La Vie Parisienne… Parisian Life
This week we have spent some time enjoying the typical attractions of the city of Paris. But, as planned, a lot of our time has been dedicated to figuring out how to live like the Parisians. From speaking French, understanding the Metro, handling Euros, shopping for every day items like groceries and sundries it has been a learning experience. While Norman has carried on in French fairly well for our basic needs, I have not quite conjured up the necessary courage to spit out a complete sentence though I understand much of what I read or hear. This has always been a problem for me in learning another language. I suspect that after 7 weeks of travel I will be able to do a little better.
Since we are staying in an apartment, we have had a chance to live more like Parisians than if we stayed in a hotel. We walked to the local stores to buy our provisions for the day with the obligatory stop at the boulangerie. We prepared our own meals. We did our laundry in the washing machine located in the kitchen and then hung everything to dry with a variety of adjustable hanging devices in the bathroom. And, since we depart tomorrow, today was cleaning day. All the same things you would do at home but with a few modifications.
Of course, we brought several electrical adapters for our iPhone, iPad and camera chargers as well as other small appliance like a blow dryer and iron. All of these things are capable of dual voltage so it is much easier to use them than in the past when you also had to have a converter. But learning how to use French appliances can be a challenge. Yesterday Norman spent an hour trying to figure out how to get the washing machine and microwave (both on the same circuit) to work before we could wash our clothes and heat milk for his coffee. After finding and inspecting the circuit breaker which seemed fine, it finally turned out that the hidden surge protector to which they were connected was switched off.
Our apartment is small — about 400 square feet (large by Paris standards) — so everything has been designed or set up for a compact life. There are surge protectors with multiple outlets everywhere you look in order to increase the number of things you can plug in at any given moment. One hopes you won’t blow a fuse. There is built-in storage in every available space. Furniture is small but comfortable including the bed which is nothing like the monster bed we have at home.
So the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” holds true. Whether adjusting to the weather (it has been mostly overcast, cold, and rainy), shopping, going out to get something to eat, traveling around the city, or strolling through your neighborhood, the thing to remember is that no matter what you do, do it with the idea of enjoying yourself. Don’t be afraid to walk into a store, a boulangerie, a farmer’s market, a supermarché, a museum, a café, or any other place. If you just make a small effort to communicate in French remembering to say Bonjour when you enter and Merci, au revoir when you leave, you’ll always be met with a kind and pleasing response. During this entire week, we have not experienced a single negative or rude reply from anyone even when we could hardly communicate.