Expat Life In Paris

Delightful, User-Friendly, And Not So Cher As You Might Think

One week into our month-long family holiday in Paris we’re remembering how delightful, how easy, and, as well, how affordable life in this city can be.

Kaitlin and Jackson have been to four museums already and to the Fete (that is, Carnival) des Tuileries twice. Jack met up with old school friends at the park one evening and was invited to spend the following day with them at Luxembourg Gardens. Kaitlin has reconnected with her old friends in this city, as well, and has been out three nights until nearly 4 a.m. (while I lay in bed listening for the front door and reminding myself that Paris is a very safe place).

After we’ve finished our work each day, Lief and I have taken off for long walks to our favorite places–across the river and down Rue de Rivoli…to l’Isle de la Cite…to Sacre Coeur…

Our body clocks have yet to adjust, so we’re up until 2 a.m. or later, one night until 3 a.m. with friends who live here and who we’re therefore able to see only a couple of times a year. The next morning, dragging ourselves out of bed after we-couldn’t-remember-how-many bottles of wine and not nearly enough sleep, we felt like 20-somethings ourselves (in a good way).

Our first agenda in Paris this month is to reconnect with our lives here. Our second is to give our apartment a face-lift. It’s been two years since we left it for Panama. Since then, it has been the temporary home of a Japanese banker and his wife, a family of Brazilians, and an American couple and their daughter. The place is a little worse for the wear. Some furniture must be replaced, and the living room and dining room need new coats of paint.

We’ll spend tomorrow morning at BHV, the Paris department store that, in its sous-sol, is home to the biggest hardware story in the city. We’ll shop for paint, brushes, spackle, putty knives, and wood glue, all in one spot, with the help of friendly, knowledgeable staff. Then we’ll have everything bundled for delivery in the afternoon, so Lief can get to work.

We won’t have time to go grocery shopping today, but that’s not a problem in this city, where nearly every grocery store, big and small, also delivers, often free, depending on the size of your order.

We shopped yesterday for a new kitchen table and chairs, which were delivered within four hours of our purchase, just as the clerk had indicated they would be.

After five hours of walking from shop to shop, errand to errand yesterday, our legs were giving out. When we were ready to return to the apartment, we had to travel but one block to a Metro stop, where we boarded the train for a quick ride that took us within two blocks of home.

Paris is delightful and easy, we’re being reminded…and, as well, not necessarily expensive.

This visit, of course, we’re enjoying an exchange rate advantage. Our U.S. dollars have more than 20% more buying power in this city today than they did two years ago when we left. That makes all these apartment improvements easier for Lief to stomach.

But it’s more than that. The price of a Metro ticket has increased, about 10%. That means a carnet of 10 tickets is 12 euro today, versus 10.80 euro when we left…and that each Metro ride, therefore, costs you but 1.20 euro. About half the cost of a Subway ticket in New York…and that to get from one end of the city all the way to the other if you’re interested.

Other things are the same cost as when we left or even slightly less. The poulet roti from the butcher on our street (which we all agree is the best roast chicken anywhere in the world)…a bottle of water or a fresh-made crepe from a street vendor…a head of lettuce from the grocery store…bathroom mats…kitchen towels…these things are all as affordable as we remember. Some things we shop for are more affordable than in Panama City.

Today our plan isn’t shopping but picnicking, on the little point that juts out into the Seine from l’Isle de la Cite. It’s a perfect day for it.

Kathleen Peddicord

French Course Online