Paris Update

Eiffel Tower, January 19, 2014
Eiffel Tower, January 19, 2014

We’ve been in Paris (France, not Kentucky) a week now.  We have moved into the apartment that will be our living space for the next six months.   Gretchen and I have spent the week settling in, figuring out where to shop for food, how to get around the city, how to work the washing machine, and other essential tasks.   She has started her classes at Alliance Français, and I have been walking around trying to look inconspicuous, hoping no one will ask me a question in French that I can’t answer (which would be pretty much any question).  Here are some of my initial observations.

Weather

Not too different from Louisville, Kentucky in the winter.  Some cloudy days, some clear, some rainy.  No snow so far.  Temperatures in the 40s and 50s mostly.  Nothing too extreme.

Fashion

Scarfs are de rigueur.  So we each bought one.  I already knew the French wear dark clothing from prior trips, so that’s what I wear too, though my white-gray sneakers are a pretty good give-away that I am not French.  Women wear dark tights and short skirts (yes, I do notice these things), or pants tight enough that they might as well be tights.  No one appears to be overweight and if they are they are probably Americans.  People walk around and avoid eye contact, quite unlike the casual friendliness of Kentucky and the US South.  When we were in New York City people there also did not greet each other, so this is hardly a unique European characteristic.

Living Space

We moved into our apartment, which went well.  It is small, though everything is smaller here than in America.  The kitchen and bathroom are slightly bigger than a phone booth (if anyone remembers phone booths these days).  There is a living room and a bedroom.  Anything bigger would have been too expensive.  Living in Paris isn’t cheap and we need to keep costs down.

Bureaucracy

We attempted to complete two major tasks our first week.  One was to start up a local bank account.  This would allow us to wire money from the US to the local bank and avoid a lot of charges involved in using a credit or debit card abroad.  We went to a bank and found we had to make an appointment to start an account.  We came back for the appointment and spent about and hour and a half filling out paperwork to start the account.  Thank goodness Gretchen is fluent with French, as the people in the bank spoke almost no English.  Gretchen has dual citizenship (American and Italian).  Having a European Union passport allows her to do a lot that would be difficult for a US citizen.  Anyway, after much filling out of forms the bank account was settled.  The second task was to get me a Carte de Séjour.  This is basically a residency card that allows me to stay in France over 3 months.  Gretchen with her EU citizenship can stay as long as she wants in any European country.  The husband of a non-French EU citizen (it is actually harder if your wife is French, but that’s another story) can also stay in France without a visa as long as he produces proof of marriage to the Préfecture de Police.  Well no one, including the French, seemed to know exactly where to go to get this done.  After being misdirected to 3 different wrong places (and putting about 20K steps on my FitBit) we finally reached the right place.  We then took a number and, after waiting, went in only to find we didn’t have all the documents with us we needed.  So we will try again tomorrow.

Electronics

We brought a lot of electronics with us, including our two Android cell phones, two Apple iPods, an iPad, my Nexus 7 tablet, and two Apple laptops.  Our apartment has phone, TV and Internet service all through a DSL modem (not a cable modem).  The router is a “DartyBox” with IP address 192.168.1.254.  Of course the web interface is all in French, but using Chrome to translate works fairly well.  The reason I tried to fool with the router was that not all our devices can connect to the WiFi interface.  Specifically there are no problems with the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, the 5th generation iPod Touch, and the Nexus 7.  Unfortunately both Android phones (including a Droid Maxx with Android 4.4 “Kit-Kat”), and the older generation iPod won’t keep the connection (We haven’t even tried the iPad, which is first generation).  Resetting the router allows these devices to connect, but eventually they disconnect.  The Android phone label the SSID as “Saved and Secured.”  But not “Connected” unfortunately.  Some fruitless googling and examining the router setup failed to achieve an answer.  I have never had this problem before and I think it is probably the French router doesn’t play well with some of our American devices.  I could buy a different router, but there is no guarantee it would work.  I guess I should be satisfied that at least some of our devices work.  The Internet speed clocks to about 15 Mbps, not bad.

Wrap-up

As Dorothy said, we’re not in Kansas anymore.  I hope with future posts to share more of what I discover in the “City of Lights.”  Stay tuned.

About David Mann

I am a retired cardiac electrophysiologist who has worked both in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky and as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. I am interested not only in medicine, but also in computer programming, music, science fiction, fantasy, 30s pulp literature, and a whole lot more.

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