A Recap of My First Two Weeks: Week 2

Here we go into week two of my study abroad experience in Paris!

Since I didn’t have anything to do the Monday after my hike, I slept in and got plenty of rest. This was a lazy day for me, as I did laundry for the first time, and Danielle spent the day doing chores around the house. I don’t even think I left the house that day and I just worked on getting myself organized with all the paperwork I had to do (immigration stuff, school, bank, etc.) I had the entire week free to do whatever I wanted because classes didn’t start until the next week, so I decided to go to some museums on Tuesday.

I started looking into it, and realized that all national French museums are closed on Tuesdays, so the major museums were off limits, but City of Paris Museums are open Tuesdays and closed Mondays so I started looking into those. Danielle gave me a little booklet of all the “free” museums of the city of Paris (so non-national museums) and I decided to explore a few of those.

Tuesday morning, I got dolled up, packed up my Paris tour guide and maps and headed to the metro. It was super windy and not great weather but I wore my favorite hat anyways. Gotta look fashionable in Paris, right?

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So I took the metro and got off at the Place de Bastille, which for anyone who isn’t a Francophile and doesn’t really now about France’s history, I’ll fill you in on the significance. Shortly after our own revolution, France had a revolution of its own, in which the common people revolted against the nobility and eventually overthrew and beheaded King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, and became a republic. I’m sure you’ve all heard a little about that, but anyway, on July 14th, 1789 the peasants of Paris rioted against the royal regime by storming the Bastille, which was a fortress and prison at the time and seen as a symbol of royal power. The French people violently overthrew the prison, stole the weapons and gunpowder from the building, and did some beheading/head-on-a-stick parading around the city. These actions and many more eventually led to the publishing of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France’s first declaration as well as their first constitution which was inspired by ours. La la la, and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had their heads chopped off by a guillotine and blah blah blah France was free. Fast forward to now: The Bastille prison was demolished, but a monument, Place de la Bastille, was erected and remains a symbol of an important time in France’s history.

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I took a few pictures of the monument and tried to appreciate it’s significance, and was reminded of how much history you can find in this city. I did my best to follow a map to the first museum I chose to go to, and it’s harder than it might seem! I come from Albuquerque, where the streets compose pretty much a picture perfect grid. Here in Paris the streets do whatever the flip they want to do, and go in all directions and aren’t always clearly marked. I was in the Marais district of Paris, which is in parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Since the weather wasn’t great, and the holiday season just ended, it was not very crowded and very pleasant. There were many stores, both affordable and completely out of my league, and many nice restaurants, galleries and hotels.

The first museum I successful found on my own was called Musée Carnavalet, and it is basically just a museum about the history of Paris. There are many collections ranging from the time of the Romans, Medieval times, the Renaissance, Louis XIV Le Roi du Soleil, (The Sun King), Louis XVI and the French Revolution, Napoleon and La Belle Epoque, all the way to modern Paris. It features paintings, sketches, sculptures, photos, and many pieces of furniture and recreations of famous places and historic figure’s bedrooms, and stuff like that. It was a lot to look at but I enjoyed it a lot, especially since I was almost always by myself in the exhibit rooms (aside from the sleeping security guards.) I found some of the art beautiful and I found some of it totally unappealing, but it was a great museum, especially for being free. I also enjoyed the museum’s building itself, which was two old mansions combines together to make one big museum with a nice garden in the middle.

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When I finished there, I found my way to the next free museum on my list, and it was very close to the other one, which is how I designed my route for the day. The second museum was called Musée Cognacq-Jay, and it actually didn’t end up being free for me, I’m not sure why but I think it had to do with a special exhibit they had going on at the time. Luckily, many places offer discounts to young people between 18 and about 27 years old, especially if you have a student card, so I paid a reduced rate of €6 and walked through the museum, which houses the personal collections of Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, who founded the French department store, La Samaritaine, which I’ve never heard of. The collection was made up of many different categories of fine art, and I found myself a little confused at how the rooms were organized. Sometimes there seemed to a be a theme or reason for putting certain pieces together, and other times it just seemed like they placed the pieces where they would fit and the pieces throughout the room had nothing to do with each other. There was a large amount of authentic stage costumes, dresses, and other clothing pieces. There were many paintings, including some by Rembrandt, Degas, and Cézanne. There were photographs, decorative furniture and Chinese ceramics. It was a pretty impressive collection of mostly 18th century art with more modern pieces mixed it and I enjoyed the variety. I spent a good amount of time looking around to make sure I got my 6 euros worth and then left the museum to move on to the next.

By this time I was starving and I felt like my bra was trying to squeeze me to death, and it was pretty cold, but I set out to visit three museums that day and damn it, I was going to do it! There were many small restaurants and I was craving a crepe, but in all my frugalness, I didn’t want to spend the money to go to a café, and I was focused on my map trying to find the last museum. I originally was going to visit this museum first but I seriously couldn’t find it earlier in the day so I was worried about finding it. Turns out I had been right there next to it that morning, but didn’t look closely enough, but I made it there in the end.

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This museum was la Maison de Victor Hugo a Paris, and the author, poet, and dramatist actually lived there until 1848. He is obviously a very famous figure here in France, but most of my fellow Americans have only heard of a couple of his works: Les Misérables, and Notre-Dame de Paris, (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). The museum has done their best to recreate the décor and layout of his apartment, and it features rooms that recreate rooms from homes he had outside Paris during his period of exile from France, due to his political beliefs. There are also portraits and statues of Hugo throughout the museum, which he obviously didn’t have on his walls at the time he lied there, but they are also just featuring works in his honor. There is even a large bust of Hugo’s head, sculpted by Rodin. I’m not sure how much of the furniture and décor was authentically owned by Hugo, but I think they did their best to make it look as it did when he lived there, even down to the carpet. There was a really cool Chinese themed living room, a medieval dinning room, his study, and his bedroom, all decorated as he and his wife most likely had them. There were also some of Victor Hugo’s own sketches on the walls. This is another free museum of the City of Paris, but I did pay €5 to see an exhibition on Hugo’s plays and theater representations of them. It was a nice little exhibit mostly of photos of actual theater performances of his pieces, usually from back in the early 1900’s, but I did somewhat feel like I wasted my money to see it because it was only over plays I had never heard of with famous French people who I also had never heard of, so it was harder to appreciate.

 

When I came out of the museum, it was raining pretty hard, and I had luckily decided to pack my umbrella in my purse even though it was heavy. By now, I was really starving so I stopped at a boulangerie, which is just a bakery where you can get croissants, pastries, bread, sandwiches, etc. I got a jambon beurre, which is simply thinly sliced ham and butter on a baguette. It might sound kinda weird, but it is actually pretty tasty, and they are relatively cheap for a large sandwich. I also got a pain au chocolat, which is just a pastry with chocolate inside. I ate on my way back to the metro at Place de Bastille, and headed home. My first day of exploration alone went pretty well, and I’m hoping to go to more of the free museums of Paris, and I have my eyes on many national museums as well! I think the rest of the night was spent in the house, probably talking to someone on the phone, as I have done a lot so far at night.

 

Wednesday, I got ready and headed to school for a welcome orientation meeting for the international students. We were supposed to be there by noon, so I figured there was going to be an actual meeting at that time, but the entire first hour was dedicated to mingling in the lobby with the other students. We all put on stickers with the flag of our home country, and at first everyone flocks to other people from their countries. I found the circle of Americans and already knew several of them from my French seminar, and introduced myself to the others. Again, I was the only person from the western part of the country (I think the closest to me was a couple girls from the University of Oklahoma.) As far as I know, I am also the only one from America who is the ONLY person from their school to be at Dauphine. We all talked a little about classes, our housing situations, and stuff like that, and ate croissants and pastries with juice, provided by the school. A couple of my new friends from the seminar and I started wandering around to mingle with other people, and we met a few new people from all around the world which is such a cool experience. After about an hour, we were filed into a small amphitheater for the actual welcome meeting.

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The president of the school (I think) spoke for a few minutes to welcome us and fill us in on the history of Dauphine. The building that houses the university was NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) headquarters until the late 1960’s, and it was then converted into a University, and in 1968 Dauphine was born. Dauphine’s goal is to have the largest number of international students in any Paris University, and I’m sure it’s well on its way, because there are a LOT. The director of the International Relations Office spoke most of the rest of the time, going over practical stuff and how things work at this university. They also handed out T-shirts to all of us, and had a trivia game where the correct answer got you a ticket for a ride in a bateau mouche, which are the riverboats that take you on tours of the Seine.

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There was also a presentation from the DEE (Dauphine Erasmus Exchange) association, who are French Dauphine students who organize events for international students. They have events every Thursday night at a different Parisian bar; they also offer a weekend trip to Brussels, and much more, so I’m looking forward to that stuff.

The meeting was very informative, and also was the start of my biggest stress so far here, which was when they informed us that we were only allowed to take a max of two FLE (French as a foreign language) courses, and I had signed up for three. No where on Dauphine’s website does it say you can only take two of these courses, and I was counting on three in order to come home with enough credits for a French minor. The French minor is important to me and I want to use my time here to try to master the language and earn something to show for all the work I’ve put into it, so I needed to figure something out. I tried not to get too stressed about the class and made plans to go to dinner with one of my American friends, Romina, who comes from Boston University. The plans ended up falling through because we were both too tired to go out, but she invited me to hang out with her the next day and go to the Erasmus (exchange student) bar party. Had another crappy homemade meal for dinner.. (I’m still getting the hang of grocery shopping and cooking for myself.)

Thursday ended up being probably the worst day I have had here so far.. I woke up bright and early to get to school and sort out this class situation with the international office. I arrived around 12, which looking back was a stupid idea because I already knew about their lunch obsession here, but at the meeting they bragged about how they stay open most days during the lunch hours. So yes, they were open, but the person I needed to see had just gone to lunch when I arrived, and there’s not much to do on campus, and not very good seating around the school, so I just waited outside her office for a whole hour until she got back from lunch. When I finally got to see her, she informed me that there are no exceptions, only two FLE courses. She also informed me that UNM had a special agreement with Dauphine and preferred that I take courses from a specific department: Magistère de Sciences de Gestion, which UNM has NEVER told me. She told me I was going to have to go see the counselor for that department to try and get into some French classes there. She called the counselor, Astrid, who told her that she was just about to head to lunch and to come by around 2:30. So I had to sit around for yet another hour to go talk to someone else.

I at least did something productive, which was go get myself registered for my student ID card, but then I still had a lot of time to waste before it was time to go see Astrid. I went to check out the school cafeteria, which is pretty sweet. You get a full meal with appetizer, entrée, sides and a desert for €3,50, which is AMAZING. I looked around and there were tons of different choices to pick from, and they looked pretty good, but I was too intimidated to actually eat. I was afraid I would mess up, or they wouldn’t let me eat without my student ID yet, or I wouldn’t be able to find a place to sit, and end up like Cady Heron eating lunch in the bathroom stall.

Finally, it was time to go see Astrid, who explained to me that I had several choices from the courses in Magistère de Sciences de Gestion, it was just a matter of picking the ones that interested me most and fit my schedule. Sounded easy enough, but then she started rambling off names of courses I couldn’t understand, showed me a breakdown of the credits, which were less than the rest of my classes, and informed me that all these classes started at least two weeks ago!! Everything she was going over made no sense to me, I couldn’t understand the way things work here as far as registering, class dates, credits, exams, everything was too much, and I became overwhelmed and suddenly started crying.. I tried not too, but I broke down because I thought everything was perfectly fine and then suddenly found out I have to change my whole schedule around and be in upper level courses with actual native French speakers. She was very comforting and assured me that we would get everything worked out and that they want their students to feel like they have help. She told me to look over the list of courses and their syllabi and choose whatever I wanted. There was about 13 classes to choose from in all, mostly in French, and I realized that all the students in Magistère de Sciences de Gestion take the exact same schedule of all of these courses. They take like 13 classes throughout the week and are all in the exact same schedule. I don’t know how they can do that; I get overwhelmed with 6 classes. Obviously I didn’t need to take all the classes, but I had to choose something that will get me enough credits for my French minor.

I spent the rest of the day worrying about if I couldn’t get into these classes because I’m so late, and worried they would be too hard. I worried about UNM’s French department deciding to not accept the new courses for credit, and then I would have to take more French when I got home. I was mad at the fact that Dauphine never told us we could only take two FLE courses until the week before school starts. I was mad that UNM didn’t tell me they had a specific contract and wanted certain classes. Everything was so confusing and uncertain and I just felt really down. So, that whole day just killed my vibe, and I ended up deciding that I didn’t want to get ready and go out to the Erasmus bar party, which I am sad about because my friends said it ended up being really fun, and they went to a night club after and had a blast. I wish I would have gone but I just felt like crap and decided to go next week. The one (almost) upside to the day was that I received a package from my mom, which had my new pair of glasses, my new horizontal (21 year old) NM driver’s license ;) my filtered water bottle, a French grammar book from one of my old classes, and the best thing: a jar of El Pinto Salsa! This was almost great because I found out they charged a 54 euro tax to receive the 5 pound package, which I had to pay back to Danielle, after the 60 something dollars my mom paid to ship it! Lesson: avoid sending/receiving international packages.

Friday I decided to do something pleasant since the day before and been so sucky. The sun was somewhat out and the air was pretty clear, so I decided to go visit the Sacré-Cœur, which is the highest point in Paris. I visited in when I was in France the last time, and it is a really cool place with a great view. The basilica itself is pretty unique and I like it. Danielle says she finds it to be sad, and I admit it is very somber feeling and dark inside, but I love the architecture and grandeur of large churches. I took the same metro I take to get to school and got off at Anvers, which at the base of a large hill leading up to the Sacré-Cœur. This area of Paris is very interesting. It’s pretty but you have to be aware of your surroundings because there are many pickpockets in the area, as well as pushy vendors. This is probably the best place to find corny, cheap Paris souvenirs and gifts, and you can also get yourself sketched, or painted into a caricature, and buy cheap paintings from street artists. You have to be careful when buying paintings on the street as well, because they often are not in fact painted here as they claim, but were actually made in China or something.

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I hiked all the way up to the basilica and the view is wonderful! Unfortunately, you can’t see the Eiffel tower or the center of Paris from there, but you can see most of the city and it’s very beautiful. There were a lot of people there, but not overcrowded as it was during the summer when I went last time. I spent some time admiring the view and trying to take pictures that did it justice.

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Then, I decided to go inside the church, which is free admission of course. It seemed odd but there was some type of mass service happening and you could go sit down to attend it, or you can just walk around the outside edge of the church. I took my time walking around and listened to the religious singing and the sermon. The inside of the church is very pretty, with a domed ceiling and of course a lot of religious art, mosaics and stained glass windows. Taking photos inside this particular church is forbidden, but some people still disrespectfully whip out their cameras and phones. When I was done looking around, I went back outside and sat down to admire the view some more, and coincidentally, I ran into a few girls who were in my French seminar class. They were visiting with the rest of the kids from Boston College. We chatted for a minute, and then I decided to descend back down the hill. I sat at a small café that served to-go crepes, so I bought a steaming, folded up Nutella crepe, which was very scrumptious, and then, went to search for Montmartre.

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Montmartre is a very artistic district of Paris in the 18th arrondissement. Many famous artists used to live and work there, including Picasso, Modigliani, Dali, Monet, Renoir and even Vincent Van Gogh. It’s also home to many famous cabarets and nightclubs, including the Moulin Rouge.. Actually, I think Moulin Rouge is technically located in the district of Pigalle, but it is very very close to Montmartre. It’s a very charming area full of steep, skinny streets and many nice views of the city. I walked around a little bit, but had trouble finding the iconic stuff.

I ended up at the Cimetière de Montmartre, which is a very large cemetery full of large exuberant grave markers. Apparently many famous artists are buried there, such as Degas, Berlioz, and a bunch of other famous French people I’ve never heard of, so I have no idea if I saw any of their graves or not. I read this was a popular tourist location, but I was almost completely alone in this vast graveyard. Only a few other people were around and they seemed to be mostly groundskeepers. At first I was enjoying walking through it and seeing all the large graves, most of which belonged to entire families, but after a while the place started to really give me the creeps. But somehow I ended up with a ton of pictures!

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I made my way back to the street and I wanted to try and find the Moulin Rouge, so I walked along the street I thought it was on, but I never was able to find it. While I was looking I did find a pretty trendy area called Place de Clichy, and again, there are many restaurants in the area and I saw several big movie theaters. I like looking at the traditional Parisian architecture and the charming streets, so here’s some pictures of those from that day.

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Once I had seen enough, I hopped back on the crowded metro and made my way home. I also went grocery shopping that night, for the third time, and I finally realized that I was doing it all wrong! I keep going in without any plan whatsoever of what I’m going to buy, and just go through the isles five times each looking for good stuff to buy, and it takes me forever. Next time, I’m going to do like my wonderful mother does, which is make a menu of everything she needs and everything she is going to make for dinner that week, and then makes a list of everything she needs to buy to make it. Hopefully that method will be more effective!

As you may have noticed, I really haven’t gone out at night yet, and I’m starting to get bored of eating in every night, but I have had the chance to start this blog, and get into a nice routine. I actually like spending time in my room, watching Netflix, looking out the window, writing, Skyping with friends and family. The only downside about nighttime here is that every single night, without fail, there is a group of guys who gather down stairs, and spend most of the night yelling, laughing and racing their motorcycles in the square. Every night. No matter how cold, no matter what, they are down there being loud. No idea why they do this, but nonetheless, I have to sleep with my sound machine on at night.

 

Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting the Louvre with a friend of Danielle’s, Lawrence, who I met back when we were celebrating the first Sunday of January with galettes. She is really into art and spends much of her time at museums, and even takes art appreciation courses, so she knows the Louvre very well. I got dolled up, yet again for a day outside the house. I just love that hat.

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For some reason she is against the metro, so we took the bus, which takes longer, is much scarier because of the crazy driving, and gets me car sick, but at least I got to see more of the city than I would on the metro! When we finally arrived, we each used a separate museum member card with her name and picture on it to avoid the line getting it, and the guy who checked was annoyed but didn’t say anything about it. We went through security and checked in our coats, which is a really nice feature because it sucks carrying around your coat all day! She asked me what I wanted to look at, and I decided to go to exhibits I haven’t looked at, or wouldn’t usually choose if I was on my own.

 

Let me stress how enormous the Louvre is. It is one of the world’s largest museums, if not the largest, and used to be the palace for French kings, until Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles. It’s truly huge and if you ever plan to visit it please don’t think you can see everything you want to see in just one day. My guess would be that if someone truly wanted to see every exhibit in it’s entirety, you would have to reserve an entire week to do so. The best thing to do is look over their collections beforehand, think about what you want to see the most and plan your trip accordingly. I told Lawrence I like ancient Egyptian art, and she told me if we went to the Egypt exhibit, it would take the whole day itself. So, I decided to start at basically the beginning of art history. The first area we went to was all about ancient Mesopotamia and the near east. Normally this time period isn’t my favorite, but since my last visit to the Louvre nearly two years ago, I took an Art History class at UNM which covered ancient cave art, all the way up to the Renaissance. We obviously spent a lot of time covering the history and art of these ancient civilizations and I learned about many specific pieces and styles of these ancient cultures, so not only did I have more knowledge and perspective on what I was seeing, but I also got to see some of the most famous ancient pieces in the art world that I studied in my text book. Being able to better recognize symbols, iconography, stylistic features, etc. was fun for me and I appreciated what I was seeing that much more. I’m not going to go into details of all the famous art and artifacts I saw because that would take forever, but I did take a picture of one of the more famous sculptures of ancient Babylonia, which is called the Code of Hammurabi, which was the world’s first recorded laws such as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The top of the diorite slab depicts their God giving these laws to king Hammurabi. The rest of it is extremely tiny ancient writing outlining all their laws, which was somehow deciphered.

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When we got down with all the ancient Babylonian, Persian, Assyrian, Sumerian, stuff, we moved on to the ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art, which is more of interest to me. Since I’d already been through this area, we went a little faster and in less detail, so when I go back I’ll go through there more carefully. We ended up at the Italian art, so we had to stop to look at my personal favorite piece, which is “The Winged Victory of Samothrace.”

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We were really close, so we decided to go look at “La Joconde” (i.e. The Mona Lisa), which is by far the busiest part of the museum that I’ve seen. Even though there were plenty of people in the museum, especially in this area, Lawrence kept remarking how there was “no one” at the Louvre today, and I must admit it was much less crowded than the last time I came. I think it was a mix of it not being tourist season, and possibly people avoiding places like this after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Either way it was surprisingly quiet and calm for a Saturday afternoon.

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We walked through the Italian art and I saw the Mona Lisa as well as other works by Da Vinci, and then we moved on to Islamic art. I can go either way with Islamic stuff, sometimes it is very pretty and sometimes I find it to be a little boring. By the time we got through this large section, I was starting to feel the fatigue. I honestly think looking around at hundreds of pieces of art all day is tiring, even if you like it, so I was really getting tired, and hungry.

I just love this painting so I had to put it in here somewhere :D

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The last section we looked at was sculptures from the Middle Ages, which I could tell was of great interest to Lawrence. She explained the symbolism and style of these sculptures, and I could tell she likes this time period, but I find artwork of the Middle Ages, and the statues we were looking at, to be very sad. Almost all of the subject matter is religiously based and all of the statues were either people looking depressed in prayer, or laying down (looking dead) with their hands folded in prayer, and they are all a greyish white color, and not very pretty to me. Just sad looking. So after that downer of an exhibit, I was ready to call it quits for the day. I mentioned that I was hungry and she showed me to the small mini-mall type place where they have high-end stores and a food court. There was a McDonald’s and even though I never eat it at home, it smelled pretty good and I went to stand it line, but the line was too long and slow so we just left. [Speaking of McDonald’s, Julian just got a job there! Good for him because he’s been looking everywhere and wants to save money to come see me, but on the downside he says it’s disgusting and annoying. Shocker.] Anyway, we took the bus back to the building, (by the way she lives in the same apartments as me, but on a higher floor), I thanked her for taking the time to show me around the Louvre, and ran inside to eat something. I was starving!

When I walked in Danielle’s daughter Gabrielle, who is 28 and lives with her boyfriend from Columbia, was over to help Danielle figure out her new computer. At the moment, she was presenting Danielle with gifts that her boyfriend Stephen brought her from his holiday trip to visit his family in Columbia. Gabrielle speaks English very well because when she went to Dauphine, she had to take all her classes in English, and she lived in New York for a short time. She is also very nice and has tried her best to help me figure out my classes and how to set up my new phone number. They spent much of the evening playing around on Danielle’s Macbook, and I hung out in my room. Another calm night at the house.

 

Sunday was another lazy day. Danielle went on a hike so I spent the day home alone, doing laundry, cleaning my room, and trying to organize all my stuff for my first day of school the next day. I don’t mind getting some time alone, and I worked on my blog and relaxed.

 

That brings my first two weeks in Paris to a close, with minimum disasters, just have to try and solve the class situation!

 

Promise that I will try to never make posts this long again! Just needed to catch up a little!

 

À bientôt,

 

Michelle

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8 comments

  1. MaryroseKGradle says:

    Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same
    subjects? Thanks!

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