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My Love Affair With Paris

photo: golden christmas tree sack

In its golden sack, on its way to Christmas tree heaven.

Paris Life – No 33

by Laurel Avery

Paris:– Friday, 9. January 2004:– Friends have recently accused me of complaining about France a lot. It's true, I do gripe about many things here, but I complain about things wherever I live. Hey, I grew up in New York. We complain about everything.

Moving to a new place, whether it's to the next town or a whole ocean away, is like starting a new romance. At first everything is wonderful. You only notice the best things about the other person and everyone is on their best behavior. Sure, there are some little quirks about them, but you consider them charming.

After about three months those little quirks that you once found charming begin to become a bit annoying.

At about the six–month point in the relationship, reality sets in. You see the person for who they truly are, flawsphoto: sugar, good coffee and all. At this point you either decide to move on, or there are enough good points about the person to stick around, despite the flaws which have always been there that you never chose to see. You learn to make compromises and adapt, and the relationship deepens.

A café to warm a café–addict's heart.

Paris, like any other city, is just like that. Everyone has a romantic image of how life is here, and to some extent, they are correct. But when you live here you're not sitting around sipping Champagne every day, dancing to accordion music and listening to Edith Piaf – though it does occasionally happen!

Daily life consists of dealing with heating that's gone on the fritz, bank machines that don't work, never being able to find shoes in your size, going to ten different stores just to complete your shopping list, not making your appointment on time because there is a transportation strike, and a myriadphoto: turk model toilet, pink room of other things that comprise everyday life in France. Just because you're in a new place doesn't mean all difficulties disappear.

But I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

The health–care system here is spectacular. If Americans knew how it could be, there would be massive protests until they got the same service in the U.S. I recently caught a virus that was going around, and went to a friend's doctor.

Every café has one, and some of them are in pink rooms.

The waiting room was like a living room, and there was no receptionist demanding proof of insurance when I walked in. After a short wait I was ushered into the doctor's office by the doctor himself, who spent almost half an hour with me, taking down all relevant information himself.

The doctor was professional, but also very personable and I didn't feel like just a number. He prescribed three medications, then handed me the bill. All of 27€! And those who pay taxes in France are reimbursed for 80 percent of that amount. Such a thing is unheard–of in the U.S. On top of that, my three prescriptions came to under 12€. Yes, residents pay more in taxes here, but they actually get something in return.

You can get a delicious loaf of bread, hot out of the oven for only 80 cents, coffee that doesn't taste like it was scrapedphoto: metro tickets, metro map from the underside of your car, outdoor markets every day selling produce fresh from the farm, wine you can get by the pitcher that is drinkable and inexpensive, and shopkeepers who know you by name.

My transport – Métro tickets and a map.

Some doctors still make housecalls. You can get efficiently from one side of the city to the other by Métro for only one euro. Waiters will not rush you through your meal to turn the table as often as possible.

And people don't look at you like you're a bum if you tell them you are a writer or an artist. You get respect for being either.

I doubt I will ever stop complaining about the things that annoy me, but I plan to stay with this city for a while – flaws, tons of dog doo on the sidewalks, and all.

Text & photos, Laurel Avery © 2004

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