I Own Paris

I came to that realization this afternoon.  I am sitting in my new apartment, looking out my window to Hausmann buildings opposite me.  I’ve decided I need a set of small teaspoons.  Really.   Small spoons to stir my cream in my hot tea.  So not the regular teaspoons.   Since Café Richard down the street – a major purveyor of plates, cups and cutlery to Paris cafes – did not have what I want, I cast my mind to other sources.  Several came to mind, but I settled on BHV because I like that big department store.  And then I figured out what bus to take and return.

And then I sat back in my chair and realized, I own Paris.  I know this place.  I know locations.  I know where to shop.  I know museums even the Parisians don’t know.

Yes.  You are shaking your heads, dear readers, thinking. “It took you til now to know that?”  OK, sometimes I am a slower learner.  And in this case, probably not slow learning but my self-image as knowledgeable “resident” isn’t always clear.  It’s like when you wear a special blue that brings out your eyes and you just think you’re going about your daily stuff, and you pass by a mirror and you stop and think, damn, I look good!  Same thing.  Damn, I know Paris.

And this visit has put me into two new quartiers- and I came to know them quickly.

Paris is divided up into districts called arrondisements.  I lived next to the 17th when I lived in Neuilly.  This year I started in the 5th.  Now I am in the 7th.   The seventh is chichi.  Posh.  And this street is active.  Other places I was on side streets.  Not here.  Always people walking up and down – except after 9 and til 9 in the morning.  It’s relatively quiet even though I am on the first floor and look onto the street.  Of course, if it gets noisy, I can just turn down or take off my hearing aids.  Nice trick!

Within less than a block I have a grocery store, a boulangerie, tons of restaurants and even tourist stores.  Well, I am two blocks from the Eiffel Tower.  And maybe three blocks from the famous Rue Cler.  I have never been too impressed with rue Cler – but Rick Steves loves it.  Overrated now, I think.

The quick trip back for business was great, but now I recall why, since 2007, my trips to Europe have been at least 4 weeks.  Traveling through time zones gets harder in direct proportion to my age.  Or maybe exponentially harder…  Add to that a head cold – not a happy camper.

It’s been two weeks last Wednesday since the cold began.  Today I do feel somewhat better, however, I cancelled everything with the plan to stay in and finally get well.  Except.  My heating pad – the first purchase I made in 2015 upon arriving in Paris – has finally given up.  Well, it’s not dead yet.  It works intermittently.  But intermittent doesn’t work when you have a back ache.  Especially when the back ache is also intermittent.  But they are not on the same schedule.  I just consider it as the Norwegian Blue of Monty Python fame.  The pharmacy across the street had one.  Now I have it.  And an ice pack.  Both of which were together twenty euros more than if I had bought the same on Amazon.  However, Amazon wouldn’t have delivered until Tuesday.  So for 20 euros, I have three days of use.  6 euros a day – worth the price I think.  And decreased hassle.  This place has a gardien so my packages can be delivered here.  I have had packages delivered to Norm, my friend whose apartment this is, however, Norm went down to the gardien to pick them up.  I don’t know if the gardien will recognize me as Norm.  Shrug.  Spent more, guaranteed delivery.

Clop Clop Clop.  Huh?  I just jumped up to look out the window – 6 of the Garde Republicaine  (horses and riders with SWAT helmets on – on the riders not the horses) were trotting down the street.  That was a first for me in Paris.  Well.  Anywhere, actually.  And ok, they were not trotting, they were just walking.  But trotting is so much more horsey.

Back to the regularly programmed blog…

There has been a fierce wind blowing through Paris these days.  My hair stands up, beyond the pretty image of wind tousled.  And I am chilled if I left without my scarf.  My trip to BHV was productive.  6 tiny teaspoons for tea.  And two pair of pants.  I am so liking French pants these days.  Bought conservative in color but very patterned pants at C&A in December, now I have bright blue and cool green for the summer.  Oh so Frenchy.

Point of Information:  French terms of endearment.  All these years I thought ma petite choue  (or maybe mon petit chou) was my little cabbage.  A term for one’s sweetheart.  I thought my French friend was going to bust a gut, as we say, laughing.  No.  Absolutely she is not calling her hubby a cabbage.  The term comes from chou a la crème – which means cream puff.    This corrected my understanding since 10th grade French 1 class.  Shrug.  Except.  I just called two other French friends for confirmation and both said cabbage on the first pass.  Then they agreed that cream puff was probably right.  One said, “Imagine, calling your sweetheart HONEY.    Mon petit miel.” It was absurd to her.  The joys of language.

So even if I own Paris, I am going to sublet it for the day to anyone, including tourists, who need it; instead, I shall curl up on the sofa and read or video binge.  Tomorrow, more well rested, I shall reclaim my territory.

A bientot.

Jet Lag

Hrmph.

This trip, I thought, was different.  I took melatonin on the plane and my Advil PM.  And I slept.  Probably 4 hours.  That’s a record.  The plane landed at 11 am on Tuesday and I stayed up until 10pm with no nap.  OK, a short nod off of 5 minutes while reading.  Not enough to count.  Each night since I have woken up a few times but immediately fell asleep.  Hurrah, I thought.  I have conquered jet lag.

Until tonight, the fourth night in France.  After lying in bed thinking for an hour, I gave in.  Now typing blogs and snacking on a banana and sipping milk, I hope to transfer some thoughts to paper and empty my mind so I can try to sleep again.

By the way, a friend who is a seasoned traveler told me about No Jet Lag.  A homeopathic solution for jet lag.  She raves about it.  You can search and buy it on Amazon.  I’ll order some in a few months for the trip home.

This apartment is chilly.  There are two electric wall heaters, one in each room.  If I sit close to a heater, I feel a bit warmer, but not much.  A friend in Oakland likes to heat her apartment using her stove.  I am going to give that a try.  If I can figure out how to turn it on, that is.  I already messed with the digital clock and changed the time to an hour ahead accidentally.  Somewhere in a stack of brochures are the instructions for the stove.  Or maybe I can look online – the kitchen is totally Ikea.  Well.  Kitchen.  Hmmm.  The 10 foot section of the living room wall that has the cabinets on it.  This is a true Parisian apartment.  Tiny.  The space well managed.  Have you ever been in an Ikea and seen their displays of apartments – 300 sq ft? 400?  Even 200?  And you wonder why?  Whoever lives in apartments that size?  Easy answer: Europeans.  And now, me.

I must say, this stove heating seems to work.  Actually, I am happy to have a stove.  The place where I lived on my previous 3 long stays did not have a stove.  Nor a dishwasher.  Nor an elevator.  This place is a bit smaller but great on the conveniences.   It’s dark, however.  I am figuring out how to buy a small floor lamp to cheer it up.*  OK so one light is out in the double fixture over the kitchen table and the landlady is going to fix that –  but I doubt it will provide enough light to satisfy me.

And friends who know me well will be surprised to hear I want more light.  Normally, I am happy and perhaps a bit mole-like about low level lighting.

*OK sticklers – I know “how” to buy a floor lamp.  I know where the cheap stores are and I have a credit card.   I meant buy one and get the landlady to pay me back.  I don’t want to offend her by implying there is a major drawback to the current state of the apartment.

Time to give sleep a chance.

Reentry

Ohhh.  That makes it sound very NASA-ish.  Coming back to the States is not quite an alien experience but I do miss Paris.

It’s only been two weeks plus one day.  It feels longer… and not….  Just crazy.  Got back on Wednesday afternoon.  Several disruptions I would have been happy to avoid but that’s life:  Garage door opener – broken springs (2) fixed on Thursday for $600+, slow leak in rear tires – two tires later at $300, dishwasher broken $700+, back slider is really hard to move – handyman next Saturday for a lot of money plus time to get new sinks as the porcelain is wearing out – handyman and more money.  He’s happy I am back!

This after the extra bag charges for Delta.  The allowance is one free, next one $100 and third more like $200.  But that’s cheaper than shipping.  The final number at the airport was 22.9 kg, 22.0 kg and 22.3 kg.  Whew.  Max is 23 kg.  And btw, always ask them to weigh in kg because that gives you a little bit more than the 50 lb limit.  And my Delta AMEX card which gives me free bags domestically doesn’t help for international.  The United Visa gives me the second bag on international flights free.  About the best thing I can say about United…

Most amazing: NO JET LAG.  None.  Nada.  Zip.  Sure – I might have woken up about 2 or 3am, but that’s normal on a normal night.  And what is normal for jet lag is to wake up at 3am and be WIDE awake since that is noon in Paris.  So jet lag means you can’t go back to sleep.  Your body is ready for action!  Time for lunch or a walk or something other than sleeping.

But not this time.  Went right back to sleep every night immediately.  Why?  If I really knew the secret, I’d patent it.  But I think it was because I had so much to do – arrange for all those repairs, and doc appointments and routine car maintenance.  AND travel down to Visalia to see my sister who is recovering from a stroke.  So one day here and the next on the train south.  Stayed there 4 nights and back here and then back down there 3 days later.  I think that is going to be the routine for a few weeks.  (She is doing VERY well – speech great and progressing from a wheelchair to walker to using a cane!)

What’s best about the return?  The clothes dryer!  And a washer that is easy on the clothes versus the one in Paris.  And of course the dryer is nonexistent in Paris.  I was very disappointed about the dishwasher – I was so looking forward to not having to wash and dry dishes by hand.  But no.  On the other hand, I have been patiently waiting for that dishwasher to break – it was here when I bought my house in 2003.  And it wasn’t new at that time.  The new one is not a high end fancy bells and whistles machine but it is so quiet that I only knew it was working at first because the timer on the front was changing minutes…

Total Wine is a great store for wine.  I went to stock up on my French wines.  I don’t really drink a lot and usually not alone and usually with meals.  I got a Chinon, a Brouilly, and a rose from Provence.  And after watching the news, I opened the Chinon.  It was necessary.

Because of my travel schedule, I wasn’t eating well during my first week back.  Finally had time to buy food and prepare a meal.  So I have changed after two 9 month stints in Paris.  I was quite surprised.  I made a chicken breast with wine sauce and champignons…. Oh.  Mushrooms.  And as I looked at the plate, I thought to myself, It looks tasty.  And I could slice it up nicely and arrange it on my plate and put the sauce just so…  OMG!   I never thought anything like that for a meal I made for myself.  It was scary!  I shared the story with a friend who said I was a foodie.  Oh God Forbid!  Me? A Foodie?  I won’t go that far, but I will say, oui, I have a different attitude to food.

Coming back also includes medical appointments.  Spent the day at Kaiser for a variety of things, including getting a hearing aid fixed.  Yes.  I have a hearing aid.  I got it when I worked for a company that was totally paranoid.  The senior team of which I was a member would have meetings where everyone whispered.  I would be saying, What? What?  So I had my hearing tested – they said, you’re border line.  I said I need to hear the whispers.  But I didn’t wear it often in Paris.  Sometimes crowd noise would be too loud – so I’d take it out and then I just didn’t seem to need it.  Come back here and it’s like I am at the bottom of a well.  What’s up with that?  But it had stopped working – a Kaiser gal fixed a broken wire and I am now good to go.  But why do I need it in the US more than in France?  I think Americans mumble.

A French friend facetimed me my first week back.  I thought it was someone else and just answered without thinking.  Then I realized it was Francois.  Yikes.  Early morning here and I am not sure I had even combed my hair.  FT can be dangerous!  So I held the phone as far away as I could so my early morning hair and face would be as small as possible.  And then he started speaking FRENCH.  QUOI?  My brain stalled.  It was the feeling you got when the teacher announced a pop quiz.  Huh?  I hadn’t prepped for that!  Yikes.  Fortunately, it came back.  But we did speak more in English.

However, this evening, I went to an open house for a new law firm a dear friend is starting.   And there I met a French woman.  And yes, I just started speaking French with her and it was wonderful!  Maybe soon I will stand up and believe I speak French!  (I also added TV5 to my Xfinity lineup so I can watch the French shows.)

And for the three of you who said you have read every blog, please email me your physical address so I can send you your prize!  I hadn’t forgotten!  Cheaper to mail from here than Paris.

Notice I have stayed away from politics… except for the need for wine?  I’ll just say I am so proud of those National Park Service employees who have started altNPS Facebook and Twitter accounts and refuse to be silenced on climate change and science in general.  This is nuts.

I have been called a global resident.  I love that.  And an English friend posted on FB that she wants me back to being an American Abroad soon!  I agree with her.  We will see how the health of everyone progresses.