We are now three weeks into our sabbatique, and life in Montreuil is starting to feel more permanent. Some of you have asked what daily life looks like now that we’re jobless in a foreign city, so I’ll fill you in on what we’ve been up to so far.
I wouldn’t say we’ve found a daily routine so much as a weekly routine. Our weeks (all three of them) have started to revolve around the markets. There are two markets that we’ve been alternating between. One is smaller and closer to our house, and the other is much larger and a bit more of a walk. We hit the small one on Wednesdays (although it’s also open on Saturdays), and we take a family trip (up to eight of us, if the neighbors join) to the big market every Sunday. The food at the market is light years better than most anything you can find in the grocery store, and it’s usually cheaper. But don’t try to serve yourself, or you’ll be quickly scolded by a cranky old woman who knows how to keep her operation in order — and it doesn’t involve you touching her produce.
We’ve also been trying to force ourselves to workout regularly. While the weather is still nice, we’ve been heading to Parc Jean Moulin to jog a few miles on the track, run the stairs or try to do some push-ups on the lawn.
Part of our workout regimen is spending several hours walking around aimlessly. We have taken several trips into Paris to do just this. On Thursday, we grabbed a baguette, a jar of pâté, some cheese and a bottle of wine (not part of the workout regimen) and parked ourselves on a bench on the Seine on Île Saint-Louis. We waived at the dinner cruise passengers and chatted about current events and upcoming trips. Sometimes it feels like a dream.
Then we are brought back to earth when we have to deal with something like opening a bank account. Did you know that the IRS gets to approve new bank accounts opened by U.S. tourists? We just found that out after a week of trying to get an account set up. Fingers crossed.
We have two friends (two whole friends!) who we’ve been hanging out with regularly. They’ve been great at helping us feel at home.
Since we are on a limited budget now, we spend a lot of our time exploring Montreuil. We’ve already had great couscous from a little restaurant down the street that’s owned by a very nice and patient man. We know this because he stuck with us through our terrible French ordering, and gave us a little pat on the back to say “don’t worry.”
We also came across a new craft brewery in our neighborhood and stopped in to see what it was about on Saturday. We were two of maybe eight people there (most of whom were from the U.S.). We chatted with the others, got to know one of the brewers (who gave us lots of tips for places to eat/drink in the neighborhood), and tasted all of the beer. I think this will be a regular weekend hangout spot for us.
We’ve been trying to work on our French when we can – which I guess is pretty much always. However, my aunt and uncle only speak English with us, so we’re not getting as much practice as we’d hoped so far. Once they leave, though, our neighbors (who are extremely nice but hate speaking English) will become good assets. For now, we get most of our practice in at the market or in restaurants. I’m finding that my listening is getting much better, but I still struggle with speaking.
In fact, my pronunciation was swiftly corrected by the butcher on Sunday. “Pas poulet tradition. Poulet TRA-DEE-SEE-OHN.” OK, OK. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pronounce it the way he did, but at least I know I’ll always be wrong. Maybe I’ll start ordering the poulet roti instead to spare myself the public French lesson. Luckily, we’ve gotten to know the butcher over the last few weeks, so it was a friendly — albeit a bit embarrassing — lesson. Shortly after, I heard him explaining to the guy in line behind us that we’re American. As if it needed to be explained.
We have also been cooking and partying at home a lot. As my aunt and uncle prepare to leave in a week, they have had several friends over for patio barbecues. To state it briefly, the French know how to have fun. More than once we’ve been the first to turn in as the party carried on past 1 a.m.
Finally, we’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time eating. We have pre-meal snacks, post-meal cheese, dessert and a whole lotta wine. We’re trying to work our way back to a normal level of food intake, but it’s not going very well. Like I’m going to say no when someone offers me a slice of delicous pie or another bite of cheese or another glass of wine.
On Thursday we take off for two weeks in Italy — our delayed honeymoon — and we have several other trips on the calendar, including Ireland and Madrid in November. We’re looking forward to exploring Europe and sharing it with you here.