Archive for February, 2007

2:06 pm

First day of classes

This morning was the first meeting for the general French class. There are 15 students, 14 women and a lone guy. 10 are American students, 3 are women of different nationalities married to French men, there’s one student from China, and then there’s me.

The professor kept stressing that, since we meet for only six hours a week, we can’t do anything too in depth. I dunno: six hours seems like plenty to me!

5:38 am

Placement Exam

This morning, I took my placement exam and registered for the Institut de Langue et de Culture Françaises program at the Institut Catholique de Paris. I scored better on the oral part than the written (much to my surprise), and came out solidly intermediate.

I’m signed up for 18 hours of classes: 6 hours of general French, 6 of business French, and 3 hours each for written and oral French. The business French class is officially slightly advanced for me. The advisor who was helping me plan my program actually found the professor to discuss whether or not I should be allowed to enroll. After looking over my written test and discussing my background with the advisor, the professor gave her okay after making me drop the history course I had wanted and extracting a promise that I would work very hard.

Most of my classes are in the late afternoon, Tuesday through Friday, from 2 to 5, although the general French classes are Monday & Tuesday, from 10 to 1. Classes start Monday, so I’ll have to enjoy these last few days of complete liberty while I can!

2:22 pm

The view from the Butte de Montmartre

I have to admit that I was a little spoiled in Oakland: anytime I got restless, I could out and walk around Lake Merritt. I have yet to find a comparable walk here: there just doesn’t seem to be much greenery within a reasonable walking distance. (And in truth, if I had lived almost anywhere else in the Bay Area, I’d likely have had the same problem there.)

The best I’ve come up with so far as an alternate destination for those times when I need to get out and stretch my legs is to climb up to Montmartre. It has occurred to me that Paris is much better looking from ground level than it is from on high:

Since I’m heading up there anyway, I’ve started getting into the habit of timing my trip for early evening and attending Vespers and/or evening Mass at Sacré Cœur. The result is that I’ve effectively abandoned my original parish of Notre Dame de Clignancourt.

4:43 am

Day trip to Versailles

I caught the train down to Versailles yesterday.

It’s very easy to get to Versailles from the train station: it’s only a five minute walk and you just follow the flood of tourists.

Even on a weekday in the dead of winter, there were still quite a number of people in the chateau: I identifed groups of Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Irish tourists, and that was all before I even had my ticket! It took close to four hours to cover just two of the available circuits: 1) the King’s and Queen’s state apartments and 2) the chapel and opera house. As a result, I passed on the Dauphin’s apartments in favor of wandering in the gardens and visiting the Trianons.

Once in the gardens, the crowds thinned out considerably. In part, it was likely that there was so much more space. The chilly and drizzly weather undoubtedly accounted for the rest of the diminuation of crowds: there was hardly anyone at either the Grand or the Petit Trianon.

The ornamentation of virtually every flat surface becomes cloying after a while: I wonder that the inhabitants could endure all that everlasting gold leaf! I don’t wonder at all at Marie Antoinette’s preference for the Petit Trianon.

BTW, no pictures. Sorry ’bout that, but I inadvertently set my camera to video (not sure how I managed that, mind), and the first "picture" I took ate up all the space on the memory card. It wasn’t until I got back home that I figured out what had happened. And no, I couldn’t find any usable screenshots from my video.

3:16 am

Venturing into Montparnasse

I had occasion yesterday to visit the Institut Catholique de Paris (where I plan to be starting my business French course later this month). I haven’t been in that neighborhood before, so I did a little exploring.

I found Saint Sulpice, which has been suffering from unwanted notoriety as a result of The Da Vinci Code. More recently though, I had read an article, by Rick Steves in the travel section of, about the organ and organist. As a result, I’ve had it in mind to venture out that way for Sunday Mass some week, but just haven’t gotten to it yet. In the meantime, I have to say that it’s not a particularly attractive church, though I can’t put my finger on just what I dislike about it.

The Jardin du Luxembourg and the Palais du Luxembourg are also in that general area:

The Jardin is, according to my guidebook, a popular weekend hangout for families, but on a winter weekday, it’s pretty bleak. The Palais is now the seat for the French Senate, so it’s not generally open to visitors. I’m not sure if the Senate is sitting just now, although I saw lights on and there are police patrolling:

I also found a perfectly scrumptious bookstore: Librairie La Procure. The books are all in French, of course, but I still had a marvelous time wandering about and dreaming of the day when my French is good enough to justify a buying spree!

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