Going to the movies

Living in Paris is movie heaven! The Parisians LOVE movies. Shows start as early as 9am and the last show will often be at 10:45/11pm.  A matinée is a morning movie.  I made the mistake of asking for a matinée ticket for a specific movie at a Festival:                                       “Je suis desolé, Madame.  On n’a pas une matinée pour ce film”                                                              I pointed at the time and, quite nicely, he told me:                                                                               “Mais Madame, ce film montrera l’après-midi.  Il n’y a pas une matinée”                                         Lesson learned.

From my building front door, there are at least 50 screens within 10 minutes walking or 5 min by metro.  Some are current first-run movies, some are Indies and quite a few are old classics on the big screen.  Two of the companies, UGC and Mk2, have a Carte Illimitée.  For 21euros a month, I can go to any film at any hour at those two Theatres anywhere in France!!

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There are no dubbed movies.  That would be sacrilege.  A movie that has VF (Version Français) below the title is in French. One that says VO (Version Originale) or VOSTF (Version Originale sous-titres français) is in the original language with French sub-titles.  Children’s movies are dubbed until 5:30pm.  After that, original language with sub-titles.  Maybe they think, if you are old enough to go to the movies after 5:30pm, you are old enough to read.!

If I tell a french friend s/he should see a certain film, I won’t be asked who is starring in it. They want to know who directed it.  Even information on the TV about American shows gives the director of each episode.

This week, I saw Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortenson–you see how American I am!  Name of movie plus the star!!!  The French would tell you “J’ai vue Captain Fantastic realisé par Matt Ross”  Ross’ name will be above actor credits.   I also saw Brooklyn Village.  The movie had started rolling the credits when I realized the English language name was Little Men.  After the movie was over, I thought it was too bad they changed the name as it had a double meaning for me.  So I asked a French friend if Little Men translated would have a similar meaning.  Les Petits Hommes means short men–far from the meaning for this film.  Un grand homme, however, can mean a tall man OR a very important man.  I now could understand the name change.

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Tomorrow morning, I will hop on M4, go 5 minutes to Les Halles where there are 30 screens and see another film.

 

 

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

The privilege of living in Paris

Periodically, a visitor will ask “Sara, How do you stay here in Paris?”                                           “Do you have to get a Visa?  Is it hard?”

If you want to stay longer than three months, yes you have to get a Visa.  Is it hard?  That depends.  Students can get a student Visa, workers get a worker’s Visa. Then there’s me! I’m retired and I just wanted to come live here.  So among other things, the French want to be very sure I could support myself.  They wanted to know I had my own health insurance and I had to prove I had an address to come to.  No sleeping rough!

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Since I lived in the Bay Area, I made an appointment at my closest French Consulate: San Francisco.  On the website was a long list of things I needed to bring to the appointment with me…..in duplicate.  I was warned to do exactly as it said.  The French like to dot their Is and cross their Ts.

It went very smoothly.  A week later, My Visa arrived in the mail.  Along with a piece of paper telling me to send it in to a Paris address within three months of arriving in Paris. That led me to the Immigration Office (which I described last week) for a physical and tuberculous test.  Passing that, I was good until my year finished.

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However, I realized after being here awhile that I loved living here and I wanted to stay. That meant I had to apply for a Titre de Sejour (a residency card).  At first the process was the same, make an appointment at the Prefecture (police) and bring in the list of things that were required…..in duplicate and translated into French.  By a certified French translator.  Everyone I knew said it was really hard.  I got terribly anxious.  I also got a lot of help.  I found a wonderful translator.  My appointment fell after the Visa had actually terminated.  I had visions of being thrown out of France.  Or not being allowed back in.

 

illus_demarches_459x305.pngMy day of the appointment arrived. It was hard.  The woman who looked at my documents looked at everything very closely over and over.  Then she finally wrote a list of things she wanted me to bring back for another appointment in about seven weeks.  Meanwhile she gave me a temporary card.  When that appointment came, she didn’t look at any of the documents she had asked for.  She told me to come back in two months to get my Titre de Sejour.  It turned out that almost every American I know was asked to return for a second appointment.  Maybe it’s a test of some sort

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Recently I went to the Prefecture to renew my Titre de Sejour.  I came uber prepared but I still expected them to send me back for some reason.  They didn’t!  I was in and out in 45 minutes. And I get to stay in Paris another year!

My understanding is that the card must be renewed two more times if I decide to stay here. Then I can apply for a 10 year Titre de Sejour.

http://ielanguages.com/cds.html

Photos are of actually docs but none are mine.

The American Library in Paris

I had been living in Paris four months before I learned about the American Library here in Paris.  How it slipped through this book lover’s observation is a mystery.  I love libraries.  I love supporting libraries as well as not paying for my own books!

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I had met an American couple while sitting in the immigration office waiting to get my physical that would allow my one year Visa to stay in France to start up.  The three of us were the only Americans in a room packed with people.  It was the first time I realized that I, in fact, was an immigrant.  We were shuttled from room to room just like I’m sure we do in the United States.  We had a long time to talk and get to know each other.  They invited me for tea about two weeks later and told me about ALP.

It is not free to go to ALP.  There is a membership fee.  For me, a single person, it cost 90 euros a year.  It may seem like a lot when one is used to free libraries in the States.  However, this library holds the largest collection of English language books in Europe.  I love mysteries and, so far, I haven’t been disappointed when I wanted to read a mystery that I had recently heard of.  The library also provides space and advertising for book groups.  So I signed up for the Mystery Book group! Of course!

The real treat that the ALP provides for the community is author, film and art events on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.  Everyone comes to Paris.  Last month, I heard Jane Smiley talk about and read from her trilogy of the 20th Century.  Wednesday evening, just past, I saw the brand new documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou, And Still I Rise.  The reading room was overflowing with people wanting to learn more about her and many of us left with tears.

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Facebook has this post on it’s Maya Angelou Film Page:

“Today is Friday, October 14, 2016, the day that the award-winning #MayaAngelouFilm opens at select AMC Theatres across the country!! Here are the ticket and showtimes links that you’ve been waiting for. Take a friend with you to see this moving documentary. You will be inspired! #BringTissue

NEW YORK: http://bit.ly/mafnycmetro

LOS ANGELES: http://bit.ly/maflametro

SAN FRANCISCO: http://bit.ly/mafsf

Talks like these events would cost $100 or up in the Bay Area where I lived before Paris.  I consider 90 euros a bargain.

The library underwent a huge renovation and was closed from mid- May through the end of August.  It now has great security measures.  The city of Paris no longer allows a slot where one can drop books that are due.  We all got new library cards with electronic keys in them that open the doors into the library and also make taking out and returning books very easy.  Both for the reader and for the staff.

If you live in Paris, stop by the library.  Come to one of the evening events.  Look on line for more information:   americanlibraryinparis.org

If you are visiting, come to  10, rue du Général Camou 75007 Paris

See you at the library!

Diamonds and Rust

A friend posted a copy of Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” on his Facebook page.  He said he had heard it in the Arrivals Lounge and couldn’t get the song out of his head.  I clicked on the link and was immediately transported to Berkeley, California and my tiny little apartment on Spruce St.  It was 1973.  I was the ultimate Joan Baez groupie–had been since I was fourteen years old.  I tried to learn how to play the guitar because she did.  I didn’t have the discipline or the passion.  I loved her choice of folk songs and equally loved it when she crossed over into rock and roll.  She seemed to be able to do anything.

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When Diamonds and Rust came out, I was heartbroken over a relationship that I had ended but hadn’t really wanted to.  Don’t ask me to explain, I was 26 years old and very crazy.  I would sit in my little living room and listen to the album over and over.  And now as I listened to the song, while looking at the Seine and the Pont Neuf, I had a strange feeling in my stomach.  The past trying to edge it’s way in maybe.  I’m not one to sit around regretting the past, it is what it is.  However there is something about music that grabs me and hauls me backwards in time so fast I could almost believe in a time machine.

This is the same nostalgia that Ms. Baez writes about in the song.  It feel almost like the lip of a deep hole that you could fall into.  The older we get, the more we look backwards. It’s how we look backwards that makes the difference.  I have such a wonderful life today.  There are times I wish I’d known this kind of happiness back then.  But I didn’t.  Do I have regrets about decisions I made–yes, I do.  At the same time, the decisions that I did make led me to today–which is a wonderful day.  Funnily enough, almost all the YouTube links I’ve been listening to were recorded and/or filmed in France.  I think the French must have loved her.

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Joan Baez celebrated her 75th birthday this past summer.  I learned that piece of information trolling through all the YouTube songs.  I’ve been following and listening to her for over 50 years. Now sitting here looking out my window from my life in Paris, I thank you Joan Baez for all the wonderful songs and memories you’ve given me over the years.

Happy Birthday, Joan Baez

The man down the street

This morning, hurrying down my street, Git-le-Coeur, I found myself behind a very determined French woman.  She had large strides.  An older dog was following but she never turned around.  I kept looking at her, at the dog, wondering did they belong to each other, should I do something.  Suddenly she stopped.  She began tying black calla lilies to a grill at a store front.  I walked up next to her and suddenly realized which store front it was.

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“The owner, he is alright isn’t he?” my french is a bit stilted but that’s how it came out.

“He died Saturday.”

“How?”

“Cardiac arrest.  I feel black so I bought him black flowers”  and she strode away with that determined manner that only the french seem to pull off.  The dog, whom I had forgotten about, ran after her.

I started to cry.  I didn’t know the owner.  Yet almost every day for the past two years I’ve walked down Git-le-Coeur on an errand.  Every day I passed him and said “Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonsoir monsieur” if it was after 8pm.  He always nodded and softly greeted me.  When friends would visit, we would walk past and I pointed out my beat friend that I’d never met. He always wore black.  He was always outside smoking a cigarette and reading.  If it was a hot day, he was across the street sitting on the curb in the shadow.  If it was a cool day, he would bring out one of those carrying sit-stools that has 3 legs and he would lean against it.  The windows of his store front were covered with bande-déssinée covers.  Animated stories that look like cartoon books but aren’t are the rage in France, always have been.  There wasn’t one empty space, even the door knob was a photo or a book cover.

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He must have lived above the store.  If I happened down the street at the right time, I would see him leaving the entrance to his apartment building which was next to his shop.  I’m guessing his apartment was right above the store. Colorful decorations that ranged from plastic flowers to pails to almost anything hung from the balcony.

I never knew his name.

There is no center of Paris.  Every arrondissement has its own neighborhood and each arrondissement has four quartiers.  I’ve lived in this neighborhood long enough that I know many of the characters.  I see the same homeless people every day.  I know all the cashiers at the Carrefour.  These people have become my people.  I never considered that one of them might leave…..permanently.  It was always going to be me leaving, returning to the United States or moving to another arrondissement.  I couldn’t get my brain cells to wrap around this piece of information.  My friend had left and wasn’t coming back.

I was late for a luncheon date with some classmates so I went to the metro thinking about him.  I had been pondering a little gift for him when I returned from California next month.  Now I would be pondering what I would have brought him, now that I know him better.

When lunch was finished, I hurried back to the store to photograph what was there. I read everything taped up or left by the front door.  I just couldn’t believe I would never see him again.

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His name was Jacques Noel.  He was very well loved.

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M. Jacques Noel when he was a young man.

http://www.iconovox.com/blog/2016/10/02/la-mort-de-jacques-noel-libraire-passionne/

http://cqfd-journal.org/spip.php?page=pages_mobiles&squelette_mobile=mobile%2Farticle&id_article=1509

Bijou the cat

She looked ancient. She sat on the sidewalk on Blvd St Germain des Pres in front of the Cluny museum. She had a small cat carrier to her side and a cardboard box covered with a cloth in front of her. When she smiled at me, I saw she had only two front teeth. Her face looked like a well-loved baseball glove. She wore a babushka on her head with a grey hairs straggling out all over.

I had stopped to look at her because she was holding a leash at the end of which, sitting on the cloth covered box, was a lean white cat. On the lap of this crone-like person were two very small kittens. Another two were in the cat carrier. Only one of the kittens was white like, what I presumed was the mother. One was an orange tabby, the third was a calico and the last little kitten was a tortoise shell known as a ‘trois couleur‘ in French. I had lost my Tortie, Samantha, the day before I left California to come to Paris. It was unexpected and had broken my heart. I still hadn’t recovered eight months later. When I see cats and kittens, I get a funny tummy. I want to grab them all up, hug them and take them home with me.

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I turned to my friend, Joy, and said “I want her”. I was pointing to the little Tortie.
I asked the old woman, she must have been an SDF (san domicile fixe or homeless person), how much?
“Thirty-Five euros”
I pretended to misunderstand her and responded “thirty euros?”
She nodded yes. Then she gave me a big smile. Her face transformed from being crone-like to grandmotherly. I hadn’t known any of my grandmothers but I pictured them as smiling, warm and inviting.
There was absolutely no reason for me to negotiate with her. I had friends who had paid far more for kittens on the street. It’s a knee jerk reaction—bargain.

I stood in a moment of suspended time. ‘What am I doing?’ was the only clear thought that went through my head. I grabbed my friend’s hand, told the SDF that I was going to the distributeur to get some euros and off we went. I needed to buy some reflection time.

We went to Monoprix and I grabbed up kitty litter, food for kittens and whatever else I could remember that kittens needed. It had been a long time since I’d had one. As we left, I turned to Joy asking “Am I crazy?” I fully expected her to say yes. She didn’t.
“You’ve been talking about getting another cat ever since Samantha died. Maybe this is the right time”
What neither of us mentioned was that I had come to Paris for one year. That year had only four more months left. I had been intimating to everyone that I wanted to stay but had done nothing to set that in motion. It didn’t even occur to me then.

We went back to where the old woman was sitting. I was afraid she might have gone. I gave her thirty euros. She gave me a little seven week old kitten that flopped over like it was dead. I wrapped her up in my scarf and we walked to Starbucks. Joy went and got us coffees and I looked at this little being.

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The next day, she and I went to the Vet which just happened to be around the corner from my apartment.  The Vet checked her thoroughly.  She was very clean, not one flea, ears and eyes perfect–in fact the Vet was surprised she came off the street!  I was so relieved.

She asked me her name. A name?  Usually a name comes right to me and that’s it but this time it took a week. The little kitten became Bijou.  Which means jewel in French.  The further adventures of Bijou, who was anything but for the first year of her life, will be in later installments of this blog

It was at least a month later that I realized that I had decided to stay in Paris at that moment.

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Bijou today at 1 year 6 months

 

Brocante, Vide Grenier or Antiquités?

They call themselves brocanteuses.  There is no real translation for the word, the closest being seller of bric a brac.  But they aren’t and they don’t.

I’m talking about Mary and Jo who work the Foire de Chatou which I just got home from.  It is a huge ‘fair’ of hundreds of dealers in everything imaginable. This particular Fair takes place every March and September for ten days.

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In Paris, there is no such thing as a garage sale or a boot sale.  In fact, it is illegal to sell anything in front of your building.  The closest equivalent would be ten or so families getting together and renting a square from the city and having a Vide-grenier – a flea market.

The Fair I just returned from is a Brocante with antiquity dealers there. Jo explained that they have to sign a certificate verifying that they do sell antiques.  She and Mary call them selves Brocanteuse antiquaire meaning most of their stuff is less than 50 years old but they may have older things.

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Mary is British, lives in Antibes, speaks fluent French and makes her living selling beautiful dishes, cutlery and silver plate that she buys in England and her many buying trips.  She brings them back to France.  Over the thirty-four years that she has been doing this, she has learned what the French like.  Today, however, I watched as a group of about six American women from Atlanta, huge smiles on their faces, swooped into her space and bought almost all the silver plate that Mary had.  She chatted with them and you can be sure they will receive e-mail invites to all her future Brocantes.  I asked her how she started this business which is known as Tinker, Tailor.  She worked for Yves St. Laurent as an accountant and hated it.  So, with an assistant, she parted ways with the company and voila, Tinker Tailor was born.

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Jo is slightly older than Mary.  She can no longer do the heavy lifting that is required to move all the   around from Brocante to Brocante.  She has cut back on the amount of time she devotes to Brocantes.  I also asked her how she got started in the business.  As a child, her father would take her to auctions in the UK which he frequented.  He loved to buy frames.  She developed the bug.  After she finished her studies and married a frenchman, she worked for an antique dealer in Tours doing all the buying in the UK and the shipping around the world.  Some years later, she struck out on her own.  That was forty-six years ago. She loves pine.  She bought only large pieces and the French bought everything.  What she noticed, however, was that she liked sober pieces with straight lines whereas the French have a more sophisticated taste.  Perhaps a  little twirl here and there.  She pointed at a mirror that she wouldn’t have in her house because of the columns.  The French love it.

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Both women had retail stores at one point in their lives but have given them up for the freedom of traveling or taking time off if need be.  Twelve years ago, Jo asked Mary if she would join her in her stall at Chatou.  They watch out for each other and get along fine.

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And just for the record, I bought the Afghan rug that is hanging on the wall.  I adore Brocantes as do most Americans.  I told Jo that I’d never have been attracted to Bric a Brac sales. But,…well who knows.  I’m always looking for a good bargain.