The intensity of everything, as though life has leapt from analogue to HD.
The brutal iciness of 7 degrees outdoors. The insidious chill that gnaws through walls and bones.
The blunt unhelpfulness of retail staff (and, by contrast, the obsequiousness of their Australian equivalents).
The way the streets smell. I can’t describe it but I can tell you how it feels: like being in the past and future simultaneously, and like I’ve made the right decision.
The unbearable cuteness of toddlers in puffer jackets, saying, Mais Papa…
Most of my French, it seems, but it bursts out when I need it like an uncoordinated superhero, leaving a string of mispronunciations as collateral damage while getting the job done.
Brioche tranchée, Russian Earl Grey tea, the wine aisle in Franprix.
The weight of mighty wooden doors into apartment buildings, and the uneven, creaking curve of parquet stairs.
The sense of victory after a brief conversation, a purposeful walk, a successful navigation.
How damn close everything is (bonjour, Belgium).