Je suis arrivée en France!

This will be a long post…

Here I am, in the fabulous town of Chalon sur Saône in France, and where am I sitting? McDonalds.  Quite the American stereotype, right?  Unfortunately, I don’t have internet, and McDonalds is the one place in town that does.  Guess I’ll be spending a good amount of time here until I find my own apartment and get internet.  But I’m here in France! After a VERY long day of travelling…

I got to the airport around 3:30, and was checked in and sitting in the terminal until 4.  Maybe it snuck up on me, or maybe it was the 4 hours of sleep I got the night before, but it didn’t seem real, right up to when I was on the plane.  I checked my bag—which was unfortunately heavier than I’d expected, so I had to pay the fee—and went through security.  After an hour and a half wait at the terminal, I was able to board the plane.  I was seated on the outside of the center isle next to a girl who was reading the sequel to 50 shades of grey (yes, I was judging her) and her boyfriend.  On my other side across the isle was this Frenchman who was very excited to be coming back to France (he was talking a lot—apparently he owns a company in Chicago that distributes French champagne in the U.S.) and an older woman who was going to France for a wedding.  Once the plane took off, I put my headphones in and basically went to sleep.  I was surprised how quickly the 7.5 hours passed.

Once I got off the plane and got my passport stamped, I headed over to the baggage claim to get my suitcase.  I stood around, waiting and waiting, but it wasn’t coming.  I finally started to get nervous when I was the only one standing there.  How would I get my suitcase to Chalon if it was delayed?  When I approached the baggage handler, he said the tag had broken off my suitcase and someone was bringing it up.  After another ten minutes of waiting I was able to get going.  I got on the RER B to Paris and then the Metro line 14 to Bercy.  Lugging my suitcase up the steps of the Metro and across the street to the gare, I had a sudden flashback of doing this with all of my stuff the last time I left France.  It was the same train station I took with Caroline and Jenn to go to Rome, and I was probably struggling just as much with my suitcase.  This time, however, I had time to relax and rest before getting on the train.

It took 3 trains to get to Chalon.  The first left from Paris and took me to a town called Laroche Migennes.  Once I got there, I had six minutes to get to my other train.  It was on the other platform, so I had to haul my suitcase down a flight of stairs and up another to get to the platform, but I got there.  That train took me to Dijon.  Surprisingly, on both of these trains I was sitting near American tourists.  I didn’t talk to them, but I did speak French to some of the people I was sitting near.  At Dijon, I got on another train headed to Lyon (which is only an hour and 15 min away by train).  I got off at Chalon sur Saône where I met Audrey, one of the English teachers at the lycée.  She could probably easily tell who I was with my big suitcase and lost expression.  She drove me to the school where I got my room.

It really isn’t a very nice room.  The wallpaper is peeling and there are spiders, and I share a bathroom with the other people on my floor (of which there are none at the moment).  It’s not terrible to start out in though.  I have a desk, a wardrobe, my own sink, and two beds, though I am not allowed to have guests.  I can’t eat in my room, but there is a cantine for the students who live here, and I can purchase meals there when it is open.  My school is on the edge of a park, and is also near the center of town, which is useful.  Nonetheless, I think I’ll start apartment hunting soon.

After dropping off my stuff, Audrey and I walked around the city.  There is a cute little island with some shops and restaurants that she showed me.  We also went to the tourism office where I could get a map.  Finally, we went to get a cell phone.

I got really excited at first because the woman at SFR (my cell phone provider) said that I could use my iPhone as a pay as you go phone.  Unfortunately, it was locked, so I ended up buying a really cheap, old-school flip phone.  The screen is TINY and it doesn’t do much, but it’ll last me in France.

Afterwards, we went to dinner with Audrey’s friend, an English teacher at another school in town, and one of his assistants, Alexandra, who is from Nottingham.  I felt very French and got a croque-madame, which is essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with an egg on top.  After all that travelling, I was exhausted and zoned out a lot.  When I came home, I basically collapsed on my bed and finally read those letters, which were amazing, by the way, and passed out.

Today I am having lunch with Audrey and Pierre, another English teacher at the lycée.  But for now, on to my next quest—exploring Chalon and finding coffee!

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