Friday, March 4, 2011

From Chateau Rouge to Gare de l'Est

Life in Paris continues as normal with very little worthy of mention. Consequently, it has been several months since I posted anything on this blog. The majority of staff members at Breakfast in America have left Paris to return to their home countries and we have an almost entirely new team, of which, I have been made Assistant Manager – a small point, perhaps worth mentioning.

Upon returning to Paris after the Christmas break and finding my room black with mould and smelling heavily of damp I made the decision to, at any cost, get as far away from that disgusting apartment as possible. Meeting up with several friends in London whilst in the UK reminded me of how much I miss them. However I was still left with mixed feelings about once again moving to the capital and immersing myself in the corporate competitiveness that comes with working in an office in London. Getting out of Chateau Rouge is, however, my number one priority and, for the moment anyway, I have accomplished this. The General Manager at work, Darrin, has gone on holiday for a month to Mauritius and New Zealand and, during that month, I will be staying in his apartment at Gare de l’Est (my old quartier) looking after his sweet and enormously fat cat Fifi.

My feelings towards the apartment at Chateau Rouge quickly deteriorated as winter took hold and seeped cold into every corner of my room. My flatmate, who claimed to be completing his thesis whilst looking for a job was, in fact, doing neither and I’m not sure he left the apartment the entire time I lived there. Knowing that I would come home every day to find him ensconced in his room with breakfast and lunch dishes piled high in the kitchen accompanied by a sickly sweet smell of incense, of which he was a great fan, was hugely dispiriting. On the days he deigned to get up early I would be woken by the sound of him thudding down the corridor towards the bathroom, the whir of the fan and the sound of him hocking up the night’s phlegm into the bathroom sink – a habit I fail to understand and which I find absolutely disgusting. In the summer his parents came to stay in Paris. Rather than booking a hotel they stayed in our apartment and he stayed with a friend. For a month. I endured his non French, non English speaking parents for a month and I think this was the point at which I realised, in relation to my flatmate, I had not chosen well.

Darrin’s apartment is, by Parisian standards, pretty luxurious. There’s central heating, double glazing and a distinct lack of mouldy walls. There is also a multitude of gadgets and home cinema equipment. This ranges from a robot hoover to a giant projector screen enabling me to watch Supernatural on the equivalent of a 50 inch plasma screen together with a whole host of other quality dramas saved on the hard drive. I feel very relaxed here. There’s no conflict over the bathroom and kitchen (except when Fifi jumps in the sink for a quick drink just as I’m about to brush my teeth) and the apartment is warm and quiet.

Moving in Paris is a perpetual nightmare and this occasion was no different. Having packed my clothes into two enormous suitcases I proceeded to utilise a selection of carrier bags for my books, electronics, DVDs and toiletries. My ever-faithful friend Rose came over to help with the move and we ordered a taxi. The driver took one look at the array of possessions, closely resembling those of a bag lady, muttered that he didn’t do déménagements (moving) and left. The next half hour was spent fruitlessly searching for a taxi around Chateau Rouge. Eventually I found one and managed to convince the driver to take me, along with half of my more cumbersome belongings, whilst Rose waited for a second taxi she had ordered. She would then follow with the suitcases.

It wasn’t until later that evening, after we had enjoyed a delicious Indian meal at a restaurant a short walk from Gare de l’Est, that, upon surveying my belongings, I realised that a bag containing all manner of crucial items was missing. I frantically called Rose and my flatmate both of whom remembered the bag in question but not having seen it in a taxi. I had checked both taxis anyway and there was nothing left in either one. Nevertheless, I contacted several taxi companies over the course of the next few days as well as Les Objets Perdus office in the 15th but to no avail. I can only assume that someone stole it from the entrance to my old apartment building as we loaded up the first taxi which was parked a little way down the street. My flatmate had propped the door open and followed us down to the taxi as Rose and I were loading things into the boot thus leaving all my belongings unattended. Perhaps the most important item that was in that bag was my passport.

Having grown used to French bureaucracy and things being as difficult as possible in Paris, it was with some trepidation that I paid a visit to the British Embassy. Once past the surly French security I was led into a warm, modern office with a reassuring photo of the Queen smiling out from behind the desk – I smiled myself as I noticed the English plug sockets dotted around the walls. Rather than being faced with endless sighs and cries of ‘oh la la’ the girl behind the desk explained efficiently that I had only to complete one form and provide passport photos and a new passport would be issued within five days! They didn’t even need any original documents – a huge relief since my birth certificate is in the UK and, when I think about it, probably lost too. I’m now waiting for my new passport to arrive whilst searching for a new apartment – it won’t be long before Darrin is back and I will have to move again. I pray the next time will go smoothly.