Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chapter Eight: Halfway point (or close enough)

I have been in Paris for a little over a month now, and my trip is just about at its halfway point, so I thought I'd take some time to reflect on what I miss about home, what I love about Paris (and Europe), and what things about Paris I could live without:

Things I miss about home/Seattle/USA (family and friends are a given):

-Cable TV/Netflix streaming/HBO GO: The only English language channels I've been able to find on the TV in my flat are CNN International and I think some random sports channel. I have been watching "Amadeus", "The Queen" and "Saving Private Ryan" on DVD all day long every day for the past three weeks and I'm pretty sure I've memorized all of the music and dialogue for all three movies now. I also can't believe I'm missing all of the Kardashian drama! (But thanks to Catherine for faithfully forwarding me all US Weekly/People/MSN Entertainment links related to the debacle!)

-Communicating without having to point and/or constantly repeat myself. I also miss understanding 100% what's written on menus and signs.

-The comforts of home, such as a clothes dryer. And elevators in buildings. And faucets that spew out water at normal temperatures instead of water that gives me second degree burns every time I wash the dishes.

-Amazon Fresh

-Whole Foods

-Meals that have some kind of vegetable component

-Knowing exactly where to go to find what I need. In the past month, I have discovered that Tylenol is prescription-only in France, that dental floss is absolutely nowhere to be found, that it's pharmacies and not supermarkets that carry bandaids or blister protectants, that some pharmacies carry shampoo but some don't, and contact solution is only sold in eyeglass stores.

But what I love about Paris and Europe > the superficial things I miss about home:

-The shopping. OMG. French brands plus global brands that aren't in Seattle, such as Uniqlo and Muji.

-Orangina (and the lemon soda I discovered in Italy)

-About 10 different countries are about a 2 hour and $150 plane ride away. (Yay for Barcelona next week with Michelle and Anita!)

-French etiquette which dictates that one should always say bonjour/au revoir whenever you enter/exit a store or restaurant, and always say bonjour/bonsoir to people you run into in your apartment building. I think it's charming.

-Paris' very efficient and dense subway system

-Having the time to walk everywhere, aimlessly wandering around neighborhoods and discovering new places in the city

Stuff I could live without in Paris:

-The smokers. I'm pretty sure that at least 75% of the population must be smokers. It's not unusual to see people shoving an unlit cigarette in their mouth in the metro station, so that they can light up the second they step outside. Gross.

-The kissing on the cheek method of greeting. I can't remember the last time I kissed a member of my family, but since I've been in Europe, I've been kissed by more strangers than I can even count. Stresses me out.

-People not picking up after their dogs. It's a land mine of poo on the sidewalks. To quote Robert, "It's so disrespectful!", both to people and to the beautiful city.

-The smell of urine in places where it should never smell like urine. Like on the street. And in metro stations. C'mon people!

But again, what I love > what I don't care for.

People have been asking me what I've been doing when I'm by myself here. It's surprising how I've been able to fully occupy my time.

-I've been reading a lot. I re-read the entire Game of Thrones series plus started and finished the last book, (those Lannisters, Freys and Tullys are CRAZY), re-read David Lebovitz's "The Sweet Life in Paris" and Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants", and finished "A Moveable Feast", and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." I started "The Happiness Project" since it's a book club book, but I couldn't get into it and gave up after about 1/3 of the way. Now I'm on the hunt for "Bossypants" and "The Great Gatsby."

-I've also been exploring neighborhoods that I hadn't spent much time in before, such as Saint Germain and Canal St. Martin. (I wanted to skip stones like Amelie over the bridge on Canal St. Martin, but I've never been able to skip stones, so that dream is gone.)

-On Sunday, I took an hour long train ride to go to the outlet mall. It's set up like a village, and it's a nice mix of high-end (Valentino, Burberry) and French brands (ba&sh, Maje). I was tempted to buy a carry-on suitcase from Samsonite, because I'm skeptical about my ability to cram 10 days' worth of stuff into my duffle bag for Ireland in January, but I didn't, which may have been a major mistake. Since I've already purchased 3 pieces of wool outerwear, a pair of flats, wool shorts, a dress and a shirt, and my trip is only halfway over, I'm also skeptical about my ability to fit all of my stuff into my enormous suitcase + duffle bag for my trip home.

-Gertrude Stein's collection of Picassos and Cezannes is currently at the Grand Palais, which I will be checking out this week.

-I am determined to rent a bike while I'm here. It is really cheap and everyone does it. Even though I can't get rid of the mental images of people riding bikes on the street getting crushed by large vehicles, a la Meg Ryan in "City of Angels" (but what do you expect, when you decide to close your eyes and not hold onto the handlebars while biking on a highway?!) and Anne Hathaway in "One Day", I'm going to do it anyway. If I can survive running multiple red lights on a bike at night, like we did on the bike tour a few weeks ago, I'm sure I'll be fine during the day, biking 5 MPH.

The next few days will be a flurry of laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning (well, I'm paying someone 16 euros to clean the flat), to prepare for the arrival of group 3 out of 5 - Michelle and Anita! I'm excited to see them, and I'm also excited for the items they are couriering over for me: my iphone 4s #2, dental floss (seriously cannot find it ANYWHERE. I've searched two different supermarkets, plus multiple pharmacies), contact lens solution (couldn't find my brand for a while, and when I finally did find it, I discovered that it's $20/bottle!) and Burt's Bees lip balm!

Location:Rue Saint-Maur,Paris,France

1 comment:

  1. I missed this post--can't tell if you posted today and your date is off or if i really missed it. love this post--i can't believe you let strangers kiss you on the cheek. the germs :) ok, eat more veggies and have fun this weekend!