The moment my plane lands, I’m immediately smacked by Paris’s beauty! In truth, I can only see other planes because we’re still on the tarmac but you get the idea. All theatrics aside, just knowing I’m on Parisian soil for the first time ever makes me want to do back-flips. Should I attempt those, there’s no one I know for thousands of miles to embarrass, except myself. I’m willing to take that chance. At the moment, nothing feels real but I can’t really place it. You know how when you first get to a new place it seems like everything is upside down? Well, maybe that has more to do with jet-lag but I’m sure that will wear off. (I hope) So far I’ve had one French encounter in the form of my traveling companion who was sitting to my right. We barely spoke but he seemed nice enough. Because I had the aisle seat, I mustered up the courage to tell him, “Si vous voulez aller au toilet, dites-moi, s’il vous plait”, which translates to “If you have to go to the bathroom, please tell me.” It’s funny how basic human needs force us to interact for the greater good of a situation. I couldn’t tell what this man’s reaction was to my statement, because it was dark, but I felt he understood and was relieved. I was lucky enough to find another student from the program, a lovely girl named Sophie who was at baggage claim. From there, we hopped on the RER. If I could advise any future study-abroaders I would say take the train (RER) from the airport if you’re flying to Charles De Gaulle. You save a decent amount of money while also getting your first experience with Parisian public transportation.
Regardless of how you decide to get to your new home for the next couple weeks, packing lightly is your best bet. Being a person who likes to do her own thing, I didn’t follow that advice. Since it was my first time traveling overseas alone, I figured I could use some comforts of home, by some I mean a lot. Friends, don’t do it to yourselves! Don’t be an over packer, your body will thank you in the long run. Getting yourself a guide book and map of Paris prior to getting here is a pretty good idea, even if it’s just reading material to pass the time while on the flight. It’s not absolutely vital to get one but it could help you with orienting yourself, as figuring out what to do first might be a bit overwhelming. It’s been my experience that a lot of guidebooks provide a metro map as well as a map of Paris, so that’s super helpful.
Looking for the name of a street you’re on? Check on a building on that street! I can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to figure out what street I was on when I stepped out of the subway. The map put me on Boulevard St-Michel but I couldn’t see any signs for it to and that’s when I started losing my cool. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting my first lesson in overseas traveling on my own. First thing is, be patient with yourself! I realized that at some other point in this trip, I’ll lose my way. It’s okay not knowing everything or figuring it out in seconds. In fact, it’s a good thing because you’re able to adapt accordingly. That’s the beauty of this trip, the trials and subsequent growth that comes with uncertainty, I learned that firsthand the minute I was in my arrondissement (city district). With my new-found Zen in tow, I headed for the ‘Pension Les Marronniers’, this time in the right direction. Once I stepped into our apartment, I felt like I had entered the 1930s. Artwork in practically every corner you look and a substantial library, I’m glad I chose the pension. I’m going to make the best of this place and I hope it makes the best of me. Oh, and it’s right across the street from the Luxembourg Gardens. (bonus!) As I write this, I’m sitting in the living room surrounded by various works of art and watching life as it’s moving outside my window, I feel so lucky to be here and will probably sit in enchantment for a couple of minutes until my mind wanders.
Now we’ve reached the part in this blog wherein I gush about excursions. I’ve only been to one so far and I would say try your hardest to make ALL of them, I know I will! They take place the first four Saturdays while we’re here. The first one was to Giverny and Rouen. Giverny is about an hour and a half away from Paris and is where Claude Monet called home, it’s perfect and the gardens and ponds are miracles. We got to visit his home and well as the inspiration behind one of his most famous paintings “Water Lily Pond”.
Rouen was where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Don’t worry, it’s not as sinister as it sounds, it’s pretty modern. It has plenty of clothing stores as well as charming cafes. Rouen is also home to the hauntingly beautiful Rouen Cathedral, it’s been the subject of some of Monet’s paintings as well. Its haunting quality comes from the fact that when you step in, the temperature drops like 15-20 degrees, you hear nothing but whispers and there’s a veil of calmness over the place. What makes the cathedral beautiful are the extremely intricate sculptures and fixtures on the outside. The closer you get the more sculptures become visible. It was fantastic.
Well, it’s about time for me to gorge myself on many delicious pastries. I’ve only spent a few days here and I couldn’t be happier. My journey’s already proving to be an exciting one, come along!
Photo Credit: Last two photos, (the best ones) Sarah Myers