Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hot Time in Paris

It has been another day of record heat in Paris.  As a result, other than a walk to the Eiffel Tower this morning (when it was still relatively cool), our sightseeing mostly has been limited to touring the inside of stores with air conditioning (note that the French concept of air conditioning is to place a large portable AC unit near the door to create an initial blast of cool air, but to keep all of the doors open to assure that the temperature in the store never goes below 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Actually, our time in the stores was probably more educational than any sightseeing tour.  Figuring out how to do the simple things such as grocery shopping is really daunting for me and would be almost impossible if Bronwyn was not fluent in French.  Most of the products in the stores are just enough different that I can spend several minutes just trying to figure out if a box contains laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent or something else.  

Today our big accomplishment was getting month-long subway passes.  Hopefully, we got the right kind of pass because there were a multitude of options.  Even getting the pictures required for the passes was difficult.   We knew that we were supposed to bring to the subway office small min-passport photos which would be placed on the subway pass, but we couldn't quite figure out where to get the mini-photos.  Eventually, we were directed to a photo booth in the subway and the fun began. The photo booth had a long succession of screens with instructions that were mostly indecipherable to me (we did decipher that no smiling is allowed in the photo).  The photo booth automatically determined whether the photo complied with official standards and it prompted you to retake the photo if it concluded that the photo was inadequate.  After several tries, Bronwyn and Joan managed to get a photo that the machine deemed acceptable (photos that make mugshots look flattering), but I was never able to get a photo the ;machine deemed acceptable.  Eventually, I just printed some substandard photos and fortunately the man giving us the passes never looked at my photos to see whether they had the official stamp of approval (which they did not).

If something relatively simple like getting a subway pass or buying soap is challenging, you would have really enjoyed watching us trying to investigate different types of cell phone plans.  The options are baffling and the clerks seemed to be trying to sell us the most expensive option possible.  It sounded like we were being told that it would be cheaper to buy a new phone than simply put a French sim card into our unlocked iPhones, which is what the guidebooks say is the best option.  We gave up before we started a discussion about exactly what type of plan to purchase, but I think that we understood correctly that we have to open a French bank account before they would even consider putting us on anything other than a prepaid plan for tourists.  Thus, tomorrow we try to open a French bank account (in addition to registering with the French police as required by our visa).  It is sure to be another fun day navigating the French bureaucracy.  I've tried to research French banks, but it is difficult to compare "apples to apples" so I've decided that my sole criteria will be whether the bank offices are air conditioned.

(By the way, for some reason, Google assumes that I speak French when I use the web in France, thus I have no idea which button to click to publish this blog entry.)

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