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.

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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.

homeowners-keys-sq

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.

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

We went to Barcelona!

Barcelona has been on my list for a long time now, and I finally got to check it – and a new country! – off as visited. Originally, we had planned to visit Barcelona in the summertime, for the prime-time experience of beaches, sunshine, all the good stuff. Unfortunately, life got in the way and by the time we were in a position to plan a trip, we were looking at mid-November. We decided to head on down to Barcelona anyway, even if we wouldn’t be splashing in the waves this time of year. (Spoiler alert: toes were dipped).

A long weekend in Barcelona

We left bright and early in the morning for our short flight – less than 2 hours – to Barcelona. We were in the city and checked into our hotel before it was even lunchtime.

We set out for a walk to get our first taste of the city, both metaphorically and literally, as our plan was to find a place for lunch. We hit our hangry limit just after 1:00 and the (quite touristy, but convenient) restaurant we chose was practically empty. I was aware that people generally eat meals later in Spain, and yet it’s still sort of odd when you get there, it’s 1:30 and this large, popular restaurant is a ghost town.

Anyway, over our meal of essentially high-end fast food, we planned a bit of how we wanted to organize our few days; when to visit the Sagrada Familia basilica, when to see the beaches, and most importantly, when we were going to hit Frenchman’s favorite tapas place.

The answer to that question was: that night for dinner. And two more times. Shh don’t judge us.

Frenchman found this place (Cerveceria Catalana) a couple of years ago when he came to Barcelona with friends. On that trip, they returned daily for their entire stay. I thought they were silly for not exploring more of the food scene, but after trying to explore other options around the city, we just kept coming back. The food is, hands down, better than any other place we tried. Plus, their prices are shockingly reasonable in a town where a tiny plate of mediocre tapas can break the bank. We went all-out on our first dinner – delicious sangria, all the tapas we could handle, AND dessert. We returned for breakfast another day (actually the exact same menu, plus coffee) and dinner again for our last night in town. We just had to get another of those beef tenderloin tapas! So, so good.

But back to the city.

I had a rough list of the things to see, and in the end we managed to get to almost all of them. The advantage of visiting a beach city off-season is that you miss the huge lines most people complain about. What you don’t manage to miss, however, are the prices. Honestly, my main takeaway from this trip was how outrageously expensive everything was. Not food, for once, but actual tourist sites. The Sagrada Familia? 14€ just to go in. 35€ if you want to go up one of the towers. The Gaudí-designed Casa Batlló? 22.50€. Even the cathedrals charge. 6€ here, 9€ there… I watched them turn away an old Spanish woman who just wanted to pray. By the time we had paid for one or two things, our wallets were feeling a little bruised. But in the end we saw a lot, did a lot of walking and plenty of good eating.

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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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The Fête des Vendanges

Last year, I just missed the Fête des Vendanges. It ended the 9th of October. I arrived the 10th.

This year, there was no way I was going to miss this!

La Fête des Vendanges 2016

A “fête des vendanges” is a wine harvest festival. THE Fête des Vendanges is a wine harvest festival in Paris itself, in Montmartre. Because there’s a vineyard in Montmartre. Did you know that?

montmartre-vineyard-paris

So this particular Fête isn’t just any wine-soaked fête, it’s a wine-soaked fête perched atop the highest point in Paris, surrounding the iconic Sacre Cœur and overlooking the rest of the city. So you can see why I was determined to go to this year’s event.

Many towns and regions have their own Wine Festivals, as you can imagine, being in France, the Land of Wine. Small or large, they consist of booth after booth hawking various wines, red, white, varietal blends, local specialties, etc. Intermixed are, of course, plenty of booths also selling delicious foodstuffs to help support your wine tasting.

Unfortunately, this year’s Fête fell on a complicated weekend, and we were in Ven-Danger of missing it. Again.

We were both sick, and exhausted from just moving into a new (temporary, furnished) apartment with a small and uncomfortable bed, leaving us both cranky. But on top of that, this was also the very same weekend as Paris’ Oktoberfest, yet another event that has been on my list since last year. And on top of that, it all happened to fall on the same weekend as a family birthday, resulting in an obligatory family gathering. We were down to just one day we could use to attend one event. Obviously we chose wine. Frenchman doesn’t like beer (I know. I know) and we’re so close to Munich we can practically smell the real Oktoberfest, so it just made more sense to pick the event that France is sure to do well. I’d rather go to the real Oktoberfest anyway! (Germany, get ready – l’Américaine is coming for you next September!)

Sunday, the very last day of the event, we made it up to Montmartre.

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Polling the People

When I started this blog, oh say 18 months ago, I had a lot of grand ideas about what I would do with it. Clearly I was going to be a blogging rockstar, gain tons of followers, get invited to cool exclusive Paris things, and post all the time about my oh-so-cool life.

I had so very many plans for themed posts, series to maintain, and fun blog updates. Sticky notes galore. And, for a while anyway, I actually kept it on track! I posted frequently, I had a surprising number of visitors that weren’t my family, and I was feeling good.

But then, of course, real life got in the way and it became very hard to juggle all the things.

all-the-thingscollage

I dropped the ball on blogging and let it take a back seat to, well, everything else. Somehow immigration paperwork, a near-3 month stint back in the US (away from interesting things to blog about), followed by resume- and interview-packed unemployment before starting a very busy brand new job all took priority over writing about where I went to brunch.

But! Now I’m newly motivated to get this thing back up to speed. And so, without further ado, I present to you ::drumroll::

A POLL!

Here are a few of the ideas that were bouncing around my brain at some point in the past year+ of things to do with the blog. Vote for the type(s) of posts you think would be most fun to read!

Also, to stay on theme (who am I to say no to such an easy double entendre, eh?)… I voted! I went to the digital polls and cast my absentee ballot from abroad. #America 🇺🇸

voting

I don’t get a sticker this year, so here’s a whole roll of ’em

Friendly Expat PSA: There’s just 2 weeks left before Election Day – Whatever your political persuasion, make sure you get your butt out to vote! It’s a super cool thing to do AND you get a sticker!

But no really, tell me what you want!

I can’t wait to see what you all have to say about what you want to see from me here. I’m excited to write and post fun things again. Crossing my fingers that more than 2 people respond, and that the responses are better than “Other: please stop. Just, stop.” Be cool, guys, be cool.

Fall in full swing

I’ve had so many things to say – and so little time to say them.

First and foremost… It’s my France-iversary!

Well, almost. Technically it was last week but I didn’t post about it here (just on Instagram). I’ve officially been living in France for a full year, minus those couple of months at the start of this year. But my stuff has been here for a full year and that’s what counts. Home is where the heart your stuff is.

It’s amazing to me that it has been a year already. This time last year, I was just moving into a freezing apartment with no heat, nervous to try the metro alone, and starting a long, strange few months working from home. I can’t believe how much has changed since then. Travel, engagement, married (twice), working, feeling settled… I couldn’t have asked for more.

As for recent events…

The last few months have been quite a blur. I know I managed to finally post something in early September after the summer, but I know I’ve been neglecting you all. It’s not like I haven’t been doing anything to write home about, I definitely have! But that’s exactly the problem.

Since the start of June I have:

  • Started a new job, that keeps me out of the house and busy from 9am-7pm at least
  • Flown to Boston and back for a dress fitting
  • Visited dozens of apartments to buy or rent
  • Got my Titre de Sejour! It only took 3 attempts to get into the Prefecture de Police to pick it up
  • Flown to Boston and back for our US wedding
  • Moved
  • Actually put pen to paper to buy an apartment
  • Spent half a day at the OFII (immigration office)
  • and tried to have some semblance of a life outside of paperwork and real estate

So you can see why it’s been tricky to squeeze in time to write about the various goings-on around Paris. I had hoped to write a post all about La Rentrée here in France, because it’s a really interesting phenomenon. After all the Parisians abandon the city in the month of August, everyone comes flooding back for September 1st in what has been aptly described as a sort of second New Year’s. Everything’s fresh, a new start after a healthy break from school, work, city life, and hustle and bustle. There’s just no equivalent in the US. We have “back to school” season, of course, but the world doesn’t stop turning during the summer quite the way it does here, so it’s not as much of a shock when it all starts up again.

But now, we’re officially into fall, and life and business is completely in full swing. I’ve even started seeing Christmas decorations in a few stores, but don’t get me started on that. We think it starts early in the US, but in my experience, countries that don’t really celebrate Halloween in the big way we do or have a fall holiday like Thanksgiving to take the edge off tend to dive head-first into Christmas wayyy too early. For us, we can look forward to Thanksgiving – the food, the fall colors and atmosphere – to dip our toes into the ‘holiday spirit’ before the full dive. Here, there’s no barrier. It’s holiday anarchy.

But, I digress.

The point is, I’ve neglected you all and had a lot of things going on and haven’t been sharing it all with you. Here’s my apology, in the form of a collage of delicious things:

If that doesn’t make up for it, here’s (as we say on the internet) a cat tax:

American in Paris Cat Tax.jpg

Next up: I’ll tell you all about my thrilling visits to the OFII – Office of Immigration and Integration – visits to the Prefecture de Police, and on a more exciting note, our upcoming trip to Barcelona! (Surprise, family! I don’t think I told you about this yet…)