Friday, April 25, 2008

Sans Ascenseur?

Our dossiers are in order and we have several apartments to visit today. Grégoire and I waited outside our first potential home for our agent to arrive. He pulled up on a shiny black vespa and we marched up the five flights of stairs to the apartment. As we climbed I asked if this building is sans ascenseur? without an elevator? The man laughed and kept on climbing. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crunchy Towels

In addition to not owning ovens, apparently only an elite group of Parisians have the pleasure of owning a dryer. The reason, as I understand it, Parisians do not own dryers is the lack of space. However I argue that the ridiculous wire contraptions that the locals use to hang-dry clothing, take up twice as much space as any dryer I have ever seen. The result of washing your towels in a minuscule washing machine followed by two days of drying on a rack, for those unfamiliar with the practice, is a cripsy crunchy surface similar to sandpaper. This may be the secret weapon for Frenchwomen who have notoriously smooth and luminescent skin! Crunchy towels. I'll report back.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Apartment Hunting

 Apartment hunting in Paris should be considered an Olympic sport. It requires stamina, muscular calves, sharp eyes and a lot of willpower. We have been looking for an apartment for a week straight. By Parisian standards that is nothing. 

 There is no real centralized listing system in Paris for real-estate. Very few apartments are rented with out the help of a real-estate agent. Each agency (and by my estimation there must be about a 100 agencies per neighborhood) deals with a few apartments for sale and one or two rental properties. Each agency only handles its own listings.

For example if the agency on the left side of the street has five apartments for sale and one for rent, the agency on the right hand side of the street would have no knowledge of those listings, it would only know about the three properties it has for sale or rent. 

So essentially you have to go from door to door asking if that particular agency has any rental properties. Most say non (I'll have to write a whole other entry about the French lover affair with the word no) so then you move on down the street to the next one and pop your head in there. 

Once you have tracked down an apartment listing that matches your needs you have to request a rendez-vous with the agency listing it. In order to qualify for a visit you must first present your dossier

Our dossier included the following items:

  • A photo copy of my passport and Greg's French ID
  • Our joint 2007 tax return to show how much we earned last year
  • My last three pay stubs from Rick Steves
  • A copy of our most recent bank and Smith Barney statements
  • Our French bank account number

Then since we are young and only one of us in employed we needed someone to vouch for us incase we aren't able to pay rent. So we also had to include:

  • Gégoire's parent's tax return
  • Their pension plan
  • An official estimated value of their home
  • Their bank account number

My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when I heard the list of things they were asking from us. It took us one full day to collect, print and copy all of these documents. Then we raced around town looking for snazzy folders, as we say in my family, packaging is everything. Now all we need is a cover letter explaining our unique situation.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Piles of Paperwork

 If America is the land where anything is possible for a price, then France is the land where some things are possible if you have all the correct paperwork. Having all of the correct paperwork, however, is nearly impossible. It has taken us three days to sign up for a cell phone plan and it has taken us six days and counting to open a bank account. Incredible.

 As we were returning to Matthieu's apartment (after being sent away for the second time from the bank for having incomplete paperwork) I began to notice that several Parisians on the metro were carrying small accordion files or folders stuffed with paperwork. The more I looked the more I saw. Almost everyone had folders tucked under their arms and crammed into tiny stylish purses and slim briefcases. I suppose I'll have to get one too. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Camping in Paris

How is it that in Paris, the Mecca for all gourmets and food lovers, so few people own an oven? And the few who say that they do own an oven in fact own what I would call a toaster? The Parisian kitchens I have seen so far are an assembly of odd utensils and appliances that I would associate more with campsite cookout than haute cuisine. That must be why there are so many restaurants in Paris!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Champagne and Cubed Cheese

 After nine hours of sipping champagne and munching on cubed cheese, Grégoire and I landed in Paris. Greg's best friend, Matthieu, was waiting for us in a car that he semi-legally borrowed from work. I climbed in to the back-seat of the petite automobile pinned between two of the four suitcases containing all of our possessions. As we rolled in to Paris I was feeling tired and slightly traumatized. Leaving America and my life in Seattle wasn't easy, even if it was my idea. 

We made a quick stop at the café for an espresso and buttered bread  as we headed to Levallois-Perret, the Mercer Island of Paris. Our two friends Matthieu and Caroline are hosting us. They are both young journalists and live relatively rugged lives for this sleepy, affluent suburb of Paris. 

  That afternoon we jumped right in to the task at hand, finding a place to live. We visited our first potential neighborhood, the 12th arrondissement. In an effort to fight off our jetlag and view the area from above, we walked along the celebrated Promenade Plantée (

 This park cuts through southeast Paris following the path of an old elevated tramway. The views were gorgeous, the flowers were in bloom and I could hardly keep my eyes open. Oh jet lag! Why are you so cruel?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our Story

 For those just tuning in, allow me to briefly recap the who's, where's and why's of our story. Eight years ago I flew to France to be an exchange student for a year. I lived with the Cheny's, a vibrant and dynamic family who ran a campsite off the coast of Bretagne. We lived in arguably one of the most beautiful islands on France, Belle Ile en Mer. My host mother, Odile, introduced me to her best friend's son, Grégoire, in attempts to keep me entertained and out of her hair.

 After a year living and learning in Bretagne I returned to Seattle with wonderful memories, almost perfect French and (to my parent's delight) a Frenchman. Grégoire set up shop in Seattle. He brought me to prom, landed a job at Biofournil USA, bought a house in Columbia City and by all standards successfully adjusted to his new surroundings.

 By the summer of 2007 Grégoire asked me to be his wife. I of course said oui! Freshly married we decided that we were ready for a change of scenery. By April, 2008, we had sold our cars, rented our house and were on our way to Paris!

 The goal of this blog is to document the joys and difficulties of marrying a Frenchman. Here you will find stories, musings and observations chronicling my time in here France. While I am a true Francophile, I am also an all American girl. My hope is that this blog will celebrate the differences in these two cultures with out offending either one.

 Please feel free to comment, contribute or correct my spelling. 

Bienvenu. Welcome.