adventures in france

just another american living abroad. join me as i spend a summer in paris.

August 20, 2014 at 5:16am
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my host family lives right by a street called la place de lexington. this is because antony is a sister city to lexington, massachusetts! of course, it reminds me of my lexington, tucked in the shenandoah valley and where i’ve lived and learned for the last two years. i skyped evan last night and i admitted to him that i miss lexington. all my friends are getting ready to back to school—move in for the freshmen is in about two weeks. of course, i’ll miss my friends but it is the atmosphere which i wish i were in right now. in cities, we tend to assume the worst of everyone. everyone on the subway is a potential threat; we clench purses tight, don’t smile, and keep to ourselves. walking down main street however, we assume the best: we say hello to townsfolk, are friendly with the shop owners. leaving personal belongings in the library while grabbing dinner is something i don’t think twice about. i have friends who don’t even lock their cars! the abundance of trust is comforting. of course—the lack of activities to pursue is quite another story. winter term, my friends and i went to charlottesville five times over two months just to get away from the stifling small town feel. paris has a million and one things to do: hobbies to pursue, avenues to explore, and museums to visit. i suppose no matter where you are, there is something to appreciate and also something to look toward.

August 19, 2014 at 5:52pm
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as the last quote i just posted mentioned, i have a host family! florence’s uncle graciously agreed to let me live with them for the next five plus weeks. (i move in on sunday) they live in antony, which is really close to my workplace! and they have a really nice house as well. last night, i went over for dinner at their place with florence and we ate a traditional french meal—poisson, frommage, salade, vin, riz, baguette, etc. (i know my foods in french!) they have four sons, two that live at home and both her uncle (pierre) and their older son (kevin) speak awesome english! i hope to learn a lot of french from them :) 

i’m really happy about the living situation. i’m going to have spent two weeks living in the city at this really great apartment. but rent is high, the commute is long, and coming home to an empty place really isn’t my thing. speaking of “the commute is long,” today it took me almost three hours to get home! i left the office at 5:20 PM, hoping to catch the bus, take the RER C and get to vitry-sur-seine where i was planning on cooking dinner with jiao. unfortunately, the bus was 20 minutes late—and then the RER C stopped at every single stop on the route EXCEPT mine. i ran around the biblotheque station, trying to figure out how to get back but there was no one at the information desk. frustrated, i just took a train into paris but ended up at a station i’m unfamiliar with (gare d’ austerlitz) two wrong buses—and one right bus later, i ended up home. i called jiao to tell her how sorry i was. (i’m still waiting for my phone to get unlocked so i don’t even have service yet!) apparently she waited at the station for 1.5 hours and messaged me multiple times, worried about my fate. i didn’t get home until around 8:45 PM, having had to run to the nearby grocery shop for some essentials. let’s just say it’s a journey i’d never want to undertake again. 

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how do i say ‘ich bin satt’ in french?

— me, at dinner with my french host family last night. my french sadly is not comparable to my german—which in itself hardly exists.

August 18, 2014 at 2:31am
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yesterday i met up with jiao for lunch at cluny- la sorbonne. (about a twenty minute walk from my place) after eating at pomme du pain, we wandered around the streets of paris. we walked along the seine, past notre dame and sainte chappelle, and toward chatelet, eventually ending up at centre pompidou, the museum with the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in europe. because we are both EU students, we got in for free! (i qualify because i’m an exchange student at oxford next year) i actually didn’t have any UK student ID on me but the man at the ticket counter was really nice and gave me a ticket anyway. apparently every national museum in paris is free for EU students—this is great news for me. i plan on checking out as many as possible, from musee guimet to musee d’orsay. i am an art history minor, as you may know, and i absolutely love art museums. (i even went to two a little over a week ago, when i was home: the heard museum and the ASU art museum)

anyway, the collections were amazing and included all forms of visual culture, from design and architecture to photography and painting. i was incredibly excited to see a piece by pan yuliang, one of my favorite chinese artists. i had been telling jiao all about her and how i really hoped to see one of her pieces when we ran into one! 


an incredible post-impressionist painter, her work was considered too risque for her native china so she ended up living out her life in paris. she has a incredibly interesting back story which you can check out here.

i also saw family tree by zhang huan. i actually studied this piece in my chinese art class which meant that i was crazy excited to come across it. the piece is composed of nine panels and as you walk along the wall, his face is gradually obscured by inked chinese characters. it’s a piece that speaks to the importance of calligraphy in the chinese art world and how his culture doesn’t allow him to express his true identity. image

(that is actually jiao in the far left, admiring the piece)

there were artists displayed from all over the world including the greats such as kandinsky, picasso, pollack, and matisse. it really is a wonderful collection. after spending a couple of hours in the museum, we decided that we wanted some bubble tea, a taiwanese tea-based drink. it ended up taking us more than two hours to find it! we searched through different blocks of the city, texted some friends about the location, took multiple metro lines—only to end up right back at pompidou where the tea shop was located. 


this is jiao and i on the quest to find the tea! we could not believe how long it took us! luckily we had a great time anyway, exploring different parisians spots and chatting about our lives.

anyway, i’m off to work in a bit! it was a lovely first weekend in paris. (well technically second) but still :)

August 17, 2014 at 5:55am
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irene just emailed me a couple group shots from yesterday—and i realized that i forgot one of the coolest things about yesterday’s meetup. with the exception of irene, we were all expats! jenny is irish, sheila is filipina, daniel is romanian, jiao chinese, and i american. while some had lived in france for quite some time, it was the fact of being foreign that gave us a common ground. 

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are you ever just overwhelmed by how much there is to see? and how many people there are to meet? the world is so big—and yet so small. i love travelling because it helps me believe in the goodness of humanity. from the kind stranger who carried my bag down the stairs of gare du nord to the random meetings with expats and travellers, i am always reminded of despite how different our lives may be, there is always something to share. that no matter where you may be, you never are really alone. and no matter how short your encounter with a place or person, there is always something to learn and appreciate. j’adore voyager. 

August 16, 2014 at 7:29pm
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Reblogged from c0ntemplations

Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.

— (via paigechanel4)

(Source: c0ntemplations, via quoteworld)

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so this weekend has been a whirlwind! and it’s not even over. yesterday was a bank holiday in france so i had the day off! i got lunch with ana patricia and then we went to a hiking meetup.(meetup is this website akin to couchsurfing where you join groups based on interests, whether it be book club, hiking, wine, french-english exchange, etc.) yesterday we walked from bastille, along coulée verte (a linear park built along an old railroad), all the way to chateau de vincennes, on the outskirts of paris.


here’s some boating at the bois de vincennes—the park is so lovely and tranquil. you’d never know you’re just minutes from the center of paris!

around 14 kilometers total, it was around 3.5 hours of walking and i met so many interesting people: students, expats, locals, etc. i met a lady, lisa, who works with NGOs around the world. her latest projects were in tunisia and haiti and she knows a lot about microfinance! we discussed our favorite jhumpa lahiri stories and made plans to meet up for coffee later this month. i also met babs, a student from senegal who did his undergrad in england and now studies engineering in paris. because i tutored tida for ESOL last term, i know quite a few thing about senegal and we had a lot to talk about—from ataaya (senegalese tea), to how common the name fatou is. and i met irene, a french lady who is of chinese-vietnamese descent. after talking to her for a while, she invited me on an excursion which i actually ended up doing today!

after all the hiking last night, i was exhausted and wondering whether i was up for another adventure. i checked my couchsurfing inbox and i had a message from jiao, a chinese student who studies accessory design in florence. she asked to meet up and i asked her to the excursion that irene had invited me to! she was interested so we both decided to go along. this morning, i woke up and headed around 8:45 AM to gare du nord where irene, jiao, sheila, jenny, daniel (all friends of irene’s) and i caught a train to auvers-sur-oise, a french village famous for being the last home of vincent van gogh. he lived there for the three months before he (allegedly) committed suicide. 

around the town were a number of landmarks and landscapes that van gogh immortalized in his paintings and prints of his paintings were at each of the sites so one could compare them. it was so neat! i love art history and while i don’t know much about van gogh and impressionism, daniel really did and explained a lot to us. he also gave me recommendations on some cool art museums in paris which i cannot wait to check out!


one of the sites we visited was the church of auvers which van gogh painted. we also went to his grave—his younger brother died just 6 months after him. his closest friend and biggest supporter, their graves are placed next to each other.


for lunch, we went to a creperie in town. and after checking out the local chateau, we took a train two towns over, to L’Isle-Adam, known as one of the most beautiful towns in france. there, we meandered the streets, ate some ice cream, and enjoyed the bucolic views. despite being less than 50 kilometers from paris, it really is a village atmosphere which can be a peaceful change from the incredibly hectic city.


here’s the tiny garden adjacent to the train station! we walked through some lovely gardens which were blooming with lavender. the scent was heavenly. we left the town around 7:30 PM and headed back into paris. for dinner, we went to an indian restaurant, krishna bhavan which was delicious and reasonably priced! the indian area of paris is right by gare du nord and i literally felt like i was in india. the signs are in tamil, the stores sell everything from anarkalis to indian vegetables. after drinking some masala chai, we all headed to our respective homes, exhausted yet content at such a productive day. 

jiao and i have plans to meet up tomorrow for a picnic—somewhere in paris, maybe at the jardin luxembourg. i’m planning for tomorrow to be more relaxed; it’s been such a busy couple days! i’ve officially been in paris for one week and i am so excited for all the adventures that await.

August 15, 2014 at 12:30am
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Reblogged from couchsurfing

August 14, 2014 at 4:53pm
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just some snaps from around the neighborhood. (also now that i’m in france, check out my new and improved daily style!)