May 31, 2006
Two girls shop for ripe melons, sniffing for a sweet fragrance, at Marché Mouffetard, one of my favorite places and recommendations for visitors to Paris to go
You can’t do Paris without a museum, or two, or ten — it’s unthinkable. If you're visiting the City of Light for the first time, by all means, flit from the Louvre to D’Orsay; climb la Tour Eiffel and l’Arc de Triomphe; visit Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur. After that, here’s my pearl of wisdom learned from experience: you’ll have more fun and better memories of Paris, or wherever you go, if you dig deep into the culture.
My adventure in Paris was four months of uncharted exploration. I didn’t have guidebooks or tour guides. Every day that I could, I ventured out with only my camera to take pictures, and my map and métro ticket to get me back at the end of the day. I discovered the most charming and pittoresque places by taking “wrong” turns. There’s more to Paris than the puddle iron tower. There’s an incredible culture, and even during a short vacation, it’s easy to discover. Here are my tested suggestions of things to do in Paris:
Go to the outdoor markets!
They’re one of my favorite things about Paris. As a tourist, it’s possible to side-step them, but seek one out! There are close to 100 roving and street markets throughout the city, open every day except Mondays. Pick up a Pariscope at a street newsstand for a complete listing of days and times, or look here.
A few of the best roving marchés are Richard-Lenoir (Th. and Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. at métro Richard-Lenoir in the 11è), Aligre (T-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7:30, Sun. 8:30-1:30 p.m. near métro Ledru-Rollin in the 12è), and the one that I lived next to, Saxe/Breteuil (Th. and Sun. 7 a.m.-2 p.m., métro Ségur or Sèvres Lecourbe in the 15è). Markets are free to wander through, entertaining, and very French. Watch the venders engage with the customers; peruse primeurs (first fruits and vegetables of the season), the freshest eggs, cheese, meats, fish, and flowers, clothing, bric-a-brac and kitchenware; and be aware of little, old ladies whipping through the aisles with their rolling totes — they’re dauntless.
Go in the late morning and pick up a picnic lunch. You can find everything there — Normandy apples, Greek olives, cheese, baguettes, roasted chicken, chocolate tartes, wine — even sun hats and paring knives.
Street markets are also fun. My favorite is rue Mouffetard, the market street I did my field research project on during the semester. The produce there is expensive compared to other markets, but go for the Sunday morning ambiance alone. The music and dancing starts at 11 a.m., and lyric sheets are distributed so everyone can join in. One of my first Projo blogs was on this market street, and I came to love it more each time I went back, seeing the same faces each week and making friends. I watched a couple of tourists come over towards the music, and as they watched, big smiles spread across their faces.
Locals dance and sing along to the Mouffetard Musette behind the market every Sunday morning.
Have a picnic (pique-nique)
Enjoy a picnic (with your food from the morning's market) at one of Paris' many nice picnic spots. Pont Des Artes just in front of the Louvre is a popular place; it’s one of many Parisian bridges over the Seine that connecting the Right and Left Banks. This wooden footbridge, built in 1803, is popular among French young people as a picnic spot and place to relax with friends. In early May, my friend Chiara had a birthday celebration on the bridge and we had a picnic under the clear night sky, overlooking the Seine and a sparkling Eiffel tower. We brought blankets, wine, and cake, and sat comfortably on the bridge in the open air. There’s also the park near the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars (métro École Militaire on 8), and Jardin du Luxembourg (stop on RER B or walk from métro Cluny-La Sorbonne on 10). There’s also a nice garden at the métro Cluny-La Sorbonne next to the Cluny museum.
Eat nutella crêpes!
You can’t do Paris without a crêpe or two. Nutella is the best, but there are many options including sucre (sugar), citron (lemon), a selection of confitures (jams), Grand Marnier, and chocolate. Crêpe stands dot the more touristic areas of Paris, and it’s worth it to compare prices and also check to see if the crêpes are pre-made. For me, part of the fun of buying a crêpe is watching it be made — as the batter is poured onto the skillet and artfully raked into shape, then later flipped, the filling spread, and the crêpe folded before being handed over still steaming hot. I was always very skeptical of crêpe stands that had a mountain of pre-made crêpes, and when the customer ordered, it would just be filled, folded, and served, luke-warm. My favorite crêpe stand is tucked into the end of rue de la Harpe, just outside the Cluny-La Sorbonne métro (on the 10), next to McDonalds. They make delicious Nutella crêpes for 2,30 euros which is one of the better prices I found in Paris (they climb as high as 3,50 for just Nutella).
Take a coffee at a café
Cafe Panis, near Notre Dame
The Parisian café culture represents a different pace and lifestyle than what American are used to. Un café pour emporter (a coffee to go) is very rare in Paris. Part of the Parisian experience is enjoying, slowly, a cup of joe and people-watching from an outside table. Heed this warning though: check the prices before you order! I ordered and drank one cappuccino at a café at Bastille, and then looked at my bill for 7,50 euros! I learned my lesson. Café crèmes and cappuccinos usually cost around 4 euros each ($5) at tables, so a simple café (coffee) or my favorite, a noisette (hazelnut coffee) are better alternatives for about 2 euros each. For more authentic ambiance, order and drink your coffee at the bar where the prices are about half of what you would pay sitting at a table.
Most cafés have good, simple food at decent prices. At one of my favorites, Le Mouffetard (116 rue Mouffetard in the 5è, métro Place Monge), I had an excellent mozzarella and basil tartine with a fried egg. Look for the Croque Monsieur, one of Paris’ tastiest specialties, and standard café fare. It’s essentially a hot grilled-ham-and-cheese sandwich, but more filling and flavorful than the American counterpart. I always ordered mine sans jambon (without ham). Look for other versions, too, including Croque Madame, which is served with a fried egg.
Avoid tourist-trap restaurants on busy boulevards
As I traveled to London, the south of France, Italy, and Greece, this much held true: if you go a street or two behind the main thoroughfare, you will find authentic food at more reasonable prices. My best recommendation is to look for places off the busy boulevards like St. Michel and rue de Rivoli that serve mediocre food at jacked-up prices. Avoid the touristic rue de la Harpe at métro St. Michel! The pedestrian street is chock-full of souvenir shops, Greek restaurants, crêperies, and the like. It’s tempting because all the restaurateurs stand outside, doling out offers for free drinks. The street is charming for a wander-through, but everything’s over-priced and the food is low-quality.
Instead, head to the back of the Quartier Latin (in the 5è) or the Marais (in the 4è arrondissement). They're great areas to explore, with lots of cute restaurants, while still staying central in the city. I ate at a good, quiet place called Jardin du Marais (corner of rue Vieille du Temple & rue du Roi de Sicile) in February. My friend and I got there around 7:30 p.m. and we were the only diners at that “early” hour (The French don't eat dinner until 8 p.m. or much later). I opted for the fixed-price menu and ordered avocat vinaigrette et salade (green salad with avocado), Pizza Reine (with ham and mushrooms, but I asked for no ham), and mousse chocolat for around 11 euros. Also, wherever you eat, always ask for a carafe d'eau, a free pitcher of tap water, if you don't want to buy still or bubbly bottled water. While visiting Italy and Greece this month, I missed Paris' free tap water.
One of my favorite little places is close by in the Marais, the popular L’As du Fallafel (34 rue des Rosiers, between Hôtel de Ville and St. Paul métros. Follow rue des Ecouffies a couple blocks behind Rivoli). There’s seating inside, but I preferred to order a vegetarian fallafel sandwich pour emporter (to go) from the window and watch the master prepare the Middle-Eastern specialty, stuffing a pita with falafel, Turkish salad, eggplant, cabbage, hummus, and tahini. It’s a quick and cheap lunch for just 4 euros, and an easy walk along rue des Rosiers to the pretty Place des Vogues. While you're there, explore the medieval streets. The interesting Musée Carnavalet is just down the street (23, rue de Sévigné), as is the Picasso museum.
Last thing — enjoy the inexpensive, amazing bread from bakeries (boulangeries). You can get a baguette at any boulangerie for about 75 centimes ($0.95), and a demi-baguette (half) for around 40 centimes, or a flûte, or my favorite — the banettes. And, indulge in desserts from pastry shops (pâtisseries). They're amazing. I miss them.
Posted by at 6:08 PM | Permalink
March 29, 2006
These Marseillan boys clamored politely to be in the photo of my favorite window.
Well, I escaped to the gorgeous Mediterranean town of Marseille for a three-day excursion with my group, started soaking up the sun, and then got a stomach bug/food poisoning and ended up vomiting along the Cassis harbor, which resulted in a French doctor giving me a check-up in my hotel room. I also watched a French artist at his pottery wheel, took harbor walks, found beach, broke out my Bermuda shorts, got some color, visited a striped church, and went to a fish market. It was quite an adventure of a weekend!
Between the workload from my classes and research project, and Paris’ drizzling weather, the vacation couldn’t have come at a better time. The nine of us students and our Lexia chaperone, Julien, boarded the 8:20 a.m. high-speed TGV train Friday morning, and were off to the south of France.
After just one step off the train in Marseille, we knew we were golden. There was lots of sun, and the temperature was in the 60s with a refreshing sea breeze. In Paris, I’m still wearing my winter coat, but in Marseille, I was comfortable in a tee-shirt and Bermuda shorts.
I adored the easy, friendly atmosphere of the city, the lively harbor and authentic portside fish market, the tropical-colored building facades and shutters, and how everyone’s colorful laundry was hanging out to dry in the springtime breeze. I took the same long, meandering walk twice, along the harbor and up and along quaint little streets.
The stomach bug/food poisoning came out of nowhere. I woke up Saturday morning feeling nauseous, but tagged along with the rest of my group on our day trip to the stunning little village, Cassis, and spent the morning trying to appreciate our first French beach through stomach pangs.
While the rest of my group ate lunch at a cute restaurant overlooking the water, I went back outside for fresh air and ended up vomiting all over pretty, portside steps down to the sea. By the end of the afternoon, my roommate Anne had contracted whatever bug I had, and that evening when we returned to the hotel, Julien insisted on having the emergency médecin (doctor) come to our hotel room.
Within an hour, the doctor came a knockin’ and gave us concise French check-ups. He poked my stomach, took my blood pressure, measured my temperature with the old thermometer-under-the-armpit trick (he mentioned that it was customary to stick the thermometer up the patient’s derrière, but he was being kind because we were foreigners), and delivered good news: all I needed was rest.
I heeded the advice, called it an early night, and by morning, felt well enough to venture out and enjoy our final day in Marseille. By some miracle, it was a beautiful and warm night when we returned to Paris and as we deboarded the train, I felt like I was home.
The striped church, or so we called it. Interesting factoid: someone told me that in the movie "Love Actually," Colin Firth's character drives past this chuch.
Posted by at 4:50 PM | Permalink
From today’s international news reports, one would think Paris is on the brink of toppling over and being burnt to the ground by rioters. On the contrary, the ongoing manifestations against France’s new job contract, le CPE, continue to be peaceful, orchestrated protests with power in numbers.
The isolated outbreaks of violence — the ones controlled by police with water cannons and tear gas — are led by small groups of rebels and happen after the manifestations. The unrest is not crippling the city; my day-to-day activities are 100% unchanged by le CPE riots and manifestations.
Yesterday’s manifestation drew an estimated 3 million people across the country with 700,000 in Paris. The unprecedented numbers mounted against the government’s new CPE indicate young people’s unwavering opposition against the job contract designed to lower France's high unemployment rate. Over the past three weeks, young people across the country have doggedly protested the government to withdraw le CPE.
The contract encourages employers to hire young people (under 26) with the flexibility to fire them, for any reason, within the first two years of employment. While employers could offer more temporary positions, reducing the jobless rate, the employees would have zero job security until their 26th birthday, at which point they would be eligible for contracts for specified amount of time.
In Marseille, France this weekend, we watched a little gathering of high school students having a protest on the steps of their school.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at yesterday’s manifestation because I had classes all day. However, I did venture out at 5:30, hoping to catch the end of the march at Place de la Republique on the right bank.
I had been cautioned, by everyone — my professors, friends, my building’s concierge — to be careful, and as I climbed the steps to street-level at Republique, I wasn’t in the bravest frame of mind.
The march was over, and thousands of protestors and spectators flooded the street. Everyone was strangely subdued and inert; nobody was being rowdy, but I could sense that something was brewing. I pushed through the crowd, trying to evaluate the situation, then buckled and got back on the metro.
As a so-called reporter, it wasn’t the best move, but I think it was wisest. News reports later announced that, shortly after I left, a little bit of upheaval ensued and police blasted rioters there with water cannons and tear gas. I’m half-kicking myself because the photos would have been good.
I watched from a distance, via the nightly news, which gave lots of play to the afternoon manifestation and ended with an interview clip with a French college student who said the youth are not backing down. They’re one, she said, and sense that government cannot afford to hold out forever. From the students’ perspective, their persistence is paying off.
Le Monde recently reported that 63% of French people are against le CPE.
As an outsider, I’m looking for signs of how the manifestation is affecting life and am finding few. I think manifestations are just so customary and normal for the French, the people aren't phased at all and simply continue to go about their daily life.
I see “F*ck le CPE” scrawled on posters in random places. And everybody is still buzzing about the issue, but besides talk, there's nothing. The manifestations happen at scheduled times and follow a specific route. The riots are contained in certain locations.
Yesterday’s over-hyped grève générale ended up being weak. I was prepared for a day off because I had had heard that the metros would not be running and most businesses, closed. That was not the case, and I went trudging off to my 8:30 a.m. phonetics class. The metros were running, just fewer of them, but many trains were cancelled.
Posted by at 2:23 PM | Permalink
March 19, 2006
Video clips of the demonstrations are after the jump. 9 more photos and the full take of 85 photos
Eighty thousand young manifestants (protestors) plastered themselves with STOP-CPE stickers, linked arms, and marched through the streets of Paris yesterday afternoon, waving banners, and chanting vociferously for the French government to listen to their complaints about the controversial new labor law, CPE.
In the largest demonstation yet against le contrat première embauche (CPE), manifestants began marching at 2:30 p.m. at Place Denfert-Rochereau on the left bank of south-east Paris, and rolled into Place de la Nation on the right bank two hours later, still with boundless energy and stamina.
Against the advice of the U.S. Embassy and my program director, I was waiting there on the sidewalk at Nation to meet them, and watched for two hours as the manifestants streamed past. When I arrived around 3:30, the streets were empty and calm. An hour later, the circular place was flooded with the protestors and a sea of spectators.
I left around 6:45 as the last manifestants were marching towards the place. According to news reports, some angry protestors moved back to the site of Thursday night's riots, Place de la Sorbonne, wreaking more havoc in the historic square.
Video - Story continues below
"Aujourd'hui, dans la rue" --> "Today, on the street"
3 secs mpg | Real Media | Windows Media
The soundtrack is dance music.
18 secs mpg | Real Media | Windows Media
A strong voice: Roughly, "Everybody stop working, Let's have a general strike."
14 secs mpg | Real Media | Windows Media
The ongoing manifestations are being orchestrated by young French people, who believe that CPE would put them in a vulnerable position where they can be hired, but also fired, easily. The labor law was designed to lower the unemployment rate among young people (under 26) in France, currently at a high 23%.
For employers, the law is attractive because it allows them the flexibility to hire young, inexperienced workers without a commitment or attached strings. For the first two years of employment, they can fire the workers with any or no reason. While CPE is favored by the government and industry leaders as a way to lower the jobless rate, it offers no security for young people for those initial two years on the job. If fired, they would lose their income and could have a difficult time finding another job and paying rent. This vulnerability, being imposed on them by the government's CPE, is what's fueling the manifestations.
During the protest, manifestants wore stickers and buttons that depicted young workers being dumped head-first into garbage cans. One banner was marked with a red swoop and the words “Just don’t do it,” playing off of the Nike slogan. Onlookers sitting on top of a bus stop, waved a sign that read "CPE = Blague de l’année" (Joke of the year). The sentiment among the youth is that the government is looking for an easy way to lower the jobless rate, at the expense of young people.
Yesterday morning, my host mother said to me, “the (French) government has been a bastard for months,” by not listening to the people. To get the government's attention, people are engaging in protests, which are mostly peaceful, where they draw power from numbers. An estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million people marched across France in protest against CPE yesterday, in cities like Lyon and Marseille. Here, unlike in the U.S., the people actively and unrelentingly challenge legislation. The matter of CPE has riled up the French enough that it seems the law might be overturned.
Walking around Paris, it’s not that obvious that a major protest is going on. I eavesdrop the word manifestation in nearly every conversation that I pass by on the street, but can’t make out much more than that. Everybody -- young and old -- is talking about CPE, but there are few tangible signs of a major protest. This morning, I saw signs posted at a street market advertising another manifestation planned for this Tuesday at 7 p.m. on avenue de la Republique. I'm supposed to attend a piano concert that my host mother is organizing for the first Journée Mondiale de la Trisomie 21 (she's president of AFRT, the association for Down Syndrome research in France), but I'll try to make it to both.
I think what's going on here is really important and I'm learning a lot about politics and the power of the French people.
Posted by at 2:36 PM | Permalink
March 18, 2006
Curious to see the ongoing labor law manifestations (demonstrations) in Paris, I walked up to a scene from an action thriller Thursday night: the busy Boulevard Saint Michel had been closed to traffic and was smoky and littered with debris.
From French media coverage, I had learned about the manifestations over the new labor contract, CPE, which applies to French workers under the age of 26. It’s unpopular among young people who already have difficulty landing and keeping good jobs. CPE gives employers the right to fire their employees at any time without warning or reason. The lack of job security implied by the contract has prompted many young people to voice their discontent by engaging in demonstrations.
Up until this week, the worst “riots” I had ever seen were nothing but rowdy students stomping around during the Red Sox-Yankees A.L. East pennant race in 2004. Here, however, cars had been set on fire, and pompiers with fire hoses were on hand to battle the flames. Vengeful protestors were on the streets, charging blockades of riot police officers and pelting them with beer bottles and debris.
Hundreds and hundreds of spectators were milling towards the scene, stopping to watch the riot from the sidewalks. I stood there, at a safe-enough distance, attentive but completely dumbfounded by the unfolding of this event.
The protests over the new labor contract, CPE, have hogged French media coverage for the past week, but I had somehow sidestepped all the manifestations on the streets. The story had piqued my curiosity however, so I decided on Thursday afternoon to go searching for a manifestation in order to better understand what was going on. I knew they are centered at the Cluny-La Sorbonne area of Paris, near the historic Sorbonne building and Pantheon, so I headed that way. By the way, my Sorbonne language class is not physically in the historic building or even in that vicinity, which is why I hadn't come across the protests before.
I learned afterwards that the riot I found on Blvd. St. Michel was the worst of all the CPE demonstrations because it was taken over by young people coming into Paris from the outskirt banlieues (suburbs), the same ones who had organized the November riots outside Paris. Thursday night, they weren’t fighting specifically to protest CPE; they just used the cause as a reason to riot and create havoc.
I was shaken most by two things. First, the audacity of the rioters as they kept creeping closer to the blockade of police, pelting debris and taunting them before being chased back. I literally got goose bumps every time a beer bottle was shattered as it was blocked by the riot officers’ shields. Despite the demonstrated vengeance of the rioters, I didn’t feel like I was in grave danger, so I stayed, out of curiosity.
The second thing that really floored me were the completely shattered windows of cafés and storefronts in the historic Sorbonne square. I stood dumbfounded in front of the windows of one café that had been completely smashed by rioters, and couldn't make sense of the message. The storefront of Gap, on the corner, was ravaged by graffiti and irreparable cracks in the glass.
There’s another big manifestation today, and I’m heading out now with a friend to meet it. I’m excited because I think this one, during the day, will have a completely different dynamic.
Posted by at 6:33 AM | Permalink
March 7, 2006
I took a Sunday morning stroll down Rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement, near the Panthéon, and came upon something wonderful: an impromptu dance floor. There, next to the crates of clementines and pineapple being peddled at the market, was a cluster of older French couples dancing merrily in the street to a small ensemble of musicians. Onlookers were huddled around them, singing songs that they knew by heart. My favorite couple was an adorable little girl spinning around with her grandmother.
One man handed me the a sheet with the lyrics, which I accepted with a “merci.” Here’s the chorus for “Ou est-il donc?”:
Où est-il mon moulin de la Place Blanche?
Mon tabac et mon bistrot du coin?
Tous les jours étaient pour moi Dimanche!
Où sont-ils les amis les copains?
Où sont-ils tous mes vieux bals musette?
Leurs javas au son de l'accordéon
Où sont-ils tous mes repas sans galette?
Avec un cornet de frites à dix ronds
Où sont-ils donc?
Posted by at 11:16 AM | Permalink
March 4, 2006
Is an ordinary orange beanbag art? Art that belongs in a museum? At the chic Parisian modern art musée Centre Pompidou, curators believe the answer is oui. The bean bag in question, Italian artists Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro's Sacco, is part of the controversial Big Bang exhibit that celebrates the modern art genre, one that challenged conventional standards and begs a number of philosophical questions about the intentions of artists and the aesthetics of their creations. Does art have to be beautiful? What does beautiful mean?
The placard in the Le Mou or Softness room where the beanbag is displayed, reads in English: Using unstable, passive materials, the artist releases the plastic and metaphorical potential of softness. Subject to gravity, form becomes free and modifiable, an infinite anti-form. "Le Mou" belongs to the Construction/Deconstruction category of the exhibit. I couldn't help staring at the orange poof, wondering why it was there.
Every room of the exhibit was filled with provocative things, many that I had a difficult time undestanding. In the first room, I thought a pot-bellied, grotesque monster of a male model represents a kind of rebellion against conventional standards of perfection, such as those embodied by Michelangelo’s sculpture, David. There’s a ticker on one wall that spits out frank, provocative phrases and proverbs like a fortune cookie. Art? One 3-D work has pieces of a dilapidated organ jutting out from the canvas.
There are canvases that are simply a solid color:
And, oh yes, the upside-down man with his head in a bucket (Alain Séchas’ Le mannequin):
I first visited the exhibit last week with the other students in my civilization class but didn't get to see everything because there's a lot and we moved slowly. For homework, we wrote a reaction to the exhibition and I said that Big Bang had certainly stretched my perceptions about art. Afterwards, I spoke -- in French! -- to my 23-year-old Roman friend, Chiara, about the modern art era and she shook her head, saying she thinks abstract art is neither convincing nor aesthetically pleasing. I'm still not sure what to think. The Big Bang art is certainly shocking, but I don't think that's a bad thing -- perhaps art is meant to provoke and inspire the audience even if it's done by stupefying them.
Posted by at 6:55 AM | Permalink
February 22, 2006
I just read Karlene's post, Getting Around in the UK, and see that the French aren't the only crazy drivers on the continent! How the French take to the road was one of the first things that struck me: they're aggressive, rude, and absolutely audacious. My shuttle driver from the airport was a great example. I was jostled around inside the van as the driver cut corners and went crashing over curbs, slammed the brakes, and raced down tiny little rues.
It's fascinating to me the way they drive -- it's really a reckless art form. The other day I was walking to the library and spotted a driver who was actively reading a newspaper. The paper was sprawled across the steering wheel and he was turning pages while careening down the street. Somehow, it wasn't a surprise to me.
My favorite of their quirks is they way they parallel park themselves into itty-bitty spots that, as far as I can see, are impossible to get out of. I watch but still don't understand how they finagle themselves into these spaces, leaving just centimeters -- if that -- between themselves and the two cars they're sandwiched between.
As Karlene was saying, pedestrians in Scotland don't have the right of way. The same applies in France. The first time I stepped up to a crosswalk, I was confused because the drivers kept racing by. The reality is that you're in their lane, just an obstruction in their way. They don't even yield for emergency vehicles. In the bustling streets at Châtelet, I watched as an ambulance — lights flashing and siren wailing — struggled to make its way through an intersection. I was disappointed with the drivers who refused to even slow down.
Nearly every taxicab I see is a Mercedes Benz, as was the case when I visited Dublin last January. My favorite French vehicles are the little green garbage trucks. I've seen a few station wagons and sport-utility vehicles, but the majority of cars here are small because they're the most functional in city streets. Peugeot is a very popular make, as is VW (especially Golfs) and Mini (Coopers). The most popular are Smart cars which are so tiny there's only space for 2 passengers and a baguette.
Posted by at 12:15 PM | Permalink
February 17, 2006
Bonjour from Paris, France! Je m'appelle Danielle Ameden and I’m writing from the City of Light where I’m studying until May with seven other American students in the Lexia International program. I’m a junior communications-journalism major and graphic design communications minor at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. My adventures here have begun — what a whirlwind first three weeks in Paris! There are museums and landmarks to visit, cafés to frequent, street markets and grand boulevards to explore, and beaucoup de baguettes to eat! Classes reel me back towards reality, but even those are an exciting Parisian adventure. I’m taking a Sorbonne extension class to learn the language, learning about the historic French civilization, and mapping out an independent research project.
Between adjusting to the language barrier and all the bustle of a major European city, the first week was a lot of culture shock. I’m a small-town girl from Jamaica, Vermont (population 935), a place where there are no taxi cabs or traffic lights. For perspective, the nearest Dunkin Donuts from my home is 30 minutes away. Paris, with a population of 2,144,700, was quite the leap. I’ve settled right in though, and feel remarkably comfortable. I’m navigating the metro pas de problème (no problem) and have a pretty good sense already of how to get around the city à pied (on foot). I'm always armed with my Paris Pratique map book because I don't have a strong sense of direction and the streets criss-cross in such illogical ways. Knock on wood, but I haven’t gotten lost yet.
I've seen Parisian police officers patrolling the streets on horseback and rollerblades, putting on quite a show.
I’m staying with a Parisian mother and daughter in the 15th arrondissement on the Left Bank, near the Invalides, Montparnasse, and the Eiffel Tower landmarks. My host mother is a biology professor and 20-year-old Clara is a public relations student at a Paris university. They’ve really made me feel comfortable in their home. The first day I got here though, I arrived at my home-stay completely jet-lagged, exhausted, and overwhelmed after a very long plane ride, and was lugging my incredibly heavy suitcase up the stairs to their apartment on the sixth floor and I heard this woman shouting, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” from above. It was my host mother and she was yelling at me because I didn't know there was a “lift,” the tiniest elevator imaginable. Ahhhhh. Welcome to Paris.
Posted by at 11:23 AM | Permalink
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