Hello everyone. It’s been another week in my new life and it isn’t quite getting to that “normal” equilibrium that I thought it would. I think there’s a couple factors preventing my life from settling into the daily routine. I’m in a totally new country, with a ton of new experiences at my finger tips, and a healthy fear of not getting to do anything of this again after my two years. That being said, I took a LOT of time this past week to chill. It may seem like I’m constantly on the go but I do rest. Taking time for myself means that I can recharge my batteries and it is incredibly important while I’m still in the honeymoon phase with Paris. So rest assured, there have been a few nights cuddled up with Netflix or going to bed early so I can wake up feeling recharged. With that in mind, let me tell you all about what’s been going on for me during this past week.
Monday was more of a school oriented day. I have one class and had also signed up for some French tutoring. Due to some logistics issues with my schedule and being restricted to a certain number of courses, I had to drop my French class which was disappointing. However, there are a lot of virtual language sites where you can engage with a language learning software or an actual tutor. I chose the tutoring option as I’m trying to improve my verbal skills before really diving into grammar specifics. I realized that this is what I wanted to work on when I was at the farmer’s market and realized that bantering with vendors was a key part of each transaction. Unfortunately, my French skills are not quite there yet so French tutoring it is! I am using Verbling, which was a suggestion from back home. I’ll be doing this lessons on a weekly basis for most of this semester so I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress!
Tuesday was my first research methods class which seemed overwhelming. It’s crazy to think that I’m going to try and write a thesis during the next two years but somehow I will do it! After class, I treated myself to another visit of the Musee d’Orsay. I’ve heard from a few friends that they prefer this museum to the Louvre and I’ll let you guys know the final verdict in next week’s blog post. This time, I worked through the left side of the ground floor as well as most of the second floor. I loved walking through the Art Noveau exhibits on the second floor because they have so many furniture pieces that they are able to recreate full rooms. It was lovely to bask in the art and because I’m not really pressed for time, I can come back as often as I’d like. I have mentioned that students usually get in for free if you live in the EU economic area as I now do with a long stay visa for France. I’m definitely taking advantage of this while I’m in France and can’t wait to explore other museums. The Centre Pompidou has a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit on during the fall so I’ll have to stop by sometime soon! I’ll be returning to the Musee D’Orsay soon to finish the other floors but I’m also enjoying taking in the art at a glacial pace so I can really appreciate it all.
Wednesday was an exciting day and full of more firsts for me! I was planning on visiting my friend Mo in Dijon over the weekend, but due to some logistics issues, the best time for me to go ended up being on Wednesday. To get there, it’s about an hour and a half by SNCF, the national high speed rail company in France. I also used their trains to get to Giverny and they have student discounts which are super helpful! The student discount costs about 49 Euros and it lasts for a whole year. It’s for students 12-25 and provides discounts on all types of train tickets. This has allowed for a travel subsidy for my adventures which I really appreciate! Being a student in Europe is really nice because of the discounts. I have many more opportunities to see amazing museums and travel around at a more affordable price. I’m enjoying being able to take advantage of it! Anyway, I took a late afternoon train into Dijon to visit Mo and stayed for two nights. The first night, we went out for some yummy cocktails and a bite to eat. We went to the Petite Reign and had a delicious meal. We had planned on getting just cocktails and dinner (a delicious truffle ravioli!) but saw the desserts for some other patrons go by and had to have some. We both got caramel chocolate cake with whipped cream on the side and it was divine. There are no pictures because it was consumed SO quickly. It was brownie like but so much better. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen trying to find just the right recipe to recreate the taste.
Dijon is a cute town and is easily digestible in a day or two. It is the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Burgundy, and was the center of a very powerful province during the Middle Ages. There are a few museums scattered around the town as well as three cathedrals. I couldn’t believe the amount of cathedrals and was able to visit each which was neat and I got to compare the architectural style of all three. The Ducal palace has been converted to an art museum called Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. I loved visiting the art museum as I just love art (see previous posts). Just getting to see a bunch of different art pieces is a great time to me and a picture above shows my strong appreciation for the finer points of historical portraiture. After the art and cathedrals and many, many steps, we walked over to Mo’s favorite tea shop or a salon de the as they are called here. We got some lovely tea, mine was Opera Blu and I will try to find some in Paris going forward. We also had MASSIVE ice cream sundaes that ended up being a large portion of our dinner. Overall, an incredibly satisfactory visit! I’ll be going back soon for a bike tour of some nearby vineyards. Dijon is in the Burgundy region which is well-known for its wines. Unfortunately, Rick Steves had little advice for my visit to Dijon so I found the bike tour the day before I left and it was too late to book! I’m excited to go back and see Mo and enjoy some of the regions’ fine wines.
Friday was a bit hectic because of arriving back in Paris and promptly running to get to class on time. I was able to catch up with some fellow students and go for a happy hour around Châtelet, a well known spot in Paris for drinks with friends and a very famous jazz scene. M had recommended that I visit with some friends and I was glad to make that happen through serendipity. I tried a red beer or a biere rouge for the first time and loved it! It’s the first kind of beer that I’ve found that I really enjoy drinking. On Saturday, I went for a bike tour through Paris with the Bike About Tours Company that operates in Paris. They were a lovely group to bike around with, even if Paris is a bit of a hazard zone for cyclists and pedestrians! It was neat to be guided around the city and feel like a tourist for a little bit! I would recommend their tours for English speaking tourists and I’m hoping to go on a longer day trip with them when they resume doing them. Covid is still impacting their operations so I was glad that I could go on a ride with them through the city. The cafe where they work out of is also a neat gathering spot for expats of all countries so I’m excited to go back sometime soon for a big latte. I also went thrift shopping afterwards which was a learning experience! I’m trying to be both eco-friendly, but am very mindful of the extended summer that Paris is experiencing. Just to be on the safe side, I wanted to pick up a few additional items so that I wouldn’t sweat through my three summer outfits. I started at an outdoor flea market, but the one I was at was in no way cheaper than a real thrift store so I headed over to the Croix Rouge to pick up a few things. The selection was fantastic and I felt much better about getting clothes that I knew wouldn’t be needed for that much longer but would make me much more comfortable in the near term.
Sunday was another day that was meant to be chill but ended up being busier than I anticipated. I really do go to graduate school in between these adventures and was hoping for a solid day to plow through my readings and that sort of happened. I got a good three hours and got everything finished for my first class of the week but I had a planned activity at 2 that cut through my afternoon. I went on a little expedition of the Paris Catacombs! I went with a group of grad students from Sciences Po because we all figured that we owe it to ourselves to go see one of the most famous sites in Paris. It was neat and less creepy than I thought but I don’t think it was worth the 29E entry fee that you have to pay if you reserve in advance. It was more of an exploration of the story of the city of Paris and its relationship with the land, specifically the stone quarries and the cemeteries. The bones themselves were cool to see. I’m glad I went with a group because it made me a little braver going down there and we all went out for coffee afterwards to decompress. The catacombs were a little cold because they’re so far below ground. but I felt fine wearing a light autumn outfit. There is a lot of walking involved and the catacombs walls “sweat” moisture which made the expedition down there a little bit messier than I thought it would be. I think I would go with an actual guide next time if I did go again but I feel like it’s more of a one time experience. I will send out a warning to taller travelers if they plan on going…the ceilings are VERY low so if you do visit, be prepared for crouching. Anyway, that’s the end of my adventures for this past week so I’ll be seeing you all next week. Happy travels!