un voyage à Paris pour le-weekend

Maintaining a blog has proven difficult, as I have come to realize that I am not as creative as I once assumed. It’s not easy identifying what it is that I should talk about, or what is even worth talking about. Yet, it’s the start of Week 3, day 2. You would assume that by now I would have established some sort of normalcy in my life–and in some ways I have, but in others I haven’t. I have yet to become fully accustomed to the vast amounts of bread eaten for every meal or the traces of dog poop that line each street in Tours, but at least three times a week, I visit Monoprix to purchase something such as cough drops or tupper ware, only to be met by the same worker who always makes it a mission to communicate with me in French and teach me new words such as “Noix Cajou”.

I have moved up in my class, which I am truly happy about. In my last class, I sat alongside my American counterparts, making it difficult to truly speak French. Although I was enthused by our daily lessons in grammar and discussions on things like the French Revolution and World War 2, perhaps I wasn’t being challenged as much as I should have been. I now find myself in a class with only 5 Americans, as opposed to the 9 in my last class. This may not seem to be a big difference, but my class now harbors a group of girls from Iran, a group of people from South Korea, and a man from the United Arab Emirates, and the first day made it clear that we would only communicate in French if I expected to learn anything at all.

This past weekend, many students from the Institute, including myself, went to Paris on Friday; however, my trip to Paris was more of a solo adventure alongside 3 others rather than a mere day trip to Notre Dame and Musee d’Orsay. Being in Paris, I appreciated my time in Tours a bit more. Although I love the feel of Paris, as it reminds me of being both at home and in New York, I finally understood the frustration of being in a city in France where everyone seemed to speak everything but French. As I meandered through people to find the metro, or our hostel, or even restaurants, I often said, “Excusez-moi” and was surprised to see that many people failed to move as they looked back at me with confusion. I was quickly identifying the Americans who had come from afar, along with the British, the Irish, the Chinese, and the Spanish. Speaking French became quite normal for me, as I had been expected to do so in Tours. Most people in Tours either speak very little English and are vocal about their insecurities when speaking it so I quickly respond with, “en Francais, s’il vous plait”. In Paris, I still resorted to French–only using English when I found it incredibly difficult to express the need for things such as shower shoes or after feeling embarrassed for asking the waiter to repeat themselves after failing to understand them the first time. My friends and I were unable to identify whether Parisian French is any different from the French spoken in Tours, and I am not sure if we were even able to confirm any of our preconceived notions, but the French spoken in Paris is definitely spoken at a quicker rate.

While in Paris, the 11th arrondissment quickly became my favorite–which would not have actually happened had I been given the correct address for a restaurant in the 5th (Clasico Argentino, if you were wondering). The 11th arrondissment was far from our hostel right within the center of the city, but I appreciated this. Although being able to see monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, serving as a reminder that we were still in Paris, the 11th felt oddly familiar. Walking through this part of town, there was a flea market displaying all the clothing and music of different cultures and countries, leaving me to marvel at how people who looked so different and harbored different histories could traverse these apparent differences by their ability to speak French. Walking through, I stopped at the spot where an African man was selling clothes with the most beautiful textured patterns, or what we would call Ankara in Nigeria, and for some reason, I found joy in his very informal greeting when I walked to meet him. “Ca va? Oui, ca va. Et toi?”. Moving forward, my friends and I even stopped at a fruit stand owned by an Arab man from Qatar, or perhaps another one of the Gulf states. He, too, did not speak English, and it became a transaction of words in both Arabic and French, asking and responding to the questions of whether or not we could sample some fruit and explaining where we were from. We spent our time in a park afterwards (parc de Belleville, if you are ever in the area), which gives off a very strong suburb vibe but was still very nice as our bench in the area by the entrance of the park offered a nice view of the children and parents leaving and entering for what appeared to be a birthday party.

During our quick trip to Paris, my friends and I also ran into kids from the Institute while walking down the Champs Elysees, but what was actually the best part of our trip through Paris was viewing the Eiffel Tower at night. After descending the RER C line from Le Marais, we could see the Eiffel Tower, and as we moved closer, the smells in the air mimicked those of the state fair in Texas as vendors were selling crepes and other things. Next to the tower was a carousel, however, we opted for following the group of other foreigners towards the giant patch of grass where we gladly set up a small picnic, despite being harassed by those wanting to sell umbrellas, mini Eiffel Towers, and champagne.

Last but not least, my first trip to Paris would not be a trip to Paris unless I had managed to lose my way. Already unfamiliar with public transportation in all its forms, I woke up early on Sunday to ensure that I would be able to board my bus in a timely manner back to Tours. Yet, after taking one line of the metro and getting ready to transfer, I quickly realized that the line we needed was no longer running, and within the 30 minute time span I had remaining, I would quickly have to find an alternative. Although this proved successful, finding the bus station was another struggle as the address provided did not actually exist. While under stress and under the impression that I had missed my bus, I moved through groups of people asking, “Est-ce que vous pouvez m’aider” or “Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?” after realizing that I did not have time to speak in broken French. After being met with men who only spoke German and women who only spoke Spanish or drivers who were unable to decipher my terribly spoken Franglish, I found the bus going back to Tours (and lucky for me, the bus had been 20 minutes late).

I am not sure if any of my future posts will be this exciting, but for now, a bientot!