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February 6, 2005
Arrival
Well it is official. Catherine and I are now living in Paris. Not only have we made our first appearance at our local Passy street market, during the peak of rush hour on Sunday morning no less, but we got our Carte Orange resident’s metro pass without even a blink of the eye from the sales clerk. The metro pass (a fancier ticket with a silvery border) sits ready for use in its little gray holder in my Baggalini – the reversible gold and black bag which is working out so well for carrying umbrellas and gloves and maps. A personal photo must be affixed to the Carte Orange holder, and the passport photos we brought are too large, so we still have that last detail waiting to be done. When asked whether we could cut the pictures to fit, our friend and Paris officiando, Alison, said: “Absolutely not. You must go into the little photo booth at the metro and have the proper ones taken. It is a rite of passage.” So, mollified at our inclination to choose function over form, we have retired the passport photos and will submit to the booth rite.
The apartment is in a state of suspension: waiting for Mr. Petit, our landlord, to come and remove the worst of the furniture so that we can get down to our decorating. In preparation we have been combing the Internet trying to determine how to buy a bed, a sofa, and numerous other chunky items without the benefit of a car. “Livraisons gratuit” (free delivery) shout the web pages from Ikea, Habitat, Muebles.com, and I groan at the thought of the pressboard solution. Not that the Swedes (aren’t they the brains behind the Ikea? I’ll have to look it up) haven’t come up with a gold mine here, but isn’t there something a bit more original to be found? Then my hurry-up-and-finish kicks in and I push for jumping on the bus, going out past the Peripherique (the ring road separating the city from the suburbs) and getting it all done in one sunny Ikea-afternoon. Catherine urges us to slow down, says this is supposed to be the fun part – learning how to buy a bed in Paris - reminds me that once we have bought the bed we will never look again at the ways in which this could be done, and brings me back to acceptance. Yes, I will enjoy this dream of dreams and take a pause in the doing of it. So we spend the sunnyish afternoon instead at the St-Ouen Marche aux Puces, the very upscale flea markets out in the 18th arrondissement. It turns out that all those little end tables I had frowned at in years past because they were battered and smoke-stained, are really worth hundreds of dollars.
Now for the Passy street market. We had found the two grocery stores and even Picard’s, the store dedicated completely to frozen food, in the neighborhood. It was time for the street market. Grabbing our newly purchased Rollie Cart (it just yells resident!), we headed up rue de la Pompe, our street, strolled across (or I should say around) the intersection at La Muette, and found the Passy street market. It was Sunday late morning, around 11-ish, and the market was hopping. Pushing through the throngs we went into the first vegetable stand we came upon. There we found a nice head of cauliflower, a basket of perfect mushrooms, a bunch of parsley, and a gorgeous pile of red-as-can-be cocktail tomatoes – only 19.80 euros/kg. The tomates were from France (the signs show from where each item comes) and had to be bought. We got 15 euros worth. Who knew tomatoes are a delicacy.
Out into the cobblestoned lane with our first purchases packed securely in the bottom of the Rollie and on to the next vegetable stall. Here Catherine waited outside, because the crowd was simply too daunting, and I went inside for lemons and brussel sprouts. The line for purchases wound around the store so I got to eye everything more than once as I waited for my turn at the cash register. I decided it was the low, soft lighting, as well as the juxtapositions of colors, sizes and shapes, that made everything look so beautiful. Or maybe it was the thought that I now live in Paris that had altered my perception of the veggies and fruits lying before me. Whichever, it was close to an aesthetic experience, and embarrassingly so. Back outside I stuffed the bags into Mr. Rollie and smiled at Catherine. She mentioned what a good looking crowd it was at the market. I began to take note of the passerbys and saw what she meant: fur-coated, Sunday-bested people everywhere. I had a split second of fear that we looked far too shabby and imagined the small groups of people in neighborly conversation were talking about Les Deux Americaines and their jeans.