Thursday, May 27, 2010

Update on Day Zero...

It is 1730, and I am squared away in my apartment. The first load of laundry is done, the few dishes I do have are washed and drying, and I have my BOSE "take anywhere" speaker connected to my last iPod .

I got my "Carte Navigo", that automatically reloads or something and I never have to worry about those flippy white tickets again. When I showed up, in poor French, I expressed my desire to buy one. When they figured out what I wanted, I was told, "Tourists cannot have Navigo; buy Paris Visite" (which I had been doing). Undaunted, I told them, "Je ne suis pas touriste, je suis resident" (I am not a tourist, I am a resident). They looked at me with a litle surprise, and I produced my passport and long stay visa, a confirmation of residence, and my banking information. Fifteen minutes later, I was scanning that Navigo card as I boarded the bus to meet the movers back at the apartment.

The movers were careful and efficient. I was the lone bi-lingual in the crowd, but we managed anyway. I choose the furniture from a spreadsheet checklist, no pictures, but what I got matches well enough, and some of it looks new. The desk is way too big, but it won't be here long, as is the dining room table. Had a little trouble getting the refridgerator where I wanted, because the combo washer/dryer (one basket, a two-in-one-deal) stuck out too far. Better double check that IKEA design, and/or make sure I find a smaller clothes washer...

I made two shopping trips, both to grocery stores. The European Internet map services do not seem to be as accurate as their American counterparts (I know, there are errors there, too, but I am seeing more freq errors here). The big grocery chain Carrefour was supposed to have store nearby. I walked right to the map location, and it was not there. The street wasn't even there. Fortunately, the villages and sections of town are good about putting up their own maps. I found the street, and, well, let's say estimating scale is difficult at times. Long walk. Two bags of groceries. And I realized that neither of the buses running that street went by my stop. And I was WAY downhill from home. Of course I got to the hill, and hike almost halfway before I came to a bus stop that could take me near home. Yeah, my Internet is not in yet, or I could have figured that out in advance; about the buses, I mean, or not.

The second trip was about an hour and a half after the first one, but I went to the "Alimintare Generale" (General Store, I guess), and got paper plates, plastic forks, laundry detergent, garbage bags, and some ham and butter. MUCH, TRES MUCH shorter walk, and one regular bag. And no, I have not addressed those @#$% fixtures, yet!

Tonight is the end of Day ZERO, tomorrow begins Day One...a demain!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day Zero and Sceaux be it

The days of life in Le Plessis-Robinson's Grand Hotel are over. I have lived here in a beautiful setting with very friendly people for much of the last two months. This morning, I check out for the last time...

This will be a busy day, much to do before the furniture people arrive. I need to transfer my remaining gear to the apartment, then see about getting the Carte Navigo. which is the "EZ-Tag" (Houstonians will know that one) of mass transit in the Greater Paris area. Get all that done, and be back in Sceaux, waiting dutifully at the apartment before 1100.

I saw a lot of people on the greenbelt (coulee verte) during my various trips to the apartment; I find myself not liking to run when other people are around. I am not anti-social, perhaps self-conscious, but certainly enjoy a time when all the space around me is mine for the taking, no matter the scene-scape.

This is a short one, and I do not know when I will have Internet service, though the request was made on Day Minus Four, and it has been a holiday weekend. Thanks for coming along. A bientot.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day minus 1 of Sceaux, pronounced "So"

Today is a bank holiday, the day of Pentecost. I hope IKEA is open, as I have a change in kitchen strategy...

I talked before about how odd it seemed that the French were surprised I would walk 2 miles to work. Haven't we heard how much more Europeans walk than we Americans? Well 1) the largest city in France barely has a radius of 5 miles (you have to go further than that to get out my neighborhood in Texas), and 2) they do a lot of walking between bus/metro stops and their destination, which is at most a 1/4 mile, except on weekends when some such services are limited and you have to walk 1/2 mile. In my case here, I will walk about 3/8 mile to the bus stop (on days I take the bus to work, for example), wait several minutes, get on bus, ride it a little over a mile, switch buses, arrive near work a mile down the road, walk maybe 1/8 mile to work (220 yards/200 meters). Do this twice, coming to and leaving from work, and I have walked a mile per day while commuting by bus. What Europeans do not seem to do is forsake the bus or mass transit and just walk the 2 miles...

Yes, they are as car crazy as we are, and their traffic is much worse; not because they drive in crazy manner, but there are so many cars on the road gridlock is the norm. The big difference here is the taxes on fuel, which makes their gas prices 4X our gas (the Al Gore option for curtailing fuel usage), and they do not get in their cars, they put them on, or at least that is how it appears (the cars here are so small a Mini-Cooper looks big, as one actually pulled beside me at a cross walk and I noted how big it looked compared to the cars near it).

Now today is the last day/night in the Grand Hotel LePlessis, my home for at least 4 weeks over the last couple of months. I will migrate a guitar and suitcase to the apartment, inventory the light fixture needs, go to IKEA regarding kitchen issues, stop by Bricorama (the Home Depot of France) and get a couple of fixtures, install the fixtures, and call it a day. Using buses for transportation should make for a full day of adventure.

A demain!

OK, it WAS going to be an ambitious day. I did go by the apartment with guitar and suitcase as planned. I put everything from the suitcase into its proper closet space. Left, got on a bus, voila!, I am back at the hotel. I took a very light lunch before heading out to IKEA, and the dreaded kitchen. When you go there, there is an hour wait for any kind of personal assistance, but they do have a few computers on which you can work your design while you wait. The folks are really helpful when they are available for things, like reminding you that you must select handles and or knobs for your cabinets. I work the design for that hour, trying some free-standing stuff, but the free standing elements were all on the large size, like someone in France is trying to emulate an American kitchen. The design series with which I had started was still the best option, so I shuffled that design a little bit with the IKEA dude, and after about 2 hours in the store, I think I am comfortable with the kitchen design.

I wandered around IKEA as I was exiting and realized I had no glasses of any kind, so I could not even draw myself a drink in my new apartment! OK, had to shop for that. From there (there is a little mis-adventure I am too embarrassed to tell in detail, but needless say, another hour lost), I got on the bus and took it straight to Sceaux, another 12 minute walk to the apartment to deliver the goods, back on the bus and then the hotel.

For my 5 hours being out, I have a revised kitchen plan, a half-dozen glasses, no light fixtures, and a cold, half-liter, three euros bottle of Evian in my hand...must be 'cause its cold.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day minus Two of the French Connection

Today is a Sunday, almost everything is closed (Blue Laws in France, whodathunkit?). I need a day of rest (Jesus said, "Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man"), and indeed, He is our Rest. Stress, high physical activity, lack of regular sleep, etc. have made me especially grateful for this day of rest.

I will use the bus to move a couple of light packages to the apartment, maybe. I used a taxi to move a large suitcase and guitar yesterday -- 22 euros for a 5 minute drive and less than 2 miles! The bus is only 1.70 euros, but it does not drop you off at your apartment -- schlepping required (for a 1/4 mile or 400 meters).

I find it hard to stay hydrated here. In the restaurants, you buy bottled water; there is no one running around with a pitcher refilling your 20 ounce glass constantly. Shucks, in one American lunch I can drink enough water for a day's requirement. Here, at the end of the day, feeling achy and tired, I realize my liquid intact is only a third of what it should be. In a restaurant, be sure you order water as well...

I posted my first blog on the study in Ephesians:

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

along the day...

Many things happened today that are cameos, I suppose, of life on Planet France.

This morning I moved some things into the apartment: some clothes, some "stuff". Afterwards, I decided, that rather than walk the parc again, I should walk the town of Sceaux. It is bigger than I remembered (just as the apartment seems to get smaller each visit). It is very much a mix of old and new France (yeah, I need pictures): across from a very traditional cafe is Pizza Hut to Go!

During the day, I noticed:
1) Men in shopping malls are pretty much the same everywhere, shuffling around with a dazed and lost look on their faces, as though they were unexpectedly dropped into an alien world (but I repeat myself).
2) Even France celebrates Pentecost, or at least it is an official "bank holiday". But, there is some substance: a crowd of young people, lead by a priest, marched through town to commemorate Pentecost, carrying signs and crosses. There were probably a 100 or so youth, all ranging from 16 to 20 years, near as I could tell.
3) With my multiple encounters of French people in "one off" encounters, I would dispel the myth that the French are rude. They would ask that you not confuse them with Parisians, because they don't like Parisians, either (the people in what we call the suburbs are people of villages that have hundreds of years of their own heritage and identity, so although they are less than a dozen miles from the center of Paris, they do not consider themselves Parisians).
4a) My waiter and I had some interesting discussions, with him leading: how ridiculous it is that a person cannot defend themselves against criminals. Your actions against the criminal can be considered the greater crime in France. He thought our way was much more consistent for human rights, as everyone should be able to use whatever force they deem necessary to protect themselves, their family, and their property. He would fit well in Texas.
4b) My waiter also wanted to talk about how impressive American wines are today. He also noted that the biggest difference in the two countries' winemaking was this: France has about 600 different types of grapes from which they make wine (which is helpful when the weather is not as friendly as California, and you can use multiple varietals to get a good tasting wine), and Americans probably only have a few dozen varietals.
5) The chocolate ice cream in France is as dark as a Hershey bar, very rich, too rich for me; I am going back to vanilla...
6) Jokes and stories about family relationships are good sources of humor in almost any culture, I guess because we are not all that different.
7) It is after 11pm, and I hope I sleep...

Day minus 3 of the French Adventure

This day started as any other, the sun coming up, birds beginning to sing....WAIT! STOP! That is what I WANTED it to be! Instead, despite many miles of walking yesterday, the jet-lag stole my night. I awoke at 0100, 1:00 AM and could not go back to sleep. I got online about 0230 and chatted with my honey and some friends, then at 0430, I launched out for my run...

I am running again, and because I let myself gain some weight, I was concerned about possible injuries. I was pointed in the direction of what is essentially "barefoot" running, as a way of low impact running, and studies have shown it substantially reduces injury occurrence. The technique of running barefoot is different, with a mid-foot strike instead of a heel strike, and the strike point occurring below your hips instead of in front of them. It works. I use shoes made for this community of runners (, and despite their looks, they feel and work great.

Enough on that! TODAY IS A BIG DAY! I move some of my stuff to my apartment! Though the apartment is void of furniture at this point, and has no Internet, I am going there to put away some extra things I brought on this trip to make living without all my stuff/junk a little more normal. My mind is still not around this move, even as I filled out the moving insurance forms in the wee hours of this morning. It will not take long for me to take what amounts to half the stuff I have in my hotel room to the apartment, and after that, I can hit Starbucks and IKEA for a few essentials. Then I think I will take some time to stroll in my new "parc"...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day minus 4 and the move to Paris

I have the keys to the apartment now. Somehow, there has been no renter's remorse, though I have an uphill battle putting in that stupid kitchen. I took a walk along the greenbelt before we had our "inventory" (we would call this a "walk-through") at the apartment. The greenbelt is truly a great asset to this apartment's location. I look forward to many runs and walks in that "parc".

Electrical utilities have been ordered (it is all-electric). Internet/TV connection has been ordered. Rental furniture is on its way (gonna wait and see what that kitchen stuff looks like before I final with IKEA).

Language studies are coming along; that is to say, I am progressing through the Rosetta Stone lessons. Getting the ear trained to hear actually words instead of a undifferentiated stream of verbosity; this is not easy. Perhaps this weekend (they actually say "Bon weekend" because "bonne fin de semaine" is considered too long), I will make a trip to IKEA for two important things: 1) a set of cheap overhead light fixtures, 2) manual coffee grinder, coffee press, coffee cups, and coffee beans -- and the fixings. First things first, after all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day minus 5 in France

I am counting down to the day I move into my apartment, "mon maison en France".

I admit this seems a little strange, becoming a resident of a country other than the one in which I was born. Though little is surprising here, none of it is familiar, and everything is a bit of a struggle as I grasp at understanding the language.

New chapter, new development, new adventure; all to be taken in stride