Chez moi

10 Feb

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the middle of February already. The Parisian time is flying by…

Le temps s’en va, le temps s’en va ma Dame,

Las ! le temps non, mais nous nous en allons

Speaking of which, I turned 21 last week. On my birthday, I awoke to a dusting of snow which, unfortunately, turned into water by the afternoon. A few friends and I attempted to visit some museums, but we soon discovered that pretty much every attraction in the city is closed on Mondays. We opted instead for the Montparnasse cemetery, where I was able to visit the grave of Camille Saint-Saens. Not a bad birthday present, actually.

I celebrated with a small dinner at a nearby bistrot, where I wisely asked what “andouillette” meant (pig intestines) before ordering it. Instead, I had a prime cut of beef and potatoes au gratin, as well as a ridiculously good cup of cheesecake.

While I’ve been trying overall to eat healthy here, the deliciousness of every single thing I’ve eaten makes me feel like I’m not faring well. Or maybe my taste buds are just having an ecstatic overreaction to the food here after the gastronomic assault of my previous study abroad experience (*cough*England*cough*). The bread, the pastries, the cheese, the chocolate (which somehow finds its way into almost EVERY product at the supermarket), the yogurt, the crepes, the Nutella… need I go on?

Apple pie with a fluffy custard filling. Mmm…

And I can’t fail to mention the delicious home-cooked meals that my host mother prepares. I seem to have settled in well with them, although at times I really do wish they had kids at home, just to have someone else to talk to. However, they do have two cats, Piccolo (ironically the larger of the two) and Masha. Masha, the female, seems to have taken quite the liking to me and frequently opens the door to my room so she can curl up next to me on my bed and purr.

At any rate, most of my interaction with my host parents occurs at dinner (which typically begins around 7:30 or 8:00 and lasts a good hour or so). We talk about pretty much everything, but particularly about differences between our home countries. It’s definitely good practice for my French skills — they speak at a normal, casual speed, so I’m forced to keep up. I can generally keep up pretty well, but I’m still amazed at the extent to which French people truncate their enunciations sometimes.

The other obstacles are unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions, but that’s a learning experience. I learned that rétrécir means “to shrink” (clothes) and that the French have no single word to express the concept of a “nut” (I thought it was noix, but that just means “walnut”).

My host parents actually don’t eat meat (just fish, which doesn’t really count in France), so we’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of salmon — not that I mind. My host mother made a sublime salmon quiche this week. The French are also big on desserts, so my host parents are always surprised when I refuse one after our multi-course meals.

All in all, I can’t complain much, because my host parents are pretty nice and intelligent people. Apparently they had a ditzy California girl last semester who couldn’t speak French at all, so they are very pleased with the change.

So, aside from eating delicious food, what exactly have I been up to the past couple of weeks?

  • A group walking tour of Le Marais, one of the better-preserved (17th Cent.) neighbourhoods of the city; I’m looking forward to picnicking again at the Place des Vosges when the weather gets nicer.
  • A guided tour of the Opéra Garnier, whose interior is even more extravagantly beautiful than Versailles. We’ll be returning there to see a modern ballet called “Le Parc.”
  • Exploration of the Père Lachaise cemetery, definitely a creepy place that’s easy to get lost in. I’ve only seen a fraction of it so far, but I was happy to see the graves of Bizet, Chopin, Edith Piaf, and Henri Salvador. …Maybe “happy” isn’t the right word to use.
  • Further exploration of the Bois de Vincennes and the Chateau; I was last in the park on the day of the big transportation strike, and it seemed like a lot of people were off from work. They all brought their dogs to the park. I also discovered the Lac Daumesnil, which is pretty cool.
  • Very brief exploration of the Quartier Latin. I really need to spend more time there. Left Bank > Right Bank.
  • A trip to Fontainebleau on a cold, windy day. The interior of the chateau was beautiful, as were the grounds (albeit nippy). Almost got talked into buying a flight to Kiev by a middle-aged Ukrainian tourist with hilariously broken English.
  • A trip to Versailles the next day. The “free on the first Sunday of the month” thing is kind of a joke, as we still had to dish out over 13 Euros to see the Hall of Mirrors and most of the best spots. Unlike Fontainebleau, there were also way too many tourists there. But it’s still Versailles.
  • A visit to the Louvre with my Art History class. Still way too many tourists, even at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning, but I loved it. I usually find museums overwhelming and fatiguing, but the guided, selective visit was great. And best of all, I can go back whenever I want free of charge with my art student card. 🙂
  • A group excursion to Chartres on a cold, snowy, windy day (NOT a good day to forget your gloves). I enjoyed our brief tour of the incredibly well-preserved cathedral (narrated by an ancient British man with a great dry humour) as well as our warm 4-course meal, but I wish we’d had a little more time to explore the town.
  • My return to the Catacombs, which were as awesome as always. I’m amazed by the number of people (including my host parents) who’ve never been there. The atmosphere is just unparalleled… although I’d like to go back when there are hardly any tourists (and bring a flashlight :)).

To check out my photos so far, here are my ablums:

Ce n’était qu’un reve

Sous les ponts de Paris

Fontainebleau

Versailles – Part I

Versailles – Part II

Chartres

C’était l’hiver

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One Response to “Chez moi”

  1. squamloon 14 March 2009 at 19:24 #

    * Bet you saw little more snow than that all winter.
    * Too bad they don’t eat meat, but I’ll bet it’s made for an interesting twist.
    * I remember finding rétrécir interesting too—I wonder why that is… and while it’s true that noix is a walnit on its own, it becomes other things when qualified, e.g. noix de caju, noix du brésil, noix de coco…
    * Along with never having been down to the catacombs, I’ve also neither been inside the Opéra Garnier nor visited Père Lachaise.
    * Your host to Chartres wasn’t Malcolm Miller was it? He’s a legend. Come to think of it, I actually don’t know if he’s even still around. Google him in any case, and watch him in a video.

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