Before I say anything, let me start by saying bonne année, bonne santé, et plein de bonnes choses….
There. Now that the annual Happy New Year-wishing obligation is taken care of, we can start the year. 4 New Year’s Eves in Paris and I’m still not totally used to how seriously they take their bonne années here, but I’m getting the hang of it.
A look back on 2018
2018 was a busy year! Work, travel, family, friends… it was a year chock-full of bonnes choses. Before moving on to what’s to come in the next year, I always enjoy looking back on the past 12 months to recap and remember all the things that happened. Time passes so insanely quickly, it’s easy to forget how much you can do in a year.
In 2018 I….
- Started a new job
- Had a massive leak in our (newly finished) ceiling [still not repaired]
- Visited Beirut
- Was visited by my parents, and went to Provins then Marseille, Cassis, the Luberon
- Turned 30… and celebrated it at Disneyland Paris
- Went to London for work
- Went to London for fun – to see Hamilton!
- Fell in love with Cabourg
- Watched an open-air opera of Carmen in front of a chateau
- Saw my friends get married in front of zebras at the San Francisco Zoo
- Went to New Orleans for work
- Visited Copenhagen
- Ate, drank, and saw more wonderful things than I can count
Happy New Year 2019
What’s to come in 2019? That’s a very good question. I suspect that this year will bring a lot of unexpected things. Unlike past years, I don’t have a checklist of significant events that I know will come to pass; there’s no apartment to buy, I’m not moving to a new country (that I know of…), and my job is good and stable. There are no milestones or major life events anticipated for this year so I can’t wait to see what happens.
The only thing I know for sure is planned for 2019? Travel. Like any good française, I’m already deep in the planning for where we’ll travel this year. We’re way behind the competition who have certainly already booked their August vacations and bought train tickets for their endless weekends away. Short weekends, long escapes, we’ll see where we find ourselves in the months to come.
I had long joked that for my impending 30th birthday, I wanted to gather a bunch of my friends and go to Disneyland. I thought, what’s more ridiculous and silly than for a bunch of adults to go to Disney? And while it did start as a joke, over time, I really came to love the idea 1) because it is silly to celebrate your 30th birthday in a children’s theme park, and 2) because I love Disney and why the hell not.
So when my 30th actually rolled around, Frenchman and I thought… let’s do it!
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Having visited nearly all of the major sites that Paris has to offer on their first and second trips to France, when my parents came to visit this spring, we were looking for something to do outside of the city. We had visited Versailles last year, so that was out. We discussed Fontainebleau or Chantilly or Vaux le Vicomte but my dad just wasn’t interested in more chateaux, no matter how impressive.
What he wanted was something not too museum-y. Something old. Something village-y.
The village of Provins
We settled on Provins, a medieval walled city located just an hour from Paris. Not to be confused with Provence, this village is a World Heritage Site known for the 13th century walls surrounding it and its 12th century tower. It’s also a very easy train ride from Gare de l’Est for a few euro (or included in your Navigo!)
We arrived at the station in Provins, which is located down in the modern part of town, and hopped on the little shuttle bus that takes you up to the old city. In theory, this bus makes several stops, and we had planned to get off in the lower city for lunch, but the bus never stopped and never gave any indication that getting off was an option. SO directly to the old city we went.
The shuttle drops you off at the tourist center, where you can buy tickets to the various activities, including falconry shows and jousts. We skipped that and walked up to the gates of the walled city.
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I did it. I finally got my hair cut in France.
To explain how serious this situation was, let me explain. It had been a full 2 years since I’d had a real haircut (before I moved to France).
Now, I’m already pretty bad at scheduling haircuts at home, in English. I wait ages until we’re way past acceptable length to actually make the call because it can just be such a hassle. It took me years to find a salon in Boston that I liked and would regularly schedule appointments with because my requirements are, apparently, complex. They are as follows: 1) good with curly hair, 2) open late enough on weekdays to go after work, 3) online appointment booking.
Online appointment scheduling should be standard for every salon. There. I said it.
It just makes sense! Who has the time to call, and then when they inevitably offer you a day or time that fits none of the original availability you’ve given them, you have to go back and forth wasting everyone’s time. Why not just provide a calendar that we can all check at our leisure and click on the timeslot that matches up with our own schedules? But I digress…
Since this is Paris, I knew there was no way I would find online booking in a salon here. The bigger hurdle was getting up the courage to actually go for the cut with a language barrier of unknown proportions. (What’s the lingo for layers and low-maintenance, no I don’t own a blow dryer that works here, and no I don’t style it, well, ever, in French?) It’s hard enough to explain to a stylist exactly what you want in your own language. Doing it in French is a real risk. Continue reading →
I have been kind of obsessed with Impressionism since, well, since I learned what Impressionism was. Monet, Degas, Renoir… I was hooked. Something about the colors and blurred perspectives and, I’m sure, the French aesthetic just drew me in in a way no other genre or period of art ever had.
I was lucky Boston’s Museum of Fine Art has a nice collection, but the very first time I went to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and walked into the dedicated Impressionist gallery, I nearly cried. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by the magnificent paintings I had only ever seen in books, and to see them up close, down to every brush stroke. To this day, the d’Orsay holds the title as my favorite museum in Paris.
However, this is not about the Musée d’Orsay. All this is just to set the scene for how excited I was for a visit to Monet’s home and gardens – including the infamous waterlily pond, in Giverny, France. Continue reading →
I’ll start by saying yes, I admit it. I kind of abandoned you. You the reader, you the anthropomorphized blog. I was going strong for a month or so there at the start of the year, feeling enthusiastic and creative. Then I got distracted by work and felt like I didn’t have anything new to say.
So, sorry about that. But here’s a new tale about an old place, the church of Sainte-Chapelle.
This place, you guys.
I’ve been twice, the first time more than 10 years ago on my high school “exchange” trip. And honestly, after two weeks in France and countless awe-inspiring sights seen, Sainte Chapelle was the one that really stuck in my mind years later. It truly is breathtaking.
I was excited to visit it again last year, when my parents came to town. As one of my favorite sites in all of Paris, I made sure that it was a priority on the to-do list of their trip. Continue reading →
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?
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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. We’ll get there.
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?
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, perfect for Valentine’s Day (or any day!)
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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. Continue reading →
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?
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. Continue reading →