Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Coffee and Commuting

Today, I have been thinking a lot about my morning routine and how much different it is than my American routine... even though in some ways, it is very similar.  Ok, that doesn't make a lot of sense... so let me just explain.

My American morning routine is pretty typical.  I wake up, I get dressed, make myself some coffee and drive about 20-25 minutes to work.  In all, it takes me about an hour from when I wake up to land at my desk.  Keep in mind, I spend almost zero time "waking up" in the morning.  The alarm goes off, I begrudginly roll out of bed and I get to the car in as little time as possible.  Most days, it takes less than 30 min.

Here in France, the basic function of my morning is the same.  I wake up, get dressed, and commute about 20 minutes.  However, that is where the similarities end.  First of all, I spend much more time sort of lounging around.  I read some e-mails, surf the internet for a few minutes and slowly get ready for my day.  I leave the house about an hour after I first wake up.  Part of that is because I do not have 24/7 internet access and I want to scan through to see if there is anything important.  Anything work or school related generally happens while I am sleeping... job rejections, for example come through while I am sleeping.  It took a little getting used to, but I do not mind the untethering from the internet.  It is almost like I have gone back a decade in my life...I have internet at home, but no cell phone and no continuous tie to the "real world".  

Once I leave, paying careful attention to the layers of clothes I am wearing (temperatures vary fairly dramatically here, at least by Vegas standards), I leave the apartment and walk about 5 minutes to the metro station.  Then, I take the metro to school.  I am very fortunate to have an easy commute.  I switch trains once at a non-touristy station and then upon exiting my train, walk less than one block to the University.  

Despite this, it is so very different.  Las Vegas is a huge metropolitan area - about 2.1 million people.  But we have no mass transit system to speak of.  There are busses, but they are not set up for commuters, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I have ridden on them in the past 10 years.  If there was convenient mass transit from my house to work, I would probably use it at least 50% of the time.  So, by default, I drive to work.  I am not a huge fan of driving, in general, but I do not have much choice.  I like the solidarity of driving.  It is my "me time" before and after work.  I can get my thoughts together, listen to the radio, make phone calls (don't worry, I have bluetooth), or anything else of that nature.  

Here, I am surrounded by people from the moment I leave home.  There are hundreds of people on the train and since I am commuting at the same time as most others, we are all smooshed together into a human sardiene can.  I do wear my headphones, and I take the free metro station newspapers so I can try to read some French articles (an interesting piece about selfies this morning).  I have ridden trains and subways before.  I am pretty confident on the NYC Metro system and have ridden my fair share of other systems in London, DC, Paris, Rome, etc... so I know how it works and do not worry about getting lost.  :) I even have my very own Navigo pass -- the Paris travel pass similar to the London Oyster card.  It is a plastic card that I just tap on the turnstyle - paid by the week or month.  It even has a (terrible) picture of me on it.  Between that and my Louvre membership, I am positively French.

And then, there is the coffee.  Mmmmm... coffee.

Let me start by saying, I love coffee.  I do not drink a lot of it, but I do drink about a cup a day, sometimes two.  Seldom more... because I also love sleeping.  I also typically make my own in the morning with my Keurig machine, because buying coffee gets expensive.  A typical Starbucks latte costs me about $4.  Even 7-11 coffee is about $2 for the large size if I forget my travel cup.  It adds up quickly.

Here in France, I do not make my own coffee.  I do have a coffee maker in my apartment - of sorts.  It is a French press (naturally).  However, wandering around with a coffee in hand is not typcial.  Instead, I buy a coffee when I arrive in school.  I have decided that I like cafe creme - which seems to be two shots of espresso with the rest of the cup filled with milk.  Stronger than a latte, because the cup is smaller, but the basic idea is the same.  Throw in a square of sugar and it is lovely.  It costs me less than $1.  Half way through my classes, I wander over to the vending machines and get a second cup of coffee... I have been trying out the different vending options and so far, the cafe vanille is my favorite.  It is instant stuff, that reminds me a lot of the International Delights coffees that were so popular 10-15 years ago (Jean Luc!), but more delicious.  Considering it costs me 50 cents and comes out of a vending machine, I will not complain.  Today, I paired my internatinal delight coffee with a kinder bar - easily the most delicious chocolate bar in the world and had a fantastic morning snack.  :)

So, in short... France is different.  I can see why some Americans freak out by the differences, but it is wonderful.  Where else can you get International Delights from a vending machine for 50c?







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