Being nice is not that hard

What happened with my note and some book recommendations

Something really extraordinary happened yesterday. After I left my little note to my neighbors, I didn’t expect a reaction. My guess was that the guy with the magazine idea would contribute to mine out of solidarity. Boy, I was wrong.

What happened with my note?

Later that day, someone rang my door. Being in a lockdown for the past 6 weeks, this is an extremely big event. I cautiously opened and one meter from me a mother and her daughter were standing on the staircase. The little girl was as shy as I am and was hiding behind her mother. The woman asked me if I left the note and I stuttered a “yes”. She then reached out and gave me a whole bag with books and a note. She smiled and told me that there is a lot more where that came from. I had no words to express how touched I was at this moment.

I love these small gestures between strangers. I regret that I didn’t reach out sooner and plan to return the kindness. I’m thinking about baking banana bread and leaving it in front of their door. I’ll see if something else pops in my mind and in the meantime I have a lot of books to occupy me.

Books I read in the last months

In the last couple of months, I was focused on reading classic French literature to better dive into the atmosphere of the city. A lot of stories are written about Paris or take place in its streets. One of my personal favorites is Patrick Modiano. His melancholic writing style speaks to my soul like not so many other authors. He often addresses the topic of identity and what exactly makes us who we are. A lot of his characters are wandering the busy streets of this city and feel like they are alone. They usually are in a quest of searching part of their past that makes them utterly unhappy and incomplete. The books never finish with a happy ending because we never truly find ourselves.

Another book that I have recently read and loved was not from a French author but was still written in this type of “searching for the meaning of life” style that I relate to. “Twenty-Four hours in the life of a woman” shares the curious fact that one little event in our life can completely change us forever. Other than the magical story, I always take pleasure in reading a book about a place where I have been. This love story happens at Côte d’Azur.

While I was studying in Nice, my friends and I often took the bus and traveled to the cities nearby. My personal favorite was Monaco. The tall buildings, the yachts, the unusual town shape. Pure magic. I miss it a lot. The year 2016 was one of the best years of my life.

Before I can continue to enjoy my new books, I’ll be preparing a beloved Bulgarian dish for diner. I just bought all the ingredients and will do my best for I have never cooked this before and my reputation amongst my friends is not as the best cook in the world.

Day 45

Like many others, I tried some of the trends of activities at home. After a month and a half of baking, reading, Pilates and HBO I decided to reach out to my neighbors

In France, it is well known that the 1st of May is not only Labor Day but also a celebration of the flower Lily of the Valley. This tiny little flower with its white petals symbolizes the coming of spring.

My personal association with this flower is that it was one of the “porte-bonheur” or lucky charms of Mr. Christian Dior. It’s said that he sewed it to every costume that he wore. I myself am somewhat superstitious and agree with the French couturier that a herbarium may bring some color to our everyday.

For me, spring is a season for fresh flowers. I love having them around the house at all times. I love bouquets with seasonal tulips, azaleas, peonies, carnations, lilies. I’m not that good with flowers in a pot. My last “victim” was my little Christmas tree. It survived a month before I forgot to water it. Of course, three weeks later I remembered that there is another living thing in the apartment, besides my boyfriend and myself. My overcompensating nature decided to water it twice a week. To be honest, I’m not sure if it died of thirst or it drowned. Anyways, I mourned its death and decided against buying a pot in the near future.

The 1st of May also means that we successfully stayed isolated during lockdown for 45 days. I don’t know about you, but my Instafeed was full of cooking (mostly baking), yoga, or different types of HIIT exercises, people posing like they are doing their newly discovered hobbies. I applaud the influencers who tried to adapt fast and started from the beginning to post about our new reality. Those who stuck to their pre-Covid19 schedule were out of place and got publicly shamed. Like many others, I tried some of the trends du jour.

I started working from home a couple of days before the lockdown. I can easily say that I stay longer at work since I’m actually staying in my own living room. Without feeling the pressure that my train leaves 12 minutes after my workday is done, I can relax and finish the stuff I started. I find it liberating because now I rarely think about work after I turn off my computer. Usually, I continue to contemplate that one little task that I left unfinished, that one email that needed a reply.

Since I have 45 minutes more in the morning (the time I take my train to work), I started doing Pilates. I started baking more. I rearranged my apartment. I suddenly have more time to read. The thing that this exceptional situation taught me is a balanced routine that I would really love to keep after this ends. I don’t want to say that I like my life better, but I definitely needed some time to refocus my energy and reevaluate my time.

For I have recently moved to Paris, I slowly ran out of books to read. I had bought a couple from the lovely little “shops” next to the Seine. Today I got this idea. Well, it was not really “my” idea. A couple of months ago, one of my neighbors left a note saying that we can all exchange magazines after reading them. I need to specify that we have a small yard that one could not access from the street without having a key. So the plan was to leave our magazines in an unused mailbox accessible for everyone.

Today I wrote a little note asking my kind neighbors to share their favorite/least favorite books with me. I promised to take good care of them and return them in less than 2 weeks. I feel optimistic about the solidarity in our little community and am curious about the outcome of this experiment.

Château d’Auvers and other cultural events

Last weekend I got a visit from my sister and we decided to take a little trip to a castle outside of Paris. We were debating on Friday evening and we finally picked the Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise which is 1h30 from Paris. Since we are both interested in castles, we saw this visit as a great opportunity to have a walk in someone’s chambers and admire the interior design of the XVII century.

Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise

We arrived at the castle which was rather small. We were thinking of spending at least the same amount of time as our journey to this place. I was still an optimist and suggested a walk in the park that was advertised on the website. My first disappointment was when they told us that the whole place is renovated and there are some art installations showing us works from the Impressionism. If I wanted to watch a documentary, I would have stayed home. My sister was in a good mood and cheered me up but I still have more or less negative feelings about the castle.

The art installations were mostly big screens that displayed the above-mentioned docu movie. It was somewhat interesting but looking and pictures of the painting are not nearly as satisfying as seeing the real deal. I was impressed by 2 of the 8 rooms. One of them was a recreation of an artist atelier. I was preoccupied with taking pictures so I’m not sure whose atelier they recreated but I think it was Monet. Anyway, the impressionists preferred painting in nature, so this room was not that important.

The next room was also arranged in an interesting way. In comparison to the other rooms with simple flat screens, this one was more 3D and every small screen was painted in different colors which made the whole ambiance more interesting.

We then went to the garden which was as small as the castle. It was somewhat our fault that we made a poor choice. In the summer, one can enjoy the maze which is not a lot of fun during the winter when you can see through the branches.

The Brassens market

On Sunday we started the day with a book market. The Brassens market was originally a place where they butchered animals before selling the meat. Nowadays you can browse through some second-hand books and maybe find a treasure. I have lived in Nice and the market there was incredible. Every day of the week it had a different theme and books were one of them. This one was not so impressive although it’s named the most famous market for old books in Paris. It’s in the 15th arrondissements aka in the southwest of the city. To go there, one needs to ride the line 13 of the subway. I was unease the whole time because I have heard some bad things about it. It turned out not so criminal but I wouldn’t recommend this place if you like to display your gold jewelry and other expensive accessories.

Carnival de Paris

The 23rd of February was also the Carnival de Paris. It’s an annual event dating from the XVI century. People disguise and put masks on before starting a procession from the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The procession ended at Place de la Republique where everyone gathered and started celebrating the Carnival. Music and dancing in the streets is something that has always fascinated me and we walked next to the processions for some time so that we can check out all the participants.

Centre Pompidou

We ended our very cultural weekend in one of the museums with the longest working hours. Centre Pompidou is famous for its unusual modern architecture. The whole façade of the building is made out of pipes. The construction is very geometrical and pleasing for people who like Sheldon don’t like chaos.

The view of this building is breathtaking. There is a cute restaurant worth visiting especially during the summer. One can see all the important buildings from up here – the Eifel Tower, Sacre-Coeur, Notre-Dame. The pipes that can be seen on the façade are actually the escalators that take visitors up to the last floor.

The temporary collection was a mystic experience. I was happy that we did it after dark. It was like walking into a cemetery. Some rooms were full of black and white pictures of people from the beginning of the last century. One room was covered with white sheets that gave the illusion that ghosts were floating through it. In another one could observe rectangular objects covered with black sheets so it looked like coffins. Some light bulbs were hanging from the ceiling and those that were directly over a “coffin” were turned off. The whole exposition was accompanied by a quiet heartbeat as the music background.