an american in paris: day 1

When I was crowned “America’s Next Top Citizen” last year, my first order of business was applying for a US passport. I had no plans to go anywhere at the time, but I felt like it was necessary. Not only because it’s easier to carry that around as proof of citizenship ($90, relatively easy to replace if lost or stolen) than my naturalization certificate ($675 to replace or current cost of naturalization, really effin’ hard to replace if lost or stolen), but because I like funny looking ID. Not ID where I look funny but ID that just looks ugly or weird. I had to see those oddly patriotic pages myself in my own passport and boy was I not disappointed.

Then I remembered that I hadn’t traveled much in the last decade. My purse was stolen my senior year of college, and at the time my purse contained my green card and passport. Why it had those items, I’ll never know, as my bag was stolen at a thrift store in Albany Park, but whatever. I thought losing my green card would get me in trouble, so it took me years to get it replaced. Which ended up not being a huge deal at all.

I had a green card, so that and my Philippine passport enabled me to travel to Maria and Clancy’s Whistler wedding in February 2008. Canada was no big deal, as I didn’t need a visa to get in. If I wanted to go just about anywhere else, I’d need to prove I wasn’t trying to be an overseas employee or bride in order to get there. Which was really annoying and insulting. I was practically American, anyway, may as well make it official (“If you liked it, then you should have put a citizenship on it”…)

So international travel for me is a big deal. Exercising my right as an American to go anywhere without the hassle of having to get a visa and be as ugly and rude and fast as I want to be. Of course, the words I’ve said the most in the 17 hours that I’ve been here have been pardon and merci. But it’s also important because I missed out on the years my friend Kevin worked for a major airline and I didn’t get to tag long on cheap, fun trips to Europe and South America like our other pals, and I want to make up for lost time.

So here I am in Paris. Khloe and Jeff invited a few friends to accompany them as they took their baby Coco on what should be the first of many trips to the City of Lights for her. It’s been over 16 years since I was last here, so I took them up on their offer. I bought my ticket, bought an international data plan for my iPhone, and scraped together the money for lodging, food, and souvenirs.

The flight: I took some cold medicine in the hope that I’d be drowsy enough to sleep on the 8 hour flight but no such luck. Being a nervous flier, my nerves kept me up. Which was okay. Bumps were pretty mild and it’s comforting to travel with friends. It’s very soothing to watch an infant sleep on an airplane. Flight attendants were brisk. The flight itself was pretty full. I didn’t notice any extra security measures except for the extra patdowns for randomly selected passengers at the gate. Food was not great but it was there and I was starving.

(Basically this whole day has been an exercise in starvation. As a diabetic, I need to be mindful that I must have snacks on me at all times.)

From Roissy to Marais: Arrived and the immigration dude didn’t even look at me when he stamped my passport. I can’t say that I blame him – I look as dangerous as a sad panda. For some reason, the first Roissybus into the city passed us. We had to wait another 20 minutes, and then it was like gravy. The gray morning light did wonders for my complexion, which is the result of a poor diet, hormonal issues, and lack of fresh air. Meanwhile, a crowd of cute Italian teenagers at the back of the bus were appropriately fresh faced and healthy looking. Assholes. Getting off at the Opera, we make our way to the Metro station where my attempts to buy a carnet were unsuccessful. Jeff gave me some change to buy a single billet, enough to get us to our rental apartment off the purple line.

Turenne: Fabien is the adorable dude from the rental agency who welcomes us to the building, gives us keys, a tour of the place, and instructions on how things work. Fabien shows us through a huge blue door into a lovely courtyard. We walk past the chirping birds, pets belonging to some residents on the ground floor. There is another blue door, a lift the size of my ass, and then the apartment (more blue doors!). The apartment is airy and bright and has all these lovely places for lying down. Because I am so tired. Also there is wi-fi and cable tv. After Fabien leaves, we settle in, Jeff showers, Khloe organizes, the baby settles down, I write up some notes, and then we all fall asleep for three hours even though we said we probably shouldn’t. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I haven’t eaten since 7:00 AM local time. This could get ugly. Jeff thinks it’s hilarious that while I set an alarm to wake me up from my nap, I ignored it for a good 90 minutes instead of getting up.

Cafe des Phares/Le Petite Bofinger: Before dinner, Khloe and I get a few items for the apartment. I get a better sense of the Marais, which Khloe likens to River North in Chicago. It’s commercial but not overtly touristy. I still feel pretty welcome. Dinner-wise, casual and inexpensive (well, for Paris, anyway) is the name of the game, so we walk to Bofinger for some prix fixe action. Naturally, we’re 45 minutes early for dinner, so we go to the cafe around the corner where we can kill time until their 7:00 opening. I drink mulled wine with my diabetes pills. Delicious. Dinner at Bofinger was really tasty – I had the seabream, which came with green beans and lima beans. We all got dessert, tastes of which we fed to the baby. She liked my creme brulee best. Khloe talked about the structure of the city, and how it’s optimized for suppressing dissent. Thanks, Napoleon! I thought it was great stuff, so clearly we’re going to the military museum at some point. The other thing about visiting these two places is that I felt like we were obviously American but nobody seemed to mind at all. Which was cool but at the same time I’m kinda miffed that I could be “made” as an American so easily. Ironic considering I started this post talking about becoming a citizen, blah blah blah. This reminds me, also, that this TSA lady at O’Hare asked me if I was “from Alaska”, which I take to be code for Inuit.

After-dinner: Walked back to apartment. Khloe wanted to go for a leisurely walk. I ended up going even though I felt tired. I brought my too-warm coat, which I ended up wearing as a cape when I wasn’t carrying it over my arm like it was a fucking duvet. I think I looked crazy. Just the look when walking the streets of the hipster-filled Marais – me all sweaty (it’s been raining on and off), broken out with frizzy hair, no makeup, and wearing a sweaty down coat over my shoulders. Bonjours, Paris!

Note: Daily iPhone photo dump located here.

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