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Published:August 5th, 2009 17:22 EST
Adventures in Cheese Snob Land: My First Night in France

Adventures in Cheese Snob Land: My First Night in France

By Christine Stoddard


K.C. and I arrived at the Kellermann early enough. We checked in, dumped everything in our rooms, and finally found our long-lost third member. I ran down to see our professor fairly soon after, logged onto the Internet (it`s adorable how the French pronounce WiFi like "weefee."), and met a couple of the other students in our group. After asking questions and waiting for the other students to join us, the group went on a walk sans the professor. Our neighborhood is called Port d`Italie, so you would think that it`s full of Italian restaurants and shops. Nope. Part of it`s Chinatown and the other part is mostly residential. The group eventually split up, half going to central Paris, the other half staying in Port d`Italie. I stayed and had the chance to peruse Chinese businesses with French signs and chat up a bunch of fourteen-year olds.


I have a habit of interacting with the locals because, obviously, they have the best knowledge of the area. I approached a gaggle of young teenagers and asked them where the most interesting places in the neighborhood were. They were thrilled to talk to an American--one of the first sentences out of the friendliest girl`s mouth was "I love Obama!"--and practiced some of their English with me. I`m sure I sound just as ridiculous when I speak French; they had to constantly have me explain how to say certain words and phrases, but didn`t manage too well with pronunciation. I insisted on speaking as French as possible with them and, luckily, they understood me. The only real embarrassment came when I told the friendliest girl that she was "mignonne," which translates to cute.


I meant it as a harmless compliment, not because I wanted to hit on her. But she shot me a little look of surprise, so I had to clarify! I didn`t want her thinking that Americans are perverts.


Around 5:00 p.m. our university group reconvened at the Kellermann so we could head out to dinner. Instead of going to a restaurant, however, we ran around Mono-prix, a French supermarket that also contains a fair amount of books, clothes, and dishes. The professor told us to grab whatever we planned that night, so I reached for several French specialities, like Buffalo mozzarella (?!?!) and apricot-apple pudding. Delicious! We ended up eating at a very scenic park close to our hostel, where I stayed long afterwards to take photos and videos.


hat wasn`t the end of my evening, however. Remember my promise to check out the Latin Quarter? I kept it. In case you`ve never heard of it, the Latin Quarter is a trendy neighborhood where many teenagers and young adults congregate at cafes, bars, and night clubs all set amongst historical buildings. It`s sort of like the Parisian version of Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria. I convinced three other students to ride the Metro there. Considering that it was Tuesday night, it was not too busy, but certainly more bustling than Port d`Italie. I enjoyed the buzz, including street buskers who played music or performed tricks. It reminded me of Montreal in that sense, where buskers seem to abound. My four-some poked our heads through various businesses, but settled for an Asian buffet full of cheap egg rolls and dumplings. Apparently they call Chinese dumplings "ravioli" in French, which surprised me.


Unfortunately we had a 1:30 a.m. curfew so we couldn`t stay at the Latin Quarter too long. We hopped on the Metro and returned to the hostel, where we all took much-needed showers and sleeps.