I have arrived in Paris. Pulling out of Charles De Gaulle at 6a on January 1st, 2014, the entire city seemed to be deep in slumber, tucked in with a cloud of gray.
My Maman and I alternated between babbling excitedly and nodding off as our sweet cab driver took us to the flat I will be living in for the next two months, on a personal journey to explore, get lost, get found, and of course cook and eat to my heart’s content.
“Voila….la Paris,” he said with pride as we crested the highway and the city first came into view.
Navigating tiny streets and kamikaze bikers who took no notice to the early morning hour, we arrived in the 9th Arrondisement on Rue de Navarin, a hidden oasis tucked off a side street in South Pigalle (dubbed SoPi by those in the know).
Juggling giant bags weighing more than we’ll ever admit we weigh ourselves we tentatively approached the wrought iron gate. Fumbling in our post red-eye state we found the code only to be met by a quite surprised quintessential French woman who appeared none too pleased to be making our acquaintance. In what can only be described as a mix between stern scolding and emphatic advice-giving she informed us at rapid speed something to the effect of two flights up, door on the left, and apparently some other piece of very important information I didn’t catch about whether “they were ready for us or not.”
Leaving Maman to guard the luggage, I climbed the two flights, clutching the beautiful key to the flat that I hoped would open both the door and this new chapter. Tentatively I stuck the large key in the hole. Mere seconds later someone on the other side began flinging themselves at the door and screaming, “Le clé, le clé…” followed by very clear directions which I was supposed to adhere to, but which I couldn’t understand in the faintest.
With the mysterious voice pounding and screaming on the door on one side, I apologetically shouted from the other, while my mother two floors below hearing me in duress, yet feeling tethered to the bags began the impossible task of lugging 150 lbs of luggage up winding tiny stairs by herself.
At last the door burst open and there with a beaming smile and sparkling eyes and hair going every which way was Pilar, the house cleaner, who at 6:30a was doing final touches to get ready for our arrival. She grabbed my hand and began pulling me all over the apartment showing me this and that, furiously and cheerfully shouting instructions in rapid fire, pausing only to ask, “Compris? Compris?” (do you understand?). We lied, said yes, thanked her profusely for stocking the fridge with the most delicious baguette and Bordeaux and closed the door behind her as she waved kisses and wished us a Happy New Year.
Sitting in this beautiful apartment, six thousand miles from everything I know, I began to question what possible insanity had led me to this place?
And then, that inner voice inside we’re all loath to admit exists (please tell me it’s not just me), began positively jumping up and down, shouting for all its might, kicking and screaming and carrying on.
“What have you done? What on earth possibly made you think you could move to Paris? What if you get robbed? What if you get arrested? What if you get sold into a prostitution ring?” (Never mind I’m now 30 and hardly desirable stock, but that Liam Neeson movie stuck with me).
After a brief meltdown I pulled myself together and began the simple task of logging into the WiFi, becoming increasingly aware of the severity of my connectivity addition as panic set in as I realized the internet and phone were mysteriously shut down due to a billing issue and might (or might not) get turned back on by January 13th.
90 minutes and 72 modem reboots later (not to mention uncountable threats, beseeching, negotiations and more with the unresponsive technology) we were no closer and crawled into bed, determined to wake up refreshed and positively ready to take on the world.
Groggily awaking in the afternoon we ventured out to the magical neighborhood of Pigalle, tucked away from the tourist strip of Monmartre and filled with tiny shops, boulangeries, patisseries, dim sum, sushi, and so much more. Ending the afternoon at the lovely Hotel Amour (don’t let the risqué photos intimidate you, it’s a delightful garden oasis complete with free (and working!) WiFi), with two glasses du vin (the menu choice, blanc ou rouge?), I began to get my Paris legs.
Who knows what adventures and challenges tomorrow will bring, but for this moment, I am happy (albeit slightly terrified) to be here and positively fascinated to see what lies ahead.
(Recipes to come…I promise.)