As of tomorrow, I will have been in Paris for exactly a week. Thus, an entry here is more than overdue, but as you can guess, my first few days have been a little hectic and I wanted to get settled before I wrote.
My flight here was fairly uneventful, sauf [except for] an hour delay caused by backups on the runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. There were a number of other Smith students on the same plane, and we met a couple of others at Charles De Gaulle so there was a small army of us traveling together on the bus into Paris. It was reassuring to be surrounded by people I knew, and it made arriving in a new country with a new language (well, not new, but different…and although I’ve studied it for many years, I hadn’t spoken or listened to much French for the entirety of the summer) much less terrifying.
We were put up in a very nice, big, Americanized hotel in Montparnasse for the first night. I was understandably exhausted from the travel, but we were able to find a little boulangerie at which to eat lunch – my first real French experience. I also got a chance to walk around the neighborhood a little bit and at each turn I was reminded that I was in Paris: the streets are narrow, the apartments beautiful, and les motos [motorcycles, mopeds, etc.] numerous.
After our first meeting as a group with our program director and assistant director, our host families were to meet us back at the hotel. Unfortunately, my hostess was out of town attending a niece’s wedding so I would not yet get to meet her. I was instead whisked away by my friend Jamie’s host family who were some of the nicest, warmest people I have ever met. Dominique and Catherine and there 10-year-old daughter Elyse welcomed us openly into their home, and it made for a fabulous first impression of Parisian life and Parisians themselves. Plus, their apartment was beautiful and but a few minutes walk from the Arc de Triomphe, where Jamie and I were able to stroll Sunday morning and again Sunday afternoon when we met a friend at a café near the Champs-Elysées.
Sunday was to be my last day with Dominique, Catherine and Elyse, and my time spent with them ended on a high note. For dinner Sunday night (the other meals had been equally fabulous in their own respects due to Catherine’s superb cooking), Catherine, Elyse, Jamie and I took a bus to the Champs de Mars, the park area in front of the Eiffel Tower, were we had a pique-nique [picnic] of excellent sandwiches prepared by Catherine. Afterwards, we played Frisbee in the park, then bought ice cream by the Seine and strolled for the best view of the Eiffel Tower as it lit up at 9 p.m – in all, an absolutely magnificent night.
Monday morning I woke up full of anticipation and a bit of anxiety, ready to meet my hostess who came to the apartment to pick me up at 8 a.m. before my orientation courses. From my first impression, I could tell that she was sweet and kind and that is, of course, true. She’s very maternal and grandmotherly with me (she has 11 grandchildren of her own) and so far I’ve appreciated the guidance and care that she’s given me. Her apartment is on the small side and is historic (she would just say old), dating from the 1880s, but it is very cozy and located in an extremely central location at the coeur de [heart of] Paris. In fact, it’s only a 2 minute walk from the center Smith has at Reid Hall (where all my orientation classes take place) and just as close in the other direction to the famed Jardin du Luxembourg.
This week has been a blur of classes (ranging from phonetics to French history to how to navigate Paris), pleasant lunches eaten with friends and strolls throughout the city. Unfortunately, the weather has turned a bit sour these past few days and Paris is gris [grey] comme d’habitude [as usual]. Thankfully, the cold and the rain have not dampened my spirits or multiplied my stress, and all is well in the City of Light.