Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Paris Episodes: The 'cuisine Américaine' & the 'bathroom'

The plague hasn't quite left the premises, having smitten the other family members, so La Rivière is in quarantine. However, while Every Day Life has resumed its leading role and naturally brings me back to the urgencies of the present, I have still managed to steal some time here and there to spin a good yarn (as we say 'Down Under'). Now, where was I?

After a heart-stopping, nail-biting key hand-over with the rental agency during which I indebted myself to Ex and his kind parents to the tune of a whole month's salary not to mention a lifetime of loyal friendship...

There I was, Parisienne at last!

Now I could finally settle in to my tiny apartment in the 5th! The Left Bank! Hang on! There was the slight issue of having no furniture! Once my job in Paris had been confirmed in writing while still in NZ, I promptly sold all of my worldly possessions in the space of one week. I left Auckland with my mountain bike,  which was still sitting snug in its bike travel box seeing as I had no idea how to put it back together, my paints and paintbrushes, clothes (which unfortunately did NOT include a winter coat!), and a few personal treasures...

... some of which I was holding gently as I studied my new home from my vantage point in the middle of my 'Cuisine Americaine.' Ahhh la fameuse Cuisine Américaine, selling point extraordinaire for any modern French dwelling. Think spacious. Think organised. Think cutting edge. Think AGAIN!

It was little more than the astute placement of a plank of chipboard masquerading as a kitchen counter, positioned so as to redefine one room as two. The kitchen part was easily identifiable by its stainless steel sink. Given the actual size of it, it was also easy to remark the immense lack of any other visible signs that it was a kitchen.  There was no oven (Weren't those mandatory in every rental? Obviously not so in France). No hotplates either. No fridge (ok - that was normal). No cupboards aside from another plank of chip board running the length underneath the other that was the counter.  Easy to guess then that the other half of the room was in fact dining room and lounge.

It didn't matter. I loved the place! It was mine! In a crumbling building in the 5th. And from there I would live many an adventure... romance ... discovery!

But before that, ever the practical girl, I set about making a rough list of what I needed in order to make the house a home:  A table and chair, 1 bed and bed linen, 1 pillow, 1 small sofa, lighting, thank goodness for small mercies that there was a light bulb in the socket in the ceiling! Plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, a dresser and wardrobe for my clothes. Once I'd picked my heart back up off the floor, I decided that it would be shorter and easier to make a list of what I didn't need I got to work examining the FUSAC: France USA Contacts magasine which specialised in classified ads for everything from furniture, jobs, all sorts of  classes etc to rentals and house swaps.

Between Ex's friends and the FUSAC announcements we managed to scour Paris, fill up his little white Renault Clio, and simultaneously cross all items off my list. I got a pair of plug in hotplates that could get water to the boil in 30 minutes and then slowly stew your pasta over another 30 minutes to a general state that one could accurately call cooked but not necessarily edible from Fred. I got a great big beat up fridge (BUT IT WAS BIG) from another Fred, I received all sorts of plates, cutlery and glassware from Vava. I also found a two-seater blue and white striped couch that could slip you onto the floor in nought to twenty seconds. Needless to say, it became a great backrest!

Some other thoughtful person gave me a rickety free standing coat rack on wheels that scared the wits out of me numerous times in the middle of the night when it collapsed, clothes and all, on my bed!

Remembering some wise advice that I had gleaned while reading the "Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy," I had at least had the forethought to bring over some towels!!! These were to go in the BATH room. Needless to say, this was rather a loose translation for such a small shower room, although technically speaking, the sides of the shower stall were raised up high enough that if I sat in the bottom with my knees more or les hunched up to my chest, it was sort of like having a bath. In any case, the landlord was very proud of that and his fresh white tiling, and I had seen enough apartments for my budget by now to know that this was as close as I was going to get to luxury! All it needed was a shower curtain, and corresponding railing. Neither of which was going to fit into my financial plan in a near future. So I did what any desperate young woman in a new country with no shower curtain would do. I called my Mum. A Mum who very gently and kindly explained to me that the price of my phone call would probably have paid for said shower curtain and continued with, 'Welcome to Life's wonderful learning curve. You will see, other people are really suffering in this world. This, my dear, will only make you stronger!" She was right.

The most wonderful addition to my apartment was a gorgeous honeysuckle type plant with a trellis and a big terra cotta urn that nearly did our backs in getting it up the 3 flights of stairs. A lady moving back to the US was desperately getting rid of everything in her apartment so along with lamps, lights and everything else that was still missing, I got what soon became known affectionately as, The Stalk! I promptly installed her in the bathroom where she could benefit from both the humid atmosphere and the sunlight that would stream through the windows on a nice day...

...until they put the scaffolding up one month later! Yep!  The building had just been selected for it's 10 yearly facelift - courtyard side. I could still open my windows to catch the smell of Greek food wafting up from the restaurants below, but being only on the 3rd floor, it wasn't quite as easy to catch the sunlight at the same time.

I shrugged my shoulders in true French fashion! What did it matter? I was going to live an exciting life outside wasn't I? With hardly enough money after bills and debts were paid to even buy myself a cup of coffee I promptly set about having the most exhilarating time of my life in Paris using my little, now dark apartment in the 5th as home base... It was time for me to get to know the neighbours!

Next week ... La Quai de Montebello: Living with the Russian artists by the Seine and surprise visits from LA POLICE!

PS - Even if I'm running late, it's still Change the World Wednesday so don't forget to pop over and see what Small Footprints has for us this week. It's also Wishcasting Wednesday and the 'next step' I wish to take with my very countrified-Parisienne orange wellies is... to show you all my new Etsy shop. Do I dare?

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  1. I really hope everyone's on the mend in La Riviere Ange.

    I can really picture you there using the sofa as a backrest. I bet it was freezing in the winter too.

  2. Sounds like Dylan and I have come down with the same nasty bug, sore throat, fever and all. Could have done without it right now!
    Hope you're on the road to recovery :)
    Really enjoying your Parisian adventures, the cuisine américaine, shower and lack of money/space all ring bells, worth it though n'est-ce pas?
    Can't wait to see your shop!

  3. Oh dear. Definitely an adventure story!

  4. Yes I dare you.

    As Ange wishes for herself I so lovingly wish this for her also.

  5. Oh, Ange, in the true spirit of Wishcasting Wednesday ... As you wish for yourself, so I deeply wish for you.

    Regarding your Etsy shop - Go, girl!

  6. Hope you're all feeling better Ange!

    Love the next installment of the Paris Episodes, and yes, you most certainly do dare...

  7. Thanks for that encouragement... Still putting my products on there. So it'll be promoted soon - maybe this weekend!!!

  8. Hello Ange, I've just discovered your wonderful posts and am hooked. Looking forward to more fascinating instalments, and of course your Etsy shop.


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!