Letting Out My Inner French Girl

Letting Out My Inner French Girl

After our shopping extravaganza, we headed home with our tails between our legs. We went back to our hotel and laid out all our loot on our beds. Phew! There’s a lot of stuff. Some people are getting some pretty sweet gifts from Paris. Let me tell you. (Felix, if you’re reading this… I hooked you UP with some sexy lingerie.) The lingerie here goes on for miles and miles! I have never seen so many sexy things all in one place.

I also bought myself a few things from the cheaper shops on the street. They seem to be like those cheap import stores we have at home where you can buy an out of style dress for $15 except that it’s Paris and all the brands are foreign to me so nothing is out of style to me. The quality isn’t as nice as what’s in the Galleries Lafayette but it’s still fun.

I bought a flouncy brown skirt with tulle under it and a floppy bright orange sweater that hangs all funny at the bottom. I should have bought a more subdued color but the orange looked so much better on me than the olive green. Toby’s going to have a cow. He’s always telling me that a “classy lady” doesn’t stand out. I guess I’ve never really been all that “classy” because I love to stand out. I love red and orange and pink and if I can wear them all together it makes me even happier. So I bought a thin sweater in bright pink. (because nothing goes better with a bright orange than bright pink!) To top it all off I bought some new boots. NEW BOOTS! They weren’t cheap though. They are probably what alerted my credit card company to shut me down in the first place. But they are perfect. I do need to replace my spy boots afterall. Except they aren’t very spy like. They are more like school marm boots. But they are flat and I can duck and run and be very spy like in them.

I can also flounce in them. When in Paris dress as the Parisians right? So I put all my new Paris clothes on at once and flounced over to the Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn everything all at once because I didn’t really blend in at all. Maybe it was the orange. I don’t know. You can take the girl out of the trailer park but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl. C’est la vie!

What is great about our new neighborhood is that it is very very close to the Luxembourg Gardins or “Jardin du Luxembourg” (The “x” is pronounced as an “s”. I’d spell the whole thing out phonetically if I could remember, but it’s very tricky for my tongue and I’ve lost it already.) The gardens are beautiful. There are so many passage ways, tree lined paths and little places to sit. Everywhere you look there are public chairs to sit on. Gaze at the lake, gather in the shade, line up along a path going no where… it’s all good! There is so much leisure time spent wisely here. I wonder if French people don’t watch television. Everyone seems to be out and about even when it’s a bit cold. I hear on a sunny day you can catch a puppet show in these gardens as well as sail a toy sail boat. If the sun comes up we plan on stopping there again.

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

The next day we walked in the opposite direction we had before (a much better idea) and we hopped on the metro. Oh my goodness! The Metro! What an adventure! The metro is fine. It’s fun and you can figure out how to get this way and that without speaking any French at all. But let me warn you about the Chatelet subway stop or hub. It’s like a spider web of hallways on multiple levels. I think almost all the trains cross at that stop. Sometimes you have to go up and then down to get where you are going. It can be very confusing.

We didn’t get lost because at every turn there is a sign that says go this way for this place and that way for that place but it’s more like a “choose-your-own adventure” novel and there is really no way you can get a good birds eye picture of where you are if you’re like me with a poor sense of direction. Of course there are maps but they are not in 3-D so they don’t explain all the ups and downs you must take to go in a straight line. It’s definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to miss.

Unfortunately my Mom has put her foot down and told me she has had ENOUGH. So it looks like we’re riding the bus from now on. Which is fine because the bus goes everywhere we want to go and you get a nice view of the city while you’re getting there. It can be a bit bumpy and jolty but nothing we can’t handle. You know what’s funny but sort of cool. We bought one ticket and we use it for everything. Bus, subway, train etc etc. But when you get on the bus nobody checks your ticket. You can validate your ticket if you want but it seems to be on the honor system. Not that we didn’t pay but we just bypass the funny validating machine and sit right down. Nobody seems to mind. I wonder if I lived here if I could ride the bus for free if I wanted to…

We hopped off the metro in the basement of the BHV store. I heard about this store before I even got here. It’s a crazy department store with somewhat reasonable prices. In the basement is the hardware section. It’s as crowded as a ACE Hardware store back home but as big as a Target Greatland. I guess it’s as big as Home Depot but with tiny little aisles and no great big warehouse type ceiling. It’s a very fun place to get lost tinkering. In fact, as the urban myth goes, it is so popular that it is considered a happy hunting ground for young Parisians to meet their future mates over pipe fittings and hinges etc! How about that? Skip the smokey bar and meet your future wife while you pick what color you’re going to paint your kitchen!

It was a fun place to look but we quickly found the escalator and moved upwards towards things we can buy that don’t follow the metric system or plug into 110 plugs. My mom and I quickly found our groove. And shop shop shop we did.

In fact we shopped so much we had to buy a suitcase to fit all of the things we bought to bring home. We knew we would have to do this and had planned on it before we even left but we had no idea how quickly we would fill up our newly purchased suitcase.

But what really surprised me like a iron skillet up side the head was that I had NO IDEA my credit card would FAIL me!!!! $%#@!!!! This has been my worst experience in Paris. It’s not Paris’ fault so don’t worry, I’m not going to bag on Paris but you might want to just skip along to the next post because I am about to unload the wrath of Brenda regarding my credit card company and how they left me stranded in a foreign country without a penny!!!!

I appreciate that my credit card company is looking out for my own good. I appreciate that at the slightest sign of irregular spending they shut it off tighter than the Hoover Dam (is that a good analogy? I’m just thinking of something big and heavy) BUT I called them before I left for Paris. I told them I would be traveling from such and such a date to such and such a date and I planned on spending a lot of money while I was there. They thanked me for letting them know and the woman even lowered my interest rate. She told me she would put a note in my file and I assumed the clickety clack typing I could hear over the phone was her diligently doing just that. But now I’m thinking she playing solitaire or instant messaging her cube buddy and not paying a speck of attention to me.

So the first time my credit card got denied, I was fine. I was even fine the second and third time. I finally figured out what phone number to call and got quite used to going through all their checks and balances with security, what my mother’s maiden name is, how old I am etc etc. That was fine… up until the FIFTH TIME!!!!! By the fifth time I was steaming mad. I know what my balance is, I know what my limit is and I know I AM NO WHERE NEAR REACHING IT!!!! I understand that they see my spending behavior as suspicious because I hardly ever use my card when I am at home BUT STILL!!!! It’s not like I have ever maxed out my card. And what really made me mad was that every time I called to get the hold cleared the representative assured me IT WOULDN’T HAPPEN AGAIN!!! They promised me, they apologized, they said they understood my frustration. But did they? I don’t think so because the next time it HAPPENED AGAIN!!!

Finally, I got someone rational on the phone and he said the very same thing happened to him TEN TIMES when he was out of the country. So I guess this is just part of the course. What a stupid stupid thing! They should be happy to lend me money. I’m good for it. They will make a huge profit off me. What a stupid stupid company. When I get home I fully intend to switch to another company unless they pay for all of my cell phone calls which should add up to about $50 by now since every time I call I have to pay 99 cents a minute.

But it doesn’t end there.

Because my mom is a big sweetheart and she hates to see me humiliated in public, she pulled out her bank card and rescued me four of the five times. And because we have been spending a lot and she rescued me in this way, she over-extended her bank account and incurred charges because she doesn’t have over-draft protection. And then because her bank saw that her balance was zero and someone in Paris was spending money like a fiend, they shut her account down too! So here we are in Paris with no money!!!

Thankfully I do have a phone number on my card that I can call and get it released after every transaction but it is the biggest pain in the ass ever. Try reading off your credit card number out loud on a crowded street or in a busy department store. If you can even hear yourself or the crackly person on the other end of the phone line, then you need to worry that some pick pocket or thief might be hearing as well and remembering your social security number and your mother’s maiden name for their own future gain. It’s good that they do this but if I had known this would happen I would have come with three or four cards and maybe just paid cash. Another good thing is that after I get my card released I have been able to get euros out of the ATM so I am shopping the old fashioned way from now on. So technically, we are not stranded and penniless but the threat is there and it is SCARY!!!

You’re probably thinking maybe it’s time Brenda, the tourist, stepped outside the department store and learned to appreciate the simpler things in life. I would agree with you BUT I HAVE BEEN SAVING UP FOR FOUR MONTHS just so I could shop with abandon in the mecca of all things fashionable. I thought using a credit card would be the safest way to go since they really discourage traveler’s checks these days. Now I just don’t know. Maybe someone else with a more active credit spending habit would have better luck. I’m usually really good and pay off my card every time I use it. I’m probably not their favorite type of customer. And after my last few phone calls I’m definitely not their favorite customer. At least not with the call center in India.