Les Soldes

People, I’m not going to claim that les soldes are a valid reason to come to study abroad in Paris in the summer. But they are definitely a good side benefit. Les soldes (the sales) are a 5-week (approximately) period around July when stores are allowed to have sales. Believe it or not, over here the government controls this sort of thing. I expect there is another sale period around the holidays but I don’t know for sure.

So les soldes are on right now and this afternoon I walked right into the middle of them. I had decided I wanted another scarf although, or more likely because, the one Nancy gave me is great and I’ve already worn it twice. And I wanted to get some Yves Rocher anti-fatigue foot gel–I love this product and I buy a tube anytime I am near an Yves Rocher. I knew I did not want to spend much money so I thought to go to H&M, which I also love.  I Googled the locations and found that the nearest one was in the 6th on a street called Rue de Rennes. Then I Googled Yves Rocher and behold! They had a location about 3 doors down and across the street. Off I went into the Métro. You can say what you want to about other forms of transit (my colleague Jim’s tag line is “I found this great bus!”) but I am irrationally attached to subways. Rue de Rennes turned out to be a fair-sized shopping street with a FNAC (electronics), a Zara, and even a Pandora store (who knew?). I hit Yves Rocher and they had a lot of stuff soldé so I got foot gel, lavender shower gel, and a shower puff for under €6. H&M had all their sale stuff on one level, so of course that level was full of people. I jostled around and found a cute sleeveless top as well as a cool scarf: a light peach background with Dia de los Muertos-style skulls on it in black. I’m excited to wear it! Then I went into Marionnaud (Sephora-type store but more fragrances than makeup) just to take a look. I got some perfume from the Couvent des Minimes brand (Mom, take note! Should I get you some hand cream?). Can’t wait to wear that either as it is a great citrus scent and I ran out of my C. L. Bigelow Lemon right before I came. Paris is full of undesirable smells at times and I do not want to be one of them!
So that was my dip into les soldes. It was fun and a nice change from the U.S. where Macy’s seems to have a “One Day Sale” every day. We are onto you, Macy’s!
On a totally different note I spoke to my friend Nicole on the phone today. She was my home stay hostess when I was on study abroad as a student 10 years ago. She lives in Caen (Basse-Normandie, northwest coast of France) and used to be an English teacher but has been retired for a long time. I am planning to go out to visit her for a day, possibly next weekend. I had also raised the idea of bringing some students to visit Normandy and she seemed to think that would work with some help from a couple who are friends of hers, Jean-Alain and Françoise. Jean-Alain is retired from the Regional Council in Caen and Françoise is just a generally energetic person. I will have to see what my students think and who wants to go. They were very interested when I talked about Normandy in class. We have talked about the Norman Conquest and they are starting to understand how long & how deeply the English/Americans and the French have been connected. Plus, Caen is lovely and it would be nice for them to see another part of France.
Tomorrow we have a 2-hour guided tour of the Louvre. That, of course, will be excellent! À bientôt!

Practice Visit

I should have guessed I’d be a good fit for teaching in Study Abroad because I am a big believer in the Practice Visit. I come by this belief honestly: My parents are homebodies who don’t like surprises (I am a homebody who doesn’t like surprises; let’s not kid ourselves.) so when I was a kid, if we had to go somewhere unfamiliar (like maybe a new doctor’s office or something) we’d drive over a day or two beforehand to see where it was.

Study Abroad endorses and encourages Practice Visits. Yesterday we practiced going to the IPT (our classroom building), so this morning everyone knew how to get there and was right on time.  The classrooms are very nice: tables in a square like an American “seminar room” with big windows and a good-sized white board. I enjoyed the first day of classes and I hope my students did too. It is interesting to work on connections between what you’re reading and what you’re experiencing.  Everyone had something smart to say, which is the best possible outcome! 
I have a 2.5-hour break between classes (it’s a nice schedule, I’m not gonna lie) so after my AM class I walked out and had coffee in a randomly chosen café. Drank it standing at the counter and felt massively Parisian.  Must quit café crème in favor of regular coffee, though. Un crème is a little pricey (but so delicious!). After my coffee break I walked around some more just to see what was in the quartier. It is not a tourist area at all so it was full of regular people doing regular stuff, which is one of my favorite things in Paris. Pretending to be a local is fun–I don’t know why! But it does lead to being asked for directions, which happened to me twice today. I helped the first lady, who was on the correct street but did not seem to know how house numbers work, but the second guy asked me for a particular street and of course I did not know it. He was nice about it, though. Parisians have a huge reputation for rudeness and of course some people are rude (often occasioning mutterings from other locals) but nearly everyone I’ve encountered has been lovely. If they are not lovely they are at least polite, which is good enough. 
As soon as afternoon classes ended I set out on another Practice Visit, this time to Versailles where my class is going tomorrow.  The train ride was slow–through inattention I did not get on an express, so we stopped at every station between St Michel-Notre Dame and Versailles Rive Gauche. But even with that mistake the whole trip only took 75 minutes door to door, which was about what I estimated. After walking up to the palace gates and being reminded that holy moly, Versailles is enormous, I headed back toward the station. On the way in I’d passed a small courtyard (and its many promotional signs), the Cour de Senteurs (Courtyard of Scents?). So on the way out, I went in and discovered that it’s 4 little shops: a restaurant called Le Nôtre after the gardener who designed Versailles’ gardens; a glove shop (!!!); a Dyptique shop (fancy candles, €€€€€), and Guerlain which of course is perfume. Guerlain was a really pretty store, and I like perfume, so I went in and chatted with one of the saleswomen for a few minutes. They have an exclusive fragrance at that location (don’t they just), called “Versailles.” It is lovely and of course it is €210! Ah well. It was a nice little experience to make me feel like I was off the clock!
Back at Cité I went to the grocery store again (forgot dish soap yesterday) and I’ve finally found a grocery that I like. It’s called G20 (no idea) and behind its narrow and slightly grubby facade is a ton of selection. Ended up getting a bag of salad (quote from a colleague: “If I don’t eat a vegetable soon I’m afraid of what might happen”), salad dressing, and a bottle of Badoit Rouge (fizzy water that I like) in addition to my dish soap. And I had my Georgia Public Broadcasting reusable bag in my tote so I felt validated in having brought it. Probably the only exemplar ever to visit Paris–I need to take a photo and send it in!
More tomorrow . . . stay tuned!