Paris: The Last 5 Years

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paris: The Last 5 Years

Oh hey, that's me!
Some hallmark moments pass without even noticing. October 5th marked the five year mark for a little boy from Bucks County who found himself in Paris more or less by accident. Instead of throwing a big party and going crazy, I was eating Japanese food in Lyon and watching Indiana Jones in anticipation for a marathon – not something that the Bryan of 2008 necessarily had in mind.

This weekend, a neighbor asked me how long I’ve been living in Paris, and my eyes widened as I realized it’s been 5 years. Long enough to apply for citizenship. Long enough to be taken seriously by locals. More importantly, long enough to know the difference between a good baguette and a great baguette.

From working at a study abroad program during the day and selling pizzas at night, with a short stint as a weekend brunch cook in between there (oh Rose Bakery…), I started off in a unique position. I didn’t have to come teach English, marry a Frenchman, or uproot my adult life to move to Paris. I just had to leave my friend’s apartment floor in Manhattan and pack a few sweaters. It was a comfortable floor. But I had a job, and for the first time, money, in a city that I hardly knew. Paris welcomed Bryan with open arms and a confused look each time I opened my mouth to speak French (cue photos of me!).

The first two years took me to Grenoble, Arles, Strasbourg, and St-Malo among other places, while longer trips to Amsterdam, Brussels, London, and a backpacking excursion through Spain helped me tick off European locations that I thought I should see before going home. As I neared the end of my work contract, and consequently my visa, I felt like I had “done” Europe in the most superficial sense, but I wasn’t through. Still, work was finished, and I appropriately celebrated my last day at the office by drinking on the job, wearing wigs with coworkers, and nursing a bottle of vodka while in line for the Lady Gaga concert. There, now you know how real Parisians live..

Modeling with dinosaurs in Paris...
Discussion with Traveling Teddy in Spain...

After working in an academic setting, I realized, somewhat somberly, that I wanted to go back to school. The vacation time was by no means least on my list of reasons. It was a rejection letter from Columbia University more than an acceptance letter from the Sorbonne Nouvelle that facilitated my decision. America didn’t want me just yet, so I stayed. A master’s program awaited me where, upon my very first class, I found the professor who would be my mentor and inspiration up until the present-day. To finance my newfound student life, I went to Copenhagen with a friend to learn how to make coffee properly before becoming employed at her coffee shop adventure. I mean, obviously Copenhagen, right? Duh.

A few months of working as a barista and a cook left me hungry (ironically) and poor (surprisingly), giving way to a new job opportunity that I hoped would help pay the rent: tour guiding. Around the same time, I dabbled in some travel writing with a local journalist, Heather, who would continue to keep me around. It was around this time that I understood what being down and out really met. Thanks, Orwell. After giving free tours to notoriously cheap backpackers in the dead of winter, I began working more closely with Heather, giving private tours, while making new contacts in the journalism world. Let’s call 2010-2012 the formative years, accruing contacts and jobs as well as a passion for my studies and an extra hole in my ever tightening belt.

By the end of my masters, I had started running seriously, tour guiding seriously, and writing seriously. Things were looking up. The best part? I was hardly ever hungry anymore and buying food was, well, never an issue. I could even splurge on things like meat!

A first marathon in the Médoc...
Wine in baby bottles with sister...

The step into the PhD world was a natural one, as my mentor encouraged me and supported my project (I study what I know: travel journalism and writing). I threw myself into silly things like reading, researching, and finding pleasure in analyzing scientific articles.

By the end of 2012 I had completed my first marathon and 2013 gave me three more. I had presented at my first academic conference – exciting for, well, academics – and completed my first chapter for an actual book on journalism. I had gone on tour with the great-granddaughter of an Arabian king and visited Italy with my sister. I had organized four charity events based around cupcakes of all things in addition to securing, finally, a teaching position at the Sorbonne.

You do this in Paris...
You do this in Amsterdam...
Where is Bryan? He can be found Thursday in front of his students teaching journalism practices and repeatedly asking if certain nouns are masculine or feminine. His students seem mostly happy to oblige.

Where is Bryan? He’s training for the Paris half marathon in March, the full one in April, and hopefully something fun and exotic like Barcelona, Berlin, or Chicago afterwards.

Sometimes you meet donkeys wearing pants on an island off the Atlantic coast...

Where is Bryan? He’s writing his thesis, with two years left, hoping that someday writing in French won’t seem so daunting, or at least that he’ll have a French keyboard to write more easily in his adopted language.

Sometimes you just find cows in the Alps...

Where is Bryan? He’s in Paris, and happily so for the moment. Though things like lead-footed neighbors and constant hammering often amplify his rage towards Paris, even after 5 years it takes just one cheerful interaction with a neighbor or a sunny day along the Canal to make it all right again.


  1. Aww this warmed my heart! What memories! And more to come in less than two weeks! Do you know Anderson Cooper?

  2. I'm just sad that the post-vodka drinking gaga concert action shot of us didn't make the cut ;p

    Félicitations on year 5, xoxoxoxo!!

  3. To loads more years of marathoning debauchery!