Le Premier Arrondissement de Paris is home to yours truly for the next few months, and as you can see, it's directly in the center of Paris!The first arrondissement (or neighborhood) is in the middle of Paris. From there, 19 other arrondissements snail outwards in a spiral. I must say I really lucked out on my location! I can't say enough good things about my host family and my living quarters.
My family is an older couple (I'm guessing in their 60s) who have three children who are married and in their 30s. They no longer live at home, however their 16 year old son and the dog, Toupie, do live here. So the apartment is fairly empty, thus plenty of room for students.
I have my own bedroom which is semi-detached from the apartment. I live upstairs along with another student and we have a separate entry/exit. This is known as a chambre de bonne (maid's quarters), however many people use this space to host students like me. It's great because I can enter and exit freely without disturbing the family; however, I know I'm always welcome to go downstairs and socialize, watch tv, play piano, or read in the salon (living room). I also have a magnificent view from my room - I look directly out onto the Seine, where tour boats are constantly passing by. I also can see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Palais de Justice, and many other wonderful Parisian establishments. I am constantly astonished when I look out my window, especially at night!
View from my window, looking right
So here are a few bits about my life in Paris:
- Dinner is the best time I get with my family, because we sit down for at least an hour every night and eat meals together. Madame cooks delicious foods, and I'm always hungry by dinnertime (the French don't snack, which is a difficult adjustment for moi). We always have a main course, a cheese course, and then dessert. We have an appetizer when it is a weekend dinner or when there are guests. Dessert has been either yogurt, pudding, or the chocolate cake that she made last night. The cheese course is wonderful because I get to try new cheeses every night. She actually is keeping a list of the cheeses I try so that I can take it home with me and have it as a guide. She's also recommended that I go visit her favorite fromagerie (cheese shop). Dinner is altogether a great time to really feel like part of the family. We talk about various things from food, to stories, to our days, to Paris, and most of about our cultures.
- Speaking French has been one of my favorite things about living in a homestay. Dinner is the time when I get to practice a lot of French, because they always engage in conversation so that we can improve. Madame is a teacher, so she's very good at correcting our grammar and phrasing. This is great, because it helps me learn better. The other night at dinner, my housemate and I were having trouble understanding a phrase, so Monsieur actually got up and wrote it out for us on their kitchen chalkboard. They sometimes will use a dictionary to help me learn vocabulary as well. It was a great decision to live with a host family, because it has helped my French more than anything so far. I haven't heard them speak any English, so it's truly an immersion at home.
I have come to realize how rewarding it is to be able to converse in another language. The first accomplishment occurs when I actually get my point across, and I give myself a bonus point if I can do it with either humor, sarcasm, or any bit of extra personality. Things like making my family laugh are very rewarding, because it's beyond the bare necessities of language. It's that extra something that makes me feel that much closer to fluency.
- French lifestyle is something I'd like to become quite familiar with while living here. The French have a much richer way of living. I'm not speaking monetarily, but rather tastefully. They sit for hours over lunch or a coffee; they buy fresh foods in small quantities to prepare the freshest of dishes; and their cheese smells just as strong as their coffee tastes. Also, they always look fabulous. French people are good looking, and well dressed. I have a great time every day trying to accomplish what most girls are doing - looking Parisian. There is something so simply put together about everyone on the streets of Paris.
- The apartment where I'm staying in is fabulous. I'm living in the most aged of places, with all of the character from the years forming the foundation. Their apartment speaks. Yes, that's right. When I walk down the stairs, they creak. When I walk down the hall, it squeaks. When I shut the entrance door, it slams. I love this because it represents the hundreds of years that this apartment has existed. It was Madame's great grandfather's apartment, and it's been in her family ever since. I think this is truly amazing. It's in the dead center of the city, which literally couldn't be a better location. I can walk five minutes down the street and see the Mona Lisa, a Monet, or a Van Gogh. I also live right by City Hall of Paris, which holds years and years of history within. I have so much to explore, but I already can sense the years of history, art, cuisine, and that certain je ne sais quoi that exists in the city around me.