Friday, September 11, 2009
France on $70 a Day - Paris - Day One
It took eight months to plan the trip but only thirteen hours of travel to get here. It seems as though there should have been mountains to climb or oceans to swim so there would be a more gradual and perceptible transition between these two countries, but all we had to do was navigate airport corridors and endure two flights, and, voila, here we are!
We arrived at the apartment building, punched in some numbers for the door codes, and were met by our host. Philippe did not remain a stranger for long thanks to the 2 X 3 foot elevator. David and I took turns riding up with Philippe and one suitcase at a time, and, in such crowded quarters, we got to know each other almost intimately. Had I moved two inches to the right in the elevator, David would have had good reason to accuse me of infidelity! Fortunately, Philippe did not seem to mind close contact with two such tall Americans--David is six and a half feet tall and I'm almost six feet--and even had welcoming gifts for us. David received a lovely bottle of fabulous French wine, and I was given a coffee-table book entitled, Atlas des Catastrophes Naturelles. Philippe explained that the book was in French but had great photos. David and I have yet to figure out what message he was sending with a book about tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes, but we both appreciate Philippe's gesture.
The Magenta apartment is exactly as described on the Beau-Paris website, but even more charming than we expected thanks to the three tiny balconies with French doors. But, then, everything here is tiny, from the elevator to the apartment itself. Measuring only 350 square feet, somehow the owners packed every imaginable amenity into this space. There is almost as much storage as we have back at home, and the bed can be cleverly elevated to allow for this chair in which I'm sitting to write at the computer at the built-in desk.
After Philippe showed us how to operate the TV, dishwasher, washing machine and computer, he wished us a good day, and David and I were left to unpack and explore our neighborhood. Within roughly a three block radius, there are several brasseries, boulangeries, patisseries, a laundry, tourist office, three pharmacies and several bars. I've already found my favorite patisserie where the clerk now greets me like a friend, and David and I have a favorite grocery store, just around the corner, that we find convenient yet puzzling. We don't know why there are six brands of butter but no cream, but perhaps we'll solve that mystery before we leave. On today's walk, we discovered two marches, small markets selling only cheese or flowers or bread in a small covered mall, and a store that sells nothing but frozen food. We clearly will not be lacking choices for grocery supplies.
Our French lessons seem to be paying off as most Parisiens smile when we speak. Then they reply in English. Ah, well, at least they know we're making an effort, and they've responded politely in kind. I have had a few difficulties with the French keyboard, though, because it has enough accents and symbols to confuse anyone. I finally managed to convert the keyboard to an American one, but the computer constantly tries to switch me back to French. Whenever I notice the word "and" appearing as "qnd," I know the computer has done it one more time.
So, our first full day in France has been a delightful one. We've bought, with a little help from the clerk who showed us how to use the machine which only accepts coins, a carnet of ten Metro tickets, ridden the Metro, walked from the Gare du Nord to our apartment and then to the Canal St. Martin, bought groceries, and said bonjour to a lot of bemused Parisiens. The only problem we're having is exhaustion which I suppose time and sleep will cure. A good night's sleep had better do the trick because we're exploring the weekly market tomorrow.
I highly recommend the Beau-Paris.com properties. They were the best and cheapest we found on the Internet, and, now that I'm living in one of their offerings, I know they are truly good value. To see our apartment, go to the website, click on "All Apartments," and scroll down to Magenta. Click for more information and you will find many photos. Imagine us right now sitting on the couch in the living room!
To convert a foreign computer keyboard to an American one, look for the FR symbol on the right side of the task bar (at the bottom of the screen.) Click and select English (Etats Unis) from the offerings.