Paris: Day One

21 09 2009

We arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport around 1:30 on Saturday.  We grabbed our bags: 2 each, about 50 pounds each, plus carry-ons.  (Mine were both approximately 15 lbs.)  We took the shuttle to the RER B, and rode that in to Paris.  We transferred at Châtelet, one of the biggest RER/metro stations.  Then we took Ligne 1 and got off at Champs-Élysées Clémenceau, and then walked to the apartment.  This makes it all seem easy, but don’t forget the amount of bags we had.

I knocked both Peter and I and all four of our suitcases over when I positioned mine badly on the escalator.  The stairs went up and the suitcase went down.  The sheer weight of the push was too much for my already-tired body to handle, and we toppled over.   It was actually pretty funny in the moment, but now in retrospect, I find it hilarious, and I continue to burst out into laughter every time I think about it.  Peter is gonna think I’m going crazy.

(For a more amusing description of how we finally got settled in, see Peter’s blog entry.)

How one “small” question can turn into a history lecture from a crazy old Frenchman.

Not wanting to let the last hour or two of daylight of our first day in Paris pass without going out for a walk, Peter and I took a short walk over to Place de la Concorde.  A photography exhibition in the Tuileries garden caught my eye, and we decided to go take a closer look.

As we bent over to read the description of the exhibit, there was an elderly Frenchman reading the sign too.  Stupid French translators didn’t translate the “Small World” name of the exhibition when they translated it into French, and this particular Frenchman did not understand the word “small.”  He asked us, “Parlez-vous anglais?”  Do you speak English?  We translated it for him.  And then he started talking.

And talking.

And talking.

This man would not. stop. talking.

Did we share too much by telling him in the beginning, “We are American”?  Apparently so.  To make his very long story short, we stood there for 20 minutes while he gave us a French and American history lesson, his opinion on politics, as well as a few musings about language.  He was speaking for so long, he must not have had time to swallow.  Peter and I watched as his mouth collected more and more saliva.  He was spitting on us.  Not on purpose, but it was so disgusting and I felt so uncomfortable that at one point I just burst out laughing.  Not only was he spitting, but he was also making hand gestures that got less than an inch away from my face and my chest.  Peter finally excused us, thank goodness, and we made our escape.

Some administrative details

Today was “let’s open a French bank account” day.  We opened our accounts at BNP Paribas, and the gentleman there who opened our accounts for us was really nice!  I was nervous that it would be difficult, but it just involved signing a TON of papers.  They explained everything very clearly, and they didn’t give me any problems for being American or anything.  There is one more form I must fill out before it is official and they can put in the application for my banking card, but that will have to wait until T. is here to fill out the “attestation de logement” or a piece of paper that will prove I have housing here.

We also checked into getting a mobile phone, but neither of us made any decisions today.  Peter’s closer to it than I am, though.  He’s going to see if his current phone is unblocked, so he could just keep his phone and keep the SIM card.

I, however, am having a hard time deciding.  I am so bad at this kind of thing.  It’s just a phone, no big deal.  Why must I be so indecisive?  These are the top three I’m looking at:

The more I dwell on it, though, the more I am leaning toward the green touch-screen one.  Peter doesn’t think touch-screens are as good as having real keys, but I don’t think it will be a problem.  However, the white one on the right is super-thin, has a very similar interface to my USA phone (both Nokias), and it is on sale for 20€ less, coming to a total of 39€.

Hmmm…..

Journées Européennes de la Patrimoine

Yesterday, it was the second day of the yearly celebration of European heritage.  This means that, all over Europe, there are all sorts of interesting places you can visit that normally would not be open to the public.  This includes the Elysée, the president’s house (from which, ironically, we live right across the street).  Despite our jet-lag, Peter and I trekked out to the CNES – Centre Nationale des Etudes Spatiales (National Center of Space Studies).

Some administrative details

Today was “let’s open a French bank account” day.  We opened our accounts at BNP Paribas, and the gentleman there who opened our accounts for us was really nice!  I was nervous that it would be difficult, but it just involved signing a TON of papers.  There is one more form I must fill out before it is official and they can put in the application for my banking card, but that will have to wait until T. is here to fill out the “attestation de logement” or a piece of paper that will prove I have housing here.

We also checked into getting a mobile phone, but neither of us made any decisions today.  I am so bad at this kind of thing.  It’s just a phone, no big deal.  Why must I be so indecisive?


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4 responses

21 09 2009
Amanda

Hi!!! So much fun reading your blog and living vicariously through you. I would go for the white phone, but I will say that Brian’s brother has the touch screen and LOVES IT! Just be sure you lock it to avoid interesting phone calls that weren’t intended! Please keep the updates coming!

21 09 2009
Susan

Sarah,
Glad to hear you arrived safely — albeit with some “escalator” mishaps!! I can see it now(ha!!). I wish you the best while in France. Please keep in touch. We miss you already.

Susan

21 09 2009
Lauren

Haha! How DO you exit those uncomfortable-won’t-stop-talking-to-me situations?!?

22 09 2009
sarahgilmour

Thanks for the advice about the phone! I am going back today to play with all the phones again to make my final choice. I probably won’t do the white one, because Peter has decided to get that one. Good point though about making sure a touch-screen would have to be locked! I’ve done interesting phone calls and entering in strange phone “numbers” (à la 4558xwX3##(#$88) into my address book before. Haha!

I miss you guys too – I will keep the updates coming; I hope you continue to check it out! I realized I don’t have Carol’s exact email address…I assume you shared it with her, though!

Don’t you hate those situations? (It seems to happen to me more often than not here in Paris!) In the end, Peter ended up interjecting, “Désolé, monsieur, mais il faut partir.” And that worked. The man said a final sentence or two, shook our hands, and then we finally were able to escape.

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