An American in Paris

by Britta on 5 September 2009

in European Adventure,The Freelancing Life

Arc de Triomphe

With apologies to Gene Kelly… Still, all of the romance and drama, from the movie and from every myth, story and stereotype about Paris are true! Paris, je t’aime!

My arrival in France was completely uneventful, much to my relief–or chagrin, as I had expected to be hassled over my one-way ticket and so armed myself with proof that I wasn’t going to stay in the country illegally. The immigration agent barely even looked at me as he stamped my passport and waved me through. That was the second stamp in my recently renewed passport, incidentally. It had gotten one in Ireland a few hours earlier, when I passed through Irish immigration during my layover in Dublin. Ironic, sort of, to have a stamp from a place I’ve never been.

I stayed in a hostel for the first four days before finding an apartment. My landlord is apparently also traveling right now, which is why the apartment is free, and so his mother showed me the studio and signed all the paperwork with me. She was leaving herself to go visit her daughter in Israel who had just had a baby, so we did everything on a Sunday. She is a lovely woman, speaking French, English, German, and I’d bet Hebrew. She explained everything about the apartment to me as if I were already renting it, and wanted to make sure everything was just right for me. She even gave me a couple of potted plants from her collection so I’d have something to brighten it up!

The studio is decent-sized, with a queen bed and a separate sofa (usually they’re one and the same) and a bathroom with tub! I’m not sure the kitchen area can be called a kitchen, though. It’s smaller than the one in my apatment in Honolulu was, it only has 2 burners and a toaster oven. So far, this hasn’t mattered too much, since to this point, my diet has consisted mostly of wine and baguettes, with the occasional croissant or pain au chocolat thrown in to round things out.

I’ve visited all the major monuments, but have yet to go inside. Partly this is because they’ve all been mobbed with tourists, and I hear that if I wait a couple weeks, most of the tourists will be gone. This is also because there is a museum pass, which grants access to many of the museums, but must be used in 4 or 6 consecutive days. So, next week I’ve got a museum marathon planned. The Louvre will be first on Sunday–free the first Sunday of every month! (Get there early, the experts, and my landlord’s mother, say.)

I start my French lessons next week, too, which I am totally excited about. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much of a language barrier there would be. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here, but I guess I thought I’d be picking it up even faster than that. The formal lessons will give me a base to add all of my new vocabulary words and phrases, I think. Right now, my vocabulary is about 5 words strong and I can’t conjugate a verb to save my life. Although, I can’t be that bad, because I did test into the second level. I guess my podcast lessons weren’t as great as I thought, though, with the issues I’ve been having with internet, I haven’t downloaded any lessons for a while.

Eiffel Tower at NightI could really use those lessons, too. I’ve been having issues with Internet in my apartment, and am almost completely at a loss as to how to solve them. My landlord has emailed the company, but their answer was less than helpful, and he hasn’t been able to call, as their number apparently works only in France. I tried to call yesterday, but of course the person I talked to only spoke French, so we got pretty much nowhere. I’ve got a USB 3G modem, which is super-expensive so I only use it sparingly, though for me that still means more than most people, and I’ve managed to find the closest Starbucks (yes, I know, but the free wifi is invaluable, and French cafes are simply not places where you bring your computer).

But it’s not all frustrations and annoyances. Yesterday while I was walking (along the Champs-Elysees) I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and couldn’t help from breaking into a huge grin. I think it’s my favorite landmark–so far I’ve never not smiled when I’ve seen it, especially at night when it’s all lit up.

I read Lonely Planet at night, and fall asleep dreaming about my next adventures, whether Normandy and Brittany in the north, or Bordeaux in the southwest, or maybe the Alps to go hiking… But first, the Louvre. Maybe Mona Lisa will smile at me.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Traci Harris & Liz Posey September 5, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Britta!!! So good to read about your beginning days in Europe. Liz and I just had a grand day with our friends, Kai & Rommel at the fair. I said hello to your Dad, who was working hard at the icecream stand, they were raking in the customers, sunny day and all 🙂
Liz is proud of you for going out on a limb and jumping into adventure & seeking out experiences & new places.
Take care, ourevre (I think, haha)
au revoir

Amy September 13, 2009 at 8:29 am

Great post! Glad the flat search went so well. Keep the stories coming!

Pat Perry September 23, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Okay, I’m reliving my Paris experiences and smiling along with you. Though, you are living my dream of a month in Paris and than month in the Alps, but you are FAR exceeding my small dream.

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