So, I have officially been in Paris for 18 days and have loved every minute of it! It honestly feels like i have been here for a lot longer than 2.5 weeks and I think that’s all thanks to me settling into a routine pretty quickly since arriving and having already made friends.
I spent this afternoon trying to work out how best to do these blog posts about my trip because I have done a lot and seen a lot and don’t want to create a super long blog post that tries to capture everything or has you scrolling for ever and never finishing reading the post, so instead I am going to do a number of shorter ones that capture what all we did in a day / night while exploring.
Tonight’s I’m just going to give you a quick summary of me settling in, some highlights, and some things I really enjoy about this new adventure in Paris.
I left South Africa on the evening 31 August and was incredibly tired emotionally from the stress of moving out of my place, changing continents, finishing up at the office, packing enough for 4 months etc., and physically I was completely run down and my foot was pretty sore after seeing an orthopaedic surgeon the day before I left, who injected my toe and foot with cortisone to enable me to be able to walk for 4 months until I can get home and see him again for a proper assessment as to whether I need surgery or not. (I now have to live in sneakers for 3 months again until my foot heals.)
I arrived at the airport feeling super tired and as we got out the car my brother surprised me with the news that my bestie was waiting for me upstairs as a surprise which was awesome news. Vanessa joined my family and I for a cappuccino and final goodbyes before I had to go through customs and security and wait at the gate.
I flew on Air France to Paris and I have to say it’s one of the best flights I have been on. Airbuses have quickly become a favourite of mine because in my experience the flights have always been smoother and a little more spacious. The food was great and service was great and it gave me a chance to practice a little bit of French that I had learnt in my lessons with my French teacher. Once we’d eaten dinner I got comfy and drifted off to sleep only to be woken at 3am for breakfast before we landed in Paris at just after 5:00.
After navigating the airport and following other passengers to baggage claim (like a lost sheep) I got my bags and met the taxi driver. While still in South Africa, I’d arranged for a taxi to pick me up after my flight, and got the details from someone who colleagues of mine have used, because I am clueless with the Metro and didn’t want to try explain to anyone where to take me in broken French. I’d also been warned about taxi syndicates and felt more comfortable getting collected by someone I trusted. Getting to the apartment was fairly quick as I’d landed very early in the morning and there wasn’t much traffic. The driver said that if I had landed later it could have taken 1 hour to drive the same distance. Once he dropped me off I checked into my room and went upstairs to see where I’d be living for the next few months. I didn’t have a clue of where the office was in relation to the apartment, but knew it was in walking distance, and on Google Maps I’d even checked where the Eiffel Tower was in relation to where I was going to stay. I’m on the 12th floor of the building and have a pretty decent view where I can see the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Cœur. I can’t see the Eiffel Tower as there is a building just to the right of me, but I’m not complaining because at least I have a view and can see the Seine below me.
When I arrived at the apartment the first thing I wanted was coffee and some food. The hotel where I am living doesn’t have room service and I hadn’t seen the vending machine, so I removed all the plastic off my bags from the airport so that I could open my bags and find coffee and snacks. In the madness of moving and packing I’d had to repack my luggage 3 times to fit things in (packing for 4 months is a lot harder than it sounds – especially when you’ll be going from summer to autumn to freezing winter), and I’d thrown out the bottle of coffee and tea at one point but vaguely remembered throwing in two sachets of Nescafe Cappuccinos and 8 Woolies Cacao Snack Bars. I found the cappuccino sachet and snackbar and have honestly never been so happy to have basic things to devour.
I showered and changed and then mapped out a route to the closest store to buy some food. (Don’t forget to take your shopping bags with you.) Monoprix is one of the supermarkets that you’ll find in Paris, and in my opinion I’ve found it stocks a number of imported goodies which some of the other supermarkets don’t sell. Google Maps let me down majorly while walking to this store and in the end I turned it off and eventually started walking and watching what direction people were coming from with shopping bags. I found the Monoprix (huge relief because I was starving) and grabbed a basket and started walking up and down the aisles with my shopping list. Walking down aisles and trying to decipher French labels was a bit of a challenge. Especially when my food vocab was not that big yet, but I eventually found the basics and pretty much walked down every aisle 3 times. I paid and carried my bags home and was chuffed with what all I had managed to get. 100 Euro didn’t’ get me far, but I got key items to get me set up and sorted in my apartment. (I have since found cheaper stores and bigger ones with better selections.) My first meal in my apartment was a cheese and tomato sarmie with a Heineken beer. It was heavenly!
I live in La Defense and there is pretty much nothing open here on the weekends as it’s a business district. It’s also out side the ring of Paris. So on the weekends it’s dead around here, but during the week it’s bustling with people on their way to work. The metro is quite close to where I live so there is always a steady stream of people in the area. Even though it’s a business district, they have created some pretty gardens and put benches under the trees where people either relax with a good book, spend time playing with frisbees with their families, or sit around a table with friends to share a meal and some drinks. I’m amazed at how many people spend time outdoors and also how active people are here. I walk an average of over 5km a day just to the office and back, and when we explore it easily goes up to 11km plus. You don’t even realise you are walking that much when you have so much to see and do. Lots of people also ride bicycles and scooters, so you will often see them. Below are some shots of my neighbourhood. I took them on Sunday morning so there aren’t many people. One day I will take some in the week to show you how busy things get.
On the Sunday I decided to go explore in a different direction and walked to 4 Temps which is a big shopping centre which reminds me a lot of Sandton City because it has the iStore, Sephora, Zara, H&M etc. I also found a much bigger supermarket there called Auchan, which is 3 levels and like a mix between a Makro and Pick n Pay Hyper, and pretty much stocks anything you need – including Marmite. The stationery section there is to die for! I have never seen so many different types of BIC pens (did you know BIC is a French brand?), coloured pens, highlighters etc.
After walking around the mall for a while I needed some junk food and ended up at Burger King. Ordering on a touch screen, in French, was challenging but I have it waxed now, and then I moved off to the pick up queue. After not being able to find a digital screen with the order numbers on for collection (like at McDonald’s in SA), I quickly realised I had to remember what my number was in French as the ladies call it out and you have to collect. I can’t say thank you enough to my French teacher Nicole who taught me the basics in 25 lessons before I left!
Being here has definitely been fun and people at work asked me today at lunch if there is any food I miss from South Africa. At the moment, I don’t particularly miss anything as I can get most things here. I do miss meat though as it’s incredibly expensive and the Keto diet is just not sustainable here. The cheese selection is hoewever to die for and cheese isn’t badly priced so I eat that every day. Activia yoghurt here even has a coconut variant so I am indulging in plenty of that too!
If you are here and miss your series, I’ve found that my SA Neflix account does work here so I’ve been able to watch shows. I stream 5fm in the mornings to listen to the Roger Goode Show and so that I can keep in touch a bit with home. Showmax is also available here, but the bouquet only has South African TV shows and Movies on.
A couple of people at home have asked me if French people are really rude and the answer is no. I’ve honestly not experienced that. In the 18 days I’ve been here I have only had one rude interaction and that was with two staff members in Sephora who I asked to help me. They simply refused. I had a similar experience in Dubai and have come to the conclusion that it’s just a Sephora thing. Most staff in shops are friendly especially if I greet them in French and try speak to them. I’ve also found that younger people are more likely to speak English to you especially if you get stuck trying to communicate. I needed the handyman’s assistance in my apartment when I first moved in and he can’t speak English and I can speak a tiny bit of French, but not enough to have a full conversation about the bath drain and items that were faulty. In the end he spoke French, I understood bits and pieces, and we finished the conversation by typing on our phones in Google Translate and showing each other what we were trying to say. I had a good chuckle after that, and we achieved what needed to be repaired.
The work life here is completely different to mine at home where I am in the office just after 07:00. People only start work at 09:00 and leave at around 17:00 or 18:00. For the first few days here I was wide awake at 06:00 in the morning and couldn’t keep my eyes open past 20:00 at night. After a few days my cycle finally changed and I now wake up at 09:00 and leave work at 18:00. The sun currently comes up at 07:20 and sets around 19:30 which has been a big change. We’ve had amazingly hot weather (pretty humid too to my surprise) and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The locals say the cold weather will arrive in 10 days so I’m bracing for that! Taking a lunch break is a big thing here. Everyone heads down to the canteen which serves the most delicious food and they all sit together and enjoy a meal and catch up. After that they have a coffee together and then head back to their office. This is completely foreign to me as I usually eat at my desk and in a rush. This is a new habit I am really enjoying and one I want to keep doing when I get back home. After 18 days I’m also used to the teeny tiny cups of coffee, that never come with milk. The coffee is also delicious and a grande or venti coffee at Starbucks now seems a little gluttonous… You also won’t easily find a cappuccino here or a latte, and if you do it usually has a lot of sugar or chocolate sprinkled into it.
One thing I absolutely love about Paris is that no matter where you are, people will greet you, regardless if they know you or not.
Salut. Bonne nuit.