December 31, 2021, and I have finally landed in my new home for the next four months. Having never been to Europe before I was beyond anxious to see if it would live up to what I would see growing up, whether it was from social media, movies, or other sources that tend to glamorize many things. However, immediately my expectations were surpassed. As I was getting out of our Uber to our hotel, I was amazed at the beautiful architecture of the buildings, the liveliness of the restaurants/cafes, and the smell of the bakery across the street. I had truly never seen such a beautiful city which I am lucky enough to call my home for the next few months.
As I was planning my departure date, I kept thinking to myself how nice it would be to get accustomed to this foreign city before officially moving in. Therefore, my family and I decided to come to Paris a week before my orientation in order to complete a Paris 101 crash course. I called it Paris 101 since it involved us doing the most touristy sightseeing trips which are staples of Paris. The first night, we went to the stunning Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe which were even more stunning in person than all the pictures I had seen before. To celebrate France’s presidency of the European Union, both landmarks were lit up entirely blue. Check out the pictures I took of both!
Another day, we decided to spend time shopping, something Paris is famous for. I would recommend going to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps in the ninth arrondissement to find more brands that are also in America. Both are similar to Bloomingdale’s and Saks, meaning they are large department stores with absolutely everything you might need. Luckily, the buildings and the surrounding streets were still decorated for Christmas making an even better shopping experience.
Next, we decided to make a trip to the famous Louvre (which also lights up blue at night!). It would take 3 months to conquer the Louvre given you stop and stare at each piece of art for 1-2 minutes each. However, since Paris 101 was a crash course we decided to fit it in one day. This is where I started to really understand and appreciate the history of France. My family and I decided to do a guided tour, which I would highly recommend to get a more in-depth perspective (you also get to skip the long line through a separate group entrance). While of course, we saw Da Vinci’s world-renowned painting, the Mona Lisa, my favorite part was Napoleon's apartments. This isn’t always included on most tours, for it is hidden in the opposite corner of the other famous pieces of art in the Louvre. But, I would definitely recommend making a stop here, for it is beyond stunning as you can see in the pictures here! A perk of being an ESCP student is that you actually get free admission to the Louvre and many other museums in Paris!
Lastly, my favorite part of our Paris 101 crash course was outside of Paris in Versailles. The Palace of Versailles contained the most beautiful architecture, whether it was the walls, the ceilings, or the furniture. Everything was so stunning, I was amazed that people actually used to live here! Again, my family and I took a guided tour which I would also recommend since there are not many self-learning opportunities throughout the Palace itself. Pictures of the infamous hall of mirrors can be seen below.
While my Paris 101 crash course included lots of sightseeing, the most important part of it was learning how to get around. For example, I was able to accustom myself to the city’s metro system. My family and I made sure to metro everywhere we could in order to familiarize myself with how it works. Luckily it’s a very easy system that I now use every day (I would recommend getting a monthly Navigo pass to save money). Additionally, I was able to familiarize myself with the 20 districts, or as they call it arrondissements, of Paris which once you pinpoint some key landmarks in each it is easy! Most importantly, I was able to learn how to best communicate with the French locals. Having never taken a French class past my 6-week middle school course, I am nowhere near fluent. However, I took it upon myself to learn some common greetings and important words that could help me order at restaurants and ask for help at stores. Duolingo is a great (free) app that will help you do this fast before your arrival.
Overall, I still have a lot to learn, but plenty of time to do so. I am beyond grateful for my Paris 101 crash course and it made me all the more prepared to conquer the first day of school which I will talk about in next week’s blog. Until then, Au Revoir!