Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chapter Five: Everyday life in Paris

After spending the past three weeks in Italy and Paris pounding the pavement all day long every day, I've settled into a less scheduled and less active way of living in Paris. For the past few days, I haven't done much except wander around the city agenda-less, started up Final Fantasy III again on my iPad, and am reading "A Moveable Feast" and re-reading the entire "Game of Thrones" series. Some other things on my radar are a three-week photography seminar, a photo exhibit in the St-Germain neighborhood and maybe a classical concert at Notre-Dame.

(Due to the unfortunate theft of my phone, and the fact that iPads don't come with USB ports to plug my real camera into, and the fact that I'm not going to walk around taking pictures with my iPad, the next month of posts will be mostly photo-less, until Michelle arrives with my replacement phone strapped to her body.)

A few observations so far about Paris:

1. Everyone seems to be able to use their phones underground on the metro without any problems at all, which is a far cry from back home, where AT&T drops every other call of mine.

2. I love BHV. I've been there three times in the past 9 days. For those who have never been - it's Target + Nordstrom + Home Depot + Crate and Barrel + Best Buy + Macy's Home Store all rolled up into one gigantic store that's 7 stories and takes up an entire city block.

3. I went to BHV to run some errands: return the curling iron I bought last week, buy some hangers, replacement light bulb for a lamp in the flat and insoles. It took me about 90 minutes to get those four things done - partly because I had to wander around the store looking for hangers and light bulbs because I didn't know what they're called in French (I still don't know what hangers are, but light bulbs are "luminere." But what took the longest amount of time was returning the curling iron. First, I thought I'd try customer service. Fail. They direct me to go to the cashier in the department where I purchased the curling iron. Make my way to the cashier, only to be told that I need to go to the special returns cashier across the floor. Fail again. Find the special returns cashier, only to be told that I need to go back to the department I bought the curling iron at and get paperwork from them. Fail a third time. Go back to the original cashier, who asks a colleague about my situation. I'm then told that I need to find a clerk who works in the department and have them fill out the paperwork for me. Fail a fourth time. I find a clerk and ask him if he speaks English. He says no. I immediately begin to think about how I'm going to pantomime my situation to him. Fortunately, a very nice guy who had been looking at electric razors overhears my very broken French and asks if he can help. While I clutch my purse against my body, I explain what I need, and he translates for me. Success! The clerk takes my curling iron and walks away, so I follow him since I don't know what else I'm supposed to do, while saying thank you to the electric razor guy. I then proceed to take the paperwork to the returns cashier, who processes my return without any problem. This kind of stuff drives me insane at home. Like, blood rushing to my head rage kind of insane. But for some reason, it doesn't really faze me here. Maybe it's because I have absolutely nowhere to be and nothing to do, so I'm not in any kind of rush. Or maybe it's because I read David Lebovitz's "The Sweet Life in Paris", who talks a lot about having to adjust to this kind of stuff as an American.

4. Even the most mundane type of errand is fraught with anxiety when you aren't familiar with the language. I stopped by the supermarket today to buy some Coke (don't worry Lynda, only before 12:30pm!) and thought I'd buy some more laundry detergent. I stood there, staring at the rows and rows of cleaning products, but I don't know what's detergent and what's liquid fabric softener and what's for hand washing, etc. I zeroed in on a bottle that I thought looked detergent-esque, but then I noticed the cat on the label, plus it said "chat", which is cat in French. I was scared that maybe it was pet shampoo, so I put it back and decided that I'll come back for detergent some other day.

5. Line drying clothes is like a giant game of Twister. You have to hang the clothes just right, so that it's not touching itself or other clothes, which is simple enough for things like socks and pillowcases, but becomes more creative when dealing with hoodies. And I don't know if the air is more damp in the flat or just in Paris in general, but it takes a full two days for even cotton clothes to dry completely.

6. Tomorrow is France's equivalent of Veteran's Day, so most things are closed. Except for BHV. And Printemps, which is a huge department store that gives foreigners a 10% discount on everything. So, my plans for tomorrow will include stopping by Printemps to find a pair of over-the-knee black boots with a 1-2" heel that are semi-slouchy, which I have been searching for ever since Italy. Lynda thinks I'm being too specific, but I really don't think it should be this hard to find!

7. The weather in Paris in the winter is similar to the weather in Seattle in the winter: gray and drizzly and pretty gross. But the forecast for the next few days is glorious: sunny and cold. So, I'll be spending a lot of time in Paris' many gardens and parks reading and journaling, or wandering around the city, taking pictures with my dusty Canon G11.

Even with the pickpocketing incident, I'm happy to be in Paris. It's lovely to have no real itinerary besides stopping into every single shoe store I see to search for my black boots, or trying to guess which cafe would have the best coffee.

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." -Ernest Hemingway

Location:Rue Saint-Maur,Paris,France


  1. Thank you for the mind "getaway" is so nice to hear you savoring every moment, appreciating your grand adventure for what it is and enjoying this time in your life. I'm so happy for your I'm almost not jealous. Almost. :)

  2. Expert tip: dry your clothes on the line for a day, then when it's pretty dry, put it in the combo washer/dryer on the dry setting for 45 minutes to finish it up.