First Week in France…. or …. nothing is easy!

I’ve been to Paris three times. The first time barely counts as we were here for four days and walked ten hours a day trying to see everything in Paris.

The second time — 2.5 years ago — with my daughter, we stayed in this very same apartment. We had a week to see it all and we hit the road early in the morning and crawled back late at night with just enough sleep to keep us moving.

Somewhere along the way, I aged. I hate to admit it, even to myself. I hate aging. I hate not having the energy and the strength and the stamina I had just 2.5 years ago!! Hate it. Hate it.

This time I came alone and for nearly a month stay. I knew the apartment and the area and how to use the metro. I had Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate, and VPN (unless you are under 40 you do not know what that is: at least I didn’t.) which allows me to watch American TV, though so far I’ve watched CBS newscasts. I haven’t gotten around to Netflix so I don’t even know if it works.

I arrived at midnight U.S. time – 7:55 a.m. here. My host let me sleep one hour before lunch, then forced me to stay awake until 9:00 p.m. I slept 13 hours straight! She left for Canada the next morning so I spent Tues. settling in: unpacking, putting things away, hanging up clothes, etc. I went up the street to the Monoprix store. Similar to Target in the states. I bought enough groceries to get me through a few days. It took me an hour of reading French labels to determine if coffee was in fact sans decaf (decaffeinated), if the lait (milk) I was buying was actually milk and not cream, to determine if 6.50 EU meant for the pkg. or per pound for chicken. You get the picture.

Each day I have tried to do one thing outside the apartment. I am still very tired so I am in bed at 11 and up at 7:00. My usual time in the states. I eat on French time now as well. I have the requisite croissant each morning with fruit and yogurt. I’ve eaten every meal at home which pleases me (and saves my bank account).

Yesterday I ventured out to the Musee Orsay which turned out to be an experience of a life-time. Beautiful building and hundreds of famous paintings that I drooled over. I had a cafe au lait and three macarons — yum! But getting there was not easy. I went to the Gare (terminal) 45 minutes early as I had decided to use the RER train instead of the metro and I didn’t know which set of tracks that would be on. Come to find out, it didn’t matter! The RER C was not operating, neither was the Metro 5 or 10 – my second option. After muddling through my lack of French and the information desk clerk’s lack of English, I was sent on my way to find the “Castro bus”. I asked three people who did not know and finally noticed some arrows on signs with that logo. An hour later, I was on the bus heading to the second stop — the Orsay. Stupidly, I forgot to ask where to stand to get a return trip so that became the next ordeal. But I’ll spare you….  Yes, I made it there and I made it back.

Today I “made it to the market” and I “made it back” again. Each trip is a learning curve and I am so tired of learning. Don’t I know enough by now? The Google maps took me one way and my host’s typed notes told me another. I did my usual — asked every fourth person along the street the question: Marche Aligre?  Marche Aligre? They point and I go another few blocks before asking again. My son would shoot me – he put all the google help on my phone before I left. I just don’t happen to trust technology all that much.

I went to the gardens a block away this afternoon. They are famous as are the four museums inside the gates. I sat and tried to write on my second novel. I was simply too tired from the two hour excursion to the marche. Next time I will buy 2 bananas, not 4. My shoulders and back have set into rigor mortis. I caught a cold my first day here. I can do nothing with my Arizona hair. And I’ve forgotten most of my French in the past four days.

But I continue to muddle through; one step at a time; one block at a time; one bus stop at a time. Now if they’d just get the damned metro operating again, I’d be golden. Today I thought my cold had subsided. I sit here now sneezing my head off in need of a tissue. Ah, the joys of travel.

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