Sous le ciel (gris) de Paris

25 Jan

So, I’m in Paris.

My energy is somewhat sapped at the moment. I think it’s a combination of residual jetlag and a lack of caloric intake (always buy food BEFORE Sunday in Europe). I’m also the only USC student left in our temporary rooms in ACCENT’s residence hall. While everyone else joined their new host families tonight, my family can’t welcome me until tomorrow.

Apparently, it’s my host mother’s father’s 80th birthday today, and the entire family is having a huge party, going to the opera, etc. So they thought it would be a bit awkward for me to move in tonight.

My host parents, Monsieur et Madame Galataud, live in the 11th arrondissement, a short walk from the ACCENT Center (I think I’m the only one in the group who doesn’t have to take the Métro to get to class). I haven’t been able to see their house yet, as it’s accessed through a gated courtyard, but I did take this picture of the boulevard Voltaire, close to where I’ll be living:

Looks can be deceiving. While the boulevard Voltaire has a very bourgeois air to it, the rest of the 11th is much less glamourous. Granted, it’s not a ghetto by any means (at least I’m not living in the 19th), but tree-lined boulevards and historic monuments are few and far between. It’s the most densely inhabited arrondissement in Paris, and the population is fairly diverse.

I was hoping for one of the upscale western arrondissements – the 16th, 15th, or 7th, for example — which is where most of my fellow USC students were placed, it seems. On the other hand, I like to think that I live in a more “real” area of the city (and cheaper, too!) I won’t be eating at restaurants where tourists eat, or shopping at stores where tourists shop. I was fantasizing about taking regular walks in the Bois de Boulogne, but it looks like the Père Lachaise Cemetery is the closest thing I have to a park…

At any rate, it seems like my lodgings will be pretty darn nice. I will essentially have a floor of the house to myself, with my bedroom, a MARBLE bathroom, a TV room, and a balcony overlooking a garden. My host father is an accountant who works for a bank (I believe), and my host mother is an amateur pianist. I’m not exactly sure what she does during the day, because all I can picture is her playing the piano non-stop.

I just hope they’re the kind of people I was looking for. I stressed that I wanted an interactive family, but I’m afraid that having my own floor will isolate me a bit (the housing coordinator said something about waiting to be “invited” to the ground floor…). I’m also bummed that they don’t have any kids at home. They’d better be fun people!

Ahh, Paris…

Since I’ve only been here in the springtime (on a few very short visits), that Parisian “magic” is a bit masked by the clouds and rain. But, heck, it’s only in the 40s, which is positively tropical compared to New Hampshire right now. But there’s no doubt that this is an amazing city, with so much to see and do and such a diverse mix of people, and it’s definitely my favourite “ultra” city (above London and New York).

I’ve had no negative experiences with the Parisians so far. Even the beggers have been exceptionally polite. The rude thing is definitely exaggerated… I don’t know anyone in the program who’s had a bad encounter with someone.

We’ve had some very nice French meals provided by ACCENT, although I know I can’t continue eating pastries for breakfast and three course meals (with fried goat cheese) for dinner. But I am looking forward to some home-cooked food.

On Saturday we had a  short bus tour of  the major sites, which was a nice look at all the glamourous monuments. Afterwards, I took off on my own to explore Montmartre, certainly one of the most unique neighbourhoods in the city. While it’s close to some sketchy areas (Pigalle, and the 19th), the heart of Montmartre, with its cobblestone streets that wind up and down the hill, is just really lovely:

Later on, I went to visit Madeline out in Saint-Maurice, where we enjoyed a brief walk through the Bois de Vincennes at sunset. I’m sure it’ll be much nicer come springtime, though. Afterwards, we went out with her American housemate to find a place to eat. After getting a little lost, we settled on a nice Italian place in the 11th (where I got pizza with egg on it… not too shabby). We then walked along the Seine, taking in the beauty of the city of lights.

I have a lot to look forward to this semester. There’s so much to experience in this city. I think I just have to get over the anxiety about my host parents first. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

To see my photos from Paris so far, check out these two albums:

Arrivée à Paris

Sous le ciel de Paris

Unfortunately I’ve neglected to blog about my travels during winter break, but I suppose that’ll have to wait for now…

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3 Responses to “Sous le ciel (gris) de Paris”

  1. Megan 26 January 2009 at 21:26 #

    I am so happy to see your pictures and so excited that you’re in Paris! I’m really hoping your host family will work out well too. Let me (us) know how everything goes!

  2. nrhsnews 14 March 2009 at 16:49 #

    I’m going in chronological order for full effect. Loved the Montmartre pic, and can feel the anticipation of how things will pan out…

    …amazing how difficult it is for me to read this. And I don’t really fully get why, given that I get back there fairly regularly.

    I guess it’s just the whole moveable feast bit—it was way too long ago that I was that young man partaking thereof.

  3. squamloon 14 March 2009 at 16:52 #

    #

    I’m going in chronological order for full effect. Loved the Montmartre pic, and can feel the anticipation of how things will pan out…

    …amazing how difficult it is for me to read this. And I don’t really fully get why, given that I get back there fairly regularly.

    I guess it’s just the whole moveable feast bit—it was way too long ago that I was that young man partaking thereof.

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