Lesson learned this week: Always. Carry. Cash. In. Europe.
Unfortunately this key lesson was learned the hard, and very French, way. Let me explain.
On Tuesday's and Thursday's my first class isn't until 2pm at the IES Abroad Center. It's about a 40-minute (or 50 if I miss the bus) trip from my homestay in the 16e and so I have to plan my morning schedule accordingly. This particular morning I had a whole day planned out perfectly. I'd sleep in until 11, get dressed and ready for the day, meet my roommate for lunch at our favorite neighborhood boulangerie, Eric Kayser (whose smells of warm bread wafting onto the street literally grab you and pull you inside) at 12, and then head to a café near school where I'd have a coffee and finish my homework. For the first half of the morning, everything was going to plan. I arrived at the boulangerie promptly, and due to a credit card minimum of 7€-no big deal, I thought-I opted for the full "menu" lunch including a drink, sandwich, and yogurt. I then hopped on the metro and marched unknowingly into the cafe that had seemed so student friendly when I had passed in mornings or late afternoons.
Well, when I walked in this day, they were in the height of their lunch rush, and not a single person was doing anything other than eating a full formal lunch (*another important cultural lesson: the French like to keep closely to their eating schedules. Just as eating lunch at 3 is unacceptable, having a coffee and studying during the lunch hours of 12-2 is wholly inappropriate.) By the time I realized this, however, it was too late, and I had already been seated tightly next to another table of women whose bags had to be moved to accomadate me, and whose glasses I knocked off of the table when shimmying into my spot. Just as soon as I had finished apologizing, the server looked over and informed me that, in fact, I was supposed to sit at another table entirely. Leaving any dignity I had left at the table, I sheepishly shimmied my way BACK OUT from my seat and relocated to the centrally located, white table-clothed table to which I had been relegated. Clearly, I was off to an auspicious start. I decided I would just grab a quick coffee, keep my head down, and get the HECK out as soon as I could slurp down my 4€ café creme. At 1:30 I asked for the check. At 1:35 I learned of the 15€ credit card minimum. Oh how quickly things can escalate from bad to worse. I racked my brain for any other solution and finally came to the conclusion I had no other option than to order the smallest 11€ item, which was an open faced cheese and ham tartine with a side salad. And fries. Naturally, it was "impossible"(queue insulted grimace) to take anything to go at this, the classiest of establishments. I wanted to scream, "EXCUSEZ-MOI, MONSIEUR, BUT YOUR MENUS ARE LAMINATED. AND IN A BINDER." Instead, I did what any street savvy girl would do and I shot the server a piercing glare and I buckled down to dig into my second lunch (it was honestly pretty good). I then sprinted to class, where I was forced to breathlessly recount and relive the harrowing event all over again in French. So, please, whatever you do, JUST stop at an ATM first.
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<p>Hi, I'm Katie Johnsen, a 3rd year student at the University of Virginia. I am a Media Studies and French double major studying abroad in Paris this semester in the Business & International Affairs program. I enjoying writing, photography, and exploring new places and people, and am excited to share my abroad experiences with you!</p>