Paris Day 1!
I got in this past Saturday but I haven’t had the time to sit down and collect my thoughts (and pictures).
After being delayed on the runway, waiting for a gate to open, I finally made it through customs. I looked for the woman who was to pick me up and take me to my homestay, and then we took a taxi together, going first on the highway back into the city center, and then through the streets to get to the apartment.
My host family / famille d’acceuil is wonderful – I really am grateful to be placed with such good people! There is a mother and a daughter only two years older than I, so we get along well and have a lot to talk about. They are végétariennes also, so that part is easy 🙂 We have been speaking almost exclusively in French, from the very first day, except when I don’t know the translation of a word. So already I feel that my comprehension is improving because not only do Parisians speak very fast, they also sometimes slur their words together, making it sometimes very hard to understand. And of course what I really want to work on are my conversational capabilities. Sometimes it is still difficult to communicate what I really mean, both because of the translation barrier and also because I still need to develop the ease of speaking! Especially when I’m tired after a long day, or if I have spoken English most of the day with my friends, it is harder to get back into the swing of French. But I hope that with each day it will get better, and I have to remind myself that it’s only the first week and I’m already speaking much better than I thought I would!
So after I got in, I sat down and got to know Odile, my host mother, and then she took me on a little promenade around their quartier / arrondissement, or neighborhood. There was a street market of food producers from all around the country, and it makes its rounds throughout Paris in the fall. It will be back in a few weeks I think!
Immediately what struck me was how FRESH everything was / is here!!! I have never seen strawberries as red and as plump as the ones here, the vegetables are crisp and natural, and the grapes are enormous and so sweet! The apples were much smaller than in America though, but that’s how you know they’re organic. Fresh bread, cheese, meats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, wine .. everything you can want.
It wasn’t a long market and at the end of the street we continued on so that I could get a sense of the rest of the area. We made our way to the Bois de Vincennes and could just see the beginnings of the park. Since is was the Journées du Patrimoine that weekend, all the museums that you usually have to pay to enter were free. This is to give people that usually wouldn’t be able to go to museums a chance to see the national treasures and explore their city. So next to the Bois de Vincennes is the Palais de la Porte Dorée, the Palace of the Golden Door. It now houses the museum of the history of Immigration (and colonialisation) in France. The facade of the building was absolutely beautiful, with figures and products from around the world carved into the stone. Near the door was the statue for Marseille, a city in which I stayed for two weeks a few years ago – so it was of course the first thing to catch my eye!
Inside the museum were exhibits, rooms to explore, and apparently an aquarium in the lower level! (I didn’t go down there). I’d like to go back and be able to spend more time there – the building itself is a piece of art! The entrance floor was all tiled mosaic with signs and symbols probably representing some of the different cultures of the French colonies.
For dinner we went out to an Algerian couscous restaurant to celebrate the birthday of the fiancé of the older sister in my host family. We were joined by his side of the family as well, and it was a small, crowded and loud restaurant, so I had a bit of a hard time hearing, understanding, and following the conversation. It was also midnight by the time I got home, so I was understandably fatigued and a little dazed.
But for the first day, I felt that I covered a lot of ground, and I was excited for what the next day had in store!!