Learning the 17th arrondissement

When I lived on rue Git-le-Coeur, in the 6th arrondissement, and looked out my window at the apartment building  across the small street, I rarely saw people in the apartments.  There was one apartment that was possibly an AirBnB.  It was rarely occupied and when it was, it didn’t seem that the same people returned there.  I asked my neighbor about this and she shook her head saying that housing is such a huge problem in Paris.  Very wealthy people, atmospherically wealthy people, buy up apartments on the top floors or ones with beautiful views and then they go empty for a large part of the year.  While down in working class people land, it is often impossible to find a good affordable apartment.  So while the view from my apartment encompassed the Pont Neuf, the Seine, les Bouquinistes, beautiful sunsets, it also looked on dark apartments.

Here in the 17th arrondissement, near Porte Maillot,  I look out on a working class apartment building.  It was probably built in the 50s or later, has 3 or 4 apartments on each floor facing me and I imagine the same number facing the opposite direction.  There are 7 floors.  Every apartment is full and has a story.  One of them recently had a fire.  The windows are gone, the terrace is black.  The terrace above it is also black but I’ve seen a woman moving around there.  For the first time in three weeks, I saw a crew come in to start cleaning up the rubble.  It looked temporarily like progress was being made.  At the end of the day, with the workers gone, it didn’t seem that anything had changed.

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directly out my window on the 7th floor (European)                                              Burnt out apartment is in the middle on the 5th floor.   

The irony is that I am in one of the beautiful old Haussemann buildings and I look out on modern thrown up architecture.  While they live in the modern apartments, probably don’t have the leaks and problems that these old buildings have and they get to look out on the lovely Haussemman architecture famous for it’s wrought iron balconies, long windows and a clean look for the exterior.  Agents will say “live in the modern apartments and look out at the old”  It does seem a smarter way to go.

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Looking out on the beautiful Haussemann buildings.  The small windows at the top are the Chambres de bonnes.

Most of these elegant lodgings have large apartments with five, six or seven rooms.  Each apartment will own at least one Chamber de Bonne on the very top floor.  This is the servants quarters.  My little studio is two Chambres de Bonne with the middle wall knocked out so it has become a nice, small studio with kitchen and bath facilities.  A friend recently told me that smart real estate investors are buying these rooms up as fast as they can, doing minimal amount of upkeep and then renting them to students who don’t mind the size and may even have romantic notions of the garret apartment/studio in Paris.  In a short time, those investors become very rich.  They can charge anywhere from 600-900 euros for a small space.  A law has been passed that no one may rent a space that is under 10m2.

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Sun setting behind the apartment building I look out on.

It’s hot these days, so I often am leaning out the window looking at the life going on down below me and across me.  One man comes home from work, turns on the tele and doesn’t stop watching till midnight.  Three floors below him live a very old couple.  On one these nice mornings, I watched as he joined her for a small breakfast out on their balcony.  On the same level but at the other end, an elderly man comes out twice a week with his watering can and waters his very petite jardin.  I haven’t seen color there only green plants.  He is clearly fond of them!

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It is getting hotter and hotter as the days pass and life will take place on the terraces more than inside the apartments.  Down in the street when it’s this hot, there is always noise: police sirens, motorcycles, loud voices made louder by rising 8 stories, more police sirens.  The sun doesn’t disappear until 10:30pm and since the majority of apartments are small, life takes place on the streets, in the cafes and bistros for most people.  And in spite of all the terrorism threats, tourists still arrive daily for the summer months.

The Palais des Congres is across the street in the other direction.  It’s connected to a Hyatt hotel.  There are conventions there every week, huge conventions.  So the markets and stores in that area are kept open late and on Sundays.  The metro #1 goes through Porte Maillot on it’s way to La Defense.  The #1 is one of two metros in Paris that is not run on human power but electric.  So it runs even when there is a strike.  It is very convenient.  I can take the #1 and change to go most anywhere.

 

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Still my favorite shot out my window!

The 17th arrondissement is out on the edge of Paris, behind the Arc de Triomphe.  The peripherique, the ring road that circles Paris and encloses it, is the next “street” over.  Past that, I would be in the suburbs.  I feel the distance from where I used to live.  I’m getting used to this area and coming to like it but the Paris I love is more in the center along the Seine–where the magic is!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Jet lag, Macron and Technology

Ok, Macron first.  I’m not going to write about him and how he won the French presidential election.  Everyone else has written about it.  What I can say is that among my friends, mostly American, everyone was holding their collective breath.  The media was saying he would win by a landslide 60% to Le Pen’s 40%.  But we had all heard that before with Brexit and with Trump.  No one wanted to be the one to say it out loud and then be wrong.

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So it was with a huge sign of relief that the French went to bed last Sunday night knowing that their new President would be Emmanuel Macron or, as Le Match is calling him on their front cover, The Kid.  I went to sleep hearing horns honking and voices cheering.   I am in the 17th arrondissement and the victory party was in the 1st at the Louvre.  So there were many happy people that night.

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The hardest is yet to come

The majority of people were happy that Marine Le Pen lost.  No one really knows what a Macron presidency will look like.  Many in France didn’t vote or voted by leaving their ballot blank.  Banker and racist to these people are equal in their sinister meaning.  Macron’s party, Onward (On marche) is one year old.  He now must have members standing for election in the next months and they must win.  He needs the strength of his own party in order to achieve anything.  He is the elite and no one is sure what that means.  But I remind people that FDR and JFK were also the elite and we Americans look back on those two as two of the greatest Presidents in US modern history.  So Onward!

I have been back in Paris for 11 days.  I had probably the worst jet lag I’ve ever had.  Friends were saying I made no sense when I talked and for the first three or four days, I had the affect of being on drugs.  It occurred to me after five days that I was still less than three months from a serious hip operation.  I had been doing so well, walking a number of miles a week, throwing away my cane! and acting as if I was totally recovered.  But I’m not.  The doctor says there is 90-95% recovery in the first three months then it takes an entire year to have 100% recovery.

Standard jet lag lore is that it requires one day of recovery for every time zone one goes through.  I went forward nine time zones coming from Oakland, California to Paris.  I think my body may have gone into a bit of shock with the altitude, the jet lag and the recent surgery.  Sure enough, nine days after landing, I started feeling human again.  I wanted to explore this new neighborhood I’ve landed in while looking for a permanent place to live.  The weather has gotten a bit warmer and is much more inviting.

Something I keep getting reminded of and feel extremely grateful for is the importance of technology for someone like me.  I haven’t had a working french phone until today and the Wifi in my little studio was, at first, nonexistent and then very sketchy while I tried to figure out what was wrong.  On Thursday, I spent 1 hour at the SFR boutique with my not very good french (it’s amazing how much one can forget in four months) and my computer until the young man worked everything out.

I think it’s possible for someone like me to travel because WiFi, the internet, Skype keeps me connected to the world at large.  It’s very hard to feel lonely.  Cut all that off and it’s me in this small studio apartment unable to reach out to communicate.  It’s a blessing I love to read so much – because that is what I did – read 4 books in less than two weeks.

I don’t like reading about the kind of hacking the world experienced yesterday.  I feel grateful for my computer and WIFI every single day and want nothing to ever go wrong. Cyberspace is the Wild, Wild West.

A bientôt,

Sara

“Take me for a ride in the car car”*

Driving in the San Francisco Bay Area is a nightmare for me.  There are very few hours in the day when the roads aren’t packed with moving vehicles.  People aren’t nice.  They all seem to be in a hurry.  If you are in their way or they perceive you as an obstacle, you’d better not be having a bad day.  You will be honked at, be given the finger and many other things that if you are thin-skinned might make you cry not to mention have severe doubts about the humanity of Californians.

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When I first moved out here in the early 70s, traffic was a breeze.  People were nice.  They might pay your way across the bridge just because.  Of course, many of us were stoned but better stoned and nice than whatever this is and frightening.

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I was driving home from Albany the other day and the traffic down Marin Avenue was slow but moving.  Someone was turning onto Marin Ave from my right.  S/he had clearly waited as long as s/he was willing to wait and turned onto Marin missing me by centimeters.  I could feel my heartbeat skyrocket.  I’m in a rental car as I don’t own a car, don’t need one in Paris. Incidents like that turn me into a person I don’t like: angry, judgmental and scared.

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When I was 16 going on 17 and learning how to drive, my father used to say to me “Sara, always drive defensively”  Being thin skinned, I thought he was criticizing me and I kept telling him I was a good driver.  I wasn’t.  I drove offensively.  I knew all the techniques for passing, driving in the snow, turning corners and did them well.  I drove like I was the only car on the road.  Now, being bullied and abused on the road here in the Bay Area, I know how absolutely correct he was.  I breath deeply.  I let anyone in who wants to go in front of me.  I stick the speed limit and pray the person tailgating me stays the one foot behind me.  I’ve noticed that I do arrive at my destination more times than not, feeling calmer.

You may be asking yourself “Why doesn’t she take public transportation?” and I’d say back to you “you clearly don’t live here or been here for any length of time”  There is very minimal public transport here in the Bay Area.  Where I live in the lower Oakland Hills, there is a bus that stops about a block away twice a day: to take children to their various schools and to bring them home.  A variety of very powerful people have been fighting building a high speed train from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, even though the money was there, successfully.  If I don’t want to drive, I call Uber or Lyft.  End of story.

Oh but I miss Paris transport.  If it’s not the best in the world, it has to be close to the best.  Where I lived on Git-le-Coeur, I was 3 blocks from the M10, 1 block from M4 and across the street from RER B and C.  I could walk across to the right bank and be at M1 and on and on. And there were sidewalks everywhere.  I could walk if I wanted.  Here there are often no sidewalks so walking puts one in the street–with those drivers I’ve been talking about.

Not only do we not have public transport, when you drive and look in other people’s cars, 80% of the cars have one person in them, the driver.  The United States has always been a car nation, the idea of the Road Trip was born here.  The suburbs as an idea became a reality when New York expanded it’s roadways and people could easily get out to Long Island.  Now to drive from Oakland to San Francisco, a trip of about 10 miles,  often takes an hour and sometimes two hours.  Two friends of mine had moved to Oakland many years ago because they could get so much more house for their money.  Two weeks ago, they announced that they were moving back into the City.  The commute was ‘killing’ them.

Well, you get the idea.  If you love driving, don’t live in the city or it’s suburbs.

A bientôt,

Sara

*song by Woody Guthrie

Action and more

Thank you to all of you who sent me feedback and ideas from my last blog. I’m including a couple of sites on the Internet to look at if you are interested.    One site is:

http://lrsandbox.com   — Living Room Conversations

“Our vision is a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds work together with respect, and perhaps joy, to realize the vibrant future we all desire.”

Another reader who empathized with my inability to look at The Donald’s hair sent me a site that changes any photo or picture of Trump into kittens!!!                                                              http://www.businessinsider.com/make-america-kittens-again-google-chrome-extension-replaces-donald-trump-with-kittens-2016-12/#when-you-search-make-america-kittens-again-on-the-chrome-web-store-youll-easily-be-able-to-find-the-extension-all-you-have-to-do-is-hit-the-add-button-and-the-extension-will-be-enabled-on-your-browser-1

“When you search “Make America Kittens Again” on the Chrome Web Store, you’ll easily find the extension. All you have to do is hit the “add” button, and the extension will be enabled on your browser.”

Here is another full of advice for protestors so that we can maintain without losing our minds;                                                  https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/how-to-stayoutraged-without-losing-your-mind-fc0c41aa68f3#.g6j2p7vkx

For my part, in a quiet time yesterday (I am a meditator, though not formal meditation), an inspiration came to me.  I am going to sell all my baseball memorabilia and raise money for threatened agencies that up until now have received federal funding.  I have chosen Planned Parenthood and Immigration services formed protect immigrants.

https://www.facebook.com/Memorabilia-for-Great-Causes-Planned-Parenthood-and-Immigration-Help-242909892821412/?pnref=story

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People who have known me a long time have seen me collect memorabilia for many, many years.  I love baseball.  My home team is the Oakland Athletics.  We haven’t suffered as long as Cubs fans but we suffer!!!  Even more than objects from the A’s, I love the history of baseball.  I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame many times.  I saw Rickey Henderson get inducted and then Frank Thomas get inducted.  Those weekends are very exciting for baseball fans as almost every Hall of Fame that is able to travel makes an appearance.

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So I have Good Stuff!!!  My friend, Janet, wrote me to say, “Sara, I love that you’re doing this. What a great combination of downsizing and political action! Kudos to you!!!  Please look at the Facebook page and if you know any baseball fans who might like some memorabilia and help these causes at the same time, please refer them to the Facebook page.16266297_243084889470579_4236391502622134759_n.jpg16265285_243084329470635_8921306945482307247_n.jpg

Most of my stuff is signed.  I’ve waited in long lines to get the autographs.  I’ve made my way on to the field to get autographs, been to baseball shows and made bids at auctions. I can’t authenticate anything.  I’m asking you to take my word for their authenticity.  And remember that you will be giving to some great causes.

I heard Dan Rather say that life in America feels like The Twilight Zone.  That is exactly how I would describe it.  Pulling all my memorabilia together, showing it to people and remembering when I got a certain item signed brings me back to the life I love.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

Stuff

When I learned that I was having hip replacement surgery and would have to stay in California for awhile, I had to move out of my Paris apartment.  I had to make decisions about what to do with all my stuff.  Stuff to put in storage in Paris, stuff to throw out, stuff to sell, stuff to take back to the US.

In 1986, the comedian George Carlin did a comedic piece about Stuff.  I remember laughing and identifying but never thinking it was a problem for me.  But when I started putting all my belongings in different piles, it was a nightmare.  I had so much stuff (I’m using this word on purpose because I can’t find a better one), I felt embarrassed and didn’t want my friends to see my living room.

I told my friend, Joy, that I couldn’t believe how much stuff I had.  Her response was “Well, you like to shop, Sara.”

Confronted with such a huge pile of my belongings every time I walked into my living room, I couldn’t help but think and ponder.  I realized that I have a hard time walking out of a store without buying something.  I have a hard time passing a favorite store that is having a sale.  I rarely buy retail.  I tell myself I’m saving money.  HA!  The way to save money is to not spend it.

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In France, there are two state mandated Sales (Les Soldes) each year.  One in January and one at the end of June.  Each one lasts about 6 weeks.  These are not 10% off American sales.  These are true sales that start with 30-50% off and go deeper as the weeks go by.  I would count the weeks to the sales in Paris.  I had my favorite stores.  The first winter, I actually bought things I needed.  Living in Paris demanded much different clothing than living in California.  But as each sale came and I made my regular trek to each store that I loved, I started buying things that were lovely and nice but I certainly didn’t need.  It was just that it was a SALE!

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Then there is Emmaus.  Emmaus was founded so that people who truly didn’t  have much money could buy furniture, clothing, books, porcelain etc that they couldn’t afford anywhere else.  Wealthy people donated their possessions–beautiful things.  Somewhere along the line, Emmaus opened it’s doors to everyone.  The large Emmaus that I like to go to is in Bougival, in the western suburbs of Paris.  One had to have a car.  I would talk Barbara into going every couple of months.  I would find things there that I would never be able to buy elsewhere.  And just because it was inexpensive, I would buy it.  I never left Emmaus empty handed.

http://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/emmaus-shops-in-france-great-for-second-hand-bargains/

For almost a month I was dealing with STUFF. I went into a bit of shock.  I felt like an addict.  I cancelled a trip to Bougival.  I was going to donate things but I was afraid I would spend money.  I actually paid a friend to take clothing to Emmaus for me. I started unsubscribing to all e-mail communication that I receive from stores I like to shop at.  I learned the January Sales would start a week after I left.  Phew! I wouldn’t even be tempted.

I know I’m not alone with this problem.  And I may not be alone that something happens that shines a huge light on a problem area in one’s life.  I’m talking about it so that this information really sinks in.  I promised myself that from now on, before I take my credit card out of my wallet, I would ask myself “Do I need it?” “Where will I put it?”

I won’t do it but it might be interesting to calculate all the hours I have spent in my life dealing with my stuff.  All that time.  What will I do with this extra time?  For right now, I have empty out my garage of Stuff that I don’t even remember that I have.  I have to clean out a large storage area that also has things I haven’t thought about in three years.  I don’t have to worry about what I’ll do with my time.   I just have to worry about doing it before my surgery!!

A bientôt,

Sara

More Christmas in Paris

Walking around a very cold and grey Paris Saturday, Dec. 10.

Enjoy

Put cursor on photo to find out location.  Thanks

 

 

 

A bientôt

Sara

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

They say a picture says a thousand words.  So today, I’m going to rely on photos to show Paris and environs dressing up for the holidays.

Since the attacks in Nov. 2015, the decorations have been sparser.  Notre Dame no longer has a tree on the parvis.  Whereas once anywhere you turned, there would be a festive feeling, now it’s mostly the Champs Elysees and the Haute Couture streets.  Is it related? I don’t know but it can’t be coincidence.

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Cafe Le Depart on Boulevard St. Michel
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Hotel on Rue Madame
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Tree in BHV department store
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Flower Market at Place Maubert
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Christmas Market in Reims, France
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Gare de Lyon
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Christmas Market on Champs Elysées

 

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Looking at Tour Eiffel from Avenue Rapp

 

 

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My fireplace
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Christmas tree at Truffaut
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corner of Avenue Rapp and rue Université in the 7th

Thanks for enjoying my photographic tour.  More to come.

A bientôt

Sara