Bibliophiles in Paris

If you speak English and you like books, you have to go to Shakespeare & Co., just across the Seine from Notre Dame. Everyone knows this, which is why the little warren of narrow corridors and the single stairway among the stacks and stacks of books is a perpetual human traffic jam. If you suffer from claustrophobia, just take a picture from outside and move on.

We’ve seen plenty of bookshops in Paris, but it was a pleasure to find one full of ones we could read. I picked up a copy of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (I read most of it in a day–you can see my review on Goodreads) and had a nice chat with the American from California who sold it to me. He’s also a writer who came to Paris–and decided to stay. Hmm…

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The cat that lives in the shop


Looking across the Seine

Perhaps even better than visiting Shakespeare & Co. was getting to the American Library near the Eiffel Tower and getting a membership. Like Shakespeare & Co., they’ve packed as many books as possible in their rows and rows of shelves. We promptly checked out eleven books.


Crossing the bridge to get to the library

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The stacks and our stack

We were at the library on Saturday, a big day for weddings; crossing the bridge back to our side of the river we passed two different couples getting photographed as well as a modelling shoot (I didn’t get a picture of that).

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Amid all the moving in, some of our highlights so far have been reconnecting with friends who have happened to be in Paris as well. Last Sunday we met our friends (and pastor), the Trainers, at the American Church in Paris for their afternoon service. From there we enjoyed a lunch at a cafe on Rue Cler and then crossed the Seine to the Avenue Champs Elysées. We picked up heavenly macaroons at Ladurée and ogled expensive cars (in the showroom and on the street). The kids had fun imitating the scary looking representation of Liberty on the Arc de Triomphe before heading down to see the Eiffel Tower.


Friends on the Seine


…and dreaming of cute cars


The Arc de Triomphe

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Getting Liberty’s expression just right

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Enjoying the late afternoon with a familiar view


Sunset in the Marais district

On Tuesday we met one of my friends from college who now lives in Brussels. We did our best to catch up on the last twenty years!


I think Glen and I look a bit older than we did in college…


A kind of summer “Christmas market” is currently set up along the river in front of the Tower

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Some of Carolyn’s shots of the Tower

Adventures in shopping

Getting the kitchen set up has been the most work since we’ve moved into the apartment. Each time we make another meal, we discover something else we don’t have… like aluminum foil, saran wrap, paper towels… and so on. It wasn’t too hard to find those at one of the markets. But many other things I’ve taken for granted we’ve discovered are nowhere to be found in our kitchen–usually when we need them. I had to use a coffee cup to mix up a dressing since there isn’t any kind of pitcher or even a measuring cup (or measuring spoons). Evelyn picked up a little “cheese and bacon crisp bake” from the British food store and we discovered there wasn’t a baking sheet to heat it up on.

We do, however have plenty of tea sets and loads of sugar in little packets. We also have some great things like escargot utensils, a selection of pastry crimpers, and a wooden holder for protecting your hand while you open oysters. (I’m sure we’ll be putting all of those to use right away!)

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We’ve gone shopping at four different groceries in the neighborhood. We found a large Monoprix with a pretty good selection of everything in the lower level of a small shopping mall here in the Passy neighborhood–it even has a Starbucks (Carolyn’s has high hopes for some frappuccinos). There’s another Monoprix even closer, although from the street all we could see was clothing and makeup. But sure enough, tucked way in the back it had a small grocery. Marks & Spencer has plenty of cool imported items; we picked up some cheddar cheese, some Scottish salmon, and Evelyn’s crisp bakes as well as stroopwafles (a family favorite) and honeycomb candy (another family favorite).


Today we went to yet another grocery called Luce and stocked up on more basics, like spices (since we had none), Milka hot chocolate (yes!), keurig capsules (since we have one of those now–I’d never used one before), a new kind of peanut butter to try, tomato soup, rice, and more.

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Oh, and we also picked up some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Paris isn’t so different from home after all!

Arrival in the City of Light

On French soil
We made it! From Seattle to Vegas to JFK and at last to L’aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle. That’s the routing you get when you book with mileage on Alaska—a bit more involved than the direct flight from Seattle, but we got here all the same. Customs turned out to be a breeze–we literally walked right up and showed our passports with our hard-earned visas. The officer gave me a brief look, said nothing, stamped them all and waved us through. Since customs took almost no time at all, we ended up waiting a while for our car to arrive. But once it did, we quickly got into the city and to our hotel for the first night. After getting settled in the hotel (and naps for everyone) we took a walk around the neighborhood. We found our apartment and then walked from there to the girls’ school—just six minutes away (450 meters according to Google). We were so jet-lagged, none of us felt like going to a restaurant, so we grabbed some things at a local market and ate back in the hotel room before staying up as late as we could to try to get on Paris time (not that it worked!).

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The steps down to The International School of Paris on rue Beethoven


A view just a few blocks from the girls’ school


Dinner back at the hotel

Setting up house On Saturday, August 1st, we moved into our apartment at 20 rue Raynouard in the Passy neighborhood of the 16th arrondissement, on the west side of the Seine. It was only a ten minute walk from the hotel, but our checked baggage was so heavy we got a taxi to get all of our things there!


The front door

These first days were definitely unlike normal days of being a tourist. We went shopping at a couple of different grocery stores and a pharmacie down the street. We spent our first few hours unpacking and trying to figure out where everything in the apartment is (still not done with that task). In our first two days here we didn’t use the Metro at all! We rented a furnished apartment, which is much easier than renting an empty place. Still, we’ve had things to buy, and we keep discovering more things we don’t have yet. I’m sure that will continue for a while. I made dinner our first night here and then realized there are no napkins or paper towels of any kind in the apartment. I’m still not sure if there are measuring cups. I’ve found one piece of tupperware.

IMG_5905 IMG_5907 IMG_5908 The decor is wonderful, but not exactly what we’re used to… and alas, the gramophone doesn’t appear to have worked in a long time…


Ready to make our first dinner in the apartment

We have managed to get some nice views of la tour Eiffel and enjoyed les jardins du Trocadéro (the park with the big fountains and pools opposite the Tower). We even saw the police chase down what appeared to be a rogue trinket seller and corner him by the fountains. Such excitement in our first few days!


The Tower at night

Shopping for essentials… and a shocking discovery!
The fridge was bare, of course, so we made an initial shopping trip for some basics (eggs, cheese, ketchup, mustard, tomato sauce, etc.). We’ve learned—much to Carolyn’s disappointment—that cheddar cheese is almost impossible to come by. Apparently in this land of hundreds of cheeses, cheddar is scoffed at as hardly even a real cheese, although we found some Emmental that made for some tasty omelets as well as one called saint-félicien that’s not bad. (Carolyn’s comment to her friends on Instagram: “What will we do? How will I live!?! These are the questions in my head.”) Well, this is part of why we came, right? To live in another culture. So I picked up some orange colored cheese called mimolette. It turned out to be a French version of edam and one of the closest things to cheddar we’ll be able to get. Learn more about the lack of cheddar in France here.


Evelyn stocking the fridge

We’re glad to have wifi, and relieved it’s been easy to connect to. I’ve even gotten my Macbook to recognize the printer! We also have a landline (haven’t had one of those in years). There aren’t many outlets—we’ll be swapping things in and out of the two outlets in the kitchen a lot, I fear. On Sunday, we met our some friends at the American Church in Paris for the service and spent the day together–but that’s for another post.