Our Blog - First Day
Where to begin! This is actually our first “full” day, since we arrived yesterday. This morning, we headed out for breakfast at a local boulangerie (bakery) where we had a couple pastries and some orange juice. We could have had breakfast at the hotel, but we wanted to try out the local places on the street, especially since we’ll be here for 3 months, so we want to know which are good and which aren’t. Then we walked around the local area for about an hour, just to get an idea of what is around.
Then we met a very nice lady named Sarah who works for Toulouse Apartment, which is the company that we are renting our 1st apartment from. She met us at the entrance to the apartment. It is an interesting setup. From the street, there is a big blue gate with insurance company signage above. Once you are inside, you go past the insurance office on one side and a set of doctors on the other.
Next, you walk through an open courtyard with greenery on each side and then another building, which has the apartments. If you you look at Google Maps once you are here, it starts making sense. You can see the “Appel Medical Toulouse” on the map, which is the doctors on the left side inside the big blue door. Then you can see basically an open space, which is the courtyard and then you can see another thing that looks like an L-shaped building laying on its’ back next to the blue dot (which is us). That is the actual apartment building and where the blue dot is happens to be another courtyard, which our apartment overlooks.
Changing to the satellite view, it becomes much clearer. Again, the Appel Medical Toulouse is the big blue door, and here you can really clearly see the open courtyard with the green trees (where it says Phone Regie Toulouse, whatever THAT is!). Then the next building and then the blue dot (us) overlooking another big rectangle of green trees.
So now that you can see where it is, let’s go through the apartment itself. It is a little apartment, all of 38 square meters (about 420 sq feet). The entryway is just normal (not like the one we had in Paris that was a metal, industrial-strength door with a curtain over it), and has the “phone” on the wall which is used only for entry into the building. For visitors, you would look up the owners name and then “ring” them, which then calls this phone. There is a button on it that the owner can then buzz you in through that door and into the building. The two dark grey doors that you can see are the bathroom: one for just the toilet, the other for the sink and shower. This separation is very common in Europe and was how our apartment in Paris also had it.
The kitchen is compact! It has a small refrigerator along with a microwave (which we think also has a grill setting, but we need to find the instruction manual), a Nespresso machine, a hot water kettle, a 2-burner cooktop, and the washing machine. No oven, so we’ll have to get by without one for 3 months, and no dryer although they do have a nice drying rack out on the balcony. As a furnished apartment, it also came with the necessary plates, silverware, glasses, and cooking items. Mind you … it doesn’t have everything that we normally would cook with, but that will come with our household shipment in about 3-4 months.
It is a nice open floorpan, so you can see the bar opening from the kitchen into the dining room, with a table and 2 chairs. Needless to say, we won’t be entertaining in this apartment!
In the right-side of the dining room picture, you can see the back of the sofa .. again, the apartment is basically one big open rectangle on the left side and then the bathrooms and closet areas on the right. So the living room with the sofa, a small square table, and then the TV and bookcase. Not a bad setup, really. The floors are all a light grayish tile. The end of the room is almost an entire wall of windows … 3 big windows that can be opened most of the way. You can step out from this window area directly onto the balcony, which is the entire width of the apartment and has another small table and 2 chairs, overlooking the interior courtyard. Note, the pictures were taken after we got moved in, so some of our things are there, and we were watching a campaign rally for Macron, who is the candidate of the “center” in France. He was part of the Hollande administration but then formed his own party called “En Marche”. He favors France being part of the EU, modernization of France with respect to the market (businesses more ability to adapt), and inclusion of foreigners.
The bedroom is more like a studio really … there is a wall but no door although that is just fine for us. It has a double bed and an area for the clothes (shelves and an area for hanging clothes). It has two little nightstands with lamps on each, and it comes nicely furnished with sheets, an extra blanket, and the comforter. It also has yet another glass door that you can open to let air into the apartment as well as walking out onto the balcony. All of the windows have the “traveling shutter” as it was called, where you put up and down a shutter that makes it safer if you aren’t home, but also lets in light during the day and blocks out all of the light when you want to sleep. In the pictures above of the living room, you can clearly see the shutter as we have it about 3/4 of the way down, while the one below in the bedroom is all of the way up.
More on the courtyard and balcony. Here you can clearly see the interior courtyard that the balcony overlooks as well as the table and chairs where we can sit in the morning with our coffee and croissant, or in the evening with our glass of wine and cheese. Oh .. how French am I sounding?!?
We then spent the rest of the day unpacking and trying to get organized. There isn’t a lot of extra storage space, so we have a set of things that we don’t think we will use that often still in the suitcases, which we have tucked under the kitchen bar behind the dining room table. We made a list of the items that we thought we needed to buy, including an electrical “strip” so that we could plug in our phone and Vonage box. We also wanted to try to find a couple Command Strips, or something like them, where we could have hooks that we could put on the wall without putting a hole in it. This will allow us to hang our jackets (there is no hallway closet), our calendar, and our keys.
So on the Vonage box … let me just explain that a little here. We wanted to be able to have our home phone (the one we’ve had for 20 years) with us here in France. This makes it easier (and cheaper) for our friends and family in the US to call us, as well as cheaper/easier for us to call back to the US. As well, it is common now for credit cards and banks to be able to recognize you based on you calling them from the phone number on your account. We have switched this home phone to Vonage each of the previous two times that we have moved overseas. It is a voice-over-IP system where someone calls your phone number, which then Vonage routes to wherever your Vonage box is plugged into the Internet. So we hook this into the Internet here in the apartment, and plug a phone into the box, and that phone is now our US home phone. Makes things really great while living overseas! It does cost money every month, but we’ll factor that into the overall cost of living overseas. If we get squeezed for money, this may be one of the first things that we get rid of :-)
Also, since we are going to be here for a long time (hopefully), we didn’t want to keep our US mobile phone plans and do roaming forever. So we got 2 French mobile #’s through the Orange Holiday, which is a vacation package that provides calling, text, and cellular data for 2 weeks. We can “top up” and add additional time for up to 6 months. This will work well for us since we can keep these until we get into the next apartment and are looking for a package with TV, mobile phone, and internet.