paris musings – the doctors (east paris)

I have not enjoyed the identification and establishment of doctor relations in Paris. Unlike New York, there does not seem to be the same proactive followup, alerts or reminders of what I should do with either my child, or myself. My general physician, highly recommended by several as the doctor for all expats, is very laissez-faire and I don’t think I have had one issue resolved satisfactorily. My son’s physician is lovely, but it just never feels as buttoned up and organized as my NY pediatrician. As for finding a ladies doctor, it’s been really difficult…appointments have to be booked months in advance, and then the first appointment I finally got to, the doctor was so rude, I literally walked out on one her and wrote a letter of complaint to her affiliated hospital!

So in hopes to help some others in search of a good gyn’y – I have compiled this list from the various Expat Community Posts in response to request for recommendations:

GYNECOLOGISTS
Dr Edith Finet (F)- 15eme
34 Rue de Lourmel
Phone:01 45 75 38 08
Speaks English & “does tests in her office.”

Dr.  Anne-Isabell Richet (F) – 7eme
109 Rue de l’Université, near Invalides metro
Speaks English “she’s a gynecologist, though, not an ob”
Dr Marie Harif (F) – 17eme
56 rue des Batignolles
Phone: 01 53 06 80 03
Speaks English “She’s great, does ultrasound and consultation as well.”
Dr McGinnis (F) – 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine
American Hospital, 63 Boulevard Victor Hugo
“she is excellent and took me through 4 pregnancies.”
“Dr McGinnis is amazing at the American hosp if your insurance covers it, think it’s €120”
Dr. Rizk (M) – 15eme
45 rue Saint-Lambert, (near Convention)
Speaks English  – “GYN/OB. nice guy, not touchy feely, but a great dr. “
Dr. Gonod (F) –  15eme
179 Rue de la Convention
“she’s hard to get into for just a GYN appt.”
Dr. Patrick Douieb (M)  – 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt
65 Bis Avenue Victor Hugo
Metro Marcel Sembat
Dr. Isabelle Azan
Clinique des Franciscaines at Versailles is excellent.
Probably because of that she has pretty long waiting times for rdvs, unfortunately.
Dr. Francois Jacquemard
Speaks English.
Top specialist in Paris for prenatal scanning he has his own practice and also works at the American Hospital
Dr. Richard Benhamou – 92800 Puteaux
58 Rue Eugène Eichenberger
He has 3D ultrasound equipment which is quite rare.
PEDIATRICIANS
One of the most worrying things has been when my little one has been sick and I have not been able to communicate clearly with the Doctors. Here is a list of the English speaking doctors that I have been recommended along the way from various parents:
Dr. Lovejoy  – 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine
Hôpital américain de Paris, 63 Boulevard Victor Hugo
Dr. Rosemonde Poinsot – 16eme
15 Avenue D’Eylau
01 45 20 29 29
Dr Anne Sylvester Michot – 16eme
15 Quai Louis Blériot
Phone:09 50 86 58 04
She’s French but speaks English
https://www.doctolib.fr/pediatre/paris/anne-sylvestre-michot-cottias

Dr Elena Lamberti  – 16eme
75 Boulevard Exelmans
01 40 71 05 10
Dr Pierre Bitoun – 4eme
6 Rue de Jarente, (near metro St Paul).
“Speaks perfect English and takes the time to listen to each patient. Unfortunately this means that he runs over a lot, so get an appointment early in the day!”

paris musings – the locksmith

There are times when I feel literally overloaded with thoughts… what I need to do, what I need to remember to do, for home, for work, for school; what I want to do, what time is it, am I on time, or not… usually the latter…. and it means that not everything happens as it should!

I was happy that I had found a local place for S. to do some sports on a Saturday. As a result, I now had a sacred me-hour in the morning! Running late, I raced to get S. ready for judo, so I could go and have my nice relaxing coffee & reading for the hour. All went according to plan until we got home. Where the hell were the keys? I emptied my bag and stared and the content rubble… no keys.

Thank god I had my phone…but the battery was low. I called my landlord who I had become aquainted with due to the flood a month before. He didn’t really speak English, but I managed to establish that he didn’t have a spare key- I had both the keys … in the apartment. So I called my French friend- what do I do? who should I call. She offered to call a locksmith on my behalf, saying she would call back once she had sorted it out. I sat in the stair-well and explained to my four year old that mummy had very foolishly left the keys inside the apartment and as there was no way to scale the building and climb through a window like Spider-Man, we needed to wait for the locksmith to come and help open the door. My friend called back. she had identified someone who should be with me within the hour.

With the phone battery at an un – optimistic 10%, I told S. that we had to go to the cafe and see if they would be willing to help. Up the road at Les Ondes, I explained our plight to the waitress and waved the dead phone in front of her. How would I know when the locksmiths arrived with out juice?! She took sympathy and plugged the phone in to her adapter behind the bar, so we sat in ears shot for the anticipated call, and had a drink to pass the time. About 50 minutes later, phone working, locksmiths arriving, we returned to the apartment.

The two men met me in the hall way and without checking any ID or asking any questions, they got out a drill and quickly zapped the lock. The door didn’t open. They then got out a tired looking piece of X-ray film… slide it into the frame of the door, down to the lock, kicked the door and it popped open!

On examining the opened door, they said they needed to replace the lock unit, and this quickly evolved to needing to change the entire door frame… one of the men was already unscrewing the metal frame whilst the other was telling me that this was all necessary… But why? and how much money are we talking about … 2000€ – WHAT??!!  I exclaimed – oh you’re insurance will cover it… “but I don’t know that” I cried, “I need to call them…” Interspersed in the activities, I had been txting the trials of the day back and forth with another friend. I texted him this latest update and he immediately called me and said this was a joke and told me to put him on the phone with the men. I’m not sure what they said to each other, but voices were raised – the phone got handed back to me, the unscrewing of the door frame stopped, I was handed a piece of paper to sign and pay 500€ because they had “had to ” drill the bolt, and they were waiving the “visit” charge so I should be happy, then they left, leaving be with a dodgy lock, screws and metal frames on the floor. I called my friend back who said he was looking for another locksmith for me.

With a couple of names, I called the newly identified locksmiths for a quote. The challenge here lay in the fact that they both said they had to come and see the door before they could quote. I told them I didn’t want them to come until they told me approximately how much it would cost to replace a lock. I managed to agree with them both that i would send them photos of the lock and door for an estimate. The next challenge was that my phone memory was full and wouldn’t take any more photos. I deleted images, took new images, and finally sent the images to the two potential locksmither’s to aid in quoting. One of them called again and insisted he should come and look – I reiterated that I wanted a quote first, but that if he didn’t charge me for coming, that he could come round, so he said he was on his way.

Whilst waiting, I re-screwed the doorframe back together. As locksmith #2 turned up, I received a quote from locksmither #3. #2 quoted 200€ more than #3 so I thanked #2 very much for coming round but I was going to use #3. #2 then insisted that I pay him for the house call… “No, no” I said… “on our phone call I had told you not to come without providing a quote, but you had insisted… I told you I didn’t want to pay for a house call without a quote…” He grabbed his papers and stormed off saying it just wasn’t right… it was in appropriate not to pay… my goodness this day was an ordeal…

# 2 disappeared, and I waited for # 3. Whilst waiting this time, I decided to try and replace the existing lock, so by the time # 3 arrived, I had managed to reinstall the lock that had been removed by the #1s. A fairly polite and unassuming chap, #3 looked at the door, the lock, the key, that still actually worked despite the drilled lock face, then said while I could continue to use the preexisting lock and key, he still recommended replacing it as there was no guarantee it would continue to work based on the drilling that had happened.
he then also told me it had been totally unnecessary for the first guys to drill the lock. they should have started with the X-ray film then proceeded to show me how he could open the door with his X-ray film. Great! Remember to double lock in future! I decided to accept his advice and replace the lock. he didn’t have the right lock with him so he dissappeared off to buy the necessary type, but then he called to say he wouldn’t be able to get it until Monday.

So, using the dodgy door for the next couple of days, come Monday, I had a new lock, an insurance claim filed, and a war story of the 2000€ door frame proposal by some Locksmith con artists. What amazed me in the subsequent days were the number of locksmith shops I walks past in my neighborhood. I had been blind to them the week before.

Lessons Learned
1. Don’t leave home without your keys
2. Locate a local locksmith on moving into a new neighborhood in advance of needing one
3. Don’t let anyone drill the lock until they have tried the X-ray film

4. sign up for the key repository of Paris  –  https://keyper.fr/   !!

 

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paris musings – the flood

January 15th, 2014. We had been in Paris for 8 weeks. The apartment was finally getting some order to it; items had been assigned to rooms, pictures we slowly finding homes on walls.

We had upgraded from a 1-bedroom apartment in NY to the luxury of a 2-bedroom apartment in Paris, however, S. had decided his room was put to far better use as a play room vs. a bedroom. Originally contained to a defined area of our Brooklyn living room floor, his train track now extended in to a complex multi route structure that covered virtually the entire floor… a sight to behold… caution… wear slippers!

Sleeping soundly, at about 11:30pm, I was woken by the sound of heavy rain. It was loud and sounded like it was coming in to the room. I got up to examine the window and was then horrified to see that the incessant thud of water drops was coming down from the bedroom ceiling and the pipe in the corner. The dripping was getting more and more frequent and as I turned on the light (maybe not such a. smart move in retrospect) to examine further, a cartoon-esque pop and split left the dripping ceiling crack heading inward so now the bed was getting wet.

I quickly grabbed S. and carried the heavy sleeping body in to his room, navigating train tracks, lego pieces, and various toys and tucked him in to his bed; next were the guitars and various instruments, back and forth, putting as much stuff in the front rooms. Luckily I had a fancy mop and bucket my mum had bought when she was over so after dragging the bed as much out of harms way as i could, I strategically placed the bucket and created some towel dams, grabbed my keys and ran upstairs to knock on my neighbor’s door… ring the bell…. bang on the door… nothing.

Back down stairs, in a panic, I called my french friend and told her what was happening. She gave me a few key works and told me to call the Pompiers. 19. Hello, hello…. de l’eau…Beaucoup… le palfond…. de l’eau …beaucoup… it seemed like they understood but said, as it was not an emergency, they would get there when they could, hopefully with in the hour. I stressed it was an emergency for me …. beaucoup de l’eau… they sounded sympathetic, but as it was not a matter of life and death, I remained in the quasi -emergency list.

I ran upstairs again and banged on my neighbors door… still nothing. I ran downstairs, nothing. The water continued. Now, not only the bedroom, but the bathroom and kitchen ceilings were also dripping and the floors were becoming mini lakes. I got more towels to build additional dams and continued to move boxes and cases out of the bedroom in to the front rooms.

30 minutes later, the pompiers arrived-two strapping young men and a female partner. They examined the situation, eyebrows raised, then they quickly went upstairs… I followed them part way, but by this point the dark stairwell was a mini running water fall and there were other tenants with flashlights out and about, so given my lack of french language dexterity and ability to contribute meaningfully to the situation, I returned to the apartment. Water was encroaching the hall way. I tried not to panic. The bedroom ceiling was starting to peal away. Then the flow started to slow.

When the pompiers came back, water and electricity off, one of them took the mop and started poking at the ceiling until a large amount of plaster fell down on the the bed and the floor. The flow stopped; they wrote up their report, and left.

While not on biblical proportions, the apartment was still left in a state of watery chaos, and the repercussions lasted for months. I spent the next few hours mopping, sweeping and cleaning. Whilst I’m sorry S. missed the pompiers, I was very glad that he actually slept through the entire event.

Having never had home insurance for my entire time in NYC, I was really happy that in France apartment insurance is a mandatory requirement. Whilst a lot of paper work, it did mean that I had some coverage.

mandamusing_Paris The FloodFirst I had to meet with my upstairs neighbor – a 90 year old who had slept through all my door banging, but managed to awake when the Pompiers arrived. Then I had to meet with her insurance company, then my insurance company. There was nothing they could do to repair the walls until they were dry. So they came with their little device that they prodded in the plaster. No. Not dry enough. Again. No. not dry enough.

By May, four months after the event, I was getting really fed up with looking at the hole in the ceiling, and asked again if there was nothing they could do to speed up the process….eventually someone came round who then opened up all the wall (i.e.: removed all the plaster that had been damaged). I don’t know why they didn’t do that immediately. It seems logical now that that would be the best way to dry the walls out. The damaged plaster was extraneous and was going to have to be removed anyway. It seemed to speed up the process significantly, but it was still another month or so before the plasterers and painters came in to fix the three rooms. I have since discovered there are also various other devices that can help dry out the walls (that would have saved my using my hair dryer in attempt to speed things up!)… It must have been my linguistic challenges that meant they didn’t understand my questioning how to address.

I still think this was an oversight and have a niggling feeling that the subsequent bronchial and chest issues S. suffered through the spring and summer could have been a result of the damp walls and potential mould (the little black spots I noticed in the bathroom). The doctor was never able to explain all the shadows in S.’s lungs and the recurring chest infections. Thankfully, his lungs cleared up after he spent the summer in England.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Home insurance is mandatory in France
  2. Pompiers phone number 19
  3. Wet walls dry quicker when stripped and gouged

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paris musings – the museums

THE MUSEUMS

This could be a long list, but for the time being, here are some of our preferred museums… slightly off the beaten tourist path.

Musée des Arts et Métiers 60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris

Founded in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, this museum is dedicated to technological innovation and inventions. There are seven collections: Scientific instruments, Materials, Energy, Mechanics, Construction, Communication and Transport. It was refurbished in 2000, and has over 2,400 inventions housed in quite an impressive interconnected buildings, including planes hanging within an church – well worth a visit for that space alone.

Grande Galerie de l’Évolution 36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 is another impressive vast metal and glass hall structure, with a collection of over 7000 preserved/ taxydermied animals on displayed.

It is close to the Jardin des plants, and the Grande Mosquée de Paris which in turn has the tea room… Cafe de la Mosquee de Paris, 39 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Paris, Île-de-France 75005that is supposed to be great (I have yet to get to the tearoom)

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting & Nature) 62, rue des Archives, 75003 is as the name suggests, full of the tools man has developed to hunt IMG_7522.JPGanimals; primarily guns – some with incredibly ornate inlays, there were also some crossbows and other items. The majority of the musem is dedicated to paintings, and the taxidermy animals, including a talking boar head. S. generally found is all a bit scary, so we shot around, with a brief visit to the top floor where there was the chimpanzee tea party along with the “Hunting Wild Game With Flashlight and Camera”  exhibition of the 1905 photographs by George Shiraz, the American lawyer/politician and former hunter turned photographer.

IMG_7595.JPGMusee Picasso  5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 is a fabulous collection of over 5,000 pieces work on several floors. Long lines to get in, but very enjoyable. As Picasso requires little explanation, a bit about the actual building … Hotel Salé (salted) was built between 1656 and 1659 for Pierre Aubert, a tax farmer who became rich collecting salt tax. The architect was Jean Boullier from Bourges and it is considered to be one of the finest historic houses in the Marais. It was selected as the Musée Picasso in the 70s and designed by the French architect Roland Simounet.

Palais de la Découverte– Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008. We have spent many a day in this museum. It has some fabulous temporary exhibitions, but its mainly the hands on interactive area along with the Planets room that we keep returning for. In addition to this, there are kid friendly lectures (in French) in the various departments of chemistry, biology, physics, and maths amongst others. The museum was created in 1937 by Jean Baptiste Perrin during an international exhibition on “Arts and techniques in modern life” and is next to the Grand Palais.

IMG_7920.JPGCité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris
This building is totally different to its sister museum, Palais de la Découverte.
With two interactive play areas for kids, one aged <5 the other 5-12, we have always gone to the small one in the past which has been a lot of fun. Very physical, things to touch, feel, and manipulate. The 5+ was a new experience, plenty to keep the kids entertained, slightly more informative for the readers amongst you, and a couple of live TV/Studio production set ups. I’ll need to go back again for full exploration 🙂
The huge, modern, five-level metal structure is impressive enough with its “bioclimatic facade” and IMAX theater, but then it is set in the fabulous grounds of Parc de la Villette – the largest park in Paris. You can easily spend the whole day getting lost amongst the play areas, fields, and pathways. The expanse of land for kids to run around, the Argonaute (S636) submarine, the playgrounds with the grand colorful dragon slide, it is all great for wearing young ones out!
The Grande Halle de la Villette seems to always be hosting some public get together, whilst the Cite de la Music along with the Philharmonie de Paris hosts exhibitions (the late David Bowie exhibition – loved it) and performanes (I saw Moriarty here – loved it!). Surrounded by the Canal de Saint Denis and the Bassin de la Villet, you can get strange little boat-carts that running down to the Canal Saint Martin.

Musée Marmottan Monet  2 Rue Louis Boilly, 75016 Paris

paris musings – the parent

Being a parent is tough. Being a single parent is tougher. Being a single parent in a foreign land with a different language, well sometimes I question my sanity!

When the opportunity presented itself, for me to live in a city I had romanticized as a home from my teenage visits, across the sea vs. the Atlantic to my family, with a company and client I was already familiar with, it seemed an opportunity I should accept.

My son was three when we arrived. A lively, vocal, confident and playful boy; tall for his age, with a knowing look on his face, he is often considered older than his years. There was no question of stay-at-home mum, part-time employment, or freelance flexi-schedule. I needed care, as I had in New York, five days a week, and through school holidays. The first port of call was Le Marie. Armed with passports, birth certificates, apartment and work contracts, the Marie assigned the Ecole Maternelle that he would go to.
IMG_3932.JPG
My mum had very kindly come over to help me set up (including some city wide searches for mops and specific plugs) and to help get S. settled. A former French teacher, she proved not only a great source of emotional help and support (it’s nice to have dinner with an adult as well as a child), but her translation skills were critical. She came with me to meet the school Directrice, identifying the whys and wherefores, schedule requirements, vacations dates and how the Garderie ((after school) kicks in after school and over the vacation period. Also identified was the need for a trip back to Le Marie to get confirmation of the Cantine tariff I would have to pay. Whether lost in translation or just general lack of clarity, there were a lot of fingers pointing me in different directions as to who actually assigned the Cantine tarriff. Ultimately, it was the Marie who needed to see a payslip and salary verification. They then provided the tarriff amount on a yellow stick-it note (très official!) and sent me back to the school who then captured the amount in their records and it was locked in for the year.

On S.’s first morning at school, I was relieved to find an Irish/French bilingual girl in his class. As I sat with S., attempting to encourage interaction with the other kids, it was my mum who honed in on the mother and started drilling her for information- phone numbers, doctor recommendations, and the English Speaking Parents Messaging Board URL. In Brooklyn, I had been actively involved as a user and moderator of the free Bococa Parents Group, so I found the Parisian board expensive to join and not so intuitive to navigate. However, I did find, most importantly, a babysitter. I posted a request for babysitter referrals and after meeting with five different people, I met a lovely couple who asked me if I would mind if it was the husband who collected S. vs. the wife. Absolutely not! I am really happy that S. has a male baby sitter, and am even more happy with the fact that they have been with me for the entire 2 years that I have been here. S. loves his babysitter and has been embraced by the entire family, even going to christening and birthday celebrations with them!

I must have looked like a deer in the headlights every morning as I dropped S. off at school, not able to communicate with the teacher or the parents. I tried to talk to the other parents (giving the Irish mum a rest from being my only target) and tried to set up play dates. Not only was there a language issue, cultural differences emerged. In NYC, play dates were a frequent and desired activity. Social circles and weekend activities formed around the children. In Paris, this did not seem the way. With a different sense of work/family division, a general feeling of closed communities, as well as weekends being occupied with family activities or trips to the country to see the grandparents, there was minimal uptake on my play date outreach. Whatever my challenges, poor little man! He couldn’t understand, or be understood. He wanted to go back to Brooklyn.

We arranged some facetime calls with his fellow musketeer preschool friends. Not the easiest form of sharing toys and latest news, with the cameras often presenting the ceiling or the carpet, we changed to video’ing messages that we emailed back and forth. That works much better! The three musketeers are always reunited when we go back to New York, and the friendships seem to remain strong, picking up where they left off.

Eventually, a Parisian father took pity on me. His son was also fairly quiet so he also thought solidifying an ally for his son outside of the class room might be a good idea. We had a couple of outings, and whilst the kids had a blast, our conversations in broken English were challenging. I needed another plan. Not only to help S., but to help me! Weekdays are limited to bed time story, and walk to school time; not very much parental time for a child. So weekends are precious and important for us to spend together. We became acquainted with the Aquarium, the zoo, the Palais des Découverte and several other museums and parks. Whilst great company, I kept thinking there must be other mothers who might want a companion for outings. I posted on the english Message board offering to host a children’s English songs singing group but got no inquiries for a year! (When I had almost forgotten about it, I received a couple of calls and now I have met with a couple of parents about three times for a sing along!)

I then tried MeetUp. A zillion groups for every configuration of family, interest, and activity. I found the expat parents and signed up. it took a few schedulings before we actually managed to “meet up”, but when got together, we had a really fun day. S. got on with the girls really well, and it was so nice to be able to have an actual conversation. The organizer is a power house, scanning kid friendly activities and continually posting in the group. My other life saver was finding a music group that turned out to be 10 minutes walk away, organized by a wonderful Bulgarian Piano player who just so happened to have a daughter the same age as S. They buddied up immediately. So from having no adult social life, I had a friday night hang, live music, in a bar/restaurant, where I could take S.; he had a friend to play with and I got to chat with adults and sing. I was very sad when the bar decided to close down.

The most unnerving situations have been when S. had some medical concerns that resulted in couple of 2am calls to the Pompiers followed by trips to the hospital. I hate not being able to discuss and understand clearly what is going on. I have worked on my french, and it’s certainly better than it was, but I am no where near fluent or able to navigate those moments with certainty. I now know there are also Medical record books that you can get from Le Marie. You have to get them in person (presenting birth certificates, passports and job/apartment contracts. This is how you record your child’s health, immunizations etc. (so when you are there getting your school and Cantine tarriff assignments, go an get one of these too! the doctors do not provide them!)

After a rocky start, and a couple of “Pas Sage” moments, S. can now speak fluent french, and has a great group of friends. I have found a core group of mum’s, mainly english speaking, but some French, who I feel confident I can call if need be. It’s not quite like my friends in NY where we can go and hang out, lounge on the couch, watch the telly, eat, chat, and not have a set end time. But it’s a lot better than it was!

IMG_4228.JPG Paris is a beautiful city, the museums and parks are great. I am very impressed with the école Maternelle and Garderie. The art work they do is amazing, the trips to museums and chateaus are enviable, the extra curricular activities are energizing. As S. gets older, the next issue will be homework and being able to help him. If it is in French, I will not be a good tutor!

It’s been a challenge, but I think it’s a wonderful experience that wherever we end up, S. will have benefited from and have some wonderful memories of our time here.

Lessons Learned

  1. Ask the Marie for everything you need in one go – School, tariff & medical book
  2. the Ecole Maternelle and Garderie’s are great
  3. It takes a village – ask for help, use the social groups, and try and learn french!

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paris musings – the apartment

Furnished or Unfurnished
I moved to Paris on November 17, 2013, relocating for a job transfer opportunity within my company. As a mother of a then three year old, I elected to leave my son at the grand parents whilst I went ahead to start work, wait for my belongings to arrive from New York, and set up the basics.
I had been lucky enough to have my company’s assistance a month prior to start date, to come to Paris and spend a day with a realtor who whipped me around 10 apartments in one day. My criteria was set by price and 30 minute accessibility to work. I didn’t want to spend time commuting as I was also going to have to manage school drop off and pick up.
The first thing I learnt was that rental apartments come either furnished, or unfurnished… and when they say unfurnished, they mean UNFURNISHED… no NYC apartment basics like a cooker, kitchen units etc. Some had bathroom units, but a couple were fully bare. Walls, floor, ceiling…unfurnished! On the other hand Furnished meant walking in to someone else’s apartment: Pictures, mirrors, furniture, linen, cutlery, plates, hoover, mops, brooms… the whole kit and caboodle.
Whilst I was a little biased from my itinerary review on google earth of a small cobble stone street named after a 19th Century painter, you can imagine my joy when this apartment turned out to also be the only one with partial furnishing… ie: a kitchen with a fridge/freezer, oven, and dishwasher was already in place! With north/south exposure, and an elevator, after minor negotiation on the rent, and securing a Cave (basement storage area not automatically included), I said yes.
The paper work commenced, back and forth, official apartmentchecks, deposits, bank transfers etc. Unlike New York where I, foolishly or not, lived without any apartment insurance, I was to learn that this is non-optional in France. The rental agency put me in touch with and insurance company, and every year, the rental agency need an updated record for proof of insurance.
I had packed up the majority of my belongings to come over from America, but I had also left a lot behind… mainly electronics, but also a couple of fundamental pieces of big furniture… a bed, table and chairs. Rather than staying in a hotel until the shipment arrived, my company assisted with ordering of a bed and mattress to be delivered..
And then I became acclimatized to the other logistics of my french apartment.  With no buzzer intercom system, when the bed delivery team arrived, I had no way of knowing. I called my company, who in turn called the delivery team. The team had been and gone, but that they would return in an hour. This time, apartment building door codes had been relayed and they found their way up to the apartment, leaving me with a self assembly unit. Thank goodness the instructions are universal, and the flat pack comes with the necessary alan keys. Alas, my brain wasn’t really in gear, and I realized I had no bed linen or pillows… they were en route from NY. Luckily, back at work, a colleague offered to lend me a pillow and some linen which I picked up after work. Back in the apartment, my next discovery was that overhead lights are not a given! Luckily, the hall did have lights, but as I went into the different rooms flipping the light switches, I remained in the dark. Apparently, the French prefer lamps!
Tables and chairs would seem like a fairly easy thing to secure. Whether my tastes are not mainstream, or in alignment with the french style… this process proved rather challenging.
IKEA .com had table and chair sets, but if you wanted this table and those chairs, the table could be delivered but I’d have to go in person to get the chairs… not very easy when you don’t have a car. I went to Conforama, castarama, habitat, BUT, and several other locations where each table I selected turned out to be unavailable for 3 months, and floor models would not be sold. Invariably, I didn’t care for the chairs they had. I ended up buying online from the UK and having a lovely round table with preferred chairs delivered to my apartment!
Joy of joys, my bathroom had an area for a washing machine! Unlike NYC where laundromats seem to be on every block, ready to wash and fold perfectly, I had not passed one laundromat as i roamed my new neighborhood. With measurements in hand, I headed to the recommended electronics chain, Darty. After waiting for ever for a sales assistant to actually help me, the choice of washers was immediately limited to three based on my cabinet’s height restrictions, then reduced to two based on the fact that only one of them had a removable top, that would actually allow it to fit. I filled in the necessary details for delivery, ensuring the provision of necessary door codes, tried to narrow down the delivery window, and accepted the additional sales of a water converter to address the heavy calcium content of Parisian tap water and scaling issues.
When the washer was delivered, it was the washer without the dryer (I needed the all in one). Back to Darty. The correct machine was then delivered, this time, the gentleman installing the machine said that the water filter could not be installed. Back to Darty to return.
A real life saver was finding an english speaking handyman out fit to assist me. After a visit to review the apartment (with a flash light), we compiled a list of bits and bobs, shelving opportunities and overhead light requirements, and he organized his team to buy, bring, assemble and install.
My limited work-surface kitchen now has additional work surface/bar for eating (or accumulating all my french mail that I still don’t know how to read!), on top of a shelving unit, when I flip the switch, room lights go on, and when I have deliveries, or invite friends around, I make sure they have the necessary door codes to get in.
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