Bonjour everyone! I've finally made it to France! After a verrrry long flight from Chicago to Paris, an hour long train ride from Paris to Lille, and a lot of walking with A LOT of luggage, I'm finally starting to get acquainted with the city. I'm currently in Lille, which is not where I will be living, but is the closest big city to my eventual home (Valenciennes). Lille is the 4th largest city in France, and is generally known to be pretty gloomy and industrial, but I haven't found that to be true at all. In the last few years, Lille has been undergoing a cultural renaissance of sorts. There are several universities here, and a huge part of the population (like 42%) is under 25, so there are a lot of really cool things happening in terms of art, theater, music etc.
My life here hasn't been super exciting so far, but that's ok with me. I'm enjoying easing myself into the lifestyle, and trying to avoid culture shock (as much as I can, anyway). Plus I have upwards of 100 pounds of luggage to cart around with me until I get settled in Valenciennes, so I can't get into too much trouble anyway. I spent my first two nights here in Lille with a CouchSurfing host named Anso, a girl about my age who works in product design for a company that makes cycling shoes. She was very nice but very quiet, and pretty busy with a project for work, so we didn't get to talk a lot, but she did show me around the city and gave me a comfy place to sleep and some excellent French coffee in the mornings. Now I am in a hotel for the weekend, because my second host was in Valenciennes, and my third host is back in Lille, and facilitating the transport of all my stuff back and forth would be more trouble than it's worth, so I canceled on my second host and will stay in this hotel until I go to my third host on Monday.
Today I took some time to explore the city on my own, and I walked around the "Centre Ville" (downtown) for about 2 hours. The metropolitan area of Lille has just over 1 million residents, but it doesn't feel like a big city at all, and you can walk almost anywhere, which is nice. When I got back, I took a nap. I've found it necessary to take a two or three hour nap every day since I've been here, and I'm not sure if that's jet lag or cognitive overload or what, but I'm sure it will pass. It's kind of nice to take an afternoon nap, anyway. But that's basically what I've been doing all week, exploring and napping. Not too exciting.
That's about all I have to say for myself right now, but I'll be sure to update again soon!