You’d be surprised how much time (and money) you spend furnishing an apartment from scratch. If you think about it, you rarely if ever, need to do it. You have stuff from your parent’s house, things from your first apartment, house warming gifts, etc…. But none of this exists when you move 4,000 miles away to a foreign country where you know no one. And the little stuff adds up pretty quickly.
After spending the day with Audrey, I came home and hopped online to do a bit of research. I can’t speak for the rest of France but Chartres is woefully inept when it comes to websites and online information. I haven’t yet figured out why (A salient detail if I want to ultimately market to the companies here.) but it tends to make everything a much more hands on process which means lots of trips to the stores.
The appliances were easy enough to find. After finalizing the apartment, I ordered everything to be delivered later that week. The furniture was much more complicated. Let’s just say the French don’t share my aesthetic when it comes to decorating. You have two choices –Baroque Antique or Modern Chic which looks more like rejects from That 70s Show. They sell lava lamps everywhere. I don’t mean in novelty stores, I mean they sell them in actual stores. Everything is in black lacquer or some kind of cheap pressed wood. And they have some kind of fixation with the color red that I don’t understand. Red cabinets?! No, thank you. There is very little in the way of variation and everything is ridiculously expensive.
Since I was not inclined towards the Playboy Mansion styled decor, it took longer to furnish the apartment than I planned. Add to the fact that anything not ‘antique’ required assembly, (I hate assembling furniture) and my inquiries were less about aesthetic choices and more about whether I had to read yet another schematic in French or German.
After being talked into purchasing a bed that I didn’t really like, (non-existent negotiating skills) I attempted to return it and cancel the delivery. The French are not fans of returns of any kind. You need to really be committed to getting your money back. It’s a royal pain in the ass. Instead, I exchanged it for a better mattress with no bed frame. I figured I could sleep with the mattress on the floor until I found another solution.
The appliances arrived separately and there was one really funny day worthy of an I Love Lucy skit that saw me running back and forth from one apartment to the other three times in the span of an hour because the deliveries kept showing up. I’d arrive back at the duplex and as I walked in the door, my phone would ring and I would have to turn right back around and head back over to the apartment. It got really ridiculous after a while.
Deliveries in France are different than in the States. There are a dozen different companies that can deliver your mail or packages. Add to that the fact that time is a fluid construct here, and you never really know when anything is getting delivered. This may also explain why shopping in person is more popular than online. As a diehard Amazoner this change has not come easy. (I still shop on Amazon France. The mailman comes in for coffee he’s here so often. What can I say, old habits…)
The cable box or “Le Box” as they call it was sent to a relay point. After picking it up, I needed to set it up in the apartment. Two days and many expletives later, I was ready to throw the damn box out the window. I eventually figured out how to get the wifi running. It was time to bring the kitties over.
Cats are savant at knowing when something’s up. I had packed everything to bring to the new place. When I got back to the duplex, I could only find 2 of the 4 cats. After many futile attempts to coax them out of hiding, I collected the boys and left the girls behind. Within minutes of arriving, another cat appeared through the window. The word was out. There were some new felines on the block and everyone was curious about their NY Cattitude. (coined by my friend Amy – I thought it was too cute not to share.) The staring contest you see below went on for a VERY long time.
I returned to the duplex for the girls. I needed to make one more trip to clean up. I kept the place quite clean during our stay, but leaving a great impression on Virginie was paramount because trusting me with four cats in her house was no small gesture. I didn’t want her to have any regrets.
The cats adjusted pretty quickly. Not happy with the lack of adequate hiding spaces, they found creative ways to stay out of sight. After having one cat get stuck behind the washing machine and another behind the fridge, I decided I needed some emergency feng shui. I organized the furniture as best I could to minimize potential cat accidents and focused my attention on dinner.
All of my cooking utensils, plates, pots, etc. were floating across the ocean in the car. In terms of cooking, I was still keeping it simple and picking up mostly pre-prepared foods. But now that I was in my apartment, I could branch out a bit so a real trip to the supermarket was in order.
It had taken almost 2 weeks, but I eventually figured out the whole shopping cart thing. It’s actually quite brilliant. Based, I’m certain, on the rental cart in the airport concept, you need a coin to extract the cart and the coin is returned to you when you return it. This basically alleviates the problem of rogue carts and the need to pay a person solely for the purpose of collecting them. The problem is, if you don’t know this, you spend a good portion of your time searching for carts that aren’t even in the damn store. This combined with the fact that they don’t use plastic bags in the supermarches (you have to bring your own, which I always forgot to do) every trip to the store was an adventure.
I had just started dinner and was finishing cleaning when an acrid odor filled my nostrils and the kitchen began filling up with smoke. Shit. What now?