Monday, May 23, 2011

Settling into Paris in mid-May

This is a statue at the Place de la République
in Paris' 10th district, a district known to me
as the place where the landlords won't ever
ever return my calls.
Many greetings my excellent friends!

Congratulations on surviving the Rapture in America.  I’m sorry that so few people were raptured, but maybe the next one will be more spectacular.  Here in Paris there was little talk of Rapture but rather of DSK, the IMF politician who was charged with rape in New York.  The French generally believe that he was set up for this charge, save a few. 

The difference between those who think he was set up and those who don’t, seems to have more to do with how they feel about President Sarkozy than anything else.  I’m still blythly unaware of how the politics work here, so I’ll just go ahead and assume he’s guilty until proven innocent… no wait, I’m not the mainstream media… OK I’ll assume he’s innocent until proven guilty.

Fashion:  I’ve found what I suppose I would call the “fashion district” of the city for regular people in the 11th district or the Bastille as it is better known.  There are rows upon rows of shops that specialize in perhaps only a few varieties of outfits, but have many each type in stock.  Unlike the haute couture places that I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, the prices in these shops seem to have price points that a normal budget can manage.

Shopping:  I’ve often said that to know if you will like a place takes a few weeks.  You have to run out of your essentials like toothpaste and underarm deodorant and see if you can live with the local brands.  So far I’ve given up Crest for Signal toothpaste, which seems superior to my surprise.  Also paid 9 Euros for a crappy little stick of Old Spice underarm deodorant.  9 Euros to smell like a goddam vampire!  I’ll have to find something better than this soon.

Vampires:  Vampires don’t seem to be anywhere this spring.  They were lurking around everywhere when I first got here and now, they seem to be missing.  I haven’t seen Malcovich either (coincidence?), though I did bump into George Clooney a few weeks back.

Sci-fi uniforms!  I want, I want!!!
Fashion:  Apart from ordinary fashions, I’ve spotted a couple of really cool uniform shops where a restaurant or hotel could go to outfit its staff in the latest kitchen and wait-staff fashions.   Some of the uniforms are so cool that I thought they might even be good outfits for a low budget science fiction movie.  Hell, I might even make one.  I’ll keep you posted.

City Life: It wasn’t obvious, but I discovered the mystery of Paris’ clean streets.  Over the past few hundred years, it appears that the city engineers have sorted out the rise and run of nearly every street in the city and they have installed water spigots that aid in street cleaning.   They simply turn on a spigot and then sweep the street debris into the stream that runs the length of the street where it all gets collected in the sewer (presumably for water treatment).

Paperwork: This was a banner week in that I applied for my Carte de Sejour, or residency card this week.  To stay in Paris longer than one year, this card must be applied for within the first two months of residency. Armed with every paper known to man, I went to the office and applied.  Surprisingly, they only needed one paper, which I received from the Vancouver consulate along with my passport and visa.  No one spoke English at the OFII (immigration) office where I applied, but I understood enough of the French to know that I’d done all I needed and was soon on my way.  I was in and out of the office a total of two minutes. 

Culture: If you are an old fashioned sort and still like to borrow books from a library, but your French is not quite to where you can read much more than a pamphlet without needing a rest…  I recommend the American Library in Paris.  If you don’t like books, the place is crawling with clever Anglophones and they have free Wi-Fi!!!  Check it out at http://www.americanlibraryinparis.org/ .

Movies: A new movie came out last week in Paris called “Midnight in Paris”.  I’m not sure why, but the tickets for the film on Sunday night were 4 Euros each.  It may be the first time I’ve ever gone to a theatre and been astonished by how LOW the ticket price was.  If you see this movie anywhere in the world other than Paris however, it is going to cost you several thousand dollars and perhaps change your life.  You simply won’t want to be anywhere else in the world other than Paris by the time the film has ended.  Even though I saw the movie in Paris, I was thinking about how I wanted to get out of the theatre to be in the city.

City Life: I didn’t see this so much in the fall, but spring has heralded the return of picnickers.  On my dear little Isle Saint Louis, it is possible to go down a set of stone steps to the river bank and spread out a blanket next to the path.  Wine, cheese and bread are all that you need to enjoy the Seine from that moment on.  I’ve noticed that on the weekends, these picnics extend into the evening and turn into parties.

Architecture: A few of the city’s landmarks such as the Orsay Museum and the Louvre are undergoing some exterior refurbishments.  Looking to take advantage of the situation, large companies have paid for gigantic advertising murals to cover the ugly scaffoldings.  Whether advertisements are uglier than scaffoldings is a matter for the eye of the beholder.

The husk of an old appliance in a
rental apartment in Le Marais.
City Life: Apartment hunting in Paris should probably be a televised competitive sport.  It has heartache, anguish, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; basically it has everything.  The only thing is hasn’t yielded is a new apartment for me.  French residents are generally required to have a guarantor or co-signer for any lease agreement.  A foreigner sans-guarantor may be asked for several thousand Euros in a security deposit… if they are not entirely overlooked by the landlord in favour of a French applicant.

Language: My French has improved, and yet I find myself speaking more and more English.  Perhaps it’s just that I am speaking more and more.  I’m having more conversations where my French friends speak French and I speak English and I really don’t care what the waiters or waitresses speak.  They  can have at it in Russian so long as I get my champagne.  :)

Work:  I have not sought after any new contracts in Paris, however I am inclined to think that I will wait a while before I consider it.  I have work from Canada and the US, but I’m finding that doing this work is a lot like taking a schoolboy to Disneyland… and forcing him to do his homework there.

Live long and prosper, my friends;
Robyn

2 comments:

  1. Great post. I'm still chuckling and thanks so much for tip on the movie. The trailer is now my Tuesday post and I'm going to check it out this weekend here in San Francisco. I'm keeping a sharp eye on your info re the landlords. Yikes!

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