Long time, no blog posts! Exams and essays have kept me very busy in the past month, but I’m happy to be able to say that a) they’re finally over and b) I’ve managed to pass everything, and I’ve actually done pretty well in some classes. After two presentations, six pieces of coursework and twenty eight exams, my time at Paris VII Diderot has finally come to an end! It’s certainly been an experience, and I am looking forward to moving back to a system which doesn’t have quite so many exams.
Part of the reason I’ve gone so long without a blog post is because in between all my studying I’ve been trying to see as much of Paris and the Ile de France region as I can. I’m now all too aware of how little time I have left, and I’m not ready to leave this beautiful city!
Exams are always stressful and exhausting, but the sheer amount I had this semester felt close to unbearable for me. Just like last semester, they were were a bit of a shambles. Late starting times, teachers unable to quieten classes, poorly communicated room changes, the teacher having not printed out enough exam papers…but the main thing is they’re over now!
Exposition Harry Potter
I love Harry Potter. So you can understand my excitement at my time in Paris coinciding with the traveling exhibition! The exhibition features props, sets and costumes from all eight of the Harry Potter films and is at the Cité du Cinéma in the north of Paris until early September.
In between essays and exams, Katherine and I took a day trip to Fontainebleau. It’s well known for its huge forest (apparently the place to go for bouldering if that ticks your boxes!) as well as the beautiful Château de Fontainebleau which is not only one of the largest French castles, it was also home to royalty for over eight centuries. I find it so interesting the way France has ultimately held onto their monarchy’s buildings and now celebrates their history, despite having fought several revolutions to become a republic.
I’ve been using the vélib’ bikes a lot over the past few weeks. I’ve actually had a subscription since November (it’s one of the perks of being a Babylangues instructor) but I’ve been inspired by the beautiful weather to use it more often.
It’s a great service. There are around 18000 bikes and 1320 stations around Paris. You take a bike, then you have thirty minutes to return it to any station. There are loads of stations, roughly 300m apart, so if you can’t find a bike or a space you’re never far from the next one. Having said that, when I went to the Luxembourg Gardens recently I ended up having to cross the roundabout I’d gone out of my way to avoid because the closest space was up (a hill) by the Pantheon! There’s an app you can use to see how many bikes and spaces are available at each station, which is very handy in times like that! The service is really reasonably priced too, only 29€ for the year, 1.70€ for a 24 hour ticket or 8€ for a week long ticket.
I thought the scariest part would be the traffic, but it’s actually the maze of one way streets that make up Paris! I’ve been writing out directions on post it notes but every time I still end up at that awful roundabout at Bastille! It’s also given me some serious road rage, not at drivers but at pedestrians. The other day a man walked straight onto the road in front of me, without having looked up from his phone. I had to brake quickly and swerve to avoid hitting him or the cars next to me, and I ended up blocking his path. So then he shouted at me and I shouted back as best I could manage. I felt so French.
Wiith the beautiful weather in Paris, I’ve been having a lot of picnics! The French do picnics so well, with blankets and cool boxes and games, not just a sandwich and a packet of crisps. They extend their already leisurely lunch into a three or four hour affair and it’s just wonderful to witness!
When Craig visited we went to the Bois de Vincennes, which are the woods on the east of Paris. When we sat down on the banks of the lake there was a woman who was probably in her seventies a couple of metres along from us, sunbathing in a bikini. She was later joined by two men who laid out their towels, then stripped off to their speedos for tan time. Then a family came along and did the same and we realised that we had chosen, out of everywhere, the spot which the Parisians have designated as ‘okay to sunbathe in your pants’. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more overdressed in my life!
One of the best things about the Bois de Vincennes is its lake, which you can row leisurely round. I definitely needed the upper arm exercise, I’ll need some muscles to get my suitcases home!
My lovely language-assistant friend Erin left a fortnight ago and so on her last day we had a picnic at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the north east of Paris. I’d never been before and I was really impressed. There’s a big lake in the centre and a temple inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Italy. There are grottos and waterfalls too but they were inaccessible because of renovation work. It reminded me of Central Park in New York, pretty cool place to picnic!
I’ve also been back to Parc de Sceaux a few times, which is not far outside of Paris on the RER B. I love it there, I think it’s my favourite place for a picnic because I love the gardens and the how peaceful it is, despite being busy. Chloe, Lais and I were there until nine o’clock last night and there were still plenty of people walking about, playing frisbee or just enjoying the sunshine like we were.
Of course I’ve been getting the most out of my annual passport to the happiest place in France- I’m lucky in that a few of my friends have them too so we’ve been back a couple of times just for an evening. That’s when you know you’ve found like minded people! At the moment Disneyland Paris is celebrating ‘Frozen Fun’, with a new singalong show and an addition to the Disney Dreams show at park closing time. I’ve got plans to go back for a final time next week, it will be hard to say goodbye to Mickey!
I’m still working with with five year old Benjamin twice a week and it’s actually been going quite well! With the weather being nice we can spend most of the session outside and he seems to be much more cooperative when he’s not in his home. He really likes plants and nature, so we walk around the Parc de Bercy looking at trees and flowers and tortoises and fish, count them and chat about them with the English vocabulary he has, and everyone is happy!
I’ve had a request for an update on Plumo, the family cat. He’s not doing very well with his weight loss, and I think he still has 0.9 kilos to lose (his goal is 1 kilo).
I was a bit alarmed when he didn’t greet Benjamin and I at the door a few weeks ago, and Benjamin told me he was on holiday. Where do cats go on holiday? However, he’s since returned from his mysterious holiday and has settled back into his role as head of the living room. I’ve also found out that Plumo’s name is a play on the French word ‘plumeau’, which means feather duster! Apparently it’s a fairly popular name for cats in France, but it’s not quite the same in English!
When Craig and I were coming into Paris from the airport we passed the Stade de France and I told him my friend Lais was going to a France v Belgium friendly game there soon. Craig was very keen, it turned out it was during his visit, there were tickets left for 25€, and so off we went!
I had a fab time (and Craig said it was his joint holiday highlight), the stadium was packed and there was a great atmosphere. The final score ended up being 4-3 to Belgium, a bit of a comeback from France at the end!
Vernon and Giverny
While Craig visited we made a trip to Giverny to see Claude Monet’s house and gardens. Giverny is in Normandy but it’s only forty five minutes by train from Paris to Vernon. From Vernon you can either take a shuttle bus from the train station or walk to Giverny. We’d booked our train tickets online and as the price had swayed our decision, our train back was around eight so we had loads of time! We wandered through Vernon, found the tourist office and followed a self guided walking tour we picked up there. It was brilliant; it was the most speculative presentation of facts I’ve ever come across in a tour! The thirteen places of interest were pointed out as ‘the street which might have been named after…’ or ‘some people believe that…’. My personal favourite of the locations the tour took us to was the street where chicken feet might have been thrown away. What more could you ask for?
The town really was very pretty, and the old parts of it felt like the town from Beauty and the Beast! After exploring Vernon and a picnic by the Seine we walked to Giverny. I think it took about an hour and it was nice and easy, we followed signs for pedestrians which led us to a cycle path, then we just followed it until we reached the town.
The little town of Giverny was so picturesque, it really felt like walking onto a film set. The main point of interest there is Claude Monet’s house and gardens. I’d definitely recommend booking tickets online as we were able to walk straight in without queueing. It was really busy, but we were still there at five and it was significantly quieter than when we arrived, so I’d say to go at the start or the end of the day if you can.
I loved seeing the gardens which were the subject of numerous painting, especially having seen the paintings in the Musée d’Orsay and the Orangerie. Full of colour, the gardens were beautiful and well maintained. I would definitely recommend it as a trip from Paris, but be prepared for the crowds of people!
Coming up next time: Next weekend I’ll be in Cologne to see Taylor Swift in concert! I’ll be back in Paris for the La Fête de la Musique- I’m not too sure what it is, but Benjamin’s dad has promised me that it’s an exciting time to be in France!
Before I go I’ll say thank you for the response to my last blog post- I’d just been compiling a list in a notebook and thought it would make a quick post for when I didn’t have much time! I’m overwhelmed by the number of views and shares, thank you very much!