Day 17: Paris

It’s been really fun to have our friends with me. Diane and I are college friends. We were in each other’s weddings, and have remained close for thirty-seven years. She is a professor of Physical Therapy at two major universities near San Francisco. I knew she would be really helpful in answering questions about my arm.

Rick is a biological engineer. Geek is too mild of a term. He thinks in numbers! He can tell you the density of water per cubic feet. (Useful for estimating weight if things based on volume.) He’s the one who fixed my microwave by taking it apart and throwing a component on the ground. (Really!) What I knew but didn’t piece together is that Rick ALSO would be very helpful in explaining stuff about my shoulder. (I sound obsessed by my broken bone, and I totally am!!) He’s a biological engineer who has worked in the medical field and can explain IN DETAIL why my joint hurts, and what to do to make it better. I didn’t understand why I would need surgery or why lifting or pulling would increase the chance of damage. So, it’s not just that they are an asset to traveling with their fun ideas, excellent sense of direction and ability to act as sherpas for me, but they also don’t mind me asking an exhaustive amount of health questions. I am truly blessed.


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Day 16: Paris

My American colleague whom I speak French with had suggested we go to the Carnavalet museum, which we did today. (Thanks, Jean!) It’s in a cool building, and it contains objects, and artwork that tell the history of Paris.

For instance, they had old street signs like the ones below–Cow street or Scissors street.

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The museum had whole old storefronts and bedrooms of famous people. (Below belonged to Proust maybe?? Not sure–there were so many.)

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They had a special Napoleon exhibit. I felt a special kinship with him, somehow. (Lol.)


A brilliant thing he did was to order the manufacture of luxury goods. This gave the people work so they wouldn’t revolt and produced a new market when the upper middle-class started desiring these fine items.


One of Napoleon’s uniforms.


His 100-piece toiletry case.


Napoleon’s bed.


Ornate little box.

We also visited Rodin’s house and gardens. (Still learning how to take selfies.)

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My AirBnB is near here. Paris is a museum of museums. The whole city is a museum and it is filled with amazing museums of all sorts.

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All over Montpellier we saw these street art half-bicycles, and now I’m seeing them in Paris! No one knows who is doing them. They just appear on walls around the city. They are seriously installed with a post drilled into the building, so it’s amazing they can do it without being noticed.


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Day 15: Montpellier to Paris

Today my host mother dropped her husband and I off at the train station and my host father had to walk home after he got me on the train. (There is NO parking at the station.) It was so sweet of him to do it, and made a stressful situation much easier. The hardest part of the broken arm for me is the lack of independence. I hate to impose on people, but for now I have to. I can’t do it myself.

On the train I got to sit across from a young woman from Tibet. I have never met a person from Tibet. She is studying Economics in France, but is now done for the summer. And  the view from the train was lovely–there were beautiful fields of sunflowers and lavender.


My dear friends, Rick and Diane, met me in Paris. I take back the being sad–we had a great time in Paris today.


For many years, I have been reading the blog of an American who lives in Paris. I’ve followed her life as she had two darling children and opened two shops in Paris. We visited both today. The first is an adorable tea and knitting shop, that has yummy baked goods in a trendy off-the tourist-track in the 13th arrondissement. The neighborhood itself, Butte-aux-Cailles (which means loosely “Quail Hill”) was fun to explore. It used to be a walled village outside of Paris, but now Paris has expanded and includes this area.

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The Sorbonne and Saint Sulpice Church are only two of the beautiful buildings in the neighborhood where I’ve rented a VRBO. (Apartment.)  IMG_0339 IMG_0323

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Day 14: Montpellier

I was so happy to do well on the exam today. The hardest part for me was listening to a newscast at normal speed and answering questions about it. I missed the small details.But I earned this cool diploma! In the future I need to spend more time lounging around listening to French documentaries.


Afterwards a new friend and I took the tram to see this cool building, the Pierres Vives, designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

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Because the tram was above-ground we could see all the interesting parts of the city we passed. Much better than the subway.


I didn’t expect the building to be so beautiful INSIDE. I went for the exterior architecture and was delighted. Everything else was an extra gift!


What a surprise to find a World War I exhibit FOR FREE inside! There was the local newspaper from the day the Germans invaded France. (And I know it’s sideways, and I know there’s a WordPress plugin, and I installed it, but it’s still sideways. Grrr.)


Real photos of the trench warfare.


And actual binoculars from the period.


My host mother made me a special “going away” dinner: wild salmon and homemade apple tart. Amazing. I don’t want to leave! I’m probably the first person in history to be a little sad to be going to Paris.

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Day 13: Montpellier

Big test tomorrow…short post tonight.  At dinner I commented that nuts are so expensive here. It was 7 euros for less than a cup of almonds. My host parents were shocked. “That can’t be true! We buy a sack of 25 pounds and it lasts us many months.”

Me: “Oh, do you buy them in the shell?”

Them: “Of course! It’s REALLY expensive to buy shelled nuts! Who would buy shelled nuts?! It’s so easy to shell them.”

Then they showed me the almonds that they pick in the country (growing wild.) I had never seen almonds that looked like that. Inside they looked somewhat familiar.i also contemplated how we don’t really have countryside where you can go pick food growing wild. 


Do any of you know why we don’t eat much veal in the U.S.? It’s a staple in Europe. They need the female calves to grow up and give milk, but they have an excess of male calves and these become veal. I thought it had to do with animals rights, but we eat lamb….

One thing my host mother hates about Montpellier is the dog poop on the street. All the homeless people (and there are a lot here) have dogs. She says it’s illegal to arrest someone and not take care of their dog. The police can’t put the animals into a shelter. (Not sure why.) And since there’s no one to take care of their dog, they can’t be arrested and   go to jail. So, there’s poop on the street and a heightened frustration toward the homeless in particular and immigrants in general.

I was walking in front of a mom and two girls and heard this cute conversation (trust me, it’s cuter in French):

3 year-old: why is the airplane in the sky?

6 year-old: So it can take us to far  places.

3 year old: where will it take us?

6 year old: To Morocco.

I love it.

This week the school has students from 28 countries. Fun!

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Day 12: Montpellier

I find my classes so creative! Today we had to describe what changes we would make for young people in our cities if we were mayor. It was so interesting to hear People’s opinions from all around the world–lower university prices, putting in skate parks, enabling everyone to pursue a university diploma, more places to ski free, a public pool. (Lots of conditional for you grammar geeks.) 

Then we played Timeline. I had played this before with my own children. It’s cards with historical events that you have to put in order–was the hair dryer invented before the iron? (No.) Was the umbrella invented before the trash can? (Surprisingly, YES.) Then we had to take our losing cards and say “If _______ (fries had never been invented) then ______ (McDonalds would have taken over the world.) ” People came up with funny sentences.

After school. I wanted to walk around the city and find all the trompe l’oeil buildings. As I was leaving school an Italian friend  and I talked briefly and I invited her to come with me.

“Oh, yes, but I have to eat something. Can you wait?”


“Oh, and we have to wait for my other friends, too, because I have their food.”

“OK.” And eventually we were joined by two other Italians and a Spaniard.

Then after eating, she said “I just remembered I have to send an important email. It will just take a minute to log on the school computer and send it.”

Half an hour later she came back. Then one of the Italians said “We want to come with you, but we need a coffee first.” (Note to self: learn to be less uptight about time schedules.)

She said “OK, but a very fast coffee.”

So we walked to the café, and maybe 45 minutes later we were on our way.

It really was fun. We spoke in English, Italian, French, and Spanish and sometimes lapsing into three languages in one sentence. They would start speaking Italian, and I would be fine, until I wasn’t and they would switch back. The Spaniard was super eager to speak Spanish. Yeah, me, too. Unfortunately, my Spanish right now sounds like “Spançais.” We talked of marriage (I’m in favor–them, not so much), travel (all in favor), and things we love and hate about our countries (Italian women hate Italian men’s expectations that they will do all the cooking and cleaning.) The buildings were darling, but so difficult to photograph. There are trees in the way! And motorcycles! And the construction of a new subway line! Afterwards we had to have another “coffee”, (translation: beer for them; tea for me.) I arrived home at dinnertime after having walking miles and miles. I loved seeing all the different neighborhoods and the stories were great. Towards the end, one woman (age 30) said “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t feel happy unless I’m traveling or have a trip to look forward to. I somehow crave the stimulation.” And we all nodded.

First coffee:


Do we have these in the states? It’s called a “noisette” here.


This is a flat building:


The “shadows” of this building are paint, not shadow. The poles with animals on top are real metal.


The first is to give you an idea of the whole building, the second and third are details on the same wall.

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Second “coffee”:


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Day 11: Montpellier

Last night after my ordeal at the surgeon’s I started in on my homework. I still can’t believe how complicated language is. On the one hand, I’m a good actress, and can get my point across with body language, so I feel that my French is amazing. On the other hand, when I turn in essays and get them back they look like some of my less-serious students’ essays after I’ve corrected them. Seriously, if I was a high school kid in Bordeaux, my french class teachers would not be recommending me for university. The only saving grace is that my eight fellow students have the same issues—we’re all in it together and have formed tight bonds. We are from eight countries and we share an almost illogical but fierce love of the language. Two left and two more came: an American med student headed to Zurich Switzerland after this to do medical research, and an Italian university student who speaks French with a beautiful Italian accent. Ooh Lah Lah. Most of the time I feel so incredibly lucky to be here.

Guess what they call a French press in France? A coffee maker. :)

Just having someone make me a beautiful dinner filled with fresh vegetables is an incredible luxury and gift.

Tonight it was leek quiche and Ratatouille with eggs. (And the salad course, the cheese course and the fruit course.)

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