Going on a Trip

I am leaving Paris for two weeks.  I’m going to California where I lived for most of my adult life.  It is a beautiful day today.  The sky is blue, the Seine is peaceful, sparkling and the Bateaux Mouches have begun their daily trips up and down the river showing tourists the sights along the banks.

 

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I have been grumbling about the weather most of the Fall.  It seemed that we went from summer to winter without passing Autumn.  In fact, we have had a couple of beautiful Indian Summer days and this seems to be turning into one of them.  I’ve turned the heat off in the apartment and I’m looking forward to a walk.  My iPhone says that the next week will be sunny and much much warmer than it has been.

 

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However, I’m leaving for Charles de Gaulle airport before the sun comes up tomorrow morning.  And like most of my “last days before the trip” Paris seems lovelier.  I seem to see it all much more clearly.  I look around my apartment as if I will never see it again.  I held Bijou, the cat, so close trying to make a physical memory of her furriness, her sweetness, the way she will suddenly look up at me with loving eyes that completely melt my heart.  I don’t feel this way about going anywhere else in Europe.  But California and another life seems worlds away from Paris and this life.

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Last January, when I took my trip to California, terrorists had just bombed the Brussels airport.  We had heard, though it hadn’t been confirmed, that the Brussels airport was second choice to Paris.  I had no idea what to expect.  I felt very matter of fact about it.  I called my lawyer and asked if I wrote out a makeshift will in pencil about all my belongings in Paris, would it be considered legal.  He said yes then added to please not worry, nothing was going to happen to me.  He couldn’t possibly know. The truth is, a place where terrorists have just hit is probably one of the safest places in the world.

I’m not worrying about terrorists.  I look forward to these long flights to California (but not to the jet lag). Once I get to the airport, get my bags checked, get through border control, I’m in No Man’s Land.  Soon my phone won’t ring at all, I won’t be able to receive any texts.  No one can bother me or demand anything of me.  I can watch five movies in a row and not feel guilty or lazy. I can daydream or read a book or write.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today, I’m walking around looking at everything as if it’s the first time and the last time.  I don’t feel anxious.  I don’t have a word for it.  It’s a feeling I’m sure everyone gets at some time or another.  Of wanting to imprint something in my memory that is stronger than just a memory.  I want to be able to touch it, feel it, take it with me.  When I’m sitting in my living room in Oakland, I don’t want Paris to feel so incredibly far away.  The memory I always default to is sitting in my armchair that I have facing the window.  The window that looks out on Quai des Grands Augustins, the Pont Neuf and the river Seine.  It’s an amazing view of one of the most beautiful parts of Paris that I look at every day.

 

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A bientôt,

Sara

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.

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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!

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

 

Sunday on the streets of Paris

Last night, Saturday night, the weather was delicious.  At 9pm, the warm breeze caressed sleeveless arms and everyone, Parisian and tourist alike, was smiling.  The streets were full of walkers, the bistros and restaurants spilled out onto the sidewalks and streets.  It was one of those nights when I didn’t want to go home.  I just wanted to walk this gorgeous city and feel the warmth, hear the happy chatter and soak in what I think of as the essence of Paris: the sidewalk culture.

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Today is Sunday and oh how things change.  It is rainy, cool and grey.  Soggy joggers are running along the Quai des Grands Augustins looking a bit like soaked puppy dogs.  Bikers are riding by with yellow, blue and white rain jackets unfolding like sails behind them.  There are no cars, only taxis and buses.  Today is Car Free day in Paris!  Anne Hidalgo, our mayor, has been trying to bring attention to the pollution.  She hopes to have part of the central city completely car free by 2018.  Fortunately, Paris has one of the best public transportation systems in the world.  So today, only taxis, public transport and electric vehicles will be allowed to run.  Normally, it would be a wonderful day to roam the city, walk in the roads and enjoy everything that Paris has to offer.  We will see who braves the rain.

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One group of people out and about enjoying the streets are the skateboarders.  Hoards of them in groups of thirties and forties are passing under my window.  They are singing to the skies as loudly as they can so happy are they to have the roads to themselves, well practically.  Some are dressed as if it is already Halloween.  A bride zooms by, then King Kong followed by two characters from Toy Story with huge smiles on their faces and arms up in the air.  Who cares about the rain they seem to be saying.  Look Ma, no cars!!!!

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