And so it begins...
Updated: Aug 5, 2018
I've arrived in Paris in the midst of a heatwave, and in a city where few places have air conditioning (le climatisation), it's difficult to escape. But hey, I'm in Paris, and it's supposed to last just five more days, so I'm certainly not going to complain.
I've been to Paris on vacation several times, but it's different coming to live, if only for three months. It's the little things that remind me I'm in a foreign city and it began at the airport. At Charles de Gaulle, a man bumped into me in his rush to reach a small, glass-enclosed room near baggage claim--a smoking room, as it turned out, and there were quite a few people in there drawing on their cigarettes with expressions of deep relief.
My travels to Paris went quite smoothly and I was through customs, luggage procured and in a taxi in perhaps half an hour. An hour later, I was at the apartment in the third arrondissement. At home, keys have been dispensed with; I get into my building and my apartment via a single fob, but this apartment's in an 18th century building. To access the building, I punch in a code and enter an alley of sorts, with two more doors ahead and to the left. Through the door ahead, a courtyard. Through the door to my left, a spiral staircase of old, wooden steps and wrought-iron banisters.
My apartment is on the second floor if you're French, the third if you're American--55 steps up the spiral. The front door is very high, with a doorknob in the middle and even the key adds a certain historic feel to everything, a small golden-colored curiosity. Inside there's a working fireplace with a marble mantel, but apparently fireplaces are not allowed to be used in Paris due to pollution. (C'est dommage!)
There's a washer/dryer--a slash there because it's one machine that does both. The bed is up a ladder in a space above the kitchenette and bathroom. I've already hit my head on the low ceiling there and I'm sure it won't be the last time. And speaking of the ceiling, it's an old building, so the plaster ceiling and moldings have quite a bit of detail, though I don't know the proper terms.The three very high windows afford great views of the buildings across the small street and everyone has their windows and French doors wide open, so you plainly see them living their lives. Due to the heatwave, I suppose, the young French men walk around in their underwear, or smoke cigarettes at the railing of their small balconies. Another man, not so young, did stretches on his balcony this morning wearing only a skimpy pair of skivvies. Last night, as I tried to sleep in the inferno loft, in one apartment across the way, there was a party, in another a woman stretched out on her bed reading a book.
Last night, I ventured out at 9:30 for dinner, forcing myself to eat at a cafe even though the heat killed my appetite. About a block away from my apartment is Republique, a huge square, and at 10:30 pm, it was a festive and happy place to be: music playing, couples dancing, kids skateboarding, people just lounging around. As hot it still was, even after the sun had gone down, it was cooler out there than being home, and if I weren't so tired, I would have hung out a bit myself. Next time.
I found my way to the Marche des Enfants Rouges this morning, where I bought some fruit and flowers. The fruit guy let me taste a mirabelle, when I asked him, "qu'est-ce que c'est?". The yellow fruit the size of a very large cherry is a type of plum and, yes, it was delicious. The flower guy added a long-stemmed rose when I bought my bouquet of flowers. At a small "bio" cafe, I ate a toasted baguette with fresh farmer's butter and homemade strawberry confiture and it was as if I've never tasted butter or jam before. Likewise, the fresh juice of peach, pineapple, apricot and ginger was incredible.
In my few outings thus far, I've been trying to speak French whenever possible, but it has been more difficult because I'm so tired and hot that it's difficult to think. I look forward to the day when it doesn't require so much thinking! Still, I actually have had a few brief conversations: with the taxi driver yesterday and with a waiter in a cafe where I drank a very refreshing Aperol spritz yesterday evening. Finding patient people is the key, and they were not only patient, but encouraging and helpful. On the flip side, in another cafe today, the waiter brought me the English menu instead of the French and spoke to me in English though I spoke to him in French, but I will persist and I will get better.
I look forward to a week from now, when hopefully I'll be in some sort of groove. I need a routine to make the most of my days--writing, exploring, speaking French, exercising (besides the stairs!)--but I've given myself permission to get settled in this weekend and not stress out about any of it. I'm thrilled to be here and so anxious to go everywhere, do it all, but there is plenty of time for all that.
For now, I've finished my first blog post. This one's a mish-mosh of sorts, because everything's a bit of a whirlwind right now, but future posts will tend toward the more anecdotal, so please come back.
** I haven't yet figured out how to find accent marks, so forgive the lack of them!