France Miniature

France Miniature.  Yup. Exactly what it says, it is.  A big park with miniature buildings from all the various regions.

2015-07-27 13.21.18And getting there was a new travel experience. To get there you have to take a transilien line. These are trains with alphabet names, like Ligne U.  It’s not the RER. But it was fine and because there are no zone charges from mid July to mid August for holders of a monthly Navigo carte (me) (don’t know why) it’s free (ok so not free In the sense I paid for a monthly pass but it’s included).  So train out. Then a bus transfer (also free!) and half mile walk. You get left by the bus pretty much out in the open. But it’s probably no further away than the farthest spot in the Disneyland Peking lot. Except Disney has shuttles.

I loved FM. It just made me happy with every step. Not quite sure why but I was.  Found the Miniature of the cathedral at Lourdes.  People had thrown pennies at the fountain, like one of those good luck fountains.   The grotto where she had her vision.  Made more sense to be at the right spot.  It was set up there for some kind of ceremony, with their little people.2015-07-27 12.51.00

I tossed  I thought I tossed gently, but I did have to get quite a distance so maybe I had my arm into it.

I took out a priest. The penny hit him in the chest and he fell over.  The nun’s ok.  Not sure what this means for my wish…

Tale of the Tour

And that’s Le Tour not La Tour. The latter is a tower as in La Tour Eiffel.

Plans made lounge chez moi on Sunday (26/7) (yes, European 26th of July) morning. The last stage of the Tour de France starts at Sevres which is just south of me. Part of the department Haute de Seine. Then they go round about and through the woods. The Bois de Boulogne where I rode a bike in an earlier blog.  And then into the city of Paris at Porte Maillot. My metro stop and then on through Paris to conclude with 10 circuits from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. I decided to watch the beginning on TV. Quite like the pre shows for the Super Bowl.  But not. Interviews. Some singing. Certainly not Madonna or Mick Jagger.

Then just when the stage should have been starting – or so I thought – they cut to cyclists riding down the Champs Elysées in the rain.  Ok what?  Maybe a previous tour.  2015-07-26 16.02.21-1Just showing how rain impacts them. But no. It’s live.  Well I can’t miss this so I get dressed and run out the door to my go-to metro (George Cinq) for anything happening on the Champs Elysées.

2015-07-26 14.31.29Yup. Barriers in place.  People lined up (not as many as I expected) and r
iders going by fast! I found a place to watch. Noticed one rider with a pony tail. Huh? Hippies in the tour?  Possible.  Another circuit.  More pony tails.  Huh?  And on the next circuit I see boobs.  It’s the women’s race.

2015-07-26 15.16.12So I wander around. Saw two guys who brought ladders for a better view.  And around the Arc  there are many sponsor tents and stands. Carrefour (a supermarket) was giving away food- nuts drinks cookies.  And even shucking mussels.  Do you shuck them?  It is that just corn?

An enterprising group had roped off their spot on the barrier and had a sign 10 euro for entrance.  How entrepreneurial is that?

I got a red polka dotted cap- it’s for the King of the Mountain – best climber.  I didn’t buy any TDF paraphernalia – too yellow.  Not my color.

And then the rain starting coming down quite hard. The guys wouldn’t be there for several hours. I headed back to Port Maillot. Found a nice pedestrian fence to lean on and against for the next 3 hours

Hard to believe it was 26 of July especially after the canicule. Maybe 60 out. Windy. Rainy.

2015-07-26 16.01.48The Caravan comes first.  It’s a parade of the sponsors. Our U.S. Counterpart is the Oscar Meyer wiener-mobile.  Bic pens has six cars. One’s a lighter. The others Pens. There snow on top of two cars with skis sticking out.  Baguettes and other things. Tires. And a care that looks like a Madeleine cookie…

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Then nothing after that excitement except the occasional moto or police car.  Then at 17:45 the cyclists arrive! (Arrive is a difficult word here.  J’arrive means I am coming  2015-07-26 17.51.34-1  Je suis arrive means I arrived.). It’s 45 seconds or maybe a minute from first spotting them til they turn up Avenue de la Grande Armee to enter Paris. Got a photo of the yellow jersey so I have proof.  Now I can check that box.  Tour de France Done.

Came home and put on a cashmere sweater and my fleece jacket. Brrr

Where’s a Rothchild?

Perhaps a Rothschild could get a French bank to give me an account?  BNP changed their story.  I don’t have to have €10,000 to open.  No. I have to deposit €20,000.  Not happening.  My accountant has warned me to stay under 10k to avoid extra IRS filing.  HBSC said they would call back.  No.  Tomorrow I see a gal at Societe Generale.  Fingers crossed. 

It’s all the terrorist money laundering. And it’s about expats paying taxes. And little folks like me get caught in the middle.  

Chivalry

Chivalry is alive.  But even in the land of chevaliers, it’s the American guy who gives me his seat.  On the bus. On the metro.  Families with teenage boys remain seated. Well I don’t expect mom to jump up but really – not the boys?  And young men.  Doesn’t my white hair count for anything?

What a week!

18/7/2015

What a week. I am exhausted. My body needs more time to recover from the Too Much Fun of the 14th of July and my brain from the Too Many Conversations!

You have all probably experienced the physical effect of overworking your brain – you get tired! So this week, there was a conversation on Monday, on Wednesday and two each on Thursday and Friday. Zounds! Zut alors! Yikes! And add to that the movie Les Minions. As I said, it was VOSTF – English with French subtitles. And that works your brain too – as you are listening to the English, getting the joke, laughing and at the same time reading the subtitles to see how things are translated into French.

Add to all that, not sleeping well. I told you about my sore legs after walking all over on 14th of July- I believe there are new neighbors downstairs. Noisy neighbors. Windows open what with the heat and loud – very loud conversations until midnight. I complained to my landlady – she suggested I write a note and post it in the lobby to remind people no noise after 10. Next, knock on their door. Or call the police. She said that’s normal. And lastly, she can notify the syndicate (the co-op owners of the building) and have them deal with it. So I will be typing up a notice after this.

It’s a catch up kind of day.2015-07-18 10.05.13

I first caught up with the Bonnard exhibit at the Musee D’Orsay. Tomorrow is the last day. I have visited it twice but quickly and with a crowd. Today I set out to be there at 930 when it opened. Accomplished. Easier to appreciate when you aren’t 3 deep in a crowd. 2015-07-18 09.38.06And I wanted to purchase the two posters. Why did I hesitate the last time I went? I don’t know – but the adage – he who hesitates loses – or something like that – is true. One design was sold out. Shrug.2015-07-18 09.41.15

I took a moment to stop by the Van Gogh after my trip to Amsterdam. Wanted to say hi to Starry Night. But No. I asked – it’s visiting Russia right now. Sure hope it comes home. And soon. So instead I took a moment with The Siesta. 2015-07-16 13.40.17A niece has a game – you can claim one thing in a window or room and then it is virtually yours for a virtual house you can build. Last time in the D’Orsay with her, I claimed that painting. She was asleep at the switch – it was her game and I beat her to that painting. Just posted another photo of it on FB with the text… “Still mine.” Heeheehee. She responded. “Grrr.”

A few minutes for some other Nabis painters. Right now I am fascinated by the use of brush strokes – Van Gogh, of course. But Bonnard too. And Maurice Denis. All in all, a good morning.

2015-07-18 10.35.30The “You Can’t Do This Here” sign in the D’Orsay has changed.  They added no selfie sticks.  OK – no backpacks.  No food or drink.  No phone calls.  No flash.  No selfie.  So what’s that at the top right?  No pointing?  Others have suggested, no touching, no picking your nose, and my fav – you can’t summon a waiter.  Ideas? Please share.

Came home to chores. The word in French for unpleasant chores is les corvees. Too many of them.

First my bill entering. Why do I keep a spreadsheet of my receipts? Even I am not sure – I hate accounting. That’s why I have a great accountant. But for some reason I feel compelled to keep a spreadsheet to see what I am spending money on. Interesting exercise – it’s not impacting my spending at all. (Maybe the fact that I am spending $250 less per month on this apartment than I planned – all thanks to the falling euro and rising dollar! – gives me some cushion?) It’s a cool spreadsheet – with pivot tables and graphs. Yes, I am nuts. Only problem is that I haven’t entered anything since the beginning of June… I have reached the Berlin receipts so there is progress… Finished.

Next chore – tidying up my French notes. I have maybe 6 small notebooks I have been using during various conversation exchanges.2015-07-18 17.59.53 I bought a nice notebook at the D’Orsay so I can be more organized. These CEs are extraordinary and my list of idioms and new words is growing. This should help.

Yes. Now I have 8 conversations. And merde, several of them are going out of town on the French vacation. My newest friend leaves in two weeks for two weeks. Really, only two of the 8 are staying around. So I searched more on Conversation Exchange and just sent out messages. And I specifically asked if they are in town in July and August!

I have moved into my new office. “Le Bureau de Marcie.” It’s the cafe on the 5th floor of the Musee D’Orsay. I need new business cards.2015-07-18 11.02.43

Veronica met me there Thursday morning. We talked until one. She left, I ordered lunch. Then at two I went out to meet Edith (I have a membership that allows me to bring guests to visit the musee). And we talked until 5. It was wonderful. A coke in the morning for caffeine. Cesar salad for lunch, and a Perrier and a gouter. Tiny yummy eclairs. Yes. I like this office.

The canicule has ended – frightful heat wave.  But it has been in  the low 90s the past few days and one day only got to 68 about 5 am.  Today has been beautiful but of course I have les corvees that have kept me in the apartment.  The key is to close the shutters just as the sun hits the front of the building.  It’s 83 outside but comfortable here.  I just received a text from Le Figaro that there is an orange orage alert.  That’s a high alert for storms.  Only thing is – am I in one of the 35 departments? I don’t think so but weather channel says thunderstorms at one a.m.  I sure wish I could send some of this rain to California.  But I have my fingers crossed for El Nino.

A bientot. See you soon.

Le Quartorze Juillet.

14/07/2015

2015-07-14 14.18.04From a French friend’s blog:

“Today is the ‘Bastille day’ …but do you know that in fact it’s maybe not the Bastille Day, the 14 of July 1789 that we celebrate in France. Maybe it’s the ‘fête de la federation.’ ”

There was another event on the 14th of July 1790 celebrating the unity of the French people. French law does not indicate which is being celebrated as far as I have been told. It’s formally called Le Quatorze juillet. No one hear calls it Bastille Day. Mais c’est fantastique!

2015-07-14 10.22.45So we set out at 10 10 to find a place to watch. Just like I mentioned yesterday about researching sooner for a restaurant for the fireworks – I also now know you should research the parade more carefully. 2015-07-14 10.41.07Last parade (for the commemoration of the end of WWII) started at the Etoile and went the entire length of the Champs to Concorde.

But not today. Today the staging areas for the marchers was much further down.

By us were the tanks and artillery. So we breathed quite a bit of fumes and watched bored soldiers.IMG_3136 IMG_3124 IMG_3067 Of course, we were towards the top of the hill.

When we realized the action was towards Concorde, we headed south. Maybe east. Towards Francois Hollande. Finally found a gate 2015-07-14 11.51.03we could climb on and hold on tight and watch some of the parade. It was where the Republican guard was staging so that was great – we got to see the 267 horses and riders merge into the Champs d’Elysesses. These are the same horses we visited a few weeks ago at their stables. Beautiful.

It is truly a military parade. There were over 3700 men and women from all branches of service. Featuring this year the Terrorist unit that was involved in the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. There were about 8 from that unit, wearing helmets and sun glasses to protect their identities.2015-07-14 10.16.15 And the National Police (yes, the French have a national police. And in smaller towns and rural areas, you find the Gendarmes – who are part of the army.) And at the end, before the horse guard, the Pompiers – firefighters. Medals abounded.

IMG_3093And I don’t know if I have ever seen an airplane parade. That’s what they called it and indeed it was. Planes in formation about a minute apart. Directly overhead. Big planes. Little planes. Jet plane. Prop planes. Fast planes. Slow planes. And all noisy planes. But nothing as noisy as the Helicopter parade towards the end. I did see the beginning formation with the planes trailing the red white and blue contrails… but it was too fast for a photo. So I will use one from the net.

I came home to watch the news and saw a lot more of what I missed – but you know, I didn’t mind because I was actually there experiencing it in person. Goose bumps.

A friend who was at the Eiffel Tower last year for the fireworks said she noticed the lack of street vendors. And she’s right – the only thing going on at the parade was the Army recruiters handing out paper French flags. The French don’t turn everything into a way to make money…

It’s almost 8pm. Fireworks start at 11. And continue for 35 minutes. I was going to avoid the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tour but my landlady wrote me that they could find a few feet to sit or stand even when they went late. So maybe there. Maybe a bridge. I don’t need to hear the concert before. Just the fireworks will satisfy me. I could take a nap again.

Interlude….

It’s Wednesday afternoon. I did go to the Champs de Mars. Encountered crowd control when I changed metro lignes- RATP (metro) workers were holding people back from the platforms so they weren’t overcrowded. I was delighted they did that as I had no desire to be shoved onto the tracks by a mob. Arrived only 30 minutes ahead and I did find a very nice spot to stand. The center field… that goes from the Tour Eiffel to the Ecole Militaire was full of people. Most were standing. There was no way to inch into that mass – nor did I want to. Like sardines! I recall seeing video of events at the Mall in DC – where they had aisles roped off. Not here.

But I kept walking and finally found a very nice spot over to the right as you look at the Tour. Where I could see all of the top and one leg of the Tower. I was in a group of friendly Italians. We stood waiting for 20 minutes. The orchestra was playing. Everyone was in a festive mood.

And right on time it began. With The Marseilles – and sung by many French standing around us. (I love the tune, but really the lyrics are awful and bloody – they should rewrite them). Of course the first fireworks were at the base of the Tour – so I could only see “IS”… and realized that they spelled out PARIS in fireworks! And then lights lit up the Tour like a French flag and it really began. 35 minutes of the most spectacular fireworks show I have ever seen. Ever.

Photos don’t do this justice – but pictures are truly worth a thousand words.

IMG_3154        2015-07-14 23.22.51

2015-07-14 23.23.51        IMG_3327

2015-07-14 23.23.47       IMG_3248

IMG_3310       2015-07-14 23.18.51

2015-07-14 23.23.42       2015-07-14 23.31.09-1

IMG_3339 All photographs copyrighted 2015 Mortensson

After it ended, we all took a deep breath of appreciation, had a moment of exhilaration and then began to disperse. I don’t know how many were there this year, but I read it was half a million last year. And it felt like that. But everyone was polite – no pushing or shoving. Streets were even impassable to cars – the pedestrians walked down the center. When I got to the metro, clearly that was going to be a horrendous wait – the crowd extended 10-20 feet beyond the stairs. So I kept walking. I ended up crossing the Seine to get straight on Ligne 1 for my home. And even there, over a mile away from the Tour, there was a huge line. Orderly. And the metro was actually not super crowded. I was happy to drag myself up my stairs to collapse.

It was now 1245 am and I had walked 9 miles and stood an hour. I was so tired and sore that I actually could not sleep. My legs ached, my feet ached, my hips ached. I finally took half a Vicodin and it killed the pain. Still, I only got 3 hours of sleep before I had to get up for my conversation with Albert.

I do enjoy chatting with him. But even he said I looked and sounded tired. After our conversation I made a quick trip to Leclerc for contact solution and some other items – much less expensive and came home via three buses to decrease any walking time.

And collapsed again.

But a quick nap helped me… avoir la peche. That’s the French idiom for having energy. Get up and go. It literally means I have the peach. Go figure. So with that energy, I walked over to the cinema to see Les Minions. VOSTF. Original version with French subtitles. The subtitles show me how the French translate our idioms. That’s my rationale. But I love the Minion movies – so much for adults to catch in the background. And set in England in 1968… well, parfait.

Living the French life the rest of the week. Four conversations! Tomorrow I meet two different gals (morning and afternoon) in the restaurant at the Musee d’Orsay which will be comfortable – it’s supposed to be hot again tomorrow. Then Friday my newest from last week and in the afternoon a brand newbie – a guy who teaches law? Or legal history. I don’t recall.   I am seriously considering limiting my time with the American friends so I can really immerse in French. I do think each conversation in English sets me back.

But, for you, dear reader – I shall continue to blog in English. My one indulgence.

Oh, and btw – I am supposed to meet my friend in Le Harve – I believe I wrote Calais. Now that would be a disaster!

France, Le Pays Bas, and France

13/7/2015

The day before the Fourteenth of July. I returned yesterday from 4 days in The Netherlands. And I couldn’t wait to get back to blogging! So many adventures to recount. So many observations to share. So many philosophies to ponder.

And so much housecleaning to avoid.

Today is cleaning day. Waiting for a delivery from Monoprix as I was out of pretty much everything. After he arrives, I have to buckle down and clean. And in a very efficient way. No procrastinating for 2 hours, then clean for 15 minutes and procrastinate some more. Repeat as necessary.

No, I have a CE this afternoon with Chantel – the gal who broke her leg. Last time for a couple weeks. She is taking the usual Parisien vacation in August. But she is starting early.   Yes. Paris closes in August. Literally. OK not everything. But small boutiques do. Hair salons do. Boulangeries do. Even restaurants. Moi – staying here. Maybe a day trip to Nantes. Oh and definitely a day trip to Calais. What’s in Calais? A dear friend I haven’t seen for years! His cruise ship docks for a day on August 10..

And frankly, unless there is another canicule (heat wave), I am fine with this. I have had too much activity in the past 2 months – visitors, vistiors, Berlin, Amsterdam, The Hague… Liking my own bed. And silence of the apartment.

It’s very silent today – most of the people in the offices across from me appear to have “fait le pont.” That means made the bridge – or taken a four day weekend what with the Holiday tomorrow. When I walked to Monoprix, I noticed that the foot traffic was very light for that hour. Only a few people are left in Paris – and the tourists.

The Netherlands – another fabulous time with my friend and her family. She has been making changes in her backyard – new cedar fencing, new arrangement of outdoor furniture. Gorgeous. She has planted her flowers in such a way that it looks like Giverny. I was very impressed.

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Friday we went to Kinderdijk. This is a world hertigage site – 19 windmills used to pump the water up so that the land isn’t flooded. These Dutch do know water management! Pretty impressive. We took the boat down the canal to two different windmills that are now museums.

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The others are actually lived in. Some were working and a few were getting started – they have to extend the sail out on the blade – by hand. There is an electric pump now, but the windmills still work.

Then on to Amsterdam. Before hitting the museum, we stopped for my HRC pin and had a quick lunch. 2015-07-10 14.59.10Then on to the Van Gogh. OK, apparently I am not the VanGogh connoisseur I thought I was. Before his starry night period, he was a regular old painter. Artist. He had the basics down. But it is his later period for which he is most famous that I like the best. While this museum has the most Van Gogh, the most famous are in the D’Orsay and the Met and MOMA. I didn’t realize the extent to which his sister-in-law promoted his paintings after his and Theo (his brother, her husband)’s death.

2015-07-10 15.57.43Then on to a park for a nice break. Yup. Bicycles all over. We didn’t rent ones this time. Had places to go and things to see.

After the pause in the park, we drove out in the country to a restaurant of my friend’s former colleague for dinner.2015-07-10 20.33.04 It was on a beach on a canal. Beach Pavilion. And it was delicious. Best steak I have had in Europe. And in such an out of the way place.

Any Volvo drivers? What a cool car. It has a camera that reads the speed limit and puts it on the dashboard. And you exceed it and the dashboard lights up red. 2015-07-10 20.42.16And if you change lanes without signaling, it sort of clucks at you.

Saturday was The Hague. Two destinations there – a crystal store. I needed more rose quartz and ended up with many others too. It’s a Reiki Center also. But strange… just a door on the street as if it was just an apartment. I guess you have to want to go there – no drop-ins encouraged.

2015-07-11 15.49.40 Then the Mauritshuis.   This is a tiny museum. Tiny. But wonderful. It is the home   of Vermeer’s the Girl with the Pearl Earring. I love this painting. I saw it recently at the DeYoung in SF. There it was displayed in its own room.   With a great deal of information about its recent restoration.   But that’s the kind of greeting you get when you are a visitor. 2015-07-11 16.18.34Here, in her own house, she hangs on a wall in a nice room that she actually shares with other paintings. She even shares the wall!   No   respect at home. Made me think of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. She shares a room but she has her own wall – actually a divider in the middle of the room. Your family never treats you like royalty.

2015-07-11 16.20.50I also discovered the Goldfinch by Fabritius. It’s a great painting – but I couldn’t buy a poster. The chain that holds it to its perch is too depressing. Now I will have to reread the book.

The highlight of the Museum, however, was the elevator.elevator

Yup. An elevator. To enter the museum you walk down stairs to a level below ground. Then you take an elevator up to the first floor. It was a cool elevator – as you went up, you realized that the elevator walls were clear glass. It was a bit weird as it slowed at one point as it came up to the top and then paused and went up higher. We paid no attention and got out. Enjoyed the paintings. And when we were done, we went back to the elevator. Except. There was nothing there but a rectangular box of clear glass just sitting on the marble floor. Weird. We just looked and then suddenly the marble floor in the box starts moving up! And there is the elevator.   Better than the Vermeer – but in a different way.

Followed the museum with a walk about town and dinner on the square. We commented about how nice it was to eat on the square – and how European.

Enjoyed a bit of Belgium as we had lunch in Antwerpen before my train left. Belgium has two languages.. maybe three. With their own names, but similar to Dutch, French and German. Suddenly I was able to read signs again. I feel at a tenuous place with my French skills and I don’t want to leave and speak something else for a week. I am in France until Sept 4. 2015-07-09 16.30.45 2015-07-09 16.28.47The Antwerp train station is amazing – with trains coming in on three levels. Modern. Then you turn around and a beautiful classic building is the entrance.

Monoprix has not delivered yet. They have an hour left on their window. In between paragraphs I have actually been cleaning. Some dusting in the bedroom but basically just the vacuuming left and I don’t dare do that until the delivery is here. It would be disaster to miss the doorbell.

News about the 14th of July in the next post. Just an observation that you cannot leave this planning until the day before. The restaurants with a view are booked. Duh.

Brief interlude – Monoprix delivered. Met Chantelle at her house for 2 hours of conversation. She says I am progressing and she was impressed with some new idioms I tossed into the conversation. I finally met her husband. He is a contractor and showed up in Levis and work shirt. Tres American. Very nice but I found myself scared to talk to him. I figured out afterwards that it was because he was just a French person and so far I have only really had full blown conversations with my exchange folks and brief interactions with store and restaurant personnel. I had to concentrate but I did survive. And he is sweet.

Dinner with Laurel with a nice view. Planning activities for le quatorze juillet.

The Canicule Breaks!

It’s raining out!  Well, actually, it just stopped and there is a beautiful breeze coming through my window – the first time I have felt truly comfortable and even a bit chilled since June.  Tonight it should dip into the low 60s and tomorrow the high is 72.  Whew.  Everyone needs this.  Paris has been too hot.

Found some notes I took in Berlin so I shall just finish the Berlin chapter here.  The streets are wider than in Paris (bombing…) but those dang buses make the same tight turns they do in Paris.  And they cross three lanes of traffic to make some of the turns – and the tiny cars back off.   I ate at a French restaurant one night – by accident – and the German French waitress was ruder than any real French waitress I have ever had.  Go figure.

On the audio for the HopOn Hop Off, they seemed to be constantly using the phrase: what used to be there…  another reminder of the damage of the war.  I bought a Berlin Pass – covered the public transportation and had tons of discounts and descriptions.  What was interesting – it had German, English, Spanish and Italian.  But no French.  What’s up with that?  However, I didn’t hear a lot of French in the streets…   And on the audio, I missed French so much that sometimes I turned the audio channel from English to French.  Yes.  I could understand it.

2015-07-07 15.11.41Around Paris they are getting ready for the 14th of July.  Nope, they don’t call it the Bastille Day.  I guess there are two events on the 14th of July and their law doesn’t say which one this holiday is for…

But bleachers are being put up, weird umbrella shades are over some, and flags are starting  to line the Champs Elysees.    Parades are sure to follow.  I haven’t decided what or where to watch the festivities.

2015-07-04 20.01.28The American Fourth was great fun – we found “Knacks” at the store – closest I could get to hot dogs.  Both chicken and pork.  And real hot dog buns!  With that yellowy soft bread!  It was so nostalgic that it actually tasted good!  (Back to French baguettes now!  No need to worry.) Chips, grilled onions, pickles (not really dill but the closest we could get to it).  2015-07-04 19.52.37Between us – Laurel, Ned and me, we put away 5 bottles of wine.  So we did honor the French after all.  And trust me, they drank more than I did.  However, I am proud to say at least one of the bottles was a red.  Ned even said he would call it a hardy red!   So my palette advances.  It was a great evening – the best Fourth we could each remember…. Um… perhaps the location helped?

Sunday I joined Laurel as she looked at a new apartment – I found it for her on AirBNB.  It’s in a great area.  On the top floor – but with an elevator for the first 5 flights and then one flight to walk.  Maybe 50-60 square meters – probably 500-600 sq ft.  She took it and moves in on this coming Saturday.  I like the fact that she is just one metro stop away from me.  It means we can hang out at an apartment – hers or mine quite easily and save on cafes.

And Sunday night I went over to Ned’s to study French and finish off the leftovers.  Very little studying, a lot of eating and another bottle of wine.  It’s the thought that counts, though, right?  Cyber pscyho metrics?  I think I have that wrong… but the concept that thinking about exercise actually has value.  However, I think it might be detailed imaging or visualizing of the exercise.  I guess if you just think about the idea of studying French, it might not have a lot of impact?

Even if I skipped those lessons, I have had a ton of French in the past two days – 2 hours talking about French and American government and sales!  Another 2 hours helping Camille translate information on some books.  She had the French that was used on the marketing material.  She translated that into English.  And had me read and comment.  It was the most interesting exercise – I have observed before how French is so much more elegant than English.  This just underscored that.  She used such flowery and complex phrasing.  I used my red pen viciously!  J  And I ended up with a better feel for French.  I really need to sit and write French for a while.  So that I have a moment to think the translation through instead of thinking it in my head and spitting something out.

And today I met a new CE.  Her name is Denise and she is my age.  She’s a bundle of energy.  Smiles a lot.  We talked for over 2 hours – it was great fun!  Just getting to know each other – and of course the American wants to know all the history of the other.  That’s just so nonFrench but she was sweet to tell me her story.  But the most exciting part – she had told me that before her kids were born she was teaching English to French.  So even though it was a while ago, she still has the instincts of a teacher.  And when I was telling her about my immersion classes and how I was put into a B1 level – she shook her head.  As in…. NO.  I should be at a higher level.   I am actually quite certain that B1 was correct at the time –and I am delighted to think that I have improved enough for her to think I should be at least B2.   When you achieve C, that’s considered fluent.  Woo Hoo Me!

I spent the afternoon searching for a handbag store – a specific one.  Google sent me to Place des Victoires.  Where there was no such store.  And I don’t think ever was.  Google!  Shame on you!   But the walk took me from an art gallery past the Elysess Palace – the French White House, the British Embassy and the American Embassy, and many many swanky stores.  I started at a tiny art gallery that had an exhibition of 30 paintings by Maurice Denis, my favorite Nabis painter – an impressionist.  One of my CE amies suggested it to me.  Fabulous.  By the end of the day, I had close to 6 miles.  And it turned out Laurel was in the neighborhood on a different errand so we met in Palais Royale for a drink.

Walking – yes, I reach the famous FitBit 10,000 steps early in the day now.  And it surprises me.  I don’t think I have walked that much – I am sure it’s still accurate.  I am just walking so much it becomes normal.  And even more than that, today I walked up my three flights twice.  And each time, I walked straight up.  No stopping.  No pausing.  No gasping.  Nope, just up to the door.  Wow.  Ok fine, it did take four months.  But still.

The other major activity was the Banking Quest.  It’s like the Holy Grail.  Without a French bank account, I can’t have a yahoo.fr email.  I can’t buy online in some French stores or trains or flights.  I can’t have a regular phone  or pay online– only month to month coupons from the Tabac.  So Monday I met with a representative at BNP Paribas.  They are the partner with BofA for the ATM here.  Thought it would be a good place to start.  BTW there are absolute horror stories about French banking that I hear from other expats.  I was referred to the international branch by an expat who said her daughter opened an account there quite easily.

In fact, it does seem easy.  Need a passport.  Check.  Need an electric or water bill.  Hmmm.  But I don’t have a water or electric account here – I pay my landlady.  OH.  It can be from Sacramento.  Odd, but ok.

And I need a letter from my US bank that has my name and account number, when I opened the account and that I am a good client.  Well, ok, I can call BofA.

So I do call BofA.  And the assistant branch manager takes down all the info and seems quite willing to help.  Til I get his email later – he’s talked to Legal and he can’t write such a letter.

  1. So I get to go back to BNP in a week at the next appointment and talk this through.

HOWEVER, there’s one more requirement.  (And of course, interestingly enough, my other two friends with a BNP checking account did not have to do this.)  I have to put $10,000  oops – that’s 10,000 euros into the savings account (that I didn’t want, I only wanted a checking account).

My accountant – I contacted her ASAP – recommends against it.  Me too.  There are special extra IRS filings if you have 10,000 or over in a foreign account.  And I don’t want my money just sitting there making little interest and how do I get that money back?    So this will be an interesting conversation.

If I still need to have it.  Today I tried to stop in at my local BNP branch here in Neuilly.  As an attorney here said – she was presenting  at a program for expats – when I asked about the visa process at Neuily – “Neuilly is used to dealing with Americans.”  (When you have a year visa, you have to register with the local government.  In the different areas of France, the specific process varies.  Same rules, different interpretations.  And different levels of experience with Americans and the visa process.

So based on that, I thought I would give the locals a try.  But, of course, the two BNP branches near me were closed for lunch.  Yes.  There was an HSBC bank half a block from my apartment.  So I stopped there.  I had to fill out a form and they are supposed to call me back.  I guess it’s the first screening to determine if I am eligible.  I fit the income amount with my pension – but they referenced that I would have to bring in water or electric bill… but this time from Neuilly.  So that might be complicated.  She said someone would call me today.  They did not.

If it continues like this, I will try the SF office when I get back to the states.

It’s always something, isn’t it?  But at least it is something in Paris.  As I walked to the bank, I crossed this beautiful street – picture included here – and was again reminded how much I love Paris.  Or Neuilly-sur-Seine.

And I saved the best for almost last.  My strengths coaching business partner called me today!  She took the plunge and called my French phone from the states!  She is SOOO brave.  I was at home on wifi so I called her back on audio Skype to save money and have a better connection.  So much fun to catch up with her.  She said she was hesitant to call because gosh I was in France and must be busy being in France.  But, everyone, I am in France to live.  Just like I lived in Sacramento.  So there is down time.  You can’t be having the French experience every moment.  You can’t be at a museum every moment.  So chatting was great fun.  She promises to call more.  And I told her, if I am busy doing the French experience, I’ll just tell her – just like if I was busy with something in Sacramento. LS – thanks for calling!

And it’s not always the French experience.  I am going back to The Netherlands on Thursday for a couple days – a visit with my coaching friend and family and a trip to The Hague and Amsterdam for the Van Gogh museum (ya I am finally pronouncing that the Dutch – well close to – way as no one here, even in Paris, knows what I mean when I say Van Go.)   And tomorrow, 3 more conversation exchanges.

A la prochaine…  Til the next time…

Computers… And the canicule

I worked diligently on the Berlin post – motivated by the desire to never get too far behind in my posts.  I then feel this huge weight on my shoulders as new activities start to build upon previous ones and how can I remember what I wrote about and what I didn’t and oh oh oh…

So with the Canicule – that is scorching heat wave to you!  I stayed one night in my apartment and had maybe 2 hours of sleep.  OK maybe 3.  I don’t do well in the heat.  Never have.  Always try to sleep with a window open or else I tend to have nightmares.  So while I can survive walking around in 90 -103 degree weather, sleeping when the low is 75 and it doesn’t get there until 3 am and without air conditioning… doesn’t cut it.  I used my handy app Hotel Tonight to find a cheap rate for the Movenpick Hotel and checked in Thursday.  A great night’s sleep.  But then the heat wave continued.  So I dipped into my emergency reserve.  Now it’s the Fourth and I will be here again tonight. Tomorrow, Sunday, it should return to the low 60’s and I should be fine at home.

All that to explain my crazy posts – if you get email notices, you may have wondered.  I brought my tablet to the hotel to get some work done (Blog, French language exercises, and a coaching proposal! (Thanks JS!)).  And finished the blog – happy to hit post.

Yet.  The Berlin Blog post wasn’t showing up on the blog site…

Finally realized that the tablet had the date of May 28.  Why?  I have not messed with it.  I thought those things were automatic.  Well, it was the issue – Word Press believed the tablet and said let’s file this blog back in May.  After figuring that out and fixing the date and time, I updated the blog with the photos of Potsdam and some curry wurst.

So that explains multiple postings.  And now I am off to the grocery store to find the AhMeriCahn food provisions for our celebration.

Happy Fourth!