A year between the Seine and the Thames

So, the past few months have been a bureaucratic roller coaster ride: waiting in long queues to submit forms, returning to submit missing papers from dossiers, holding the line for the next available operator, clicking next on online application websites, paying fees for everything imaginable under the sun.

I am not completely out of the bureaucratic hamster wheel yet, the emotionally abusive process of waiting for decisions to be made on one or two outstanding applications is still very much underway.

C’est la vie. This is the price, in red tape, one has to pay to live in Paris and London for a year: the other costs are not to be thought about!

Anyhow, apart from the costs, the benefit side seems to outweigh the many forms of expenditure involved in living in two – demanding, I may add – cities. Paris, on the one hand, is a woman of exacting standards. Completely loveable. But, one has to commit to her, to fully enjoy the rich heritage that she is willing to unveil to the earnest friend and seeker. She does not tolerate half hearted, lazy admirers but fully rewards those who engage with her passionately, enjoy the food she has to offer, devour and appreciate her literature and art, embrace her language, open up to her centuries of knowledge while adhering to the dress code, too. In short, those who roll up their sleeves and play her game.

Then there is London, who is an interesting bloke that I quite fancy.He is an enigma of sorts, that I am only getting to know. Unlike Paris, who keeps herself neat and pretty looking, London is the charming kind of scruffy guy. In large part, he actually is a bit of a mess – not extremely well kempt or especially hygienic. But, he’s open and welcome to all – no strict dress code whatsoever. He does not shy away from offering a robust cultural life and flaunting a sophisticated taste for some of the finer things in life – opera, the second best choral music in the world (a mon avis – next to what one finds in Germanophone Europe).He also has a dynamism about him that makes him alluring. The architectural marriage of the modern and traditional is very interesting to see – all at once, London inhabits the past in as the present and even appears to be tenaciously grasping for the future. Like Paris, London has his own exacting code, which appears to be, to me, that if one is going to do anything, you have to do it well. Be it business, the pursuit of culture, or even letting one’s hair down or even being sloppy and apathetic. If you’re going to do it, take it seriously. That’s my initial impression. And, it is what explains the various contrasts and diversity that one finds in London: all difference is welcome, as long as it is bona fide.

Well, so, this is what I’ve gathered as I’ve begun a year as a PhD student in Paris and London. Beyond them simply being places that I stay in, I have also taken Paris and London as my subjects for doctoral research. I am, in a sense, reinventing my academic interests, immersing myself into the study of urbanity and urban space. And, these two cities are rewarding fields of study. Of course, my impressions of Paris and London on this blog are not necessarily what I’ll pursue as a scholar of the two cities, but my hope is to immerse myself in the flow of the city, respond to the signs that they offer for those seeking to understand what makes them tick, and capture part of this experience on this blog for the next year.

Here’s to life in Paris and London! Here’s to two of the greatest cities on the planet that I completely enjoy! ‘Here’s to life and all the joy it brings’, as Barbra Streisand hath said…

Here’s to Life!