Paris, Days 2 and 3: The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Sacré-Coeur

louvre
louvre
louvre
galerie d'apollon louvre
plaid blanket scarf outfit
galerie d'apollon louvre
musee d'orsay at sunset
eiffel tower at night
view from eiffel tower at night
sacre coeur view

"20 euros, 20 euros!"

My program friend and I peered quickly at the prices listed on the front of the bike carriage. It was sunset--fierce shades of gold and salmon waltzed across the serene blue canvas. We were looking for the Musée d'Orsay metro stop, but instead became distracted by the touristy bike carriages lining the Seine. 

The driver (rider?) of this particular one was animated and insistent. The "non, merci" we offered after scanning the expensive prices didn't appease him. As we kept walking, he shouted: "15 euros! 15 euros! 10 euros!"

My friend turned to me with wide eyes. "He said 10 euros!"

We couldn't pass up such a deal, so we scurried back, soon finding ourselves weaving through Parisian traffic in the back fo a bike carriage. My stomach began to drop as we drew closer to our destination of the Eiffel tower, and it wasn't the exhilirating ride. Damnit Lily, you forgot to clarify if it was 10 euros a person, or 10 euros total. The last thing I wanted was to be taken for an easily-scammed tourist. 

It was worse than I expected. Upon arrival, we cheerily handed the driver 5 euros each, as agreed upon. Instead, he showed us the price list taped to his bike, the very one that had caused us to keep walking.

"But no girls--you see the price here. It's 20 euros a person!"

I was fuming. "But you said it was 10 euros!'

"There's nothing I can do--it's my boss who makes the prices."

"But you said it was 10 euros!"

Two can play this game, I thought. "I only have this much money in cash," I declared as nonchalantly as possible. Defiance inevitably edged into my voice.

My friend, the virtuous peacemaker, reluctantly pulled out another 20 euros. The driver reluctantly settled for 30 euros in total. I promptly paid my friend back after the conniving man disappeared.

As we walked away, I couldn't help but wish the scene had played out differently. Man Lily, you could've said we both only have this much money in cash. Or you could've just walked away--what could he have done, chased after? Or you could've asked if the price was for both people. Or you could've never taken the stupid bike carriage.

The unfortunate encounter dampened the mood a bit, but I tried my best to remain empathetic. I had no idea what financial situation the driver was in--maybe he was struggling to feed a family. Maybe not. I just hoped that he didn't enjoy scamming people, and I wished he knew how profound an emotional impact one dishonest encounter could have.

So PSA: don't take the enticing Parisian bike carriages, and remain a healthy dose of skeptical when doing business.

And above all, learn and keep living fully despite negative circumstances. As I drank in the twinkling Parisian lights atop the Eiffel tower later that night, my thoughts were no longer tinged with anger and remorse. Instead, I thought of how vast the world was, how arbitrary human relationships can be, how ephemeral our time was (I was on a basic philosophical streak, okay?), and how determined I was to make the most of my study abroad experience.

I smiled, took one last glance, and began the long stairway descent, back to real life. 

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Cozy Fall: Blanket Scarf Outfit + FashionMia Review

plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
plaid scarf outfit
Coat, FashionMia (sold out; similar cut, similar vibe) | Scarf, H&M | Sweater, Mom's | Skirt, China | Boots, China
In exchange for an honest review, I received this coat free of charge from FashionMia. All opinions are my own.

It was war.

The battleground? One large suitcase and four vacuum bags, crinkly from the violent fight.  

It was me versus them--me against my belongings in my quixotic endeavor to fit a year of my existence into one fifty-pound suitcase. 

I lost.

After countless maneuveurs and coaxing from my parents, I surrendered. I would grit my teeth and pay to check a second suitcase. 

But the struggle nonetheless continued. I resolved to bring only a carry-on size as my second suitcase, *just in case* I could somehow pare down the field to its larger counterpart on my return trip (the struggle of musicians--had I not brought my violin, that suitcase could've been my carry-on...) The second suitcase ended up being nearly as heavy as the larger one, and I still abandoned several items at home, one being a polished mint peacoat.

I felt a little ridiculous sporting my heavy winter coat when fall began to make its subtle entrance in Bordeaux. But luckily, FashionMia asked me to collaborate, and I happily selected this patched camel coat. 

Here's the verdict on this versatile jacket:

Appearance: 5/5
I usually shy away from hooded jackets because they feel less refined, but practicality won this battle--I wanted a hood just in case the weather turned sour. This coat balanced appearance and mechanics nearly seamlessly--the classic colors and faux zipper pockets ooze "I am in control of my life" (I am not), and the fluffily-lined hood shields me from the frequent Bordeaux drizzles.

Sizing: 4/5
I ordered a small, and when unzipped, the jacket fits just right. Zipped, however, and I look and feel like a marshmallow. With a sweater underneath, the jacket is just a little too snug. Even funkier, the zipper ends several inches well before the coat hem, leaving some body-hugging flaps. Luckily, I rarely zip my jackets anyways.

Quality: 3.5/5
The zippers are a bit reluctant, and the hemming isn't perfect, particularly in the pockets. I would've also liked to see softer material--at times, the coat feels a bit stiff and not particularly durable.

Shipping: 4/5
This package took about 3 weeks to ship internationally, which is slightly longer than the norm for Asian retail companies (in my experience, the average is 2 weeks). For shipments to the US, the cheapest option is about $7, expected in 5-12 days. With orders over $80, shipping is free. The coat came sufficiently-protected in a large plastic mailing pouch.

Value: 3.5/5
For a under $30 at regular price, the jacket is by no means an investment luxury item. I'd say it stands in the ranks with peacoats I've purchased at Forever 21 or H&M--they can give off a refined vibe, but are missing just that touch of comfort. Including shipping, the cost would've have less justified, but the jacket still doesn't break the wallet.

Overall: 4/5
FashionMia has a plethora of trendy items at affordable prices, with corresponding quality. I would've appreciated truer sizing and speedier shipping, but the jacket is overall a versatile addition to my humble study-abroad closet.

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Paris, Day 1: Versailles + Tough Reflections

college fashion, study abroad outfit, versailles
palace of versailles
palace of versailles
hall of mirrors
gardens of versailles
college fashion, study abroad outfit
marie antoinette's house

My words will most definitely not match my photos today, and that's okay.

Just over a week ago, I was waltzing around Paris. 

Today, I not only found out that a vile man would become the next US president, but that my mom voted for him. 

My mom voted for Donald Trump. 

I would write the same sentence a million times if the numbing repetition would make the nightmare disappear. But even acknowledging the fact once makes me shudder with horror and boil in shame. 

I want to believe that the media painted Trump as a misogynist, racist psychopath, and that he's actually a very nice man qualified to lead our country. But that would be horribly naive.

I want to believe that checks and balances will prevent the imminent damage of Trump's proclaimed foreign and domestic policy. But we thought that he would never make it through the primary, and most definitely never reach the White House. And he did. 

When I told my parents to vote on November 8th, I didn't realize I should've specified. 

I'm speechless that half the country and even part of my family selected someone so starkly against America's founding ideals of equality, freedom, and happiness. I'm in shock, and I want to understand.

I'm usually reticent about politics, and I'm not sure why--maybe because it doesn't feel tasteful to discuss such polarized topics, maybe because I'm afraid of offending others. Or maybe because I'm terrified of discovering what those close to me believe.

My mother's vote, if anything, has shown me that it's time to start a dialogue. Yes, the democratic party didn't handle the primaries well. Yes, our choices weren't ideal this election, but are they ever? America chose a man who embodies the opposite of love and progress to become our president, and I want to know how and why. My mother, an educated middle-class minority woman, chose Donald Trump to be president, and I want to know how and why. 

I'm hurting. America is hurting. I feel betrayed and ashamed of my country, and my family. 

But we must look ahead. Groupthink, propaganda, corruption, polarization, lack of education, fear, blindess, hate--something led to this result. Whatever it was, I want to fix it. 

Whatever it was, let's fix it together.

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Wandering: OOTD + Reflections on Language and Identity

mint blazer outfit
mint blazer outfit
mint blazer outfit
mint statement necklace
mint blazer outfit
mint blazer outfit
mint blazer outfit
parc bordelais
Blazer, Kohl's | Button-down, thrifted J.Crew | Skirt, Target | Boots, Old Navy | Necklace, Walmart (like I've said before, haute couture)

I'm afraid of losing her sometimes--the girl who wears English like a second skin, like a favorite t-shirt that feels just right.

When I transition between languages--between identities--I feel unsettled. After two months of living primarily in my French persona, I feel more and more removed from English. When I speak in English, my voice sounds cold, foreign, awkward. When I speak in English, I develop a dull headache, the physical manifestation of intellectual strain--strain that I once associated with speaking in French. 

The seasons have changed, and my favorite t-shirt no longer suffices. To stay warm, I need French, a boxy sweater that fits far from perfectly. At times, I feel constricted, unable to freely and accurately express my my thoughts. Other times, I feel liberated, equipped with a multilingual vocabulary to tackle the world. But the sweater still doesn't feel quite right.

For now, I am language-homeless, identity-confused. I am a wanderer, meandering between who I was and who I am becoming.

I hope I'll grow into that sweater. Or, I hope that with strategic layering--ample practice and attention--the sweater will begin to feel just right. I've already begun to have more interesting, resonant conversations in French, and sometimes I even think in French. And when I write in English, I catch myself wanting to interject French phrases that feel more accurate than any English equivalent.

As I grow more and more at home in French, I feel more and more like myself. I am no longer the girl who couldn't bear to leave her life at her home university, who couldn't let go of a year that was meant to be beautifully ephemeral. I am no longer the girl who dreamt audaciously but in reality craved the comfortable familiar. I am whoever I want to be.

So in the end, there's nothing to fear. I may be losing her, but I'm gaining myself.

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