Bienvenue à Paris!
It has been a crazy few days, but I finally arrived in Paris on Wednesday! After finding my luggage, I took a taxi to meet my group at Hotel Ibis, near La Bastille in the 9th arrondissement. Right away we got to work, especially on our French skills. I am still a little rusty! Wednesday-Friday consisted of a group orientation, mainly on adjusting to French life in the city. My favorite seminar was called “Paris Pas Cher,” or “Paris on the Cheap.” I’ve noticed how important this is already! Restaurants and bars are really expensive in Paris, especially in the more touristy areas.
We also got a tour of the CIEE Center, where our classes will be held. There are four classrooms of varying sizes, as well as a little study area with a library. We were placed in three “tracks” depending on our language skill, and I somehow was assigned to the Francophone track with people who have taken French for about six or seven years, some more! I have only taken French since sophomore year of college, so I was very surprised. However, I have found it’s easy to understand people, but my speaking is a little slow. It’s very different having a conversation with a Parisian than sitting in a classroom with other students of your level in Seattle! One of my goals for my semester is to speak with more confidence.
On Thursday evening, we took a boat ride on the Seine as a group and saw the sights of Paris. It really is a beautiful city! I can’t imagine living somewhere so amazing; people here are so used to it that I wonder if they ever stop to admire the sights. Of course we stopped at the Eiffel Tour! There was even a performer there singing Van Morrison – I’ve noticed I keep hearing a TON of American music wherever I go. We also have a Chipotle right around the corner from school, quelle dommage! On Saturday I met up with one of my new friends at Place de la Concorde, where they used to execute people with the guillotine. It’s nice and sunny in Paris, but very cold! It’s hard to sight-see when it’s so chilly. A group of my friends and I went to Les Galeries La Fayette, an area very famous for shopping. Because this week is one of the only legal times to have sales in stores, it was packed! I’ve never seen a store or streets so crowded.
On Friday I moved in with my host family! I am living in the 12e arrondissement in east Paris. They are a cute little couple in their 60s; they have two sons and a few grandkids that live just outside of Paris. Right away they wanted to get to know me, so we had un aperitif before going out to dinner. I like chatting with them, but I feel bad because my French isn’t perfect! I can carry on a conversation but every so often I forget a word, but they are really nice and help me out. The husband doesn’t speak any English and the wife told me I’m here to learn French so she refuses to speak English to me. As long as they can deal with my slow speaking that is okay by me! The apartment is kind of near the perimeter of Paris, but I have mastered the Metro system already. It takes about 30 minutes and 2 trains for me to get to school, but I don’t mind. I feel very Parisian already!
Today our group met at the Notre Dame for a tour. It’s a beautiful cathedral, but the tour guide was very detailed in the history of Paris, so it got a little tedious after a while. Afterwards some friends and I got lunch/dinner at a nearby brasserie, walked around, and then I had my first crepe! Tres delicieuse! Tomorrow starts our week-long intensive language program before classes start the following Monday. I hope my French dramatically improves this week!