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Published: January 5th 2010
What a day! I arrived in France around 8:30am this morning, and I was surprised that the sun was just coming up. It was very foggy and chilly outside (about 25 degress F)! My arrival at the airport was interesting; Charles de Gaulle is not a looker, it's more like a bizarre industrial compound. It took me a while to figure out what to do after I went through Immigration. I saw a tourist quiosk and bought my Paris Museum Pass--I was so glad I could buy it then! Successful French speaking encounter #1!
Next, I tried to buy a bus ticket with my credit card but it would only take coins. So to get these, I bought a drink (successful French speaking encounter #2!). Most people take the RER into Paris, but I opted to take the bus that goes from the airport to the Garnier Opera so that I could actually see what I was traveling past. Whenever it's a choice between below ground or above, I always choose the later. As we rode through the north of Paris on the freeway, I took in the part of the town that it the poorest and most dangerous. The HLMs (sort of like section 8 housing in the US) are towers of drab efficiency apartments, and there was graffiti everywhere. And in the distance i saw the merange-like dome of Sacre Coeur silhouetted against the foggy light. Once we hit the Boulevard Hausmann, it started to look like the Paris that everyone talks about. I was very impressed by the Hausmann architecture, which I learned about in my 19th century art course.
Once I got the the Opera it was a little tricky to find the metro station, but with the help of a few strangers I finally found it. The Opera exterior is striking, and I must go back. The metro station was super easy to navigate--it was even more straight forward than the one in Chicago to my surprise!
Finally, I arrived at the metro stop of my hostel (around 12pm), but my hostel was no where to be found! I asked around, and an angel of a woman told me where it was according to the street I told her. She said she would walk me there so I wouldn't get lost. Turns out, I had the wrong street name! A man overheard us and pointed us in the other direction. So note to self: the hostel is on AVENUE Gobelins, not rue Gobelins. Then this amazing woman turned around with me and walked me to where my hostel actually was. She advised me on the dangers of stepping out into French intersections without looking properly, as apparently people drive crazily here. At the hostel, I thanked her for her kindness, and we parted. I checked into my hostel and then wanted a snack.
SO......I went to my first French cafe! It's a lovely place just down the road with a lot of charm. The waiter was very cheerful and scurried around--this was one hard working guy. So what did I order? What was my first French cuisine sample? CHEESE of course! I had a cheese plate that tingled my taste buds and a cafe noisette--an esspresso with a little milk (successful French speaking encounter #8 or something!). I sat there for several hours enjoying myself and doing a little sketch. I was sitting next t to the radiator and so I was nice and cozy. On my way back to the hostel I stopped by a little museum which was displaying the tapestries of Louis XIV. Neat!
And now, I'm sitting in my hostel common area listening to jazz and typing this! For dinner I'm going out to try my first French dinner and dessert. It's hard to beleive I've been up for almost 24 hours, but I'm sure when I lay down tonight I'll sleep hard.
I don't know why people are always talking about how rude Parisians are--I've found it to be the complete opposite so far! Every person I have spoken to and asked for help has not only been polite, but kind. Perhaps the trick is speaking French to them? I've had people even ask me what my nationality is, so I'm glad that I don't stick out as an American. It makes me feel less like I need to lie and say I'm Canadian ;P
tomorrow: it's the Louvre and more!
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