Hi guys! School started this past week; I actually wrote my blog post last week after my first day! Being a Masters student seems to be both a very chill gig during the start of school and hellacious when all the final papers are due! I’m trying to take advantage of the continued summer weather in Paris and the relaxed start of the school year to continue exploring all of Paris and its surroundings. I’ve realized that to make this as easy as possible for me, this is really going to read like a travel diary for the moment. I may slow down later in the year because of school so I’m trying to prepare book reviews for later in the year when I might have a little bit more stress. For now, my Paris adventures continue! This past week was a bit of a blur because of school but I’ll try to detangle it here for the interested reader.
I’m sure I briefly mentioned Monday in last week’s post but it was a more normal day. Going to a new school in a new country was a lot and I am trying to pace myself. While I am exploring at a hectic pace, I’ve had to remind myself that this is not sustainable and that I will be here long enough to enjoy all the sites. I think it’s also a lot of bottled up energy from the pandemic because I was somewhat limited for a while and the opportunity to just see new things is too tempting to pass up. However, I must pace myself otherwise I will be out of things to do and personally burnt out. After school, I ended up going to the Jardin du Luxembourg and reading for a bit. I also discovered that the Medici Fountain is finally open after being closed for restoration and the picture below shows the beautifully restored fountain. I walked over to see it, snapped a few pics, and then headed home for another one of M’s delicious dinners!
Tuesday was a little more exciting because I went with a group of friends from my French class to Cafe Flore which is very, very famous both because of its associations with the literati of the 1920s and its current Instagram fame. The cafe itself was well known because it was frequented by many American expatriates during the Roaring Twenties but is no longer the cheap place to eat it once was! I did enjoy my hot chocolate and quiche that I got while there, but it cost a pretty penny. The hot chocolate alone was nearly 8 Euros so I will be looking for a regular lunch spot elsewhere! It was cute but we didn’t get to sit at an outside table and it felt weird eating in an almost empty dining room. Loved the hot chocolate but will go to another cafe for my regular coffees. Other than that, took another turn around the Jardin and headed home! I also believe this was the day that I first bought stamps in Paris which was quite an adventure. I had to figure out where to buy them (the tobacco shop which helpfully has postcards out front) and was confounded when I got them and realized they didn’t have a sticky back. So back to my host mom I went to understand how to use them. It turns out that France still has lick-able stamps which was a wild concept to me but quite normal to them. After a bit of wrangling, I finally sent my postcards out through one of the yellow mailboxes which in Paris have two slots, one for intra-Paris mail and the other for “other departments and international mail”. A neat organizing system and easy enough for even the most befuddled of letter senders such as myself!
Wednesday began pretty low-key because my afternoon class is later but it was still packed! I only had one class and had a regular ole lunch from the school cafeteria which was surprisingly good if a little bready for my taste. At this point, I hadn’t yet discovered the Rest’U, the cafeteria for students in France that provides full meals for 3.30 Euros! Amazing! So I settled for one of the many sandwiches offered at the school cafe. On Wednesday, I also stuck around school for an after school lecture by Olivier De Schutter! He is currently the UN Special Rapporteur for Poverty but was previously a two time Special Rapporteur on the right to food. During his tenure doing that, I read many of his reports for my research. After the lecture, I walked over to the Quai d’Orsay for a drink with my fellow Masters Students. What was really amazing was during my walk back to the Metro home, I passed through the Champs Elysees without even realizing it! My geographic intuition has a lot still to learn in Paris!
Thursday was more of a personal day for me. I had a bit of a meltdown in the morning. Figuring out where my first class of the day was ended up being much more of a challenge than I thought it would. I ended up running all over the Saint Germain de Pres neighborhood and finally finding my class after a forty minute detour. Not fun and not a great way to start your day. However, it happens to all of us whether at home or in a new country. Picking myself up from that took a bit of time. I had other problems like how to find a book in English that I now needed for one of my courses, and M was very helpful there. She suggested Gibert Joseph, a massive bookseller in Paris that has a couple of big stores nearby. It ended up being so much more convenient than I thought it would be! I was able to go online, find my book, pay for it, and collect it within two hours!!! Woohoo! I also grabbed a gelato on the way back home which really perked me up. I don’t often use food as a reward but that gelato just hit different. I did need to treat myself and was glad to be able to do so!
Friday was more low-key. I had plenty of time in the morning to take care of business and try a new restaurant called Egg and Co in the 6th. It was very good and reasonably priced. The restaurant sells itself as a restaurant focused on eggs, but they’re really more of a brunch spot. It was nice and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch before dashing off to class. After class, I got the chance to hang out with some new friends! I’ve been trying to get out of my shell a bit because socializing can be hard but it’s so important in a new place! So this is me trying to follow my own advice.
On Saturday, I was finally able to go to the fresh market with M. It was fun to watch M talk with the vendors and figure out what we would be eating for the next week. I loved the fishmonger’s stall. It was a pleasant, albeit different experience to see the whole fish and then watch the men fillet the fish right in front of you! Really brought me closer to my dinner! We walked around a bit on our way home, taking time to also get fresh bread from the boulangerie which was a treat. M has introduced me to bread made from corn flour and it’s scrumptious. I love eating it and as we are going through a loaf a week, we were in desperate need of more bread by Saturday. Laden with our purchases, we walked back home. As I am a student, I did have plenty of readings to keep me occupied into the evening. I had to put my studies down eventually and headed to an outdoor disco on a boat in the Seine near the Right Bank. 10/10 would recommend and headed home after a late night because I knew I would have an early morning the next day!
Sunday was the crown jewel of my week. Per a Rick Steves France 2020 travel book, I had decided to try going to Giverny for the day to see Claude Monet’s house. I was able to go with a school friend and we had to leave very early in the morning to make our ticket time for the house. The train to Giverny is about 45 minutes to an hour from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. We left on the 8:10 train and got into Vernon around 9. The train station is about 4km from Monet’s house so we either had to hoof it or rent bicycles. We chose the bicycles and it was about 12 Euros for regular ones. There were some electric ones for rent at another shop for 15 Euros, but I don’t love electric bikes and enjoy the exercise so we chose the regular ones from Gare d’Arrivee per the Rick Steves book. The ride to Monet’s house was lovely; once you were out of Vernon proper, it really felt like the countryside. I got to see all sorts of farm animals and rolling hills. Very bucolic! We did hit a few snags and rolled into Giverny around 10, thirty minutes after our entry slot, but this wasn’t a huge issue. At the moment in France, most museums will only accept people who are going with a reserved time slot along with the pass sanitaire. I had been showing my vaccination card which worked fine. I finally got my pass this week which has made things easier. Going to Monet’s actual house was wonderful and the curators have worked meticulously to restore the museum, as well as arranging for loans of artwork so that they can show the artwork that hung on the walls during Monet’s later years. The house itself felt like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, each room had its own color scheme and matching decor. I’m glad I didn’t do a guided tour of the house because of the time pressure I would have felt however it would have given my more historical background on Monet and his life which was entirely lacking from the museum signage. If I went with a group, I definitely would have arranged for a guided tour. The gardens were amazing and it seemed like they were still in full bloom even though it is early autumn. The famous lily pond is across the street so we got there by a pedestrian tunnel that goes under the road. I found the little stream that runs through that part of the garden very beautiful so I took home a print of that. The famous lily pond is in its original condition but I found that it didn’t speak to me as much as Monet’s paintings of them do. I’m not sure if it was the right time of the year or day to see them so I may give them another chance in the future. The Monet house and gardens took about two hours so by the time we left, we were ready for lunch!
Lunch was based on another of Rick Steves’ recommendations at Hôtel Baudy, a site where many American impressionists used to gather. While we didn’t eat inside, the interior has been preserved so that you can experience the same ambience as the young American impressionists did so long ago. I had the baked camembert and LORDY was it delicious. I’m still not entirely sure what was in it (picture above) but WOW (definitely some tomatoes but beyond that, I was lost)! We walked around town a bit to get back to our bicycles then cycled back to the Seine and had a bit of a rest there. While at lunch, my friend had suggested we visit Chateau Bizy in the same town as the train station and the pictures online looked cute so we agreed to go. We selected a three o’clock time slot so we could make our way there at a leisurely pace and boy am I glad that we did! My mother once told me that during my parents’ chateau bike tour they discovered that all chateaus were up very large hills because that made them more defensible. Her words came back to me as my friend and I struggled to bike up the very large hill the chateau was on! We made it to the top, huffing and puffing, and had a bit of time to rest before our tour time. After the tour, we walked just a little bit of the gardens then headed back into town to catch the train. I wish we had more energy to walk more of the grounds because they were gorgeous but we were both exhausted. The train ride back felt long because we were tired and in desperate need of a cool sweet treat! Once back in Paris, we got gelato then went our separate ways to get ready for the week ahead!
That’s all for this most, more adventures to follow and maybe even a book review sometime soon! I have a bit of a backlog with those but I hope that you enjoyed this! Let me know if you have any France or European travel recommendations by commenting below! Happy traveling!