

My area is surrounded my sports grounds and is midway between the craziness of Studentgatan and the quietness of Brickebacken and that suits me just fine. :) I have been lucky enough to get a really quiet corridor, but my neighbouring corridor have at least one big party a week – usually two – and if they are feeling really good, three to four! But normally they wind things up by around 11pm, and head out to whichever bar is on the list that night. For those of you that don’t know, drinking 0ut is fairly expensive in Sweden, so pre-parties are a way of life for the student crowd – noone really goes out anywhere until after 11pm, and the bulk of drinking is done before this time.

Living permanently in student accommodation as a mature age distance Ed student has taken a bit of adjustment, but overall it is a very good place to live. I am lucky with my housemates – they are all nice people, with probably the only fault being they are a little lax in cleaning up after themselves in the kitchen. Dishes get washed, but there seems to be a severe aversion to wiping down benches and taking out rubbish. (I can hear my mother laughing while reading this all the way from Australia – I am not known to be the best when it comes to cleaning up either!) But, having had the opportunity of seeing some of the other corridors, I think I am pretty well off. 😀 And it is sort of nice to have so much stuff going on all the time – especially seeing I have a quiet corner I can escape to when needed. :p

My living space is not big, but it is big enough for me. But instead of trying to describe it, how about I show you…but be warned, my video skills are not the best!

And I have also included a couple of photos which show my room in a most unnatural state of cleanliness. 😉

Where I sleep.

Where I sleep.

Where I study.

Where I study.

Where I sit and read.

Where I sit and read.

“Your true home is in the here and the now.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

As part of our orientation here in Örebro we had a guest speaker from Spain come and speak to us about acclimatising to a new culture, and she told us there were four distinct phases that you go through when you move somewhere new. First there is a “honeymoon phase”, where everything is new and wonderful and different. Then you go through a period of frustration. This is where you start to notice the things you miss about where you you came from – and the differences are now not so wonderful. After making it through this you go through a period of adjustment, where you begin to integrate into your new culture. And finally, if you stay somewhere long enough, you adapt. I will talk a bit more about this concept in later posts, but for now I just want to say that I have reached the adjustment phase. This place is not the same as my “forever home”, Australia, but I am happy here now in my little corner of Sweden and I am glad to be able to call it “home” also. A big part of this has been due to a homecoming of a very different kind.

Tybblegatan in the snow.

Tybblegatan in the snow.

Looking into our kitchen.

Looking into our kitchen.

The road I walk down to get to Uni.

The road I walk down to get to Uni.

“I had come to a place where I was meant to be. I don’t mean anything so prosaic as a sense of coming home. This was different, very different. It was like arriving at a place much safer than home.”  ~Pat Conroy

When I started studying at CSU I didn’t know what to expect. I had decided to enrol to do a degree via distance Ed to give me something to keep my mind ticking over during the night shifts at work, and maybe give me an option of something else to do down the track after I had exceeded my tolerance for shift work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I am extremely proud of the work I have done there in the past, and will hopefully continue to do when I get home. But the work is also tiring, emotionally and physically, and as management is not really my thing I thought it was about time to consider a plan B.

Going back to study as a mature age student can be extremely daunting. It had been a long time since I had attempted any kind of academic work, and my first two attempts were not exactly raving successes. I think I had more fails and withdrawals on my previous transcripts than passing grades! So it came as a bit of a surprise to me how much I enjoyed it, and how much I specifically loved the course I had chosen (Medical Science/Forensic Biotechnology). By halfway through the first semester I was totally and completely in love with it – so much so that one of my closest friends calls it my first real committed relationship. She reckons it is the only thing I have ever completely given 100% to – and if I am completely honest she is probably right. This commitment I have to my study is close to bordering on an obsession, and can be consuming at times. And when anything reaches that level of importance in your life, it can also be accompanied by fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear that I might not feel the same about it years down the track, and fear that maybe I had left my run too late.

Here in Sweden, I have been given a unique opportunity to get a sneak preview what my life would be like after graduation, and I like what I have seen. And this opportunity has helped to allay some of the fears I have had. I now know without a doubt that this is something I want to continue with in the future. And it is more than just the work itself – it is a sense of belonging to a community. This is something I will be able to carry with me wherever I end up living in the future, and it has ensured that Örebro University will always hold a special place in my heart. But that, I think, is a story for another time. 😉

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”  ~Christian Morgenstern

The approach to Uni - obviously some time ago!

The approach to Uni – obviously some time ago!