This post has had about two dozen ledes in the past twelve hours.
As I expertly predicted, the exchange rate was greatly improved just hours after inauguration. Unfortunately, we had to change our money while the speech hadn’t yet started so we’d have cash for the flat. We lost out on about a meal’s worth of Euros in the process.
Our flat is situated in a small complex of condo-like apartments – a long hall off the street and through a small concrete courtyard with potted trees and recycling bins. It’s almost as deep as the first floor of our house, and half as wide.
Actual French people live on every side of us, through walls about as thick as crepe paper. Par example, last night I was awoken not by jet lag, but by the snoring of a neighbor.
True story. Luckily, the packing list was very effective when followed, which means I do have two pairs of earplugs with me.
Post-plugs, the jet lag took over – we arose brightly and without an alarm at 7 a.m. Philadelphia time, or 1 p.m. local. Pity, as from the forecast it looks like this will be the only dry day of our time in Paris. We nipped out for a walk around our environs in the daylight, snapping the daylight version of our view over Parc de Belleville from last night.
We’re in the 19ème arondissment, just a hop over from 20ème. It seems like every street in our neighborhood curves around to intersect with another street in an unusual way. After some gawking at Google street-view it’s starting to make sense. It reminds me of the one block in New York that Rabi and I always walk past where you can sit in the courtyard of one Starbucks peering into another one.
We located a grocery store on rue de belleville – le marche Franprix. To our obese American eyes it looked to be the size of a convenience store. What we did not take into account is that nothing in France is packaged at the massive size of its American counterpart, so what to us looked like a super-sized Wawa in fact contained just about everything we’d expect from an Acme.
If I passed last night’s first verbal exam by the skin of of my teeth, today’s written was much smoother – between the two of us Elise and I are pretty good at food vocab in French (and like lots of French food). We also had the benefit of illustrative packaging, though the print professional in me was fascinated by the subtle differences in photos and headlines.
For every lack of ridiculous flavor iterations (the cereals were only about six feet wide) there was half an aisle of things we consider to be prohibitively gourmet. My sans pulp orange juice was next to a litre of guava-pineapple juice. The condiments aisle had an entire block of hand-jarred preserves, only half of which were fruits I knew the translation for.
Being the fat Americans, of course we had three times as many groceries as everyone else in line. Between the petite bags of groceries everyone was toting, the multiple fruit stands (in the winter!), and our teeny fridge (smaller than the ones at the wedding hotel!) we’re figuring most people in this neighborhood buy for just a day or two at a time. But, hello, if you had seen the cheese aisle you would understand.
Finally, we had our second near-arrest (the first being last night when the cabbie thought Elise was making a run for it). Once again, my international super-spy wife pulled an Alias getaway and left me holding the bag. Literally, in this instance.
The market has this giant wooden paddle at the end of the conveyor, and when you’re done buying they swoop all your stuff to the side and start checking the next person. Elise did not necessarily grasp this idiosyncrasy, and continued to bag from the right rather than from the left, and then took off like Roadrunner with her half of the bags while I was still performing my ritual pocket-check.
Suddenly I am being jabbed by an older French woman and regarded curiously by the checkout woman. This is not an instance where you want to be trying to recall decades-old French class. Apparently, Elise bagged the woman’s preserves in one of my bags. Thankfully, my expressive eyebrows transcend the barriers of language, and I got out with a muttered desolé.
(For the record, Elise is familiar with the wooden paddle concept, and… I don’t understand what comes after the and. And just felt like trying to get me arrested to see if the police would really call Gina’s number to have her meet me after my deportation? I’m not sure.)
Now safe, sound, and fed, we are going to take advantage of our one totally dry evening to venture down to the Eiffel. Also, just now we started planning a day trip to Brussels with Jem & Jan, which is going to be AWESOME.
(I didn’t get a chance to install Photoshop before we left, so these are all sans color retouch, for the moment.)