Taking on Paris

My first two days in Paris were very interesting, to say the least. But I shall start with my plane ride: I sat next to a man who was traveling from Spain. He spoke Spanish, no English, but a little bit of French. The two of us managed to converse and connect with each other in our broken French throughout the flight. It was weird, that French was the language that connected us rather than separated us, like I was prepared for when I landed in Paris. I had two meals on my flight: dinner and breakfast. Both weren’t bad, and it was strange that as we both watched Batman vs. Superman wrapped up in our airline blankets and grunting responses at each other, I felt like I knew this man and we had oddly become friends. He probably got off that plane and hasn’t thought of me since, though.

The Charles de Gaulle airport was odd. Most of it was closed off in a way, and you walked down this glass hallway and I felt like I was outside looking in. At this point I was with my friend and fellow UF in Cambridge student, Shereen. We managed to go through passport control, get our luggage, and order an Uber with little to no trouble.

Once we got to the hotel, I was amazed by how small it was. I know Europe is small. I know everything in Europe is small. But the size of the hotel lobby was the size of my dining room. The size of the hotel elevator? It barely fit my suitcase and me balanced on top of it. The hotel room is also small but we navigated fine. The view out the balcony was gorgeous. Pretty Parisian architecture and blue skies.

After settling into the hotel we decided to find food. We walked up and down this street, which was basically a food market. Boulangerie, Patisserie, Boucherie, and on and on. You can’t walk five steps in Paris without happening upon a café, but we felt overwhelmed by the options. Eventually we settled with a café called Café Bouquet and the waiter spoke some English. I tried to order in French, but he was trying to practice his English, so it was confusing for the both of us. The food however, was great. I got a ham omlette and French fries (ha! They’re called frites here.) Then Shereen and I then sluggishly made our way to the hotel and passed out for four hours. Oh yeah did I mention that neither of us slept on the 9-hour overnight flight?

I managed to get myself together and out the door at 5:30 later that day. I wanted to go to this famous bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. I took an Uber over and enjoyed an iced latte while I walked around and looked at books. The security guard who lets people in and out of the shop greeted me with a kiss on each cheek and a look inside my bag.

Across the way was Notre Dame, just sitting there in all of its glory. I crossed the street to take a closer look, then ended up wandering around in a garden, then somehow came out on the other side and thought I could find my way back to the hotel on foot.

I was wrong.

I ended up walking 5.5 miles and through three arrondissements (districts.) It wasn’t that bad of a walk, the scenery was nice, but sometimes the streets got sketchy, and the people even sketchier. I stumbled upon the Pantheon and another pretty church. Throughout this walk I kept trying to connect to Wi-Fi to pull up a map to find my way back, but never had success. It ended up being the glowing signs of Sephora advertisements that led me home. People that know me best know that I’m obsessed with makeup. So as soon as I saw that a new Sephora had just opened up across the street, I queued that into my mind palace. I ended up tapping into the info later and using the signs directing me to Sephora to find my way back. Three hours later, I was home.

Shereen and I then went out for dinner at Café Rendez Vous where she ordered a cheeseburger, and I ordered beef tenderloin. I asked for it to be cooked medium, and I ended up with a red and raw piece of meat on my plate. The waiter said, “That is medium.” I sent it back. Well done it is from now on.

In the morning Shereen and I got up early and took an Uber to the Eiffel tower.

We took our tourist pictures and wandered around the area before heading to Café Gustave for breakfast. After, we took a walk over to Champs Elysee for Maison Laduree macaroons and casual shopping. The macaroons were great, thanks for asking. A skirt around the Arc de Triomphe led us to a French Starbucks for a refresher. I think the biggest culture shock so far has been when Shereen asked for a venti iced coffee and the barista held up a cup that was barely bigger than a grande. Like I said, everything is just smaller. Gosh, we are such Americans.

Today we checked out of the hotel and met up with our group at Cite Universitaire, which is the Paris University where I will stay for the remainder of our time in France. I have a dorm room to myself, but it is small, has no AC, and the toilet and shower are down the hall. This princess is roughing it.

Shereen, Bailey, and I walked around the University area today, visited a French grocery store (I got yelled at by the security guard for using the wrong door), and then we relaxed in a park under some shady trees before going to dinner with our group.

The UF in Cambridge group is full of like-minded intellectuals who all shine in their own way. It’s simply wonderful sitting with our professor, Dr. Kroen, and my fellow students and just shooting the breeze. There sure is a lot to say. Tomorrow I have 15 miles of walking to do, so wish me luck.

Au revoir!
Shanna.

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