This morning a Facebook alert welcomed me to Paris, four weeks to the day since my arrival.
I've easily engaged with the fairyland version of Paris that the tourists come to see. I have come to see that as well.
But on Saturday, I walked past the shopfront of the Parti Socialiste and was reminded that the main reality is something else. The rough sleepers and other disadvantaged people visible on the streets are part of a society increasingly divided into haves and have nots. Just like Australia.
I can't understand much about French politics when I watch the news on TV, as I imagine the French scratch their heads when they hear about the possible fall of Australia's government because some of its members are dual citizens of another country.
But I did get a sense of it when my vendor put me in touch with a young Ukrainian-Russian immigrant who was passionate about politics. I enjoyed the conversations we had when we visited bars on two occasions before he returned to his family in a village near Lyon.
In our discussions, we discovered that we shared a lot of common ground. We bemoaned the fact that nations across Europe - and also Russia - were becoming increasingly divided because their governents were catering more for entrenched elites than the good of the whole.
When I spent my first weekend in Lille, I admired my Australian friend for choosing an immigrant neighbourhood to buy an apartment for his part-time residence in France, even though I did not feel safe walking the streets.
He could have opted for something smaller in a more salubrious part of Paris. Like me. But I assume he was following the principles of the Catholic workers movement that he has been involved in and is the subject of his academic study.
My contact with reality has more to do with getting connected to the utilities and services that will allow me to live here part-time. On Friday I walked 40 minutes to the nearest shop of the majority state owned electricity company EDF. But they were closed, having had Thursday and Friday added to Wednesday's All Saints Day public holiday to make a five day long weekend.
I was consoled when it reminded me of then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 'old Europe' insult when France refused to sign up for the Coalition of the Willing to invade Iraq in 2003. It was a sign that America had not completely exported its 'can do' culture to France.
I think that, despite the frustrations, there is something to like about intransigence that weakens productivity but upholds the rights and conditions of the ordinary people whose efforts achieve it.