Day 1-7: the baguette, the baby, and the crazy deutsch speaking Australienne

by Anna Blanch on August 8, 2010

So my first week has flown by and I wanted to share some of the highlights!

Day 1: metro pass acquired, french placement task sat…and oral failed when I couldn’t remember french vocab and blurted out German…(?) oh, well, least i’ll learn it right, food found, feet hurt.

I don’t think much beats the crunch of a baguette bought from a boulangerie from a moustached french baker. Except maybe when that baguette is still warm from the baker’s oven. Oh, wow. with the addition of some chevre (goat’s cheese) – i had an extra(ordinary) lunch! i’m suprised by how much i can read and understand and by the words I just don’t get at all. Later this afternoon, I visited Sacre coeur and rode the montmatrobus around its full length. I also rode the funiculaire (like a car that goes straight up the side of a very steep hill).

I was also offered a babysitting job! Basically, I offered to help a lady struggling with a screaming 2 year old and a heaped stroller. After hanging out with the other families on this trip I have a renewed appreciation for only having to look after myself. This nice American expat was so appreciative of the assistance she asked me how long i’d be around for, a few more details about myself and she offered to call me with some babysitting work. As flattered as I was I declined!

Day 2: So, it turns out i didn’t bomb the written test at all. They put me in Elementaire 1. Basically, this means I’m understanding about 50% of what the teacher says. There’s no English at all. Which means I’ve learnt how to ask, in french, for explanations, how to spell things, to repeat, and what things mean. Between charades and miming and my limited french i’m getting by. Today I visited Shakespeare and Co and walked around the very touristy la hauchette area by Pont Neuf. I walked past Notre Dame. I also ate one of the most amazing kebabs (falafel) i’ve ever had (on recommendation of one of the vendeuse at Shakespeare and company). I saw the beginnings of a protest under the watchful eye of french riot police. I caught a bus back to my district after realising that the protestors were making their way to and from the metro – I decided i didn’t fancy being on the metro with a massive group of protestors. Not to be outdone, I happened upon an angry shopkeeper chasing a young man out of his store with a baseball bat. He took a few wild swings. I think it was only the quick talk of the young man which saved him from serious harm. This day wasn’t done yet, I ended up having dinner with some friends from Australia who happened to be in town – there was another massive adventure getting there which reminded me both of my own resourcefulness when i’m travelling and how friendly french people really can be! Then we walked through the 2, 10 and 19th districts to try and find a jazz club. It was incredible to see the city by foot!

Day 3: After class I went with some of the others from St Andrews to visit a bookstore at St. Michel (across from Notre Dame). Gilbert Jeune are a series of 6 huge bookstores separated out by category. Books are cheaper here than in the UK or Australia. Then I had lunch with some of the other St Andrews families, before going off on a marketing adventure. I tried to find a covered market by taking the bus about 12 blocks away from my house. It was a complete disappointment. I ended up finding a supermarket closer to my house. But i was really disappointed with the lack of market amazingness!

Day 4:I  went back to the bookstore and bought a francaise-anglaise dictionaire, a grammar book for french written in english (learning french grammar in french is hard, really hard. I then went back to Montmatre and explored my area a little more – I visited the touristy area near Sacre Coeur and bought some postcards, and had my first crepe of this trip. I can’t believe it took me so long! I also found a great fromagerie (cheesemonger) near m. Abesses. I just hope I can find it again. I tried on friday and couldn’t!

Day 5: No sightseeing. Stayed at home and studied and wrote a book review or two! and then crashed I was exhausted! I’d forgotten how much learning another language really takes it out of you!

Day 6: Class, had lunch with a couple of the other St Andrews families in Jardin du luxembourg which is near to the school. It was a yummy panini lunch. We visited the Eiffel Tower, walked down champ de mars towards Ecole Militaire. I stopped at the Wall of Peace and took photos (they’ll be a post about this at Transpositions early next week) and the past Invalides towards the Champs Elysees. It was just beautiful. There was also another crepe or two somewhere in the middle of all of that. After all that walking I decided I wasn’t yet done; I went shopping near Barbes-Rocheouart on rue de stinkerque. On my way home I dropped into a bakery near to my apartment and asked the baker what was good – he presented me with an wonderful sweet almond pastry delight! That and he asked me if I was German. Maybe I have a german french accent? who knows.

Day 7: I walked for almost 7 hours straight and thought my feet were going to fall off. I started with the Musee de la vie Romantique which is about George Sand and Ary Schaeffer. It had a beautiful garden. It is always interesting for me to get a feel for 19th c. Paris because Nesbit spent some time here late in the 1870’s with her mother and sister. Then i visited the cemetery at Montmatre. It is a curious thing to walk through a french cemetery. The only person on the map I recognised with Fourier (the economist) and so I set off to find his grave – no such luck. I did find one of the guys who worked with Pasteur on the TB vaccination though. I took some photos. Some of the monuments were fascinating. It was a little odd realising that this would be a lovely place for a picnic. I’ve never had that thought about a cemetery before.

I then walked down to Place Blanche and the Moulin Rouge before I walked the full length of Rue Amsterdam, past Gare St Lazare. I took lots of photos of sculptures and street art today.

By 2pm I was ready to eat something substantial. I’d say a horse, but seeing as you could actually buy and eat horse meat here…i won’t go there. I disembarked the metro and I ran into two of only 10 other people I know in Paris in Strausborg-St Denis metro station! Sometimes the biggest city can seem so small. After finding an open bakery we grabbed bread and had lunch in Place Voges, a park in the middle of houses built from 1612. Some of which are painted to look like bricks. Pretty impressive paintwork. I then visited the Musee de Carnavalet (the history of Paris museum). After visiting Eglise St Paul and St Louis, I walked toward the Bastille and then down the 11th district). I walked through an artists market. I don’t know if it’s just in the summer but it was the 3rd or fourth one i’ve seen in as many days.

I was about to go home via the metro at Voltaire when i came upon a group of people practising Capoeira. Listening to the rhythmic music and the chanting and watching the play fighting and dancing was enlivening! It’s amazing how far you can push yourself when you want to!

Today: I’m reflecting, and taking some time out. I decided to make this sabbath a day of rest, physical rest. Occasionally, I catch smells of crepes, or bourginon, and I hear sounds of children and adults, of ambulances and police cars. I writing a post or two like this. I’m talking to my family and connecting with the people who matter most to me. I’m making simple, but amazing food in my little kitchen and i’m loving it!

Anna M Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts, University of St Andrews. She is in Paris for the month of August studying at the Institute Catholique Francaise.

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  • Cura Animarum

    It sounds like you're having a fabulous trip. Haven't been by in awhile. It's nice to see things going so well for you. Enjoy the heck out of France!
    My recent post Chasing the Fox


    oh it sounds wonderful! i remember my first baguette! i can still see myself smiling. in fact i think i have a pic of myself holding it and smiling!! please keep the stories coming. some pics would be nice aussi!

  • TRR

    This is a treat to hear all about your week! French is the language I must master for my studies and reading about your struggles and triumphs in France only inspires me more! I'm so glad you are getting around and exploring, even alone. I'm a sucker for cemeteries for some reason. Something about being so close to the people of the past makes me feel such a connection to it. Oh and the food sounds so simple, yet divine. I'm jealous! Drink some great French wine for me, while you are there!

  • @jumpingtandem

    Your trip sounds romantically adventurous! I enjoyed every single day.

  • Goannatree
  • Goannatree

    I am! thanks for stopping by. I've been posting a little less than usual while i'm here – too much to explore. Although this afternoon i'm a little tired and it's cold! I'm enjoying much of the fruits of Paris!
    My recent post Street Art- La Fayette Metro

  • Goannatree

    ahhh TRR (i like it!). I am taking classes at an excellent institut. I'll tell you more about it if you like – it's definitely easier to learn here in the country. I'd recommend a one month course here one year and then the french reading class for graduate students at your own institution the next summer – i think that would see you just about right for graduate reading level french (intermediate reading level. I'm going to go to Pere Lachaise in the next few days – so hopefully there will be photos.

    The food is great, the wine cheap and not bad at all!
    My recent post Transpositions Tuesday- Le Mur pour la Paix

  • Goannatree

    tres bon! it is – i've even had a chance to catch up with some friends from australia. and i have a friend flying in at the end of the month! I forgot how tiring learning a language is, though.
    My recent post Street Art- Mosner on Rue Ramey

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