Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More friends...

No sooner did I write the last entry in the hours after we bid Kitty and her friends a fond adieu, and no sooner had Jude and I fallen into a post-party-funk than la telephone a sonne.

Paris, France

Hello?  Qui est-ce??  Ah!  Notre amis qui viennent de Bretagne!!

Our Landing In France apartment owners were in town and invited us to lunch the next day.

Boy!  That was fast.  Our Dance Card remained full.  Hard to believe, isn't it?  No?  Well, it was to us, anyway.

Paris, France

We met them down in the 11th and walk up the street to a restaurant they knew.  They said the prices were good and that it was actually fairly quiet.

True to their words, the place was, well, actually it was better than first advertised.  It was an old converted home supply store.  It rose four levels on old iron pillars and rivets.  It was a turn of the (prior) century work of art.  And they host Latin dancing six or seven nights a week.

Of course, our friends Evelyn et Gilbert were wonderful.  Every time we get together we seem to talk for hours and laugh and share interesting stories.  This time was no different.

Paris, France

We plotted and planned.  It seems that Jude and I have a trip to make and that it'll need to be out to Bretagne to see them and to visit the surrounding countryside and coast.  We can't wait!

It's good to make friends with people our age.  This particularly so far from what we knew and where we used to live.  It feels great.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday with Friends...

Ex-pats living here often comment about the number of "instant yet old friends" they seem to acquire after they've landed in Paris.

Jude and I haven't experienced that.  Not yet, at least.  What we have experienced is close company renewed when good friends come to visit (or when we go visit them in, say, London or Girona, for example).

Yesterday was one of those days when great people happened to be in town looking to share in a bit of fun.

Kitty of Miz Kitty's Parlor came to visit with a friend of her's.  They'd been all over town and were probably a little tired.  But, when in Paris, a person sometimes needs to keep going.  She enjoys flea markets and we'd promised her that Paris has some of the biggest and best flea markets in the world.  We hoped she wouldn't be disappointed.

Off to Porte de Vanves we went on a cold, blustery, and supposedly Spring, day.

Old postcards were pawed, oggled, wondered over, and purchased.  A period bowler was discovered, tried on, approved of by Jude and Kitty's friend, and then paid for as the vendor continued to work to get a very old mantel clock running again (no doubt to be able to charge much more than a non-functioning clock would've been worth).  1800's shoes were tried on and found to not fit.  Vintage clothing was viewed from a distance and judged to be too small.  An ashtray wielding fox's price was inquired after and, in the final analysis, deemed to be too heavy and too large to carry back in anything smaller than a steamer trunk.  A very Parisian vendor gave Jude and I a full well thought out explanation of why the creative arts scene here is not what it used to be (which involved a lot of greedy top 1%'ers not being held in check, socialism's failing to do what was needed, leaving the rest of us to worry inordinately over money and whether we too would someday, somehow become rich enough to not care about, well, anything, actually).

After two plus hours of a nice slow crawl down the vendor row, Jude and I inspected Kitty to see how she we doing.  Overwhelmed was the word that came to mind.  It was duly noted that it was lunch time and we knew we needed nourishment, quick.  So I dialed up our favorite cafe in the 15th and secured a reservation for four at 13h30.

Happy with our many purchases, the four of us climbed back onto the tram for a quick ride down the line and a fast transfer to the Metro.  We popped up out of the Metro near our eatery and beat feet to the Captain's Table.  "We're here! and we're hungry!!"  Flea marketing can do that to a person.  Make them hungry, that is.

As we sat down at our table, I leaned over to Kitty's friend and mentioned that there would likely be a fair amount of singing going on today.  We weren't at a supper club where this kind of thing is expected.  Rather, we'd joined a fair sized group of, well, it was rather confusing what kind of group they actually where.  They dressed like Scots in hat department.  They wore jerseys that could've been rugby or le football (soccer to you Yanks).  They were definitely not Parisian as they were having far too much fun.  Maybe they were Spanish?  We wondered.

Kitty caught one of the revelers attention and I asked where they were from and what they were up to.  Ah. Clarity, at least.

They were fans of le foot from Lyon and their team, dressed in green, bien sur!, was in town to compete against the Parisian club.  They were up for the day and needed to fuel up before heading of to the Big Event.  In addition to food, they drank a bit of wine and sang to limber up the vocal cords.  They sang when new bottles of vino arrived.  They sang when the wedding party upstairs started singing (to, no doubt, drown out that serious and maudlin sense of song the Parisians seem to have acquired).  They sang for the sake of singing.

At one point someone from the wedding party asked "s'il vous plait, cinq minutes."  The Lyon Foot Fan Club complied.  Grudgingly.

About that time I needed to get up and head to the loo.  On my way I joked with one of the club members who was standing with his arms crossed, intently watching the wedding proceedings, and said to him with my biggest grin "s'il vous plait, cinq minutes."  We both laughed and he replied "on se debrouille, on se debrouille" ("we will manage, we will manage).

The moment the wedding party had had their five minutes of relative peace, the Lyonaise broke out in full bellow with le marseillaise.

You can't make this stuff up.  So, to provide a wee-bit-o-evidence, I caught some of the fun on video.

After the fans left and after we drank our cafe-calva's (the worm must be killed!  Killed!! I tell you [inside joke]), we headed out into what had become a bright, warm, clear day.  After a bit of shopping in the street fair being held just outside the cafe's entry, Jude and I bid our friends "safe journeys."

It wasn't an hour later and we were already missing their company.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Year!

It's difficult to believe but Jude and I have lived in Paris, France for a year.  We just celebrated our anniversary, in fact.


We rushed to get out of the US.  It was as if someone loaded us into a Circus cannon and pointed us in the direction of the Most Beautiful City on Planet Earth.

The president of the company I worked for did his best to publicly humiliate me in front of thirty or forty colleagues over the course of a week.  I was surprised that he failed to find any value in the things we were doing _for him_ so that _he_ could see an increase in the value of _his_ stock options.

My layoff meeting lasted thirty minutes.  It felt like it lasted a week.


Our shock at writing a $1200 check to the COBRA insurance company for the privilege of holding a piece of plastic we could show our physicians was enough to last a lifetime.

Our surprise in realizing the Unemployment Insurance barely covered the COBRA costs was only a little less than the writing of the aforementioned check.

Our house shockingly sold in a week.  This in a severely "down" market (ie: during the time the US experienced the biggest transfer of wealth upward to supposedly deserving Bank Officers since, well, the .Com Collapse and the Junk Bond Collapse and the Savings and Loan Collapse).


Our visitors visas for France arrived in a week.

Our small storage unit (to cover Plan B should living in Yerp not work out) was filled with the residue of our lives in the US in a week.

Our Farewell to Family trip took a week.

Things in America seemed to have a cycle time of one week.  It all happened so quickly.


Integration into Paris culture and life would likely happen on a longer time scale than one simple week.

What we moved to included many obvious things and some of the rather not so obvious.

It's obvious why people love Paris, France.  There is so much here to see and do.  It's a great place to retire, in fact.

The food in the markets is, on the whole, incredible.  Things taste better here than they did in the US.  The food system in France is not run by Giant Food Corporations.  Instead, it's a sustainable system of food production that ensures excellent quality from production through to consumption.  In the US, if it doesn't taste like Pulpy Cardboard, it can't be "real" food.


The museums are worth visiting many times.  A yearly membership to the Louvre is nearly obligatory.  A person can go back as many times as they like and they'd never have seen all there is to see and appreciate.  In the US, culture is reborn every morning and nothing of value is seen in Old Stuff (unless you watch the Antiques Roadshow, and then it's the little trinkets and gee-gaws that seem to hold value, monetary value, but how much appreciation beyond the money is unknowable).

The public transit system moves people throughout France efficiently and cost effectively.  We currently live car-less in the 15th Arrondissement, which is near the edge of the city.  Yet we can be anywhere in Paris in around 25 minutes.  Many of the best places are closer than that.  By Metro.  By l'autobus.  By RER regional train.  It doesn't matter.  You can get there from here.  In the US we required une voiture to travel even a few hundred yards.

What wasn't obvious to us was that Great Baguette could be difficult to find.  After several months of searching for Great Baguette, we stumbled on a wonderful little place, only to have it change owners over the course of Les Vacances last August.  It took me a few more months to find a suitable replacement Boulangerie.  In the US, Wonder Bread is the answer to all your Bread Problems.


What wasn't obvious is that the French actually have a wonderful sense of humor.  For instance, when a Mini, boxed in by a delivery van, sounds it's horn for minutes at a time, residents know that eggs can be used, when accurately hurled, to turn the horn off.  Simple and effective.  In the US the horn would have been silenced by people using guns and lots and lots of bullets and several similarly well-equipped SWAT Teams.

What wasn't obvious is that peace, real peace, can be felt when advertisers and news-persons on the Tele aren't telling you how sick you are, how much you need the latest new widget, and how much you need to be afraid.  It's bizarre to look back and realize how much we were preyed upon by corporate advertisers and corporate controlled news outlets.  It wasn't obvious until we looked at the facts, but living in Amerika, a person is 5 times more likely to die of homicidal violence than we are living in Yerp.  We laugh when people in the States complain about violence in Mexico. It's all about perception, isn't it?

What is obvious includes two fundamental things that we've come to realize and experience for ourselves.  The first is (as our friend Don pointed out several years ago) wherever you retire, you will, slowly but surely, put down deep deep roots.  The second is something we knew before moving here; it would take a lifetime to experience and enjoy everything Paris has to offer.