Salut à tous!
I apologise for the big gap between this post and the previous one. A combination of visitors and uni exams has kept me very busy over the past few weeks, and I just finished this blog post then google chrome did a restart and I lost half of it! I feel a bit like I’ve been leading a double life recently- my Parisian student/English instructor life during the week, then tourist/tour guide at the weekend! So if you’re sitting comfortably with a café au lait and a pain au chocolat, this is going to be a bumper blog post! I’ve split it into chunks for you this time in case there’s something you’re particularly interested (or uninterested!) in- the photos are all at the end!
So how has uni been?
Uni has been been stressful and dull. I’m really not enjoying my classes at all this semester and my favourite teacher has been replaced by a man who keeps standing on tables in class and shouts to accentuates his sentences.
I’m finally finished with partiels (midterm exams). It’s about time, considering it’s now week 11! I’m definitely ready for these classes to be over and one with but I’m not ready to leave Paris! My partiels were mixed- like everything here they’ve been disorganised and ultimately dependant on what the teacher wants to do.
I’ve found the amount of work this semester really stressful (which I know is partially because I’ve been so busy at the weekends) and it’s totally demotivating to know how little these courses I’m not enjoying count for. When I emailed my French coordinator in Edinburgh to tell him I was struggling with my workload he suggested I just drop a few classes, but my eight classes are actually just over the minimum amount of required credits since my degree is joint French and Linguistics. There needs to be a solution which is fairer towards joint honours students (if I was single honours French I’d still need to do the same amount of credits for French as I’m doing now). My workload is basically the same as a French student’s and of course it takes me longer to study since it’s not my native language. I think it’s both unrealistic and unfair for my home university to place me on the same playing field as French students. But whinge over, I’ve not got long left!
How is Babylangues going?
I’ve had a traumatic couple of weeks with Babylangues. Since the weather is getting better I’ve been taking 5 year old Benjamin to the park after school. This is great, he can run around and he’s much more cooperative in using English when it’s playing a game outside (and he doesn’t realise he’s learning, which to me is the whole point!).
But basically, long story short, Benjamin has been pooping in the park. Like, right in the middle of the park, amongst all the other immaculately dressed French children and their parents. This happened two weeks in a row. One second he was fine, next it was ‘Lisa!’ and then he pooped (partially over his trousers which he’d managed to get halfway down). This happened two weeks in a row. I was mortified and cleaned him up the best I could while he went in a total strop. When we got back his dad was there and he cleaned him in the shower after I explained what happened. I was surprised by his indifferent reaction but decided just to write it off as a one time accident. But when it happened again the following week again I explained to both parents again and neither of them were bothered. So I emailed Babylangues, terrified they might tell me that pooping in the park is actually just normal 5 year old boy behaviour in France. Fortunately they were very helpful and contacted the parents, who then apologised with a better understanding of what was going on.
This week I took him to a different park and he was fine. We brought back a snail from the park which he said he had to hide from his dad or else he might eat it (as a snack?), then made a cardboard house for Sammy the Snail. I read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and -hooray!- it’s his favourite English book so far so now we get to read it over and over and over again with his tiger hand puppet. And whilst the pooping is awful, at least Benjamin has never cried or screamed like the other French children in the park do!
So you’re still
pretending to be a tourist every weekend?
In amongst all this I’ve had a wonderful few weekends with visits from the Bruce family, my friend Chloe who is on her year abroad in Barcelona, and my wonderful boyfriend Craig. I also had my first free weekend since January (!!) which was wonderful and the most strenuous thing I had to do was make a choice of a sweet or savoury crepe at Au P’tit Grec with my lovely language assistant pals Chloe and Erin. I’ll give you a run down of all the touristy activities I’ve been up to…
With my family I went back to the Musée d’Orsay, which I’d been to once before with Craig in February. I am a big fan of the Orsay because it’s definitely a lot more accessible than the Louvre. It was built as a train station for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and to be honest it’s worth a visit just to see how the space is now used as an art museum. The highlight is the Impressionists collection and there is a small collection of Van Gogh’s paintings too. Bonus on the far side on the ground floor was a very detailed model of the opera house, have a look if you visit!
Craig and I also went to the Musée de l’Orangerie last weekend, which is a very small museum in Tuileries Gardens. Again, accessible because it’s little! It is home to eight of Monet’s enormous water lily paintings. I really enjoyed it, you can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer size of the works!
I also went back to Invalides with Craig on Monday, where the Musée de l’Armée is. I’d been in February with Katherine- we spent several hours there and only managed the medieval armour and WWI. On Sunday Craig and I went through the WWII section. Very interesting if you have a few hours, plenty of interest at different levels (I liked learning about the French resistance, Craig liked all the maps and strategic planning!). Also in the Dôme des Invalides is Napoleon’s tomb. The whole dôme is really impressive, it will take you ten minutes to look around but it’s the most ceremonious resting place I’ve seen in Paris yet (they look after their dead here!).
When Chloe visited we took a free (tip based) walking tour. I’ve enjoyed the tours I’ve been on in Amsterdam and Brussels so I’ve been keen to try a Paris tour for ages. The company is called Wego Walking Tours and the tour was a three and a half hour walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. I was really impressed and I’d definitely recommend it, even if you’ve been to Paris before (I’ve been here since August and I learned loads!). Paul, the guide, was really enthusiastic and knowledgeable and obviously keen to make sure everyone got what they wanted out of the tour. The information wasn’t all typical guide book info either- he made a point of looking out for the speedo-clad fireman in their on their boat in the Seine! Can’t recommend this enough- make sure you book in advance! And don’t be put off by the length of the tour- if anything it’s the perfect justification to enjoy a guilt free cake afterwards!
Chloe and I also went to Sainte Chapelle. This church is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Paris and it has the most beautiful stained glass windows. There are fifteen huge long windows which all tell a different biblical story.
Ooh, also, everything I’ve just mentioned is free for European Union citizens under 26. All you do is show your ID and voila, you’re in! There’s a list of every free museum in Paris here, which includes the Pompidou Centre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre too! Often it’s not very clearly advertised that you don’t need to pay, so just show your ID anyway and hopefully you’ll get some sort of discount!
Are you still doing Cake Friday?
Oui oui oui, I think Katherine and I are making a dent in her list now, but there are just so many cakes to try in Paris!
I particularly enjoyed Ladurée because there were letter L’s everywhere. I’ve never been happier to be called Lisa! But don’t worry if you’re not fortunate enough to have an L name too, I’m sure the experience is (almost) just as wonderful!
Chloe and my family were keen to get in on cake time when they visited too, so I made a further two visits to Angelina with them (and again for Katherine’s birthday last week!). I’m certainly not complaining!
And that’s what I’ve been up to in the past few weeks! It’s scary how quickly time is going now, but I’ve still got three months left and I’m determined to make the most of them!