Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm not sure if I mentioned this here or not but I decided to stay in Paris over the Christmas holiday this year and celebrate with friends. While it was tough being away from my family for the first time and missing out on a Christmas to be told for many generations to come thanks to the generosity of my grandfather I'm at peace with my decision. It was all made just a little bit easier thanks to the internet, free international calling and the wonders of Skype.

I haven't been working either for the past couple of days and I've really just been enjoying the time off, hanging out with friends, meeting new ones and doing all sorts of things that I dare not write about in this here blog. Actually the past week or so has been filled with such mundane tasks as going to my local Social Security office, the bank, dry cleaners etc I'd rather not bore you with the details.

2008 has been a really amazing year for me and I feel truly blessed for all my good fortune, m wonderful family and the great friends that I've made. To close out the year I will once again be dining with friends and drinking copious amounts of champagne. I'm really looking forward to what 2009 has to bring and hopefully a much sought after Carte Vitale is in my future as well.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paris Christmas Revisited

Thanks for La Rêveuse and her helpful tip about Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker I was able to make this nifty mosaic.

Click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Paris Christmas Decorations

I took the following photos over the past couple of weeks to record this year's holiday decorations throughout the city of lights. The photos were taken either with my Canon point and shoot camera, my Canon Digital Rebel or my iPhone. Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!














video


P.S. I wanted to make a cool collage with all of the photos but I couldn't figure out how to do it. Booowoo!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Terrorized by the Taxi Driver

I'm all about principles and I have strong convictions and I'm about as stubborn as they come. It's possible that that combination of traits will either get me thrown in jail, killed or both but I definitely won't be the one getting carted off to prison for stealing bottles of champagne at a swanky Parisian club. On the other hand it is quite possible that I would be partly responsible for the kidnapping of a friend by crazed Parisian taxi driver.

Some city dwellers when it comes to public transportation swear by taxis, some swear by the bus and others swear by the metro. I personally hate taxis. I hate waiting for them, I hate the fares and I especially hate being taken for a ride (sorry for the lame pun) which brings me back to the kidnapping story. After a night of shenanigans it was time to call it a night and head home. My two friends and I hopped into a taxi and headed home. My friend YM told the driver where we were going and we were on our way. A few minutes into the taxi ride I suggested a specific route and a modified destination to the cab driver. This combined with our speaking English amongst ourselves apparently set him off. After threatening to not pay the fare and asking to be let out of the taxi the driver took off like a lunatic throughout the neighborhood, ran several red lights in the process and eventually after sufficiently terrorizing his passengers came to a stop. That was my cue to exit the taxi stage left. YM stayed firmly planted in the backseat of the taxi while Juliet moved to the front passenger seat and the two tried to negotiated a peace agreement and a fair payment.

On principle I wasn't having any of it. I wasn't about to reward this lunatic for his wreckless behavior. After a while I let my friends convince me that we should pay the driver something, granted his did bring us closer to my place. But in exchange for the fare I asked that he provide me with his taxi driving credentials (license number, employer or something so I could report the incident) This request sent Mr. Taxi Driver over the edge and took off at high speed with 3 of the 4 doors wide open and my friend YM still in the back seat.

I realize how crazy this story sounds and I realize how much crazier it must have sounded to the Paris police officers we spoke with and to the lady at the embassy. However, for the police to act so nonchalant about it and to essentially give us the ole brush off was not cool. YM couldn't be contacted during the ordeal because the battery on her cellphone had died, which partially worked to her benefit. Fortunately, after over an hour, my friend YM was able to peacefully negotiate her release and was returned home safely and unharmed.

If you see a taxi with these plates run...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Say Curry I Say Curry

There are about 4 or 5 places that I go to regularly for lunch when I’m at work. There’s one placed called Roxanne that I really enjoy and because of my frequent visits I’ve somewhat “befriended” the workers and they’re always kind and patient with me. There’s another sandwich place closer to my office called Les Enfants de la Cuisine that I go to on occasion because they offer hot sandwiches. I generally like going here because they offer a large variety of sandwiches which are within my self imposed eating guidelines.

The problem with Les Enfants is that whenever I order a curry chicken sandwich the man behind the counter gives me this quizzical look and repeats my order back to me “un sandwich curry” and I reply “oui”. What I really want to say is “isn’t that what I just flipping said” but I was raised with some manners and so I refrain. Actually, I don’t say that because I’m not sure how to in French and the last thing I would want is for the process to repeat itself over again. And folks isn’t not like my pronunciation of curry and his pronunciation of curry are all that different. They each have the same number of letters and syllables. Go figure.

So I’ve officially decided to remove Les Enfants from my lunch rotation until further notice. This isn’t really saying much since I only have 2 more working days until the beginning of next year but the folks there don’t know that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Orange vs. L'Étrangère Americaine

I’ve had a love hate relationship with Orange, my cellphone carrier here in France, ever since moving here. Initially I opted for a prepaid plan because I didn’t want to be tied to a contract and I didn’t want to deal with exorbitant cancellation fees either. The start of my new job coincided with the release of the new iPhone and that was enough to make me decide to commit to a monthly plan with Orange. The first few hours of our new relationship was wonderful but the reality of our new commitment quickly set in. I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say that there were multiple trips to the Orange store on the Champs Elysees, one neck rolling incident coupled with a screaming match in poor French served up with a teary breakdown on top.

Since those initial dark days in our relationship things had improved and we were on a solid ground, that is until I decided to change my calling plan (again) to include calls to the US and Canada. I tried to make this change in the store but for reasons I will never understand I was unable to. My only option was to cal their customer service line. Normally, I would outsource such a task to native French speakers but for some reason I decided to make the call on my own. It wasn't until a few days later and 30 euros in extra charges did I realize what a bad idea that was.

Surprisingly, when I called Orange back to them to discuss the problem (I had outsourcing issues that day and was stuck making the call myself) the woman on the other end of the line was fairly nice and helpful. I didn’t understand exactly what she was saying but I think she said that she would credit my account and that the my plan would change the beginning of next month. Not ideal but not horrible either. Today I get a call on my cellphone and it’s Pamela from Orange on the line speaking in rapid fire French. While I was able to catch some of what she was saying I wanted to be 100% sure so I passed the phone over to my colleague. Turns out my plan will be changed as of tomorrow instead of having to wait 3 weeks and my account will be credited accordingly sweet.

Who said the French were lacking in customer service?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apero Jazz Chez Le Faitout

I really enjoy my neighborhood in Paris and its surrounding quartiers, some may find it a bit 'hood but I really enjoy them for their authentic vibe and atmosphere. Last night on a whim I found myself at Le faitout, a restaurant in the 19th arrondissement of Paris where several musician friends of mine were playing a jazz set. It's easy to find oneself in hibernation mood during Parisian winters which is why I try to make a conscious effort to get myself out of my apartment as much as possible. I was hoping to grab a bite to eat there as well last night but to my disappointment they don't offer their standard menu on Monday nights. I really like their food because they don't offer your standard French fare and they serve dishes such as a vegetable lasagna, thai curry vegetables with rice and wait for it… free range chicken with a peanut sauce. Oh and did I mention that their prices are very, very, reasonable? It's one of those hidden gems in Paris that only locals seem to know about.

Despite the lack of dinner I had an enjoyable filled with friends, good music, vin chaud, popcorn and an impromptu game of Scrabble which I won of course. Really, who could ask for anything more?


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paris Snow

This past Tuesday it snowed in Paris. Seeing snow generally shouldn't be a big deal for someone from New York that is used to seeing snow on a regular basis during the wintertime. However, snow in Paris just seems magical and it's 100x better because you get the falling effect of snow but it never really sticks to the ground long enough to become a nuisance.


Yes that IS the Eiffel Tower covered by snow and fog

Christmas Baking Party

Back in October while at dinner with friends I was complaining about my lack of stove and my friend KD kindly offered to let me borrow hers. Out of that discussion came the idea to have a Christmas baking party and like that the date was set.

Fast forward to yesterday where a group of French, German, Finnish, Greek and American friends got together in KD's apartment in the 10th to fete the holiday season. We drank gluehwein which is a traditional German hot wine, ate some Finnish joulutortut (star shaped pastries) and some other things in between that I didn't find out the names of because I was too busy stuffing my face.

My contribution to the affair were good old fashioned butter cookies and I think they came out pretty well. They didn't look so beautiful but they tasted pretty good and the other guests agreed. My plans were almost foiled when I realized that I couldn't easily find some of the ingredients needed for the recipe especially for the cookie icing.

Some of you out there reading this might be thinking to yourselves "Oh why didn't she just go to the Le Grand Epicerie in Paris, they have products from all over the world." And I'll tell you why, supermarkets (especially French ones) intimidate the hell out of me. I'm like a lost puppy whenever I go into a supermarket (hence my soup and lentil diet as of late) and that feeling would only be magnified if I went to Le Grand Epicerie.

Overall, the evening was great, I ate and drank more calories than I wish to contemplate (hence my return to a soup and lentil diet) and I passed out almost immediately when I got home.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

L'usine à gaz

During a team meeting at work the other day my boss made reference to the phrase l'usine à gaz or gas factory in English. My British colleague and I both looked at each other quizzically because we had no idea what the heck he was talking about. My boss went on to explain that a gas factory refers to a solution to a problem that is even more complex than the problem itself or an unnecessarily complicated solution to a problem.

Even after the explanation and after several examples were provided by my boss, my colleague and I still couldn't come up with an equivalent phrase in English. After doing some research on the internets my British colleague found the term "white elephant" which I have never heard of before and I discovered the term "Rube Goldberg" machine which I had never heard of before either.

After a few moments of reflection it hit me. Americans don't have an adequate equivalent to the phrase l'usine à gaz because more so in France than in America do they develop such complicated solutions and processes to solve simple problems and it's only befitting that they coined a term to describe it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflections on the Homeland

While it was great to be back on American soil and revel in all the English being spoken however I had a few thoughts and observations:

1. My family was putting on the full court press for me to come home and that made me feel all sorts of guilty. Do I quit Paris to please them or do I stay and continually be selfish and live out my dream. That experience makes me not want to return to NYC for a while.

2. I never realized how hardened New Yorkers can look. I don't know if it's the current economic crisis, the season or their nature but some of the people riding the subway with me looked downright scary. Seriously. Where are the subway riding lovebirds when you need them?

3. The vibe is the city is definitely different. When I was getting my haircut in Soho last week I noticed that the streets were damn near empty. The streets in NYC are barely empty when there's a blizzard. And even though most stores had significant markdowns prominently displayed in the windows there were hardly any shoppers in site.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

So it's Thanksgiving again and I'm fortunate enough to be spending the day with my family in New York. I've been very fortunate over the past year and this being able to be in the US to celebrate with my family is just icing on the cake.

Last night I went out and met up with some friends and I had an absolute blast and I'm thankful to have them in my life as well. I'm also thankful for all the friends that I didn't get to see during this visit.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CNN vs. French Programming

The election has been over for a couple of weeks now which means that I'm slowly becoming unglued to CNN Europe. Whereas before I would watch the news hopeful for the outcome of the election I'm now left depressed hearing all the talk of recession and a possible depression.As a result I've decided to watch more French television to immerse myself in the culture and once again try to improve my French. Some of you may remember my earlier failed attempts to watch French TV, but this time I assured myself that it would be better now that I can understand some of what is actually being said depending on the programming.

So the other night I'm sitting on the couch channel surfing and before my eyes I see group of naked men and women sitting around a pool (this should have been my cue to change the channel but I was intrigued). The camera then pans to this woman in the background with crazy in her eyes. She picks up a sharp object, walks over to a nude gentleman sitting alongside the
pool, and goes Lorena Bobbit on him. WHAT? This is what you call prime time television in France? You'll be happy to know THAT was my cue to finally change the channel. Not quite the kind of imagery that I wanted to be left with before going to bed. Maybe watching
CNN Europe exclusively is not such a bad thing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Obama Effect

The day after the election my friend John sent me an instant message that said something along the lines of "people just seem happier and nicer today". I thought to myself that his sentiment was entirely true. I was walking around the streets of Paris with a little extra pep in my step. I also had colleagues congratulating me on Obama's big win (not that I had much to do with it aside from the few phone calls I made to some swing states during the primaries and 2 weeks before the election). The man behind the counter at my favorite lunch spot even asked me if I was happy with the results of the election.

But for me the icing on the cake was when I went to the Yoga studio to buy a 10 class card and instead of paying the regular rate of 175 euros the guy working there gave me the student rate of 155 euros. His kindness and generosity probably had nothing at all to do with Obama being elected president but in my own little word I'd like to think that there is a correlation between the two.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Metro Riding Tips

Now that I have been working for several months and enduring a tedious
commute to work I've figured out some tips and tricks to increase my
chances of getting a seat and thus making my ride more enjoyable.


Since I've taken the same route a number of times now one of the first
things that I have done is remember where my exislts are. This can be
a huge time saver because the last thing I want to do in the morning
is spend five minutes walking across the platform that time can be
better spent doing other things (five minutes extra sleep anyone?).

Now if you want a seat in a crowded rush hour train the key is to not
stand by the door where the rest of the overflow is standing. If you
happen to get a seat in that section of the train chances are you will
have to relinquish your seat before you know it and you'll end up
packed like a sardine at the next busy stop. The key is to stand in
between the two four seat sections. After one or two busy stops you
are all but guaranteed a seat for the rest of your ride.

And there you have it folks. This post was written from my cozy seat
on the 9 line.


Envoyé de mon iPhone

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Social Media Etiquette

Several weeks ago I attended the Paris Motor Show with a friend (PMS as my French colleagues amusingly referred to it as). I wrote a big long post about it but I have since deemed it not worthy of publishing. What is worth publishing, maybe only marginally so, is the following question:

What is the proper etiquette when one sees a fellow blogger's husband at an auto show? Mind you Blogger #1 has never met Blogger #2 in person or by other means and therefore by the law of syllogism one can assume that Blogger #1 has never met the husband in question that was spotted at the auto show.

And as an ancillary question how should one handle the awkward situation when they see a person that they recognize from a friend's <insert social network here> friend list?

No one wants to come across as a weird stalker freak. Trust me I know this from first hand experience.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yoga Classes Revisited

I am off to check out a second yoga studio in Paris (Rasa Yoga for those curious minds out there) after weeks of procrastination. One thing that I've realized is that even after the last yoga class I took two months ago and after two weeks of intensive French lessons I still haven't learned the vocabulary necessary to understand what's going on around me.

Maybe I'll have some sort of zen like experience and it will all end up making sense. On verra.

Envoyé de mon iPhone

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In Case There Was Any Question

Today is a twofer. In case there was any question after yesterday's post I present you with the following:


Photo copyright Millsy

Big thanks to my friend Dave in NYC for the care package. It fits!

Palm Trees in the 11th


I saw this peculiar site as I was taking a detour on my way home yesterday. I didn't investigate as to why the palm trees were there maybe someone in the mayor's office wanted Millsy to feel more at home while he's job hunting in Paris.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Voting

Last Wednesday I finally received my absentee ballot after several weeks of worry and fear of disenfranchisement. I quickly and carefully filled out my ballot paying close attention to not make any mistakes and accidentally vote for the wrong candidates. On Thursday afternoon I walked to the post office closest to my office and mailed off my absentee ballot without further ado.

So you're probably wondering to yourself why I'm even writing this uneventful blog post especially since I've been MIA for such a long time. Well for one I'm not to impose my political views onto you, I'll leave that to the news media and some of the political blogs out there. I'm writing this post more so to have an open dialog with my family you know who you are out there. Family, I love you and I know that I should probably call and write more often but you see, since I already cast my ballot and it probably won't even be counted anyway, I want to let you know that it is no longer necessary to send me email forwards trying to persuade or convince me to vote a certain African American candidate. As a matter of fact it was never really necessary in the first place. You see, if I recall correctly, I think I was the one that introduced you to the candidate in question and I was the one that taught you how to pronounce his name correctly.
Oh and mom I was the one that corrected your mistaken beliefs that he was a Muslim not that there is anything at all wrong with being a Muslim.

And while we're on the topic family and those of you that are still reading, I was an early supporter of my presidential pick, not because of the color of his skin but because I agreed with most of his political platform and I appreciated his international perspective on American politics. It should be noted that I am more likely to not vote for someone based on a complexion connection than the reverse as bad as it may sound. I can think of a number of times when my father invited me to Harlem to meet some representative, hoodwinked me into volunteering my time at a phone bank or encouraged me to attend fundraisers and to donate to specific candidates but I always had a moral conflict because I usually had no idea what their political platform was all about.

So, to bring this post to a close for those of you that are still reading, I encourage all expats to follow up the appropriate contacts to ensure that you receive your absentee ballot on time if you haven't already. Those of you currently residing in the US I urge to get out there and register to vote if you haven't done so already and I urge all of you to get out there and vote on Election Day, November 4th. The results of this election will be historic regardless of who wins however, the results of this election may determine whether or not I ever decide to move back to the United States. So if you don't vote I think the maternal unit will hold you all personally responsible.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Language Blues

I've been oscillating back and forth lately as to whether or not I want to maintain this blog. Partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm less anonymous now than before causing me to think carefully before publishing certain posts. I've decided that for the time being I will keep the updates coming and I will try to be a little more disciplined regarding the frequency.

So what have I been up to? Well I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in Paris several weeks ago (please feel free to send presents my way). I also took a 1 week long intensive French course. Overall the course was great and I'm thankful to the company for paying for it. However, I'm doing myself a huge disservice by not speaking more. Even though I've listened to my fair share of Frenchies stumble to speak English on my behalf I'm just really not comfortable enough to do the same, yet. Honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do the same.

Before I came to France I had this fantasy that when I arrived in Paris, I would magically, through some sort of osmosis be able to speak perfect French. Now that that isn't the case I'm really struggling. When I first got here people were a lot more understanding of my lack of language skills but now that I've been here over a year their expectations have definitely changed and I'm almost embarrassed to tell people how long I've been in France these days.

Things will get better I'm sure. I have my second intensive week of one on one French classes in two weeks. I think I need to change my mindset and step out of my comfort zone more so than I have done in the past.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today Paris Surprised Me

Today I went my bank to open a savings account because I'm officially rolling in the dough these days. Actually the previous comment is entirely untrue, I wanted to open a savings account to ensure that I put enough dough aside to pay my income tax bill when it arrives. Being the fiscally responsible person that I am I decided that it really doesn't get any better than a savings account setup with automatic transfers.

Alas, I digress. Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while are probably aware of my initial banking woes and if not you can read all about them here. So today during my lunch break I decided to head over to my bank to accomplish the impossible. I stand in line and 60 seconds later I'm speaking to the welcome agent and I tell the gentleman that I want to open a savings account. Because his English wasn't so great and my French is borderline horrible there was some initial confusion regarding my request. After we figured out my intentions he looked on the computer to determine the name of my specific banker. Several key strokes and one voila later he ascertained the name of my banker and tells me that shes not there at the moment. Bummer I thought to myself, my trek across town was completely in vain. Several seconds later he says to me, "Oh but I can open the account for you". Yippie I thought.

Less than 30 minutes later and after signing only two forms I was out of there and the proud owner of a savings account which yields 4% interest, has no additional monthly fees and I can withdraw the money at any time without penalty. As a bonus he set up online access to the new account and changed the cellphone number the bank had on file for me.

I walked out of the bank thinking this has got to be too good to be true and that something was definitely lost in translation. Only time will tell folks.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

J'ai grossi

Since moving to Paris last September I've stopped exercising all together (when I lived in NYC I would run and practice yoga regularly), I turned 31, and I have an insatiable appetite for baguettes and wine.

What does this translate into in simple English? Well it basically means that I've gained more kilos than I have fingers to count and aside from changing the name of my blog to something more descriptive I've decided to take some major action. Firstly, I will be checking out a yoga class this afternoon and if I like the class, instructor, location and all that god stuff I'll be back on the road to a fitness regiment in no time. I've also been invited by my colleague (yes you read that correctly) to check out the Gym Suedoise which is basically the French equivalent of Jane Fonda aerobics. That class is on Monday so we'll see how it goes.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear Readers

This very well be my last post to you all. I'm riding the metro on my way home from work and my oxygen supplies are dwindling. If I don't die from lack of air I very well may be knocked unconscious from the awful scent emanating from the woman directly in front of me. And I'm sure my belongings will be plundered by the little gypsie children that frequent this metro line.

Yours truly,
LE

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Endearing Myself to My Colleagues

I've been spending quite a bit of time with a certain male friend of mine watching the Olympics the past two weeks. Because France sucked most of the time my male friend spent a lot of time saying "oh putain" and as a result I've picked up the habit.

So I'm at work today and it's approaching 6:30PM and I want to wrap things up and head home but I can't because another colleague is working on a document that I need to update before heading home. So as the minutes pass I get more and more frustrated. It's gets to a point where I let out an "oh putain". I thought my sigh was inaudible but my colleague sitting across from me heard my exclamation and was obviously shocked. Shocked in part because I never speak French at work and probably even more shocked by my first forary into speaking French in the office. I tried in vain to prevent colleague #1 from sharing my comment with colleague #2 to no avail. Next thing you know the three of us are all laughing in our corner of the office. And that concludes lesson #1 on How to Endear Yourself to French Colleagues.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Are You Calling An Animal?

I just had the most surreal moment in all of my time in Paris. I was walking down the street to get some lunch (alone of course) and I see some guy shouting at the top of his lungs. So I did what I normally do when I encounter crazies, I went along on my merry way but in this case I made the mistake of passing in front of him. Bad move, all of a sudden I became "Exhibit A" in his maniacal tirade and he proceeds to say in perfect English "look at this animal...blah blah blah George Bush this George Bush" and my initial reaction was to let out a "are you fucking kidding me" sign. But he wouldn't stop he proceeded to say something bad about my main man Barack Obama and called me an animal once more for good measure. So I did what any Bronx girl would do in a similar situation, I flipped him the bird (to the cheers and laugher of the onlookers) then went along my merry way.

Paris, j'adore!

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

My friend Amy gave me all of these nice Indian spices before leaving Paris. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before on my blog but Amy is an excellent cook and can through a great meal together out of the simplest ingredients. She can work wonders with a box of frozen peas.

Yesterday on my way home I stopped by a cute little store called Casa and purchased some glass containers to store the spices. Now I'm a little ashamed to admit this but transferring the spices from their previous containers to the new glass ones was the first time that I have touched the spices since Amy left. The problem is that Amy failed to tell me what the spices were and how to incorporate them into my cooking. So for the time being they will sit idle on my kitchen counter as decorative pieces until Amy gets her butt on a plane and comes back to Paris.

Amy also left me some spices for making homemade chai tea however each time I try to make the tea on my own it never tastes as good.

Mysterious Amy Spices

Friday, August 15, 2008

Velibing Here, There and Everywhere

Before I left Paris to get my visa in early July I send off my paperwork for a 1 year subscription to the Paris Velib' service. My thinking was that I would have my subscription waiting for me when I got back to Paris and I'd be velibing here, there and everywhere. Well it turns out that I'm lacking a few brain cells and it occurred to me that I failed to sign my check which explained why my Velib' subscription was never activated. Once I realized the error of my ways I sent off another application and included a signed check this time.

Several days later I get a letter confirming my subscription and once again I'm ready to go velibing here, there and everywhere. Well, not so fast. It turned out that my Navigo pass was never associated to my Velib' account for some reason and I couldn't figure out why. I went to the website several times to update it to no avail. Finally after several weeks of a non functioning Navigo pass I figured out the problem. Instead of providing my actual Navigo pass number located on the back of the card I provided the folks at Velib' with my Navigo client number. Honest mistake really because the client number is written in black bold print on the front of the card and the pass number is imprinted on the back of the card nearly invisible to the naked eye.

So today for the first time I was able to take a Velib' using my Navigo without any hassle and I rode a bike home from spending a lovely afternoon with friends in Montparnasse. I managed to not die which is a pretty big accomplishment. I just have to remember to not wear a dress the next time I decide to take a Velib' because thanks to the wind I think quit a few people got a free show.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

RTT

Like most foreigners that dream of moving to France I was enticed by the idea of "free" health care, 1.5 hour lunches, a 35 hour work week and 5 weeks vacation. Well it turns out that I don't get a 35 hour work week because of my job category and my colleagues don't really indulge in 1.5 hour lunches. However, there was one pleasant surprise that no one ever mentioned to me and it's the concept of RTT (Reduction du temps de travail). Basically, because we don't adhere to 35 hour work weeks at the firm we are entitled to an extra 10-11 days off during the year. And for all you math whizzes that adds up to 7 weeks of paid vacation per year. Holla.

In other news it took precisely 1 month of working with my French colleagues before any of the decided to invite me to lunch. Go figure.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On Working

So it's been almost a month since I started my gig at the company and I'm just getting around to posting an update. One of the main reasons for not posting sooner is because I've been completely exhausted and wiped out when I get home from work. My exhaustion is compounded by the fact that my friend John has been staying with me since the 17th of July. Add to that the numerous activities to partake in during the summer in Paris and you get very few blog posts from me.

A few things, I received my first month's pay last Wednesday and it was nice to see a sum that wouldn't be eaten up completely by my rent. Hooray for that. It was perfect timing as well because my bank account was very close to negative territory. Lastly, my office has a nice view of the Eiffel Tower from the terrace and an unlimited supply of Nespresso coffee the only thing that's missing is George Clooney.

Me Drinking Nespresso on the terrace

The view from the terrace

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Better Late Than Never

Work has been kicking my ass so I haven't had the energy to post for a while. An update on the job shortly but in the meantime I wanted to share some photos that I took from the Champ de Mars on Bastille Day here in Paris.











Saturday, July 12, 2008

Le Champs Elysees

Last weekend Amy and I went out dancing near the Champs Elysees. When we were finished dancing our butts off around 5AM we decided to head towards to the Champs Elysees to look for a taxi. To our surprise the street was completely closed off to traffic and for the one day during the year we had the greatest boulevard in Paris almost completely to ourselves. As usual click on the images to enlarge.

Champs Élysées sans traffic

Champs Élysées as sun was rising

video
Brief Video of the Champs Elysees

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Love Letter (Of Sorts) to Paris

Dear Paris,

I didn't want to leave you this morning and obviously you didn't want me to leave either or else you wouldn't have let someone aggressively assault a train conductre on the RER A line as I was trying to make my way to the airport. Paris, like a bratty child, you challenge me like a distant lover you try to push me away. I'm not having any of it, my love for you runs deep and there is almost nothing you can do to push me away forever.

Signed,
LE
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Friday, June 27, 2008

July 9th...

...is my official start date.

Some things that I'm looking forward to now that I'll be making a livable salary once again are:

  1. Joining a gym
  2. Taking yoga classes
  3. Eating out a little more
  4. Being able to purchase a 4€ bouquet of flowers from the marché and not have it feel like a complete and utter luxury
  5. Moving to the type of Paris apartment that I've always dreamed of (we'll see)
Rejoining the workforce also has me a bit nervous as I'm not sure how and if I will be able to adjust from working 12 hours (and most recently 0 hours) to full time employment. I'm also a bit apprehensive about once again having to navigate the muddy waters of office politics with the added complication of cultural differences. I guess only time will tell how it all works out.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pretty Things

I went to the marché this morning and for some reason I ended up spending more money than I usually do there. I did end up treating myself to some pretty flowers. I couldn't resist because they were so interesting looking and I can honestly say that I've never seen anything like them before. From the pictures below you'll probably also notice that I've yet to buy a vase. Now is probably a good time since les soldes started yesterday.


Les Fleurs

Les Fleurs

In other news I spent the evening yesterday with my friend Opal having a drink at Café du Nord along the Canal Saint-Martin and we spotted Angès from the French equivalent of America's Next Top Model. It was actually pretty weird because I never, ever recognize people when I see them on the streets including A-list Hollywood celebrities.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breaking News

Folks this just in, my FACC visa application has been officially approved. This means that very soon I'll be able to answer the age old question "when do you start working?" It gets pretty exhausting doing the typical French shoulder shrug and saying "I don't know." If all goes according to plan I'll be able to start sometime around the second week of July.

So how did I get here? Well back in November (yes you read correctly) after seeing a posting on the internet I applied for the job on a whim. Several weeks later in mid December I heard back from the company and had a phone screen. The woman on the phone wasn't so sure about me because my background didn't fit in exactly with what they looking for but they were interested in seeing a diverse selection of candidates so she would forward my resume along. After several rounds of interviews I was officially offered the position in February. I was thrilled and excited about the prospect of staying and working in Paris but it meant that I would have to potentially quit my teaching job early and I just couldn't do that to my students. At the time I also wasn't thrilled with the salary. Also, I wasn't satisfied with the salary offered (in retrospect the salary is very close to being on par with what I was earning in the US and one can say that the benefits are better). So in February I foolishly turned down the position.

Fast forward to April and my continuing search for a job in Paris. I wasn't getting anywhere and I noticed that the job offered to me by the company was still posted on the internet. At the encouragement of my friend and with my tail between my legs I emailed the company and said that I was willing to accept the position if they were still willing to hire me and as they say the rest is history.

My visa is being sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) which has an International Career Development Program. The program has a bilateral agreement that sponsors highly skilled young people, ages 18 to 35 for their visas. Their requirements are not very stringent but as an American you would have to find the job opportunity on your own and then FACC works to get you sponsored and all of your paperwork in order. The only downside is that you are only sponsored to work in France for up to 18 months total. The FACC paperwork process is said to take between 4-5 weeks (my visa was processed in just under 4 weeks).

So what's the moral of this very long post? I'd like to think that the moral of the story is to stay positive and don't always listen to the naysayers because anything is possible.

Edit: And it doesn't hurt to have a little bit of luck on your side.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

France May Have the Best Healthcare...

...but I'm not sold on their emergency response teams.

Last night I was having dinner with a friend at La Marine in the Canal St. Martin area when I noticed that someone had fallen off of their bike. It didn't look so bad but the person was unable to get up and was bleeding from their chin. Someone called the pompiers and they arrived within minutes.

After they arrived however it seemed like they were moving in slow motion. Two guys were tending to the ill patient, one guy was talking on the phone (I joked that he was talking to his wife but he was probably most likely on the phone with the nearest hospital) and finally one guy was manually inflating what appeared to be an air mattress. Upon seeing this I was absolutely shocked and had no choice but to take some photographs.


Pump pump pump it up

After he inflated the air mattress slightly a white he and another pompier draped a white covering over it. Then the patient was carefully placed on top of it and wrapped and buckled in like a sushi roll.
Sushi Roll

Finally, the patient was placed on an actual gurney and whisked off to the emergency vehicle idling nearby and eventually a hospital.

Actual gurney

The whole process seemed to take longer than necessary and I kept thinking to myself that if I was ever involved in an accident I would probably die waiting for them to load me into the ambulance. Seriously, is it too much to ask that they at least get an electric pump for the air mattress? Seriously! My friend kept insisting that the process seemed to take so long because the patient didn't seem to be in critical condition and my response was "yeah right, this is Paris everything takes longer than it should."


video

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Question

I haven't really hung out during the past two weeks that I've been in New York. Between jetlag and general ennui with the city it just hasn't happened. Yet yesterday evening I found myself in Brooklyn at a French restaurant listening to my French play the sax. What's up with that?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don't Ask Me to Smile

I hate when men tell me to smile. It really makes me angry for some reason. I don't like smiling and I like it even less when asked to do it on command so I wish people would stop asking already.

The flip side of the smile equation is that in Paris when I smile at strangers or s familiar face on the street they look at me like I'm utterly crazy. It took me a while to get used to but I kind of prefer that way as opposed to being asked to smile on cue.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Surprise Surprise

On Wednesday I decided to use my return ticket to fly to New York City to surprise my family especially my sister. Normally, it's incredibly hard for me to keep secrets but because I decided at the absolute last minute I was able to pull it off. The reaction on my sister's face when she saw me was totally priceless. I'll be in town for about two weeks and then back to Paris for me. I've got one more surprise to pull off on Sunday and hopefully it's as good as the first.

I spent the day pampering myself getting my hair done with my mom, pedicure, shopping and massage. No, I didn't win the lottery I just thought it would be nice to take advantage of the weak dollar. I also hand delivered my application for the FACC program and was able to meet the person that would be handling my case on the US end. So now my fingers are crossed and hopefully everything will be wrapped up in 5 weeks or less.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

French is Still Challenging

Below is a summarized conversation that I have with a friend of mine a few days ago who is visiting Paris. Mind you I first met this friend while studying French at the Alliance Française in New York City several years ago.

Friend from NY: So we're in town and settled into our hotel.
Me: Oh, so where are you staying?
Friend from NY: We're staying near Montparnasse.
Me: Oh, so you're near the Denfert Rochereau métro stop?
Friend from NY: You're telling me that you've been in Paris this long and that's the best you can do with your pronunciation.
Me: Uhm, yes? For the record I plan to kick your ass when we meet up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Limbo

It's been a while since I've written an update on my job situation reason being because there really hasn't been anything to write about. I've been waiting in limbo for weeks for the company to complete the necessary paperwork for me to proceed with my FACC sponsorship to no avail. There have been weeks I thought that the company changed its mind regarding the offer because I hadn't heard from them.

Fast forward to today...as it stands the company is a little hesitant about hiring me through the FACC program because my contract would have to be a CDD and can only be for up to 18 months however the company wants to offer a CDI contract. Now in my eyes this is a no brainer, sign me up through FACC, get me in as soon as possible and in the meantime try to find ways around the limitation. However, my future employer and I are currently running in circles trying to find a way for me to change my expired assistant CDS into a new salarié CDS.

So to make a long story short I'm in job limbo right now. While it may seem like an ideal situation and one that I should take advantage of I find that I'm very bored.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Someone Please Call the Fashion Police

Normally, I think that French and European men are much better dressed than their American counterparts. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to ride the Paris métro and to not see every guy wearing Dockers khakis (a size or two too large) and a light blue button down shirt (again a size or two too large).

However, now that the weather is getting nicer in Paris I've witnessed a fashion crime far worse than the khaki and button down uniform of NYC men. A crime so bad that it can almost be called a crime against humanity. Ladies and gents, I'm referring to manpris which are cropped pants (capris) wore by men. The first offense, which pains me the most, was committed by a close friend and I initially shrugged it off. However, my eyes were assaulted yet again when I tried to pick up some groceries at the supermarché. French fellas, if any of you are reading this, just say no to manpris for the good of all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Footloose and Fancy Free

Yesterday afternoon my friend Mr. Blackberry picked me up and took me for a ride on his Vespa. Once I got over the fear factor it was actually quite fun. Since this was my first scooter ride I spent the first five minutes with my eyes closed tight scared out of my mind (apparently American women are scared of everything according to this particular French friend.) It didn't help that at times it felt as though he was speeding up and down the boulevards and playing chicken with oncoming traffic. After the ride we stopped for a drink at a sidewalk café near the Pantheon where I really enjoyed the company and the conversation. Most of all however, I enjoyed being back home in Paris feeling footloose and fancy free.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rome: In Photos

I'll blog about my trip to Rome later but in the meantime feast your eyes on these photos that I took while I was there. If you'd like to see more click on the link to the slide show on the right.

Pantheon Dome

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Colosseum

Italian Police Officer

Red Poppies

Sistine Chapel (M Unit made me take this photo even though photos were not allowed. After being yelled at by security M Unit's only concern was whether or not I got the shot)


St. Peter's Basilica Dome

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

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