An American in Paris... and Caen

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm finally here! France has been amazing so far, and it's only been a week. I cannot even believe how good life is right now!

I'll give you a little schedule of what we have done so far, just as an idea. 

Day 1: Flight and Rest
I left Denver at 8:15 in the morning on Thursday, August 28. I arrived in Dulles (where I saw Mariska Hartigay!) and had a few hours as a layover. I ate, wrote a blog post, and relaxed. My plane arrived in Paris at 6:30 am (so early!) and I was able to find my group and we went to the hotel. 

We were so tired, but we made it a mission to walk a little bit, since we were staying so close to the Notre Dame cathedral! We went back to the hotel and slept, and we all took very long naps. We met Caroline, the program manager in Caen, and learned how to navigate the metro, and had dinner. 

Day 2: Versailles et le Musée D'Orsay, plus a lot of stairs
We went to Versailles first thing in the morning. It was about a 45 minute train ride on the RER, which is the passenger train for commuters in Paris. Versailles, the town, is a little bit outside of Paris. It was SO busy there (although, according to Caroline, it wasn't busy at all). I did not take many pictures inside the Chateau because there were so many people!

Then we went to the Musée D'Orsay, which is the museum for 19th century art in Paris. It was wonderful. I remember not liking it much when I went in 2010, but it was really amazing! 

We walked from the Musée D'Orsay to the Place de la Concorde, and then all the way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe! We also climbed all the way to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and it was a teeny tiny spiral staircase and I was freaking out the whole time. However, the view from the top was absolutely magnificent!

Day 3: Le Louvre! And even more stairs!
We started the day in the Louvre with a very short tour. I wish we would have spent more time there, but we went back in the afternoon.

After the Louvre, we visited the Chappelle St Pierre, which is a little chapel with BEAUTIFUL stained glass windows! I didn't even know about it until this trip, and it was definitely worth seeing. 

We then went to the Notre Dame cathedral, which is amazing. However, we went to the top of it as well, and it was an even smaller staircase than the Arc de Triomphe, and it was really scary for me. 

In the afternoon, some of us went back to the Louvre. There is an amazing Islamic art collection that they just opened in the past few years, and it was wonderful. 

Day 4: Alone time. 
The group went to the Eiffel Tower, but I didn't. I have seen it twice, so I decided to go back to the Louvre, which was a great decision. Then I walked and went shopping a little bit (not much) and visited the Opera Garnier! It is magnificent.

It was nice to have some alone time. I am very introverted, so it was nice to recharge by myself for a bit. We then caught the train in Paris, and went to Caen! It was about an hour and 45 minutes to get from Paris to Caen on the train. 

Now, I am in Caen, which is such a relief. As much as I enjoyed Paris, I was anxious the whole time to get to Caen and finally see the city where I will be living for the next few months. 

Just as a small history, Caen is a small city in the region of Normandy in France. It is probably best known for it's location close to the landing beaches during the invasion of Normandy towards the end of WWII. However, it is much older than that, and was actually founded by William the Conquerer (Guillame in France). There is an old "chateau" or the ruins of the fortress for the city. The University was founded in the early 1400s, but the buildings were all destroyed during the war so it was rebuilt in the 1950s. If you look at pictures, it looks pretty modern, and that is because of WWII.

My room! My bed is kind of a mess because I'm still figuring out where to put everything.

My desk! And they have so many books, it's wonderful.

So far, the hardest part about France has been the language barrier. I can understand French, read it, and write it, but when I need to speak it I get really nervous. I get so tired when I listen to a lot of French, and it is a bit of a relief to write this in English! My host family is wonderful, and they have been so patient and nice to me. I just can't wait to improve my French so I can talk to them more. 

Now, I'm very tired, and I have to wake up very early tomorrow morning. So, until next time! 

À toute à l'heure! 

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