Le Debut de Mes Aventures
Spoiler alert: although I've only been living in France for a few days, I already feel at home here.
Welcome to Emma Travels, for all of you who are new here! Thank you for wanting to be a part of my adventure. I am excited to share my experiences with worldly culture, food, people, and so much more. Please feel free to leave comments on my page with positive feedback! :-)
I guess I should "officially" start my first post by saying that domestic travel is not foreign to me, but international travel is completely new! With that, I have been trying to tackle each challenge or difficulty with three new philosophies that are: a) material goods are just that - material, b) learning takes time and so does adjusting, and c) being open to all new opportunities entirely will provide many other opportunities for learning and growth. I have spoken French formally (with school) for 3 years, but when the pandemic hit, I decided at the beginning of this year to take lessons with a past teacher and friend who taught and guided me more than I ever could've asked for (Merci Madame! <3) This was an essential part of my journey to today - she was the one who introduced me to this opportunity and the reason why I feel so prepared.
All of that to say - let's get to the real reason why you're here: my travels here and a current update!
So, to keep things easy and quick (for those of you who don't want to read the entire post), I'll put a rating out of 10 for each section I talk about to give you a simple understanding of the process thus far.
Part One: Travel - 6/10 (PDX --> ORH --> CDG --> BOD)
Honestly, for my first big international travel experience, things went pretty well! The smaller flights were more familiar to me; it was the flight across the Atlantic that was most difficult. The flight was scheduled for 8 hours, but I believe it ended up being a bit shorter at 7:37 hours. My first real airplane meal - not too terrible, surprisingly! I had a very nice French flight attendant, who I asked if it was possible for me to practice my french with him when he would pass by, and he agreed and held me to it. The most difficult part was the time change and my sleep patterns. I tried to avoid using too much technology because of the blue light before I slept, but no amount of tech avoidance could have helped my inability to sleep on that flight. By the time we landed in Paris, I was ready for a nap. But I proceeded to find my way around the Charles de Gaulle airport and find my next boarding gate and board my plane to Bordeaux. I could barely keep my eyes open on that short flight! But by the time I arrived at my final destination, I was buzzing with excitement to get to receiving welcomers. I only ran into one big complication: my luggage was never transferred from the Paris airport to the Bordeaux airport. So, I went my first day and a half in France with just the clothes I had on. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is one of the smallest problems I could have had (I have since received my luggage all intact!).
Part Two: Bordeaux - 30/10
In just two and a half days, I can easily say that Bordeaux already feels like a home. All the people receiving me have been absolutely wonderful and so accomodating. They have done nothing less than everything to make me feel comfortable and help me try new things. I have taken a few bike rides and walks around the different neighborhoods/districts (the way districts and neighborhoods work in France is drastically different than the United States - I'm still learning about it myself), and I feel both sides of what I came here to experience. There's the side that is more "antique" France, what most people would probably expect if they traveled here, but the other side is what I compare to - almost - San Francisco! There is a whole urban side to Bordeaux, with many shopping areas, restaurants, etc. while still maintaining the French architecture, which, to me, is just the best of both worlds! The roads in France, in general, are very different than the U.S., with most of the roads only being about one (small!) car length in width, but there are shared bus/bike lanes for commuters who choose that way. I already prefer biking, because I get to see more of the beauty and familiarize myself with my new home, and because traffic can sometimes be pretty bad as well. But overall - I adore it here. My host family has done nothing short of creating a safe and welcoming space for me to ask questions, explore, etc. and I could not have asked for a better beginning for this adventure!
Part Three: Food and Drink - 20/10
I know that these ratings are supposed to be serious, and they are, but come on. It's a well-known fact that European food, especially French food, is incredible. And I can fully agree with this fact now! I have only had a few experiences thus far, with trying to adjust to the time change and find a good rhythm, but even the fast food here is so fresh and well-prepared! It seems as though every food service employee that I've met is cheerful and seems to actually enjoy their job and want to help you get what you want. The homecooked food as well - incredible! My host mother has made some amazing dishes so far, and I'm so excited to try what's next! But my favorite part of all - baguette is eaten with everything. A plate with sauce? Baguette. A lunch dish? Baguette. Snack? Baguette! French food definitely speaks to my soul.
Part Four: COVID-19 - 8/10
While the United States is currently dealing with its own problems with the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination rates, France seems to be working hard to secure public health and safety across the country. A little numbers moment for you - currently, France's vaccination coverage is 74.3% of all persons over 12 who are fully vaccinated (28 Aug. 2021, TousAntiCovid). Around France in general, you must have a "Passe Sanitaire", where if you'd like to eat outside or in a restaurant, shop, and do many 'daily' activities, you must be at least half vaccinated (depending on which vaccination you received). As an American, most places understand that my vaccination card doubles as my Passe because I didn't receive the same credentials that French natives do to carry. When I was exploring the more urban shopping areas, there was a mix of people wearing their masks while walking around outside and some not, but virtually everyone wore their masks (properly!) while indoors. It is definitely nice to be in an environment where there is little backlash from the public towards the push towards vaccinating the entire population. However, I understand that there are various reasons why one would choose to be unvaccinated, and while I do not share the same opinion, I respect those choices, because often we will not be able to fully understand what we do not believe in or follow.
Part Five: Speaking French - 10/10
While I was initially nervous about speaking French and not having a high enough skill level to communicate adequately, I was extremely surprised that when I arrived, a) many French people speak conversational English, if not more, and b) my French was much more advanced than I thought. While I don't understand many jokes, and I do have some English-speaking allies to help me understand in certain situations, but I have been trying to speak exclusively French with my host family. It's extremely exciting to be able to talk about my family, my passions, my goals, my normal life, and have them be able to understand me. I feel so proud of myself to be able to look back and say, "Four years ago, I stepped into my first French class, excited just to learn a bit of the language, unsure of how it would go due to people telling me it would be difficult and "less practical" than Spanish, but now, I am living in France and speaking constantly each day." I am so glad and blessed to be here, truly.
I believe I have covered the majority of what are the most common topics for new travelers! I hope that you enjoyed reading about my adventures, and I hope you will continue to follow my experiences and travels, as my biggest goal with this blog is to make knowledge of other cultures more accessible for those who may not be able to travel right now, or at all. Again, I would love to hear your feedback! Feel free to leave me a comment, send me an email, or like this post!