I have a surprise for you. I finally did it. I am writing this blog from my apartment in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (SGL), France. You will recall that SGL is about 20 minutes away from Paris via the RER ( French commuter rail system). I rented the apartment for two months, May & June. Yes, dreams can come true!
Leaving your life for a week much less two months was a challenging task, both practically as well as emotionally. The practical details – mail, bills, work, etc. were addressed one by one. Emotionally, I was going to France alone, no friends or partner for the first time. Truly, a French immersion experience.
Travelling Solo In France
I want to say a bit more regarding travelling solo: many women over 50 hesitate to travel alone, especially to a non-English speaking country. Some of the questions you might ask yourself:
- Who will I eat dinner with? The staff with engage with you and will speak English (or let me practice my French).
- What if I get lost? Google maps or Citymapper are my best friends. If I am not sure which way to go, I just look it up.
- Am I in danger? Just like any city, be alert. But overall, I have never felt in danger in Paris.
- Where should I stay? – hotel, Airbnb. It is your choice. Both are great options
Travelling alone in France has been exciting, fun, challenging in a good way and enticing. If you are wondering how I finally made the decision to start this new chapter in my life, I will quote my dear departed friend MaryAnn, “What are you waiting for”?
Truth be told there was a bit of trepidation the night before I left NYC. Would my two months meet or exceed my “Emily in Paris” expectations? Would I improve my French? Would I have the time of my life? I was still asking myself these questions when I boarded the plane.
Yesterday was my first full day in SGL as a “real-life Emily”. As I walked from my apartment to the café for my French omelette, look what I saw: the Chateau de Saint Germain-en-Laye, the original home of Louis XIV before he built Versailles.
As I walked through my neighborhood (a 5 minute walk) to the café, I was struck by a feeling of familiarity. I knew the shops, what was around the corner and where I would sit for the best chateau view.
As I enjoyed my omelette with frites (french fries) and a salad, I began to think about what I wanted to accomplish during this visit. Here was my list:
My Bucket List During The French Immersion
- Housekeeping items – groceries, recycling, haircut, manicure, wine store (easy one that one!)
- Speak as much French as possible – make mistakes but speak.
- Learn the mass transit site beyond the metro – RER, Bus, Tram, etc.
- Join a health club
- Attend the French Open via mass transit
- Go into Paris via mass transit/Uber.
- Decide what to see in Paris – (Did you know Monet had a brother, Leon?) Well he did and I saw the exhibit.
- Visit new towns, parks & chateaux. (I do love a chateau)
- Seek out a new social circle.
I wonder, if you were in my position, would you have the same ideas or others? It would be interesting to hear what you would want to accomplish. I will address all of the above items and more in future blogs so please stay tuned. However, let’s take care of that first housekeeping item since that was a necessity – there was no food in my apartment!
Housekeeping In Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Paris
In SGL (also in Paris) you will find the Monoprix (Monop) supermarket. As I walk to Monop for the basics, I pass and often stop at:
The cornucopia of colors was overwhelming – never has food shopping been so much fun!
Another housekeeping item is what to do with the recycling and I think the French have a very good system: In the States, the recycling is collected at our home or business weekly. In SGL, I take my recycling to a bin near my apartment and deposit the recycling there. I like the efficiency and reduced cost of a centralized recycling collection. How did I figure out what to do with my recycling? Same as back home: Google.
Google has been a big help. For example I don’t know French geography like I would in the States. So virtually everytime I want to go somewhere, I have to Google it’s location in relation to SGL and what is the best mode of transportation. This is a great way to learn more about my surrounding area as well as what is involved in longer trips.
Speaking more French ‘À la XPF’
And in case you are wondering, yes, thanks to my XPF coaching I am speaking French every time I step out of my apartment. I make mistakes, ask my French neighbors to speak slowly and repeat words so I can catch the pronunciation. I ALWAYS get a smile and without hesitation my request is granted. Oh, and I watched the French Open matches with French commentary – I don’t catch everything but it helps me train my “French ear”.
I have also at times watched Netflix, specifically Call My Agent & L’Agence. Both are very funny and they help me improve my French comprehension. Take a look, there are English subtitles and please let me know if you have others to recommend.
I unequivocally have improved my French speaking skills and confidence whilst having lots of fun. Finally, Emily in Paris is real!
A+ so far. Stay tuned as the journey continues.
PS – I have already rented an apartment in SGL for September