The past 18 hours since I left Boston have pretty much been a whirlwind of time changes, flight connections, and half-hearted attempts at sleeping on a moving vehicle (which I am miserable at doing). Consequently, this post may only be partially coherent, but bear with me.
My family brought me to Logan around 3:30 pm (Boston time) yesterday afternoon, where we checked my luggage and grabbed some snacks at the airport café. This in itself was a victory, considering that I had two huge suitcases densely packed with space bags full of clothes, shoes, and toiletries (Aer Lingus only allows one checked bag per passenger), and that each bag was a good two or three pounds over the 50 lb weight limit.
After an hour or so, I said goodbye to my parents & Juliette at the security checkpoint and went to find my gate and wait to board the plane. This all went as smoothly as I could have hoped considering it was my first time flying alone, and my first transatlantic flight since the age of 3. The one thing I realized was that I have never had to fly before as a full-sized adult human; they weren’t kidding when they said airplanes have absolutely zero leg room.
Both flights were good overall, as I was able to get a few light naps in that held me over until Paris so that my body kind of got into the rhythm of the new time zone. My first flight to Dublin served a full dinner as well as two rounds of snacks, so I was pretty content with that. The second flight was on a smaller Aer Lingus plane from Dublin to Charles de Gaulle at about 5:00 am GMT, which was only about an hour long. I slept more heavily on this flight, for better or for worse: I was still asleep when the plane began landing, and upon hearing the crash of the landing gear hitting the pavement I was pretty sure we were falling out of the sky (obviously not the case).
After taking the airport shuttle bus from the airplane to the actual building that is CDG airport, I collected my awkwardly heavy suitcases and managed to load them onto one of the buggies and roll them out to where I would meet the driver of the shuttle service that my parents and I had arranged ahead of time. Within about 20 minutes, I was standing on the sidewalk outside my host family’s apartment right in the heart of the seizième (16th) arrondissement of Paris.
The view from my bedroom window, complete with balcony!
After my host mother greeted me and I lugged everything up the building’s miniature ascenseur (elevator), I was given a tour of the apartment, including my bedroom, the bathroom, kitchen, etc. (the most important parts, obviously). Also, my host mother, Mme. Guilmard, revealed that there is another exchange student staying in the apartment with us, which I was not aware of based on our limited e-mail correspondence over the summer. Her name is Katie and she is a student at Skidmore College. I think we were both a little bit relieved that we would be staying together, especially because Mme. does not speak any English (or so she says….) and M. Guilmard, who I will meet at dinner this evening, only speaks a little. While I can understand pretty much everything Mme. says and respond adequately, my speaking skills need some work. Especially because of how tired I was, it was difficult to put sentences together in French and then actually speak the words. I’m hoping that gets a little better once I have adjusted a bit more.
So, for the remainder of the day I unpacked my suitcases and took a shower, which was much needed after being on an airplane for about eight hours in the same outfit. After getting settled, Mme. and I went out on foot for a lesson on how to use the metro, as well as a trip to les magasins (the shops), specifically le boulanger (the bakery) and le super-marché (the supermarket).
From what I can tell, the Paris metro is extremely easy to use, very logical, and very efficient – basically, the opposite of the Boston MBTA system in every way except for its basic concept. It is always on time and the cars on most of the major lines do not even have a conductor; they just operate on their schedule, and God forbid you try to get through the doors after the bell has gone off.
My room in the midst of the unpacking process
As for the shopping, we visited a Monoprix, which I had heard of before arriving in Paris. I thought it was just a clothing store comparable to H&M, but upon entering, discovered that it is all that plus a makeup counter, a drugstore, and a supermarket rolled into one. Basically, you could shop only at Monoprix for the rest of your life and be reasonably well dressed, fed and entertained. The boulanger was just as you would expect a French boulanger du quartier (neighborhood bakery) to be, complete with warm baguettes that you carry in the crook of your arm as you walk back to your apartment.
After all this walking (also just basic functioning, considering that I got barely any sleep) I came back to the apartment and immediately got into bed, falling asleep for a good two hours. I think that nap was just what I needed, but I am currently quite disoriented and hungry. Tonight I will be having dinner with my host family, which I am looking forward to because I haven’t had much in the way of a proper meal since leaving home.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of my Parisian university experience, with an orientation beginning at 10 am and the first few hours of my two-week intensive French seminar in the afternoon. À tout à l’heure!