Paris Beginnings

Trip Start Mar 07, 2005
Trip End Aug 14, 2005

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

I hadn't thought I would notice many differences when I came to Paris. I had travelled around France before, even worked 'en tant que une femme de chambre' in the summer of 98 in Morzine in the French Alps having the pleasure to clean the sinks and make the guests beds from 6am to 4pm. That's when I had a taste to speak French, it improved over those two months when I was drowning my sorrows in the evening and laughing about what we had found in a guests room.

This time it was different, my company was arranging for me to live somewhere and I can choose in place of the basement I lived in with one small window when I was a chambermaid. Temporarily I stayed in a hotel in the Madeleine area that starts from 'Eglise' to the Opera, lovely boutiques and some restaurants.

I wasn't even sure I would have something to write about, I loved France and its people and had saw the custom of buying the baguette and carrying it under one arm with maybe a journal in the other hand. I remember fondly the shaking of hands each morning well with anyone you meet, and then when they become someone you know or a good friend it turns to the kiss on each cheek , a sure sign you are amongst a warmer natured culture. I mean can you think that British men one day will kiss each other on cheeks, no I do not think so.

On the first day after the weekend I arrived, (Monday 7th March) I was met at my hotel by Corine the lady who would drive me all over Paris to view appartments. Corine explained since it was Monday there would be less traffic as shops close not only on Sunday (it is against the law) and also on Monday, but still when she zigzagged like a mastered art across the Etoile stopping to give way to the traffic entering the roundabout I was confident in her mastery of Parisian driving - something I am not sure I will be trying. Some cars were bashed and dented, the driver not caring possibly if another dent would blend in with his custom look car, however a Mercedes carefully ice-skated across the Etoile without a dent.

The day of viewing appartments was interesting as we went from arrondisement to arrondisement, meeting different agencies reps, many gardiennes - the new word for Concierge - Corine told me that it was more polite to call the lady or man the Gardienne of the building ( I need to find out why this is?).

Let's see if I can remember all of them I visited and their key character. The first, small golf putty but the felt was blue and not green running through one of the corridors - odd I thought, great if you like golf.
The second, seemed very white and very lacking something, the third was on a busy street looking next to Champs Elysees. From the balcony you could view the top of the Eiffel Tower - there was no bath.
The fourth, if I remember correctly was what I affectionately named the 'Grandmothers House'! in a very grandeur street, most appartments I saw were of 17 to 19th century buildings. This was a large appartment, a front salon, a dining room and then the bedroom, the bathroom was more like a santisied hospital bathroom. the key feature of this appartment was the 80s implanted Chinese wooden decoration on ALL of the walls throughout all three rooms - it was purely overpowering. The fifth was squeezed in at the last minute, next to an important Arab, there seemed too many strange people loitering around outside, it had a long tree lined walk from the metro which at night I dont imagine walking without thinking is someone following me?! The appartment and the building were simply superb, the actual rooms we looked at were in what was the stable quarters, a spacious nice appartment - just the area was not perfect. As we drove from appartment to appartment sometimes we were late after playing with the traffic or we were early, in the morning we stopped twice in cafes, the first we stood whilst I inhaled enough smoke for one week, Corine drank her short strong coffee, I ordered tea - which made me look out of place immediately, I went to lift it from the bar and Corine said no we have stood her so now we drank here, to sit down, you need to sit down first and wait for the waiter to come.

Again the song I love is playing, 'Ma vie est xx Avril' with both female and male voices as I write this now.

At other times we waited inside her car, with a Spanish licence plate which she used as an excuse to cut people up on the road, 'hey cant you see I am foreign' she would shout at the car beeping at her. She also told me never to marry a Spanish man, she said with experience!
As we would wait inside her car for the next viewing we discussed, topics of politics and what the UK thought of Turkey entering the EU - from hers and reading the newspapers here it seems France are very opposed to Turkey entering the EU. one argument since Turkey is 90% on Asian continent how can that make them European and another one I particularly amused me was '...if Turkey was European, we would have known it by now'.

The next I believe was near to Montmatre, climbed 5 flights of stairs (sans ascenseur) and the tenant was present in the appartment. So normally Corine would say her opinion as we looked around but she remained silent - I also was followed around as I walked which I prefer to go on my own. There was real 'charm' to this appartment and it was large - 70sq m. A salon, bedroom, a spare room with a fold out bed and also another room for a dining room. the kitchen had lots of cupboards just the washing machine looked archaic. The place had alot of light and was looking onto a courtyard, without a view.
After this the next 2 were amusing and not likeable, amusing since we met with a young gay man who had flamboyance immediately and if only I understood French well I am sure I would have laughed alot as Corine did with him. The first one we saw with him was a Antique showcase of French period furniture, the kitchen merely a place you could try and maneover - the toilet was broken and to me that raised a problem - it could break again. The next in the gay area next to Centre de Pompidou as the man pointed out so I would be safer than normal....the floor was sloping and as you entered the bedroom the floor sloped so much I was feeling a little dizzy, the owners had obviously been living there as the bathroom was dirty and I simply didnt like this one.

The next which was number 9, was very lovely, big looking onto a gardened courtyard and I was showed around by an American masquareding as French man for the last 35 years he told me. He was pushy and saying this is the wardrobe and opening it quickly before I had blinked he had shut it again. Upstairs the ceiling was imposing and especially for anyone over 1m 56! beams adorned it too and it had a lovely old yet modern feel to it. he had installed a TV down and up, also a fridge down and one up - this was made for an American and definetly I decided later not for me, although it did reach the shortlist of 4 appartments.

The 10th we met a lovely sweet girl who aimed very hard to show me the appartment but since it was also a duplex, and the stairs leading upstairs were iron and open design and rattled as I climbed up them - I felt scared coming down and knew I just wanted to leave.

the 11th which we nearly did not visit since it was situated on the Left Bank and meant for sure I could not walk to work, was on the 9th floor with a view to match. Only a 35 sq m space, the bathroom would send me crazy and maybe even the kitchen right nex to it. But what I could not ignore was the view of Paris...from one of the two small balconies I could look out and see the Eglise du dome, Napoleon's resting place with its spherical gold dazzling top. It was probably a good 10 minutes gone in this appartment that I failed to notice what else I could view from the cosy love seat with lots of cushions on, the Eiffel Tower. i could imagine writing here, but when visitors came I would imagine wanting to get out of the appartment since we would trip over each other. On seeing the 11th, Corine returned me to my Hotel to spend till 4am trying to sleep since I still had not chosen one of the 4 I shortlisted, the 2 semi-finalists were Montmatre spacious appartment versus Eiffel tower view with no space.

I arrived at work for my first day very tired and my eyes like small slits, I told my new manager of my decision after being on the phone to my Dad debating which to choose. Straight away she thought the one in Montmatre would be preferable a nice young population, lots of bars and restaurants - so I called Corine to hear who tell me ' I knew would pick this one, I was sure!'

Charlotte Joyce
March 13th 2005 from hotel Hyatt Madeleine
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