Salon de l’Agriculture

Every spring, Paris plays host to a massive agricultural expo, called the Salon de l’Agriculture. Held in the exact same location as my beloved Salon du Chocolat (but about 18 times larger), this event is something I’ve been curious about since seeing it featured briefly on TV once, and since wondering whether there was a Salon du Fromage or something of equally delicious interest.

With a mind to see some cows and taste some cheese, Frenchman and I decided to pay a visit to this festival of French agriculture.

We did not know what we were getting into.

Salon de l’Agriculture

salon-de-lagriculture-pavillons

We bought our tickets and made our way to the Porte de Versailles convention and expo area, blissfully unaware of the chaos that awaited us. I honestly cannot convey to you the immense scale of this event. Continue reading

Love at the Musée Rodin

What’s more romantic than an evening spent in the company of the most iconic kiss in the world?

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Forget your impossible-to-get reservations for overpriced 18-course meals you’ll only partly like. For Valentine’s Day, Frenchman and I took romance to the next level. We went to the Musée Rodin.

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I was lucky enough to get my name on a list for the exclusive #SoiréeLove event at the Rodin Museum, so we gratefully gave up trying to find affordable romantic plans (we did just buy a home, after all) and took the even better idea that fell in our laps.

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Lunch at l’Église de la Madeleine

Here’s the thing about living in Paris. There are hundreds of “major” sites to visit, all of them surely spectacular, but unlike when visiting on vacation you’ve got work and real life to attend to so you never even get to half of them.

Literally so much to see, so little time to see it. How many things in your own hometown have you not visited except maybe when friends are in from out of town?

Fortunately for me, I work with a fun office manager who has a penchant for planning visits to nearby things to see. Our office is right in the heart of the city, so we’re perfectly placed to zip out and back during a lunch break. We’ve got a couple other expats, but quite a few French like to come as well because, like I said, it’s hard to find time to see everything in your own city when you’ve got everyday life to do.

So where did we visit this time?

La Madeleine

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Romance in Paris

It’s February! My how time flies when you’re having fun up to your neck in cardboard boxes.

The Monsieur and I are officially moved into our new place and things are looking good (we finally have a couch!). It got a little hairy in there when some door handles got broken and a dryer was delivered without the washer it’s supposed to go on top of (even though we had already paid for it…?) but the course of a move never did run smooth. All things considered, it went well. The trick now is furnishing the place so we have places to put our stuff away and more than 1 pot to cook in. Baby steps.

Anyway, we’re here now and I thought what better time to think about romance in Paris than now, after moving into our very own place just before Valentine’s Day?

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Romantic Things to Do in Paris for Valentine’s Day

In the lead-up to V-Day, here’s my list of romantic things to do in and around Paris, prefect for Valentine’s Day (or any day!)

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My Calendar of Paris Events 2017

It’s January, the start of a new year. Everyone at work, though just back from their holiday breaks, has been talking about what trips and vacations everyone has planned for the year. While I don’t have all of my weekend jaunts and 3-week retreats scheduled just yet, it got me thinking about what’s on deck for 2017.

So here it all is! A schedule of all the events and noteworthy Paris things to come this year that I’ve got on my radar. Give or take a few dozen, that is:

Paris Calendar of Events

January 1st – New Year’s Day

Everything’s closed. France is hungover. Everyone starts wishing each other Happy New Year, “meilleurs vœux” for the new year, “plein de bonnes choses,” health and happiness and all that good stuff.

January 6th (ish) – Galette des Rois

The “King Cake” is not like the New Orleans Mardi Gras version. This flaky, buttery, almond-flavored pastry is shared around the 6th of January (Epiphany) between family, among friends, and even very commonly in offices. In the galette is hidden a little “fève“, a tiny figurine, and whoever finds it in their slice is King (or Queen) and gets to wear a crown. There are whole traditions surrounding cutting the galette, the youngest person hides under the table and picks who each slice goes to, etc. Point is, it’s a delicious tradition and everybody loves it.

events-paris-galette-des-rois

Bonne Année Bonne Santé

Wishing one another a happy new year is an important custom in France. To not wish someone ‘bonne année‘ when you first see them after the holiday is a real faux pas.

New Year’s Day, while I was lounging around contemplating another mimosa, Frenchman was busy calling every relative one after the other for a quick, repetitive but heartfelt new year’s greeting. For each when the conversation turned to me I called a quick bonneannéehappynewyear from across the room. Thorough emails went out to everyone not reachable by phone.

At work on Monday, everyone pointedly wished each other happy new year first thing. As each person entered to room, bonne années were tossed around. If you sent someone a question, it was immediately followed up with “oh and happy new year!”

It’s an interesting social obligation to have to wish each other good health and happiness in the new year. Not a bad custom, but interesting to see how seriously it’s taken. It is, for sure, an obligation.

New Year’s in Paris

This New Year’s Eve was a quiet one, once again. When a nice dinner for two is nearing the cost of a washing machine, the appliances win out. So we had a nice meal at home, starting with the requisite foie gras of course, sipped our champagne and enjoyed a simple night in. We ventured out at 11:30 or so for a walk to the Seine (maybe to catch a view of the fireworks at midnight?) but very quickly decided it was just too cold and packed it in. We watched the fireworks from the comfort of our pajamas as the clock struck midnight.

Recapping 2016

Frenchman and Mrs. Frenchman have had a big year. We became Mr. and Mrs., for one. I’ve been on more planes in 2016 than I think I have in any other year. I experienced lots of travel, lots of stress, and lots of exciting milestones in the last 12 months: Continue reading

We bought an apartment

Frenchman and I are officially homeowners!

After months of apartment hunting, filing paperwork, and waiting for French bankers to come back from vacation, it’s finally official.

We’re key-carrying owners of our very own place.

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We bought a place in France!

We just barely made it by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the banks losing our paperwork and not mentioning it to us until 3 days before the signing. After running like crazy to get them new papers in the mail, and a few angry emails and phone calls from Frenchman and our notary, we made it just in time, with the expedited wire transfer arriving in the account about an hour before our appointment. Phew.

After all that stress and living in various states of temporary, I’m very much looking forward to having a permanent home with my own stuff and no deadline of having to move out.

saint-germain-en-laye-apartment

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Quick Trip to the Opéra Garnier

One of the cool things about living in Paris (rather than visiting) is that you can take the time to explore hidden gems and smaller sites you wouldn’t otherwise have time for on a Greatest Hits tour in a week-long or weekend trip.

I’m lucky in that my office is centrally located in the heart of Paris, surrounded by some of the swankiest areas. I can see La Madeleine from our windows. Since we moved to this location back in October, our gregarious Office & Happiness Manager (official title, and it suits her!) has organized a couple of quick lunchtime trips to cool things to see nearby.

Unfortunately I missed out on the first one (to the Chapelle Expiatoire – where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were originally buried and now a museum about the darker sides of Paris’ history through the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. It’s now closed until May). I refused to miss out on another one, this time to the Opéra Garnier.

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The Palais Garnier

Just up the street is the magnificent Opéra Garnier. I’ve been wanting to get inside for ages, but had not yet found the time. Theaters are always spectacular anyway, but this one is high on my list for musical theater nerd reasons: Phantom of the Opera (dun dun dundundunnnnnnn)

It. is. breathtaking.

I am so glad I went. I uttered little “Wows” repeatedly as I turned corners and caught first glimpses of each part of this building. You enter through the back, and go through this big rotunda before you even enter the impressive part. Once you actually enter the ticketed area, you climb grand staircases loaded with marble and lined with gigantic mirrors up to the incredible painted ceiling. Everything is gilt. Everything shines.

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Second Thanksgiving in Paris

Last year, I got lucky. I had moved abroad, but I was still working for an American company. The result was that I had Thanksgiving day off as a holiday, just like always,  allowing me to focus my time on cooking way too many mashed potatoes, picking up our fresh-ordered pumpkin pie, and generally lazing around the house to the smell of a feast in progress.

This year, I officially work in France where they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. In theory I could have taken the day off and, honestly, I had fully planned on it. But between our recent long weekend in Barcelona (which I will tell you about soon), plus being in the middle of a HUGE project at work, plus needing to take scattered days off soon for signing on our apartment and moving and all that good stuff, well, it just wasn’t feasible to take my Thanksgiving day.

So here we are, working on my treasured American holiday.

Thanksgiving in France

I cannot count the number of times in the past week that I have had to explain any of the following:

  • When is Thanksgiving?
  • What is Thanksgiving?
  • What is that thing you’re drawing?
    • Answer: This
    •  thanksgiving-abroad-cornucopia
  • Where’s the turkey?
  • Are you going to eat macaroni and cheese?
  • … among other confused questions

The French, as it turns out, are very unaware of ‘Thanksgiving’ as a concept. When I was in Wales, I had found that most people were vaguely aware of the idea of the American holiday and that it was, in fact, an official holiday.

My French coworkers, on the other hand, have been saying things like “people are really into Thanksgiving!” with a bemused look of someone who doesn’t understand, but won’t question, a silly thing they see someone doing. I’ve found myself repeatedly explaining that Thanksgiving is, actually, a major national holiday and that it’s actually illegal(?) for offices to be open and that it is not, in fact, just a made-up occasion driven by marketing for Americans to stuff their faces.

They’ve all been pretty surprised.

Apparently, the French more or less think that it’s like Halloween, where it’s a made-up excuse to eat a lot and that, as adults, it’s silly and/or optional to participate. Cue sadness.

Thanksgiving is the best holiday, and it’s a real holiday and I take it very seriously. Ok, yes, it’s 90% about food but I love it.

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The Paris Catacombs (Happy Halloween!)

Did I tell you about the time I visited the Paris Catacombs?

We stood in line for hours. No, that is not an exaggeration for dramatic effect. Literal hours. We made a bad choice.

Poor, patient Frenchman stood along with me, our feet dying (ready to be put out of their misery and left with the rest of the skeletons down below), wondering why in the world this strange American wanted to do this so badly. If only he knew then what kinds of crazy antics he’d be roped into for all eternity when he decided to marry me. #SaintFrenchman.

It’s not always like this, apparently. We just got very, very unlucky

The Paris Catacombs

The concept of the Les Catacombes is pretty creepy, just at face value. A labyrinth of underground tunnels walled with the scattered bones of millions of people? Shudder. I HAD TO SEE IT.

In effect, what happened is that after centuries and centuries of Paris being a hugely populated metropolis, the city’s cemeteries were filled to the brim. Like, bodies were piled up so badly that they started to wash up in heavy rains, since they could no longer be buried deep enough to stay buried. Seriously: In 1780, a “prolonged period of spring rain caused a wall around Les Innocents to collapse, spilling rotting corpses into a neighboring property.” 😨 Even in the 1700s the smell was, apparently, unbearable. Plus, the city could use some extra land that was otherwise occupied by people who really didn’t seem to be needing such prime real estate.

It was decided: the dead would have to be moved. There was already a warren of tunnels under the city dating from the 13th century, a perfect storage space. Les Innocents cemetery was the first to be emptied, soon followed by all others in the city. An estimated 6 or 7 million skeletons were moved to the new Catacombs. It took 12 years.

The fun part? They didn’t just toss them all in piles. They decorated. A far more dignified way to have your bones dug up and relocated, I suppose. The catacombs have intricately stacked and designed walls, with zillions of femurs all laying one way, toothless skulls all facing front or organized into crosses and patterns. It’s super weird.

Additional fun fact: starting with the French revolution, the deceased were moved directly to the ossuaries, without making a pit stop in a traditional cemetery. They didn’t stop adding bones to the Catacombs until 1860.

Spooky Scary

We finally, finally got to the front of the line to go down into the mysterious catacombs. We slowwwwly snaked around this little garden and around to the main entrance, which looks like a tiny house, painted black. Inside, your ticket is scanned to count the number of people inside (presumably to limit how many enter, as well as to make sure the same number also exits) and down you go!

First, you come to a little exhibit room. I feebly looked at the signs and descriptions on the walls but, after hours of waiting I was here for the main event!

paris-catacombs-gate-to-hell“Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort! / Stop! This is the empire of death! “

Really sets the mood! You enter through this doorway and immediately a weird sense of awe, fascination, and creepyness hits you. It’s chilly and damp. You are literally surrounded by skeletons. Underground.

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