Packed & Ready

I’m heading back to Paris!

I can finally say I’m going back – to Paris, to my apartment, to my cat, and of course to the fiancé I left behind for nearly 3 months to wallow through the winter without me.

For the entire time I’ve been home, there has been some measure of uncertainty. Not knowing when I could go back, not knowing if my paperwork was going through, not being able to tell anyone at work I was planning on going back… It has been exhausting. When the pieces finally all fell into place and I not only had solid plans but could share them? That was a big day. And once I was able to tell my team and give my notice a huge weight was lifted and I finally felt like I could enjoy this a little. Not that quitting my job didn’t come with its own set of stressors, but I wasn’t keeping secrets anymore and that was a relief.

Speaking of paperwork, I can also finally celebrate all of it going through! We got our marriage stuff in order… I got my visa application in order and received it… all that’s left is to get on a plane and go to the city hall!

Oh the stories I could tell of the highs and lows of international paperwork. And, believe me, I will certainly tell it all in good time. I just couldn’t bring myself to write about “How To Apply for a Visa” or “How to get married in France” in confident detail until I had the papers securely in hand myself. I was pretty sure that as soon as I wrote about it, something else would go haywire and the whole post would be a lie. So stay tuned for tales of visas and consulates and Paris Mairies in the near future.

After all, I’m soon to be unemployed in Paris. It seems only right that I should spend my days writing my life story in a cafe somewhere!

But for now, my flight leaves tonight. I’ve got my parents packed and ready to come with me, and I’m getting married on Monday! It has been a wild ride these past few months, full of lots of unknowns and confusion (and joys and excitement), and I’m happy to say it’s all coming to a happy close this very week.

A bientôt, Paris!

Paris Seine Eiffel Tower

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Not an optimist [UPDATED]

UPDATE 3/14/16:

It has come to my attention that this blog post fell flat like a pancake crêpe and/or totally confused everyone. Here are some clarifications to hopefully make it all make more sense.

  1. This post was written in total snark and sarcasm.
  2. Everything is fine. No really, I swear.

For a bit of context, this post was intended to be a funny, quick exploration of French vs. American perspective and attitude. It was written in response to a funny exchange with my Frenchman in which, after reassuring me that X would be fine, Y would be fine, and Z would all be fine, he also expressed “I am not just being optimiste, I am just realiste.” I interpreted this moment as a silly, succinct example of one of the many differences between Americans and the French, in the way he felt compelled to clarify to me that he was not, in fact, being optimistic (apparently a bad thing), he was just being realistic when he said everything was going to work out perfectly smoothly.

I thought it was funny. Apparently everyone else did not.

Does that help? With all that in mind, please proceed with the following blog post keeping humor and snark in perspective.


 

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog silence with a lesson in French worldview.

STand by
Je ne suis pas optimiste… juste realiste” – I’m not being optimistic, just realistic.

Used as justification of a positive outlook on a situation. Did you know that being an optimist is a punishable offense?

If this isn’t the perfect illustration of French ideology, I don’t know what is. Having to explain away your reasoning for fear that someone might interpret you as an optimist? The horror!

Meanwhile, in America, telling someone not to be so optimistic is akin to kicking a puppy. Being a staunch realist makes you boring; a real bummer at parties. Who knew that a jaunt overseas means your “everything will be alright” perspective becomes an embarrassing show of optimisme?

Looks like this Boston cynic will have to dial it all the way up next time she discusses a matter and whether or not it’ll work out.

I’m still here, I swear.

I’ve been slacking.

I was supposed to write about Christmas in Paris, but Christmas came and went and I didn’t get around to it. Then I thought, hey fine – I’ll write about Christmas and New Year’s Eve together, that’ll be great. Then New Year’s came and went and I didn’t get around to it.

I’d like to say that I’ve just been so busy with my fabulous life and that I was just “living it to the fullest” so much and that’s why. But that’s not exactly true.

True fact: I have been busy. True fact: it is not with fabulous life-living. It’s with paperwork and planning and flights home and trying to find enough sweaters to not freeze to death in this arctic New England weather we’re so nicely experiencing just as soon as I got back here.

So here’s your quick recap of the past couple of weeks, in photo/summary format. Settle in – this is a long one.

Christmas.

Christmas in Paris seems like a fairytale. To be fair, it is totally gorgeous. Though the weather was oddly warm (same at home, it seems) it was still festive. Frenchman and I were headed to his brother’s house just north of Paris, but not before having a little mini-Christmas of our own.

Christmas Eiffel Tower MarketChristmas Paris TreeChristmas Buche de Noel

In France, Christmas Eve is the bigger event compared to Christmas Day in the U.S. We got to Saint-Germain-en-Laye after hardly eating all day in preparation for the huge meal to come. This was a good decision.

There were snacks, and drinks, and then a first appetizer, and then a second appetizer, and then the huge main meal, and more drinks, and bread and more bread, and cheese. And, of course, dessert! We each got our own individual tiny Bûche de Noël. It was adorable (and delicious). No pictures, sadly, but use your imagination (similar to the baby bûche above, which I was able to hold off from eating long enough to snap a photo).

It was all super delicious, and we left decidedly full to spend the night at a hotel around the corner as his parents’ new house nearby was too paint-fumed to support a night’s sleep.

We made our way back to Christmas Central the next morning to find the most enormous pile of presents I have ever seen. Frenchman’s nephews are 3 and 1 respectively, and couldn’t even begin to appreciate the number of gifts they had to open. While they could easily have kept half the gifts for next year and no one would have noticed, I must admit that the kid in me was SO EXCITED to see a literal mountain of brightly wrapped presents spilling out from under the tree.

We spent the day snacking on tasty brioche for breakfast, watching little kids unwrap their toys, and then eating even more food in another multi-course (though less formal) meal capped off with yet another gorgeous dessert – this time a citrusy ice cream cake.

The Lull.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always weird. Half the population is on vacation, the half that is working is …”working” and all you really want to do is hang out in sweats and eat leftover holiday goodies.

Married in France

Frenchman and I used this time to go to our local Mairie (city hall) to start getting our paperwork in order to get married in France. 🙂 That’s a whole post (or seven) in and of itself, so I won’t go into the paperwork stuff just yet. Just suffice it to say it’s insanely complicated, difficult, and overwhelming and stay tuned for the full write-up sometime soon.

New Year’s.

Shortly before New Year’s Eve, as many of you probably heard, they announced that Paris’ celebration would be subdued. Not cancelled, but toned down to show respect and solemnity after the attacks in November. Obviously understandable, but I won’t deny I was disappointed as “New Year’s in Paris!” was a thing I had been excited about since the first mention of moving.

We planned ourselves a nice dinner at home rather than trying to go out anywhere, with all the bells and whistles (fancy foie gras-stuffed tiny chickens, bacon-wrapped date appetizers, fancy desserts from the boulangerie across the street – the whole shebang) including not one, but two bottles of champagne. Go big or go home, right?

 

After dinner, we packed up and took ourselves down to the Champs Elysees to check out the festivities. As part of the adjusted plans for the evening, instead of fireworks they would be showing a short video splashed across the Arc de Triomphe and displayed on large screens all down the street to avoid a large crowd jammed at one end. We were pleased to go through two separate police security checks as we made our way through, checking coats and purses and everything. Security was obviously high, but so were spirits as even the police joked with people that they’d only let them through if they shared their champagne.

New Years Champs ElyseesNew Years Arc de TriompheNew Years Paris 2016It was a fun night, albeit relatively short. And as we walked home from the 8th arrondissement to the 16th to the 7th and finally the 15th where we live, it was really amazing to see Paris through such a festive lens and know that that’s where I live.

New Years Eve Paris

The rest.

We started off the New Year with a brunch of mimosas and praline brioche. Not a bad start, I think.

New Years Paris Brunch

From there, we started hustling to get all sorts of documentation in order for our marriage dossier for the Mairie before I had to head home. Burying the lede, I know, but the fact is I had to head home to Boston the 10th of January. Remote work was coming to an end and my passport was turning into a pumpkin.

But I’ll wrap this up before this gets much longer, and tell you about some good food and good friends that kicked off the New Year another time.

(Festive) Scenes from Paris

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Now that it’s December, it’s officially acceptable to talk about the holidays, put up decorations, and listen to Christmas carols.

I make an effort not to think about Christmas in November, certainly not before Thanksgiving. Not an easy feat here in Paris, where Thanksgiving isn’t a thing, and therefore creates no barrier between fall and SANTAAAAAA! We started seeing holiday decorations by early November. It was too soon. But now! Now it’s time 🙂

Much like last time I posted a Scenes from Paris, this isn’t a real post. It’s an excuse to share more pictures that I otherwise might not have reason to sneak into the blog.

It’s Christmas in Paris!

Nutcracker Paris Ferris WheelChristmas Market ParisChristmas Market Paris Vin ChaudChristmas Market Champs ElyseesChristmas Rue du CommerceChamps Elysees ChristmasFerris Wheel Paris NightSanta Gnome BrugesChristmas Nutcracker Bruges

Okay, you caught me. Those last two are from Bruges. But I just couldn’t resist!

I can only imagine I’ll be taking more and more festive photos like these over the next few weeks. I’ll try to keep the oversharing to a minimum, but you just can’t help it with beautiful holiday scenes like these!

Thanksgiving in Paris

I’m not usually one for gushing, “let’s go around the table” declarations of what we’re grateful for at Thanksgiving dinner. To be honest, if someone asked I usually wouldn’t know what to say (I would probably make some snarky comment). If you suggested it with my family, we would all probably awkwardly ignore it and try to move on. We’re not touchy-feely types.

But this year, there is so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my safety, after a stressful and tragic few weeks. I’m thankful for my aforementioned family – awkward as we are – for being totally on board with Project: Elizabeth Moves to France. I’m thankful for my job, giving me the ability and opportunity to keep it and still be here.

And I’m thankful that I get to live in this amazing city:

Notre Dame Paris

Francegiving: An American Thanksgiving in Paris

I may be in France, but there was no way I was going to miss out on one of the best holidays of the year. A holiday entirely devoted to food? Impossible.

I fully intended to celebrate my Thanksgiving, and celebrate it properly.

I only had 2 problems. A mini-oven that doesn’t work well, and no access to critical ingredients since I’m, you know, in France.

My oven is mediocre, at best, and in no way suited for supporting a holiday feast. While it technically is an oven, it is not only microwave-sized, but also doubles as an actual microwave. And grill. And some other setting I don’t quite understand. Anyway, this jack-of-all-trades appliance is, as they say, a master of none. Even if I could find a turkey small enough to fit, I wouldn’t trust the thing to be cooked.

And so, I turned to my favorite solution when things get tricky: get someone else to do it. Though my original plan was to find a tray of turkey breasts and make do that way, I realized that our friendly neighborhood boucher was right next door and fully capable of handling a turkey order. And order one we did! First obstacle: successfully maneuvered.

The next obstacle is the other pillar of Thanksgiving feasts, pie. In a test-run last weekend, I couldn’t even cook the simplest of simple pies in this oven. (Report: Swedish Apple Pie was burnt on top and totally undercooked just below) If I couldn’t make that recipe work, there was no way a regular pie was a risk worth taking. That’s a disappointment I couldn’t stomach. So again I turned to having others solve my problems: I ordered a pumpkin pie from the American market, Thanksgiving.

American Market Paris Thanksgiving

Yup, it’s a store called Thanksgiving, filled to the brim with very American foodstuffs

American Market Paris ThanksgivingAmerican Market Paris Thanksgiving

And so we came to Thanksgiving day perfectly positioned to not totally fail at recreating an American spread. Frenchman took the day off to be with me, so together we set out to the Marais to pick up our pie. The weather was spectacular for a quick walk across Ile de la Cité.

Paris Seine Ile St LouisLove Locks Paris

An unfortunate upside of the Paris attacks is the almost complete absence of tourists. While it’s sad to see, it’s also really refreshing to have Paris so empty and be able to really see the monuments and streets for once.

After picking up our pie at the completely overwhelmed Thanksgiving – line curled completely around the store full of American accents discussing their ingredient needs – we made our way back conveniently passing through Ile St. Louis, which happens to be the home of famous ice cream maker Berthillon. We literally can’t come near this neighborhood without Frenchman asking if we can stop. I gave in and we picked up a lovely container of vanilla to go with our pumpkin pie!

Berthillon Vanilla Ice Cream

When I’m not passing off my problems on other people, my number 1 resource for all things food is my mother. And with plenty of mom-structions filed away for everything from stuffing to butternut squash, I spent the entire afternoon prepping the remaining pieces of our Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving in ParisThanksgiving table France

French thanksgiving

A soon-to-be very full Frenchman

Turkey Cat Thanksgiving

Cannelle loves her turkey, too!

Pu

I hope that everyone had a fantastic, filling Thanksgiving at home and abroad! We certainly did, and have leftovers to spare.

Back to life

This weekend, we went back to life as we know it here in Paris.

Sure, it’s been over a week now since the attacks at the Bataclan, restaurant terraces, and Stade de France, and they’ve caught, arrested, and identified many people involved in those terrible events. But few people are sitting at cafes and restaurants like usual, and even the plaza underneath the Eiffel Tower is basically empty when it’s usually so packed you can hardly take two steps before having to dodge another tourist, another picture-taker. Even the sketchy men hawking trinkets and keychains seem a bit sad with no one to harass for a euro.

Eiffel Tower blue blanc rouge lights

The city is still reeling and still trying to make sense of daily life. Aside from how empty everywhere feels, it’s odd to go back to errands and long walks and Christmas shopping knowing what has just happened. It feels normal, but also hollow, in a way.

But we move on, Paris still stands, time marches forward. The best thing – the only thing – to do is to keep walking around this gorgeous city, head held high, moving forward with our lives.

So, this weekend, we went back to life as we know it.

Friday night we went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant that specializes in… burgers? Frenchman had burgers on the brain and I liked the sound of pasta, so off we went. It was fine – certainly not the worst burger I’ve had in Paris, but not what I wanted (though the burgers were well-priced, the pasta dishes were all around 30€ which just seemed unnecessary, so I, too, opted for an American classic). We then took the long way home and made a stop at a cafe around the corner for dessert and a glass of wine before calling it a night.

Saturday, our mission was two-fold. First, pick back up with our Christmas shopping that we had intended to do the previous weekend, before all hell broke loose. Second, seek out Thanksgiving, a shop in the 4eme catering to expats with all sorts of American groceries from Pop Tarts to baking mixes. It was awesome (but pricey! that’s what you get for importing Betty Crocker). We had just wrapped up there when it started absolutely pouring buckets, so we ducked into a cafe for a café (heh, see what I did there?). When it was clear the rain wasn’t stopping anytime soon, we gave up on walking and made our way to Beaugrenelle shopping center.

Beaugrenelle Christmas

We managed to get some things accomplished in drier conditions before heading out into the no-longer-raining street for Goal #3: groceries.

After a stop at the friendly boucher and a lengthy trip to Monoprix, we are well-stocked for the week. Oh, and for Thanksgiving, of course! The main focus of my Monoprix-venture was to get supplies for my holiday feast this Thursday. But let me tell you, it was not easy. Think you’ll find walnuts or brown sugar in the baking aisle? Think again. Vanilla extract? Nope, that’s not there either. Oh, and don’t even think about trying to measure those things in  cups or “sticks” of butter – it’s all grams here. I’m cooking in English but my resources are all French. Stay tuned for the holiday follow-up post which will either be titled Disaster or Miraculous Not-Disaster. I’m as eager as you are to know how this one turns out!

And, to make a long post longer, I’ll wrap up with Sunday which was spent with a trip out to the banlieue for a visit to Frenchman’s parents for lunch. As expected, we absolutely stuffed ourselves with an enormous, delicious meal before going to Frenchman’s grandmother’s house nearby. This was my first time meeting la grand-mère, but it went well and she seemed quite pleased just to hear me respond oui, ça va et vous? So I’ll call it a win.

Happy holiday week to all my Americans! I may be in France, but I’ll be spending my short week prepping for Thanksgiving just the same.

Paris, November 13, 2015

It’s usually around this time that I sit down to write about my weekend, show pictures of the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen. Obviously, this weekend is different.

This weekend, there were no long walks along the Seine. No strolls past the Tour Eiffel. No lighthearted, smiling wanders from quartier to quartier doing the early Christmas shopping we had planned to do.

This weekend is heavyhearted.

I wasn’t sure I would even write about it at all. But I wanted to take time to reflect on what happened here in Paris Friday night, and speak to what is most important after these tragic, horrific events.

I don’t want to go into details about what happened, who did it, or why. That’s not important to me, and I’ll leave it to people more informed and more involved than I to discuss those aspects at length. What’s important to me is the city and people I love.

For me, know that I (and Frenchman, and all his family, and my few friends here in Paris) are safe, and were nowhere near any of the attacks. We live in the 15th arrondissement and were nearby in the 7th enjoying a lovely dinner when we heard, interestingly enough from my sister in Boston. I happened to have my phone on the table – out of character for me at dinner – as we had just looked something up when I received a message asking whether we were home or out because there had been shootings in the 10th. We had no idea.

Frenchman looked at the locations and wondered if it was gang related, due to the location in a rougher neighborhood. We never thought it would become the horror that so quickly unfolded. We were finishing up our meal anyway, and decided to cancel the walk we had hoped to enjoy and go home. By the time we made it to our apartment, we turned on the TV to discover the nightmare that, by now, everyone knows was unfolding across multiple locations in Paris.

We spent the evening watching the news, torn between tears and anger and fear. I spent it responding to an overwhelming number of messages of concern across every platform there is.

And today, that’s what I want to focus on. The outpouring of love and concern from every corner was a bright, warm beacon in the middle of a very dark night. I received texts, personal emails, work emails, personal gchats, work gchats, Facebook messages, and other comments. From close family, cousins, aunts and uncles, close friends, colleagues. I received messages of love and concern from people with whom I haven’t spoken in 10 years. I cannot explain how it feels to know so many people, regardless of distance, know I am here and care to make sure I’m ok.

So, thank you. Thank you to everyone who worried and called and texted and “Liked” and commented. It means the world to me, and it made a terrible time a bit easier knowing you all were there.

I am not French. I can hardly call this home, as I’ve only just been here a month. But this weekend, we are all Parisian.

Paris Attack Eiffel Tower

A visit to the Salon du Chocolat

Where do I even begin.

Salon du Chocolat

Well let me begin by explaining that the Salon du Chocolat is not a small, intimate, sexy event like you might believe from the name salon. It’s big. It’s in a freaking expo center. And there are two levels.

Salon du Chocolat bear Salon du Chocolat sculptures

I have never seen so much chocolate in one place in my life. And it wasn’t even all chocolate! Nougat, macarons, honey… sweets galore. Oh, and fashion.

Salon du Chocolat dresses

The Salon du Chocolate is, at its worst, a giant fancy candy store. Not like “Sweets From Heaven” mall sugar but like, that local super expensive store you drool at the windows of. All in a huge convention center.

What I’m trying to say is, it was magnificent.

Frenchman and I tagged along to the Salon with Frenchmom and her friend from work. They proceeded to be very selective with their praise and scoffed at subpar tables and disappointing salespeople. I, on the other hand, was wandering around trying to keep my chin off the floor, astounded at the sheer number of chocolatiers. The variety of offerings was exceptional. (and they all offered samples 🙂)

And Frenchmom is my favorite type of person to go shopping with, because she was in it to win it. She had taken out a pile of cash and was not afraid to use it! A woman on a mission: a mission for chocolate.

Salon du Chocolat Salon du Chocolat nougat

She has her favorites, apparently, so we looked for particular stalls but along the way we stopped at plenty of other vendors selling delicious almondy macarons, infinitely-better-than-nutella chocolate noisette spread, bars and bars of chocolate, massive wedges of marshmallow-textured nougat, orange flavored pain d’épices… and more chocolate.

In the end, we spent a couple of hours exploring chocolate heaven and left when our arms were full and the Salon was starting to get busy. We got in pretty early (Frenchmom and friend were some of the first in line!) so we were able to get our goodies and get out before it became a madhouse.

We didn’t actually buy that much chocolate, interestingly enough. Frenchman and I were being pretty conservative since we’re heading to Bruges next weekend. It seemed silly to load up on chocolate before going to a city that specializes in it!

Not that we left empty handed…

Salon du Chocolat macarons

My story on Inspirelle!

Hey friends – I have news!

I recently had the opportunity to write for Inspirelle.com, all about my move abroad to Paris and how it happened. And now… it’s published!

Paris Plunge: Leaving Job, Family and Country for French Love

If someone had told me a year ago that I would walk away from everything to move to Paris, I would have laughed. But here I am, just days away, about to move to THE city. PARIS!

And it all happened so quickly.

Suddenly, I had no reason not to go. What’s the worst that could happen?

…. and you’ll have to click on over to read the rest! Seriously, check it out. It’s a cool site and I’m so excited to have been able to write for them.

What is Inspirelle.com?

Inspirelle is a website for, by, and about expat women in France. Though it only launched at the beginning of September, it already plays host to tons of great content (ahem, yours truly) including fun things to do in and around Paris, helpful expat info like how to go to the doctor, and cool stories about life with the French.

So check me out on Inspirelle, and stay tuned because I’ll be writing a follow-up sometime soon about what happens next!

A Weekend in Deauville

After two whole weeks spent in Paris, it seemed the most French thing to do to need a vacation. We have a weekend in Bruges coming up, but two more weeks was just too far away. So off to Deauville we went!

Deauville Trouville

It’s the off-season in this beachy, seaside town in northern France and since we were only planning to go for one night, we splurged on a great rate at a fancy shmancy hotel front and center on the beach. Our view – and our room – was spectacular. Way more than we could have asked for, and we took full advantage.

Not pictured: giant bathroom, sitting room, walk-in closet

Why yes, that is a chandelier. Not pictured: giant bathroom, sitting room, walk-in closet

Deauville Barriere

Panoramic view from our terrace

Something about Deauville feels like you’re stuck somewhere in time between present day and the heyday of the sleek and sophisticated 1920s where the wealthy came to play. And with the gorgeous architecture and beautiful homes dotting the coast, I’d say the wealthy are still here to stay.

Royal Barriere Lobby Normandy Barriere Deauville

We arrived just after lunchtime and walked through the quaint (but clearly chic) center of town on our way to the hotel. After checking in and ogling our oversized room, we set out for a 3 hour walk all the way down the beach before slowly making our way back to relax and freshen up for dinner.

Deauville beachAnother Americaine Deauville Deauville Beach

For dinner, our choices were seafood, seafood, or seafood. We went for seafood. After a long, leisurely dinner, we walked around Deauville a bit before heading to the casino!

Fairly small - Trouville's looks bigger

Fairly small – Trouville’s looks bigger

Deauville Casino

Turns out, this was Frenchman’s first time ever in a casino. He was genuinely surprised when we didn’t win any money at all.

After unsuccessfully throwing a few euros at the slot machines, we cut our losses by cashing in on our free glasses of champagne, courtesy of our hotel. Pas mal.

Sunday morning we woke up to beautiful blue sky and gorgeous weather – a welcome change after the grey damp weather we’ve been having in Paris! Off to walk and wander some more – this time all the way to Trouville, the next town over. On the way, we stumbled upon a big market with everything from local cheese, meats, and jams to cashmere sweaters and kitschy dishware.

Let me tell you, there are some spectacular homes in these towns. We walked along the beach and then up into the hill to get a closer look (and a better view).

Mairie Deauville Deauville market Deauville Trouville

Welcome aboard?

Welcome aboard… the donkey?

Trouville

We stopped for a delicious galette (crêpe) at a cute little corner restaurant slightly hidden off the main road. A fantastic choice (sorry, no pictures. We dug right in!) We then made our way back to Deauville, slowly and with several stops at shops and things, to collect our bags where we left them at the hotel.

It was a short getaway, but well spent and with plenty seen and done (and eaten). In summer I think we could have used more time for the beach, but this time of year our 2-day venture was more than enough.

Now, alas, our next “vacation” isn’t for a whole 2 weeks! However will we manage…