Friday, June 21

I register for classes, take a walk up by the Seine, and experience la Fête de la Musique.

This morning I went to the Sorbonne and registered for my French classes. I got my student ID card.

The information book looks pretty serious. 2 hours each morning of grammar lectures. 1 hour each day in a phonetics lab, but only for 4 of the 8 weeks. Lectures in the afternoon for 3 hours, 3 days per week, on culture, literature, art, history, music, etc. This averages out to 20 hours per week in the classrooms. Lots of textbooks, homework and "continuous evaluation". The classes start on July 4 and end on August 30, for 8 weeks total. "Successful" students, of which I hope to be one, are awarded a French language certificate. Sounds intense.

This afternoon I took a written and oral placement test. Everyone takes the same one, so the questions ranged from really easy to really hard. I think I did OK on the grammar section. I only left 3 blank because I had no idea and had to guess on a few more. Then there was a paragraph from literature and we had to answer written questions. I answered all but two of them which required understanding some words that I just don't know. Then we had to listen to someone telling a story and answer written questions. That was horrible. As usual I understood almost nothing. Then we had to write an essay about what we think our life will be like 10 years from now. Not too bad. I filled the page with platitudes in hopefully almost correct French. Finally, we had to converse with a teacher in French for a few minutes, and that went OK except she spoke very softly and even with my hearing aids it was difficult to hear her, but she understood. I will find out my level and my class schedule week after next shortly before classes start, via email. I'm not concerned. They'll put me where I belong, I'm sure. They do this many thousands of times each year and know better than I what they're doing. Should be interesting.

There was a big crowd of students taking the test. They were almost all youngsters. Only a couple of other older people like me.

The Sorbonne uses an international standard for foreign languages with 6 levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. The A levels are for beginners. B1 is intermediate. B2 is advanced. The C levels are "superior". The Sorbonne offers all levels this summer except C2.

My charming tiny studio apartment on rue Rollin. What you see in this photo is about half of the total 200 square feet of living space. Very cute and comfortable.

Lunch. A fresh warm baguette from the boulangerie, butter, and some Camembert cheese from Normandy. With a glass of wine, of course. It tastes so very good. We really can't get this kind of bread in the states.

My legs and feet are a bit sore this morning from the massive amount of walking I did yesterday. But it feels good and I'll get my "Paris legs" soon.

I located my local Franprix supermarket. Scored some bath soap and filters for the coffee machine.

Now I switch gears and focus on some major tourism, starting tomorrow. I think I'll do the mandatory visit to the Eiffel tower and get it over with. I'm not a huge fan but it's required. Perhaps a long walk around the surrounding neighborhood will be interesting. I suspect so. And it will be my introduction to the famous métro system here. There's 20 lines that go everywhere in Paris. They crisscross and figuring out the best way to get from A to B can be quite a puzzle for the uninitiated. Fortunately, there's an app for that! I'll buy packets of 10 tickets at a time to make it a bit easier and cheaper, because I'm going to be using it a lot over the next 12 weeks.

Just got back from a long walk and pilgrimage. Here's the story: When I was here 7 years ago I saw the handsome statue of Montagne in the picture above, across rue des Écoles from the Sorbonne. I took this picture. When I got home I noticed that his toe is very shiny and wondered why. My old boss Ben Mittman, who lives in Paris half of every year, told me it was because people rub it for good luck. So I promised that next time I was in Paris I would rub it for good luck. Hence today's pilgrimage. The toe has been well-rubbed. Took rue Descartes and rue des Écoles up to the old Sorbonne building. It's not far. Like those street names!

In French I could say "Je like ces noms des rues". My teacher told us that thanks to FB, "liker" has become a verb in French, much to the disgust of the purists. Yes, a regular -er verb as far as I know. Je like, tu likes, il like, nous likons, vous likez, ils likent, j'ai liké, je likerai, je likerais, etc.

After the toe-rubbing, I continued on up towards the river and stopped at Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris shown in the picture above. It's the only Roman architecture church in Paris (as opposed to Gothic). Today it is a Melkite Greek Catholic parish church. It was built in the 13th century. In English the name is "Church of Saint Julian the Poor".

Saw a poster for a Chopin and Beethoven concert Sunday afternoon in the church that I think I'll go to. I'm not at all a classical music fan but it sounds pleasant.

Then I went over to the Shakespeare & Co bookstore, but there was a huge mob of tourists and a long line just to go in, so I skipped it and crossed over to Île de la Cité and Notre Dame, also filled with wall-to-wall tourists. Yuck. Crossed over to Île Saint-Louis and got a cone at Berthillons. 2.50 euros and just a tiny dab of ice cream. Very good, but a rip-off. Crossed back over to the west bank over Pont de la Tournelle and came home down rue du Cardinal Lemoine. A long walk, mostly very nice, except for the crowds up by the river. I'm lucky to be in a bit of a more residential area with fewer tourists.

I have a very good sense of direction but it has failed me completely here because of all the twisty streets. Thank goodness for my offline map app. It saved me half a dozen times today. When I left Île Saint-Louis I found myself on the right bank instead of the left bank by mistake. Very confusing to be so disoriented nearly all the time. I first realized my mistake when I noticed that the people on the right bank were all much better dressed than over on the left bank, especially des femmes élégantes. Funny but true.

I was woken from a nap by loud noises, so went out to see what was up. A little rock band had set up on a Friday night on the corner and was playing great old tunes that I know well - Losing My Religion, Downtown Girl, Hello I Love You, etc. So I poured a glass of wine and went out to join the crowd. All sorts of people were dancing and enjoying the evening. Very very nice. The five musicians are taking a break right now. When they start up again I'll go back out.

Wow is Place de la Contrescarpe ever rocking tonight. Thousands of people eating, drinking, listening to music and dancing. Another band was doing rather good covers of Amy Winehouse songs and drew a huge crowd. Shoulder to shoulder people. Insane. Now another all-male band that's quite good has started up on my corner. It's 11 PM here and there's no sign of this slowing down. Quite the contrary. I'm going back out now to enjoy the scene. Not just young people - also old folks, families with kids in strollers, all kinds, all having a great time. Heard one Rolling Stones tune that I swear they did better than the Stones themselves. Or maybe that's just the wine (which I have sadly now finished).

It's midnight and a new band has started up. Here they are belting out Born to be Wild, very much the crowd sing-along favorite. Also a rousing version of the Doors' When the Music's Over - "We want the world and we want it NOW". These guys are really good.

I gave up and came in. It's 1:30. Yet another band is out there. That's a Janis Joplin tune I hear out my window, I think. Sounds good. They seem to like old American music here, and that's OK with me, because I'm an old American!

So what was all that music and partying all about? It's called La Fête de la Musique, a holiday in France. All the musicians go outside and play for free, and all the people go outside to listen and party. What a thrill to be able to experience it on my second night in Paris!