Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.


I just found a park near my apartment where I get a really strong signal on three of the 26 benches. The only drawback is the bugs that keep falling on my keyboard…

It’s suddenly fall here, and very cold. Two days ago I would have been too warm in a skirt and tee shirt, and today I am too cold in a sweater and scarf. Hopefully I’ll get my Internet working soon, because this park is going to get very uncomfortable very quickly.

After a month of unstructured Parisian vacation time, I am ready to settle down and find my rhythm for the year. Although the unpredictable lifestyle, never knowing where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing next, is inarguably thrilling, it is also exhausting. Five weeks later, I could not be happier to spend a night quietly cooking myself dinner, finishing homework, reading a book in my new apartment.

And my teensy but perfect mezzanine.

(Note the futon cushion in addition to my wide bed in the rafters – come visit me! I have a really good map of Paris, nutella and French (duh) wine, and places for you all to sleep.)

Yes, my new apartment. After weeks of stress with no home, no carte de séjour (long-term visa), no cooking supplies, and a suitcase that had never been fully unpacked since arriving in August, I have a home. I never thought I’d love living alone so much. I’m taking a break from preparing my exposé (scary French oral presentations: Must be exactly ten minutes long, no more, no less, and are followed by tenminute interrogations by the professor, designed to make you think you failed completely – this discipline is supposed to make students work harder) on my third evening in my new place.

Finally unpacking

My suitcase is finally put away, all my clothes hanging in the closet or folded in the dresser. I have a street, a corner boulangerie, my own mailbox and my own name on the interphone (basically the doorbell – when someone pushes the button for “Griffin” downstairs, my interphone rings and their face appears in the little t.v. screen next to the buzzer I push to let them in). I have groceries, dishes, spices and wine, and my own sheets on my giant new bed. I have a metro stop, a laundry hamper and a shower curtain and I’m pretty much a domestic Parisian now, I think.

Yay my kitchen!

Yay my groceries!

As far as my duties with the family are concerned, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t be easier. Maybe easy is the wrong word – four kids are never “easy.” I think natural is closer to what I want to say. After years of brothers and babysitting and working at Summer at Seabury (plus my natural skills of bossiness, of course), there are few things more natural to me then being around children. In the mornings I have the choice to eat breakfast in my apartment or downstairs with Zoë (the eldest at 12 years old) before I take her to school on the metro. After depositing her in the Marais, I walk back along and across the Seine to Sciences Po. I have my own keys to their apartment, and I head downstairs around 17h each day to supervise homework, instrument practicing, dinner eating, bathtimes and bedtimes while Cassie does the same. I’m free once the two youngest children are in bed, which usually ends up being about 20h each night.

I’m pretty sure Georges (the youngest, two years old) loves me already – I held him upside-down and threw him up in the air when we first met and we’ve been best friends ever since. The older kids are warm and easy and I have no doubts about this year. Even though the family speaks English at home, I think my French will nevertheless be getting a workout. At dinner tonight, seven-year old Paul fell in love with the game “quiz the new au pair on her French vocabulary skills” and spent an hour asking me to translate “l’huile d’olive,” or “fenêtre.” He was a little disappointed that I kept getting answers right, but every now and then when I’d forgotten a word, the two girls would leap to my defense.

“That’s not fair Paul,” Ella (ten) would exclaim, “that’s like me asking you words in Spanish and laughing when you didn’t know!” And she and Z would proceed to quiz P in Spanish. It tickled me that they already wanted to be on my team, so to speak – although knowing siblings, they were probably more interested in being on whichever team their brother wasn’t.

Once I’d convinced the girls that I really didn’t mind not knowing every single mot en français, they taught me a new one: anticonstitutionnellement. This is apparently the longest word in the French language, and the kids were all thrilled to see me write out “antidisestablishmentarianism” for them. As far as the contest of whose language contains the longer word, I won – and by some twisted merit system, I think I won some extra cool points for speaking the langue maternelle with the 28-letter word. If only P hadn’t asked me to translate “cuiller” I’d still have all my cool points. For some reason, “spoon” always gets me.

•• By the way, for all you worriers – R has found herself an apartment as well! It’s in the 11ème, with a Russian ballerina comme colocatrice, and the interior is newly remodeled and completely furnished. The only drawbacks are the 1970s-style building and the not-completely-ideal location within the 11ème, but it’s close to fun fun places and completely reasonably priced. She, like me, will soon have her own street, metro stop, mail box and shower curtain. It’s a pretty thrilling feeling to have a real home at last.

••• So the UW Comparative Literature program, Fall Quarter in Paris apparently has classes in a building approximately…two blocks from Sciences Po. In fact, it’s just about square in between Sciences Po and the stand with the (maybe) racist crêpe man. Even knowing that, it was pretty shocking to run into Amelia (one of my best friends and roommates from UW) strolling, who am I kidding, A doesn’t stroll – I meant speed-walking, down boulevard St.-Germain des Prés.

The view par mes fenêtres – I spy with my little eye, l’Opéra Garnier.

And my street! The black contraption on the right is the Théatre des Bouffes Parisiens – when all of those lights are lit, night looks like day. Luckily my windows face the other direction.

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

5 thoughts on “

  1. I love this post. And you will make many people very happy by finally posting something, not the least your grandparents and the other adult in this household who keeps checking “Tacoma Girl in Paris” and grumbling: “I want a new post! When is she going to get Internet?”Too bad he’s asleep now. Hmm. Is this worth waking him for?I guess I can say the other adult in the house instead of ONE of the other adults in the house … for three more days anyway.Can’t wait to see the pics now. The Georges story reminds me of a photo we have of Aunt Penny holding Ben upside down. He was probably 2, as well.Mom

  2. Got the hint. Sending the coat this week.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. YAY!!! I want to come spend the night in that amazing looking studio!!!! It’s definitely starting to get cold here, much to my disgust. Mornings and nights are freezing, though it doesn’t sound quite as cold as what you’ve got…we still have the afternoon warm time. (until the rainy season begins, that is…)

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