The owners of the hotel have been quite friendly. They are an older couple, perhaps age 55 to 65. They don’t speak a single word of English, but I’ve managed to conjure up enough French to get by. They were kind enough to let me use a spare room to leave my luggage until I either find Kirsten or another place to stay.
I had my first experience purchasing foreign currency at an automatic teller machine this morning. It really is the civilized way to exchange money. There are no long lines and there is no need to hunt around for the best rate. They automatically distinguish an American ATM card and display instructions in English. Best of all, ATMs are every bit as prevalent in Paris as they are in any big American city. You really can’t walk a block in any direction without finding an ATM, and they all take VISA and MasterCard.
I passed some time this morning sitting at Aub-é-pain, the fast-food version of a croissanterie. Actually, I thought the croissant was outstanding, but the coffee came from a vending machine, was too small, and was way too expensive. Part of my complaint should be against myself, though. I pushed the wrong button and got a half-cup instead of a full-cup of coffee. Anyway, I got to spend my time gazing at the pedestrian traffic on rue de Rivoli while spending some time in reflection.
After coffee, I strolled slowly up the street to Angelina’s where I expected Kirsten. I walked slowly enough to notice the catch in some of the come-ons at the currency exchange offices. Most cashiers advertise the “buy” rate, because most people in Paris are more interested in buying French currency than selling it. The less scrupulous cashiers advertise their “sell” rates in a huge sign in front of the store, e. g. 1 US$ = 5.55 FRF. Tourists who have not been paying attention walk in and exchange money to find (afterward) that the “buy” rate is significantly lower. The trick seems to work.
I have enjoyed my first couple of days in Paris despite the lack of company. It has been an excellent opportunity to get in touch with my own thoughts, and I boldly likened myself to Rousseau, whose contemplative writings about his solitary walks through Paris I’ve read in French literature classes. Nonetheless, I spent much of today eagerly anticipating Kirsten’s arrival.