Tuesday, June 3, 2008

France! Week one

After four days of trying to sort out my Parisian stuff--through a forest (?) of red tape--I'm finally settled into my apartment in the 2nd. But to backtrack a bit:

Before I left for France on Friday, I was in my high school visiting friends and hearing Jonathan Safran Foer read. I couldn't have been farther from a summer on my own in France and Italy. I kept saying how great it was that I had no idea how my summer was going to pan out--"If I can't picture it, then I can't picture it being over!"--and I boarded the plane really not knowing very much. I knew I was going to stay with the family I au paired for two years ago for the first few days, before the tenant in my apartment moved out--but that was about it. I hadn't bothered looking up how to get to apartment from the airport, I didn't know what time I was starting work on Monday (more on that later) and I wasn't 100% sure the apartment I'd rented even existed (craigslist phobia). I came with an I-can-figure-it-out-along-the-way attitude which in some ways was great (when going abroad, you really can't ever expect to have everything figured out and I'd already been to Paris a bunch of times already, so I wasn't truly without a clue) but in other ways, it really bit me in the butt. It all boils down to forgetting that everything in France has about 10 steps to every 1 in the US.

I present: The Navigo (monthly unlimited metro card) Debacle.
I needed a ticket from the machine to go to the teller to get the card (only available in certain stations) to go back to the machine to charge the card (but not with any of my bank or credit cards, only cash, but only one in three machines take cash). But even when I got the card and put money on it, I couldn't use it before I attached a photo of myself from a photomaton also available only in certain stations, but not necessarily the ones that provide the cards....etc etc etc.

Anyway, enough complaining. It was great being back with the family I au paired for the summer after senior year. Well great and surreal. Suddenly I was 18 again, taking care of three little girls, speaking baby French. But now they could walk and feed themselves and talk amongst themselves--unbearably cute. Dinner that night with Erinn '10 and Elsa '10 smoothed out any remaining hard feelings against Paris.

I went with the au pair family to their grandmother's the next day for lunch, was saddled with French and Russian cookbooks by the very generous relative, and then was off on my own. I opted for exploring the neighborhood around my apartment over checking out the office territory because, well, I was afraid I would need time to apartment hunt. Eek.

But! I found it--or the building at least. It's on rue d'Aboukir in the second, right near Rue Montorgueil, which is kind of like New Zealand in that it has more sheep than people, except instead of sheep there's a million pastry shops. (As soon as I figure out my schedule at work, I'll try and offer my services.) There's also a bunch of great restaurants (Lebanese! Sushi! Italian! French! and my brunch staple in New York, Le Pain Quotidian), artisanal bakeries, Italian gelato places, a cheap supermarket with all the essentials, an open air market a couple blocks away, and a North African spice store with every kind of dried fruit, legume and spice I could ever need--and the tagines to cook it all in. SO GOOD. Plus, I'm right by Les Halles--the old marketplace of Paris--that I'd studied in two classes at school. Perfect.

My first day of work was, well, very French--I just went home: After accepting the fact that my slew of emails to the boss would remain unanswered before Monday morning and that I had no other way to get in touch with her, I figured the best way would be to show up, as planned 3 months ago, at 9am on Monday. Waiting in the lobby, I caught up on the morning's International Herald Tribune, listened to the security guard rave about Morocco (I REALLY want to go), and counted the number of tiles on the floor (4 times over?) before she arrived at around 1030.

IHT Boss: "I thought we were going to email before you started."
Out of the loop intern: "Me too. I sent you some emails..."
IHT Boss: "Oh. Well. Come back tomorrow. Get your documents."

Documents. Woops. Had to figure my way through the city to get third party liability insurance (that was fun), a copy of my beloved Navigo card (only slightly easier than getting the card itself and open a bank account (I think I do need a visa, dear Christy of CES).

But turns out there's no rush. I won't be starting until 2:30 pm (hello Eastern Standard Time hours) on Tuesday. So in the mean time, I finally got my keys, and shlepped all my stuff to the apartment. It's nice. A one bedroom with a fully stocked kitchen (phew!), silk curtains, wireless and a phone that calls the states. Only thing is that the living room is a little dark since the shutters of two windows are bolted shut (for safety?). Also, I hope my roommate will be ok on the pullout couch. (He called the bedroom the apartment finder's fee.) Dear Charlie, it's a little sad and wilted. Please forgive it.

My friend Cat from high school gets in at 10 tomorrow morning so I enjoyed a quiet night in tonight. Went grocery shopping, made myself dinner. There's really nothing as satisfying as knowing you can make your own coffee (this morning's achievement) and your own dinner. Listening to a plump New Zealand man play the Beatles on acoustic guitar, I ate a spinach, cherry tomato and shallot omelette, with some leftover tabouleh, and a spinach, tomato and walnut salad on the side. I'd also picked up a nut roll from the open air market 30 minutes before dinner (so fresh!) and some fig and nut cheese. And dessert? A rhubarb yogurt with a cup of tea. And it all took about 20 minutes? Oh France. Hopefully I'll be prepared for Italy this way...

Left on the to do list: Open a bank account, find a gym in the neighborhood, unpack.

And finally, the most exciting discovery of the day: An espresso machine in the closet.