First week in Paris!

Bonjour Madames et Messieurs, et bienvenue a mon blog!

My first week has been awesome so far!  I’m living with a host family, a couple with two boys ages 7 and 8, in the thirteenth arrondissement.  It’s a residential area with very few tourists, but it’s easy to get to touristy areas within a few minutes on the metro.  It’s a 25-minute walk away from Reid Hall, Columbia’s “campus” in Paris, where the headquarters of my program and most of my classes are.

My room

My room in my host family's apartment in the 13th arrondissement

I’m very happy with my room and my location!  The apartment complex has an interior garden for residents only, which is very rare in Paris.

Apartment garden

This is what the apartment garden looks like when you first enter.

Apartment garden

The center of the apartment garden


More of the garden


Last garden shot, I promise.

I haven’t done very much sightseeing so far.  The closest thing I’ve done to sightseeing is a tour of the Jewish Quarter with Reid Hall.  We saw Jewish shops, restaurants, libraries, and the Jewish history museum.  Unrelated to the Jews, we also saw some mini-palaces, or “hotels”, where French aristocrats lived before the Revolution.


Place Saint-Paul in the Jewish Quarter. It used to be called Place Des Juifs, before the Dreyfus Affair made that name awkward so they chose the ironically Catholic name of Saint Paul.

One of the aristocratic "hotels"

Quartier Juif

Quartier Juif

Menorah in the Jewish Quarter

This is the courtyard of the Jewish History Museum.  The statue represents Alfred Dreyfus and his sword is cut in half to represent him being stripped of his rank during the Affair.

Jewish History Museum

The National Archives of France

Hotel de Sully, chief minister of Henry IV

That’s pretty much the extent of the sightseeing I’ve done so far.  Otherwise, I’ve been spending my time by having awkward cultural encounters…For instance, today I got a slice of pizza and only after I had devoured half of it did I notice that the French people around me were all eating their pizza with a knife and fork.  While I was certain I had just revealed myself to be an American slob, I decided to wolf down the rest anyway without the knife and fork and then I made a quick escape.  It wasn’t a high-class place–the silverware was plastic, so I used that as my excuse for committing a social faux pas.

Probably the thing that makes such situations so awkward is that they sneak up on you when you least expect them.  The other day I went to a pharmacy on my way home to pick up tissues and hair mousse.  As it turns out, French pharmacies bear little resemblance to their American counterparts.  No CVS or Rite Aid here.  They don’t sell tissues, makeup, toothpaste.  Forget about all that.  They have medicine and a few hair products.  But the awkward aspect is that a small shop in France, even a pharmacy, is not considered part if the public domain.  That is to say, entering a small shop is socially the same as entering someone’s house.  Failing to greet a salesperson in his shop is considered irredeemably rude.  And you don’t show up and just browse.  You come in and immediately tell the salesperson why you are there.  I made the mistake of not saying Bonjour to the saleswoman because she was helping someone else and I didn’t want to interrupt.  This resulted in her staring me down and muttering.  To make up for my rudeness and because it’s much harder to say you won’t buy anything after the salesperson has gone to the trouble of helping you, I ended up buying mousse for the fairly ridiculous price of 11 euros.  Though that’s probably the norm in Paris, where as a general rule everything is small and expensive.  C’est la vie.

Here are some cool chocolate sculptures I saw today in a shop

A chocolate wine bottle and glass, a chocolate globe, and a chocolate jaguar!

A chocolate shoe, chocolate frog, and chocolate cat.



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7 Responses to First week in Paris!

  1. Mr. T says:

    Does the chocolate frog come with a French Wizard card?

  2. Pat Hansbury says:

    Anna, I am delighted to subscribe and hear about your experiences and adventures. The photos are wonderful.

  3. Jessica says:

    Can’t wait to come visit you!!

  4. Danny Z says:

    That’s crazy, i would never buy anything if had to talk to people to get it!!! AAAAHHHH!!!!

  5. Elizabeth V says:

    Your pictures are so good! And writing is so vivid I feel like I am there with you. Write more and post more pictures! I cannot wait!

  6. Ha says:

    Ugh the pharmacies in Rome are the same! I’m not quite sure about it being rude if you don’t say anything, but the salespeople don’t necessarily greet me every time I enter. BUT everything is in a glass case basically, and all the medicines are behind the counter so I HAVE to ask someone for it, which sucks for me since I’m sick and my Italian consists of charades half of the time. The prices are also outrageous. I go to the discount grocery store for my hygiene products.

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