Monday, October 19, 2009

The Big Chill

During the winter I tend to sleep with the window cracked open a bit because I cannot sleep with stifling heat. However, someone has been sleeping on the job and they have yet to turn the heat on in my building and for the past couple of days it's been colder in my apartment than it has been outside. I've even resorted to pre-heating my clothing in my little convection oven for some added warmth. When I arrived home from work this evening I saw the lovely sign below taped to the wall in between the elevators.



Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mykonos in Photos

Click to enlarge collage

Click to enlarge collage

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rats on a Train

Coming from New York I am used to seeing rats scurrying on the subway tracks while waiting for my train. As gross as it may be it's pretty commonplace and accepted by most subway riders. Occasionally, and a little less tolerable I have even seen large rats on the actual platform where straphangers wait for their train. In Paris instead of seeing large rats hanging out down by the tracks I'm more likely to see little mice instead which are not nearly as ugly or threatening as their NYC counterparts.

This morning however, everything changed and a barrier was crossed. As I sat enjoying my commute to work as best as I could just days back from my holiday I came face to face with none other than Ratatouille himself. He was perched on the shoulder of his owner oblivious to his surroundings. On the big screen Ratatouille came across adorable, endearing and talented but when confronted with him in person I was less impressed with his personality traits.

Throughout the ride I tried my best to maintain my composure and to pretend that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on around me. I even resisted the urge to change seats but I think that was more so out of fear of not being able to find another one. I did however break down completely into a fit of laughter after witnessing another passenger completely freak out when she saw the giant rodent perched on the shoulder of the passenger standing next to her.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Holiday

So I'm finally in a cab heading to the airport to start my much needed holiday. Athens, Santorini then Mykonos which means no new updates for at least 10 days (except maybe a teaser photo here or there).

In the meantime, for all you fashionistas out there check out the brainchild of my friend YM signature9.com.

Oh and one last thing Happy Birthday M-Unit!!

Envoyé de mon iPhone

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembrance

As I sit at work reading the various status updates on Facebook, twitter and stories on various news outlets I cannot help but feel overcome with emotions. Thinking about that fateful day eight years ago my emotions resonate as if it were yesterday. I can remember exactly where I was, what I was doing and how I was feeling. Just thinking about gets me all choked up and teary eyed.

I remember when I first moved to Paris a lot of people that I met would ask me about my experience that day after learning that I come from New York. I understand their curiosity in wanting to know my experiences, emotions and thoughts but at the same time most of they could never possibly understand how raw and close to the surface my emotions remain concerning that day and most of the time I would respond as I fought back tears.

As much as I don’t enjoy experiencing this deep sadness, its nothing compared to the great loss that so many others experienced that day, and I welcome them because they serve as a reminder that allows me to never forget what happened on that day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

David Lynch at the Galeries Lafayette

Yesterday I went to the Galeries Lafayette with a colleague to do a little shopping. Unbeknownst to us the acclaimed American filmaker and visual artist, David Lynch was also set to make an appearance that evening as well. He was there to celebrate the 11 display windows that he designed around the theme "Machines, Women and Abstraction".

Upon leaving the store we saw his creations and we were both quite impressed with the creativity of the designs.









Unfortunately, we didn't stay long enough to get an actual sighting of David Lynch himself. But if you are so inclined the window displays will be available from now until October 4th if you care to check them out yourself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Last year when I started my job with company x they paid for two weeks of intensive one on one French classes in Paris for me. The classes were good and I learned plenty but the problem with an anglophone trying to learn French in Paris is that so many people speak English it's difficult to apply what one has learned outside of the classroom. Or maybe I should say that it's easy to not apply what one has learned if she chooses to. So after those two weeks my comprehension improved tremendously and I was able to understand when my colleagues spoke in French but I continued to respond to them in English.

As dysfunctional as that system sounds it worked for a while and I was a happy worker bee. During this past spring I started toying with the idea of taking a two week holiday to the south of France and enrolling in another 2-3 week intensive French course. My plan was to sneak away without telling anyone where exactly I was going and to return speaking more French than I had previously. Around the same time, my colleagues that are in charge of external training and development told me that there was still training budget left over for the year and it could be used to some additional French classes if I felt so inclined.

That's when the wheels really started turning. I put it out there that I was intending to take some French courses anyway on my own using my vacation days and if company x was so inclined I'd be more than welcome to have them absorb the costs of my holiday training course especially since communicating more in French is listed as one of my objectives for the year. To my surprise they agreed and so at the end of October I will find myself enrolled in the Instituit du Français in Villefrance sur mer just east of Nice. Sounds lovely doesn't it?

Well not so fast. Because my manager doesn't want to feel as if the company's money is being tossed out of the window, as of yesterday I was told that my dysfunctional system that I've come to love and enjoy will cease to operate. Going forward all team meetings will be conducted 100% in French and my contributions will have to be in French as well and participation is not optional. This is probably the kick in the ass that I need but the anxiety that I'm experiencing isn't pleasant.

So stay tuned to find out if L'Étrangère Americaine let's this French nonsense get the best of her and packs her bags and moves back to New York or if she steps out of the way of her own growth and achievement...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

They Got Me Covered

My trip to Greece is in exactly two weeks and it feels like I've been planning the adventure for ages. With the maternal unite in tow we will explore mainland Greece and the islands of Santorini for 10 days. Hopefully we don't kill each other.

However, just in case I fall ill or suffer some freakish accident I took a precaution and applied for the European Health Insurance Card or the carte européenne d’assurance maladie as it's called in France. According to the European Commission website:

The card ensures that you will get the same access to public sector health care (e.g. a doctor, a pharmacy, a hospital or a health care centre) as nationals of the country you are visiting. If you have to receive medical attention in a country that charges for health care, you will be reimbursed either immediately, or after you go home to your own country. The idea is that you are given the care you need to allow you to continue with your stay.

That good news for a hypocondriac like myself. I easily applied for the card by submitting a request on the Assurance Maladie website and two weeks later I found the little blue card in my mailbox. The card is valid for one year and will cover me during any visits (personal or business) to any EU countries and a few others. So paying the pied piper isn't so bad afterall and actually has some benefits.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Man Giveth and the Tax Man Taketh Away

Yesterday when I got home from work I checked my mailbox as I normally do. Because I love getting mail I was excited to see several letters waiting for me in my mailbox. One piece of mail that caught my eye was wrapped in a blue plastic wrapping with the emblem of the Republic Francaise in the upper left hand corner. Curisous as to its contents I quickly ripped open the packaging en route to the elevator. After a quick scan I realized that what I was holding my hands was in fact nothing at all to be excited about.

What I held in my possession was my avis d'impot sur les revenues or more simply put my tax bill. Now, while I understand the importance of paying taxes and I'm more than willing to pay my fair share of them in order to reap the social benefits, when it comes down to it I'm less than thrilled to have to write a four figure check made out to Sarkozy (I jest the check was actually made out to the treasurer or something).


Since the day I started working I knew that this day would eventually come because unlike in the US no income taxes are withheld from my monthly check. Because of this, each month I would studiously put aside a portion of my paycheck into a separate account to cover this expense. However, as the balance in that account increased I became quite attached to it and the idea of such an untimely parting seems cruel and harsh. You see I just replaced my stolen iPhone with the updated 3GS, my summer holiday to Greece is rapidly approaching and a trip back to New York is in the works to celebrate my cousin's wedding. So while I generally love France and put up with their way of doing things, in this case I would much prefer to deal with my taxes the way I have in the US which is by getting a nice tax refund check several weeks after filing my tax returns.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Provocative French PSAs

Because I'm feeling too lazy and emotionally drained to write a proper blog post I present you with the first and probably last the series "Public Service Ads in France That Would Probably Never Fly in the US". The following are brought to you courtesy of the Paris mayor's office.


"Woman's Best Friend"


"Man's Best Friend"


Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Day at the Park

During a conversation several weeks ago with some friends it came to our attention that one of our friends had never been to an amusement park and has never ridden a roller coaster. As someone that has very fond memories of warm summer days and evenings spent at Six Flags riding the scariest rides and roller coasters I was completely shocked and so was everyone else. It was then that we decided that a group trip to Euro Disney was in order. It would be a first for me since living in Paris.

On Saturday, we were all up early to meet on the platform of the RER A and to make our way out to the happiest place on earth. After about 40 minutes or so our trained arrived and instantly upon exiting the metro station we were all instantly transported to another world. After getting oriented, the requisite coffee stop and a potty break we decided to make our way to Space Mountain first after catching the tail end of the parade of course. I was nervous that the first timer wouldn't enjoy the ride or find any amusement in it at all. However, when it was over and with a huge grin on his face he asked us if we could ride it again. The answer of course was "non" because there were plenty other attractions to see that day in the park.

Surprisingly everyone had a blast in the park and it was as if ever so briefly we were all children again. The best part about the whole experience is that we get to do it again for free before the end of September thanks to a special 2 for 1 promotion Euro Disney is currently running.

Oh and so you all don't think we're mean people we did manage to ride Space Mountain a second time before heading home and it was even better than the first time around.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Scrapping Cheese

My colleagues have been great at teaching me new French words and phrases and for the most part they have the patience of saints. However, most of what they teach me is usually quickly forgotten because the exchange oral only and I rarely get a chance to visualize the words to help the memorization process.

During lunch with my colleagues yesterday I asked one of them if I could have a taste of his dessert. His dessert was a tart au chocolat with a perfect dollop of chocolate goodness melted on the wrapping. Being the generous colleague that he is he agreed to let me have a taste and walked away to get a cup of coffee. By the time he came back I had already helped myself to the lonely dollop. Unaware of this he asked me if I still wanted to taste his dessert. My other colleagues responded to him in French and told him that I had already scraped the dollop off the side. The verb racler or to scrape was new to me and for a few moments lingered in my thoughts which is rare for me when I hear a new word. A few moments later after some mental gymnastics a light bulb went off for me. It was at that moment that I associated the verb racler with the cheese raclette. Raclette is typically eaten by melting it over a grill and then scraping off the melted portions and serving over potatoes. I mentioned this insight to my colleagues and they seemed both impressed and slightly amused.

For me making that connection was key in helping me to visualize the new word and to commit it to memory in a place in my brain where it won't easily be forgotten. If only I could do that with every new word I'd be all set.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Acupuncturist the Dragueur

Today I went to see an acupuncturist for treatment of my persistent migraines.

While taking my complete medical history he asked me a whole bunch of questions none of which seemed out of the ordinary. At one point he did inquiry about my relationship status which I found a tad peculiar but I let it slide and the querying continued. However, when he finished asking me all of the "official" questions the following dialog took place:

Acupuncturist: So why are you single?
LE: Uhm I'm not really sure.
Acupuncturist: Do you ever think about why you are single?
LE: Uhm sometimes but generally I have other thoughts that occupy my mind.
Acupuncturist: I don't understand because you are a nice girl.

END SCENE

Now, I may not have a background in ancient Chinese medicine but I'm pretty sure that the above line of questioning is not only unnecessary but totally inappropriate. But I figure with the cost of the session partially being covered by the French social security system and the balance being covered by my mutuelle, making the visit essentially free, I can't really complain can I?

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Love Picard

Before moving to Paris I remember someone telling me about the good frozen food that France had to offer without any further elaboration. At the time I thought it was pretty bizzare feedback especially considering all of the other great things France and Paris have to offer. I filed that information away and went on my merry way.

When I finally arrived in Paris and got settled in my apartment I would pass in front of a store named Picard each day as I either entered or exited the metro. During my first 6 months in Paris I had no idea what the store was or what they sold. And while I was curious to know what was inside behind their sliding doors I never dared to enter because of the sterile looking interiors. Not to mention that at the time I had no idea what the word surgelé meant. It wasn't until friend of mine started raving to me about the goodness that is Picard did I garner up the courage to venture inside to see what they had to offer and that was a turning point for me.

Picard is like the mecca of frozen foods. Picard is the single guy and gal's best friend. The friend that turned me on to Picard actually refers to it as her boyfriend. What makes the place so amazing is that you can find almost anything in frozen form and ready to be cooked with zero prep time and the best part is that it actually tastes good. Picard is light years ahead of it's closest US competitor in terms of quality, taste and product variety. You could actually prepare dinner for an entire dinner party by stocking up at Picard and no one would be the wiser as long as your tossed out the evidence before your guests arrived.

Fast forward to yesterday when I was talking to some friends about the quality of food in France and naturally the topic turned to Picard. One friend who's only been in Paris for 3 months mentioned that she's never been to a Picard and wasn't even sure what it was. Because I had once been in her shoes and am still grateful to my friend for opening my eyes I let her in on the secret by going on and on about how good Picard is. She gave me a skeptical look as I talked and she didn't seem fully convinced at the time. Maybe I should have told her that the cashiers are known for actually bagging one's groceries as well unlike most French supermarkets. I'm not concernerd however because I'm pretty sure curiosity will drive her into the store and thus will begin another American's love affair with Picard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

At the Pharmacy

I am an allergy sufferer and to alleviate my symptoms I take a prescription medication year round to keep them in check. Having neither the time nor energy to visit my doctor for a prescription refill I put off the inevitable task of replacing my medication. That is until several weeks ago when my allergies got the best of me and made my daily life unbearable. Seeking relief I went to my local pharmacy and explained my situation to the pharmacist and he gave me a comparable over the counter substitution.

This arrangement worked out well until two days ago when I once again ran out of my substitute medication. Not wanting to suffer as badly as I did last time, I visited my local pharmacy today. The pharmacist who originally supplied my substitute medication wasn't there and I requested a replacement from the woman behind the counter. To my disappointment they were out of my substitute medication and she proposed a substitute for the substitute. I hesitated for a moment and then I told her that I wasn't interested since I normally use a prescription medication but didn't have a prescription and didn't want to try something new yet again. To my surprise and with an expression that said "why didn't you just tell me that in the first place", she told me that she would just give me my usual prescription medication.

As appreciative as I was by her gesture and as happy as I was that the medication only cost less than 10€ even without a prescription, it made me wonder, doesn't this kind of behavior devalue the whole concept of a prescription from a doctor?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wait For It...

Several week ago I made an appointment to have my lady parts checked out since it's been almost two years since my last visit. Having already seen several doctors here in France and hearing stories from friends I thought I would be fully prepared for the experience or so I thought.


On the day of my appointment I arrived at the office and am greeted by the receptionist who asks me if I was referred to them by the American University to which I replied non (not so bad so far). After providing some administrative information I was escorted into the where several other women were already waiting (ok I got this). Then after a 10 minute wait the doctor came to get me and escorted me into her office. All along I'm thinking to myself "I've got this in the bag" or so I thought.

In the doctor's office I was asked to give a detailed medical history and then was asked to disrobe for the examination. No, I wasn't given a modest gown but I was mentally prepared for that and I even made a joke about the experience being different than in the US. I sit down on the examination chair/table all ready for my exam the doctor proceeds to take my blood pressure. As we are waiting for the results the doctor takes a seat on her examination stool. As my final blood pressure is displayed to the doctor she peers up from between my legs and asks "is your blood pressure usually this high?" What I really wanted to respond with was "it's only this high because you waited until I was completely disrobed and in the most awkward position possible to actually take my blood pressure. Generally speaking, my blood pressure actually quite normal" but all I managed to murmur at that instant was "no, it's not".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Velib' as a Guy Magnet? Guess Again...

Summertime in Paris is the perfect time use a Velib' to get to your destination within the city because one can avoid the stinky, crowded and too hot metros. Summer weekends are perfect as well because the streets of Paris are even more tranquil than usual with so many jetting out of town for the weekend. It's also great because you get a completely different perspective of the city one that you wouldn't get when taking other forms of transportation. And more often than not riding the Velibs throughout the city can be full of adventure.

Take for instance my brief trip yesterday to run some errands. I started out on the main boulevard near my apartment and made my way towards the Place de la Republic. While stopped at a red lightI turned around to see what two guys were yammering about and I found myself on the recieving end of an air kiss. Fast forward to the next intersection where I found myself on the recieving end of some crazy sound effects by the man that was crossing the street in front of me. Lastly, as I made my way back home and was parking the bike at the nearest Velib' stand a man approached me and I initially thought he was going to ask me for a cigarette or a light or even some spare change. But non, I was completely wrong, this man asked me if I would be interested in joining him at his place. I'll let you all guess what my response actually was.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm Going on a Picnic...

According to an article in last week's NY Times picnics are one of the most economical ways to pass a warm summer afternoon or evening in Paris. Anyone that has ever spent any time in Paris during the summer already knows this but the article was timely and interesting nonetheless.

After having a lovely afterwork picnic last Thursday it was time to do it all again on Sunday to celebrate my friend Juliet's birthday. We all gathered at le Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the northeast of (real) Paris. Througout the afternoon while bathing in the warm late afternoon sunlight, we ate, we talked, we laughed, and we even sang (thanks to the talented and musically inclined brothers Garnier). A good time was had by all especially the birthday girl.

One of the best parts of the afternoon was the little fan that took a liking to our English/French speaking group and our singers/guitar players. The expression on her face is priceless.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Do I Intimidate You?

Upon returning from my trip to the south, I dropped my bags off at home, scrounged up any change that I could find because I was out of cash and in possession of a useless carte bleue and headed out to have a celebratory drink for my friend KD's birthday.

During the evening, as I was chatting with one of our mutual French friends he made an interesting confession to me which left me scratching my head. He told me that he was intimidated by me during our first meeting which is why he spoke less than 5 words to me or anyone except the host for the entire evening. In case you didn't know I'm a petite girl. I'm also shy and have questionable social skills, how someone can find me intimidating is beyond me.

However, I must confess that because almost everyone in Paris speaks English I make an automatic assumption when I meet people for the first time and start speaking to them in English. I know how bad it sounds especially considering how long I've been in France and my level of French and I can understand how it can be somewhat intimidating to a Frenchie who may speak English but may not be all that comfortable with his mastery of the language.

So my goal for any future social interactions with Frenchies is to try to be less intimidating to the by at least putting forth an effort to speak to them in their language.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Aix and Marseille in Photos

First Aix-en-Provence (click to enlarge)


Then Marseille (click to enlarge)

Aix-en-Provence and Marseille Visit

I have a friend in town from NYC that was also an assistant in Paris last year. Since it was another long weekend we decided to pack our bags and head south to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille for a short getaway. Aix-en-Provence was a deliriously quaint city with bright colors, friendly people and perfect weather.

My only complaint about Aix are the allergy causing cypress trees that could be found everywhere. My Flonase (Flixonase as it's called here) was no defense against those trees but like a good sport I modeled through it. Despite the allergies I would love to return and even take some time out to visit the countryside in the area.

Marseille on the other hand was a completely different experience with my friend almost being mugged within minutes of arriving in the city. Needless to say the experience made us feel a little uneasy about the city and we kept our guard up at all times. Marseille has its charms such as the Calanques, easy access to the Mediterranean, and the amazing neo-Byzantine architecture of its main cathedrals, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a charming city.

I would probably go back but only on the condition that I visited with someone from the area or that knows the city very well.

Being gone from Paris for two weekends in a row was just too much for me so I plan to stay put for while.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Weekend in Bourgogne (translation: Burgundy)

Last weekend I parted fake France took off to "Real France" with Sam, Sarah and her husband. First stop on the roadtrip was to visit Justin in Chalon-sur-saône. He was the most hospitable host and I'm glad I had to see his charming town before his move to Paris. (Thanks again Justin).

I had every intention to go running along the river but life got in the way.


And by life I of course mean wine tastings, dining, sleeping and things like that. We visited several caves in the region and two of my faves were the Jean-Claude and Anna Breliere and the Paul Chollet domaines. The former is run by the cutest and most friendly couple imaginable offers all types of burgundy wine. The latter only produces crémants which are French sparkling wines not made in the Champagne region. Go figure.


While I did have a lot of fun on my trip I did manage to learn a thing or two about wine. In Burgundy there are two primary grape varieties grown the Chardonnay grape and the Pinot Noir grape and very little blending if any and little flexibility compared to the five primary varieties produced in Bordeaux and much more blending. Hence, if there is a bad harvest one year in Burgundy chances are you aren't going to have any good wine from that region and the producers are SOL whereas in Bordeaux producers have a lot more leeway to create their wines which is why they say that you can never really go wrong with a Bordeaux wine.

In addition to visiting caves and wine tasting we also visited the Hospices de Beaune and spent a day touring Dijon.

Comfy looking hospital beds

Medicine Anyone?

How 'bout some surgery?

Thanks to the Frenchies I have another long weekend coming up and I'll be heading down south to visit Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Outgrowing Paris?

When I first moved to Paris I used to revel in the idea of running into someone I know par hazard within the city limits. It felt like a sign that I had arrived and was building a network of people I knew, experiencing the city and making new friends along the way.

After almost two years here there are of course some people that you would rather forget or prefer not to see randomly by chance in the city such as your former fling when you most definitely didn't bring you A game, or the shock of seeing your friend's boyfriend with someone other than his girlfriend, or random people that you've met at parties that you'd much prefer to forget. These encounters, which all occurred to me over the past four days have me reflecting on just how freaking small this city actually is.

I guess that's a sure sign that it's time to get outta dodge for a few days and visit An American in Bourgoogne when this short 3-day work week is over.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Got a Haircut in Paris and Didn't Cry

First of all I want to thank you all for your comments regarding my previous post. I'm mostly over it now and am moving on.

Yesterday, I cheated on my beloved Logan of Serenity Salon in NYC and let a Parisian styist near my tresses. While I had every intention to remain faithful to Logan during my stay here in Paris it became harder and harder as my split ends seemingly began to multiple by the hour over the past couple of weeks. So I was really left with no choice in the matter I swear.

I managed to find the Living Room salon by chance as through a friend of mine. On top of that, salon owner and stylist Matt happens to be my neighbor. I figured these were both good signs besides what stylist is going to give a bad haircut to a client that knows where he lives? So I decided to take my chances.

When I sat down the first thing I told Matt was that I wanted to keep my length. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about at his salon. However, as I was sitting in his styling chair I couldn't help but feel overcome by anxiety as I watched him snip away at my tattered ends. A little more here, a little more there. On several occasions I even had to divert my gaze out of fear. When he began to do layer my hair using his special scissors huge long chunks of hair fell to the floor and I gripped the armrests ever more tightly. I had to keep reminding myself that it is just hair.

When all was said and done I realized that I had nothing to worry about afterall. While Matt's cut wasn't done with the same precision and perfection of a Logan cut it was exactly what I asked for and it came out looking pretty good and the price was right. So if I don't go back to NYC between now and the next time I need a haircut I will definitely visit Matt's salon again.

Living Room
22 rue des taillandiers
75011 Paris
01 43 55 66 81

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mama Needs a New iPhone

Last night I with friends to a mutual friend's concert in Ivry right outside of the southeastern Paris. After the concert we decided to head home and make it an early night since most of us were still recovering from a Noctilien bus ride the evening before. We rode the metro together until Place d'Italie where Sam and I got off to switch to our respective metro lines. I hopped on my metro, sat down, and took out the jPhone to play a game to pass the time. I noticed a tall a man standing in front of the fold down seat to my right and thought nothing of him at the time. I couldn't even describe him if I had to except to say that he was wearing an army green jacket. A stop or two later a family got on the metro with their cute young son in tow. I took a few seconds to glance at the tot and before I knew it we were at the next stop where the doors to the metro opened and the tall man standing to my left snatch my jPhone from my hands, ran off the train and began running along the unusually empty train platform. I did the only thing I could think of started to run after him in my 3 inch heels and dress. Half way across the platform I ditched the shoes because they were slowing me down, ran up the stairs and only to discover that the phone thief had disappeared into the night.

During the whole ordeal I was in complete shock as to what was taking place. During the rest of my metro ride home I felt a brief period of anger but the enduring emotion is disappointment in myself for being so careless and somewhat naive. What happened to me is one of those things that you read about and hear from other people but never think could happen to you until of course it does.


R.I.P jPhone
July 17, 2008 - April 25,2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Take That Mud!

My comical friend YM likes to joke and say that Parisians prefer to dress in colors that resemble shades of mud e.g. grays, browns, blacks and muted greens. Her theory is that Parisians don't like to do laundry very often and by dressing in dull, muted and bland colors they can put off the tedious task of doing laundry for as long as possible. While I don't agree with her hypothesis I do agree with her original observation.

Which brings me to this morning as I was riding the metro. I looked down and noticed my shiny new Mellow Yellow shoes and came to the realization that their bright pink hue did not fit into the accepted Parisian color palette. So what did I do? I snapped a quick photo, smiled a devilish grin and realized that I loved them that much more in spite of this.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Le Paris Pratique

Paris, unlike NYC is not a city that one can easily navigate without some assistance. One of the most indispensible resources to anyone living in Paris is the Paris Pratique, which one rarely leaves home without. The Paris Pratique is a handy dandy map divided by arrondissement which is very useful when navigating throughout the city and trying to figure out which way to go after exiting the metro. There are several versions of this guide but I highly recommend the slim blue one pictured above which devotes 2 pages or so to arrondissement. Now while I praise the usefulness of this little blue book I must admit to rarely ever using one. During my first year in Paris I heavily relied on my Moleskine Paris City Notebook which was indiscrete, included detailed maps of most arrondissements and could be used as a notebook as well. The only drawback was that it was severely lacking in usefulness when it came to navigating “Real Paris” and you all know how I feel about “Real Paris”. 

Now that I am no longer an indentured servant working for the state and am actually pulling in a salary, I upgraded to a handy dandy iPhone which essentially does everything (when I actually have a connection and the battery doesn't die on me).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bordeaux in Photos

By Day

By Night

Bordeaux in Detail

*Warning: this is an unusually long post.

Prior to heading to Bordeaux I had some pre-birthday cocktails at my favorite bar in Paris. Somehow thanks to my girls Juliet, YM and Sarah we ended up getting a private tour of the hotel by to one of the owners. And if that wasn't enough there were complimentary rounds of piscines thanks to the owner's kindness and generoristy. Getting home late and full of champagne (I'm not one to turn down a free cocktail especially when they're going for 12€ a pop) I was afraid I would miss my 7AM train the following morning. Fortunately, that wasn't a problem and I made it right on time.

The 3 hour train ride was uneventful and passed fairly quickly as I used it as an opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. Upon arriving in Bordeaux a friend picked us up at the gare and gave us a short guided tour of the city by car. After lunch, while my friend KD worked for a bit Kiki and I decided to take a free rickshaw ride. The driver told that his sole destination would be a mutuelle office on the other side of town and if we stayed for the sales pitch we would be offered a free gift. Not one to turn down a free gift and having nothing else better to do for the afternoon we hopped in. The driver must have found us charmer or possibly realized that he wouldn't have many other riders during the afternoon and offered to give us a tour of the city as well.

On Saturday we drove to check out Saint-Émillion which was absolutely gorgeous and picturesque despite the rainy and gray weather. Unfortunately, because we got a late start we didn't get to do any wine tastings altough we did have an enjoyable lunch. After and afternoon spent in Saint-Émillion we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the evening which included a Felipecha concert. It was my first time listening them and I must say that really enjoyed their live performance and I'd highly encourage you all to check them out. We all hung out after the concert and had an amazing time. At midnight my friends and the band started singing happy birthday to me which was quite embarassing. However, one of the bartenders heard the singing and offered each of us a yummy cannelets as a little gift.

On Sunday, after a late night we managed to get ourselves together and head to a vineyard in Barsac for a wine tasting. The region's specialty is a sweeter tasting Sauternes wine which, at first, I wasn't sure I would like. Turns out I really enjoyed the younger less sweet option that I tasted and ended up buying a few bottles. After our visit to the vineyard we headed back to Bordeaux to do some shopping at the outlet stores along the Quai des Marques and I scored some desperately needed new jeans. Sunday evening we took it easy and enjoyed a nice, relaxing dinner.

After 3 days of grey and gloomy skies, the sun reappeared on Monday in full forced. We used this opportunity to drive to Arcachon to visit la Dune de Pilat which is essentially a giant pile of sand. After laboriously trekking to the top we were rewarded with the most stunning views of the bay. After a short rest at the top to take it all in and enjoy the sun, we climbed back down, grabbed some lunch then drove back to the gare in Bordeaux.

All in all if was a fabulous weekend and I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my birthday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrating My Birthday in Bordeaux

Enjoying a birthday cannelet


Sent from my iPhone

*Note: Updated to fix image.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

French Zealots

The French are fanatical about their language hence, my aversion to adopting the native language of the land. Reason being I generally don't support zealotry in any form. 

Case in point the follow sign was posted in the elevators of my office building:

Version 2 After Modifications


Version 3 After Further Modifications

Little does the red penned zealot know that accents on capitalized words are optional

Monday, April 6, 2009

On Internet Dating

Being sick this past weekend I was unable to accomplish a number of things that I had planned such as enjoying the sun, checking out a museum, etc. I ended up spending most of Sunday in bed watching CNN Europe. Out of sheer boredom, an impending birthday, and a lack of success on the dating front since moving to Paris I decided to join Meetic.com. I had sworn off of online dating once and for all after my previous foray during my days in NYC but I thought what the heck I've got nothing to lose. New city, new site, new people non?

Almost immediately after signing up for the site I regretted my decision. While the response to my profile has been overwhelmingly positive which is a good thing and a nice ego boost I'm left questioning what their response is actually based on. As of today my profile is still incomplete and lacking a description so they aren't evaluating me based on personality. Additionally, for almost a full day I had no picture associated with my profile so they weren't evaluating me on that either. So what gives?

Then there's the issue that every time I log into the site profiles of men flash across the screen trying to initiate a chat, I've received a new email or flash (whatever that is). And it all kind of feels like vultures vs. prey to me.

Lastly, if I were somehow able to get past my first two issues with the site, there's the issue of paying which I just can't justify for many a reason. I'd much rather put that money use purchasing cocktails at my favorite bar and flirting with the much too young bartenders, treating myself to a nice birthday present or buying some new summer sandals.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chance Encounters

Paris is a pretty big city with approximately 2 million inhabitants living in Paris proper and up to 10 million living in the surrounding suburbs. So the odds of randomly running into someone that you know while going about your daily business are pretty low if you ask me but not impossible.

And that's exactly what happened to me on Friday evening as I was walking along the train platform on my way to meet friends for a drink. As I was walking along the platform I caught the eye of a gentlemen standing there waiting for the train. I continued to stare as I walked past him unsure of why he looked so familiar. After I had passed him it clicked and I turned once again to get another look to confirm my suspicions and that's when he called out my name. And that folks is how I randomly ran into BC (my biggest crush in Paris). This wasn't the first, but the second time we've ran into each other this way since meeting.

We exchanged our hellos and pleasantries and proceeded to ride the metro together for several stops. I was half hoping that he would profess his undying love for me and to ask me to marry him but apparently that only happens in the movies. We made some awkward small talk, I cracked a few silly jokes which ended up being complete duds and then I was on my way. While it was nice to run into BC randomly and it's something that I wished for on several occasions I realized that he's not the French guy for me and I need to find a replacement.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Technical Difficulties...

Apparently some of my blog readers have been having trouble subscribing to my blog in a reader of their choice. I suspect it has something to do with my change from a Feedburner account to my Google account.

Nonetheless, if you're interested in subscribing to my blog use the following link for the time being:
http://feeds2.feedburner.com/LtrangreAmericaine

...we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sometimes My Life is a Joke

Top 3 reasons why my life is sometimes a joke:

1. Went to the Post Office today and was greeted with this signage:


2. Received a letter from my old mutuelle telling me that they plan to credit my bank account for the remainder of my doctor's payment not covered by social security. (On the surface this probably doesn't seem so bad but it actually means that I'll be caused headaches at some point in the future).

3. Made my second trip to Flo Bio to pick up the results of some blood work and was nonchalantly told to come back on Friday because the "first results came back positive so they sent the sample to another lab to be analyzed."* Uhm ok nice job dropping a bomb on me and telling me that I have to wait another 2 days before I know for sure.

* Disclaimer: I'm not pregnant and no the blood tests weren't for anything serious

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Customer Service at it's Best?

On Saturday I went to pick up a bracelet that I had dropped off at Skalli in the Marais several weeks prior to be prepared. For those of you that don't know, Skalli is a really cute jewlery boutique with colorful and moderately priced pieces. I would have picked it up several days earlier but that idea was foiled when the salesperson quoted me a false closing time of 9PM instead of 7PM but I just chalked that up to my less than perfect French. I pick up my bracelet and the sales woman tells me that instead of repairing my previous bracelet they just replaced it with a brand new one free of charge.

After the bracelet pick up I decided to have a coffee at a café in the Marais. As I'm sitting there enjoying my coffee I decided to take out my bracelet to have another look. To my horror I realized that my gold bracelet was actually replaced with a silver one. I headed back over to the boutique but it was closed for lunch. When the boutique finally opened I told the woman of the mistake and her response was "well that's the one that they sent back, there's nothing I can do." My retort was to show her my earrings and explain how they just don't match a silver bracelet and that I'd rather have my broken gold bracelet instead of a silver one.

She finally tells me that she'll see what she can go and as she's looking to see if they still have that specific bracelet in stock she makes sure to tell me that she's "doing me a very big favor." Instead of going with my gut reaction and wanting to tell her off I decided to stick with my original defense. I reiterated that the new bracelet just didn't match my earrings while cursing her under my breath. She pulls a closed box out of the closet, opens it up and finds my actual bracelet in gold. Wanting to take one last stab at me as she packages my bracelet the saleswoman says, "you're lucky because this is probably the last bracelet in all of Paris." Little does she know that on Saturday she was the lucky one because I was on my best behavior.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Vannes (Part 1)

1. Elevator buttons double as calculators.

2. They have huge stones aligned for miles in the neighboring commune of Carnac.



3. They use sheep to graze the area and I caught a picture of this little guy (he should probably be fired or retrained because I'm pretty sure that's not grass he's munching on).


4. There are some beautiful beaches.


5. ...and beautiful sunsets.


6. Every man (and some women) over the age of 50 can play the accordion.


...stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.

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