Just as I was adjusting to greeting everyone with an Hola! it was time to switch gears. Bonjour! I arrived in Paris on Monday night. I caught a late afternoon flight out of Madrid and since the rental agency had mailed me my Paris apartment keys in advance, it was up to me to figure out exactly where I was going. It was fairly easy - bus from the airport to Opera metro station to Pont Neuf metro station. As I walked out of the metro station at Pont Neuf, the below two images greeted me. I stood there in shock, mumbled something under my breath to the effect of "I can't believe this" and looked at quintessential Paris - the Seine River and in the distance, the Eiffel Tower (complete with light show).
According to my map, the Pont Neuf station was only a couple of blocks from my apartment. I crossed the bridge at Pont Neuf as shown in the above picture, and I was on my street. Once I found the apartment building, the rental agency had given me precise instructions on the code to get in the door, where light switches were in the main building (since it was dark when I arrived), which halls to walk down to go toward my apartment, etc. It was a little tricky, and I wouldn't have found it without their instructions, especially in the dark. What I didn't know in advance, however, was that I had to climb three circular staircases carrying 40 lbs of luggage (and another good 20 lbs on my back). Uh, yeah, I'm seeking out a post office in the next day or two to YET AGAIN mail stuff back to the States.
The weather the past few days hasn't been great, so I've mostly been getting acclimated to the neighborhood and walking around when it wasn't raining. It took me almost an entire day to find a grocery store, but I eventually did where all the products were in French (naturally), and I had to rely on pictures to figure out what I was getting. Buy the milk with the picture of the cow on it - not the goat! Other than the grocery store, my inability to speak French doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. I figure that if I just keep throwing out some well timed merci's and s'il vous plait's it will be fine. So far, so good!
I woke up to a beautiful day today - sunny and low 70s. The French Open is currently taking place in Paris, and I've been wanting to see one of the Grand Slam tournaments for a long time. I checked the Roland Garros website this morning to find out who was playing today - Nadal vs. Hewitt. Perfect! Tickets have been officially sold out for some time (unless you want a grounds ticket - entitling you only to be inside Roland Garros stadium but no access to watch matches other than on the small courts), but my brother directed me to a reputable online site for tickets. To watch the Nadal match today, it would cost $395 for an upper level ticket and $595 for a lower level ticket. Yeah... that wasn't exactly in the travel budget. So assuming like any other good sporting match there would be scalpers around the stadium, I set out that way. Sure enough, there were scalpers everywhere. I was willing to pay 100 Euros for a ticket - I wasn't happy about that, but I was willing. As I walked from the metro station outside the stadium to the stadium gates I talked to several scalpers, and they weren't budging off 200 Euros a ticket. I just couldn't pay that, so I turned to walk back to the metro station.
As I was walking away, an older lady stopped me and asked me in broken English how many tickets I needed. I told her one. She gestured at me with a ticket and said (what I later learned to mean), "One coke and a sandwich." I shook my head and said, "I don't understand. How much would you like for the ticket?" She repeated, "One coke and a sandwich." This time I understood. I asked if she was sure and she said something to the effect of her husband had not been able to make it, that he was sick and to follow her. So I did. We got into the stadium, headed for our gate and next thing I knew I was sitting in a lower level (with shade) seat for free! Well, free minus one coke and a sandwich.
The first match I saw was Gonzalez vs. Ouanna. Ouanna is French, so of course he was the crowd favorite, but Gonzalez won. Then it was time for Nadal vs. Hewitt. It was amazing to see a player like Nadal, but it really wasn't much of a match considering he beat Hewitt pretty quickly. After that was over, the stadium really cleared out. The next match was Sharapova vs. Shvedova, and I stayed for a few minutes to watch Sharapova play.
As I was on the way back to the apartment, I turned to walk down my street, Rue Dauphine, and saw one of the coolest things ever - a woman wearing a charcoal gray pencil skirt, black dress shirt, black leather belt, black heels and... a pink helmut while riding a white Vespa. Only in Paris. Tres chic!