30th June – 1st July 2013
I did want to cross the English Channel by ferry, but to get to Paris would have been an awfully long slog, and I decided to take the Eurostar instead. So, back I choofed to St Pancras; the station is massive, more like an airport than a train station in some ways.
The butterflies were very active in my tummy, going to France and especially Paris felt more like a huge task than an adventure. I’m sure I don’t know how all these young ones do it with limited funds and seemingly no worries at all. Maybe they’re just like my two boys, think they’re 10 foot tall and bulletproof. Me, I don’t necessarily have any concrete worries, just a huge anxiety that I won’t be able to cope with the language or find my way.
Anyhow, I took the easy way out when I got to Gare du Nord and caught a cab to my host family’s house in the 12th Arrondissement. Josette was to be my host family for the next two weeks while I attended French lessons at LSI in Paris. I really was hugely excited to be actually living and going to school in Paris but was so nervous it wasn’t at all funny.
Thank goodness, Jo’s daughter, who speaks English, was there to translate for us and then Jo walked with me to the Metro station just down the road to show me which line to take and how to buy tickets. I was a little bemused later on when she managed to convey to me that her (20 years younger)
toyboy boyfriend, that her family didn’t know about, was coming to spend the night. Call me strange but using bathrooms in close proximity to people I don’t know, sends me into a real tailspin!! So, as I was expecting it to be just the two of us living in her VERY tiny two bedroom flat, to find there’d also be a 42 year old guy coming and going was more than a little daunting. And he wasn’t at all sociable, he kept coming up to the kitchen, fixing himself another drink then going back down to their bedroom and talking on the phone, he barely even acknowledged me when we were introduced. To make matters worse she had the futon made up in to a bed in the tiny lounge as she was expecting another paying guest in a weeks time, so there wasn’t even anywhere comfortable to sit.
I’ve thought long and hard about journaling the bald truth about my stay with Jo or glossing over it, but, this is my story so I’m going to tell it how I saw it! I think the fact that she didn’t spend much time at home that first week and fed me left-over food that I’m sure made me sick clouded my impressions of Paris. I was so looking forward to being there, and really tried to love it, but it just didn’t happen for the first couple of weeks.
Anyhow, next morning I managed to get myself into the city on the metro okay, and being about an hour early for school (just in case I got lost), I found where I had to go in Rue St Honore, among the fashion houses, then parked myself at a café and had a light French breakfast. I must admit, I’ve just made that sound so easy and casual, but again, my tummy was in absolute knots of anxiety.
Thank goodness there were other people going into the school building when I got there, I didn’t have a clue which one in the courtyard was theirs! Bloody hell, I make myself miserable with doubts at times for such silly reasons. But… I wasn’t the only nervous one around, about 10 of us ended up standing around outside the school door waiting for something to happen when another couple of students waltzed up the stairs and just went inside – obviously the place was open, just that none of has had tried the door. With lots of laughs we all trooped inside and the LSI staff set about organizing us into our classes. When I think back now, I wonder what I was so fearful about, because, really it wasn’t difficult at all.I just loved my first day at French school, the other people in my classes and the teachers were all so interesting and friendly. My morning class got to about 12 or 13 most days, mostly quite young people, 16 to 25 with a few of us older ones thrown in to the mix. There were Brazilians, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, a real melting pot and it was completely fantastic.
I couldn’t even manage to get out of the building on my own the first lunch time, a woman outside called out that I had to press a button to open the door!! That woman turned out to be an Australian, Deb, and we became fast friends for the rest of her stay. She’s a teacher from Sydney and reminded me so strongly of Jenny from my Italy tour last year that I just had to ask if she had a sister named Jenny – no, she didn’t, but they were so very similar in looks and personality, it was uncanny.
We ended up doing almost a marathon to buy ourselves a notebook each from a shop she thought wasn’t far away – ooops, we were almost running on the way back, but we made it okay. Although Deb was in a more advanced class than mine our times coincided so we spent lots of time together during our lunch breaks and after school.
So, one day down and I was feeling so much more at ease, caught the metro ‘home’ like a local, stopped at the patisserie just down the road for a treat then did some groceries at the supermarket around the corner. Bring on Paris!!