Category Archives: La Vie Française

One More Month in Paris

Paris
July 16. That’s the date we move back to New York, which happens to be exactly one month from today. I can’t believe my two-plus years have flown by so quickly…and that I have a mere month left. I don’t even want to think about what moving back to NYC is going to be like. From fellow friends who have loved Paris as much as I do and have been forced had to repatriate, it is going to blow big time. Always the planner though, I’ve decided to combat the inevitable repatriation woes with the following action plan:

  1. Experience NY as an expat! When you’ve grown up in a certain city, you always take it for granted. Not this time around! I’m going to take on NY as if I never lived there. Museums, tourist sights, local events – sign me up tout de suite!
  2. Catch up with old friends, and especially, new friends. We’ve been lucky enough to make friends in Paris who have now returned to NYC. There’s an undeniable bond for those of us who have lived abroad together. Only they can truly understand the ups and downs of your time overseas, resulting in a friendship that will last a lifetime. I’m thankful that if we have to leave our friends here, we at least have many old and new friends to return to.
  3. Travel, travel, travel! Although it won’t be as easy to hop to a new country for a weekend getaway, and I’ll only have a mere three weeks of vacation, it’s time to start exploring Les États-Unis more, and the Americas side of the world.

As for now, many people ask what’s remaining on my bucket list in Paris. So here’s what we’ll be up to with our time left here:

  1. Go to a Crazy Horse cabaret show, which is a raunchier version of Moulin Rouge…I think.
  2. Capture a piece of our Parisian life. Instead of being photographed in front of a slew of tourist sites, I’m hiring our friend Lindsey of Pictours Paris for a family shoot in our apartment, neighborhood, and one or two touristy spots.
  3. Discover a new view of Paris courtesy of Messy Nessy Chic.
  4. Ride bus 69. No, I’m not being a pervert. Paris’s public bus #69 happens to have a très scenic route that includes the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
  5. Shop! Luckily, les soldes begin June 25 so I can stock up on a much-needed new wardrobe for my new job and return home! I have to attempt to look Parisian chic, after all!
  6. Consume as much cheese, baguette, and wine as possible.
  7. Finally take advantage of the free English guided tours at Notre-Dame de Paris.
  8. Je voudrais faire une réservation, svp! As you can see in my Google map, I’ve eaten at a lot of bars/restaurants in Paris…but there are so many more I still need to try!
  9. Spend quality time with my beloved friends here. Oh, how I’m going to miss them! I love you!
  10. Enjoy Paris!
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Today…

the French are sucking the lifeblood out of me yet again. For some reason, they are simply incapable of the concept of customer service.

Today…when pointing out a minute error that I would like easily corrected, the girl simply said “désolée”. I wanted to say “Merci, but I don’t need a ‘désolée’, I would just love it if you could correct this, and that would be perfect.” Unfortunately, I’m not oftentimes very good at coming up with this on the fly in French.

Today…when trying to go to the bank the teller actually had me answer a slew of questions and show my bank card through a video monitor as proof that this was my bank before letting me in through the second set of security doors. Today…apparently, I look like a criminal. Once through, she informed me that since this wasn’t my main bank branch, she didn’t recognize me and that’s why she treated me like a second-class citizen. I wanted to reply, “Oh, but I remember you, as this actually isn’t my first time at this branch. You weren’t very nice to me last time when I wanted to do a bank withdrawal and told me my French ID, my NYC ID and my bank card weren’t enough proof that it was actually me taking money out of my own bank account.” Again, I’m not good with quick comebacks in French.

Oh, but I can’t forget about yesterday…when I went to the RSI office to tell them I don’t need a carte vitale/French social security as I already have international health insurance. Well, “c’est obligatoire,” they responded. But I don’t need two health insurances. “Mais, vous l’avez.” (“But, you have it.”). My comeback in French, “umm, merci?”.

To sum up these past two days, I’m going to use a phrase my friend Whitney coined…”I got Frenched”.

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The Painter Stole My Candy

After a weekend trip to Berlin last November, I returned to find the apartment above mine had a water leak and was causing the floor in mes toilettes to flood. After phone-stalking the management company and recruiting the building’s guardienne and Rio’s assistant to do the same so I could have a plumber come and fix the problem tout de suite, someone finally came three days later. Three days later! By this point, the leak had become so bad that the water damage had spread to the adjoining walls in my kitchen and bathroom (like a typical French apartment, my “toilet room” is separate from my bathroom with a shower), causing major bubbling and fissures. Not to mention, I had to constantly mop the toilet room floor every 30 minutes so the water wouldn’t spread into my hallway. It was gross to say the least. Oh, and did I mention I had a guest staying with me during this time?

Fast forward nearly five months, and the management company’s insurance company finally sent someone to repair the walls from the water damage. Total damage was roughly over 2,000 euros…but would’ve probably been less had the management company sent someone in a timely manner. Well, having had a pretty positive experience with the contractor that installed my kitchen cabinets when I first moved to Paris, I thought the painter they sent would be equally professional. Much to my horror and dismay, I was wrong.

Upon arrival, the painter’s “patron” says that the repair will take three days. Never mind I am 99% positive it would take an American 1 1/2 days, but c’est bon. After a slow start, the painter essentially worked 2 1/2 hours before taking a 2 hour lunch break and then worked another 1 1/2 hours peppered in with a couple of cigarette breaks on my balcony. After a little mid-afternoon break in my toilet, off he packed up and tells me he’ll be back the next day at 8am. Umm, so apparently 4 hours is a full day’s worth of work for French people. Irritated, yet, woefully accustomed to the French work ethic, I sucked it up and hoped the next day would be a bit better. How I have remained so hopeful in this country is beyond me; sometimes, I swear they suck the lifeblood out of you…and I’m someone who loves it here!

The next day, the painter arrives at 8am and tells me he has to come back on Monday as they cannot work on my apartment today after all. They must finish the work in my neighbor’s apartment. What the what?! My apartment is a disaster where showering is essentially impossible, all my kitchen pantry items are scattered about in my foyer and I can’t even cook anything since plastic is draping the sides of my kitchen walls (not that I really cook, but still!). After not so calmly stating that the work must be completed today and that I am living in un appartement dégueulasse right now, the painter packs up his stuff and says his patron will discuss the situation with me.

Once the patron finally comes up to my apartment, I am so frustrated (and a bit hungover), that I start crying with frustration. Lo and behold, he immediately tells me the work can recommence today and will actually be finished today as well! I’m so relieved, yet disturbed that I had to come to this breaking point to get what I want, that I can’t help but still rant and rave like a crazy American lady. (Side Note: The only other time I have broken down in Paris after a similar Kafka-esque situation, the French ended up finally agreeing to what needed to be done. Just sayin’.)

Well, I’m relieved to say that the paint job really was finished that day, and more efficiently than the day before with two painters in lieu of just one. But I can’t help but share some French golden nuggets of what transpired that day. Well, after taking a reasonable 1 1/2 hour lunch break, they returned to take a poop in my toilet. How do I know? Well, once they left that evening, I discovered it and had to scrub the sh*t out of it, literally. It’s fine though, these are natural bodily functions after all. So after they relieve themselves and poke around the rooms that are being painted for a couple of minutes, they ask me to make them two coffees. I was so caught off-guard, that I simply said, “umm, d’accord” and made them two fresh Nespresso cups before getting back to work. I, foolishly, thought they’d do the same. In fact, they sipped their cafés allongés and had a good chat before starting to paint. Obviously, I was seething at this point and emailed my friends the play-by-play while giving the kitchen door dirty looks.

A few hours later though, they were finally gone! Hallelujah! As I happily and frantically cleaned the apartment and put away all the kitchen, toilet and bathroom items, I noticed that I was missing something though. A huge chocolate candy bar! Yes, these Frenchies actually stole a candy bar (and probably ate it in secret with the coffee I made them). Who does that…and who knows what else might’ve been stolen that I haven’t noticed yet?! I was so miffed by the whole situation, I couldn’t resist calling the patron to inform him about the lack of professionalism from his team. He tells me he can’t understand my French, is driving in traffic and to text him. Yup, never heard from him again.

On a French etiquette note…apparently, I should’ve offered un café to the painter immediately upon his arrival. According to my French friends, they do this if someone is going to be working in their apartment for more than a few hours in hopes that they won’t steal anything and will do a good job. Now I know, and now you know…but may you hopefully never have to deal with a French painter in your life!

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Eating & Drinking My Way Through Paris in Two Years


Two years ago on March 15, I moved to Paris. In that span of time, I have eaten at so many bars and restaurants (apparently, more than 120!) that I thought I would share with you all where I’ve been and what I’ve liked and didn’t like. I’m no foodie reviewer so many of my comments are succinct and definitely not editorial material, but I hope it helps you discover a new favorite spot…and perhaps steers you away from overhyped locales.

Bon app!

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Paris Pollution Alert

When I woke up this morning with a sore throat, I thought perhaps I was coming down with a cold. Turns out, it’s probably because of the high level of pollution in the air in Paris. Yes, although the early spring weather in Paris has been amazing and allowed us to start drinking rosé en terrasse already, all the sunshine-filled days, cold nights and lack of wind have culminated in a dangerous dose of too many polluted particles. In hindsight, as I was running at Parc Monceau this morning, I now realize that what I thought was a hazy, cloudy sky was all the smog trapped in the air. It’s probably also the reason why there weren’t that many people working out in the park today…because they were (smartly) trying to avoid lung cancer while I was breathing it all in. Ugh, mes poumons pauvres.

So how have Paris officials responded to this? Free public transportation! Oui, beginning today through Sunday evening, the métro is free, as well as the shared car (Autolib) and bike (Vélib) systems. The speed limit’s also been lowered and residential car parking is free. I think this is a pretty cool way of dealing with the situation and can’t see NYC taking the same measure of providing free public transportation. NYC would probably temporarily increase the bridge and tunnel fees or something, but I digress.

Now it’s time for me to wrap a pashmina around my face in hopes I’ll keep out those teeny dirty toxic particles.

PS – All this pollution talk did get me thinking about what the world’s most polluted city was, and in case you’re wondering, it’s New Delhi.

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Bonne Fête des Rois!

Galette des Rois
What happens when you have three kings, a bean and a cake? Well, if you live in France, it means it’s obviously time to celebrate Fête des Rois AKA Three Kings Day or Epiphany Day. More importantly, for me it means that boulangeries across Paris (and France) are selling display upon displays of galette des rois, a buttery, sweet tart filled with frangipane.
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Galette des Rois
If you want to know more about galette des rois or the day itself, here are some good posts I’ve read that include some history on Fête des Rois, a backgrounder on what Frenchies do to celebrate , and even recipes:

Le Figaro – the top five galette des rois in Paris (en français)
David Lebovitz – a backgrounder and recipe
Chocolate & Zucchini – a backgrounder
La Fête des Rois Blogspot – history and traditions

I’ve been celebrating the day like a good Francophile by buying une galette des rois three days in a row now (yeah, about losing those holiday kilos…) and will be joining a Fête des Rois party in my building lobby next Sunday. I seriously have the friendliest French neighbors!

Happy Epiphany, everyone!
Fête des Rois

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Happy Holidays From Paris

Tyler
We celebrated our second Christmas in Paris this year. Although it’s nice to get to spend the holidays in this gorgeous city, I wish we could’ve been surrounded by family back home. You never appreciate how lucky you are to have holiday obligations until there aren’t any obligations to attend! Unfortunately, Rio’s busy period falls around Christmas, so the chances of us spending Christmas back home in 2014 will be slim too. Oh well – maybe we can convince family to visit us for Christmas next year! Hint hint…

Nevertheless, we made the most of the holiday. Although we were supposed to spend Christmas Eve in Chantilly with a French friend, a family emergency resulted in us putting together a last-minute, quiet meal chez nous. This year, we incorporated some traditional French Christmas elements into the meal – smoked salmon, oysters and gougères for apéros, seared scallops, a bûche de Noël, and, of course, a couple bottles of Champagne. For Christmas Day, we were lucky enough to be invited to our friend Stacy and Jason’s apartment for a cozy, casual lunch that included some height-defying rounds of Jenga, mulled orange juice, the most thick and delicious potato soup you’ve ever had, mac & cheese, bacon-covered turkey for the meat-eaters, mashed potatoes & gravy,  freshly-baked bread, and a chocolate and raspberry cake! Even though I had my stretchy pants on, I was so stuffed by the end of the night, I wish I had brought sweatpants to change into! I’m so thankful we got to spend the holiday with some friends, as Christmas is definitely a holiday that’s made even more meaningful when you get to be surrounded by special people in your lives.

So no matter where you live and who you’re with, I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season! From the streets of Paris to our home, here are some festive photos from the past few weeks. Joyeuses fêtes et une bonne année à tous!
Holidays 2013
Holidays via Instagram.
Lights

Montmartre

Lights

Grands Boulevards
Paris Ornament

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Recently on Instagram

I know I don’t post nearly enough about Paris. The simple fact is I don’t visit any tourist sights unless guests are in town, and I don’t necessarily feel comfortable looking like a tourist or snap-happy blogger by whipping out a huge DSLR camera (or even a regular point-and-shoot camera for that matter) when I’m out trying a new bar or restaurant. I’ll occasionally sneak in an iPhone photo, but even then, those aren’t the best quality since I’m trying to be pseudo-discreet. I’m also just not the kind of person that simply wanders around the city for hours with a camera taking photos of beautiful everyday activities and sights. I really wish I was, but I’m not. In fact, I’m afraid that if I ever leave this beloved city of mine, that I’ll regret I didn’t do that. All this is to say that this is the reason most of my photos tend to be of my recent travels (apparently, I don’t have any qualms about looking like a tourist then), with an occasional Paris shot in between. Oh, and a shot of Tyler too, of course.

However, since I did have guests in town recently and even got to visit Barcelona and Madrid again after nearly 10 years, here are a few things I managed to capture on Instagram, Paris sights included.
Après New York on Instagram
Clockwise from Top Left:

  • This is actually an Instagram video. I know it’s cheesy to say this, but there’s something about a French flag waving in the wind that really resonates with me. Yes, I know I’m American, but I can’t help but feel some sort of heavy connection when I see a French flag. Rio thinks I’m nuts. My friend Alan says I’m a romantic.
  • We’ve been lucky with the weather in Paris lately (I know I just jinxed this now), so for the second night of my friends’ visit, I took them to En Attendant Rosa on Les Berges by the Seine for evening al fresco drinks and apéros. This is the view we took in – my favorite bridge Pont Alexandre III. If you’re ever visiting Paris and the weather is nice, then I recommend settling in at one of the few riverside bars or restaurants on Les Berges and doing the same.
  • On the last day of my friends’ visit, I took them to one of my favorite sights: Sacré-Coeur. Did you know the reason Sacré-Coeur always stays so white is because it’s made of a type of limestone called travertine that constantly self-cleans because it exudes calcite when it rains – kind of giving it a fresh coat of white paint? I always love sharing this fun fact with guests when playing a “Paris Fact: True or False” game with them. And oui, I actually do this because I am a nerd.
  • My parents also visited this past week. Before arriving, my dad said to me, “I’ve already been to Paris, I want to see another city and country”. Um, ok. What am I, chopped liver? So with that in mind, I took them to Spain for the week. For our last day in Madrid, we visited El Retiro Park, which is where this pond is located.
  • We also managed to take a day trip from Madrid to Segovia. This is a shot of the impressive Cathedral of Segovia, located right by the main square Plaza Mayor.
  • After literally two weeks straight of traveling and entertaining guests, I was one exhausted lady. Coupled with the fact that I ended up catching the cold my visiting friend Brian had, I decided to stay in and rest all weekend. Tyler did the same.
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Une Petite Pause

Between traveling to Spain last week with my parents, hosting two sets of guests back-to-back, working and being mildly obsessed with watching all the seasons of Breaking Bad, I’ve been a bit on a blog hiatus. However, with one week to myself before my next set of visitors arrive, I hope I’ll be able to share and post some of my recent adventures soon.

In the meantime, here are two pictures of recent travels. The first one is the Pont du Gard, which is 25 minutes west of Avignon in Provence. I still have to do a full write-up about this two-week road trip Rio and I took in August! The second one is of the Aqueduct in Segovia, which I saw during a day trip from Madrid with my parents. Don’t they look a bit similar?
Pont du Gard

Aqueduct of Segovia

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A Haircut in Paris


My first year in Paris, I returned to NYC enough times where I could continue to get a haircut at my trusty Oscar Blandi Salon. However, the last time I was back in NY was in October 2012…which meant, I had to finally give in this year and begin my search for a hairstylist in Paris. With the traumatizing experience my fellow study abroad friend Jennifer had years ago ingrained in my memory, and hearing enough more recent hair horror stories from other expats, I set out to find my Oscar Blandi replacement. After searching “best hair salons in Paris” and asking a few friends where they got their haircut, I decided to give the salon Delphine Courteille’s Studio 34 a try. Having worked on the cheveux of celebrities like Sophia Coppola and Gisele Bundchen, I felt confident enough that my hair would be in good hands. I mean, it better be for 100 euros! Well, my haircut looked good and I was perfectly content with how my hair turned out.

Three months later, it was time to rein in my grows-as-fast-as-weeds hair again…and I decided not to go back to Delphine Courteille’s Studio 34 salon. To be honest, even though I had given my Paris haircut virginity to Studio 34, the whole time I couldn’t help but thinking how I had really wanted to schedule my haircut at the buzzed-about David Mallett salon instead…so that’s what I decided to do. You may be wondering why I didn’t opt for David Mallett for my first haircut and the answer is simple…a haircut with a senior stylist there is 135 euros and that just seemed like a lot of money for just a wash, cut and blow dry. (Clearly, I had forgotten that my Oscar Blandi cuts with stylist Mairead were $175 a pop!) But I decided to screw it and told Rio he would have to brown-bag his lunch for a week, and decided to make an appointment at the salon that’s loved by beauty editors, the fashion world and more celebrities than I can list.

Located on the second floor of a 17th century hôtel particulier (town house) in the 2nd arrondissement, when you step into the David Mallett salon, you’re immediately taken by the beauty of the space. Decorated in gray, bronze and taupe, the airy salon is punctuated with cool details in each room like the 10-foot ostrich standing center stage in the main room and the tiger lying in wait in the washing room. And have I mentioned all the cool-looking, sharply-dressed salon team…who also have great hair?

Well, I’m happy to say that the 135 euros were stylishly well-spent four months ago and I even returned for a second visit this week. This time, instead of my usual trim, I decided to trust my stylist Richie’s recommendation and chop off a good three to four inches of my hair. I’m not going to lie – I was a bit scared and thought to myself, “I really hope I don’t start crying if I hate it”! But no tears were shed, my friends all raved about the cut, and even my harshest critic – Rio, who else? – loved it! Whew.

Want to see what my David Mallett haircut looked like? Here’s an Instagram pic.

March 2014 Update: Needing a change, I decided to lob off five inches and get a version of the “fashion bob”. What I like about my stylist Richie was that he didn’t recommend having my hair angled too much (the fashion bob is shorter in the back, and longer in the front) and cut it the way he thought was best for me. Although I haven’t quite figured out how to style it on my own, I think it looks pretty darn good. Here’s an Instagram pic.

David Mallett
14 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires
2nd arrondissement // Métro: Bourse
Tél: 01 40 20 00 23
**I love my stylist Richie (who also speaks English) and for a great blow dry, Etienne is your man!

A Tip on Hair Tipping: Wondering what to tip when it comes to haircuts in Paris? Apparently, you shouldn’t feel like you have to tip 20% like in NYC. According to my Frenchie friends, 5 to 10% is perfectly acceptable and even considered generous. Personally, I feel more comfortable tipping around 10%. At the David Mallett salon, you can just ask the receptionist for a small envelope to put your tip in. Then, simply give it to them to hand over or walk back into the main salon room and deliver it yourself.

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