So…if you haven’t already guessed from the title of this blog entry, I have left Paris and am now in Angers where I shall remain until December. Okay, so first of alll….I still cannot believe that I’m in FRANCE!!! I mean, really?? I’ve been dreaming of this since 5th grade and now I’m here? What? This is actually happening?
Paris was amazing. I can’t thank Aurelie and Alex enough for letting me stay with them for the past couple days. Aurelie and I had a few adventures while I was there. Thursday (the day I got there) we focused on finding me a cell phone. Which we did. From what I understand, you buy a phone and then pick a plan to go with it. It’s not really like how it is in the US where you have to get an AT&T plan if you want an iPhone or whatever. So, the plan we decided on is with Bouygues Telecomm and it gives me unlimited (and free, I’m pretty sure) texting within France and five hours of phone time within France. If I call the US instead, I have 4.5 hours and each text to the US is $0.30 but the nice thing is that it doesn’t cost me anything to receive phone calls or texts, unlike in the US where phone companies bill both parties for both. Also, the way plans work here (or at least the ones we looked at) is they go by however much you put on it. I did the 60 euros option with the Formule 2 fois plus plan. So because I opted for the 60 euros, that’s how I get the five hours or four and a half if it’s to the US. And then the 30 cents for US texts just subtracts from the 60. It’s also valid for 3 months. Now, I know those 60 euros worth of minutes are not going to last 3 months but that’s how long they’re valid. I hope that more or less makes sense. The phone itself is Nokia. So….it should be pretty much indestructible right? It’s a very basic phone, it may have been the cheapest one that they sold. It doesn’t even close; it actually kind of reminds me of the first cell phones that my parents had when Jared and I were kids. There was a blackberry-type one I liked and was looking at but it was a bit too expensive.
Now, on to more exciting adventures. Friday Aurelie and I went to Versailles, somewhere I’d never been before. Holy frigging crap. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much gold. You thought I was kidding in the other post when I said France is obsessed with gold? I retract that, the kings who lived in Versailles were OBSESSED with gold. Gold gates, gold outlining everything, in the tapestries on the wall, covering the doorways…good Lord. It was cool though. Fun fact for anyone traveling, I got in for free. Aurelie had me bring my passport with me because she thought she remembered that students got in for free. And it’s true. I got in free. I think that works for most places in Paris at least. I know the Louvre is free and Alex told me that they have night hours on Thursdays and students can get in free to that. Just show them the visa in your passport and explain that your a student and if you’re under 26 you should be able to get in free. Pretty cool, huh? Sadly, I forgot to put fresh batteries in my camera before leaving home so my camera died just as we got to the king’s bedchamber. Which means no pictures of the rest of the house, the gardens, or the Queen’s apartments (both the grand and petit trianon). Oh well. I got a few postcards. Most of the people at Versailles were tourists. It was only my second day in France but it still was a little weird hearing so much English being spoken around me. Aurelie and I were both surprised at some of the women we saw because Versailles is huge if you include the grounds and Queen’s apartments yet we saw a few women walking around in heels. Like strappy, stiletto type heels. Crazzyy.
Saturday was a long day. A good day, but long. I’m pretty sure we walked for 5 hours. I know we had to have walked from one end of Paris to the other and everywhere inbetween. We started at the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs-Elysees (and yes Mom, I know I’m missing accents). Then we walked around some neighboring streets just looking at the different stores. We actually went inside a Jimmy Choo store! Now, I’m not that into the designer brand shoes but still, you have to admit that’s pretty cool. We also went into another shoe place that was really expensive but I don’t know the name of it. We saw the Grand and Petit Palais, the Pont Alexandre III bridge, L’Hotel de Les Invalides, a couple embassies. Oh, let’s stop and talk about that for a minute shall we?
Okay, the embassies. So, I’m sure some of you have seen the pictures of all this on facebook but for those who haven’t let me explain. So, Aurelie showed me the L’Elysee, where the President of the French Republic resides and conducts business, etc. etc. So there’s a guard at each end of the street making sure that no one walks on that side of the street. Then there’s another guard in front of the gates to let people in or out and then on each side of the gate is a guard in “fancy dress”. I think they’re more for show. Oh, and they don’t care if you stand directly across from the gate and take a picture. Now, let’s talk about the US embassy. Oh, my lord. You cannot fake paranoia like this people. Aurelie took a picture as close as we could get. And it’s from like halfway across a park. There’s guards on each corner of the block making sure that no pedestrian walks on that side of the road. Then there’s four, yes FOUR, blue armored vans parked out front with 1-2 policemen to each van. All of them are armed. And then there’s a guardhouse that I think you have to pass through to get into the embassy. We walked by and went down the side street and because there was both a pole and a person walking towards us, we stepped into the street to walk until we’d passed the person and the guard made us come back and get on the sidewalk. Down the side, there’s another guard in front of a set of gates who started waving at us when Aurelie tried to take a picture. So she took one from further down the street when his back was turned. But geez, France isn’t even that worried about their people yet the US has all the stops out like it were the Middle East or Egypt instead of France. Just seemed a bit excessive to me.
Because of all the walking we did Saturday, Sunday was a relaxing day. Aurelie worked on her grant some more and I worked on posting pictures and the blog. Alex (Aurelie’s fiance) went out to play golf. Then three of us watched Harry Potter 1 on TV after dinner. That was weird because for some reason they changed some of the names. The movie was in French but they changed the names of characters. Like the houses. Hufflepuff became Pouflesouf or something. Ravenclaw and Slytherin changed too. So did Neville’s last name, Snape’s name became Rogue, Scabbers got changed to something starting with a C and Hogwarts became Pouflord. Bagette was wand apparently. Funny, I kind of always thought bagette was a type of bread…
Then this morning Aurelie helped me get to the train (TGV) that took me to Angers where I checked in with CIDEF (the international department of UCO) and met my host lady, Madame Blondeau-Haidara. She’s really nice. And patient, which is good because my French is not great. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that even if I didn’t completely understand, I could at least catch the gist of most of what she said. I’m so happy that she doesn’t talk like the people in Paris do (100 miles an hour) where I caught maybe 1 word in 8. And though it’s nowhere near perfect French, I think I’ve been able to be understood more or less so that’s good.
Tomorrow morning I have to report to the university at 8:30AM for placement testing. We get split into classes based on those results on Wednesday I’m pretty sure. Now whether that’s for the month of September or for the semester I’m not sure. I don’t see the logic in staying for just a month but it is a possibility. The month of language immersion (September) is separate from the semester which doesn’t start until October 8th. There’s another girl, Sarah, who is going to be staying in the same house with me but she won’t be here until tomorrow afternoon. If I understood Madame Blondeau-Haidara, I think she’s only staying for September but I’m not sure.
It’s getting late here so I’ll say bye for now. Bon nuit!
PS- It’s not letting me upload pictures for some reason.