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?