Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Rain in France Falls Mainly on My Pants

Bonjour! I arrived in Paris on Friday, emerging from Charles De Gaulle with my luggage despite three flights on three different airlines. Sadly, Tina had to remain in Philadelphia, leaving me to sit next to a quiet young Irish woman for the transatlantic journey. When the pilot announced the in-flight entertainment, Hotel for Dogs, she was moved to say her only spoken words: “Oh, balls.”

I arrived on an amazingly beautiful day, low 70s and bright sun. I made it to my new apartment with no real problems and was greeted by my landlady, Patricia. Patricia is a lithe British woman, friendly but clearly thinking primarily about the Eurostar departure schedule. She was to the point: This is the apartment, hope you like it, and by the way: The neighbors are crazy.

The walls are fairly thin here, to be sure, but I was warned that the neighbors will take virtually any opportunity to knock on the door and ask me to be quiet. The night before I came, they knocked on the door at 11pm when she was reading a book in bed. And true to form, on my first night they knocked at 9pm, while it is still quite bright outside here, to ask if I could walk across the apartment more quietly.

My first thought was to formulate a response dripping with condescension (“Why do your people always have to go to sarcasm first?”), but Patricia had practically begged me to be nice and not to mention point out their nuttiness. So I smiled and muttered something unintelligible even to myself. (Something easy to do when someone is speaking to you in a foreign tongue -- you find yourself forgetting how to speak even your own language.)

The apartment is a one-bedroom in the 11th, about halfway between the Bastille and Pere Lachaise. I’ve been told that it is reasonably “fashionable,” which is apparently important. What I like is that I’m a block away from the bakery, the laundry, and the market. Diet Coke will flow through my veins once again! In general it’s quite a busy neighborhood, especially when it’s not raining. Except that it rains all the time, literally every day since I arrived. (“Oh, is Paris too rainy for you?”) Yes it is, and I’ll shut up now.

The apartment itself is about 1870s or so, and the building is fairly average for Paris – about six stories, ironwork on the windows, no balconies. The floors look 14th century to me, but apparently they are newer than that. They certainly creak like something medieval, but the patina is fantastic.

Most notable is the bathroom, as these apartments were built without a shower or a tub. (Seriously.) So a shower was fabricated by placing the head over the sink and a drain in the floor. So basically the entire bathroom is your shower, and you have two curtains to shield the door and the toilet on either end. After you take a shower, you use a squeegee to push the water into the drain. If you need to use the bathroom after, there’s a duckboard to stand on so you don’t have to pee while your feet steep in a thin layer of ice-cold water.

It’s quite amazing to consider how different this is from the U.S. You can only imagine the look of abject American horror on the faces of a House Hunters family when faced with my bathroom. How it would just be assumed that the entire room is a complete tear-down that must be rectified before even deigning to enter the apartment again. The kitchen would go with it -- the counters are essentially crafted with unvarnished two-by-fours, and the half-refrigerator sits underneath them so far you nearly have to get on your knees to get something from the back of it. But as a visitor, it’s all rather charming.

The thing is, you quickly learn that these are things that matter not one little bit. It’s all perfectly functional, just slightly more time-consuming and not as attractive. (Unless you’re handicapped, in which case I assume you’re paid to leave Europe entirely.)

This is a trap I’ve fallen into myself. I have a long list of “post-tenure purchases” I want to make for my house, and I’m not sure a single one of them has to do with a functional purpose. They’re just all things I don’t like. And if Oprah has taught us anything, it’s that our home is a special, sacred sanctuary that must be made perfect before our souls can thrive.

Not that Europeans have a monopoly on what really matters in life – this is a country, after all, in which no two people wear the same pair of jeans. It’s just that things are often inverted. The same American who can’t live without granite countertops happily wears sweatpants to work. A European must have a special place to hang her umbrella, but couldn’t care less if the mattress is 30 years old.

The mattress is something I’m finding a little less charming with each morning.


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Good ol' Europe! I remember trying to ask my host family to put up a shower curtain so that water wouldn't go everywhere every time I did anything with the shower (hand-held showers are evil! and hand-washing clothes is just minor in comparison), and they just let me know that it would get too "stuffy" if they did so.

We may not have really old architecture and history in the US, but you learn to appreciate that after traveling at times...

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am laughing about your crazy neighbors because I lived through that for 4 years! Feel free to call me at 3:00 in the morning if my bedroom fan is too loud. YOU obviously shouldn't have to wear earplugs when I'M the one making the noise.
- Mel

At 10:55 PM, Blogger drastrid said...

What a delightful peek into "life byond the walls" a Paris! We're going again in September, and are debating between some lower-key R&R in the city itself, or using
Paris as a center and TGVing into the south, beyond Aix. Any suggestions about how to find good apartment?

Congratulations on your blog!

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Thankfully the neighbors haven't reemerged from their den... yet.

On finding an apt... I think Craigslist is relatively popular in Paris. And from there you can find other apt rental agencies. Of course you are taking a bit of a risk with Craigslist, just be sure to pay only once you see the apt and are satisfied with the rental people. You will pay more with a rental company, but you might think there is a bit more peace of mind. I used a company in Rome, and Craigslist in Amsterdam. Paris was luck -- a girlfriend of one of my students rented here before.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger amy said...

Is there a place for me to sleep when I come IN A LITTLE OVER A MONTH, or should I bring my newly acquired camping sleeping bag? It's small and fits easily into my newly acquired frame backpack! (Yes, I just want to use my camping stuff again.)

At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Kris said...

You didn't mention what happens to the toilet paper when you take a shower. In my experience, better to remove it from the room entirely before attempting a shampoo.

Keep blogging. We'll keep reading.


At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya all, I just registered on this incredible online community and desired to say aloha! Have a memorable day!

At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

megan fox black boots, [url=]meganfox naked[/url] megan fox two and a half men
kim kardashian sex tape images, [url=]ray j and kim kardashian fu[/url] kim kardashian filestube
paolo nutini taylor swift, [url=]fifteen lyrics taylor swift[/url] on the sets with taylor swift
hanna montana lyrics best of both worlds, [url=]hanna montana worst momments[/url] hannah montana official store
harry potter candybar doll maker, [url=]6 harry potter book[/url] harry potter and the deathly hallows movie release
cruise to easter island, [url=]where does tom cruise live[/url] tom cruise risky business
justin bieber t-shirt, [url=]justin beiber dog[/url] justin bieber crashed
britney spears sister, [url=]britney spears we will rock you[/url] britney spears beaver
meganfox naked, [url=]megan fox underware[/url] megan fox jenifers body

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[url=]Bollywood Blog[/url]

[url=]Bollywood News[/url]

[url=]Bollywood Gossip[/url]

[url=]Bollywood Actress[/url]

At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think the best way to get the cheapest plane tickets is by calling the airline? Or, do you scan through hundreds of websites provided by search engines to find low airfare tickets? Maybe you hope to find cheap airfare in the local newspaper's travel section.
Finding cheap airline tickets can be one of the most frustrating experiences that most of us learn very quickly. Of course, most people eventually give up after spending hours scanning websites that offer virtually the same flight schedules and pricing. People purchase what they believe is the cheapest plane ticket, only to find their neighbor paid just a third of what they did!

Unless you understand the concept of of how airlines set prices, all the searching in the world won't provide the cheapest airline ticket prices. The following information will give you a guide to follow, as you wander through the maze searching for cheap airfare.

Understand how prices are set by airlines! Air ticket pricing is complex and unpredictable, and driven by competition, demand, and inventory. Airlines call this "yield management."

Competition is the beast behind the cheapest plane tickets. All major airlines utilize central reservation systems (owned by various airlines) to fill available seats. The systems are known as Apollo, Sabre, WorldSpan and Galileo. Prices are based on demand, and if some flights are selling well, the price will increase. If the flight is unpopular and has very little demand, the fare is lowered in hope of attracting consumers. In short, fares and inventory change every minute of every day!

Finding the cheapest plane tickets is difficult because travel agents and Internet websites use the central reservation systems that are updated periodically throughout the day. The reason why different searches come up with different results is because the systems are not updated at the same times. And, each system may use different algorithms when searching for low airfare tickets, which can provide a variety of ticket prices .

[url=]Information about air tickets[/url]

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one.

Program's name is Babel Fish and iIt supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.

The link is here:

I thank you very much for your help.

At 1:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1959 phentermine first received approval from the FDA as an appetite suppressing drug. Phentermine hydrochloride then became available in the early 1970s. It was previously sold as Fastin from King Pharmaceuticals for SmithKline Beecham, however in 1998 it was removed from the market. Medeva Pharmaceuticals sells the name brand of phentermine called Ionamin and Gate Pharmaceuticals sells it as Adipex-P. Phentermine is also currently sold as a generic. Since the drug was approved in 1959 there have been almost no clinical studies performed. The most recent study was in 1990 which combined phentermine with fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine and became known as Fen-Phen.[citation needed]
In 1997 after 24 cases of heart valve disease in Fen-Phen users, fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine were voluntarily taken off the market at the request of the FDA. Studies later proved that nearly 30% of people taking fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine had abnormal valve findings. The FDA did not ask manufacturers to remove phentermine from the market.
[url=]cheap phentermine[/url] Phentermine is still available by itself in most countries, including the U.S. However, because it is similar to amphetamines, it is classified as a controlled substance in many countries (including Australia). Internationally, phentermine is a schedule IV drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.[1] In the United States, it is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Looking forward, Phentermine is being studied with another medication for obesity. The experimental appetite suppressant drug Qnexa is a mixture of Phentermine and Topiramate.
Phentermine, in doses clinically used, works on the hypothalamus portion of the brain to release norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that signals a fight-or-flight response, reducing hunger. Phentermine works outside the brain as well to release epinephrine or adrenaline causing fat cells to break down stored fat, but the principal basis of efficacy is hunger-reduction. At high doses, phentermine releases serotonin and dopamine as well, but such doses are never used in clinical medicine.
[url=]google for[/url]


Post a Comment

<< Home