Top 10 Things I Learned From My First Trip to Paris:
1. Pigeons are everywhere (both dead and alive).
2. You can never get away from UK fans.
3. I definitely need to learn French.
4. Don’t try to buy a chocolate bar when you are also buying water?
5. In order to fit in, you must wear all black. Black pants, black shirt, black shoes, black scarf, black coat, black earrings, black purse, and black sunglasses.
6. Parisians LOVE McDonald’s.
7. First item of business when I move: FIND A FRENCH FRIEND
8. I am going to have to weed out a lot of stuff in my closet – there will be no room for all my clothes in Paris. How do these stylish Parisian women do it?
9. You will get a weird look if you don’t order coffee after dinner.
1o. Fizzy water is delivered to your table unless you specifically ask for still water. And the fizzy water is expensive!
I flew to Paris on May 8th and arrived on the 9th. The flight went well despite the over-sized Australian sitting next to me. Don’t get me wrong, he was a lovely man, but he took up much of my seat. Upon arrival in Paris, I was greeted with a view of about a dozen dead birds atop a metal grate above the people mover that took me to baggage claim. Isn’t Paris supposed to be romantic? Hmm…the jury is still out on that one.
Fortunately, I found Dustin waiting for me at baggage claim. We hopped on the train and headed to our hotel in Las Defense. After freshening up, we hopped back on the metro towards the Eiffel Tower. Since this was my first time in Paris, the Eiffel Tower was naturally one of the first places I wanted to go. My first comment to Dustin when we saw it was, “Wow…that’s a lot bigger than the one at King’s Island!” :) Impressive as it was, I was bothered by the number of people begging for money and trying to sell me mini Eiffel Towers (5 for 1 Euro…what a deal). It definitely took away from the experience.
We set out on foot from the Eiffel Tower and headed towards the Louvre. On the way to the Louvre there were numerous garden areas and ponds. It was exactly how I had imagined Paris to be. People sitting out on chairs, coffee in hand, enjoying the rare moment of sun. I definitely want to spend some more time there once we move.
We didn’t actually go into the Louvre, as we were trying to see as much as possible in one day, but we did take some pictures outside. Again, we set out on foot towards the Champs Elysees. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but thought we were headed in the right direction. It was wonderful walking along the streets, taking in the atmosphere of Paris (but watch out for the dog poo). Believe it or not, we saw a car parked on the side of the street with a University of Kentucky sticker on it. Dustin was thrilled. :)
After quite a walk, we did find the Champs Elysees. I drooled as I passed shops that are much too expensive for this American. Dustin managed to order two subs for us at a sandwich shop- Pomme de Pain. Success!
Before dinner, we headed to Hillsong Paris. I love the music that comes from Hillsong, so I was excited to go to a service there. The music was OUTSTANDING, however the message was given in French. The pastor would give a sentence in French, and then a lady would translate it to English. It was hard to follow, so I don’t think it is where we will end up going to church.
Finally, we headed to a little café for dinner. Unfortunately, our waiter did not speak English. Somehow we did manage to get our dinner. Exhausted, we headed back to our hotel for the evening.
Today I had to explore on my own. And to be quite honest, I was terrified. First item of business- food. I wandered out of my hotel to a shopping mall right next door. If things weren’t in French, I could have sworn I was back in the US. It was much like our malls, with kiosks in the walkways and strange men who try to straighten your hair/rub some kind of lotion on you/sell you a mobile phone plan. I walked past a handful of little places to eat, but I was afraid to try to order off of these menus. I didn’t even know what most of the menus said. After about 30 minutes of wandering around trying to figure out how on earth I was going to get something to eat, I saw a café to go. You could just walk in, pick up a pre-made sandwich (among other things) and take it to the cashier. SCORE! I got a wrap and this fruit desert thing (looked like raspberry something….I think it was really made of rhubarb….gross). I didn’t even have to talk to the cashier.
Feeling some confidence, I decided to go into a small grocery and pick up a bottled water and a chocolate bar. Apparently, I got in a line that is for credit only. The lady yelled something at me in French, sighed at me, and ended up just taking my money. For some reason, she would only sell me the water. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
From there I got on the metro (all by myself!) and headed back to the Champs Elysees. I went into a grocery store – Monoprix – to check out what kinds of things I could get there once I move. There was everything from clothing to shrimp. Much of the packaging looked familiar or looked similar to something we could get in the US. That reassured me – we will not go hungry when we move! I also successfully bought a chocolate bar this time!
At this point, I was craving some English. So, I jumped on a tour bus and got a 2 hour tour of the city – in English! It was a great overview of the city, sprinkled with some interesting history. It was the perfect thing to do all by myself. It stopped at Notre Dame, so I got out and checked out the cathedral. It was completely breathtaking. I can’t wait to go back and actually do the tour.
At the end of the tour, I headed back to my hotel on the metro– and got there successfully!
Back at the hotel, I met Dustin and John (a guy from Michigan that is also moving to Paris). We jumped back on the metro and headed to Neuilly, where we went to a small Italian restaurant with Dustin’s boss, Sabine. It was so nice to be with a French speaker. She was extremely helpful and kind. About 15 years ago, she moved to England for work, which is where she learned to speak English. So, she definitely knows how it feels to be in a situation where you can’t speak the language. I think she will be a really good resource for us. Overall, it was a really good day. I am feeling a little more confident about our move.
I met with the relocation specialist to look at apartments on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, Dustin could not get off work to go with me. She took me to five different apartments (you would not believe how the Parisians parallel park - they literally bump the car behind and in front of them until there is room for them to fit!) and basically gave me a tour of the areas of Paris that would be easiest for Dustin to commute from. We looked at apartments that were between 500 and 800 square feet (yikes!). Of course the small ones are in the best areas….the biggest one was in a not so great area. I didn’t have to actually pick an apartment this time, it was just an orientation day. We will go back at the end of June to actually pick our apartment.
Even though the apartments were small, they were all do-able. But I did learn that we are not going to be able to bring very much stuff. I learned a lot from Ralda, the orientation specialist. She recommended a place to take French lessons once I am here, and suggested ways to get involved. One of my biggest fears is that I am going to have nothing to do while I am there. If I take French lessons for a couple of years, it will be just like I am back in school. I am kind of excited about that.
I had a bit of a meltdown on Tuesday evening at the hotel. All of a sudden it hit me – I am really moving to Paris. I am really leaving my family, my friends, and Rudy (I absolutely hate that I cannot take her with me). Even though I know this is a fantastic opportunity, I am still pretty sad about leaving. I think I will probably be pretty tearful over the next couple of months. I’m choking up just writing this.
Right now I am on the plane back to the US. Fortunately, our plane is pretty empty and I have a whole row to myself! YEAH! My flight is 10 hours long (a couple hours longer than normal) because we have to go around the ash from the volcano in Iceland. The pilot just told everyone to move to the left side of the plane and look out the window. We could see the volcano exploding – pretty awesome. With about 6 hours left in my flight, I am anxious to get “home”. Although, Detroit will never really be home. All of our moving around is teaching me that home is not really a geographic location. It is where the people you love are. I can’t wait to spend some quality time with those I love before we leave.