Saturday, January 8, 2011

Camping in Paris

**This week was my first in Paris.  I took a job there and will keep an apartment there and divide my time between Paris and Brussels.  I am currently staying in a work-sponsored temporary apartment that is without internet, so I was unable to post all week.  I wrote the below on Monday night and am just now posting.  Blarg.**

don't know when I'll actually be able to post this because it seems my temporary apartment is without an internet connection, which coupled with the fact that I'm working with a French keyboard at work (I keep hitting "w" for "a" and I still can't find the apostrophe--frustration!!!!) is about to put me over the edge.  

Today was my first day in Paris and my first at my new job.  This is not meant to be a giant whine because I know how lucky I am, but suffice it to say my first impressions of Paris as a place to live were less than stellar.  (I must also note that I have been up since 5:45 am, and that was after only getting maybe 3 hours of sleep--first day alarm clock jitters, weird outside "street cleaning" noises, temperature issues, and cat-on-bed placement all promoted this.  So forgive me if I couldn't find my rose-colored glasses in all of that hullabaloo.)  

I am sitting here in my temporary apartment that is cute as a button but is giant if it's 20 m2.  The rental agent lady kindly told me that it used to be a servant's apartment in this fancy building.  Nice.  At least the (tiny) bathroom and (tiny) kitchen are new, but there was nary a towel (for either bath or kitchen), so I had to pop into Muji and buy a new towel that I'll have to use without washing (totally gross to me, but I'm weird about that type of thing).  I also had to buy toilet paper and paper towels because neither was provided.  Way to roll out the welcome mat…. here's your new "furnished" apartment, now go find something with which to wipe your arse.  I must note that there was both a corkscrew and a French press... but no fork or spoon or knife.  (Note from the "future me":  for the rest of the week, I ate my morning yogurt with a plastic fork I saved from my Monday night falafel.  You have got to be adroit to eat yogurt with a fork, I assure you.)  

The place is right smack in the heart of the Marais, which has the highest rent of any part of Paris.  So I know it ain't cheap.  And I appreciate how small it is because there are no creepy hiding places or scary closets.  There's not even room for a ghost!  (These are the things I worried about moving into an oooooold Parisian apartment.... ghosts.  heh.)  But there's also no heat besides a plug-in radiator, which has now been rolled out to the end of its electrical tether to be as close as possible to me where I sit on the "bed."  I quoted that because there isn't room for a full bed, so there are two twin mattresses that are against two (tiny) lengths of wall that meet in the corner.  So it's an interesting set-up.


Note twin beds pushed against the walls, daybed style.  Also note radiator placement in center of room.

Using radiator as point of reference, this is looking into the kitchen.  TINY!

 And this is the kitchen.

I am grateful for it in all of its tiny-ness!  I swear!  It's just, well... not home.

Speaking of which, today in Paris made me realize how much I've come to love Brussels and how it is home to me.  To be honest, when we first moved to Brussels, I wasn't necessarily excited about Brussels itself, mainly the fact that it's a city in Europe.  I mean, it's Brussels… not Paris, not London, not Berlin…. Brussels.  Still European, but "meh," right?  

But the last 9 months and now being here in Paris have made me realize how much I love Brussels and its pace and conveniences--and its people.  Our apartment in Brussels is huge.  And nice.  And modern and lovely but still with character… and it's HUGE.... did I mention that?  Plus, it's right by the metro and an incredible bar (where families and hipsters alike kick it) that serves breakfast, too.  I've gotten to know my neighborhood pharmacien and corner restaurant proprietors, and the lady at the grocery store tries to make conversation with me all the time, and today a man helped me put my luggage on the train. 

Brussels, you give me the warm and fuzzies!  

And then there's Paris, where the apartments are ridiculously tiny and old and the stairway is dark and dingy and loud and the lights keep turning out before I can walk up to the 6th floor.  I know I will come to love living here, once I can find my own place and live here on my own terms.  I have heard horror stories about the French being total jerks lately (for example, no one giving up a taxi for a pregnant woman in labor) and I am worried I won't be able to find people of the caliber of the Brussels peeps I've come to love.  

But still, it's Paris.  I've read plenty about the sacrifices people make to share its spoils.  It's going to be a good experience, I know it.  The city is electric (would those people outside please be quiet soon?!) and bustling (though people rarely say "pardon" when they bump into you) and one of the most magical places on earth.   

I am thanking my lucky stars to be here.

Stay tuned.  

I end with more scenes in and around my apartment building....