There is construction EVERYWHERE!
Holes, rubble, dust, little dirt paths, scaffoldings blocking sidewalks, rerouted buses, semis parked up on the sidewalk. I saw one of the buses run over a bird carcass. Someone had kicked another dead bird behind a trash can. Behind, not in. The buildings seem older and more ornate than the ones in Nantes, but even looking for a decent-looking cafe to do lunch in, I saw, kebab (gyros), kebab, pastries, McDonalds, another McDonalds, something called "La Boucherie"... no. I got a pizza closer to home and kind of regret eating so much. I don't feel like dinner yet and doubt I will before bedtime. There also didn't seem to be as many bars, not that I have friends to go with.
Some old guy was smoking a pipe that made a smell sort of like cotton candy, which was sort of nice, but EVERYONE EVERYONE seemed to be smoking normal cigarettes, which made my lungs sad. My ear was already blocked up, too... Nobody cares if they are blowing smoke into a pregnant woman or a baby's face, they just whip out a cigarette as soon as they hit the threshold of a door to the outside and light up another a few minutes after they drop the smoldering butt they may or may not stamp out. This happens many places in France.
I missed the bus in because an ambulance came when I was trying to cross the street, just as the light changed to "go pedestrians" and I had to wait through two full light cycles. It turns out it's not all that far to walk, and downtown itself is pretty small, but I got there early enough that my legs hurt by the time I decided to go home. I practiced my walk between the radiology clinic and the immigration office (appointments starting 30 minutes apart, 15-minute walk with lots of traffic lights to wait for) several times, but apparently a chest x-ray takes like 7 minutes in total, so I was definitely there on time. After I presented my passport at immigration, they weighed and measured me, had me read letters on a vision chart, asked if I smoke, asked if I exercise, took my blood pressure, stethoscoped me, and I was back in the waiting room. I now have a residency permit, so my last two months here will be legit :P. I didn't bother telling them about the insufficient postage problem with their convocation letter; they were already aware of at least two other problems with it from when I called.
I realized I never heard back from the health insurance people here; supposedly I am covered, but I never got confirmation. The nurse seemed to think I should have.
The vast majority of women wore skirts and shorts, and I barely own those. Many wore heels, or wedges, or sandals with heels. I felt pretty American in plain jeans and a plain, solid-color, high-collar t-shirt, hair in a plain ponytail, no jewelry except a couple rings I even sleep and shower in, nothing-special flats I bought at a street fair. And there are sales going on right now, but I don't know what I want, don't want to deal with trying on things that don't fit and look bad, don't want to spend money, don't want to get rid of existing clothes to have room in my suitcases. I am used to Target, and these are like little boutiques with annoying salesladies and higher prices for better-quality, more fashion-conscious, more feminine clothing. I don't even know if they have H&M here, they are close enough to Target...
I don't know what it is about old ladies with leg problems, though, they're everywhere. Sometimes they still try to wear heels. French crutches have the things you rest your forearms in. The people, the sidewalks, they're broken, broken here.
Still no alternatives to freezing cold water. I did laundry anyway, learned it costs almost 5 euros per load, and I still have to hang up my jeans, towels and a few other things that didn't get entirely dry after 2 dryer cycles. The last time I hung up my clothes after one dryer cycle, I couldn't wear one of my pairs of jeans because it smelled bad, since the hanging apparatus has close-packed bars and is in the bathroom where there is little air flow. I can afford it, but it is sort of a pain in the ass.
Maybe this place doesn't always suck, but I seem to have hit it at a peak time for being boring and kinda crappy.
It's none of the obvious things, nobody mugged me when I was carrying the cash for my "fiscal stamp" to pay for my permit, nobody attacked me when I was reading along in the train station, enjoying the breeze, nothing dramatic or shocking, none of the things my mother worries about. It just sort of banally sucks.