Category Archives: France

Weekend Trip Ideas from Paris, France

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Are you about to travel to or study abroad in France? After studying in Paris for almost four months and experiencing a Trafalgar tour of France a few years ago, I can tell you some of my favorite weekend trips to help spark ideas for your travel planning. I limited each recommendation to a couple sentences – if you have questions, feel free to comment and I can share more ideas with you!

  • Giverny: My absolute favorite place slightly outside of Paris, where you can tour Monet’s home. Explore the water lily ponds, luscious gardens, and quaint home where Monet and his family resided.
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Giverny with my mom in August 2011

  • Palace of Versailles: Learn why the French revolution occurred based on the extraordinary, ornate palace from the French royal families. I can almost guarantee that you will likely never see so much gold in one building at one time.
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Palace of Versailles with my mom in August 2011

  • Bordeaux: Enjoy the best wine in the world with a Bordeaux wine country tour. I enjoyed Medoc which has stronger red wines. If you prefer lighter red wines, go to St. Emilion. The Bordeaux Tourism Office offers excellent city walking tours for affordable prices, great views, and interesting history.
  • Normandy: Visit Deauville, the home of Coco Chanel, and Honfleur where you will find artsy neighborhoods and sailboats. While I did not have the opportunity to see the World War II battle fields, I would also highly recommend going there to see one of the most emotional historical sites.
  • Brittany: Visit St. Malo for a medieval experience along the sea. Try both sweet and savory crepes, which are originally from Brittany. Tour Mont St. Michel to see one of the wonders of the world. The cathedral and castle are incredible.
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Mont St. Michel in January 2016

  • Strasbourg: Go on the Happy Tour to learn the city’s history of the city, including political control issues between Germany and France and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.  Admire the fairytale-like buildings and enjoy a mix of German and French cuisine.
  • French Riviera:Explore some of the most beautiful cliff-dwelling beaches of France and posh shopping in Nice and St. Tropez. Explore the playground of the rich and famous in Monaco.
  • Arles: Enjoy Vincent Van Gogh’s home where he painted over 300 pieces of artwork and explore ancient Roman ruins.
  • Lyon: Experience the third largest city in France that has become a gastronomical capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • London: Take the 2-hour EuroStar trip (underwater!) from Paris to London. Sandemann’s walking tour provides a great overview of the highlights of London, including Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, and the changing of the guards. Also take advantage of excellent theatre options – I enjoyed Phantom of the Opera! Consider a day trip – I had an amazing time in Stonehenge, where I saw the famous rocks. I visited Salisbury where I saw the Magna Carta and Western Europe’s tallest cathedral. I ended the day trip in Bath, where I enjoyed learning about the Roman baths and tried crème tea at an Alice in Wonderland inspired café.
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London in January 2016

Check out my Spanish Adventures Revealed blog posts to learn more specifics about France (Paris, Paris cont’d.Giverny and VersaillesAvignon, Arles, French Riviera, French Riviera cont’d., Dijon, and Lyon). Do you have other favorite weekend trips from Paris? Help out your fellow inspirNational readers and comment below :).

 

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What I Will Miss About Studying in France

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With a blink of an eye, almost four months have passed and I am now at Charles de Gaulle on my way back home. My winter and early spring in France have been some of the most exciting, challenging, and thought-provoking times of my life, and I could not be more grateful to have studied abroad here.

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Every time I go abroad I enjoy reflecting on what I will miss and not miss about the country I have experienced. Below I have captured some of the highlights:

What I will miss about studying in France:

  • Connections to new cultures. By learning French, I am now able to speak the language of 72 million people throughout the world, helping me connect personally with those who speak French. I have found that one of the most rewarding parts of life is connecting with others, and language is the first step in the connection process. My spirits were lifted when I was able to speak French and be understood by others, especially when I started to think in French about a month ago. I am grateful to now be able say more than “bonjour” and “merci” when I travel or work in France, Africa, Canada, the Middle East, and other Francophone regions. As a French student in Paris, it is interesting to think that I actually ended up meeting more foreigners than French people, since the foreigners were in classes with me also learning French. My classmates were from every continent except Antarctica, and often times our only language in common was the one we were learning. Not only did we learn French together, we discussed the differences between our countries and our cultures, related to all facets of life (food, family, history, law, politics, etc.). I was able to connect with so many unique people and develop a better understanding not only of the Francophone world, but of the world of all of my classmates. In many ways I felt like I was in the United  Nations. I truly think that if we all have the opportunity to learn a language or take any class with peers who are different from us, we will develop a better understanding and stronger appreciation for diversity.
  • Freedom to explore. A student by morning, I had the afternoons free to “go wherever the wind blows” as I like to say. Each week I visited a variety of tourist sites, balancing being a tourist with the fact that I needed to rest, stay in touch with loved ones, plan travel, complete administration work for my university, and prepare for my summer internship. It was so refreshing to have some time all to myself with no boundaries except the ones I created. I took advantage of my free time and learned about centuries of history with disciplines spanning from art, to food, to history, to cuisine, to sports, and more. I think it is important for all of us to take a break from our normal regimented routines in order to expand our minds and allow creativity to come to us.
  • Attention to detail. Each French person has/her own specialty and he/she does it well. The boucherie offers excellent meats, the fromagerie offers world-renown cheeses, the vignoble offers wines that make your taste buds smile, and the boulangerie offers breads and pastries better than you would ever imagine. The architect builds some of the most intriguing buildings in the world and the fashion designer creates styles never seen before that change the world of fashion. I will really miss eating gourmet cheese and drinking gourmet wine as part of my regular routine. The  exquisite attention to detail is unlike any other country I have visited before, and inspires me to have my own specialty.
  • Work-life balance. I have observed that the French prioritize life outside of work just as much as work. The strict labor laws in France dictating a maximum of 35 working hours per week encourages the French to spend time with their families and friends, develop new hobbies, and focus on their health and fitness. While our careers are one of the most rewarding parts of our lives, we have to remember that our lives outside of work can also be enriching. This lesson strongly resonated with me when I first studied abroad in Spain and changed my mindset about how I want to organize my life. My experience only helps that lesson grow stronger as I advance in my career and grow older.
  • Ease of travel. With the small size of countries and access to public transportation, you can be in four different countries with four completely different languages in one day. I took advantage of this while in Paris and traveled to Bordeaux, Normandy, Brittany, Strasbourg, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal during the weeekends.

What I will not miss about studying in France:

  • Poor customer service. This was by far my strongest pet peeve, as I often felt mistreated in restaurants and stores. I realize that expectations for customer service vary by country, especially from the United States where tips encourage excellent service. I wish that there was an international code for customer service, ensuring that whether a person is given a tip or not, he/she will treat customers with respect and a friendly attitude.
  • Overgeneralizing about Americans. Almost every day I heard negative comments about Americans. At first, I accepted the comments as many of them were partially true. After a while, though, it became irritating because not all Americans are the same and we have so many positive qualities about us. The United States is fortunate to have one of the best democracies in the world, equal opportunity for all citizens, innovative businesses, one of the best healthcare systems, and the best university education system. I often wondered, if the people who criticized Americans hate us so much, why are they using an iPhone, listening to Justin Bieber, watching American reality TV, following American politics, wearing Nike shoes, and speaking English? I often felt that people made negative comments to follow the bandwagon of what they have heard in the media. With the current United States political election, I recognize that we are on everyone’s radar throughout the world with the controversies discussed on TV. Rather than fighting back, though, I have chosen to demonstrate the positive qualities of Americans by being an ambassador of sorts. This is food for thought for us as you meet others and represent your citizenship!
  • Overcrowded public transportation. The metro and bus system in Paris are fantastic in principle, but they are often so crowded that it is difficult to breath and get on/off the metro/bus. My commute time to class and tourist sites on the metro was not pleasant, and naturally made me have more of a negative attitude. I learned that the metro system has not been updated recently. With a growing population, it will be necessary to add more public transportation options for Parisians and tourists to ensure the safety and health of the population.
  • Public health issues. While smoking in public has decreased immensely in recent years, I was still amazed by how many youth smoke and throw cigarette butts on the streets in Paris. My exposure to second hand smoke was probably equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, which is dangerous! Besides smoking, hygiene was different than I’m used to even after traveling the world, especially oral hygiene. I have learned that oral hygiene is prioritized more in the United States than in other parts of the world, but I hope it becomes more of an international standard. I have learned from my dad (retired dentist) that oral health is significant to overall health.  Overall hygiene, including oral and body odor, will also help make the crowded public transportation more manageable and pleasant for everyone.

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Combining all of my thoughts, I am so grateful for the personal and professional growth I gained from my experience studying in Paris. As always, the people were what made my experience so memorable, and I am happy that social media will enable us to stay connected. I look forward to continue growing and learning about the world as I travel and work abroad throughout my life.

inspirNational Mindset with French Influence

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Why is it that every time I study abroad or a travel, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulder? Literally and figuratively. I tend to always lose weight despite indulging in the local cuisine. I tend to fell less stressed and more free spirited.

Is it an escape from reality? No, I am still studying, working, paying bills, socializing, and working on my health and fitness.

Is it a lifestyle that is incompatible with my lifestyle at home? No, having traveled to 27 other countries, there are many similarities and transferable lessons I can learn from other countries and bring back home.

Is it the fact that I can speak new languages with new people to learn new perspectives? Yes and more importantly, it is a shift in a perspective. A new mindset. An inspirNational mindset as I have described over the past few years. My inspirNational way of thinking began during my study abroad in Spain. It became a true test when I was in Cleveland, not studying abroad, and had to choose every day whether I wanted to live like a traveler. I applied the mindset to my daily life, seeking opportunities to learn about the world by visiting museums, attending concerts, exploring the city, meeting people from around the world, and teaching English to foreigners to enable them to experience America as I have experienced other countries throughout the world.

As I have always said, having an inspirNational mindset means that you seek new opportunities, try new things, meet new people, think global and act local. It enables you to become more worldly, less stressed, and more open-minded to new opportunities.

Now having lived in France for 3 months, I would like to broaden the mindset and provide more food for thought on the topic. Here are some of my most significant life lessons that I plan to live by upon returning home:

Live simply: Life does not need to be complicated. Eliminate all waste in your life that does not serve you, such as unnecessary stress, negativity, overcommitting, overeating, and dust in your home. Prioritize what matters most to you and focus, rather than trying to do everything or please everyone. With easy access to photos and news from our peers, it is easy to feel “fear of missing out,” but remember that your life is your life. Only you can determine the difference between prioritizing what you want, eliminating excess, and missing out.

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Organize your life: Organize your room, your kitchen, and your plans. Don’t forget to give yourself free time to allow for spontaneity. Related to eliminating clutter, organizing yourself will allow you to find more space for all things creative, for all things that will expand your mind and welcome new ideas and opportunities into your life.

Live in the present: Enjoy each moment and each part of your day. Try to avoid multitasking, especially when you are with loved ones. When I visited my host mom in Salamanca, I noticed that she has little notes throughout her home to remind herself to enjoy each moment, from brushing her teeth to showering to listening to music. By feeling the water and imagining cleansing, her spirit feels cleansed as well.  By listening to music, her mind is at peace and her ears are enjoying the sounds.

Live in faith, not in fear. This study abroad experience has challenged me with threats of terrorism, and fear of not knowing the local language. I only had 6 months of  French preparation before the language immersion, rather than nearly 10 years of Spanish language preparation before my Spanish study abroad. Living in fear brings negativity into your life, and takes energy from what keeps you moving forward. Being cautious is different than being fearful. Watch your surroundings, take care of yourself, take risks within boundaries, but don’t let your nerves overcome you. Have faith, have a vision, work hard, and anything is possible!

I hope these French-influenced insights inspire you to continue to live with an inspirNational mindset!

 

Why Study Abroad More Than Once

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Many of us are confronted with the opportunity to study abroad during our university studies, but what happens if we have an opportunity to study abroad more than once?

My first reaction: Go for it! I was blessed with the opportunity to study Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. I also spent an extended spring break in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as part of one of my corporate growth strategy classes. Now, I am studying French in Paris as a part of my International MBA program at the University of South Carolina.

Why should you study abroad more than once?

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Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Your first study abroad experience is likely going to include a lot of adjustment. It may be your first time outside of your home country or at least away from home for an extended period of time. With this adjustment comes a lot of time spent on learning how to travel alone, how to adapt to a new culture, how to speak a new language, how to stick to a budget, how to be spontaneous, and the list goes on. You gain a lot of wisdom about  yourself and the world around you when you first study abroad. By studying abroad a second time, you can apply that wisdom you gained to make your next journey smoother and more fun.

With less adjustment related to some of the administrative details of travel, you will be able to focus more on on introspection and personal growth. Studying abroad provides with more time to work on “you” – changing your dietary habits, improving your fitness habits, becoming more multicultural and globally aware, and learning a new language. I have been actively working on enjoying each morsel of food rather than feeling the need to indulge. I am also becoming trilingual and adding France to my list of places where I can live and work one day.

While studying abroad a second time, your priorities will likely change, as every year we grow older (and hopefully wiser :). For example, life circumstances, such as relationships, may make you less focused on dating in your new country and instead experiencing places alone or with your significant other. Perhaps your first study abroad experience you learned that you can’t travel every weekend without feeling stressed. You may realize that you want to travel more or less during your study abroad experience. After my time in Salamanca, where I traveled every weekend, I realized that this time I would prefer to travel less and become fully immersed in the Parisian life. My friends in Paris have also discussed blogging and how they forgot to write about their experiences the first time studying abroad and  would like to share their experiences with their families. In my case, I have decided to change my approach to blogging. While in Spain, I wrote a blog post every day about my agenda and travels. Now in France, I prefer to focus on stories, personal reflections, and lessons that I can share with others.

During my second study abroad experience, I have been much more comfortable with alone time, planning solo travel and  visiting sites independent from my school field trips. This is the result of learning how fascinating solo travel can be, as you can shape your trips according to your own personal interests, you can pause when you want, and most importantly, you can reflect about the world around you. Learn more about why you (especially women) should travel alone in one of my previous posts here. I especially enjoyed last weekend when I traveled to London alone, experiencing the Chunnel for the first time. I stayed with one of my good friends, but she had already visited many of the tourist sites that interested me, so I explored solo. Together we did a Sandemann’s walking tour of London (which I highly recommend!), attended the Phantom of the Opera performance at Her Majesty Theatre, played trivia with the Belsize Rugby Club, and enjoyed fish and chips and Indian cuisine. Then, I visited the Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London alone. I also went on a solo day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury. I was fascinated to learn about the royal history in London, the primitive culture in Stonehenge, the Roman influence in Bath, and the democratic influence of the Magna Carta at the Salisbury Cathedral. I was able to reflect about all of these curiosities while walking around the sites, taking photographs, and riding on the bus between destinations. I also felt encouraged to meet new people and spark conversations with others attending the tours with me. While on the Golden Tours trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, I met an interesting woman who considered herself to be a global citizen, with a background in Spain, England, the United States, and now Israel. We had a fascinating discussion about life in Israel and the importance of serving your country in order to develop stronger patriotism and respect for all that your country does for you. Had I not traveled solo, I may not have sparked a conversation with her!

My conversation with the woman from Israel reminded me the importance of being a global citizen in today’s interdependent world. Studying abroad more than once will demonstrate to your future employers that you are globally aware, multicultural, adaptable, and potentially multilingual. As companies continue to expand to more countries and we all become more connected through the wonders of modern technology, it is important for all of us to develop global understanding. Studying abroad provides further depth of understanding about the world than a quick vacation, so I strongly encourage you to search for these opportunities while you are a student.

When you are faced with the choice and you have the budget, I hope that you will study abroad at least once. The world is at your finger tips if you are willing to do the research to find affordable travel, housing, and education options! If you are considering studying abroad in Europe, you can learn more about how to travel Europe on a budget here.

Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

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We often learn about all the adventurous and joyful stories of studying abroad. But what happens when life gets in the way? Studying and living abroad are very exciting life experiences, but they come with challenges. Below are some of the common challenges I have faced and insights about how to overcome them to make the most of your time abroad.

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Source: expatexchange.com

Insomnia: Time differences and foreign beds make insomnia a likely occurrence when moving abroad, especially when you first arrive to the destination. I experienced this intensely when I studied in Spain a few years ago. It took me almost a week to adjust to the time difference! Now in Paris, it took me no time whatsover to adjust to the time difference. My secret this time was to not take a nap when I first arrived on a Thursday morning, and to instead go to bed early that evening. I have experienced insomnia in recent days, likely related to doing too much (e-mails, studying, blogs, social media, chatting with friends) before bed. This is common for me even at home so I need to remember to give myself time to disconnect and unwind before bed.

Adapting to food: With a new destination comes new cuisine and dietary habits. I like to call myself a fish for the large quantity of water I prefer to drink. In Europe, I have felt like I have been living in a dessert because of the small portions of liquids and tiny cups to fill with water. In class, I bring two cups of water to make sure I stay hydrated throughout the day. I encourage you to bring a water bottle that you can easily refill (assuming that water is sanitary in your destination). It is also challenging to adapt to the timing of meals, quantity of food, and food content. For example, in the United States, I am used to Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast at around 8am, a salad or sandwich for lunch at around 12pm, a protein bar at around 3pm, and meat/carbs/vegetables for dinner at 6:30pm. I have learned to let go of this expectation, as it is common to not eat snacks in France and to have dinner at 8pm (or 9pm for my host family). Despite Americans having a reputation for eating poorly, I have learned that I actually have access to more fruits and vegetables in the United States than in France. I have learned that Parisians often eat fruit as a dessert rather than a staple food for meals. Vegetables are often cooked or are prepared in soups rather than in the form of a salad. I have adapted to this custom, but also make sure to purchase salads and fruit when I eat at restaurants. Enjoying the local cuisine is part of learning process of living abroad, but make sure that you maintain a balanced diet to keep your digestive system in check!

Living with a host family and cultural differences: This is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into a new language and culture! However with that immersion comes the expectation that you will adjust your routines and adapt your behaviors to mesh well with your new family. It is sometimes difficult to let go of everything you know. Before moving abroad, I encourage you to research your new destinations and customs. For example, it is an adjustment for Americans to get used to the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek, rather than a handshake. The more informed you are about the new culture before arriving, the more mentally prepared you will feel. However, don’t be afraid of the unexpected – this is part of the adventure! I am still trying to figure out why my host family closes every door of every room in the house – but I am starting to realize it is a habit of privacy, which is less common in the United States and respectable in some ways. Adaptability is one of the most important life skills, especially in the ever-changing global world where we live.

Keeping in touch with loved ones: Time differences and new schedules make it difficult to contact our loved ones. However, modern technology has been a God-sent in our mobile world. My favorite communication tools are WhatsApp (free international messaging and calling) and Facebook messenger (which now allows international calling). I also plan Skype dates with friends and family to have an “as-close-as-possible” experience to chatting in-person. Postcards also seem to be a more thoughtful approach to staying in touch, since they take more effort and are a flashback to the past of international communication. I encourage you to use all the new applications, but don’t forget to be a little old-fashioned and send postcards, letters, and packages to stay in touch with your loved ones!

Making friends: This is often what intimidates people the most when moving abroad, especially because of language and culture barriers. A university setting caters to social networking with planned activities and field trips for students. For those outside of the university setting, check out http://www.meetup.com which provides networking groups related to any and all topics (local events, sports, arts, dating, etc.). I have enjoyed attending expat events in Paris, which includes expats from around the world. We can all relate to the adjustments involved in moving to Paris! Also, for those hoping to learn local languages, check out conversation circles. Especially if you speak English, many countries have conversation exchanges between English and the local language. I look forward to trying this in Paris. It is a win-win for me to practice French and help others practice English!

For those of you considering or in the process of moving abroad, you may face these challenges like I have, but I hope that you remember with any challenge comes a solution. Now that more and more people are moving abroad, there are more advice articles than ever before. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about moving abroad!

United by the Circle of Life

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After traveling across three continents and studying intensively in three countries, I am realizing that while it is easy to focus on differences between cultures, it is even more interesting to focus on similarities.

Religion, culture, language, and customs may divide us, but we are all connected by the core purposes of life: milestones, values, relationships, careers, memories of the past and hopes for the future. I am going to combines these core purposes of life and describe them as the circle of life. We are all united by the circle of life.

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Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

I have been reminded of this unity recently while living with my host family in Paris. Almost every evening, we enjoy dinner together and have interesting conversations about life

The Joys of Being a New GrandparentOn Friday, my host family welcomed their first grandson into the world. My host mom discussed how excited she was to share in the “new grandparent” experience with her husband. She described that when women deliver their own baby, mothers and fathers cannot relate. The mother already knows the baby after nine months of carrying it. The dad meets the baby right when it is born. However, grandparents can share in the experience of just meeting the baby because it is new to both of them. This is an exciting time for my host family, which is relevant to any family throughout the world with new grandchildren.

Celebrating 33 Years of MarriageI had a dinner with my host dad one night and discussed the secrets of a lifelong marriage. He and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in December, beating the odds of only a 51% marriage success rate in France (very similar odds in the United States as well). He said, first of all, there are no secrets. You have to make your marriage work in your own way. He also described that communication is the most important part of a successful relationship- catching up on each other’s days, discussing successes and failures, and overcoming conflicts. He said he follows his dad’s advice to never go to bed angry. With the challenges of marriage throughout the world, I was intrigued to learn insights about successful marriage in France.

The Purpose of Strikes: Last week, Paris experienced another strike with taxis blocking the streets and requesting higher wages. I learned from my host family how common strikes are in Paris and how they are always related to money. My host family was frustrated with the strike’s disruption to the city and the corruption of Paris’ tax and immigration policies. While our conversation remained politically neutral, it was interesting for me to learn that debates related to social change, taxes, and immigration are present no matter where we live or travel. We are united by our societal challenges, and diverse in our responses and reactions to these challenges.

Stop Striving for Perfection: One of the most insightful life conversations we had was how people are striving for perfection in their careers and relationships. My host family emphasized that perfection is not realistic. There is no perfect job or perfect spouse. People are “job hopping” more now than ever before, assuming that the “grass will be greener on the other side.” In reality, there are no greener pastures, just greener perspectives of the situations we face. In the past, my host family said that they were just grateful to have a job and a steady wage. If they didn’t enjoy their job, they would focus their energy outside of work rather than letting their job consume them. My host family also described that people are also getting divorced too soon, giving up before giving it their all. Now people are expecting so much more and rarely feeling satisfied. I can attest to these sentiments from my own experience and that of my friends, especially those of us in our 20s. The post-college decade is full of uncertainty, change, and striving for the perfect life rather than focusing on the good in today. I posed a question to my host parents, asking how they think we can all stop striving for perfection. They said they didn’t know, but knew it was possible. My proposition is to first stop comparing our lives to others (which is easier today with access to friends and family’s life updates on social media). After, we should create our lives as we see fit, combining our upbringing with what we learn as we live and travel throughout the world.

Each of these circle of life conversations sparks thoughtful insights that we can learn no matter where we are in the world. What life conversations have you had during your travels?

Suivez votre bonne étoile

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“Suive votre bonne étoile” = “Follow your lucky star”

The tagline of my new favorite parfum, Étoile, from the Fragonard Parfumeur really resonates with me and describes how I have been living in Paris. While I generally have goals, a basic itinerary and places to visit each day, I am allowing spontaneity to direct me. In some ways, I feel that living spontaneously has been my lucky star.

Every day after French class, I leave in a new direction to explore the surrounding neighborhoods of Paris. My adventures started in L’Opera district, Notre Dame, and Montmarte last week. I also spent the weekend on a Seine River cruise, wine tasting at O’Chateau (I highly recommend this to you!), and trying tapas in the Montorgueil neighborhood. This week, I have had no official plans and have stumbled on some very intriguing areas and interesting experiences.

Starting on Sunday, I went on a run from Pont Mirabeau along the Seine River towards the Eiffel Tower. I stumbled upon dozens of tents selling antiques.  It was amazing to see antiques (furniture, paintings, jewelry, trinkets, and more) that were from as early as the 1500-1600s. I was most struck by letters written from the last two centuries, capturing brief moments in Parisians’ lives throughout history. I knew that antiquing was popular in the United States, but not in Paris! I told my host family about this and they said that antiquing is a trend in Paris, and you can actually find pretty affordable items at these markets. While at this point I am not ready to buy antiques, I will remember this when I am decorating my future home.

Yesterday, I planned to walk to Champs d’Elysses after class. En route, I found several cute boutiques and luxury stores and let myself get distracted. With the soldes happening until the beginning of February, it is the ideal time to shop and plan what you will need in the coming months, because soldes only happen twice a year in Paris. I shopped for clothes for my nieces at Chocolat et Tartin (couldn’t resist the most stylish toddler clothes I have ever seen) and had some luck at Zara.  I bought the cutest, most Parisian party shoes that I could find, along with a new black top and washed jeans. I then came across Chaise Longue, which has become one of my favorite places to buy cadeaus for family and friends. The best word I can think of to describe it is quirky, with interesting and unique gifts that are destined to make my loved ones chuckle. I bought an adorable Parisian umbrella and gifts for my parents, which I can’t reveal in case they are reading this :). One of my new expat friends, Chen, stopped by to show me Parisian highlights near L’Opera district. We walked along the Seine River to Pont des Artes, Place St. Michel and through Quartier Latin, which was so lively and welcoming. I was inspired to have a sunset picnic like the locals when mon copain visits me in March. It was interesting to learn from a Chinese-turned-French citizen about living in Paris and previously studying at the University of Lyon. Brag moment: we spoke almost the entire time in French! Imagine a native Mandarin-speaker and a native-English speaker communicating in French; I’m sure the locals were confused if they overheard us! With all the walking, I was starving, so I stopped for une tarte de framboise and un verre du vin rouge. It was the perfect way to end the day and people-watch in Quartier Latin.

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Today after class, I again planned to visit Champs d’Elysses. On my way there, I came across the Musee de Parfum, Fragonard. I learned that there were free museum tours and was intrigued.  I entered the museum, and without realizing it at first, joined a tour group of French senior citizens (mostly women) for a French tour of the museum. I am sure I was out of place, but no one said anything (despite a few glares), and it was interesting to learn about the museum in French to test my comprehension. The tour guide explained the history of the creation of perfume, and specifically Fragonard parfum starting shortly before the First World War. I learned about the olfactive triangle, which was fascinating to discover that a parfumeur is like an artist, combining different levels of scents that appeal to the nose. It was interesting to learn that the founder, Eugene Fuch’s intent was to encourage tourists to take home a “scent of France” from their travels. I was easily convinced to be one of those tourists. At the end of the tour, we were able to sample several fragrances, and I fell in love with the first one, Étoile. I purchased eau de parfum and body lotion. Upon leaving the store, I noticed a crowd of women near stems of what looked like yellow flowers or pines on the ground. One of the ladies informed me that the museum was throwing away extra sprigs of mimosa and we were free to take them. I left the museum with new parfum and a bouquet of mimosa. I’m sure I looked silly carrying freshly cut mimosa flowers as I continued walking throughout the streets of Paris towards Champs d’Elysses.

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My next discovery was a beautiful park near the Grand Palais (which is another site I hope to visit soon). I sat on a park bench and enjoyed the fresh air. I was reminded of the importance of pausing and reflecting – it is easy for me to forget to do this in my daily life in the U.S.

Alas, I reached my desired destination of Champs d’Elysses. At this point I was starting to feel exhausted and was carrying a bouquet of mimosas, which limited me from doing a lot of shopping. I did, however, walk by the Renault store, which sparked my curiosity, because I have studied international business strategy cases about Renault in my IMBA program. I decided to enter the store. Right away, I noticed that their front display included Michelin tires, which was exciting for me as they will become part of my daily language this summer. The next displays showed the latest electric cars and highlighted that Renault sells the most electric cars in Europe. I was impressed to see that the store had a restaurant for customers to relax and recharge while shopping for new vehicles.

Who knew that one afternoon in Paris could combine learning about the history of parfum and the future of mobility and electric cars? C’est la vie de la spontanéité! I truly believe that I have had such diverse and exciting experiences because I have enabled spontaneity in my new Parisian life. I am going to continue follow my lucky star, which is a spontaneous, cheerful, and grateful path to being inspirNational in my daily life.