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.
Around 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.
The 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). Between 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.
- 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…