Bonjour mes amis, My husband and I have arrived in Paris! He's staying with me for a week before heading back to the States to do his summer internship. So, unfortunately that means I'm going to be all by my lonesome for 10 weeks after he leaves. :(
We took a direct flight (!) and arrived this past Monday. Remember all of my concerns about visas, uncomfortable border questions about interning and stuff? Yeah, that turned out to be a non-issue: we went through what is easily the least-questioning entry process I've ever seen. I handed the border police my passport and didn't say anything. He scratched his quite sunburned arm, looked at his watch, flipped through my passport and didn't say a single word. No "how long are you going to be here?" or anything, so I (likewise) didn't volunteer anything. He stamped my passport and I moved on. We did see the border police shuffling an African fellow into a back room, so they must be interrogating someone...just perhaps not US nationals as attractive as yours truly.
We journeyed our way to the RER (local train) station part of the terminal, which was a HIKE. But, we made it, up and down several escalators, some stairs, etc. We had a wee fight with the automated ticket purchasing machine -- either we couldn't get it to read our credit card or the machine was having a bad day. We changed machines, I tried a different card, and presto! tickets popped out. We hopped onto the waiting train and set off through the graffitied suburbs. The train was pretty empty, filled up a little bit with some school children and then some working types as we got closer to the city. Husband studied the graffiti as we went by and was telling me the most popular choices along the walls -- some repeating themes (or gang signs?), I suppose.
We got off at our station and set forth on the 15ish minute walk to my apartment. The morning was really fresh, and there were lots of people jogging and speed walking in the the Luxembourg Gardens as we walked by. Looked like fun, and made me glad I brought some running shoes and clothes just in case.
Finding the apartment wasn't too bad -- I had taken a couple of screen shots of some maps on my phone, so I checked those and they have maps posted at the bus stops so we checked our progress as we went along. The apartment door and lobby are pretty cool, but then to get to the actual apartment unit we have to go up the service staircase up 6/7 flights.
I've decided not to count. And looking up or down is really unpleasant. So you just have to keep trudging up indefinitely. You can kind of tell when you're halfway up because the lights are out for one flight, so that's nice. Not.
The staircase is a pretty narrow spiral one, so I was really glad I had Husband to lift the big suitcase up the stairs. I handled the little one and my purse, and I was still wheezing when I got to the top.
When we finally reached the top, well...it's not pretty. It's fine, I mean, but this is not a glamorous part of the building. It's a choppy, turning hallway that has been carved up along the way into little units, so there are doors up and down the hall, but only some have doorknobs and numbers. I think some have been combined into bigger units. Anyhow, our landlords there to greet us and show us around the apartment. They gave us some towels and there were sheets on the bed. It's pretty much as described in the pictures that I received a while back -- loft bed, funny shower in the corner, etc. There's all kinds of pots and pans, a little electric toaster oven thing, and a toaster. No microwave or actual oven. We settled everything in, I asked the landlords a couple of questions about where to get a phone and stuff, and Husband helped them get a storage unit door unstuck. And he fixed the window shade. He's a very handy person to have around.
Once the LLs left, I got unpacked and put my clothes on hangers and all that kind of stuff. The LLs had said we were welcome to use anything in the pantry (i.e. 3 shelves by the sink) so Husband cooked us some pasta on the stove while I did my unpacking.
Then we went out to investigate getting me a little go phone prepaid deal. We headed down the street to a little Orange store and were kind of surprised at the prepay prices. The phone is like €24 and it comes with a €5 credit of minutes on it, but that's only 10 minutes, said the store girl!! So, we didn't end up getting one there. We did, however, ask (and by we, I mean I) about getting a sim card for my iPad so that I would have 3G Internet access. And those plans were surprisingly cheap! But...we had left the iPad upstairs...so we went to get it and went back to the Orange store. SO MANY STAIRS.
But, as I said prices were not bad: SIM was €8 and the monthly plan (2GB, I think) was like €25. They were out of the 25 Euro credits so we bought the SIM, and headed down the the street another few blocks to the next Orange store where we got the credit, or the "recharge" as they say in French, and had the sales lady set it up for us because you have to call to activate it. Once I start work I can just call the activation number from there, but since I don't have a phone currently it was nice of them to do it for me. The sales person had just finished setting up another American's blackberry to pretty much do the same thing, so she was happy to do mine too, haha. We spoke in French though, and she kept throwing in some English (I think because she had just been speaking it with the Blackberry lady) and then she told me, "I don't know why I'm speaking English to you." So that was nice -- my French was good enough that she didn't feel like she needed to speak English to me!
After that, we walked ourselves to Notre Dame, which was fun. Went inside and sat down for a little bit because it was a longer trek than I had thought (although we may not have taken the most direct route). We walked all around it, the Hubster thought it was really neat, and then we walked back and got lost a bit, but found our way by recognizing stores we had past before, haha. It was actually pretty warm by this point and we had both shed our coats. We went to the grocery store that's essentially next door to me and got some bread to toast, jam, goat cheese, cookie crackers, and 2 baguette sandwich things. By this point, it's 4pm and I am really really fading fast, so we get to the apartment and I head to bed. Husband emailed his mama, and I fell asleep immediately even though it was pretty bright in the room (there's a skylight in the room over the bed that you can open for air, and block off to keep out the light if you want).
Overall it's been good. I've had a few freak out moments where I want to go back home because: a) I'm petrified that I am going to absolutely BLOW at this job, and b) I don't know what I'm going to do by myself for 3 months, but I'm working on it. Husband is being very supportive. He reminded me that my butt is going to be quite awesome (he actually said, even more awesome than it already is, hahahahahah) at the end of the summer from all these ridiculous stairs...so that helped.