Halley Knigge (Griffin)

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News of the shooting is on the front pages of all the French dailies today. All over the world people are mourning with Virginia Tech. Here’s a link to the article in Le Monde.

Compte rendu: Scotland

After two trains, a night on a bench in the Glasgow airport, a plane, a bus and a metro ride, I am finally back in Paris. I landed at Paris Beauvais airport at noon yesterday still wearing my polar fleece and wind breaker from the chilly weather in Edinburgh to find temperatures in the 70s and bright bright sun. Needless to say, I stripped down quickly.

View of Edinburgh from the Camera Obscura in the Old City:

It’s weird to be back – I’ve traveled from Paris before, to Munich and back, to visit Christina in Nantes, to Barcelona last November, back to Tacoma for Christmas, and all around France in a car with my mom, but for some reason coming back this time felt different. Maybe because I’ve been here for 8 months now it feels more like coming back to school and routine than just continuing the fun in Paris. Or maybe it’s just because I had a really really great time in Scotland.

Planning spring break is a different experience in Paris. Last year we just wanted to get out of Seattle and planned a quick backpacking trip to the Washington coast. This year the plan was backpacking again – it was just a matter of picking the country I wanted to do it in. I ended up planning the trip with Anna, a Canadian from Sciences Po who I’d met in my French politics class. Before break we were just class buddies who save each other seats in our conférence de method, but after a week traveling together, two plane rides and a lot of time to kill in Glasgow Prestwick International we’ve got each other’s stories memorized. She knows that my youngest brother Noah is 16 and loves jazz, I know that her sister’s boyfriend lives in India and likes whisky, and we’re convinced that our own boyfriends might actually be the same person.

These kids were a part of the Ipswich (Massachusetts) High School music program, who are currently touring Scotland and England. A and I thought they were so cute that we followed their flier to the Greyfriars Kirk to hear them give a free performance before catching our train to Glasgow Sunday night. The listeners seemed to be made up of a few parent chaperones, a few teachers and a few church parishioners, so we were glad we stopped by to fill out the audience – plus they reminded me of my little brother.

We left Paris last Tuesday morning, and after nearly a full day of traveling made it to our hostel in Edinburgh. We walked around a bit, had a dorky but satisfying dinner in the café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book and went to bed early so we could be up to meet our backpacking group the next morning. We’d signed up for a tour with Macbackpackers, which is maybe not quite as rugged as I’d like you all to think I am, but it was a great way to see Scotland. When our guides arrived Wednesday morning, A and I flung our packs in the trunk of the MacBackpackers mini-bus and climbed aboard with our 12 fellow backpackers. For three days we were driven around the highlands and lowlands of Scotland by a kilted guide, stopping every so often to hike on mountains, through moors and over battlefields.

The natural result of throwing 14 strangers together for three days with nothing tying them except the facts that they like to hike, love to travel and are at least somewhat interested in Scotland is that they’re going to bond. There are people A and I met who I feel like I’ll be in touch with indefinitely – funny how that happens. Two girls from Paris (currently living in London) and a girl from Australia in particular, all of whom will be making their respective ways to Paris sometime in the next few months.

The five of us went out to dinner in Edinburgh Friday when we arrived back in the city and spent a night talking about anything and everything in various pubs of the old city. Together we learned the most shocking thing about Scotland – its conservative alcohol laws! After three days of our guide telling story after story that involved drunk Scots, we were ready to get back to Edinburgh and check out the pub culture ourselves. In Paris, you don’t go out until at least midnight, and it’s not uncommon to come home when the boulangerie are reopening in the morning. In Scotland, it is illegal to sell liquor after 10 pm anywhere but a pub. We found this out when we tried to purchase a few bottles of wine in a convenience store at 5 past 10 pm to get the evening started. The rule kind of made sense, we supposed, encouraging people to spend more money in the pubs. It stopped making sense at 12:30, when the lights came on and we were kicked out of the Castle Arms pub. Yes, in Scotland, the land of whisky, the pubs close at 12:30. Surprised, we asked around our hostel and were told, “If you run, you might catch one that’s open until 1am, but you’d better hurry.”

This is at a restaurant in Edinburgh – before our wine-buying shutout.

We were pretty surprised at this news, but were more amused than anything and retreated back to the hostel to finish our girly talk about first kisses and ex-boyfriends and favorite movies. The next morning everyone began to disperse. The five of us, A and I, plus two Frenchies and an Aussie woke up earlier to have breakfast together before we went on our merry ways. First to depart were Angelique and Samya, who had to catch a train back to Leicester. Paula stuck around long enough to hike up Arthur’s Seat with us before catching a bus back to Glasgow, the jumping-off point for the rest of her European adventure. That left just A and I to explore together until it was time to head back to Paris. I love how a random group of 5 people can fall together for a few days and click so perfectly that it feels like we’ve been girlfriends for years. It’s sad that we clicked so well and live so far apart, but at least we got a few crazy fun days together before we had to split.

On the way up to Arthur’s Seat:

Before the trip, all I knew of Scotland was from the documentary about the Loch Ness Monster that I watched with my Tacoma friend Annette one weekend in high school. I’ve never seen Braveheart – the historical inaccuracy of which is actually a bit of a sore point for the Scots, so maybe it’s better that I haven’t. I’m also lacking any ancestral ties to the country, which made me a bit jealous watching my fellow hikers look up their family tartans or become suddenly extra attentive at the mention of the massacre of the MacDonald clan at Glen Coe. Hiking the highlands and the Isle of Skye and hearing nothing but stories of highland culture, clans and battles for three days made me wish for a little highland heritage myself. I guess I just need to marry a Campbell. Or a MacLaren. Or a Farquharson.

Beyond learning the history, a week in Scotland gave me the chance to absorb a bit of the feel of the country. Coming from Paris, Scotland felt a bit more like home, with its English native tongue, tougher liquor laws, love for fried foods and decidedly less skinny people. It’s also a more environmentally friendly place, with its 100% biodegradable plastic grocery bags and plentiful recycling receptacles. It’s a country with a history that’s a little bloodier, bars that close earlier, people that are friendlier, skirts that are manlier, but above all, Scotland is beautiful.

Culloden battle field:

I wonder if you can guess which loch this is:

The Cullin Mountains:

This is at a place called Faerie Glen on the Isle of Skye. J.R. Tolkien apparently spent a summer on Skye in his childhood – I believe it.

The view of the road from Faerie Glen:

One of our hiking stops:

This is on the Isle of Skye:

Loch Garry (known as “the loch that’s shaped like Scotland”):

This is a ridiculous statue at the William Wallace monument. Check out the case of the Braveheart dvd if you’re curious about this sculptor’s inspirations. Or just look at a picture of Mel Gibson:

More Scotland pictures <a href="http://washington.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2136350&l=df73e&id=10701400


I think it’s safe to say that it’s spring in Paris. The sun is shining, it’s warm enough to walk to class without a jacket, and every spare patch of grass in the city is filled with smoking sunbathers – no really. They lay on their backs with their pants and shirt hems rolled up, one arm across the eyes to block out the sun while the other hand brings a cigarette up for a drag every few minutes. Only in Paris, right?

With the onset off a new season and the beginning of a long run of the warmer months, it’s definitely time to reassess French fashion. Get ready with a pen and paper because here are my notes for must-have clothing for anyone currently living in the city of light, or wishing they were.

First and most important is the mini trench. We already knew that the trench was French, but as the months get warmer and dryer, the hems get higher, the colors brighter and the fabrics lighter. Styled exactly like a full-length Carmen Sandiego, but cut to fall at the hip, the shoulder and wrist straps, big buttons and tie-waists of the mini-trench are exactly the same as those of it’s cold-weather big sister, just styled for spring. Khaki is the most popular color, but you’ll also see black cotton, darker browns, grays, and an array of bright springy colors like greens and oranges. It’s important to note that chicness is still a way of life in the sweaty grime of summer in the city, so if you want to look Parisian, go with a neutral – khaki, brown, black, gray or navy blue. If you’ve got the cash, buy yours at Comptoir des Cotonniers for around 200 euro. If you’re on a budget, try any of the cookie cutter “Paris Chic” boutiques lining any side street in the city and style yourself for a much more affordable price of 20-30 euro. The middle of the roaders shop at Gap, Esprit, Promod or Zara. My own happens to be blue and gray plaid and was not quite as cheap as 20, but was well under 100 euro.

As predicted by Vogue back in December or January, the chic nail polish for spring is dark brown – just as chic as the Chanel Black Satin rage of the fall and winter, but a bit less harsh for spring. Buy it Chanel if you’re blessed with a disposable income, but the rest of us stock up at Sephora or Monoprix.

As the Laguna Beach style of beachwear for any occasion – cut-off denim miniskirts with or without leggings, flip flops and wife beater-style tank tops – has not, and probably will never catch on here, you’re a lot safer going with a knee-length cotton skirt or dress. Stock up at Zadig & Voltaire, H&M or Antik Batik and pair with tights, leather boots and cardigans for the spring and flat sandals or espadrilles in the summer and you’re sure to capture that easy breezy French girl chic. These pieces are particularly effective if shown off from the back of a moped driven by a frighteningly stylish French boy.

As for shirts, French fashion doesn’t seem to change tremendously. Tee shirts are cut low to show off a nice décolletage and skim the body. I think the idea is to never look like you’re working for your chicness – tight tee shirts or too-complicated tops just look like too much effort and destroy any idea of chic you might have had. Loose and light, but always sexy.

In a repeat of last summer, the cut-off trousers are back – or maybe they just never left. Worn either below the knee in madras style, or cut high like hot pants that you might happen to wear to work (with some thick opaque tights underneath and a seriously conservative shirt, of course!) Buy them anywhere that clothes are sold and wear them with the same attitude as the floaty skirts and dresses. The perfect carelessly chic French outfit? Short trousers, a horizontally striped cotton shirt (think John Paul Gaultier) and ballet flats or sandals.

There are two types of shoes preferred by French feet from March through August. The first being a pair of chic flat sandals. Styled in the exact same shape as the ballet flats that are still roaringly popular among the chic and skinny-panted young women of Paris, but cut as sandals (cut out toes, for example, or with thin ankle straps). Wear these with your skinny pants – it’s still just morphing from winter to spring after all, cropped trouser pants or floaty cotton skirts. As with every style, you can become an haute couture fashion victim just as easily as a boho budgeted one. Starting at 19 euro in the generic boutiques, going up to a thousand euro if that’s how much you’re willing to pay for your footwear.

Espadrilles are the other foot fashion must-have. From what I hear, they’re back every year as a summer sandal you buy once each spring and spend the summer wearing to the ground as you vacation in Italy or Provence. These you really can buy anywhere – for 100 euro in the boutiques on rue Saint Honoré (which may not sound like a lot until you consider what this shoe is – woven hay and a piece of canvas) or for 20 euro in the women’s clothing department of Monoprix. Go for crazy stripes, polka dots, whatever strikes your fancy at the moment, because you’ll just be stocking up again in Spring 2008.

The French are obsessed with Levi’s denim. There are Levi’s boutiques all over the city, where you can clad yourself in 90 euro pants that you might have paid $50 for at Sears in the U.S. (I should know, I spent a summer working there). Whoever you are, whatever your income, at least one pair of Levi’s is going to be a staple of your wardrobe. You either save up and guard them zealously as your special pair of jeans, or you wear them for day-to-day bumming around, paired with a simple button shirt from Prada. Sound ridiculous? Not for the moms who live in the 2ème arondissement.

Women carrying Longchamp purses should be featured on the postcards of Paris, alongside the beret-wearing, baguette holding men that so often grace the racks of souvenir stands. Though it doesn’t seem to have reached international fame, the brand is as much a staple of life in Paris as is owning a scarf for every day of the week. They make regular leather purses as well, but live here for a while and you’ll probably be more familiar with the brightly-colored canvas bags with leather handles. They come in all colors and sizes and if you are a female who lives in the city, no matter your age, you probably have one of these bags. If you’re a mom, you carry a smaller one as an everyday purse. If you’re a student you probably carry both a luggage-sized bag filled with books and graph paper and a smaller one over your shoulder with normal purse contents.

In Paris, there’s no such thing as putting away your scarves for the winter. Maybe the wool varieties are sealed and stored, but pashminas are as common as ever. More popular for warm weather are little wispy scarves, brightly colored and sometimes sparkly, tied in jaunty knots at the neck. Even though it’s a little sunny and bright to sport black and skulls, it seems like every young person in the city (male or female) has one of the sparkly skull scarves that have been popular since I arrived last August.

Really, the most important thing to remember is to stay chic. Take a leaf from Coco Chanel, and stop in front of the mirror on your way out the door each morning to remove one item from your outfit. Clutter isn’t chic, anymore than looking like you stepped out of a Hollister catalogue is – at least not here. Be chic, be effortlessly stylish, never look like you feel the heat, never ever put your scarves into summer hibernation – and please, please, don’t forget the deodorant. The metro is horrible enough when the weather gets warm without being pressed against other sweaty people of already questionable hygiene.