Sunday, September 13, 2009

Je Suis Arrivé à Paris

I made it to Paris. Holy Cow all over again.

The flight was actually easy although even after three helpings of Xanax, I did not fall asleep. It reminded me of a time years ago when I got pretty badly burned and by the time I got to the doctor I was in intense pain. When I saw him I said, "make the pain go away." He said, "I can't do that, but I can make it so you don't care." That's pretty much how the Xanax worked.

Also, I've always known the gods have a sense of humor, but really, for the last several days I have been negotiating with them about the plane flight, basically saying, if I need a "growth experience," don't make the plane trip its setting. I specifically said, I'd rather take my lessons in Paris with my feet on the ground. So, I got off the plane and, yes, first thing out of the gate, the airlines lost one of my suitcases. Fortunately, not the big case with all my clothes. No, they lost my books and a few electronic items and all my French study sheets and my piano music, nothing desperate, except the adapter plugs, but fortunately I found someone over here who loaned me one. (Thank you, Pauline, for questioning me when I started to pack my laptop in that suitcase... it would be gone, if I had, and I'd be a mess.)

Anyway,  hot off the plane I'm standing there thinking, jeeze, all these people speak French. (Duh!) So I approached the first official I saw, and said "Bonjour," and then asked, "Parlez-vous anglais?" He kind of shook his head and indicated with his fingers only a little. So I said "J'ai perdu" which translates to "I lost.... " I'm amazed I pulled perdu out of the air. I couldn't think of the word for suitcase so I said, "baggage," with a French accent. He directed me to a little service station. When I got there I started with a "Bonjour monsieur," and then again asked in French if he spoke English. He answered yes, so I explained in English that I'd lost my bag. But the conversation really went on in both French and English and I again I came up with a couple things I didn't think I knew. In the end when I told him my standard line, "Je ne parle pas bien le français," (I don't speak French well.) He said back to me with a certain delight that I was doing very well.  In the time I was in there someone else came in and just launched in English without any preamble or hesitation. So, I think my stumbling efforts to speak French are welcome.

I ordered a coffee and phoned my landlady in French too, and then feeling wild, I volunteered to the taxi driver that I had just arrived in Paris. He responded with a flood of words that left me speechless. He simplified, and asked if I found Paris "joli" (pretty). I got that and said, "Oui, très joli." I promise not to spend my whole time telling you what I managed to say in French, but I'm not sure what shocks me more at the moment, that I'm in Paris, or that I'm managing to carry on in these simple ways in French.

Like I said, Holy Cow.

My apartment is quite charming. It's the top floor, 6th story, of an old 19th century building and the elevator is tiny, barely fit me and my suitcase. My landlady went up the stairs because it wouldn't fit her as well. Tiny. Not only that, she beat the elevator up those five flights. (Hmmmm—wonder if I'll doing that in a month.) It's got a decorative Buddha on top of everything else and a blooming orchid. (My camera did make it in the luggage that arrived; I promise pictures soon.) It's very small, altogether smaller than my living room by about a third, but has every appliance imaginable, including a washer/dryer, dish washer, microwave/convection oven, refrigerator and a cappuccino maker (for heaven's sake), all in a little tiny corner unit kitchen.

It's got a bar for eating and two modern stools, wi-fi, and a big, very inviting shower with two different shower heads, one that's like a big rain shower in the ceiling, the other, one of those handy-dandy, you-can-hold-it-in-your-hand-if-you-want-to things. It's tiled and very nice. The wash bowl is ultra modern, very stylish and the toilet has its own separate closet. The toilet room is so tiny it reminds me of the bathroom in the place Kathryn and I stayed in Hampstead, the B&B that became Rose's house in Requiem. The bed is a cotton batting futon that's actually quite comfortable, especially as I write this at 7:40am San Francisco time, having been up pretty much for 24 hours straight. It's about 4:40pm here—I'm trying to stay awake for a couple more hours anyway.

Tomorrow there's all sorts of "orientation stuff" happening at the FIAP building across town, where I'm taking classes in French, French culture/history and Art History as part of the Santa Rosa community college program. I did get my metro pass and so that's next. Tomorrow I try my hand at mass transit, Paris style. By the way, my first impression riding across Paris in a taxi was that it looks kind of like San Francisco times ten, all the old buildings, the flowers blooming in the windows, and here there and everywhere mammoth architectural sculpture. As I told the taxi driver, très joli, (très très joli.)

I saw Notre Dame as we crossed the Seine, which is a whole other story. I never got the audio verson of The Hunchback of Notre Dame downloaded onto my Ipod, couldn't figure it out. I had wanted to listen to it on the plane if I couldn't sleep. It would have been nice. But here in my apartment there are a couple books in French, one is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So, my new plan is to listen to it in English while I try to read it in French over the next three months. I'm been wanting to read it ever since I discovered that Hugo wrote it, in part, as a ploy to get the Parisians to save Notre Dame, which at the time had deteriorated into almost a barn with cattle and all. It was not restored to its present glory until after Hunchback was sold and became popular, accomplishing Hugo's goal. He finished writing it in 1831. His first appearance in my novel takes place in the summer of 1830. He must have been working on it, or at least contemplating it.

Hugo is an interesting addition to my novel. The minute I let him onto the page, he started making major demands.  I know he's going to play into the next section of the book, set in 1848, which is what I hope to write while I'm here. I'm planning to set a scene in his home at the time, which is now a museum, one of the places I hope to visit early on.

For now, c'est tout. Bottom line: WOW!!


  1. Molly,
    I am glad to hear that you arrived safe and sound. Hopefully the airline will locate your piece of luggage and forward it to you in the next few days.

    Two years ago when my husband and I flew to Paris, we tried anticipating such an occurrence and packed all of our cold weather clothes together in our carry on suitcase. The second carry on suitcase was filled with my guidebooks and other books. The checked bag had our warm weather south of France clothes. We were afraid if we packed our clothes in separate suitcases that one would be lost and then we'd be forced to go shopping as soon as we arrived.

    Thankfully our checked bag arrived along with us.

    And yes, using as much French as you can muster will go a long way to making your stay there pleasant. Never underestimate the power of starting a conversation with "bonjour." It is expected and when not given, starts you off on the gauche foot.

  2. fantastique! Your descriptions put us there with you--the best. Later I may tire of experiences with the language, but for now it's great. What do you expect to happen with your missing case?

  3. Bopnjour Molly,

    Wow! You did it - you're in Paris! I love experiencing your arrival through your writing. Hope you get some sleep before the big day tomorrow, and that your missing bag arrives soon.
    Eagerly awaiting your next entry.

  4. Brilliant! So glad you are safely landed! Can't wait for your next installation. Hope you slept well and had sweet dreams!
    Here's to a wonderful first day in Paris Molly!

  5. J'adore la belle France! Spring 2011 is, finances willing, our next trip there.

    Even if you mangle French phrases, the French will treat you much better if you at least make an effort to speak French. Oh, and make sure to say "Bonjour" or use whatever other greeting is appropriate.

    Do be cautious with your purse and wallet.

    A bientot! (I've no idea how to get the foreign characters to work on my computer.)