It’s hard to believe that I have just celebrated one month of living in France, and with not so much as a coucou from me! But the reasons for my absence are as pure as the butter in the croissants here. Until two days ago, I had no internet connectivity in my apartment, and any time in a café was much more happily spent talking to new friends or reading the newspaper. But now I’m equipped, and hoping to write about the things I’ve done and am doing in France before I forget them.
I put off packing until my very last days in California, spending a week in Washington and picking up some extra hours at the job that I kept over the summer. When I was two days away from take-off, I scrambled to get together everything that I wanted to take with me, nevermind how obsessive-compulsive my mess may very well look. I like to think that I am a smart packer, but looking at my pile on the floor, I know this cannot possibly be true. Les indispensables: a two-cup French press, a dual bottle opener-corkscrew, wasabi peas, headlamp, and my measuring cup. Tish tosh…
If it looks like a lot, feels like a lot, and packs like a lot, then it must weigh a lot, right? When I made it to the airport, my suitcase tipped the scales at thirty-eight pounds, twelve under the maximum. Quel sourire!
I said goodbye to my parents, passed through security and went right up to my gate to board. It was my maiden voyage on Lufthansa, and (ausgezeichnet!) the flight attendants were all very classically German – tall, blonde, with sharp parts in their hair, left to right. My first flight was from San Francisco to Frankfurt, followed by a three-hour layover and one-hour flight to Paris, for which I was asleep fifty-nine of its minutes. I was finally back on French soil and barely conscious. C’est la rentrée!
Just before my flight left California, my plans for my first night in France fell through. Somehow I had managed to get some tentative arrangements made, and with minimal details written in my notebook, I set off to the apartment of a stranger. The woman, a friend of a distant family member, would not be home when I arrived, though she assured me that a friend of hers would be there in the late afternoon to let me in and hopefully, let me rest. The itinerary I knew well: RER-B from Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord, transfer to the Métro, line 4 towards Port d’Orléans, a second transfer at Montparnasse-Bienvenüe to line 13 heading towards Châtillon-Montrouge, before finally arriving at Plaisance. Unfortunately, after a year in Nantes I was already very much accustomed to making the trip to Montparnasse with a full suitcase and backpack. It was long and hot, just as I remembered, and full of staircases and long corridors, just as I remembered. I sat in a park and watched a mother teach her young son to hit a tennis ball, as I cooled down. My efforts to greet my host in a state of calm (c’est-à-dire, not huffing and puffing) were in vain, as her apartment was on the sixth floor and I am no mountain goat. I collapsed on the floor and hoped that my breathing wasn’t so loud as to alert the neighbors to my presence.
My room for the first night was narrower than my outstretched arms, but looked as welcoming as any young boy’s room could possibly look. I took a quick nap, which gave me enough energy to make it through dinner and conversation, but only just. With a room for the night, sleep came easily and soundly.