Lots of posts in the past hour or so!  Clearly, I am procrastinating.  Or, wait, give myself a bit of credit.  I am taking a break!

I hate packing to come here and packing to go back.  On one hand it’s a puzzle and I love puzzles.  But moving what you have accumulated over 3 years is not fun.

Last year I left far too much with two friends here.  This year I bought two small carryon bags – really small – for the European airlines.  One I used for several trips in France.  The other is new just for storing things. But both were only 10 euros each so sure why not?  Thus one bag for each friend to store in a garage for me.  That’s it.  I am also giving them some things I won’t need – like a duvet and a nice fan.  And cubes.  Cubes are always useful.  The two bags and the printer.  The one bag must be ready Jan 8, the other Jan 9.  I fly on Jan 10.

I came over with two bags.  I will be going back with only two.  But why then am I carping on bags?  Because I have three bags full of stuff.  Delta lets the first international bag on free.  The second is $100.  OK.  The third is $285.  WHAT????   My third bag is going home by way of  for 189$.  A friend gave me an old but huge soft sided case.  I can send 66lbs in it.  It was all packed and I started to wrap tape around it when I realized I should be using duct tape so now I will start again.

The complication with sendmybag or any of the shipping services is that I live on the 3rd floor (American 4th) without an intercom or gardien (that’s like a super).  And the drivers do not have cell phones and will not climb stairs.  The bags must be on the ground floor waiting.

Yikes.  What to do?  There’s a hotel close by, less than a block.  But I have been worried that they will be very unhelpful French and say too bad for me.  Can’t leave it there.  Au contraire!  I finally got my courage up to ask and the concierge Charles was delightful.  Of course, we are neighbors.  No worries.  Whew.  Then we chatted on for 15 minutes – his wife is from NYC.  The only outstanding issue is how I get a large suitcase weighing 66 lbs down stairs and out to the hotel.  Gravity will be my friend.

I discovered Leroy Merlin. (A French friend said he was going to Leeee rwaieh mare lan – which I finally figured out was Leroy Merlin.) Bricolage.  The hardware store.  I look up the names for items I want but if I am not sure, I find a picture on Google images and take that with me.  Duct tape here?  The guy took one look at the picture and said Scotch American.  OK.   Not Scotch Tape.  Just Scotch.  All tape is just Scotch here.

I leave on January 10.  It’s Dec. 30.  I have well enough time but what if I want to ship one more box?  So I am attempting a dry run this weekend.  That means everything needs to be put away and I shall live here in a pristine uncluttered as it was when I arrived state.  But I love clutter.  What if I need something? No No No.  Be strong.

Actually, I am not too worried as this is the third time I have done this and it worked twice before.  I just have to remember that after I go through border patrol and customs in SLC, I have to go through security again before getting on the plane to Sacramento.  I forget every time and have to pull all my electronics out and take my shoes off and pfhafff.  (I don’t think I spelled that sound right…. You get it.)  Even though I am TSA pre-check, the screening between flights doesn’t seem to recognize that.  Maybe because there is just one check point.

And now I have caught up on most blog ideas.  It’s back to packing… unless I decide it’s too dark now to do a good job sorting and arranging and then I get to read…

Transport , Russians, & Cookies

I totally get the RER and pretty much all the French transportation systems!  In Reims I even used their bus system.  Found the bus stop for the return to city center.  Happy.  Really, RER intimidated me three years ago.  It was the big scary underground TRAIN.  But now I jump on and off for shortcuts on the Metro.

The RER is the Paris and Ile de France regional transport.  Regional Express Reseau (network).  It’s funny because lines A, B, C, D, and E are all called RER.  Pronounced air euh air.  RER A, etc.  But then there are lines F through P (at least) that are just letters.  Same idea.  Trains to the suburbs.  I read SNCF (Societe Nationale de Chemin de Fer) (National Society for –literally- Roads of Iron) is planning on dropping the RER and just calling them all trains.  What? Make sense?

SNCF has also just changed their website and marketing.  It is now OUIGo.  Like We Go.  Which is fascinating for the French to make an English play on French words…  They also now have Oui Bus.  Nevertheless, I must say they have improved their services.  The bathrooms are less often out of service.  Their wifi in first class works well and is easy to join.  They send me both emails and texts about my train – if delayed (not) or change of cars (they say take any seat as long as it’s in your class of service). And they send out surveys.

Changing topics.

I kicked out the Russians.  I just went back to Norton for my computer security.  Best Buy Geeks got me on Kapersky.  Then I read this year that they are actually a real Russian company and that our government has dropped them as they were lacking confidence in them.  Made sense to me.  Not that I have much of global importance on my PCs… well, not much is really nothing.  Not even nothing of significance, I mean actually nothing.  However, my laptop seems to be working better since the change.  Everything moves faster.  I like.  (added a week later – yes, everything is running better with Norton!)

Marche de Noel sightings.

A sign for “Vertiable Cookies American”  Which means REAL AMERICAN COOKIES.  Had some interesting exchanges about that – a friend was surprised to see it.  And I thought well, we say French macarons all the time.  So we distinguish.  But then I thought more about it and realized that real cookies are nonexistent here.  They just don’t make cookies often and they are more likely to be called biscuits.  With all the buttery pastries they make, I can see them turning down cookies.

The Bonjour Effect

That’s a book written by a couple – he’s Quebecois and she perhaps English but they wrote this book looking at the differences between France and North America.

The Bonjour Effect is what I have told you before.  You simply MUST say Bonjour before interacting with a French person.  I know yet I still forget sometimes by starting with Excusez-moi.  Nope.  And I even heard a French person say Excusez-moi and once she had the attention of the other person, she then said Bonjour.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the French people think of the book so I lent my copy to one of my friends.  At our next meeting he said he now understands me!

I guess he hasn’t always approved of my interaction with waiters.  Hey.  I am NOT rude.  I smile.  I say please and thank you.  But apparently I am not deferential enough.  Say what?  And he said that – you think it is their job and they should wait on you and take your order and check back etc.   Ah? Duh?

I still don’t get quite what the French think about this – it’s almost like they have to convince the waiters that you are worthy of their attention.

Speaking of waiters – my friend and I were having a wonderful Italian meal at Fuix by the Luxembourg gardens.  We sat in the enclosed patio with the heaters because inside was suffocatingly hot.  The waitress was not attentive.  Pas du tout.  I think we asked for the water three times.  Oh well.  It’s Paris.  Then a group of students (the university is close by) came in – maybe 10?  They were loud and obnoxious and there, I thought, went our nice lunch experience.  They started to move tables together to be able to sit as one.  Loudly.

And then the mean waitress came out.  Oh my did she give them what for.   Who were they to come in and rearrange the tables?  They were disturbing her clients (us!  She was defending US!).  And they could just leave, thank you very much.  The students argued.  She held her ground.  And they left.  She rearranged the tables back to normal,  shrugged her shoulders, smiled at us and went inside to continue to ignore us.

My friend suggested that in fact the students would only have ordered a café and would have taken a lot of her time and energy for not much return.  So get out


I have been thinking a lot about food. Turned down an offer to go to Hard Rock Café…  Even 5 guys or le camion qui fume don’t appeal much right now.  I will have burgers too readily available in 12 days.

I lived in Visalia for 21 years.  It has fabulous restaurants. My consultants loved to have lunch or dinner with me.  They had their favorites.  So then I move to what I think is cosmopolitan Sacramento- being the capital et al.   I was very disappointed and still don’t have a go to Italian restaurant.

So after three years in  Paris has something happened to my taste buds? Maybe. And my idea of a meal. I can eat a dinner at lunch.  And I understand  an entree. And dessert.  My mom always had  to have dessert to cleanse her palate.  I get it now.  Not quite ready for eating a full pizza by myself but I am getting closer.  (Although I do miss Round Table pizza!!!)

And now I enjoy rarer beef.  Not quite at the French level but leaning towards red.  And cheese. I shall never  get into the sweet breads etc. But sauces – oh yes.

I will miss Picard Surgeles the most perhaps.  That’s the frozen food store (across the street from me!).  They are all over Paris – and France.  And have been around for 20+ years.  I have no idea why an American company has not figured out their secrets.  The food is delicious.  And even easy to microwave sauces.  And to die for desserts.  I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Pretty amazing post for the self-declared Non-Foodie.  Scary….


Face cream and customs

Did I tell you about falling for the Sephora pitch for Dior eye bags fixer-upper?  I am sure I did.  Well, I fell for it.  And spent big bucks partly relying on their assurance that I could get my tax back at the airport as long as I was leaving within 30 days.  And in November I was going to Maroc.  Not like I was staying in the EU when I went to London (and left the Schengen) (complicated, I know!)

So I filled out all the paperwork and gave it to Sephora who gave me a receipt with a bar code on it.  Good to go.

Except it didn’t.

I tried three times on the easy machine at the airport but it wouldn’t read the bar code.  So I innocently went to the guy at the douane (customs) office.  Who didn’t speak English well or so he pretended.  He took my paper and my passport.  After much looking, he said it didn’t work.  I said Sephora told me to do this… we went back and forth til he said Sephora wasn’t customs.  And Yikes at that.  Because I wasn’t trying to say Sephora was right, I just wanted him to know that it wasn’t MY idea.  Then he explained to me that while I was here on a 6 months visa, I was considered a “resident” and so the Value Added Tax would not be refunded.  Okey Dokey.  I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.  I want to be under the radar at all times.  I took my passport and skedaddled.

And interesting, when I went through border control the next two times, the ladies took forever to stamp my passport.  One time she couldn’t make her reader read it.  I don’t know if they flagged my passport?  I hope not.  But I am totally legit.

Now I could legitimately apply for a VAT refund because I am leaving in less than 2 weeks and I am on a tourist stay, but you have to spend over 100 euros and I think it is more – at one store in one day.  Given my $800 limit for returning items in the US, I don’t need to add any new purchases.

So enjoy my taxes, France.