“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peace out, Tours...it's time for Paris!

Tonight is my last night in Tours. While I've really enjoyed settling into the French lifestyle here, it's definitely time to move on to bigger and better places - namely Paris!

Honoré de Balzac, famous 19th century writer born in Tours. His portrait hangs in Tours' Musée des Beaux-Arts
I think my two weeks spent here was a very beneficial transitional time, as life here in a smaller city is slower and a bit less stressful than it would have been jumping directly into life in Paris. It might sound strange, but you don't realize how many social cues and random routines you take for granted at home - when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a completely different society, you quickly learn that even the little things here are done differently. Even the smallest social encounters are different. Take, for example, approaching a fellow pedestrian on the sidewalk. At home or back at college, you just take it for granted that when you approach someone on a sidewalk, especially when you are the only two people around, you look up and smile, maybe even say hello! Here, if you do that, you either a.) will get bad looks, or b.) will be thought to be hitting on the person! I wouldn't  say this is really super stressful, but there are just lots of little things like this throughout the course of a day that you have to figure out how to go about doing.

It's nice to have helpful program directors here who are more than willing to offer insider tips whenever possible. Like when they us sitting around writing postcards to send home, they will come over, strike up a conversation and suggest that if we have yet to buy stamps, we'll be better off heading to a tabac (a small store selling coffee, the newspaper, cigarettes, etc.) than going into the logical place one would go to find stamps, the post office, where the dreaded & miserable government employees await. All in all, I would have to say that figuring out the basics of integrating into French society was made way easier in a smaller city!

Did I mention the food here is AMAZING?! This was my lunch today, a 'Buffalo Bill' galette (savory crêpe) filled with potatoes, ground hamburger & tomatoes topped with cheddar cheese drizzle, all served with caramelized onions and "salad" (a.k.a. lettuce...)
So I've been working on packing up my bags (why do clothes always take up so much more room after you've unpacked them???) and am just about to call it a night in order to prepare for a long day tomorrow. I have class in the morning from 8:45 until 11:45, have to grab some lunch and then meet up with our coach bus with all my bags for 2pm so we can get on the road to Paris! We should be arriving there around 6:30pm and then we're set loose to find our new homes.

I found out yesterday that I'll be living in the 20th arrondissement. Paris is divided into administrative districts called "arrondissements" (from the French verb arrondir, meaning "to make round/to round out") which start in the heart of the city and spiral outwards like a snail's shell. There are 20 of them in Paris proper, with the smaller numbers closer to the center and larger ones, like my #20!, further towards the city limits. My schools, the Sweet Briar College building and Universite de Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle, are located in the 6th and 5th, respectively. With the metro conveniently located just outside my house, it's only about a 20 minute commute from home to school, which is less than I had to walk each day here in Tours to get to school.

Paris & its arrondissements

I will be living here with a husband and wife whose grown children no longer live at home, as well as with another student on my program, Eric, who I happened to become good friends with right off the bat! Our host mother teaches studio art at a local high school and is a free-lance painter, and our host father is the director of development at a large company. It will be exciting to see what our home for the next 4 months is like! 

I had a very positive experience with my hostess Aurélie here in Tours (I hesitate to call her my host mother as she just turned 30 last week!) and am hoping my next home is just as welcoming. We shared some delicious mixed drinks tonight over dinner made of passion fruit liqueur and orange juice and she gave me a book called "Carnages" by Maxime Chattam...it's a police thriller (an extremely popular genre with the French) set in Harlem, of all places! We had talked about what types of books we liked one night at dinner, so she said she set out on a mission to find the perfect one for me - how nice!

Enjoying more cold drinks at a café, very typical of our days here! 
I just have a few things left to pack up and then I'll be good to go in the morning. Here's a link to a popular song on the radio here that put me in a happy packing mood - even if you don't speak French & can't understand the lyrics, hopefully it makes you dance anyways!


  1. Very nice Rach! Looking forward to more news from Paris...finally! Can't wait to give you a hug in 6 short weeks-you're gonna be a great tour guide by then & know all of the hot spots. Keep the pics coming too. Love you tons & tons :)

  2. Off to the big city. Hope the transition goes well, Rach. Love reading about your adventures.
    Lov ya, Aunt Bec

  3. Street view is so amazing! It's neat to see where you'll be living.

  4. Hey Kiddo...
    Yup, the song made me dance around my office!
    I can't wait for you to be our tour guide.
    Your attention to detail is amazing!!!
    Love ya!!!!!