Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Je suis arrivé à Paris

I've made it through my first few days in Paris, and actually the move has gone remarkably smoothly so far. My friend Lori came along to help me move and we took the Eurostar train over with three suitcases, two backpacks, and a giant Argos shopping bag full of coats. I guess I'm officially a migrant now. You bring the suitcases right on the train and there's no weight limit or anything, so it wasn't too much of a hassle. It's amazing though, a two hour train ride and I'm here in this completely different world. I'm so glad I took the train instead of a plane, it makes me feel like I'm not going very far from London. And really, I'm not am I?

Last week I had a series of goodbye drinks and festivities. First Wednesday night I had leaving drinks with my friends, then Thursday I had drinks with my coworkers, then Friday I had another night of saying goodbye in Soho before I left Saturday morning. It was all kind of surreal. On my walk from my flat to Seven Dials, walking down Monmouth Street, there's this spot where a French cafe faces an English cafe, and they each have these giant flags of each country, facing each other across the street. I just kind of stood there for a bit, as it seemed appropriate.

My flat here is great. It's a one bedroom in St. Germain des Pres, which is a really lively neighborhood. It's a nice place, perfect for what I need. And it's right next to the river so Notre Dame and Place St. Michel are just a 3 minute walk from my door. It's quite funny though because the decor is really feminine, kind of the polar opposite of my grubby London flat! It's a quick walk to the Sorbonne so it's perfect for going to class. The only problem is it's on a party street (the locals call it 'the street of the thirst') so there are people out partying in the street below my window every night till about 5am. There's no cars, so it's relatively quiet during the day, but at night is quite a different story! Ah well, I'll adjust to it probably.

I had my placement exam at the Sorbonne yesterday to determine what level I will enter in. I think I did ok on the oral exam, but the multiple choice written part was quite difficult. Hopefully I made up for it in the essay, I tried to use all the different tenses I know. I'm hoping to enter at a lower intermediate level.

After the test I did my first grocery shopping trip. Oh mon dieu! It was quite confusing! I don't have an oven in my flat so I had to make sure whatever I bought could be cooked on a stove or in a microwave, and that was surprisingly hard to figure out from the labelling. The labels were all in French and Dutch (and sometimes also German), and embarassingly I found myself often reading the Dutch instructions because they resembled English a bit more. Then I got to the register and found that they don't give you plastic bags here! I had to buy some from the store and they ended up ripping on the way home. So I've got to invest in some cloth bags.

Today came news that the pound has now fallen to a 16-year low, and is at its lowest point ever against the Euro, at 81.42p. So not exactly the best timing for my move here, since I'm still working off a British salary and savings in pounds. This is actually turning out to be much more expensive than I had planned because of a combination of the bad exchange rate and the colossal fees my bank is charging me to wire money, withdraw money or use my credit card. I had tried to open an account with a different bank that doesn't charge currency exchange fees, but they wouldn't let me! Seems 2 years of being in the UK with a fulltime job and a credit card always paid on time isn't enough credit to have a bank store your money for you. For all the talk of globalization, it's often hard to see at these practical levels...

Obviously I'm watching the pound situation with a lot of trepidation. If another 'Black Wednesday' were to occur I would be ruined. I've thought about changing all my pounds to dollars, but the pound has already sank so low against the dollar over the past month (a shocking 20 cent dive) that it would be painful to do that now rather than three months ago. So I'm just going to have to keep my fingers crossed. But with news emerging yesterday that Britain is now the first major country to be in an official recession, it doesn't look good. My prediciton is that the pound and the euro will be even by the end of the year. The Euro will be falling as well as Germany will undoubtedly announce that it is in an official recession after this quarter, but it won't be falling as fast as the pound because it is now such a large strong currency. Britain may come to rue the day it decided not to join the Euro. But who knows what will happen, it's a bit out of my control now.

Class starts Thursday, in the mean time I'm just working from home writing.


Jake said...

Bonne chance!

zichi said...

Dave, didn't realize you were moving, your NP profile still gives London for your location.
In the early 1970's, probably before you were born, I lived in the Latin Quarter for a couple of years. I had an apartment on the Rue St.Jacques on the corner with Rue Gay Lussac. I had an art studio at the Sorbonne. Spent much of my spare in the Jardin du Luxemborg the Shakespeare book down by the river or the Louvre which was a great place to study art. I loved Paris, except August and after my first experience of that I never stayed in Paris again during that month.
Good luck with your new city and the Sorbonne.
If you think you have a problem with French shopping you should try living in Japan. In the beginning I washed my teeth with hand cream?

Dave Keating said...

Ah the move is just temporary really, my 'official' home is still in London! Once this course ends I'll be leaving Paris.