Category: ‘Paris’

Boat Shmoat, We’re Going to Paris – Part 14

February 26, 2007 Posted by fairviewsue

When we got back home, we both felt quite out of shape and went to our local YMCA to work out. It was Sunday. We weighed ourselves. Sean gained 3 pounds in Paris and I gained 1.5! So that is why my pants felt tight. Too many buttery croissants I guess. Eep!

The next day at work, I quickly faxed my new contract to Ms. S of the manicured nails so that she could see that there was no car in France. She could not believe it and said that she would try to straighten that out right away for me.

That same day, My boss, Dr. S, assigned a new Director for our group, Mr. B, who had just returned from 2 assignments in Europe. One was in Brussels and the other in Paris. I was eager to meet with Mr. B and ask him about living in Europe and my wish was granted as I met with him that very day. Unfortunately, what he had to say was quite sobering. He told me that Europeans considered things like kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, stoves, etc., to be furniture and would take them away when they moved and if we rented a house we would have to provide them. That would mean thousands of dollars in appliances that we would have to provide to live there. We could always rent these appliances, but the cost was still there up front. He also said that the company would not promise employment after the overseas posting. That is why he was our boss now. He needed a job for a couple of years before his retirement and this was all the company had to offer. He commented that in all, he loved being in Europe so that he and his wife could travel around, but it really drained his financial resources and if he hadn’t saved and had all of his kids out of college he wouldn’t have made it financially. Of course he got a car because he was at the director level and probably a better deal as well. He told me to examine my contract very carefully before signing it.

The day went by really quickly. When I got home, Sean was finished looking at the contract. His face looked bleak. I added the information from Mr. B about the kitchen cabinets and appliances. Sean just shook his head. We went though the numbers together. It was truly terrible. With the cost of a car, the underestimated mortgage coverage, the rent for the house we would need, the loss of Sean’s income, the cabinets etc., we figured that we would be out $80,000 in the first 3 months. I tried not to think about it because that would mean that we could not go and live in Paris and my dream would die.

I went into work the next day. I had a call from Ms. S of the manicured nails. She said that she has spoken to Monsieur P and that he was quite adamant that personnel at my level do not get a car in France. She did not understand why the French had to be different than all of Europe on this and would work to get it changed for me, though it might take time. I thanked her and rang off.

I held the contract in my hands and started to get really upset. What was I going to do? So, I walked down the hall to see my friend, Dr. R, the vice president of oncology. He was in and motioned me to sit down. I closed the door and burst into tears. He asked me what was wrong and I told him that my dream of working in Paris was not affordable and explained why. I told him that I just didn’t know the next step. He advised that I write Dr. A a response to the contract telling her why I cannot accept it and how upset I am. I thanked him profusely and did just that.

My memo to Dr. A began, “I am crestfallen that I cannot accept this offer to come and work in Paris…”, and then went on to specify why the contract did not cover my expenses adequately. I sent it, copying Ms. S and Monsieur P. A great weight was lifted when I sent it.

The next morning, I got a call from Dr. A. She ranted and raved about how she hates Americans and most especially me and why should she care about my needs and bla, bla, bla… on and on. I guess my memo was not received well at all. She felt that I had taken her free week in Paris and used her. I just let her rant, because I was so glad that I had not signed a contract to work for that American hating bitch. I thanked for calling when she wound down. She was just venting her disappointment after all. I was also disappointed. Sigh.

Later that month, I attended a Clinical Operations Meeting and all of the Clinical Vice Presidents were there. Dr. P, whom I had dinner in Paris was there and some other of my pals and all were sympathetic to my turning down the job with Dr. A. One VP said that if it were him, it would not have gone that way at all. Then, Dr. A entered the room. I extended my hand to her and said that I was sorry that it hadn’t worked out between us. She looked me in the eye and said that she was sorry too. We shook hands and I almost cried. Dr. P said that he was surprised by the maturity. I looked at him and said that we were adults, why would he be surprised? Dr. A mentioned that she had hired a very nice woman from the UK to do the job and it turned out it was someone I knew, liked and had worked with before. She was single, had a car, and therefore perfect for the job. I was happy that Dr. A found someone capable so quickly and said so.

Later that night at home with Sean, I was thinking and said, “I guess we’ll never live in Paris.”

He replied, “But, Susie, we live in paradise now, and we Summer Camp, our new boat. Remember, we weren’t going to go to Paris because of the boat.”

“Oh yeah”

And together we said, “Boat shmoat, we’re going to Paris!”

The End

Boat Shmoat, We’re Going to Paris – Part 13

February 19, 2007 Posted by fairviewsue

I had been to the Louvre before, and really wasn’t interested in seeing the Mona Lisa or Winged Victory or Venus de Milo and thankfully neither was Sean. I really wanted to stay away from crowds and see their Egyptian collection. I am relentlessly fascinated with the antiquity of Egypt as well as other ancient civilizations.

So that is what we did. We were both astounded by this exhibit. Never have we seen sculptures that communicated and spoke to us across time so loudly and profoundly. It felt as if these people were alive just yesterday, not millennia ago. We could relate closely with their cares and feelings. I had never gotten that feeling from an Egyptian exhibit before. Neither had Sean. It was weird.

After seeing the exhibit, I really wanted to take a piece of Paris home with me, so we decided to shop at the mall under the Louvre. There are gift shops including Lalique and Faberge. At the Lalique shop, of all the things they had, my favorites were very pretty little fish in a rainbow of colors, seahorses, butterflies, and dragonflies. Nothing was cheaper than $125. But then I thought, what the hell am I going to do with this little tiny glass fish when I get home? Will it just sit and gather dust? I have no place to display it in my house and it is not the sort of thing that I would wear. So I walked out without one.

Then we went to Faberge and looked at their wearable eggs. Same thing there. I didn’t like any of the eggs well enough to wear; they were a bit big for me as pendants, and too expensive at $350. But it was very nice to think about. So I left Paris empty handed with just memories and my contract to consider.

Boat Shmoat, We’re Going to Paris – Part 12

February 12, 2007 Posted by fairviewsue

On Our last full day in Paris, we decided to walk from our hotel to the Musée du Louvre. We had received much sobering news up until now: no car, Sean may not be able to find a job. It was time to just sit back and enjoy our surrounds. We set out on a new course that we had not walked before. Beautiful Paris welcomed us.

It did not take long before we came across a street market. I guess that in Paris, most people buy their food from these outdoor food markets rather than at a grocery store. This one was tented and offered fresh fruit, fish, cheese, meat, pate, wine, bread, and vegetables. God, everything looked so tasty! Oh to spread some of that cheese or pate on that crusty bread and have it with some of that wine at a picnic! We wished we were staying and could purchase food supplies.

On our way to the Louvre, Sean’s architectural eye spotted beautiful things everywhere. This photo is of a Lalique frosted glass door with bas relief pine tree, where the pattern is carried right into the surrounding cement (click photo to enlarge). Isn’t it beautiful?

Paris is littered with architectural gems like this, you have only to look and see. I probably would have walked right by and never noticed it if Sean hadn’t stopped and pointed it out. We also found a park, where a pedestrian bridge was designed where the span was built of tree branches fashioned of iron. We also saw doors in art deco styles that we took photos of.

Finally we reached the Louvre. I had not seen the new I.M. Pei pyramid addition. I’m not sure that the modernity of it adds to the old structure, but it does add light to the basement entry, and hey, without it, The Da Vinci Code wouldn’t be much of a story.

Views of the Louvre lobby enlightened by the new glass pyramid

Next time on Boat Shmoat… What we saw at the Louvre!

Boat Shmoat, We’re Going to Paris – Part 11

February 5, 2007 Posted by fairviewsue

Friday we were meeting with the real estate agent provided by the company to find expatriate housing in Paris. We met with Madame T in her office in downtown Paris. She was in her forties with professionally styled hair, slim, well dressed and had lavender business cards that were scented. She was very personable, as one might expect from one in her profession.

We both got into her car and she drove us past schools, which we told her we had no interest in, and told us about hospitals and medical care in general. She then took us to see the typical expatriate housing. We both nearly screamed. It was awful. The housing was like mini cookie-cutter housing developments, where all the houses look alike and are tiny boxes of ticky-tacky with faux shrubbery and lawns. Each parcel was the size of a postage stamp. It all looked fake and awful. There was no feeling of community whatsoever and certainly was not our idea of living in Paris at all. There was the patina of ‘temporary’. She told us that this was where the English speaking expatriates lived, such as Americans, British, and Australians. The prices were no bargain either. We could barely afford even a one bedroom house in this hellish nightmare of an area.

We told her, no, this was not what we were interested in. We wanted to see something in a village setting close to Paris. She seemed at a loss. We checked our maps and located the nearby town of St. Germain-en-Laye, which was the next suburb Westward out from La Defense. She shook her head, but took us there. This was the place we wanted to live in. It had French country town written all over it. We went by old buildings such as churches and chateaus, the little quaint town center, then cute little houses. We asked some prices and they were about the same as the expatriate hell hole we just left. Madame T was quick to explain that it was hard to find a house here because the houses were held in families for generations and people did not move that much. But, she also mentioned that the town was served by the Metro. Sean and I just looked at each other and we were off in our dreams again. We could live here. It would be a short commute to work for me every day.

The church of St. Germain

The Chateau at St. Germain

Streetscapes and houses in our price range in St. Germain. Aren’t they to die for cute?

Boat Shmoat, We’re Going to Paris – Part 10

January 29, 2007 Posted by fairviewsue

The next morning, Sean was scheduled to meet with the company’s career counselor at La Defense. So we both took the metro there together and Sean was anxious to see the building, as he is an architect and also the company’s offices. We breakfasted at the CNIT place and had café with chocolate croissants before his meeting at 10:00 am.

Sean was duly impressed with the building and we both had our daily passes manufactured while we waiting to get into the company offices. While he was meeting with the career counselor, I had the opportunity to ask Monsieur P if the car was left out of the contract by oversight. He replied that at my level there is no car in France. I said that Ms. S (of the manicured nails) told me there would be a car, and he answered that Ms. S must not know anything about company cars in France. (To be said in Steve Martin voice: Well excuse me!) France differs from all of Europe in respect to company cars. He indicated that I would have to be an entire level higher to get a car. Bottom line: no car. I thanked him for clarifying that and left.

Sean was finished with his meeting and while impressed that the company had made an effort to help with placing the spouse in a career, not that impressed with the effort itself. Sean had already covered the bases the company had suggested such as, going to professional journals, networking with professional friends, checking local papers, etc. Our next appointment was at 2 pm with a lawyer that the company used to arrange my work visa. So, we took the metro to a location near his office in central Paris to have lunch.

We were both kind of flummoxed that France does not give cars to people at my level, because first it was promised and second, that would be a deal breaker for us. It represented $10 grand at least, which was not being covered any place else. Part of our plan of being in Paris was to drive around and see Europe on the weekends and one needs a car for that. So we were deep into discussion of this, when our change from the lunch tab was brought. I counted it and we were short by 20 francs. Fuck. I had to go yell at the garçon and in French no less. He probably saw upset Americans who were unfamiliar with the currency and thought we wouldn’t notice we were being ripped off.

So I rushed up to him and yelled something like, “Give me the money fast!!!” It was the best I could muster quickly. He did, looking sheep faced and without apology. We rushed out of there without leaving any tip.

We made it to the lawyer’s office in plenty of time. Monsieur R met with both of us and was most kindly as he explained that a work visa for me would be very straight forward as I would be sponsored by the company and could work in France for 2 years. I would be required to go back to the U.S. for one month per year. We went over the paper requirements for me. When it came out that my father was born in Austria there was a bit of excitement. Monsieur R phoned the Austrian Embassy to see if I could claim my Austrian citizenship, but in a rather pissy tone the man at the embassy told me that my father surrendered his Austrian citizenship to join the American Army to fight in WWII and thus I was not eligible to become an Austrian citizen. Well, be that way. Hold a grudge. See if I care. It was exciting for a minute there though.

Monsieur R also mentioned that unemployment was high in France, at about 12%, and it would be tough for Sean to find a job and many French would see competition from Sean in a negative light. He also noted that Sean would have a difficult time not being fluent in the native tongue. Sean would have to stay on a travel visa until he could find employment and get a work visa. We thanked Monsieur R profusely and left.

We decided to shop on the Champs Élysées our way back to the hotel. Everything was so expensive. We wandered into a dress shop for children that was having a half price sale on summer dresses. There we bought two three beautiful handmade dresses for my niece that looked something like the ones pictured below. The dresses had lots of floral patterns with lace and hand work. They were to die for pretty. (She loved them and so did her mom.) How many little girls get their dresses from Paris? I ask you.

We got back to the hotel and decided to eat someplace at bit more exotic and less expensive that night. So we went out for Indian food. We found a small place near the hotel and ordered typical foods as we would at home. It was all wonderful, especially the cheese naan.

We asked the server what the cheese was in the naan, and he said, “Oh, it is just a local cheese that we buy at the street market.” We knew that this was true. Street markets could be found all over Paris. People would shop during the day, and then use the food bought there for dinner that night. Freshness was the daily mantra for the French cooks. You couldn’t go wrong with French cheese, meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit or wine carefully bought at these markets it seemed. Oh and they sold flowers for the table too.