Nicole in Paris

Nicole is a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish from The Woodlands. She’s spending Spring 2008 in Paris studying French and art, and is looking forward to experiencing France before she graduates.

On Paris’ streets and below

Nicole-1.jpg My first weeks in Paris have been a little rough. The weather has been cold and rainy, and I find myself without the commodities from home.

The apartment where they have placed me does not have Internet, and I have not watched TV since my last day of classes. I have to walk a block to do my laundry, I have a tiny room that I try not to spend much time in, but nevertheless, I love Paris.

Because of the lack of entertainment in my house I resort to the streets of Paris for entertainment. I have already visited all the important monuments and museums, so now I’m trying to discover new places that the tourist fails to find.

The many smells of Paris
Once walking in the streets of the French capital, it doesn’t take long to realize that Paris is composed of many different smells … some pleasant and some not so much.

The first smell that you will walk into is the most pleasant of all – pastries. There is a pastry shop on every corner and sometimes two next to each other. They have fresh pastries at all times of the day varying from all kinds of eclairs to palmiers.

The next inviting smell is of fresh bread. We have a stereotypical view of the French smoking a cigarette and eating a baguette. Well, this stereotype is not far from reality … the second most abundant thing in Paris are bakery shops, and fresh bread is made at every hour. A baguette accompanies every meal of the day. Breakfast and dinner time are “baguette rush hour” – it is at these two times that lines form in the bakeries.

A third smell found in Paris is the smell of perfume. No doubt that French perfume is world-renowned, and the French let it be known. Everyone wears perfume, and most stores greet you with their own aroma.

Creperies are found all over the city, and so is the smell of crepes with nutella. There are fancy creperies where you sit down, but the most popular form of creperie is the famous stand or kiosk where you can get anything from a crepe with sugar to a crepe with cheese, egg, jam and tomatoes.

The cigarette smell is probably the most annoying of all. Although a law has recently been passed in France where people can no longer smoke in doors, the smoke and the smell can be found all over the streets. People crowd around the entrances of metros, schools, hospitals, stores and churches smoking. Cigarette butts cover the floors of the entrances of many establishments.

And the worst smell of all is the one inside many metro stations – to this I will dedicate a whole section.

The Metro
Metro rides are an adventure of their own. My day starts by waking up at 7:30 am so I can get to my 9:30 am class in time. The metro station is packed with students and people trying to get to work – running to catch the metro is part of every morning.

Once in the metro car, I find myself being pushed around by the people getting on and off. Although I was already prepared for the lack of personal space, I have made a few “metro realizations.”

Metro realizations made the first week in Paris:
1. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a can of sardines when someone passes gas.

A couple of days ago, I was running late for class so I rushed to get on the metro. As usual it was packed with bodies, and I became one with the masses. All of a sudden people begin to sniff and give each other bad looks. The looks then intensified to arguments of who was the inconsiderate person that would do such cruel and unusual punishment to fellow metro riders. Finally the event came to an end by the car being abandoned by everyone at the next station. Of course, the culprit was never found. I hope never to go through that experience again.

2. The metro stations are one big bathroom.

Because there are few public bathrooms, people (mainly guys) have decided to use the metro station walls as bathrooms. Aside from the homeless who sleep, eat, and relieve themselves in the metro, there are other people who have taken this liberty in adding an unpleasant odor to the metro halls.

3. This could be the most important yet … Avoid all eye contact when riding the metro. Looking directly into a stranger’s eyes is construed as a request for intimacy. Furthermore, you may not be looking directly into their eyes, but looking at anyone for more than a few seconds is considered a “pick up.” The solution? To look at the floor, read a book, play on phone, or look out the window.

4. Getting a Navigo Card is the most economical way to pay for the metro. With this card you can buy a month or a week of unlimited usage, far better than buying a ticket every time for an E 1.50.

Aside from all of these realizations, the metro is the best mode of transportation since it’s cheap, fast, easy and will take you anywhere in Paris.

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For my last semester: Paris

I began my adventure by saying goodbye, Houston and bonjour, France!

The flight to Paris is eight hours long, which I hoped to sleep through, but to my surprise I was not able to sleep at all and found myself watching four of the 300 movies offered. Yes, 300 movies! They have now substituted the usual three featured movies to 300 movies that you can choose at any time. Not only that, but you have the option to fast-forward through the parts you don’t like, pause it if someone talks to you and choose any language.

Once in Paris I had an hour layover before my flight to Nice, where orientation was going to be held. The flight from Paris to Nice is fairly short, one hour long. In Nice, the whole group finally got to meet – we are 18 girls, not a single boy.

I am the only senior in the group, and I came to France for my last semester of college. Most people ask me why I chose to study abroad for my last semester instead of staying with my friends. Well, the answer is simple; I might never have the opportunity to live in Paris again. This is my third study abroad program with SMU (I have previously done SMU in China and SMU in Spain), so if it’s not obvious already, I love to study abroad! I have already completed all my hours for my majors, and all I needed were a few elective hours. What better place to take electives than Paris, France? Not only do I get to live in a beautiful city, but most of my classes are in famous museums such as the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay.

Nicole4.jpgBeautiful Nice

Orientation was held here, and we were taught numerous facts of history, art and, of course, French culture. The goal of orientation is to get us in tune with the French culture and to get rid of our jet-lag by doing study trips around the area.

Located in the south of France in the famous region Cote D’Azur is an amazing city full of history. This Mediterranean city is located between Cannes and Monaco. Although I was extremely jet-lagged (especially since I didn’t get to sleep during the flight), I was anxious to see what this city had to offer.

Nic1.jpgNice was founded by the Greeks, colonized by Romans and later disputed by the Counts of Provence and Savoy. It was not until 1860 that Nice was incorporated definitely into France.

As I walked through the old narrow streets, it became apparent that their Greek and Italian heritage was still very present today. Nice has more of a northern Italian facade than a French one. Most of the big houses are called villas and have a Mediterranean architecture. Street names are written om French and in the ancient language of Nissard. Today the language of Nissard is still being taught in the Nice school system in order to preserve part of their culture and heritage.

Nicole2.jpgNice is also the home of the Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art. This museum is very similar to the MOMA in New York City. Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes can be found here along with the works of Yves Klein and others. The art is so colorful and weird that even non-art lovers will find it fun and interesting. I highly suggest visiting the museum!

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