After the fastest three weeks ever at home, I’m now back in Paris. I got back the day after the unity march took place. I wouldn’t say that the recent events made me reluctant to come back, as I knew I had to return regardless, but I was glad to have been at home while they were happening. There’s not a huge change in atmosphere here. The police presence has increased, especially in airport. There are constant announcements in various languages in all metro stations (even the tiny one next to me) telling people to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to staff immediately. I’ve also had my bag checked entering quite a few shops, as well as in the university. You’ll be able to see from previous photos that the main university buildings are very long, with lots of different entrances. Now there’s only one entrance into each building, with a university security employee checking bags (but still not student/staff cards…), which meant it took half an hour for me to get into one of the buildings when I had to sign up for classes- I think it’s going to get a bit crazy when classes start today.
I returned to my lovely little studio to find that I suddenly had incredibly noisy neighbours. I originally thought they were behind me, but both logic and Google Earth proved this to be impossible and it turns out that they were in the flat directly above me (I have very bad hearing). They were two American boys, probably a couple of years older than me, one of them enjoys taking baths while singing the greatest hits of REM but the other prefers rapping, both very heavy footed apparently with an inability to sit still. This in combination with my piano playing ground floor neighbour, the man who is re-plastering the walls of the staircase, and my other upstairs neighbour who does a lot of exercise in her flat, was too much for me to handle after my stressful day of running around trying to register for classes and arguing with five year old Benjamin about the rules of ludo and draughts. After some super sleuthing, I think it’s an Airbnb property, which Sasha pointed out must be why they seem to be moving furniture all the time. So it’s dead handy if anyone fancies visiting me but not sharing my sofa bed with me- just be warned I will be able to hear every word you say and every time you flush the loo!
The whole reason I came back to Paris a week before classes started was to make sure I was able to sign up for said classes. My tactics are just to be so overwhelming nice and grateful that the grumpy Parisians begin to feel uncomfortable in their glum and unhelpful attitudes. I’ve found this to be quite effective the majority of the time, and I am thrilled to report that I managed to sign up for seven classes in one day. At one point I was in a queue behind 57 people, and I was sent to three different offices to sign up for another class, but that doesn’t matter because for the moment I have a timetable. I just really hope the classes are all okay as I can’t be bothered with the faff of changing them again!
With the stress of inscription behind me, I’ve had time to be a tourist in the past couple of days and I’ve managed to tick a couple of things off my Paris List.
Katherine, Sasha and I went to the catacombs on Wednesday morning. There’s typically a really long queue, but Paris in January a week after a terrorist attack is about as quiet as it’s ever going to get, and so we only queued for about fifteen minutes at the most. Basically it’s a network of underground tunnels, where the bones of six million Parisians have been laid to rest following an overcrowding problem in burial grounds in the eighteenth century. The experience starts as a geology lesson, with plenty of information about rocks and their formation. You then get into the bit with all the bones and skulls, all meticulously arranged.
The whole thing was a bit macabre, what with there being six million bodies, but it was definitely a unique experience and it wasn’t as spooky as I’d feared. I did begin to feel a bit claustrophobic as we went through, because it seemed like the bones were just never ending, but we were in there for an hour, which we didn’t realise until we were out!
Continuing with our mort theme, Katherine and I went to the Père Lachaise Cemetery on Saturday. I’ve never really understood why this is a tourist attraction, but if I’m here for the year I need to see what all the fuss is about!
It’s absolutely enormous and very well kept, and it did make for a different walk. There are lots of famous names buried there. We managed to stumble across Jim Morrison’s tomb, and we (we meaning Katherine, I was no help) sought out Edith Piaf’s and Oscar Wilde’s too.
Babylangues had a boat party on Saturday night- I’m feeling quite lucky that my work night out takes place on the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower! There was a party for international students on the top deck, but as we were with Babylangues we were given a wristband and given access to a private room at the bottom with an open bar and buffet and we could go between the areas. I met some lovely people and I got to dance not only to songs with actual lyrics, but to Taylor Swift, so my night was made in that very moment when ‘Shake It Off’ came on. Singing along to T Swizzle is a great way to banish homesickness apparently- It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind saying it’s gonna be alright…