Perhaps it’s time to take stock, since I’ve been here now for a week.
The weather gods have not been terribly kind, since it’s been chilly all week, and often rainy, except for a glorious day on Tuesday. Even though the weather has been unusually poor I knew it was likely to be cool at the start of April, so I can’t complain. And it really hasn’t slowed me up, even though it has skewed me somewhat towards the indoors, and limited the opportunities to take truly gorgeous outdoor photos.
My apartment is exactly what I expected, with lots of little nice surprises and no gotchas. All the infrastructure elements I hoped to set up have worked except two: (1) BlackBerry data is prohibitively expensive so I only have data access at home, and (2) I have still not figured out how to use Paris’ truly astounding network of bicycles — more than 20,000 bicycles at more than 1,200 stations; you see them everywhere. Everything else worked great — the apartment is nice and comfortable, the kitchen has everything you need, the washer not only works but is quiet, drying on the line works, I’m undaunted by the five flights of stairs, I got a monthly métro pass with no hassle, my credit card works most everywhere, etc. etc.
The rhythm of my life has settled down to a sustainable pace. I was definitely out of synch the first few days, but now I get to bed around 11 pm (depending on how much blogging I do!) and wake up to the percolator at 7 am. Breakfast is at home, including part of a still-fresh baguette purchased the night before. The only aspect I haven’t worked out yet is that I end up reading yesterday’s Le Monde over my cereal since I’m too lazy to get dressed and go out to buy today’s paper. Once I’m showered and shaved it’s off to explore and have adventures, as well as doing the errands (themselves often minor adventures) needed to keep up my happy home.
And then there’s Paris. I can’t say enough how much I love my little neighborhood. In all my trips here I have never encountered anywhere I like better. It’s thronged with people, but I would guess that 90% or more are French. The strollers and the shops and the shopkeepers are just so charming! I’m also really liking the Marais, which is much more touristy but has a strong Medieval flavor. There’s quite a bit of good art (as well as lots of schlock, as always). And as you walk around the whole city your breath again and again gets taken away by an iconic vista.
The Parisian people are for the most part quite nice, especially when you get away from the beaten tourist track. I’m enjoying my little encounters with shopkeepers and such, including an occasional pleasantry as well as the normal courteous interchange. My French has proven fine for daily use, although I’m sure I make a lot of mistakes and miss a lot of nuances. I can’t really claim to have made new friends but I’ve had good contacts with my April and May landlords, caught up with semi-long-lost cousins, and had a nice date. My friend Jason will arrive in a week and my friend Jaime will arrive at the beginning of May. So the social side is fine, even if not exactly on fire.
The food has been fabulous, both what’s served in restaurants and what I’ve made for myself. I suspect that I’m putting on weight, despite the five flights of stairs and endless walking, but I’m hoping that the pool will help balance my calorie budget. Fortunately, it has been possible to eat a fairly healthy diet. Skim milk, for example, is now readily available — just look for the forest of accents aigu: écrémé. My Achilles heel is pastry, which is so scrumptious here. But I scheduled my annual appointment with my cardiologist for right after I get home (and he gave me a list of his favorite Parisian restaurants!)
Paris isn’t cheap. I would guess that the cost of living is 50% higher than I’m used to in Boston (which isn’t cheap either). The only things I’ve noticed being inexpensive are French mustard and French wine, which are good values. Some other items — peanut butter and paper towels for example — are at least twice as costly as in Boston. But I knew all that going in. I’m not here to economize! It has been a pleasant surprise, however, to find that I’m eligible for the senior discount just about everywhere (the French retirement age is 60). Eat your hearts out!
Finally, blogging has been fun. And I know I’ll be glad later that I kept a record of the trip — both in words and pictures. Your occasional encouragement, and the feeling that you’re entering vicariously into the experience, has added to my enjoyment.
All in all I’m delighted with the start to my stay. I’m lucky to have the freedom to do this, and I’m proud I also had the nerve. A bientôt!
P.S. Another set of photos is up — mostly Marais gardens and the Museum of Modern Art: Paris-4 Photos.