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.

opera-palais-garnier-paris

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.

opera-garnier-parisbassin-de-la-pynthieopera-garnier-paris-entry Continue reading

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.

Life as a bored* expat

I quit my job to live in France.

That sounds like an intriguing start to the next New York Times Best Selling novel, but the reality of it isn’t as fun as it sounds. I mean, I can’t say it’s all bad, not at all. I get to sleep late, go nowhere if I don’t want to, hang with the cat… It’s actually pretty great. For the first week or two.

After the rush of wrapping up my job at the company I was with for over 4 years (and saw grow from 10 people to nearly 200), rushing back to France and getting married, then showing my parents around Paris for a week, I was ready for a break. It was nice to relax a bit. But after the first couple of weeks, having nowhere to go gets old.

When you picture “I quit my job to move to France” you imagine leisurely strolls through ornate gardens with a croissant in hand, sipping espresso at cafés, and mid-week visits to world-famous museums. The problem is that while, yes, I do have all the time in the world to do those things, I don’t have the income to support it. You can’t make daily trips to the terrasse for a coffee on an indefinitely-unemployed budget. That’s the part they forget to mention in movies; the funds required for a life of leisure.

So what do I do with my time? Whatever’s free.

So here’s my Unofficial Guide to Being a Bored Expat

  • Sleep in
  • Play and/or snuggle with the cat
  • Clean the house
  • Catch up on Netflix
  • Find new shows on Netflix
  • Rewatch old favorites on Netflix…
  • Apply for jobs
  • Apply for more jobs
  • Go to immigration appointments
  • Check Facebook
  • Go for looooooooong walks

Like, really long walks. Why not when you have nowhere to be but wherever you are?

I’m lucky that this period of funemployment falls just when the weather is starting to get really nice. We’ve had rain off and on, but we’ve also had quite a few days of beautiful, sunny, warm and even hot weather. I take full advantage and have been going for long wanders through the city. I go for 1, 2, or even 3 hours just walking and looking around. I occasionally meet Frenchman for his lunch break and then just meander my way home through whatever streets look interesting. It’s a great way to pass the time, get some fresh air, and get some exercise rather than deepening my imprint in the couch.

Sights and scenes walking off the beaten path in Paris

Paris BasilicaJardin de Luxembourg fountainParis bakery boulangerieParis architectureWindmill garden ParisOpera Garnier ParisParis Reine Astrid statueParis Doorknocker BlueJardin de Luembourg boatParis fountain horse and turtleParis Cat in Plant

(Bonus: our Cat tree is coming in nicely…)

And now…. Big News!

What’s great is that I wrote this post and was planning to publish it on Friday, but didn’t get around to finalizing things. That little delay means I get to wrap it up by saying that I will be *BORED NO MORE – I got a job! I got the call late Friday afternoon, just in time to make some family phone calls and then celebrate all weekend with delicious crêpes (which I should tell you all about in detail at some point because they’re that good) and various other treats.

So what’s next? I have a bit more time before I start, since I am not yet officially able to work. I have an appointment at the Prefecture de Police for a “changement de statut” in order to receive the right to work in France, so I’ll be starting after that.

In the meantime… shopping! A new job is always an excellent excuse for a whole new (French) wardrobe, right?