A smattering of photos of Paris (one more month left until I leave!)

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Mimes roller blading on the Quai of the Seine

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Statue of Liberty

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Jardin des Plantes

 

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Canal St Martin

 

 

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When clothing stores start taking over boulangeries.

 

 

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Le Jardin du Luxembourg

 

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Food to taste and other things to buy in Paris

This past week my sister was in Paris to visit and explore the city. It was the first time she was in Europe, let alone Paris, and so it was an exciting time showing her all the food I have come to know and love during my stay here. So here is a basic list of things I think are must-buys if you find yourself in Paris at some point in the near future:

1. A delicious croissant

You’re in Paris and you’re surrounded by viennoiseries and patisseries, so getting a taste of the flaky goodness that is synonymous with Paris is a must. Keep in mind though that all croissants are not made equal. While even the worst croissant is better than an average croissant back home, you don’t want to waste a single calorie or euro on a subpar croissant while in Paris. There’s no need. Just do a little research- every arrondissement bosats at least one or two viennoiseries serving croissants au beurre that probably have won some prize.

 

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2. Hot chocolate or coffee

There’s one name that comes to mind when you think of hot chocolate in Pairs, and while I don’t particularly advocate going there for the [overpriced] hot chocolate, I think a visit to Paris merits a cup of chocolatey goodness. I would avoid getting hot chocolate in touristy cafés as they tend to be overly sugary. But a quick google search can lead you to a good, small café serving hot chocolate for less than 4 euros. For coffee, check out the new “hipster” cafés in Paris normally run by expats from Australia, Brazil, Italy, ..well anywhere but France.

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3. Gelato / ice cream /sorbet. There’s the classic, Berthillon founded in 1954, as well as plenty of other newer spots. Check out Grom or Pozzetto.

caramel and pistacchio ice cream from Berthillon

caramel and pistacchio ice cream from Berthillon

4. Buy a book at Shakespeare & Co. and get it stamped at the register. I haven’t done it yet, but I plan on it!

5. Tea from Mariage Frères. Honey or confiture. A jar of caramel beurre salé to  recreate the crepe experience back home.

6. Be adventures: Try some escargot, foie gras, oysters or lamb!

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7. Explore the yogurt aisle at any supermarket (especially the one at Le Grand Epicerie). The name ‘Yogurt’ doesn’t give it justice. The French have transformed this once plain and boring breakfast sub-category into a food that could easily become a substitue for a guilt-free dessert.

8. Eat real dessert and try macarons from Pierre Hermé, a chausson aux cassis et violet or aux pommes (sort of a knish-shaped pastry filled with a fruit flavoring), or Opera cake for example.

creme brûlée made with maple syrup

creme brûlée made with maple syrup

9. Sandwiches are a great option to sample some of the best French products: bread, cheese, meat, spreads, butter, pickles…. all for under 5 euros. If you love cheese, make it your mission to try as many different varieties as you can every time you order a salad, sandwich, crepe or quiche.

10. Buy some Roger & Gallet products for yourself or as gifts. My favorites are the rose and the green tea scented lotions.

11. Buy a Nespresso machine. Because all the French people have them. Throw in some Repetto ballet flats and some fur for the full effect.

It’s Nearly Springtime in Paris

The weather in Paris for the past week has been cold but full of sunshine and has given me false hope that warmer spring weather is just around the corner.(EDIT: As I post this, we just got over a few days of snowy, freezing weather and are now experiencing yet another rise in temperature.. 61 and sunny this Tuesday! ) It will probably be some time before I can leave the house wearing a single or even double layer of clothing but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to profit from the absence of gray skies that has plagued Paris everyday since the beginning of winter. I am almost positive I’ve developed some sort of allergy to my wool scarf.

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The seasons have always had a rather measurable affect on my mood. And it’s sad to admit that living in Paris has done little to free me from this  this tendency. I can’t even remember a time before this week when I didn’t wake up and bury myself deeper into the covers at the thought of leaving my apartment. I would of course to go to class and go to lunch, but the fact that I’ve watched five seasons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 3 seasons of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and 4 seasons of the Real Housewives of New York City since I’ve been back from Christmas vacation speaks for itself.

 

I definitely felt and still do feel guilty thinking of all those hours I could have been out and exploring but all I can promise myself now is that I spend every agreeable weathered day from now until the end of May walking aimlessly, walking to explore walking to take photos and walking to lunch spots.

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My newly discovered favorite is a cafe on Ile St. Louis. It faces the Notre Dame, close enough to the Pont(bridge) St. Louis to enjoy the music of what is the Parisian version of troubadours as they play their accordions or celli, busy with tourists and natives walking about but it still maintains a certain calmness that you can’t find sitting at the terrasse of one of the famous cafes on st Germain.

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You’re welcome to stay as long as you want and if you orderes one of the overpriced veverages (a cappuccino will run you 5€70 or $7.40!!) you really should stay there for an hour or two. Before the sunlight reached our tables and tanned our faces we were kept warm by the overhead heaters- a staple of almost all parisian cafes. And if that’s not enough you could always grab one if the fleece blankets offered by the cafe, which is cute concept but just about as  appealing as wearing a sweater that 100 strangers have worn before you and has never been washed.

The City of Light, The City That Sleeps

The day before Valentine’s day I celebrated my 21st birthday in Paris. During the week I had been searching for a French restaurant that offered great quality food but wasn’t incredibly expensive. I found two restaurants in Paris that looked very promising menu wise, but were both unfortunately no gos- one restaurant had thoughtfully closed during Valentines day week for renovations and the other restaurant’s days of ouverture conflicted with when I would want to have my birthday dinner- Wednesday night.

The night before my brithday I had finally found the perfect dining location: Cafe Constant. This restaurant is one component of the trifecta owned by Chef Christian Constant located in the 7th and  a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The menu was full of French-inspired innovated dishes and it would actually be open on Wednesday. When I arrived there that night I found that Cafe Constant was closed for renovations!

Luckily the night was not spoiled. My dinner companion and I wasted little time finding a substitute:  Les Cocottes– the second of Chonstant’s restaurants on Rue Saint Dominique whose price range falls right in between Cafe Constant and his 3rd and most ritzy restaurant Le Vilolon d’Ingres.

 

 ImageThe not so classic “Classic Cesar Salad” at Les Cocottes 

 

One thing that I spend little time worrying about when living in New York is the opening and closing hours of stores. While chain stores are virtually always open, even smaller shops are usually open 7, maybe 6 days a week, and if so the day of rest for businesses is usually on Sunday. In Paris, the ‘day of rest’ can equally affect business Saturday, Sunday, Monday or  Wednesdays. Good luck trying to find a lunch spot that’s open after 2 :30 and before 6 :30pm in case you’re in need of a late lunch- that’s when the workers are taking their break and preparing for dinner. In additional to that there are always fermeteures exceptionelles that you won’t know about until you arrive at the store front.  

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Moral of the story. If you’re in Paris and plan to go to a specific museum restaurant or store Always have a plan b

Parisian Fashion: Not Exactly My Cup of Thé

After spending two and a half weeks in NYC for Christmas vacation and another 2 weeks in Paris pre-Spring semester, this Monday marked la rentrée: the commencement of school in France.

View of NY/NJ.

View of NY/NJ.

Flying back into Paris in 2013 and settling in again in my room and old routines reminded me of how different this period will be compared to Fall Semester. Being in New York reenergized me and made me approach my experience in Paris differently. I’m not in need of an adjustment period, other than the first few days spent to get over le décalage horaire. And instead of conforming to every social expectation and custom that is typified as the French way to do things, I will be less apologetic about doing the things that I enjoy though not considered ‘normale’.

 

View down a street in Paris.

View down a street in Paris.

I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the way Parisiennes dress. I appreciate that the Parisian uniform dictates a clean, well-fitted style and that, contrary to the overwhelming abundance of borough folk I saw in NYC, no one is wearing pajama pants, sportswear, or carpenter jeans. I’m conscious of respecting people’s style even if I don’t agree with it or find it boring (the more I disagree with your outfit, the more diversity there is!) but the fact that there is such a limited variety in what Parisiennes wear is a bit frustrating knowing that this city is supposed to be one of the fashion capitals. There’s little room for daily creativity or innovation when you’re in a society, especially as a foreigner, where people generally feel it’s their duty to correct you if your appearance or behavior is ‘abnormal’.

The main categories of style as worn by women in Paris seem to be of three camps:

A: The young Parisienne rebels with blank, unsmiling faces

B: The young to middle aged ‘professional’ women usually toting a novel, a shopping bag from Le Bon Marché or a child while coming home on the metro.

and the most daring of them all!

C: The 60+ ladies who will not be slaves to your fashion humdrum! 

Camp A: They shop at Zadig et Voltaire, Sandro, H&M and Zara. They wear the same exact styles, in approved colors (black, brown, gray, olive or eggplant), and can’t say no to apparel that is studded. They own a pair of black motorcycle boots with studs, sneaker wedges, skinny jeans and cotton fingerless gloves so their hands are always free to text or light up a cigarette. Leather jackets or large fur coats are what she prefers to complement her chunky infinity scarf. And she usually sports long, wavy hair and black eyeliner. She loves a good leather bag with some studs or zippers or the infamous Vanessa Bruno bag with all those sparkles. She broke curfew once two years ago and since that night she has been using fashion as her way to rebel.

Camp B: She’s a newly graduated woman searching for work or a middle aged professional who keeps Americans begging the question ‘How can I attain that classic, Parisian je ne sais quoi?’ The answer does not lie within Chanel number five or grandmother’s Hermes vintage scarf (although it could), but Repetto ballet flats or heels no taller than 2 inches (I can attest that footwear higher than 2 inches will cause too much of a rio), opaque tights paired with a pencil skirt, and poncho-styled wool coat. She generally abides to the neutral-colors-and-black-only rule but may surprise you with a flash of blue, red or pink with her cashmere scarf. Her bag of choice comes from Tod’s, Lancel, Hexagona, Longchamp or Chanel. Makeup is minimal and confidence is foremost; never look up from your phone or book while on the metro unless you want to surrender your expression of indifference.

Camp C: My favorite group of Parisian woman who inspire me and make me feel like maybe it’s okay to stand out. While not all older woman dress super stylishly, most of the time the most daring outfit and the boldest of colors are worn by a woman above the age of sixty. While modest in her choice of skirt lengths and necklines, she is the true rebel when it comes form deviating from fashion norms by wearing prints, colors and flashy accessories. She has the advantage of a stockpile of clothing from different eras including at least 3 different designer bags from each decade and no one can critique her look. She’s got moxie and she doesn’t think twice about smiling in public. She prefers her hair in a bun and who knows she may even be in your ballet class. (Yes, really!)

This was all in good fun and I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive to anyone! I don’t think that I dress so incredibly different from the rest of the crowd, but I was definitely more concerned about fitting in with the Parisiennes during the fall than I am now. I have always been one to take some risks even if they were huge mistakes and I am here in Paris to continue said lifestyle.

Maybe I am not really going to be Stacey: La Parisienne and more like Stacey: Hey, I once lived in Paris, can you tell?

xx

One month Anniversary

My camera took its final breath last Saturday, so I won’t be posting any more photos until I get a replacement.

So, to post a quick update without the aid of photos, I will write about my week briefly. This last week of September included:

-Getting use to the routine of my classes and doing homework (oh, that’s right, the reason I’m in Paris is to study)

-Visiting the exposition “Paris: Vue par Hollywood” for the second time. The exposition, although poorly executed with missing “fiches” (I have no idea how to say this in English.. it’s the card under/near the display that describes what you’re looking at ?)  and a floor plan that makes you feel like a mouse trapped in poorly designed maze, it was actually pretty enjoyable. And the exposition did inspire me to watch a bunch of Audrey Hepburn movies including Funny Face.

-Eating sanduiches chez Eric Kayser

-Drinking a lot of hot tea in order to warm up in this apartment where it’s 10-15 degrees colder than the temperature outside

-Reading A Moveable Feast and having the privilege to visit or know the addresses that Hemingway describes/ visited/ lived at.

-It’s getting more and more easy to speak French but I don’t know if that’s really an improvement; just because I can speak a little more quickly doesn’t mean I’m speaking coherently and without grammatical mistakes. And I know there’s no way to improve my French but to practice and communicate often but I have a feeling I’ve fallen into a dangerous zone of perpetuating my own errors of grammar and conjugation.

-Exploring new streets and neighborhoods. This is the one thing that has contributed to my continually and slowly growing affection for Paris. I have to admit that as much as Paris has been refreshing, intriguing and lovely to look at, I have not really been in love with the city or felt too attached to it (and I still don’t. New York still reigns supreme). However, I just recently started to genuinely warm up to it when that internal map and sense of direction, all inside my head, began to get more detailed. It’s a process of becoming familiar with boundaries and neighborhoods that eventually leads to my being able to orientate myself in a large city.

The concept is personal and difficult to explain, so I might try to write a post on it but for now all I can  say is that it’s the feeling of comfort and familiarity that goes with knowing that the shop that sells hot chocolate to die for is near my school, which is on the way to the vintage shop where I love to window shop, which is not too far from the quality sandwich shop, which is only 2 blocks away from one of the best spots for gelato.

-I realized that I am really irked by something things commonly found in Paris[ian culture]. Or maybe it’s because they are so common that they irk me. This list will continue to grow but so far it includes:

a) Les Sacs cabas by Vanessa Bruno. If I  walk 2 blocks I can be sure to pass at least 5 girls with this bag. I just don’t understand how it’s come to be so popular that women, from 7-70 years old, carry this ugly sequined bag that’s just, in my opinion, an overpriced version of something I’m sure the Children’s Place once sold for $20. Since it’s not practical, sophisticated, nor well-designed, why are Parisians so taken with it?

b) The phrase “c’est pas pareil” (It’s not the same/ it can’t be compared). This phrase irritates me because it’s often uttered when I’m trying to make an argument or a comparison to explain my point of view. Once it is uttered the debate is over, my point has become invalid and my opponent somehow won the debate all because “it’s not the same!”.

c) … I don’t want to be too hard on Paris so I will end this list with: Pigeons.

until next time,

S.

Je suis à Paris.

My first day in Paris felt like a dream.

Pars is definitely wonderful, interesting, beautiful and there is so much to be explored. But arriving when I haven’t slept in more than 24 hours (and then forced to wait from 8am to 2pm to check into my hotel room where I could finally sleep), it was hard to believe that I was IN PARIS and that tomorrow and the next day and the next 9 months I would still be here. Also, being here by myself with no one to talk to in English or even have a long conversation in French, made it feel like this all could be taken away from me as if by waking up from a dream.

This could be a very long post if I tried to describe my day so I’ll write some of the things I saw, felt or experienced and maybe I’ll expand on them later in a future post.

1. After claiming my baggage all I had to do was make my way outside to board my bus. No passport check? Nope, that was done in Iceland so I don’t get to have a cool stamp from France.. I might have been able to ask them to stamp it just for fun but I didn’t even see a desk where I could ask that. (And how does one say “ink stamp” in French? And how would you explain why you would want this without sounding suspicious? By the way the verb “to stamp” with ink is tamponner. Kind of glad I didn’t know that and try to use it.)

2. To get from CDG airport to the center of Paris you have to pass some ugly (sorry France) neighborhoods  to get to  where I would be staying, Gare Montparnasse. For a while on the bus I was getting quite nervous as I though “What is Paris isn’t as beautiful as I thought? What if it’s ugly and boring? How can I spend a year in a boring city that falls extremely short in comparison to NYC?”

3. Paris is great. I’ve only been in one neighborhood but it really impressed me. And so have the people. Of course I’ve only been here one day and have yet to interact with too many people, but as of right now I cannot tell you that “the French are so rude”.  However failure to disprove this renders the hypothesis ambiguous.

4. One thing I just cannot get over and wish I had photographic evidence happened this afternoon while I was walking down a petite little street in the 14eme. I was looking to get something to eat and thought I would enter (or think about returning to) this little boulangerie/patisserie that had a blue-painted store front. As I walked closer and got a view of their store window I noticed a teenaged boy cleaning the glass of the door and next to that was a display of colorful macarons above baskets of other pastries in the window. At first I thought I was seeing something.. or maybe they decorated the macarons or burnt them?… No, those most be flies on their macarons.. I mean, that happens from time to time somethimes you can’t help…NO, DEAR GOD THOSE ARE ROACHES CLIMBING ON THE MACARONS AND THAT IS ROACHES AS IN MORE THAN ONE. WHY IS THAT BOY NOT DOIN ANYTHING OR TOSSING THEM INTO THE STREET.

I die. I didn’t want to slander this patisserie by writing this and ruining their reputation (although they only have 2 reviews on yelp) but what I’m writing is the truth so…. I wouldn’t go to La Fournee Augustine in Montparnasse if your looking for a tasty treaty.

5. I don’t think that’s very representative of Paris though. I’ve been comparing it to New York City as I walk around and I feel like there are so many more restaurants here. There are less patisseries and boulangeries than I would have thought there would be, but then again this neighborhood might not be known for that since it’s full of a lot of hotels and may not be very residential. I did however have dinner (toute seule) at a Thai restaurant near my hotel. I got to eat à la terrasse and had a filling meal for 15,30 euros.

6. I also haven’t seen much litter nor pigeons (but quite a few dead ones on the road. Have they not yet evolved to be as adept at dodging cars as their NYC counterparts?).

7.a. Paris cross walks will need a little time to get used to me. Not only are many in the middle of the street  and criss cross, but also  the red standing man that signals “do not walk” does not blink to warn you that you’re time is running out. It just goes from green to red. I haven’t yet found out what happens if you haven’t made it to the other side when the walk signal turns red. I assume you would get automatically hit as Parisians do not slow down or wait for anyone.

7.b. Also there are a few crosswalks where the cars don’t have a light but are supposed to stop for you (I’m guessing as I haven’t actually seen the front of the sign myself). What you don’t know is that cars don’t just stop for you if they see you waiting on the edge of the sidewalk looking eager to cross. You just have to look forward and starting walking, hoping that they are upright citizens and paying attention to you as you speed up, slow down,speed up slow down your way across the road. Hopefully I won’t end up like the pigeons.

I think that should be it for today. It’s not an amazingly interesting post but just a few things I thought I’d jot down before I forgot.