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O Fim duma Viagem

A Saturday to call my own

FRANCE | Wednesday, 9 September 2015 | Views [374]

There was absolutely nothing I had to do on Saturday. No group activities or meetings with my landlady. No apartments to visit or courses to register for. Not even any homework, since the course with Christine had ended and the regular university classes hadn’t yet started. Nothing but a glorious day to call my own.

If I had my French student ID, I might have used the day to do as many touristy activities as I could. But I didn’t, and it seemed silly to spend actual money on museums and things that would be free for me in another week or so. Besides, it was still kind of close to summer and I might run into real tourists.

Instead, I spent the morning similarly to how I’d spent my previous Saturday: sleeping in and going shopping. It was less aimless than last time, since the weather had gotten cooler and seemed content to stay that way, making me realize how much I could use extra jeans and sweaters. After a couple of online searches, I found Ding Fring a well-reviewed used clothing store, and headed there.

Ding Fring was a large store with a number of cheap articles of clothing. However, the organization and presence of tags was a little lacking. So, although it was easy to find the 5 euro jean section, it was very hard to find ones that would actually fit me. I eventually succeeded, but gave up quickly on the idea of finding a sweater because I was tired and done shopping.

Clothes shopping, that is. After I left the store, I saw a bookshop, and figured it couldn’t hurt to stop in. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has been in my mind more than usual. (“Bonjour! Good day! How is your family? Bonjour! Good day! How is your wife?”) But the store I stumbled into kind of resembled the bookstore that she’s at in the beginning. Floor to very tall ceilings were covered with books, including a number of older (19th century) books. It was wonderful, and I spent a very happy hour there before remembering that I needed to return to my apartment to eat.

After heating up the pasta in a frying pan, (it’s really weird for me to have a stove and an oven but not a microwave. There’s nothing I haven’t been able to make or heat up yet, but it does take some getting used to.) and eating, I looked up nearby tea shops. I had loose leaf tea and a tea kettle, but no tea ball or infuser. And, although I could get them at kitchen supply stores, tea shops seemed like more fun. I’d passed one on my way back from the office earlier, but it had been kind of austere and unwelcoming, so I hadn’t bought anything. Hence the search.

There were three sizeable, friendly-seeming stores about half an hour away. The same hour. So if I wanted to walk to one of them (which I did), I might as well go check them all out. That sounded like an excellent plan.

The first of the stores was Mariage freres. When I’d been looking it up, I’d noticed that Google gave me a schedule of when it was most crowded. Which had seemed neat, but unnecessary. I mean, it’s a tea shop. It sells loose leaf tea and, if you have money and time to spare, you can sit down for a drink or even food. How crowded can it get?

Answer: very. Even though this was the name and address I’d been looking for, and the shelves were full of tea containers, my first thought when I entered was that I must have walked into the wrong store. Because there were so many people, including so many tourists, and the salespeople looked like they’d stepped out of imperial England. Like, I felt like I was about to be sold an antique map of India, not a tea cup. And I suppose tea was important for British imperialists, but…

Tea shop

Just being there was an experience, and once I looked at the shelves, the selection of tea was amazing. But everything there was really expensive, which made it a bad place to buy a teacup or especially a tea pot. (Over a hundred euros for even the small ones I saw.) So I wandered off into the rain and the next shop.

The next store was Palais de Thé. Ironically, this one felt considerably less fancy than the other one. It wasn’t larger than Mariage Frères, but it was much less crowded, which made it feel larger. (It also had three rooms, so it was pretty large. Not four rooms spread across multiple buildings, though, so not large enough.) I was offered a free sample when I entered, which is always a nice touch. I wandered through the area, occasionally smelling teas or reading boxes. (One of the things that surprised me was how often, in both stores, they had names in English.) Still didn’t see any ways of working with my loose leaf tea that I really wanted, and I had one more store, so off I went.

Kusmi Tea, while only a single room, had a center table devoted to ways of brewing tea. Some tea pots, and also cups. Including three (in red, blue, and white) that were decorated with an Eiffel Tower in flowers, and came with a fitting infuser and lid. That grabbed me, and once I decided between white and blue, I was ready to go. On my way home, I smelled macarons and chocolate, and went in to buy a couple.

So, two weeks after leaving Chicago, after a day to myself, I was able to relax in my apartment with a cup of tea and a macaron. It was a pleasant end to lovely day.

Tags: books, free time, shopping, tea

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