I have now been in Paris for more than a month- I’m actually coming home next week! Can’t really believe it to be honest, the time has flown by.
Things have been crazy as I have been working full-time and trying to make the most of my free-time as well. Additionally, working in French all day is truly exhausting, I didn’t really think about how much more tired I’d be after having to concentrate on everything I hear, say, and do. My French is definitely improving though, and the lovely people in my office are trying to help me with my French as much as they can.
Monday-Friday daily life
My internship is for a cyber-security PR agency in the very heart of Paris (1ère arrondissement). PR is all about communication between the clients and the press, and luckily it’s not new to me because I was an intern for a similar UK based PR agency last summer. However, while my communication skills in French are not bad, they are certainly not equivalent to those of a French person. I can’t shake the feeling that everything I can do, they can do better and more fluently, which is really frustrating. I need to stop comparing myself, and remember that I’m there to learn and improve. I’ve been making calls to journalists this week, which was something I was initially nervous about, but being able to pitch successfully in French definitely made me feel that step closer to bilingual.
The office is shared by the PR agency, a small graphics company, and some freelance editors/ web designers. Lunch is much more communal than in a UK office, as everyone eats their food together around the table. It would be rude to be on your phone instead of participating in the conversation. Lunch is also much bigger than in the UK, and everyone will eat a full meal as opposed to a sandwich. Meat + veg + bread + yogurt is very normal, and reminiscent of the lunches served to kids in the school canteens every day.
Aside from all of that, I’m living in an apartment in St Denis, (north of Paris, RER D train). It is fine temporarily, but this is a bit of a dodgy area so I don’t like to come back too late at night. My commute is about 45 minutes door to door, with 15 mins on the train, which is not bad at all. I found this place on Appartager.com, a website that I would definitely recommend. Apartments are not cheap or easy to find in Paris, but thanks to that website I had somewhere to stay as soon as I arrived without any worry.
I have spent my weekends getting to know Paris, which of course means being a tourist !
My first weekend in the city, Rachel’s (and now my) friend Zack came to visit, which was a great excuse to do lots of touristy things together. On Saturday we took a trip to Château Fontainebleu, Napolean’s former home, a big old manor house with beautiful gardens. It is perhaps slightly off the beaten tourist trail, as foreign tourists are much more likely to visit the Château de Versailles, but it was a great day trip which I would thoroughly recommend. Particular highlights were seeing clothes worn by Napolean and his family, as well as the sheer overall opulance of the palace. Fontainebleu is reached by an extension of the RER D train, and then a bus up to the gates of the castle. Access to the castle is free for under -25 EU residents, and if you have a navigo train pass you can travel for free too !
On Sunday morning Zack and I explored the Catacombs de Paris, the final resting place for millions of Parisiens in the 18th century. This time we had an audioguide included in our ticket, which I would thoroughly recommend because there was not much information on display in the tunnels. It was both unnerving and humbling seeing hundreds and hundreds of bones carefully piled on top of each other, in patterns and groups, interspersed with quotes about death and the afterlife. We also visited the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, which was wonderfully landscaped, but I don’t think any of France’s public spaces will ever match Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or for me.
Monday was a bank holiday in France (vive le jour férié, I have 3 days off in my 6 week internship !) Zack and I walked up the Canal Saint Martin, which was lovely because the weather was beautiful. We met at La République métro station and strolled along the canal until we came to the Paname Brewing Company, Rachel’s place of work. I would highly recommend this bar if you’re looking for international cuisine (from Mexican to Italian) and want to enjoy your pint sat on a sunny terrace over the canal.
The next Monday was yet another bank holiday, and so I used my Lonely Planet Guide to take myself on a walking tour of Monmatre. I definitely saw all the sights : the Moulin Rouge, Les Deux Moulins (café in Amélie), traces of art and impressionist artists, the art market, and of course La Sacre Cœur, with its breath-taking view over Paris. Monmatre is definitely one of my favourite areas of Paris, and it somehow manages to retain its charm despite all the tourists. I will admit though, it is disconcerting to hear more English than French being spoken on the streets, and I didn’t go inside La Sacre Cœur due to the huge line of tourists literally wrapping around the building.
Last weekend the sun really came to Paris, which was wonderful. I spent a lot of time walking- down the Canal Saint Martin with Louise on Saturday, and along the Seine with the company of a good book (Ensemble, c’est tout) on Sunday. I even tanned!
I’ve been making the most of city life to find some great places to shop for second-hand books and clothes, have some fun nights out, and eat some wonderful food. Stay tuned for my next post, which will be about all the cool but slightly less touristy places I’ve been in Paris so far.