It’s already starting to feel like fall here in Paris. The crispness is in the air and the leaves are starting to turn. It’s fitting that I am just getting settled in around the time the autumnal equinox, a time of transition and new beginnings.
This past week was full of exploration and adventure. We had our orientation on Monday, which now feels so long ago. There are 10 of us on the program from my university. It’s not too big of a group that we can’t do things together, so this week has been as much getting to know the city as it has been getting to know each other. I’ve made some good friends already, but the whole group can get along and have a nice time together.
We especially enjoyed our grammar / language lessons this week with a little old lady, use vieille dame, Marie Louise, who used to teach at l’Institute Catholique, where I will start classes on Monday. We were welcomed into her house and were sat around a big table, and every day this week she would prepare a lesson for us : grammar composition and structure, adjectives and adverbs, negations, etc. But she also would go off on tangents, digressions, and tell us stories or examples. So as much as we were learning concrete academic material, we mostly learned by absorption – 2 hours of speaking and understanding exclusively in French, about lots of different subjects – it’s an exercise in itself!
This week one of the excursions that I led was to a vintage store called Boutique Emmaüs way up north in the 18th Arrondissement, in an artistic and cultural building called le Centquatre (its street address is no. 104) It took about a 40 minute ride on the metro just to get up there, and we almost couldn’t believe it when we got there, because we thought it was the wrong place! I was looking for a little store and instead we received an enormous building with security guards at the front and a job fair going on inside! We almost turned around but I was determined to press on and see if it was inside, and if not – the building was worth exploring!
As soon as you walk in, there was an art exhibit of glass mosaic pieces on the floor, reflecting the immense ceiling above. It’s a large open space with rotating art exhibits on the entrance floor, open spaces to rehearse dances (we saw a couple waltzing and another group of dancers choreographing), a little hidden cafe, benches for observing and relaxing, etc. It was all extraordinary, but we still couldn’t find the store!
We walked around the side of the building, through what looked like the storage space, and eventually found the hidden side entrance. Inside there was almost even better than what we saw before! In the center was a large open dance floor (the proper material, not just wood) and there were people dancing, choreographing, practicing yoga (!), doing acrobatics, and even doing the German Wheel like in Cirque du Soleil!!! It was fascinating. I’d like to go back and practice yoga myself – I think it’s open to the public.
Around the sides of THAT, (it’s truly a huge building, it must have been a warehouse at some point) were stores and little boutiques. We found the one we were looking for, Emmaüs, and I went in, but others went to the bookstore next door. Emmaüs was a lovely little shop with racks of vintage or second-hand clothing, shoes, furniture, books, home goods, etc. I found a linen/cashmere sweater and a Moschino coat that were very good bargains, and I went home a happy girl 🙂
It was a very long day and it was actually one of the only days that the sun was shining warm enough to remind me of summer, so by the time we got home we were hot and tired. Autumn is capricious, even here – but we love it anyway!