(It still seems surreal!)
This is my first time outside the continental United States, my first time traveling without any idea of the language of my destination, and my first time using a different currency … well, it is a first time for many things then!
Anyway, I basically want everyone to know what it is really like to be traveling to and living in a country outside home-base. This also fulfills my personal reason to keep a record of what I do. Therefore, I hope my blog will be of service to you in this way, answering many of your questions, reporting minute instances in my day or life-changing experiences, perhaps even changing your perceptions of the French way of life, or Europe as a whole.
About Where I am Currently:
Right now, I am in the imperial city of Compiegne, which has seen the rise and fall of four main dynasties (namely the last of which is the family of Bonaparte), the English capture of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), and the signing of WWI’s armistice between the Allies and the Germans.
Compiegne is an old city, arguably dating from the 5th century, and today Compiegne is a mix of the old and the past with cobblestone streets and buildings formed by remnants of older buildings. Old cloisters are parking lots, displaced Dominican arches are architectural figures at the local park, and the town hall used to be a church in the Gothic-flamboyant style.
The Church of St. Jacques was also a stoppage for those on the great pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (a chapel in Spain that medieval Europeans ventured to, and upon doing so, received an abnormally large seashell as a testament). A memorial inside of the church is in the shape of a beautiful stained-glass window, and an utterly astounding organ sits at the back of the church in the balcony.
Rules about Travelling Abroad (with true experiences to tell!)
1) British Airways is the way to go! It takes 8 hours from Dallas to Heathrow (London), and 45 minutes to Paris. Also, enjoy the top-notch service of this airway, and the fact that trash is called “rubbish.”
2) Pack no more than two bags to avoid hurting yourself or tiring, and leave a little room in one so that you will have room to take things back. Luckily I only packed 2, but I feel for those who have 4 bags!
3) Bring travel adapters, or adapted chargers for your electronic devices. Check compatibility.
4) Paris is 7 hours ahead of SMU-time. So if it is 10 AM in Paris, it is 3 AM at SMU.
5) Call back home by placing 001 in front of the number plus area code. Yes, you have to put the zeros in for all of you who like significant digits.
6) It currently costs 1.50 USD to buy 1 EURO. OUCH! But, one British Pound costs over 2 USD! Hence my $45 breakfast at Heathrow.
7) Cell phones are kind of tricky. Get one here, or just use your US phone (but fees can be tricky). I’m still exploring all of these options. Texting is free for me, but not calling. Weird.
8) Don’t worry, the food is great! Just watch the price.
9) Attempt to speak the language, or find out how to ask someone if they speak yours. Not everyone is as multilingual as you think, but you’ll catch on to their language real quick! An attempt to speak their language will at least win you their respect and interest.
10) Be a sponge. Find out all you can about everything you are doing!