It's crazy to believe that this is going to be my last post before I'm back on American soil. I will write at least one more after this one, but for my final post to wrap up this incredible year, I want to write it from home to really reflect on my time in France. I feel like being able to look at this past year from the point of view of my "normal life" will be interesting for me to do, and will probably show hints of how I have changed because of this experience. I may do one more post several months down the road to see if anything has stuck with me in the long term, but I won't know that until I am back in my normal routine.
A lot has happened since my post about Normandy. June has been a bit more gracious to the locals, though not nearly as much as we would like. Right now, I'm looking out at yet another relentlessly gray day, and while it is no longer cold enough to require a jacket, it's still chilly enough to wear a few layers of long sleeves. We've had a few sunny days, and some have felt very hot, but I assure you, it is not "summer" here, but feels more like how April would feel back home. Certainly not July 1st, which is the middle of summer and when people back home are flocking to lakes and beaches. I posted a few news articles about just how terrible the weather has been this spring. I know I complain about it a lot, but I promise you, it's justified. This spring has been a record wet and chilly one. The worst for 116 years. May was the wettest month of May Paris has seen in 146-ish years, which contributed to the Seine rising to flood level and causing damage, delays, and the closure of several metros. I even had one local neighbor I frequently walk with when taking G to school say to me that I picked a bad year to come. Great, thanks. So it's not just me. Even the locals, my French friend Isabelle can attest to this, have had it with this weather. When you think of Paris, there is an image that likely comes to mind of walking along the Seine, picnicking along the canals, or strolling through the beautiful gardens with a good book while the sun happily shines down. Or perhaps sitting outside at one of the hundreds of sidewalk cafés with un vin rouge or un café, chatting with friends and people watching. That's the image I had, and while I have done all of those things, I certainly haven't done them as frequently as I had envisioned. I guess it just makes those times I was able to do them that much sweeter. But for those who ask me why I am so ready to leave the City of Light, this is why. I want my summer, I miss my friends and family, and I am sick and tired of the rain and gloom. My soul can't take it anymore, even with the marginally improved temperatures. With the weather, union strikes, train delays and frequent maintenance, flooding, and unfortunate continual threat of terrorist attacks, I can't honestly be blamed for saying "check, please!" I can't tell you how excited I am, in particular, to get away from public transport haha.
But looking back on June, it is easily the best month I've had my entire year in France. From my trip to Normandy, to being able to shed my jacket, to visiting the small medieval town of Provins, and of course, the masquerade at Versailles, this is the month I will think back to when I'm in the States fondly reminiscing about my adventure overseas.
The weekend after my visit to Normandy, my host mom went out of town for a week. She went on her first international trip outside of Europe for a work trip to the USA. It was fun for me to see her go to my home country and hear about her experiences when she returned. She spent most of the week in DC, and one day in NYC. She loved DC and can't wait to bring the rest of the family next year when they hopefully come visit again, since the rest of them haven't been to America either. One thing she mentioned when she got back to Paris made me laugh, because it was something I noticed the French didn't do that Americans always do, and I have been meaning to talk about it all year. I didn't even ask her about this, she noticed it on her own. She noticed that everyone on their way to work was holding a travel mug of coffee. She then imitated a person standing, waiting for a metro or walking with a travel mug in hand. I laughed and told her I thought the same thing when I moved here, but with the opposite thought. In America, we love our coffee. Now, the French love coffee too, but when they drink theirs, they sit. In the U.S., we tend to grab our coffee and go, or for those who do sit and have a cup in the morning (or a cup while getting ready like me), you probably still take cup #2 on the road. During my first week or two in France, I found it so odd that no one, and I mean NO ONE, was holding a travel mug full of coffee on the train platform as they made their morning commute to work. "Do none of these people drink coffee? No one is holding coffee...." was my initial thought. Now that I've been here long enough, I know it's because they all get up early enough for breakfast and sit and enjoy their morning cup of joe. And their coffees are TINY. "What is this tiny cup? Get me a real mug!" I have found myself thinking on a number of occasions. I'm not really a fan of French coffee for that reason. Yeah, it's good once I add milk and sugar, but I've never been able to drink black coffee, and I miss coffee creamer (which apparently is only a thing in the USA). But I'm American, damnit. I need my coffee, and I need it in large quantities. So if there is any more question as to why I'm such a frequent visitor at Starbucks when I live in a city where coffee is sacred, now you know. Starbucks serves a normal size cup.
The day after my host mom returned from the US, my friend Isa and I headed about an hour east of Paris to the charming little medieval village of Provins. A few weeks before our visit were medieval festivals, which I would have loved to see. But they do have 2 permanent shows for those who visit during other times of the year. The first was a show with a number of trained birds. I couldn't understand what the show itself was about, and Isabelle tried to translate a lot of it for me, but for the most part it was a demonstration with all types of birds. Owls, vultures, eagles, just to name a few. I found this pretty cool until these trained birds started swooping over the heads of the audience. I'm not normally afraid of birds at all, but when I have to duck because vulture and vulture is flying about 6 inches above my head...yeah, I'm gonna freak out a bit. One bird actually brushed Isa's hair into her face. They were well trained, so I knew I wasn't in danger, but each type of bird that came out would just fly over us for a while. The vultures they let fly back and forth for about 10 minutes, one after another. Afterward, you could walk through the cages of the birds from the show. I saw a beautiful eagle up close and an owl that could have passed for Hedwig from Harry Potter. The vultures were so creepy looking, but there were some adorable baby birds fresh from the womb.
They had these bubble machines going all over the place
À bientôt! Bisous!