On Saturday morning, Katie, Abby, and I decided to go for a walk. We found a really cool grocery store that is bigger, and therefore cheaper, than the one we’ve been going to. When we tried to walk back outside though, it had started raining. We were unprepared. The forecast had been saying rain for a week and it hadn’t rained yet. But it’s been raining almost ever since. Saturday afternoon, Katie left to go visit some friends for the weekend, so the rest of us stayed around our apartments. Abby and I went with the guys that live near us to explore our streets some more. We found a restaurant near the guys’ apartment that we decided we’re going to return to every Saturday. I had lamb and couscous. It was good, but too much for me to eat, so I’ll definitely try something different next week. We all tried an assortment of desserts. Erik and I stuck to chocolate cake, but Abby got creme brulee, and Ty and Joseph got some kind of pear and chocolate pie that they seemed to enjoy. After dinner, we went back to the guys’ apartment and watched movies for a few hours. Sunday was even lazier. We just hung out at our apartment all day. When Katie got back, we made some pasta for dinner. Today, though, was very busy. We had to buy some more Metro passes this morning to tie us over until June starts. Then Calculus class, which is moving very quickly. This afternoon, we started our communications class. The name of it is Professional Communication for Engineers, but because we are taking it abroad, they have put a more heavy emphasis on cross-cultural studies. We have our first presentation (which is just a professional introduction of ourselves) due on Wednesday. After class, we went grocery shopping at the new store. I bought a small rose plant to aid me in my presentation and I’m going to keep it while I’m here (and possibly try to bring it home). His name is Larry. That’s been my favorite part of the past few days. When we got back from the store, a few of us decided to get tonight’s calculus homework done, which took over two hours. Now, I get to relax for the rest of the evening. I hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day Weekend!
Last night, I got to hang out with my friend, Ben! Ben and I went to high school together, then he went to UT (but I forgave him) and his parents moved to Virginia. And now we were randomly in Paris at the same time! He, some of the people on my trip, and I went to Sacre Coeur, a really pretty church that’s located on the highest point in Paris. There were so many stairs, but the view was absolutely incredible. The inside of the church was also impressive. There was a service going on, so we got to watch a little bit of it and we also got to hear the organs playing. That was my favorite part. After that, we walked down Monmartre, which is the roads surrounding Sacre Coeur. They’re filled with street artists. We found a place to eat that was super eclectic. There was a really talented pianist entertaining us while we were there. My main dish and dessert were really normal- I had spaghetti and ice cream-, but my appetizer was interesting. It was basically cold meatloaf. I don’t really know if I liked it or not. After dinner, we had to get back down to ground level, but we found a tram to use instead of stairs. Then we found the Moulin Rouge, where they apparently used to do cancan (which was risque at the time). That side of town was really different and pretty awkward. The last interesting thing that happened was that I got a kitkat from a vending machine in the Metro, and apparently candy is not the same everywhere. I like American kitkats better.
Today was our first day of calculus. Actually having to take classes is unfortunate. It lasts for two hours in the morning. Then we spent a large portion of the afternoon working on homework. We will have homework every day, which is something that I am very not used to. Our professor is really nice and helpful, though, so it shouldn’t be too bad. After homework, the other girls had to find temporary phones to use, and we went to a store called Hema so we could get some school supplies and Ty could get peanut butter. Apparently Hema is the only place you can get peanut butter here. After that trip- which took a long time and many changes of Metros-, we had dinner at McDonald’s! It was a lot more expensive than in the U.S., even though it tasted pretty much the same. It was nice to eat familiar food though. Then, we went in search for a fountain that Ty found on the map called Place d’Italie. It didn’t look like what the pictures did, but it had a really nice, peaceful atmosphere. Now we’re hanging out at our apartment again. Last thing for tonight- (against my will) we tried escargot. It wasn’t actually as bad as I though it would be, but I don’t think I will eat it regularly.
We had our second day of orientation this morning. The session today was about academics. They explained the difference between the American and French higher education systems. It’s been really eye opening to see so closely how different other cultures can be. In America, I’ve heard many times that people in other countries live differently from us, but I’ve always had the mindset that the way we live is normal everywhere. It’s interesting to see what other people view as normal and how they view us.
After orientation, we went to a new restaurant. I ordered the plate of the day, which was duck! It was really good. Then we went to the Louvre. I can’t even begin to describe how big it was. I tried to take pictures but I didn’t even know what to take pictures of- except the Mona Lisa of course. After that, we went to a place where we could take touristy pictures of the Eiffel Tower. We’re going to go back and actually climb it later. Now, we’re back at our apartment making dinner with some of the guys. Our calculus class starts tomorrow and lasts from 10-12, so we’ll probably do some more touristy stuff in the afternoon.
I’ve decided that I like riding on the Metros. Other than the antisocial nature of the other people, it’s fun. There are a lot of musicians that stand in the stations and play music or sing. Today, we rode on a Metro that went above the river! We also stopped in a station called Franklin D. Roosevelt. I thought that worth noting. I wish San Antonio had a Metro system.
Today, we had orientation for CEA. We had to ride the Metro there, but that was surprisingly easy. We had two session that lasted a little over three hours, a lunch break, and then a long afternoon session. It was a lot of information to digest. The thing that stuck out the most to me was that smiling is different here. On the Metro and in public, people keep to themselves and avoid eye contact. If you smile at someone- especially with teeth- that apparently means you’re being flirtatious, and is an invitation for them to come talk to you. I’ll have to get used to not smiling at random people. After orientation finished, CEA took us on a boat tour on the river! We saw most of the famous sites from the boat, and I took lots of pictures. After the tour, we were free to do whatever we wanted, so we decided to go to the Arc de Triomph. It was so big! After that, we walked down Champs-Elysees, a popular, touristy road. Then we came back to our apartment and went to the market.
Some random side-notes: I included a picture of some flowers. There are a lot of floral shops with really pretty flowers. We passed a really nice one on the way to the boat tour, so I took a picture. I haven’t had a chance to go in one yet, but I definitely plan to. Also, the picture of our whole group is on a bridge above the river.
Last night, Katie and I met up with six of the guys to go get dinner. Gathering everyone from the various apartments required a lot of walking. We probably walked for 40 minutes before we found the last apartments, and then we walked more to find a place to eat. The architecture here is beautiful, and it was crazy to see how it differed when we walked into the next district. We also caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower! We ended up eating at a place called the Hippopotamus Grill. The food was good (some people got hamburgers, I got a salad, some people got chicken), and for dessert, we all tried chocolate mousse. It was delicious, but very rich. For lunch today, we went to a restaurant near the CEA center that I didn’t catch the name of. I had salmon in some kind of butter sauce and mashed potatoes (which was incredible!), then a chocolate cake for dessert. They also served us little cups of espresso, which I tried but couldn’t finish. We have a market near our apartment, so we’ll probably be making most of our own food now, but my first few meals were very tasty.
After a 2.5 hour plane ride, 4 hour layover (where I found my friend, Ty, who is also on the trip), and another 8.5 hour plane ride, I have arrived safely in Paris and settled into my apartment! We were given a brief orientation of how the Metro worked and how to read the maps before we were driven to our apartments to live like adults. Mine is on the 3rd floor (which is actually the 4th floor), and I thought I was never going to get my luggage up the stairs. After that trek, I took a really long nap-because jet lag is a real thing. One of my two roommates, Katie (who happens to be fluent in French), arrived after a few hours. We unpacked and decided to walk around our block. We discovered many restaurants, a pharmacy, and some markets all very close to us. There are also a lot of pigeons, which reminds me of Tech! The roads are crowded and the drivers are scary, but it is beautiful! We found out there are ten of us on the trip- the three girls in my apartment and two other apartments of guys that aren’t a far walk from our place. Katie and I have made a list of touristy things to do while we’re here, and we are waiting for our other roommate to arrive and to hear from the guys about dinner. Tomorrow, we will have to figure out how to ride the Metro to the CEA offices for our full orientation.
I’ve been so focused on finals and finishing the Spring semester that I’ve managed to put off all my packing and preparing until the last minute. I leave in two days and just started packing today. I’m sure it will be a mad rush when I’m leaving for the airport. But I’m super thankful to Haleigh and Logan for helping me pack and put together my blog today!