"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

August 24-31, 2008

Monday: A beautiful day. I call it a San Francisco day. Not too hot and not too cold. Since these days are getting fewer, we decided to take a walk. We headed towards the 16eme arrondissement and would work our way down the Seine. Got off the Metro and I saw a kitchen store, couldn’t resist. What do you know, they actually have normal size appliances for normal size kitchens. I guess if you’re in the 16eme you would have the space, since the 16eme is considered the Beverly Hills of Paris. Directly across the street was a store dedicated solely to dragées, who knew? Dragées are jeweled candy typically put on wedding or on fancy cakes.

As we walked along the Seine I noticed some really tall modern apartment buildings. I had never seen them before. I guess they keep the newer buildings on the perimeter of Paris. The walk was beautiful. We decided to actually walk along the river versus above us where the sidewalks are. There were several houseboats. The Seine is not that calm, so you have to have a pretty strong stomach to be able to live in one of these houseboats. I hear they’re not very expensive, but expensive to maintain. Oh well!

We did our exercise for the day, and decided to continue walking towards the Ecole Militaire Metro station. As we stopped we decided what they hey, it’s our tea time, so we stopped at a local outdoor café and had cakes and juice. $30 later, we decided to go home.

Got home and got a message from our friends Jean-Jacques and his wife Mary who I used to work with. We plan on having dinner tonight. We decided why not go to Chartier, since it is a Parisian institution. It’s where the working class used to go for cheap inexpensive and plentiful food. It’s been there since time and eternity. The nice thing is that it’s just the next arrondissement below us, so, close to home.

We got there, surprisingly we were able to get seated almost immediately. I believe you’ve heard ad nauseum from me that the French don’t believe in air conditioning. Well it was pretty warm in there. We were all sweating like pigs. We ordered a couple of appetizers and wine. The wait staff seemed a little frenetic, it is quite a busy place. Jean-Jacques, who by the way is French (I guess you couldn’t guess by the name), and I had the choucroute, and Mary had the grilled pork and Jack had Tete du veau, which means head of veal. Mary’s grilled pork was raw, the sausages in the choucroute were good, the pork was a little tough and Jack liked his veal. We were going to ask the waiters to grill Mary’s pork more, but they were so frenetic that we decided not to.

All-in-all you’re going for the French experience, warts and all. Jack said he’d go back, but once is enough for me.

Afterwards we decided to walk towards the Opera, since it was such a beautiful night and it is called the “City of lights” for a reason. Then we parted ways. Jean-Jacques and Mary had only 1 day left before returning to the US. I started walking down towards the metro, and Jack reminded me that our line was further down, I thought I knew my way around, Oh well.

Tuesday: God awful day. Wet, cold, cloudy, YUCK! We decided to stay in and do laundry. How exciting is that?

Wednesday: Nice day, I guess we’re playing ping-pong with good and bad weather days. Since it was a nice day, we decided to go to take a walk around our neighborhood and go to the groceries.

Got back from grocery store shopping and was really warm, so we decided to make a picnic basket and sit at our local park to watch all the crazy tourist. Afterwards, we took a walk along the Pigalle, then took the bus up to Place de Tertre to sit at another park that has a view of Paris; unfortunately, no view, it was quite smoggy. Oh well.

Got back early evening, made dinner and had a quiet day at home.

Thursday: Pleasant enough day, albeit cloudy. Jack’s not feeling well, so he decided to stay in, and I ventured out on my own. I finished the scarf I made for a friend’s upcoming birthday party and since I had a bit more yarn left over I started another scarf for another gift but ran out of yarn. I had heard that the Bon Marché had a yarn store, so I headed out there. It was quite the yarn store, albeit very expensive.

I decided to go back to the La Droguerie at the les Halles to get more of the same yarn. I wasn’t paying attention, so I actually got on the metro going the wrong way, oh well. So I just back tracked and found the store. Lucky me, I got the last skein of yarn.

Afterwards, I decided I’d take a walk along the various side streets of Les Halles and around the le Marais that I’m not familiar with. Did that, and then went to BHV department store to see what’s coming out for fall. Nothing interesting, too expensive. So I decided since I did all that walking I would treat myself to a pastry, what a surprise! I went to the BHV café and got a pie and coffee, I didn’t understand what the cashier said, but I repeated I wanted coffee. She gave me a token, so I figured it must be for a machine. I found the machine, and stuck the token in. Methinks I made a mistake cause only a dribble came out, oh well.

Afterwards headed home after way too much walking for me. Got a baguette made dinner and had a quiet evening at home.

Friday: Another cloudy day. Jack’s still under the weather, excuse the pun. Methinks his blood pressure is high and I’ trying to convince him to see a French Doctor, God knows he’d get better attention here. We’re supposed to go to Jose and Pablo’s tonight then we’re off to dinner. Jose was a Psychiatrist, so I’m hoping he still knows how to measure blood pressure, we’ll check tonight.

Got to Jose’s and he went over paperwork for us to try and get us into the French health and social system. Afterwards, Jose took Jack’s pressure and it seemed high.

We went to dinner at a Kurdish neighborhood restaurant called “Dilan” in the Les Halles area, nearby Jose and Pablo. Kurdish food is pretty similar to Turkish food with very mild variations. The food was good. We got an appetizer plate that had everything on it, e.g., huumus, tabooli etc. We got bulgur wheat with grilled meats and round Turkish bread. Very good dinner and the owners are brothers who were very friendly.

Afterwards we took a walk towards the metro and went home since Jack wasn’t feeling well.

Saturday: What a change, an absolutely beautiful day. Quite warm actually. Got a call from Howard that he was in town, but I told him that we have to go to the hospital ‘cause Jack’s still not feeling well so I’m taking him to Emergency or in French “Urgence”..

We went to Bichat hospital in the 18th. It’s a working class neighborhood of Paris. I have to say you have to experience French healthcare system first hand to let you know they have a great system.

To start off, we checked in and Jack described his ailments, all in French, not once did they ask him how he was going to pay. After 3-minutes Jack was called into a consulting room. I noticed something odd, it was quite warm outside and inside was very comfortable. I finally figured it out, air-conditioning, who knew? Trick is you have to go to a hospital to find air-conditioning. Oh well.

All the people coming into the hospital were taken in the order they came in, regardless of if they were bums or well off. A group of homeless drunks came in and the staff treated them with the utmost respect. In the US they would have been left to roll over and die in the waiting room as they do in many NY hospitals. Not once did they ask, “do you have insurance?” or how do you plan on paying. Jack was able to convey all his issues in French. They did however ask the French people for their insurance cards. NO ONE was turned away. Every French citizen and legal resident has a card that allows them to go into a hospital, see a doctor or go to a pharmacist for practically nothing. Well indirectly, they pay it through their taxes. When I was in ER in December last year in the US, after explaining my problems, next question, “that’ll be $100 co-pay” it had to be paid then and there! Before I even could be admitted. If you don’t have any insurance, they ship you off to “general” hospital. And, you only have to read the US papers (e.g. NY times) to find out what happens if you’re indigent and have go to Emergency.

I sat in the waiting room and waited and waited and waited. Waiting in the waiting room gives you an idea what goes on. The only difference in a US waiting room vs French is that the French don’t have magazines or papers to read. Small price to pay for good service. Several different types of emergencies came in. In France they have the Fire departments, Red Cross, SAMU (ambulance service), and Civil protection all able to take you to the hospital in an Emergency, amazing! Each emergency unit will know exactly which hospital to take you to, since each hospital specializes in specific trauma cases. Who knew?

After 2-hours I was called in ‘cause Jack had asked that they update me. I went in and was surprised to Jack hooked up to 2 drips. I guess one was saline and the other was to lower his blood pressure and prevent the dizziness. I wanted to take a picture of him, but he would have had a stroke if I did. His blood pressure was 184 over 96, pretty high wouldn’t you say?. Afterwards, I went along to the x-ray room. There he was given an MRI and chest x-ray. Imagine that, you practically have to beg US doctors to do an MRI, here they do it as a matter of course.

Then Jack was wheeled back to get all his blood work tests results etc. After about 5-hours in the emergency room and pretty thorough checks and tests, Jack was told all his vitals looked good, and that he’d have to see a cardiologist about changing his blood pressure medication. Only complaint Jack had was that his doctor didn’t have very good bedside manners, but he did speak English and he was efficient. Considering what they covered, it was pretty damn good.

Jack later asked where to pay the bill, they said not to worry, we’d get one in the mail. I have even heard from some ex-pats they don’t always charge or send you the bill. They don’t even have a cashier in the hospital. Who knew? What a great system!!! This is UNIVERSAL healthcare system at it’s finest!!! Bravo to the French! Whoever the critics are in the US who say Unviersal healthcare doesn’t provide good healthcare I’d like to challenge them, have them come to Paris and see for themselves. The intern who was wheeling Jack around told us in his broken English that Americans who have visited their hospital like the French health system. Also, doctor’s here make housecalls. Who knew?

Got out of the hospital and went home so Jack could change. Neither of us have eaten anything all day, so we went to an Italian restaurant around the corner and had pasta and called it a day. Albeit a very long stressful, strenuous day.

Lesson learn, if you ever get sick or on the verge of getting sick FLY TO PARIS!. The price for a ticket will probably be less than one of the lab tests in the US. FYI…, more and more people are having major medical procedures abroad because of healthcare costs. Go figure?

Sunday: Warm day, albeit very humid. We decided since Jack needed some fresh air and exercise we’d go to the 14eme and than over to the old Chinatown in the 13eme. We went to the Cité Universaire first. Quite a lovely campus. It actually reminded me of Jack’s Alma Mater, Michigan State, very green and lovely old brick buildings as you can see below. Afterwards, we decided to take a walk in the Park across the street called Montsouris. It was small, but quite lovely.

We decided to sit down along the lake, and all of sudden a woman pulled up behind us and had one of these antique roller music, dressed totally wild. I took a likely to her immediately. It was a total cliché, she was playing and singing old French tunes. (see below). It was so much fun just sitting in the park and listening to French tunes and also people watch. A la vie est bonne!

Afterwards we took a walk to the old Chinatown (13eme). Found a place to have coffee at Place Italilé. Afterwards we went shopping for some food. I thought to myself, why bother cooking, so we had an early dinner at one of the buffets and came home.

All-in-all a lovely day.

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