What a supremely smooth start to my arrival in Paris! The nonstop flight from San Francisco afforded me some sleep; the taxi driver from the airport abided by the speed limits; the concierge person for my rental apartment was upbeat in assisting me with getting my luggage up the steep narrow stairs to my apartment: my tiny but recently renovated and charming apartment had everything I needed for me to be able to call it home for my stay of almost a month. My long-awaited return was off to a hassle-free energetic start!
So, after checking into my 18 square meter (approximately 194 square feet) apartment (yes, you did read that correctly!) on rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement (and, yes, this is a prime location, if you are as fond of the Left Bank as I am), I left my unpacking for later.
I sought out my traditional reentry into Paris and headed over to Cafe Les Deux Magots (http://www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/en/ambiances.php#/ambiances.php) to have a drink to celebrate and, in this particular case, also an omelette for lunch. Yes, I know this Cafe is overpriced. Yes, I know it sounds a bit cliché to do this, but I am also one to highly recommend the Seine boat ride from Pont Neuf to first time visitors to Paris, starting at dusk, so they can see the city light up, but at the same time, also get their bearings for their future days in Paris.
I’ve been doing my Cafe Les Deux Magots ritual for how many visits to Paris now? Well, I’ve lost count. As said, it is a ritual…an announcement to me that says,”I now know I have arrived in my favorite city.” After getting as prime a seat as possible, I stared out at the highly aged St Germain des Pres Church and took in a few of its familiar architectural details, only to then shift my line of sight to the corner of blvd. Saint Germain and rue Bonaparte to people watch…OK, add in dog watching, kiss watching, auto/bike watching, and, of course, the latest-trends-in-clothes watching and its worth the price of admission. After all, my cafe ‘ticket’ allows for hours of watching, if I desire. As far as I’m concerned, the international rhythmic movement of the Left Bank lies on that corner.
Before I knew it, I was in a conversation with five students from Alliance Francaise, two of them Americans, one Italian, and the other two were of Middle Eastern background. We spoke English, although that wasn’t the primary language for three of the five of them, but it was the language we all had in common. We spoke about our native and chosen countries we lived in, what Paris meant to us, the difficulties in learning the French language, their various reasons behind wanting to learn the language and my reasons for not being fluent by now.
After a lively discussion with the group, one of which, by the way, was from Marin County, I followed through with more of my usual reentry. I strolled up and down blvd Saint Germain to rue du Bac (the border of the 6th and 7th arr.) with some cobblestoned street detours thrown in, doing yet another one of my favorite past times: window shopping–making sure the old and familiar shops were still there, and discovering what changes had occurred in the neighborhood. That was Friday late morning through the afternoon. By that evening, I was sick.
Just in case you find yourself in my predicament–a solo traveler, female, not language fluent–consider these steps, but also remember Paris, and, actually, France, may have one up on other countries you visit.
First, I thought it was wise to stock up on groceries, as I didn’t feel like I was going to make it out of my symptoms quickly. Fortunately, just a few blocks away, was a Monoprix. (I was with it enough to notice that the Monoprix, on rue de Rennes, seemed to have had an interior facelift since I had last visited it). Yet another clue to knowing I wasn’t quite up to par was that I passed by this and this
and wasn’t stepping inside the shop to pick up a sample! Something was definitely wrong….
I know. It’s difficult to say this, but here I was in Paris after not having been there in a few years and I ended up staying indoors for the rest of the weekend! I even missed a lunch Paris friends had arranged for my homecoming! So, although I was peeking out my Paris apartment window and on to the cobblestoned courtyard, rather than peeking in the Paris windows shops, I still couldn’t help feeling grateful for my fortunate circumstances. After all, I was, once again, in the arms of my lover, Paris!
And, I gave in to the way it was….for now: You tube kept my spirits up:(‘Look Out Any Window’ sung by Bruce Hornsby) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBSeEcFiTWA (appropriate, eh?) OR (‘That’s Just Way It Is’ also by Bruce Hornsby) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOeKidp-iWo (And, innumerable others, as it became a habit to listen to music while getting dressed in the morning)/Kindle books on my iPad/movies through iTunes or other sources/emails/Skype. Wow…what a variety of ways to ‘entertain’ myself while in ‘sick’ travel mode, as compared to just a few years ago.
At the beginning of the week, I started to venture out. I was feeling revived and had convinced myself that the residual of my symptoms were related to jet lag and the stress of last-minute arrangements I had to attend to before leaving California. I remember stepping out and literally pinching myself! I really had arrived!
However, on Wednesday morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t speak, but with an eek and a squeak, along with my other symptoms back again with a vengeance and, now, could not be ignored!
So, in Paris, my next step was to call SOS Medecins! I think it is one of the most brilliant services offered on this planet. I have called the SOS Medecins phone number, with prior arrivals (bronchitis) and they passed me on to a staff member who speaks enough English to get my information. This time though, I couldn’t speak in a strong enough voice to be understood!
Instead, I figured out I had better email a local friend of mine, as well as the apartment rental concierge to see who would return my ‘call out for help’ first. Around 2PM, my friend was able to call them for me and describe the exact location of my apartment, as it takes more than just an address in Paris for someone to get to your apartment door.
In the past, a doctor arrived within a couple of hours of the time I had called. This time, it was over 5 hours later, but the service called me after about 4 hours (just when I was starting to get anxious) to reassure me that they had not forgotten about me.
When the doctor arrived, he apologized for his lateness (Paris had an epidemic of the flu) and then took one look at me (yes, he actually looked at me, took my vital signs, which were so out of whack he did an EKG and then starting writing prescriptions…5 in all. One was a double dose of antibiotics. Along with all his writing, he exclaimed, “You are SICK!”
He gave me a list of all the illnesses he felt I had. He also made it clear how contagious I was. Although he grew up in Poland, he was now married to a French woman, thus his life in Paris. Between my whisper of an American voice and his Polish/French accented English voice and a few notes jotted on paper–remember this–we communicated, and you can too, in a foreign country! Lastly, another gesture was offered that helped me to feel he was taking care of me. He gave me his personal cell phone number, just in case my recovery did not go as hoped….so continuity of care was even offered!
You may already know there is a pharmacy (green cross signage) on almost every block in Paris. And, fortunately, the one just down the block was still open, as it was now after 8PM. I didn’t have to ask, but make sure you get forms for your insurance company from both the doctor and the pharmacist, so you can get reimbursed.
By the way, my concierge person kept in contact with me throughout the day and even offered to fill my prescriptions for me. I only declined because I wanted to make sure I got them before the pharmacy closed that evening and I wasn’t sure she could make it over to my neighborhood in time.
I was later told that in most cities or towns in France, SOS Medecins or an emergency doctor exist to make a house call. To back this up, I noticed the service was listed in my apartment information in Nice too. Also take note, SOS Medecins, at least in the larger cities, is a different service number than calling for an emergency or ambulance or fire, for instance.
The medical tools that now exist make this type of visit even more appropriate and more successful. Although my combination of illnesses meant even more time spent in my Parisian apartment, I was, thanks to SOS Medecins, ON THE MEND! Cheers! Judy
(SOS Medecins’ service is offered 24/7. Their phone number in Paris is: 01 47 07 77 77.) What has been your experience in other countries?