The first full day in our new digs, Dave and I went about trying to set up our cell phones and banking. This was of course after finding a little café and ordering two café au lait and two croissants. Because that felt authentic. After we enjoyed that, we set out to explore some more and take care of some official business. That is, connecting ourselves to the world again. We had an idea of a cell provider with whom we could work but what we didn’t plan was how to find their office without internet access on our phones. Eventually, we stumbled upon a laundry mat, which had free wifi (a hot commodity here…free wifi is really hard to come by!) so we hung out in a laundry mat for about an hour, trying to figure out the next step. Dave realized the cell provider was on the other side of town, so we opted to take care of banking first.
Let me just begin by saying, there is absolutely no way I would have been able to set this up by myself. Literally no way. David and Mary selected one of the largest banking chains in France and walked into the local branch, just around the corner from our temporary housing. Had it not been for Dave’s language skills, and being able to understand directions for filling out paperwork, we would have been in trouble.
The lady setting up our account escorted us into her office and was so very kind and patient. She pointed things out and pantomimed to Dave, allowing us to figure out what we were exactly supposed to be signing. I have no idea what our minimum balance is supposed to be but oh well. She would say something to me, at my turn to sign things and I just looked helplessly at Dave until he recited what it was that I should do.
I had to write phrases in French, which I’m fairly certain guaranteed that I understood what I was signing (I didn’t but we forged ahead anyway). The fun part was trying to explain why we didn’t have proof of residence (I did understand the part where she asked for an electricity bill but trying to tell her we rented and it was included in the rent was not exactly easy.) While trying to sort that out, somehow the idea that our landlord was supposed to be on the account too (since our mail goes c/o him), which led to another conversation full of gestures and creative ways to convey what we meant. Eventually, Dave got it all taken care of and she understood what we were trying to accomplish, so now we’re just waiting for our bank cards to arrive.
Once we had the banking info, we went back to our flat (as they are called) and hooked back into the network for internet access, where we could wire money to our new account. AND order the new cell phone plan without having to hike to the office. We still don’t have cell phones yet (or internet access outside of our flat) but once the sim cards arrive (hopefully next week) we will be all set.
Since we had the business out of the way, we found a little cafe near the Comédie and enjoyed a carafe of rosé which was a glass for each of us for 5 euro. That’s like $6.25 in dollars. For two glasses of wine. Amazing. Afterwards, we were starting to get hungry so we headed to the grocery store we found and bought some baguettes, cheese and fruit and made a dinner of it.
Friday was truly an exploratory day and we walked all over the city. Really, you can walk just about anyway (and have to in some places— the streets are far too narrow for anything other than people or a vespa. We walked around Antigone (a neighborhood of the city) and stopped for lunch. For evening activities, we had heard from our landlords that on Friday evenings in the summer, there are festivals (estivales, which actually means ‘summer’ I think) at L’Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle (the opposite side of the plaza from where we had the wine) and they have wine tasting for 5 euro and a bunch of food vendors and craft vendors. It reminded me of a much larger chef’s market in Napa. Much larger, as in we guestimated about 1200 or more people present.
This made for great people watching. We went around and tasting our three wines each (well, we tasted about four wines–two each, because the French idea of a taste is a heck of a lot more than the one-ounce pours mandated by California law.) We enjoyed our dinner, each selecting something from one of the vendors (I opted for a charcuterie, while Dave had something I can’t even pronounce but it looked like an omelette sandwich, served on a baguette, of course.) I still can’t get over the prices. We ate dinner for about 12 euro and I had a huge plate of salami, prosciutto and toasts with tomato spread and a huge wedge of cheese for 6 euro! It would easily have run us about $20 at a grocery store at home.
We finally thought to take some photos at the estivale as well.
Click to enlarge
The evening was fun and exactly what we envisioned hanging out in France would be like.