Thursday, May 01, 2008

Paris details

I am so beat. I want to sleep all day! I've been good: getting to bed no earlier than 10 and forcing myself to stay in bed until 6am. Getting up at 6 is kind of nice as I get in a lot of puttering around the house. This morning, not only did I unpack and read a bunch of blogs, I also called my family in Israel! Did you know that I'm a great-aunt for the second time? My nephew and his wife just had another baby. I'm a little overwhelmed. I'm sure they are too--their first kid is just a little over a year old. I need to knit something for the baby, but that may have to wait until after the move because I don't have any baby-appropriate yarn at hand.

Anyway. France. Paris. You probably want to hear about that. Paris is great. I found it amazingly easy to get around. I had a good map (arrondisements from A to Z) and didn't make a single wrong turn on the apartment hunt. Impressive, no? Sometimes my level of competence amazes even me.

I did grow annoyed with my mother, though, and I managed to hurt her feelings pretty badly by expressing it a bit too directly. Thing is, she wasn't much help. She was too shy to really try out her French and I did almost as much talking as she did! (I was also impressed by my ability to understand others and express myself. I can read signs and order in restaurants but I can't have conversations.) Still, it was good to have her there to talk to and bounce around ideas. I dunno. I wish we could have more fun together. It wasn't a terrible time--we've certainly had worse--but I wish I could say we had an unadulterated great time. Oh well. It's not much of a surprise. We're trying and that's something.

As to Paris, it didn't hit me the moment I got off the plane. In fact, my initial impressions were negative as I thought I might never get out of the Chatlet-Les Halles metro station. After asking for help at the information desk--twice--I found my way out and starting walking towards where I hoped to catch a bus--though I wasn't sure which bus. I walked the wrong way--carrying a backpack and a rolling bag. A man saw me standing on the corner, looking confused, and he spoke to me. I shook my head. He said, "Speak English?" I said, "Yes." He said, "You are lost?" I said, "Yes. I'm looking for the rue de Rivoli." He thought for a second, looked around and said, "Rivoli? Ah, it's that way..." and he pointed. And I found it, a bus map, and, eventually, the right bus. What, so it only took me two hours (!) to get from the airport (Orly) to where I was staying...I just couldn't bear to catch a cab. I can't explain why.

But, I did make it, Mom was there and happy to see me. I settled in a little and we took a walk around the neighborhood. Very authentic Parisian. Later, I got right on the computer and started emailing and calling to firm up plans to see places. In the end, I only visited four apartments. It was the fourth one that I rented.

As I spent more time walking around, "talking" to people, Paris started to grow on me. Our first night, Mom and I ate in a good restaurant near our place. The owner spoke to us in slightly broken English. He asked who we were voting for! He was sure McCain would win, "America is not do you be Democrat, but the president, no America is not ready for Democrat president."

The next day, on the bus (we loved the bus in Paris!), an older women spoke to us, first in French, then in broken English. She also wanted to talk politics. She was for Obama.

Overall, people were friendly. They would often (to my surprise, and contrary to past experience) break into English. They would work with us. Yes, sometimes my pronunciation was incorrect, but no one was snide. The one time we really weren't understood was by someone who wasn't a native speaker of French either! So, Paris--willing to work with Americans with lousy French. Good for me!

In my life, I've had very good luck finding places to live. I walk in, get a good feeling, and then I decide. I found my condo, where I've been very happy, on the first weekend I looked at places. I knew almost right away.

There was another place--a shared apartment--that I considered strongly. I really liked the roommate who I met. But the neighborhood was a little rough and the set- up was odd. I'd actually have to walk through someone's room, via a makeshift hallway (created by a rigged up curtain), to get to my room. Clearly, it was a better deal than to stay in the room that formed the passageway, but it was less than ideal. The price was right, they had a freezer (a rarity), a washing machine and a big bathroom, but in the end, I didn't pick it.

The place I did choose is a very small studio with a full separate bath, a small closet and a kitchen separated from the main room by an island/counter, where one can sit on stools. The furnishings are nice: a double bed/sofa, dresser, two chairs, a bookshelf, a table and a tv. Phone, internet and cable are included. I'll pay electric separately. Some books, a fan, a bike helmet (!), linens, and kitchen supplies are also provided. Perfect! There's enough floorspace for a guest and a big window with lots of light. It's on the ground floor, which is mostly a good thing, except for the limited view and a little less privacy. I'm very pleased. It's not cheap, just a little more than what I pay for rent in DC for a lot more space (but actually, if I include my utilities, it's about even), but a good deal for Paris.

The neighborhood is probably the best part. Mom thinks it's safer than where I live in DC. It's not in the center, but it's close enough. One could take the train to the center in 15 minutes or less. One could walk in 30 minutes. I didn't bike, though I will, and that is very fast too. The street I'm on is quiet but I'm one block away from a lively and popular area. I'm two blocks away from an open air food market that operates Friday-Sunday. I'm ten minutes away from Chinatown! I'm five minutes walk from a central hub metro station. And, it's a relatively tourist free area. Key! Sure, I know I'm "one of them" but I don't want to be. Also, it's cheaper to live in this neighborhood than one nearer the center. Why do I need to be near museums? That's not why I'm there. I'm sure I've made the right choice.

Now, I just have a few banking issues to settle, a lot of organizing and packing to do and I'm all set. Very exciting! I'm so ready to go. I didn't think I'd feel this ready, but I am.

Grateful for: Paris!

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