Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Day in Our New Home

Sunday August 30, 2009

So for those of you who have hassled me about my blogging timeliness or groaned about the lack of photos, please feast your eyes upon my workspace up until now: the Youth Hostel hallway. Youth. Hostel. Hallway. Like on the way to the only toilet for 40 people.

Today, I slept in until noon and decided I must fulfill every french expectation to go across the street and purchase the daily baguette. Well, thanks to all of my "life in Paris/France" reading and research, I already know that I can't go in my sweats and I must dress to impress as not to insult the boulangère. After over-paying for a stick of bread because I still don't know my french numbers, I head back to mon petit appartement to enjoy my coffee and baguette breakfast. After Rema wakes up we decide to go for a walk. Now, this sounds fairly normal and perhaps uneventful but as we take a few steps and turn only a couple corners..."Oh the Eiffel Tower!" It strikes again; the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower are literally 3 minutes away. I see the very bench I spent last Sunday on. This is so surreal!

After passing hundreds of tourists and one gypsy fight we continue our walk and pass this fuzzy mound of a building. I think it is a museum...we'll have to go and check it out!

The boats, here, over my shoulders are actually houseboats on the Seine! I have many serious questions. What is their address? How do they receive mail? Is it more expensive to live in a boat or an apartment in Paris? Does one have to have a special permit or just throw anchor? This is just odd.

This building is old with sculptures and statues all over, beautiful and most likely historic, I believe it is a museum, and apparently also a skate park. No joke.

So after walking along the Seine and exploring a few streets we head to Champs Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe. If you like my blouse you are not alone, I did in fact receive a thumbs-up from a elderly man passing by...let's just say I'm happy it was only a thumbs-up. No wonder women are so fond of the "menswear" look here, we are SO heading to the thrift store to re-do what we thought was a very Parisian wardrobe ASAP!

Later after returning home, Rema wandered onto the tiny courtyard just outside our window, hardly unnoticed. The creepiest voice you've ever heard calls down with a thick accent"this is not your private courtyard for only you to enjoy!" Now, when we moved in our landlord warned us about her. She described her as "disgruntled and unhappy with her life but that does not mean she can just be mean to people like that". Luckily, I am only recounting this tale, but Rema describes her as the small weird designer from the movie "The Incredibles"...But less talented and fabulous.

Tonight as we sit in our apartment, we look forward to our week ahead of french classes, baguettes and more french surprises!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Apartment Day! Thursday August 27

Apartment Day! Thursday August 27

*PS for my last blog I DO realize that Baton Rouge is a place in Louisiana and is not the Moulin Rouge which is indeed located in the Red Light District...I blame, um, jet lag? sigh.

So yesterday morning, Rema (a super nice girl from my group who I met and totally LOVE) and I had yet another apartment appointment to see a 25m² one bedroom apartment in the 7th arrondissement…it’s perfect! It is the 4th apartment that we have seen and we knew right away it was the one for us. It is on a very quiet and safe street with cafes and boulangeries nearby. We both agreed that it is better to live in a less exciting/safe area than an exciting/sketchy/scary area…

The one miniature bedroom has an IKEA style twin bed with a twin trundle pulled out underneath, a huge armoire, and lots of storage. In the living/dining/laundry/kitchenette room, there is a small pull out couch, pink tile counter tops, and window that looks out over a small moss-covered stone courtyard. In one of the kitchen cabinets, there is a washing machine; apparently, that is completely normal. The tiny bathroom has more pink tiles, a mini bathtub shower, and a baby sink. It feels somewhat like a playhouse…we get the keys tomorrow!

Tonight we went on the Bateau Mouche boat ride on the Seine. It was fun to see the different monuments from a different view and realize just how close our apartment is to, well, everything; the Eiffel Tower, le Musée d’Orsay, Parc du Champs de Mars, Champs-Elysées, Musée Rodin, Musée de l’Armée, Musée d’Art Moderne, le Trocadéro, the Seine, and l’Arc de Triomphe. The super cute little French announcer girl did both an English and French presentation. I’m sure she did great, but I only heard “shut up, shut up, shut up” from the stupid little kid behind me. Ha. Did you realize that the Eiffel Tower sparkles at night?! I saw this last summer, but it really blows me away to see it again. Our MICEFA leader said that they have to replace thousands of light bulbs everyday...Paris has the most interesting occupations: “Oh, me? I change light bulbs on the Eiffel Tower” or “That’s nothing. I febreeze the metro” –We DID see this in effect, however, these workers must always be on strike (very well possible) because the metro has every scent imaginable but febreeze, let me tell you!

Well, I have a bit of a confession. I made a mental promise not to do this, but have broken it a half a dozen times thus far: I eat at McDonald's. Now, let me explain. It’s not like it is back home, well, actually I don’t know that for sure I just never go in California…I mean why would I when I can get an El Pollo Loco skinless chicken breast for $1.65 instead? Anyways, everything is more expensive here including food so my default lunch of choice is now “un Petit Wrap” for 1€70. It’s fast, cheap and out of control delicious! …don’t judge me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 3, 4, and 5

Days 3, 4, and 5 Orientaiton and Track and Field all-in-one.

Well these days have all flowed into one…where one ended and the other began you know as well as I! So for the first couple days of orientation, the MICEFA staff just reviewed all of the practical information we need; boring things like bank accounts, apartments, cell phones, which University of Paris ‘school’ to choose AND ‘funny’ stories about pick-pockets, homeless people, and French men/people in general…which means good luck trying to be my friend; I might deck you with my bag or strike you in the face with pepper spray before you can say enchanté.

There are about 30 students in our group…so far all I have met have been very congenial and we’ve become close already! Between mastering the metro, and I mean master, and literally running for 8 miles a day to go from orientation to metro to metro to apartment (a contender with a pink tile bathroom) to metro to group dinner to metro to metro to run run run to orientation to metro to apartment (only available for one semester with view of Eiffel Tower, bummer!!!!!) to metro to run to apartment (waaay too smoky, ugh) to metro to metro… and so on, I think you might get the picture. Funny, I really don’t have any pictures from the last few days because I’ve been, well, running! And I guess I should throw in a “…to sweaty” about a trillion times to the list above…no wonder Parisians have a stinky reputation; they are constantly in the middle of a marathon. You would be stinky too!

Today (Wednesday) we took our placement tests and oral interviews to determine our level, intermediate or advanced, for the Preparatory Language Program (PLP) before university classes begin at the beginning of October. It turns out one of my MICEFA professors is from CSU Fullerton and, therefore, knows Madame Driscoll (my French teacher from high school whom I loooove). I’m telling you, the world is getting smaller each day I’m here.

So, I was successful in getting a French cell phone…three trips in three days to Phone House and my friend and I finally have the right chargers too. Now the far less important: home and bank account. Tomorrow I have another appointment to see an apartment then tomorrow night we have a group outing on Bateau Mouche, a boat ride on the Seine River at sunset. By the way, every time the staff says Bateau Mouche I hear “Baton Rouge” and think “What? They’re taking us to the red light district?! Wierd.”…then realize I’m way off, but they do sound similar when said with a French accent! –Which I am noticing mine is improving (much needed) with each passing day, yes!

Funny story: so I was just thinking whether I should mention the other night when I woke up at 3AM and realized no one would be online here so I would have a great connection to the internet and proceeded to sit on a stool on my balcony (where the signal is strongest) in my PJs to use my netbook for over an hour and thought maybe my mother wouldn’t approve of such a display so maybe I won’t post that….then I look up out my window (right now) and see an old Frenchman right across the street, like 20 feet away, on his balcony (level with mine) in his undershirt and tighty-whities. Yuck. And it’s only 8:55PM and broad day light! Ha, at least I was in pajamas!

Hugs & kisses!

Oh good, he just put some clothes on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 2

*So, I am having some issues with uploading my might by the my weak connection so you will have to use your wonderful imaginations until I figure it out!

Day 2 = Worn out!

Today I was in need of a pick me up so I decided to visit the Eiffel Tower a short walk away from my hotrel. I slept in, checked out of my hotel and was on my way. Since it was Sunday most of the shops are closed but the streets were still bustling. On my way I heard church bells and followed them to a cathedral maybe 400 years old, then saw the very same French macaroons that my sister created for my party! So perfect! As I wondered through tiny village streets I found another cathedral where there was a service being held. L’église de Saint Leon I believe. There were people inside singing hymns that I’m sure I recognized…it was a very reassuring and peaceful moment to behold.

It’s funny to explore little streets in Paris. One might be strolling along, unaware of their exact whereabouts and suddenly see the Eiffel Tower on the horizon over ancient apartment buildings and green trees. This is one of my favorite things about Paris… I remember going to Paris with Jess last summer; seeing it for the first time. We were walking along the Seine admiring a bridge, and suddenly, there it is! “Jess, guess what!? We’re in PARIS!” Happy memories for sure.
So I walk long through the Parc de Champs Des Mars and come to the conclusion that I should have brought my running shoes. Hundreds of French men in way too short shirts, French women in quite the variety of exercise attire are trotting and “hee-hooing” (like a women in labor) their way through crowds of tourists, children on scooters and merging traffic! Impressive indeed! Well, exhausted from all this physical exertion, I search out a nice bench in the shade to spend the morning reading and observing. This proves to be more difficult than expected. To find a non-half naked German boy bench or a non-pee smelly bench is a challenge at least…however, I manage to find “the one”. I spent a few hours here with the park before me and the tower behind before making my way back to the hotel to get my feels-heavier-than-ever luggage and treck across town to the arranged housing. By the way , check out this crazy skinny building.

After nearly collapsing of exhaustion and dehydration, I find the youth hostel place and check in. I’m assigned to a room on the 5th floor, no lift. As if I weren’t tired already. After catching my breath and a long drink of water from the huit a huit (french equilvant to 7/11 except only open 8-8 ha) we then meet with a staff member from MICEFA before heading out for dinner. Five other program girls and I went wandering, looking for a café. I am starving at this point; my daily intake thus far: apple, apple strawberry fruit leather, applesauce, and water. I’m hungry. (PS I promise to eat normally from now on, Mom) Anyways, we pick a place, don’t know what it was called, don’t care it, had a mean Croque Madame! And some Rose to share, we had a great time getting to know each other and realizing what a small world it is! Then we walked back through small pedestrian streets and pretty fountains galore.
Now back “home” for now, I took a door-less shower, very French I believe, unpacked my uber stuffed bags, took a Tylenol PM and am ready to drift off to sleep…

A Demain!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 1

Day 1

Hmm, Travel day. Always quite the experience to say the least! LAX went smoothly no problems there…then I board the plane. I am seated next to a very nice French man named Franck (more like Fronk…his fiancée lives in San Diego and he is a producer so he does a ton of flying). He proves to be a very valuable travel companion…he knows one of the stewardesses and so has VIP access to the Oreos in the back. He informs me of the “Air Tahiti runway show”; the staff changes outfits about 6 times throughout our flight, weird. A little while later, my new friend Franck is suddenly referring to something on my back, about ‘this big’ hand gesture (he has not needed to know the English word for ‘tear’ until he met me) Well, I reach around to find not just a hole, but a tear from the top of my shoulder blade down to my ribs, exposing my totally must-not-be-from-Southern-California white skin in a very unflattering way. Great. My mom was very nice to buy me a ‘first day of flight shirt’ instead of for school, but it didn’t exactly work out. I am then forced to keep my sweater (that I initially forgot) on in the hot stuffy airport, metro, and everywhere else unless I be further publically exposed. Lol.

I finally manage to get out of the airport and into Paris; it is so good to be back. …Then I get to my hotel to find a very small very terse French manager that informs me the internet is “a nettoyer” huh? That is the verb to clean?!? Anyways, it is about 11:30am, I’m exhausted but cannot check in till 2. Fine, I walk around and a very nice lady at a way nicer hotel than mine let me use the lobby computer to send a couple arrival emails. Yay!

Now, I am sitting and relaxing at a wonderfully typical French café on a busy corner in the 15th Arrondissement called La Petite Rotonde. I had un croustillant de chevre (basically a salad with a light dressing with French goat cheese inside crispy pastry shell things on top. OMG so yummy! I had to take a picture to share with you! I did try to read my next book, but I found people watching to be too distracting…dressed up madames walking miniature dogs, lots of kids, everyone carrying their groceries and daily baguette, a dozen near-accidents two feet from my table…

Is it two o’clock yet? I am in need of a nap!

Friday, August 21, 2009

11 hours and counting

Well, tomorrow is the big day! I depart on an amazing/ridiculous journey from little P-town to the beautiful and historically rich Paris...Bear with me as I get blogging down, but I'm thrilled to post an online journal of sorts throughout my trip and year abroad. Consider me a type of Julie/Julia even;

365 days (more or less)

2 huge pieces of luggage

8 pairs of Paris-worthy shoes

and 1 twenty year old American girl <3

Wish me luck!