Monday, July 26, 2010

Finally at Home in Paris

So after all this time we are finally in Paris together staying in our apartment. It's Monday afternoon, we have been here since Saturday, and already we have done so much that I feel like it I can't write it all down. But anyway the apartment is beautiful, the renovations complete, and it has been completely furnished by ParisPerfect, or they have finished whatever part of the furnishing that we didn't get done when we were here in April. In fact the truth is they have done most of it. It's all quite nice, some of the various pictures and furnitures and chothckes aren't exactly what I or we would have picked, but it's here. We have to pay them for all of it if we are going to keep it.

For the moment, no pictures, other than what you can see online, at,

I am sitting at the table pictured here... can I insert a photo directly? I am working on my Ipad, not so good for advanced editing.

Today we had just the kind of day I wanted to make sure we had while we were here for two weeks. Not full of activities, just hanging around and doing whatever. M. and L. (17 and 14) are late sleepers, so E. CAM and I got out to run at 9:00 or so, ran three laps around the Champs de Mars, we were home by 10:00 or so and the other kids still weren't up. We brought back some pastries and made toast, which slowly got them going. It then took quite a while to get all the beds put back together and the place straightened up. It's tight in here for all five of us. CAM and I get the nice bedroom, L. gets the pull-out sofa in the second bedroom with the double doors to the living room, and E. and M. get the two twins that open up from the couch in the living room. They are very nice convertibles, but still, when they are all open there isn't a whole lot of room to move around.

We also got the dishwasher and washing machine going for the first time. You wouldn't think standard household appliances would be as different as they are in Europe. Washer/dryers in particular are completely incomprehensible. In the many apartments we have rented over the years I have never felt as though I actually figured one out. Because we are tight for space, we have a "combination" washer-dryer that is supposed to perform both functions, and fortunately ParisPerfect provides very good instructions about how we are supposed to use our own stuff. It took me about half an hour, but I got the washer going. One thing about European washers is they take forever. The timer settings are calibrated in hours. And the dryer function... the ParisPerfect instructions say that they are a different "style" than American dryers, which is to say they aren't the style that actually get the clothes dry. It took me a long while to understand why not: by and large European dryers aren't vented to the outside, so they keep spinning the clothes and collecting the water to drain it away. Since we are on the top floor I thought it might be possible to install a vented dryer, but when I suggested it everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Why would you want that? Plus the buildings are very strict about poking new holes to the outdoors, presumably. Anyway, when we got home hours later the clothes were clean, and damp. They have been out on a laundry rack since then.

Another one of the necessary appliances in ParisPerfect apartments is an Expresso machine. We don't have one at home. This one is a Nespresso, the kind that works off little pods of coffee that you insert, making one cup at a time. It's really good, so there is a lot of coffee getting drunk around here in the morning, including by me, though at home I have quit in favor of green tea. M. and I went to the Nespresso store today to get more pods. It's quite a production. You are greeted individually, then led to a counter where an agent hands you a menu and offers samples of the various varieties. After about three sample cups of Espresso I could have flown home, but it was fun and not as expensive as I thought. The pods run about 40 cents each, more than a homemade cup of coffee but a lot less than a cafe.

On our way out of the apartment today we stopped at the metro and bought Navigo cards, which work as passes for all the metro lines and busses in the city. We had read that is was a hassle, but it turned out to be relatively easy. CAM had brought passport sized headshots, and after some protestations the guy at the ticket booth took our money and gave us the cards. It's odd that you have to conduct this business at the regular window where people buy their regular tickets, because it took us fifteen minutes, while a long line of impatient commuters stacked up behind us. No one complained though, it seemed normal to them.

And it turned out that the Navigo cards unlocked another long-time Paris mystery, the Velib system. Velib is a citywide system of bicycles that are stationed everywhere around town, locked into little stands. You take one, ride it where you want to go, and return it to another stand. M. and I had tried to buy access at the little automated kiosk next to the bikes, but it had never worked. Something would always go wrong, or it wouldn't accept my credit card, and we would be rerouted back to the beginning with no explanation. But M. noticed that the kiosks mentioned Navigo cards, and before we knew it everything went through and we (M. and I) were on bikes. We escaped major head injury, dodging buses on the way down Boulevard St. Germain, wound our way around the Luxembourg Gardens and found our way home. It was really fun, and without CAM along (she and the girls were shopping) I actually had to navigate my way around the city, which is good for me.

After that we took our gloves and baseball and played some catch on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. It all felt out of place in a nice way. Stopped for tea and cokes in a nice little cafe on a side street in between the tower and home (The Cafe Presle, on Rue de Presle), came home and have been hanging out since. Girls still out, they will no doubt show up exhausted just in time to make it to dinner.

I am going to see if I can find a blogging app for ipad. That, and I have to convince the girls to mail be some pictures from their cameras so I can post them. More later.

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