Archive for the 'Pieces of Imperfect Paris' Category

Of Melancholy and Marvels; Paris Years On

Did I ever tell you about my first trip to Paris?

A rainy weekend in late November 2005.

At that time, I didn’t know the gray of the sky was semi-permanent, that the drab monotony even had a name (la grisaille). I did intuit, however, that the city always looked beautiful anyway.

A transport strike (another common feature, I would learn) was in full swing and so I arrived into central Paris only after a chaotic RER and metro ride.

But out I finally popped onto Rue de Rivoli, the Hotel de Ville lit bright by early holiday lights. Beautiful. There’s that word again. I was overcome by my first sight.

Continue reading ‘Of Melancholy and Marvels; Paris Years On’


End of Summer Mantra (and the Return to Paris)

A decorated street during Festa Major de Gracia

Paris has welcomed me back with sunshine. It’s warm and glorious and everything it wasn’t when I left. This makes my reluctant return after nearly 2 months in Spain easier.

I offer this idyllic image first because my journey home last night looked like this:

Continue reading ‘End of Summer Mantra (and the Return to Paris)’

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: (Non)-Summer in Paris

Sure, Paris can be romantic in the rain.

People probably don’t have this in mind, though:

No one lives in Paris for the weather, but I got to say, skipping over summer is kind of a shame.

I can’t complain today. The sun’s shining. But overall, summer’s been skimpy in these parts. I’ve looked at the extended forecast and the rain’s coming back for the weekend. (It’s best not to look at these things).

Oh well. It does help with the work. August is my month of attack you might remember. And attacking, I am. I’m getting so much done! The freak floods and gray days only give more motivation to stay inside and focused, so I’m grateful for that.

Reality Check

Today as I was climbing the many steps of the above ground Jaures metro station, a guy stole the cash right out of my backpack.

I felt a little something and quickly twirled around. The man was standing too close, but nonchalantly brushed past me.

I immediately opened my bag and saw my wallet, camera, and phone still there, so I wondered if I had imagined it. I looked in my wallet and all of my cards were still there, too.

It was only a little later when I went to pay for something that I noticed all of my cash was gone.

I consider myself pretty street smart and I usually keep my bag in front of me. But sometimes – just walking up stairs on a normal Friday afternoon outside of rush hour – I guess I don’t always clutch my bag as I should.

Sigh. Must be on guard every single second.

What gets me is that as soon as I turned around, I immediately wanted to say “WTF?”

But somehow in the split second I remembered I was in Paris and couldn’t remember how to say WTF in French. (Note to self: just say WTF in English anyway. Not that it helps matters, but I would have preferred calling him out, rather than feeling so passive).

Continue reading ‘Reality Check’

Keeping Count

Not that we’re keeping track or anything, but tomorrow will be the fourth day of strikes/protest against French pension reform in a month’s time. On a personal note, it’s the second time in a month that my travel plans have been foiled because of it. (Ok, maybe I am keeping count).

I do realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but really? What is up with my choosing departure days that ultimately mean I cannot depart?

No, no, really. I don’t mind. Aix-en-Provence? Who needs it?

Gare du Nord (I refuse to be stranded again!)

So my train has been cancelled for tomorrow. On the upside, at least I already know about it. And I have options! I was on an iDTGV, which is supposed to be like the younger, cooler version of the TGV. (You know, like there are DJ’s or something – even speed dating on some routes! I’m kind of not kidding, either).

Anyway, I’ll give them props for letting me know ahead of time – and for making sure I don’t need to lift a finger to get reimbursed. It’s automatic. Ok, this I will applaud.

There are other trains running that day and I’m allowed to try to get on any of them for free either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Honestly, folks, I don’t really feel much like trying to make my way to the train station on a strike day and “hoping” I can board another one. Or waiting around said train station if one is full and hope for the next. Or waking up at 5 AM to catch the early train that no one else wants to catch.

I think I will just wait until Wednesday – or just go some other time. It’s an easy trip (um, when there’s not a strike, that is).

Plus, I should not admit this, but here goes: I have an electrician coming tomorrow now and I’m waiting for some important documents in the mail, so it kind of works out. Yes, I’m choosing domestic drudgery and a postal delivery over Aix-en-Provence. This is what it has come to.

I do feel much better that I am returning to the original spirit of this blog, though. This is my glam life in Paris, folks. Jealous yet?

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Soggy Strike

Paris CDG Termial 2E 06

Dear readers,

Right now I should be in Italy, walking along the banks of Lake Como with my friend Simone who grew up in the area.

Instead I’m sitting in my uncomfortable writing chair (must do something about that) in Paris wondering just why I put up with France sometimes.

See, there was a huge national strike on Tuesday. Yes, yes, nothing new. It’s la rentree, everyone’s back, might as well go on strike.

Fine. My flight was scheduled on Wednesday. I checked Easyjet’s flight before leaving to make sure it was still on. Yes, it said. Planifie.

Only, when I get to CDG airport, the flight was not planifie. Not planned at all. A great big annule, in fact. Wait in line to rebook. Unhelpful ticket agent who does not want to tell me why the flight is cancelled. After about my fifth time asking, he finally says, quite haughtily, well, Madame, there was a big national strike yesterday.

Yes, yes, I’m aware, I said. That was yesterday. And today is today.

But let’s not belabor the point. When can I get out of here?

Oh, Friday? As in, not tonight, not tomorrow, but in 2 days from now? Oh, and you do not want to pay me for the expenses of my fruitless trip out here? Right. Ok. Do you think I should go now, before I reach across the desk and strangle you?

Continue reading ‘Soggy Strike’

Scattered Sunbeams

The sky before unleashing its rain, Hotel de Ville

Paris may be the world’s most beautiful city, even in the rain (some might go so far as to posit especially in the rain), but I gotta say: I want summer.

Let me paint you a portrait of a recent ‘summer’s night’ outing: dressed in long-sleeved shirt, sweater (yes, sweater), and scarf I make my way to the Hotel de Ville to hear Tricky perform as part of the FNAC Indetendances festival of music. (This was the last weekend; sorry folks).

Some people are dressed wistfully, in tanks and short skirts, willing the weather to cooperate. Most have realized that we are in a season more closely resembling fall, however, so jackets are in full display.

A menacing sky, but we will the rain to hold off for a bit. It does. Until it doesn’t. With the advent of a light sprinkle, we open our umbrellas, make the umbrellas dance. Several people jump onto the stage. (I believe this was a practical means of escaping the rain rather than anyone being overcome by the music. They conveniently exited the stage again once the rain stopped.)

A fine night, a fine night, but we are too much darting between raindrops, those of us left here in August. We try to slot ourselves in between scattered sunbeams this summer.

Rosa Bonheur at 4 PM

The day before the concert, I met up with fellow bloggers Res I(p)sa, An Alien Parisienne, and Paul of Paris Inspired at Rosa Bonheur in the beautiful Buttes Chaumont Park (my favorite park – I suggest to anyone visiting Rosa Bonheur to go near 4 PM as we did; such a relaxed pace before the crushing evening hipster crowd arrives – which is also fun, of course. Also how cute is it that Paris Karin and Paris Paul are a blogger couple?)

Rosa Bonheur at 8 PM

The weather confusion saw me in many layers, but by the time we settled in, the sun shone bright. Mid-August and I wear layers, I contemplate knee-high boots, turtlenecks. This just shouldn’t be. Even in Paris, where I forgive almost anything just to bask in her beauty, sometimes you just want a little warmth and light.

Today, Sunday, there are no breaks in the clouds, the rain falls heavy. It’s cold. A sweater and heavy socks kind of day (shall I remind you this is mid-August?)

Should be a good day to stay indoors, write, work. Should be…but I gaze longingly out the window and am distracted by how much I wish for the sun.

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La Poste: Nemesis Numero Uno

Boîte aux lettres La Poste

Have I ever told you how much I hate La Poste? That it is the bane of my existence? (Well, that and laundry).

My virulent loathing of the institution might seem a bit overstated, but I think in some ways it’s a good solution for dealing with my frustrations living in France. I simply channel all my ill feelings into this one receptacle – no need to get upset about everything.

Sure, I suppose I could choose someplace with a bit more power – the prefecture, say- as the singular object of my wrath. (You’ve seen my absolute terror in facing the prefecture here).

However, the prefecture is not a place I have to deal with often (usually just the annual trial suffices).

La Poste, on the other hand, is a fact of daily life. Inefficiency, surly customer service, long lines – all of these traits find their way here. All of France’s woes in one convenient location, in other words.

What has set off this tirade?

Well, a small thing, really. (Isn’t it always?)

I went to make photocopies and then mail off my US taxes and some health forms to my Mutuelle (June 15 is the filing date for us folks abroad, for those of you who think I’ve woefully missed the April 15 tax deadline. A Mutuelle is a complimentary health insurance for you same US folks who might not know.)

Sounds like a simple task, right? Only in France, no small task goes unpunished.

Go to my nearest post office. Copier only takes exact change (10 centimes). Machine that makes changes is out of order. Postal workers will not give me change because, well, they don’t like giving change.

Exit post office and go to nearest photocopy place. Stand in line. My turn. First 2 pages copy. Then machine stops copying. The guy working there (very nice, I will say) tries to figure out the problem. To no avail. Woman behind me exclaims, “this place is worse than the post office!”

Ok, next post office. Great! Their change machine works! Many 10 cent coins in hand. Go to their photocopier. En panne. (Out of service).

Back to original post office. One of the copiers has managed to fall en panne, too, in the interceding time, but one still works. I make all of my copies. Hooray!

After I finish, the woman behind me tries the machine. “It doesn’t work!” she cries. Break out another en panne sign.

Not a huge deal, I know. Believe me, I still have perspective. But a quick errand (I had assumed – hah!) turned into half a day. While I’m pretty laid-back, sometimes you just want things to be straightforward. Like mailing an envelope could – in an ideal world – take about 30 seconds. (But then this blog post wouldn’t have happened).

I’m sure there were other ways. Should I have gone to corner café, ordered a glass of wine and gotten some change that way? Maybe. Might have been more fun.

But no harm done. So onto something more evil.

the kittening (crazy-eyes edition)

The post office steals my care packages. Yes. They steal.

It’s wrong to jump to conclusions, right? But after the third or fourth missing package, you start to wonder. Especially when you go inquiring after your missing package, witness their entirely haphazard tracking system (consisting of the postal worker scanning a crumpled sheet with names scrawled in horrible handwriting with no other identifying information) to then inform you that the package has never passed through. To also hear other people complaining of their missing packages. To also know this has happened at two of your Paris addresses already.

I’ve told friends and family back home to stop sending me care packages. Do you know how sad this is? Do any of you realize how vital small gifts from home are to the long-term expat? But I am a strong girl. No, it’s ok, I say, lips quivering. I’d rather you not send it. No need to waste your money, mom. It probably won’t get here.

So ok post office, you steal my stuff. Fine. Can you please at least install a working photocopier? Or give me change? Thanks.


This is how it should be:

Cartas de amor

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Prescriptions and Pick-up Lines

Corner pharmacy - great place to pick up chicks

Tonight at my corner pharmacy, the man in the line next to me kept giving me the eye. He was building himself up to say something, I could just tell. It’s been a while since I’ve been so conspicuously checked out – but a woman remembers quickly.

I tried to avoid eye contact and stared straight ahead.

So he changed strategy and just spoke up, throwing his words into thin air.

“Cold, but it seems less cold tonight, huh?”

I didn’t say anything, so he said it again. Asked it.

It was awkward. There was now just one man in front of me engrossed in his medical tale with the pharmacist and my pursuer, now waiting at the counter for the other pharmacist who was off in the back room filling his prescriptions.

I hate to leave words, questions, just hanging there. How embarrassing. I get so embarrassed for other people (even when I don’t want to speak to them, apparently).

So I muttered, “yeah, I guess so.”

Just to give the guy something. Just to answer another human being.

“I mean, I don’t know,” he continued (what? a non-committal mutter is not an invitation to a conversation!). “I sleep alone in my bed.”

At this point, he just stared at me. For a really long time. Like I should be picturing him – lonely, shivering man – alone in his bed. Poor him. Alone when it’s so cold. Wouldn’t I like to join him?

I like the personal attention at my pharmacy – they’ll take the time to explain everything to you.

But right then all I wanted was for complicated medical guy ahead of me to finish his tale so I could pick up my pills and run, quickly, away from creepy guy who was still – (not sure, because I didn’t want to look too closely) – salivating and seeming more and more unseemly by the moment.

I got my wish, my pills – and wouldn’t you know it, creepy guy stared at me even as I was leaving the store.

Curses! The F-Word, The B-Word

For those of you who need help tempering your jealousy when you imagine the sweet life in Paris, I have two words for you: French Bureaucracy.

For those of you who already live here: you know what I mean.

I’ll admit that since getting my first carte de sejour (after jumping through several flaming and very high hoops), things quieted down for awhile. I’m married to a French man now, perhaps everything will be alright, I comforted myself late at night. The ordeal is over; calm your battered soul.

Proof that thoughts can be dangerous – how could I have been lulled into such a false sense of security? French bureaucracy will never be “over.” Accept it as a fact of life.

So the issue this time? Property taxes. Nope, don’t mind paying them for where I actually live. Yep, have a problem paying them for a place I don’t.

We were hit by a double whammy recently and the full web of problems keeps unfurling.

We received our taxe d’habitacion for the 11th where we live. Ok, fair enough. Except hmm, that’s funny, didn’t we always have a monthly transfer set up so we wouldn’t be hit all of a sudden with the full sum to pay? And is this normal that we’re paying 10 times what we paid at our old place? And hmm, that’s almost our correct address, but not quite. Isn’t the address we’re being taxed at actually a business…which might explain why we’re paying 10 TIMES MORE?

No matter, we can sort this out.

Except hmm, why have we also received a notice saying that we’re paying in the 19th…which we left in 2008? And why did the automatic transfer work there…where it needn’t have worked? Because um, WE DON’T LIVE THERE ANYMORE.

So we’ve already paid for the residence where we don’t live and the payment for the place we do live didn’t work?

That’s about it.

Go to the 11eme, who has by now added a 10% late penalty fee.

“Not our fault, it’s the 19ths,” they say. “And oh yeah, fill out these forms.”

OK, fill out some forms, go to the 19th.

Tax office in the 19th: “We don’t deal with these problems, you must go to the other office in the 19th.”

OK. Other tax office in the 19th: “You must prove that you no longer live in the 19th.”

OK. How about this contract and lease on our new apartment in the 11th?
-No, that doesn’t work.

OK, how about our insurance on the new apartment plus the fact that we canceled the insurance on the old apartment?

OK, how about the fact that EVERY SINGLE official document from the Social Security to the address on our payslips is the 11th?

OK, how about the fact that you HAVE our new address because you sent us this tax notice at the correct address?

So what exactly counts as proof to you?
-“The etat de lieux” (a piece of paper that says in what condition you left the old apartment).

Um, the non-official paper that our landlord didn’t give to us?

Ok, but isn’t this ton of proof that we live in the 11th count for something?
-No, you could still be living in the 19th.

Even though everything says we live in the 11th?
-Yes, you could live in both the 11th and the 19th.

Do you think most people – especially at our income level which you can see very well because you’re the friggin’ tax people– move to a new place to also live in an old place?
-No answer.

These are just a few of the conversations we’ve been having recently.

The first answer’s always no? Prove a negative? Present a paper that is not in your possession? Yes, this is the French Bureaucracy that I know!

Special thanks to hubby for doing all of the running around. I hunt down old papers, write letters, plan strategy, offer moral support. But I’ve had enough dealings with FB to know that my accent and my looks only make things worse.

We’re going to Seville tomorrow – our heads hurt, we need a break. Wish us luck with the FB upon our return. See you next week!

paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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