The Paris Christmas market is a must visit during the holidays. It is full of Christmas cheer and delicious food. You get to walk down the Champ Elysées where 160 wooden chalets line up the street. You can find cheese, chocolate in every shape and form (yum!) and hot wine! After our second visit to the marché, we decided to walk to the Arc de Triomphe then to Trocadero to see the Tour Eiffel!
In our literature class, we were able to visit the House of Victor Hugo in a very expensive residential area. His house gave us a look into his life. The tour ended with the bed where Victor Hugo died in. Learning about his life was very interesting. He is indeed a french icon. After the tour, we wandered around the streets and enjoyed some gelato ice-cream. Yum!!!
Sometimes my classmates and I decide to grab some baguette and cheese from a nearby store and go to the Luxembourg Garden to have a picnic. The gardens are simply amazing. Other students from different schools also come to spend a lazy afternoon on the grass.
You can hear people talking, students laughing, and dogs barking. It would be an ideal day if it is sunny but not too hot to just relax and enjoy.
We’ve been in school for four weeks and time is flying by fast. Everyday, I wake up and go to school and everyday I discover something new about Paris whether on the way to the IES center or just wandering around the streets. Our schedule is very convenient since we finish early on most days giving us the opportunity to visit new parts of the city in the afternoon. Our classes are taught in French by French professors (some teach at Paris Sorbonne). They are very considerate of the different level of language proficiency therefore try to accommodate all of the students. The workload is not much and could be easily done in 2-3 hours per day. Also, the center is located in a residential building where we share a small backyard with the residents (who are very friendly). You find lots of restaurants and cafe around the center where you can get food.
To get to the center, we either walk or take the metro. The metro is very easy to maneuver once you understand the system. However, Paris is a “walking culture” and you see a lot of people on the streets trying to get to work or home. It is very fun to walk and pass by all the small cafe/boulangerie and smell the mouthwatering coffee or freshly baked baguette. You also enjoy all the honking and traffic jam as small cars and cyclists try to pass through.
Living in Paris for a semester is definitely an adventure worth experiencing it. You can’t get enough of the culture, the art, the architecture, and etc. You never spend a dull moment in Paris. The trick is to be active and go around Paris every day. You can wander the streets or sit at a small cafe and take in all the buzz around you.
Last weekend, our program took us to Normandy. We visited the Mémorial de Caen, where we watched a film that focused on Normandy and the unbelievable horror of WWII. Normandy, a critical region for the Western Allies’ triumph, had faced such devastating destruction. It is hard to find the right words to describe what it’s like to visit Normandy today, but it feels uplifting to see how far France has come since the tragedy that was not even 100 years ago.
The best way to describe Paris is through the oxymoron: organized chaos. Paris is lively, busy, and crowded; but the hustle and bustle of Paris flows in an orderly fashion. This week, we’ve been trying to find our place in Paris’ organized chaos. In a large city, you would expect to feel very small; but actually, I feel very large and awkward as I try to decode Paris and all of its patterns and arrangements.
Whenever our group of Americans tries to navigate the metro or shop for groceries, it is as if we are pushing through the crowd, or moving against the flow of traffic.
The only way to fit into the chaos is to KNOW what you’re doing and where you’re going—which is impossible in the beginning. Until then, we are trying our best to avoid disruption.
This may mean we try to avoid the grocery store during its busiest hours, especially if we do not know what we want to buy. There is no wandering around CarreFour like you would wander around Target. You do not stop in the middle of the aisle and look around. I cannot stress this enough. Come with a list ready and walk through every aisle until you know the layout of the store. I didn’t know I was leaving behind leisurely, fun grocery shopping when I came to Paris.
I’ve really emphasized my experiences with grocery shopping in Paris because we are now responsible for our own meals. We get to play “house” for these next few months by squeezing into our tiny Parisian apartment kitchen and figuring out a recipe together.
We also had to part ways with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, and dryers. After getting off the plane in CDG, we were actually engulfed in Paris’ humidity. This past week has been sticky and hot, but it is our only complaint.
On Friday night, Sarah and I wandered off from the larger group of students until we found the nearest metro station. From there, we went straight to the Eiffel Tower. We had just enough time for a few pictures before catching the last train home. In Paris, we find ourselves “lost”, but not astray. There’s a huge sense of adventure and curiosity to dissect the city and indulge in everything it has to offer.