Thoughts from Paris, Spring 2016

A lot has happened in the last couple of months, and I haven’t written about any of it.

It’s not like I didn’t have the time. For almost all of April and May, I was home just about every day. With exceptions of course for that time I got married and the week I showed my parents around Paris, I’ve had a pretty wide-open schedule. I’ve filled my days with job-hunting for hours on end, cat-snuggling (a full time job on its own, really), and going for really long walks to get lost and find my way home again. And yet somehow, I never found time to tell you all about it. Or maybe I just wasn’t inspired after several days straight on the couch.

Human contact is a funny thing. Too much of it and you’re dying for some alone time in your jammies with a snack and your favorite shows. Not enough, and you start to become a bit too attached to your Netflix account, who is always there for you and would never do anything to hurt you.

Over the last couple of weeks though, things have been looking up! Good stuff has happened, the weather got better (briefly), and I started to spend more time with fun people other than my cat. Lunches here and there with friends, shopping trips, and – most important of all – I found my people in France for weekly Game of Thrones viewing. It does a person good to find their fellow nerds.

Anyway, I’m bouncing back with a few random thoughts from the last few weeks of “Spring” here in Paris:

  1. Happy birthday to me! I got to celebrate my birthday in France this year, which was neat. After a couple months of boring unemployment, realizing you don’t have to go to work on your birthday is a nice perk. I got to sleep in and hang out. I also got to go to the Prefecture de Police, in an odd twist of date fate. See #5 for more info on that – this one’s about me. After a nice dinner out with my Frenchman (and gifts that included both popcorn AND maple syrup! what a man) My fellow expat friend Jayne was nice enough to organize a fun dinner at Ober Mamma with a few great people.
  2. French banks are even worse than originally thought. You can set up a personal account and a joint account, but the joint account can only have one name on it and one card… Then, you can receive your cards for those two accounts on the exact same day, with no way of knowing which card goes to which account, and even when you activate them on an ATM, the view is identical so there’s still no hope. And then, just when you think you’ve hit the peak of French banques, you find out you are not allowed to change your randomly-generated pin. You just have to memorize this string of numbers, plus the random numbers for the other card, plus the 10-digit numbers-only password you had to create to access your online banking. Ugh.
  3. There is a speakeasy through the freezer at a pizza joint. No, really. No, this is not Brooklyn circa 2010. There’s a pizza place near Bastille that has a hidden bar in the back that you access via a giant freezer door, and it’s speakeasy themed with jazzy music, ceiling tiles, and awesome cocktails. I didn’t take pictures when I was there, so here are some I grabbed from the internet: dragonfly20131119-23145-1tqsv2qThe Beef Club Ballroom, Paris, France
  4. There is no summer in Paris. While everyone else at home was posting beach pics and talking about how hot it’s been, we were here in Paris wearing sweaters and coats and talking about how we got more than a month’s worth of rain in just a few days. There were floods and the Seine was overflowing and the Louvre had to move their precious art. It was all very exciting except for the fact that it’s not summer which is a real bummer, you guys. Paris floods SeineParis flood Seine EiffellParis flood Seine swan
  5. I got (and started) a job! As I mentioned in my last post, after what feels like a year of job hunting here in France, I finally landed an offer. I couldn’t be more excited, both for a reason to leave the house every day and to have income, but also for the job itself which seems like exactly what I was looking for, on either side of the Atlantic. The only hitch was that I still didn’t officially have the right to work in France despite being married to a Frenchman, as I was on a visitor visa. I had a date at the Prefecture of Police, scheduled coincidentally on my birthday. I gathered yet more paperwork, including as much government-approved proof as possible that I had lived together with Frenchman in France for a minimum of 6 months. Oy. But ultimately the appointment went fairly smoothly, and I was granted the right to work, effective immediately! As soon as I realized I could start ASAP, I panicked a bit. It all seemed too soon! But it was fantastic news, so I enjoyed last few days of funemployment and jumped in feet-first into all-French, all-day.

And that about catches us up to today! It has been a nice few months back in Paris, giving me the opportunity to relax, explore, and get more familiar with this city I now call home. I’m excited to see what the next few months bring as I transition from existing here in a semi-vacation state to really, truly living here and participating in the day-to-day. Stay tuned for a post all about commuting on the Metro, I can only assume I’ll have stories to tell.

Advertisements

Restaurant Round-Up: October!

One of the first things people ask me about living in France is always about food.

Without fail, everyone wants to know about the food (and wine). Whether they’ve just found out I moved here or they’ve known for a while and are checking in to see how it’s going, there will inevitably be a question about what I’ve been eating, how is the cheese, have you had a lot of croissants…

So I’ve assembled a few of the places I’ve eaten in the last month for a quick Restaurant Round-Up!

In the month of October, we visited a few restaurants, though surprisingly fewer than I think most of you would expect. We’ve eaten at home quite a bit (our own and Frenchman’s parents’ home while we were there) and have been keeping the restaurants to a minimum what with all our trips coming up that we’d like to reserve some money for.

So here you go, the October Restaurant Guide  – this month’s round-up of where I’ve eaten and how it was!

Le Casse Noix – We found this place online and tried once to go for dinner but couldn’t get in. Though it was fairly early and there were empty tables, they said they were all booked up without a reservation. We went back for lunch with a reservation the next week and it was delicious. It’s obviously a very local/family/regular place as everyone seemed to know everyone else and the kitchen staff. Always a good sign.

 

The menu was fairly large (in a good way) with an array of options for both type of food as well as menu style (prix fixe, a la carte, other special prix fixe). This place also offered the most beautiful dessert I’ve ever seen:

Casse Noix Paris dessert

Le Casse Noix
56 Rue de la Fédération
15ème Paris

Comptoir Moderne – We had high hopes for this one to be our go-to brunch destination. Though the restaurant was – I kid you not – completely empty 20 minutes after opening, they seemed put out that we didn’t have a reservation and struggled to find a place to put us. (In the end, the place was never full, not sure what all the fuss was about!) The decor was cool, ambiance nice, I liked that you ordered your brunch menu but hot beverages and charcuteries were serve-yourself on the bar.

The meals, however, were not great. Overworked would be the best description, with the number of different odd things on the platter, none of which were good and none of which worked together at all. They’re obviously trying for something cool but totally missed the mark. Won’t be going back – the search for “our brunch” continues.

Comptoir Moderne
26 Rue de la Croix Nivert
15ème Paris

 

Cote de Mer – Not at all recommended. This place is in Deauville, not Paris, and the reviews on TripAdvisor/Yelp were the most misleading I’ve ever encountered. The wait staff was indifferent, at best; one never even spoke, the other (the owner?) never told us the specials until after we had already ordered. Food was mediocre but the service was appalling. A full 50 minutes went by between my entree/app and the arrival of our main dishes. Well over an hour/hour and a half after we had arrived at the restaurant before we could eat our meals. And they were meh. Our desserts arrived fairly promptly after that, but the moelleux au chocolat was anything but moelleux (instead dry and just cakey) and the crème brûlée was fridge-cold. By the time we left we were still slightly hungry and in crappy moods. (Thankfully next we headed over to the casino for free champagne!)

Côté Mer
35 Avenue de la République
Deauville

 

La Bolée Normande – This gem, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise. We stumbled on this creperie/galleterie as we wandered around the hills and “back” streets in Trouville. Really affordable prices, fantastic menu choices, and very welcoming, friendly staff. Our orders were delicious and we were so pleased that we ordered dessert too even though we meant to only have a quick lunch. Our dessert crepes were delicious.

No photos because we couldn’t wait that long. We ate it all before I even thought of taking pictures! Instead, here’s a pretty view from nearby.

Trouville Deauville beach

La Bolée Normande
1 Rue Durand Couyère
Trouville-sur-Mer

 

Bacco – In my first solo venture out of the apartment, I met someone for lunch just a quick walk around the block. This place is a bit pricey at first glance (28€ for most of their main dishes) but their lunch formule is just 19€ for entree – plat or plat – dessert. My lunch partner got the app, we both had a delicious risotto, and I finished the meal with a tasty dessert. All really nice, except the lunch formule menu isn’t written anywhere inside so you’re left to hope you hear the waiter correctly when he tells you your options in rapid-fire French. I would go back, and hope my ears were tuned in really well, otherwise I’m in for another Mystery Meal.

Bacco
13 Rue Mademoiselle
15ème Paris

 

I am also obligated to mention the “Best Restaurant of All” which is my own apartment where Frenchman “cooks” salad. They are most excellent salads full of lettuce and salady things. Written under duress. 

We’ve done raclette, and I even mostly figured out the strange oven/microwave contraption (thanks to googling the serial numbers for an English-language manual) and managed to make a few real meals. #Proud. We have also gone out for a drink here and there or gotten a quick dessert, but those didn’t make the list since I can’t speak to those places as a whole.

Paris France food

Oh the Places I’ll Go

Being the insane over-organizer that I am (thanks, Mom), I have an entire spreadsheet dedicated to restaurants I want to try. There are columns for the name, the location, the type of food, a dollar-sign system for rating how expensive it is, a column for checking off when I’ve been there, and a field for notes to keep in mind before and after visiting.

As crazy as it sounds, it has actually been really helpful over the years. Who doesn’t walk around their city and spot a cool cafe or restaurant and think “I’ll have to remember that!” – and then promptly forget all about it. You forget the name, or you forget where you were wandering when you saw it… just enough to make it impossible to Google later. … or is that just me?

Travel Nerd

Nerd. My name is Nerd.

Anyway, the point is, I’ve created an identical spreadsheet for restaurants in Paris. A month out and I already had half a dozen line items with everything from a burger joints (for a taste of home) to fancy gourmet venues (special occasion? yes, please) to places that serve afternoon tea and tiny sandwiches (pinkies up, everyone!).

No one can say I’m unprepared.

Well, except for like the actual living and navigating the city part, but that’s like, whatever. I’m focused on the important things.

Aside from food, I also am incredibly excited about the opportunities for travel once I’m based in Paris. Within France, out of France, I want to go EVERYWHERE. We hadn’t even booked my flights to France yet and I had already planned the first weekend trip I wanted to go on (to Bruges, in case you were wondering).

Needless to say, I have a spreadsheet for that, too.

This one has multiple sheets!

  • There’s a Paris sheet: Things to do in and around Paris. Museums (with notes about special openings and stuff), sites, etc. Columns include: the name, the location/arrondissement, notes, and relevant links.
  • There’s a France sheet: Cities and places to visit in France outside of Paris. I want to dance sur le pont d’Avignon and all the way down through lavender-land to St. Tropez. Columns include: the destination, where/the region, how long it takes to get there, and notes to remember.
  • There’s an Ailleurs (elsewhere) sheet: Everywhere else in Europe I want to go! To be honest, the other sheets were afterthoughts to this one, once I realized I was entirely focused on leaving France once I got there. Columns include: country, mode of transportation (train/plane), how long it takes to get there, notes, and when I want to go.

My lists just keep getting longer and longer. But we nailed down that first trip and I am SO excited. I have had Bruges on the brain for years. I tried to plan a visit from Wales, but circumstances and lack of company meant that it fell apart. So I’ve been thinking about it for about 5 years, and I’m FINALLY going. Naturally, I made another document to plan it.

But wait, there’s more

What, you thought the nerding was over?

No no. I have an entire detailed document with dedicated sections for Activities, Food & Drink, and Accommodations for every trip I’ve made in the last few years. Depending on the destination and time of year, the Activities section might even be broken into two: indoor and outdoor. They get filled with things I want to do or see, links to the appropriate websites, links to Groupons or other deals associated with it, and other useful notes.

Again, it sounds crazy, but it usually just turns out to be crazy useful. Not only do you have a working list of things you’d like to do so you aren’t wasting time once you get there, but simply creating the document forces you to become at least vaguely familiar with the destination, where things are relative to other things, and general navigation. Super helpful once you’ve hit the ground running. AND since I exclusively use Google Docs for this (and the restaurant spreadsheets), I can share access with whoever I’m travelling with so they can view and add whatever they find as well. (Just try to breathe through the control issues when they add things wrong differently than I would… and then fix them later so it looks nice)

Our trip to Bruges is a short weekend getaway in November. I’ve had that document drawn up since August. Oops.

And then I was so deeply in PLANNING MODE that I went ahead and created a whole other document for our next trip.  I also sketched out our next, next trips, both weekends and longer stays, for next year. Honestly I think I have a problem. But I can guarantee we won’t be sitting around wondering what to do!

I really tried not to plan 2 trips in advance, especially before I had even left this country but I just couldn’t help myself. In December, for my Frenchman’s birthday, we are going to Vienna. I cannot wait to see Vienna at Christmastime, all done up with lights and festive decorations (and hopefully a dusting of snow, for a touch of fairytale romance).

So where else am I headed?

  • St. Tropez/Nice/Cannes
  • Provence (Lavender!)
  • Amsterdam
  • Prague
  • Barcelona
  • Scandinavia
  • Munich
  • Rome
  • Lisbon
  • ….

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. And once you start Googling articles and places to go and TripAdvisor reviews… that rabbit hole is deep, my friends.