New day. New beginning. I was anxious to erase the disaster of the previous day’s excursion from my memory. What better way to do that than to set upon the task of transitioning to France. I needed to open a French bank account to rent an apartment so a visit to the bank was in order. I arrived only to realize it was Monday and it was closed. Ah yes, Monday in France. This was going to take some getting used to. Paris, the epicenter of all things French, was not quite as rigid in their Monday rule as the surrounding areas so I did find another branch open. Of course, it had just closed for the requisite 2 hour lunch.
My mother was a professional musician and in our house, our life’s canvas was painted with sound. Everything was to a backdrop of music: Classical, Jazz, Gospel, Streisand, Ray, Ella. Each memory with its own soundtrack making my life much more about the journey than the destination. So I queued my playlist and set off on the hour long walk across town.
After a brief lunch at a not so great cafe, I waltzed into the bank. I figured I’d go in, fill out some paperwork, show some ID and voila! You know, basically how we do it in the states. That was a pipe dream. When I mentioned this seemingly reasonable concept to the bank rep she chuckled and said ‘Oh no, you won’t be able to open an account in a day, it takes weeks.’ And on that note, my foray into French banking was ended – for the time being at least.
Anne suggested I go to an area not far from La Tour Eiffel to shop for a few last gifts. It was an opportunity to see my favorite Paris landmark. The Eiffel Tower is my touchstone to France. It makes it more real somehow. I spent the day walking up and down cute little streets, snacking on milkshakes and chocolate. It was a charming area not overrun by tourists and there were plenty of shops perfect for browsing. I sat in the park and enjoyed people watching for the better part of the afternoon.
Around 7pm, I found my way to Anne’s office. This was to be our first meeting. As I told you before, my friends have been a great help whenever I am in need and this was no exception. Connected through a mutual friend, Anne graciously agreed to show me around while I was in town. Since I was meeting her at work, I assumed she would be dressed in business attire, so I tried to wear something a little more professional. Within the confines of what I had actually packed, the choices were somewhat limited. So when I walked into the building, I immediately felt under dressed. I run my own company so business attire is not foreign to me. But I didn’t pack any of that for this trip. Why would I? It had started rainy heavily on my way to her office so in addition to being under dressed, I looked like a wet rat when I arrived. Can you say mortified? Imagine sitting in a huge lobby, raggedy and soaking wet, surrounded by high level executives dressed in expensive suits and perfectly coiffured hair. I wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear. This is not a sensation I am familiar with. In this arena, I excel. I am always comfortable. I belong. But not this day. I felt like a fish out of water. You can imagine my relief when Anne finally came downstairs.
We headed outside where it had miraculously stopped raining. (FYI: It only rained long enough to make me look like a homeless person when I arrived at her office. After that, it was all sunshine) We made our way to the Champs Elysees. Anne needed to make an appointment at the hair salon and this was a great opportunity for me to find a place that would be able to deal with the unruly mess on top of my head. It takes a certain skill set to deal with my hair (one I still don’t have) and having this info in my back pocket was one less thing to worry about later.
We left the salon and headed to one of Anne’s favorite restaurants. Anne is vegan. Yes, a vegan in France. The very first thing that crossed my mind when she told me this was ‘What could you possibly eat here in the land of cheese, pork and cream?’ If France faced a shortage of any one of these items, the entire country would surely collapse. I don’t even think there’s a word in French for ‘vegan’. I tried explaining this concept to the waiter in my limited French and received blank stares and a hauty attitude. I don’t know how she does it, but I don’t envy her. There are enough challenges to overcome without adding that to the list.
After dinner, I hopped in a cab and headed back to the apartment. As we approached Montmartre, I asked the driver about the neighborhood. He said that it had gone through many phases and although it was very bad just a few years ago (there were riots) they were now rebuilding it. He said the stores and clubs were reopening and in a few years it would be unrecognizable restored to its former glory. His optimism surprised me. Looking out the window, I was a bit skeptical.
I packed up my things and left for the airport the next morning. I was going back to New York with a renewed sense of purpose and a herculean task before me. ‘The Expedition’ was over and the decision had been made. I was moving to France. In my gut, I knew it was the right step but making it a reality was another matter.
My time in France had been enlightening. There were many reasons I wanted to move, chief among them was the loss of my mother and best friend. I hadn’t experienced a single panic attack in France, something that had plagued me since she died a few months before. This alone was enough of a reason to move. I needed a break from the oppressive weight of my grief and the distraction of moving to France seemed like a good one. It would take quite a bit of planning. Moving myself, my cats and a horse across a continent would require some serious thought and an abundance of cash, the source of which was still unknown but if my sanity was to be preserved, I had to try.
The next few months were going to be interesting.