I guess I didn’t start writing right away because I’ve been to France before. First impressions of a new country are so much fun to write about.
It was my first time in Paris, though, a city I found to be very user unfriendly. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I thought I would just take the metro and hit up the Eiffel tower and the cathedral of Notre Dame before I took my train down south. It took about an hour to figure out how to leave my luggage at the train station. I had to ask so many people where the luggage lockers were. The people in the information booths were not very informative, and their English was impossible for me to understand. Other people I asked just plain didn’t know. That place is a maze (so much so that I left myself ½ hr to get my luggage out, which I needed because even the second time I had a hard time finding my way back to the lockers). After finally locking up my luggage, I was on my way. I headed across the street to the other train station because it looked like it would be an easier metro ride if I left from there. But by the time I got there, and figured out which route to take, I realized I didn’t know how to actually buy the ticket, nor was there anyone around to ask. So I decided I better skip that and just walk along the river to the Cathedral, and enjoy my time there. Dear Paris, I have used the metros in Mexico City, New York, DC, Moscow, and Madrid with no problem. I definitely speak more French than I do Russian. Why are you so complicated?
Anyway, I did enjoy walking around the cathedral and the streets of Paris, and I even ate a crepe! I kept surprising myself because I actually understood what most everyone said to me during my travels. Between the shuttles and trains and train station, I did just fine! I sat next to a nice man on the train, and had a (very) short conversation with him. That train (a double-decker speed train) took me to Nimes from Paris in 3hrs, and then I hopped on another to go from Nimes to Ales.
Holly picked me up when I got here, and they had dinner all ready when we walked in. Duck, rice and green beans. What a great welcome! I feel so blessed to have been able to stay with them. Holly is American, and Matthias, her husband is French. They also have an adorable little baby, Guy. They were so welcoming, and have been such great hosts, and we quickly became friends. Their house is very cute, and their town is so quaint.
My first few days here seemed really long. I was working online a lot, which is boring. I don’t like just sitting in a room working on the computer for hours, especially when it’s France outside. I took some breaks and spent some time exploring the town with Holly. But it has been hard not having any other friends.
One of the things Holly and I did was go to a retirement home because in my mind I thought that sounded like the best thing I could do to practice speaking—just go hang around with older people who don’t have anything to do other than speak! I’m so glad I didn’t venture out and try to do that one on my own. I would have just said something super simple like, “I’m American and I am here to learn French. Can I talk to the people here to practice?” But even with Holly there explaining in great detail, they still didn’t know what to do with us. They kept saying that they didn’t know how that would be possible, and they didn’t know who we could talk to about that. And that it’s so complicated! They suggested city hall, and the tourist information desk. It was so funny. Definitely my first major culture clash.