My day off- a cappucino and relaxation

Bonjour! Today is my day off from school. I have two a week. Sounds lazy, but my three days of class a week are eeeexhausting to say the least. I take all of my courses in French, and I have three hours of class (one class) on Monday, and six hours of two classes on Tuesday and Thursday! No amount of caffeine can honestly prepare me for sitting in classes for three hours a pop. And I mean no amount! My classes are more challenging than ever now as I have to translate in my head from French (from native speakers) into English, my native language. History is hard enough to follow as it is, and when dates like 1939 are spewed from the professor I really have to pay attention because she doesn’t write dates on the board and long/long-ish numbers like that are notoriously hard to follow in French! I’m getting better though, and it’s only my 2nd month here.

I woke up around 10:45 a.m. this morning because last night I was dinking around on my laptop (since I bought that elusive internet) and hanging out with a friend- also I didn’t set an alarm. I love to sleep. I could talk about it for days. Naturally though, I got a little bit too much sleep, and I was feeling a little groggy this morning. And bored, since I don’t really have homework for tomorrow’s classes. Except for non-homework, but obligatory things, like preparing for my French visa medical exam, researching, and studying (ugh). I was itching for a good cup of coffee, so I did a little bit of research on google, and came across David Lebovitz’s article “La Caféothèque de Paris”. This is a cute, not-so-little, but just SO home-y, café that is actually more close to where I live in Paris than I thought. I decided to give it a try after slowly getting ready.

It was delicious! I got the cappucino for four euros, which was so full-flavored (I’m no coffee expert, sorry) and decorated with a leaf of milk. Like, I don’t know how to describe it without you tasting it, but it had a very rich flavor that was a bit enigmatic but pleasurable to drink all the same. The cup came with a little shot glass of water and a little spoon on a tray, with a packet of chocolate covered somethings. What’s great about this café is that there are a few different rooms, lots of seating, and a homey, American coffee shop atmosphere. If you so desire, you may buy your own coffee from their carefully-selected beans. They truly know how to brew a good cup. I know I’m coming back soon and will be trying the “café du jour” when I do.

P.S. I spent an obscene amount of money on an umbrella that I’ve been coveting from BHV for days, one with little, white polka dots on a black background, surrounded by frills of the opposite color but same pattern. It’s loud, and a bit big, but oh-so-feminine French.

Until then, I’ll be consulting David Lebovitz’s blog and soaking up the “sweet life” in Paris. XOXO

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Yes, This was a Week Ago

le 21, octobre 2012:

[D’abord- No photos! I’ve been taking pics of dimensions 3000X4000 and they’re not uploading…SORRY! I know now though and won’t disappoint ever again. I’m also working on a day in which I blog every week.]

Cou cou! Typing with wet nails…a la ‘Jamaican me Crazy’ by essie. This past weekend was my (big 2-0) birthday! It was a very iiiiinteresting weekend that started out with a glass of white and shots from the servers aka friends at one of the cafés I receive meal tickets to. Needless to say I was having a good time soon after! Ha. Awkward. Anyways…I then went dancing at some point in the future at a club and remember that the American music being played was really fun to dance to. : ) After that, we went on a walk that lasted until around 3 a.m. and saw some places where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre hung out/lived. Pretty cool. I remember that part a little more!

Saturday was a hungover day not gonna lie. Hard alcohol + wine wears you out like no other!! I Skyped my love after you know, getting presentable, which was very nice (always is).

Sunday, my birthday, I was finally feeling a bit more lively so I decided to accompany my English friend Lucy and her Spanish friend Nerea- both absolute sweethearts and a joy to be around- on a walk throughout the city (well, a bit of the city). We walked to the Pantheon and saw some of the area around that as well. Very cool! It was a Sunday so there was a bit of a market going on and we were surprised to see so many people dining and profiting from the beautiful day. In this area, there are all types of cuisine- Afghanistan, Spanish, Mexican, Lebanese, etc. But what delighted me were the “frites” I saw in the cones perfectly adorned with the little fork on the top, and the American Diner named Delma’s! So absolutely charming. I was starving as usual so I wanted to find something quick to eat. I got a take-out bowl of bolognese noodles and a water bottle for 5,50 euros (STUDENT PRICE!) at a place that I forgot the name of (sorry!). It was delicious! It wasn’t very fast, so I wouldn’t really call it “fast food” (ha) but it was worth the wait and the cost, of course, too.

After a quick lunch, we headed down from the Pantheon and to the Luxembourg Gardens (Jardins du Luxembourg). I LOVE this garden. It’s absolutely gorgeous! It was a nice day so we walked through, stopping for necessary pictures of the beauty that was all around us. After that we did an obligatory tour of my uni, and saw some cool things on the way home which you can see in the pictures 🙂 I thought I good a good, random assortment of things photographed and I hope you all enjoy the pictures! P.S. Free hugs in Paris? Don’t they know Parisians “faire les bisous” and hug for reasons that include sadness, sympathy, etc.? ha weird sight in front of Notre-Dame Sunday!

I took pictures of what I ate that day besides the pasta. These include Amorino Gelato on St.-Louis-Sur-L’Ile, and a meal on the same island at a lovely (and good value) café called Cafe Med. Go there if you’re ever on Ile St. Louis. You will not regret it! Big portions and a delicious meal for a good price, too.

All in all, it was a good weekend and I profited from the nice weather that’s been happening in Paris, somewhat bizzarely. I am now 2 decades old too! Less than a year till my 21st! Hope you all enjoy,

XX Meg

So…it is officially now my birthday! We shall see what the day in Paris has in store for me 🙂 Hopefully lots of good and delicious things. Talk to you later,

Meg

Starbucks

How I feel about Starbucks these days in France, in one word: expensive. A tall Americano coffee is 2,80 euros, and venti frappucinos  get horrifyingly close to 6 euros (not that these are even the drinks I want to order). They do have special, country-specific offerings like fruity tea frappucinos and café viennois. Also, I miss America, specifically Northwest Starbucks’s, terribly! : (

Sometimes, however, going to Starbucks will be necessary for me because 1- wifi, 2- it’s a little (and expensive) taste of America, 3- it’s always a good hang-out spot, and a good place to observe some French people who actually like Starbucks, 4-McDonald’s is not my thing, guys.

My American pal and I planned to meet outside the metro station Opera today at 10:30, but then we both were running late and it ended up being more like 11:30 a.m. when we met (c’est la vie and French people are always running late anyways). Of course it’s my day off, so c’est pas grave that my alarm clock didn’t end up going off at the appropriate time. We decided yesterday that we wanted to go and “study” at Starbucks, so we chose one in the “Opera” area that my French friend said was nice, and stayed there until around 3:30, or I should say, 15:30. I’m going to make a list of the differences I have observed so far. I’m trying not to critique as much as outline the cultural differences, but you can tell me if I’m being too critical! Here goes:

  1. They are large. The ones I have been in so far have been at least 2 flights. Or, there has been a RDC and a first floor. In France, the first floor isn’t called the first floor. It’s instead réz-de-chausée, and the “numbers” start with the first floor, or the American “second floor”. I forget this often, ha so I thought I would remind my readers!
  2. People feel totally free to sit right next to you. My friend  (who was sitting right across from me) had left to use the restroom and then purchase a sandwich, and in that time frame of around 10 minutes, 3 French teenagers with their expensive drinks in hand came and sat right in front of me on the “bench/couch”, and right next to her homework and her bag. I felt really awkward, just because I’m not used to people doing that without asking, “Is anyone sitting here?” and there’s always that language barrier a little bit, so I decided to say in French that she was going to be coming back. I just didn’t want her to not have a place to sit when she got back. The girl shrugged and muttered something I couldn’t hear and went on with her conversation, not leaving the spot. I’m pretty sure she was saying something about it not being my right to say that, but she could have been saying something worse than that and I wouldn’t have known. I like to think the best of people though!
  3. It’s not really a café culture like one that you’ll typically find in Paris. People are interested in getting their drink, or leaving (something that I actually haven’t seen often) or they are interested in sitting down with their computer (that free wifi!), reading material(s), or friend(s) and lingering. For at least an hour.
  4. The proper thing to do when there’s no place for you to sit,  from observation, is get as close to the table that you would like to “snatch” after the people leave, and sit. And wait. This to me, is a bit creepy and awkward. My friend and I were lingering and we were obviously American (oops) and I feel like I was being so offensive. But who knows. Sometimes you just have to say ‘pardon’ and get on with it. Also, I think the French/Europeans are less freaked out about personal space. For me- France has been very TINY and has been very hard to navigate the stores without bumping into anyone. Some supermarkets even have long lines because they are so small/ not very staffed with cashiers, and the elevators are very small.
  5. You must eat your sandwich, muffin or pastry (that comes on a tray and on a proper plate) with your fork and knive. People hardly ever eat with their hands here, unless it’s something “pour emporter” like a crepe.

From now on, if I go, I will only order a “short” Americano and take advantage of the free sugar packets (free trade!), the free nonfat milk, and the flavor ‘shakers’. This place is too expensive, but it’s an issue that it’s so convenient and that there are actually so many locations. Darn.

P.S. Mont St. Michel isn’t happening this weekend, but I will be doing something extra-special because it’s my birthday weekend! : ) Off to another 3 hour dinner,

XX Meg

A Truly Terrific Day

Bonjour tout le monde! Today, I hung out with my so-very-French friend with a so-very-American name, who really doesn’t speak more than 2 words of English and we first went to lunch at a ‘restaurant japonais’ because she’s obsessed with sushi and goes there once a week, at least. She’s quite adorable that way. I was willing to try the restaurant, but before I came to Paris I was actually vegetarian and I’m opposed to raw food and fish as well. Introducing meat into my diet again has been a bit difficult, but I knew that it would have been too difficult to forgo meat completely here.

Anyways, after eating a big lunch of sushi (for her) and meat kebobs for me (because hey, it was cooked and came with a salad and a soup), we jaunted to the exposition on Rue Rivoli that we had planned on going to the night before. Unfortunately, we’re under 26 and usually the museums are free for us (I’m not even a EU citizen), but this time it was 8 euros. It was either that or not seeing this awesome exposition so we decided to pay the hefty price. It’s an exposition called ‘Van Cleef & Arpels, The Art of High Jewelry’ in English. I couldn’t take pictures, I’m sorry because I really wanted to. Van Cleef & Arpels is a highly renowned jeweler in Paris that utilizes old-school practices like doing most crafting, cleaning, etc. by hand (I watched a video) and they craft truly amazing and one-of-a-kind pieces. All since I believe the mind 19th c or early 20th c. But I could be wrong on that.

The exposition displayed Van Cleef & Arpels’s pieces from the ‘Roaring Twenties’ all the way until the 1970s. Trop de bijoux ! It was absolutely dazzling, and I was in awe by the magnificent craftmanship and all of the sparkles! I was able to see some pieces Princess Grace Kelly, Lady Elizabeth Taylor, and First Lady Jackie ‘O’ Kennedy all wore at one time which was absolutely intriguing and a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I couldn’t stop saying how beautiful the pieces were- I kind of feel bad for my French friend who hardly talks in museums or the metro (like the typical French lady). I’m just so American sometimes I can’t help it!

After a couple of hours in the museum I was feeling a bit drained and we continued down Rue Rivoli and past ‘Jardin des Tuileries’, which is somewhere I’m absolutely going back to. I had no idea that she had something in mind and was marching with a mission! It turned out that she was searching for “Angelina’s,” an adorable and very classy café known for its hot chocolate, or ‘chocolat chaud’. It was a bit expensive, but I got AMAZING hot chocolate for 7.9 euros which turned out to be 2 big cups. And for the ambiance, that place is worth it. We had lovely conversation and relaxed for a good while, too.

After having enough chocolate for an army, we left to go to Sephora because I wanted to get “something for my birthday”. I’m sad because in the states there is a free gift if you come into any Sephora 2 weeks before/after your birthday, but my Sephora card doesn’t work like that in France. I ended up purchasing some very lovely every day lipstick (in the perfect color) that cost me an arm and a leg though! But I’d prefer to just think that it was all worth itIt does look very nice! And beauty is something to splurge on in my opinion. It must look good though because she couldn’t stop saying she likes it and she’s not always that talkative. I learned the cutest phrase because she told me “tu es toute mimi!” which basically is slang that shouldn’t ever be used in written French like this (ha!) that means “OMG you’re SO cute!” in American English. Love it.

All in all, today was a VERY productive day off, and I feel like I truly am competent at French. I’m very happy right now and I’m glad to have a new friend who’s a built-in tutor. Also, I’m happy that I don’t have a test tomorrow like I thought I did because I’m so hyper. It’s really funny how I never hear any of the homework my French teachers tell us about…they take two seconds to say important things and it’s always at the end of a three hour class so somehow those things escape me!

A bientôt !

Mini trip to Montmartre

The last time I was in Paris was the summer before my freshman year of college and I went with my family. On the way down from Montmartre one day, we stopped to get dinner at a place Rick Steves recommends in his Paris travel book. It’s a little Italian restaurant named La Rughetta. *edit- it’s 41, Rue Lepic if any of you are interested

How good is it? Well, I vividly remembered the taste of the lasagne al forno I had…three years ago. I remembered that I got a whole pizza as my appetizer (my appetizer!), and the lasagne, and something for dessert that I’m not sure I was able to finish, as well. That sort of establishment is always a winner in my book, as everyone needs a pizza appetizer every once in a while. I knew that my friend Haley (she’s studying abroad in Paris as well) was going to love it when I took her there today! Today was Sunday, so unfortunately we couldn’t do “la formule”- the menu that gives you an appetizer, an entrée as the Americans know it, and a dessert- at a fixed price, but the prices were very reasonable for the pasta dishes that we decided on. And naturally, with Italian food, we ordered a 1/4 carafe of ‘vin rouge’ for le table.

About the wine- I kept saying it was watered down, because it was sort of transparent and not “full-bodied”, but I am absolutely not a wine expert and we ended up finishing the little carafe that never seemed to end. I wasn’t sure for a while there if I was going to be able to drink 2 full glasses of red, but it was very good wine. Now, was it watered down? I really couldn’t tell you! We were joking that it must not have been because we were starting to doubt our ability to climb up the hill to Sacre-Coeur ha ha. 

We finished our lovely meal and we ended it with a just-as-lovely tiramisu! Now, it was a 10 euro tiramisu that we shared- but it did not disappoint! It was less spongy, dense and cake-like than the ones you’ll find in the States, but all of the cream mixed with espresso powder was TO DIE FOR. And it almost felt ‘lighter’, but that I can certainly not vouch for. I’ll keep on believing that, though! 😉

All of the rain today was kind of a huge bummer for this southern Californian, and it would’ve been fun to sit in the sun, but I think those days are over in Paris! I at least got a good meal with a quality friend, my coveted trench coat (finally!), and some Kusmi Tea that I found right off the Metro stop Abesses. It’s truly lovely tea.

I’m glad Haley could spend the day with me 🙂 perfect Sunday.

le 12 octobre, 2012

Things I want in this world as of right now: an endless supply of super plush Kleenex, delicous hot drinks like soy chai tea lattés, oatmeal baths, massages, chicken noodle soup, my bed, and books. As for now, I think my situation will have to do. I shall take my vitamin C, use my Nyquil and Vick’s Vapor Rub, lie under blankets and hope for the best! Vick’s Vapor Rub when applied to your feet under socks at bedtime really helps with colds, so I heard.

Today was actually quite nice, what with getting up at 14:00 after sleeping on and off since 10:30 in the morning. I actually got to use a washer so I put my clothes in and then worked up the courage to get dressed and head off to the pharmacy for those Vitamin C tablets and Vick’s Vapor Rub. I don’t think I’ve mentioned before how much I love pharmacies in Paris. But, I really do. It’s super nice to go in one and get exactly what you need. Plus, they sell those nice French beauty/hair products, hairbrushes, perfumes I wish I could afford. Such a classy establishment and it’s nice that I pretty much will never have to go to a doctor here since I can get all of the help I need in the pharmacy! Even if they don’t speak English and I have to play a little charades/ write things down.

10 euros later, I decided I probably should eat something so I naturally went to my favorite boulangerie where an American family with three or four small children was. They were all so stereotypically American! But I realized at that point how bad it was that they were not using any French at all. Like, it irritated me they were speaking English, so I’m not sure how the man working was feeling but I decided to ask him about how many Americans he sees in a kind of joking way. We talked in French and he said he sees a lot of Americans since the island I live on (Ile-St.-Louis) is super touristy (it’s actually annoyingly touristy when you’re a resident of the island like me). He then asked what nationality I was, which, actually was super nice because he didn’t pick up on the fact I was American! I said “Je suis Americaine” and he said I had a Quebecois accent. Idk, at this point, I’m such a Canada lover that I was super flattered, and at least he didn’t automatically assume I was American when I spoke French. It could be that I’m sick with a cold that he thinks I have a Quebec accent? It was actually really nice to get to speak with him because I wasn’t sure of how nice he was, but he was truly a sweet man. And I’ve seen him a couple of other times in that bakery and never got to have a conversation!

Afterwards, I naturally jaunted over to Amarino for some deeeelicious gelato, flavored lemon and organic pear (limone and pera bio, in Italian I suppose). I mostly went here because 1- it’s delicious, and 2- Berthillon, the super famous ice cream of Ile-St.-Louis, was particularly crowded today. My experience at Amarino was better today, because the server actually spoke to me in French unlike the last time. I believe living here for almost a month and knowing a good amount of French really helps make you more ‘French’ or ‘Parisienne’.  And the lovely way in which they craft the gelato on your cone like a flower is always charming and adds to the experience. Really does. It’s perfect to stroll around the island with some of its frozen treasures, even if you’re just heading home to finish your laundry.

I have really got to spend less money on food here, but hey it’s a problem in the states too. I just like my food. One’s got to have priorities, I think 😉

I finally made a blog :)

I finally decided to go through with keeping a blog (much like the responsibility that comes with keeping a diary) mostly for my personal use because I’m not sure how many people are going to read it. I will definitely not mind if you do, though and it will be oh-so-flattering!

So,

Today marks almost a month in Paris (I got here on September 17th). It’s been a whirlwind. I live on Ile-St.-Louis which is beyond beautiful, chic, quaint, and EXPENSIVE. It is also quiet at night and I feel super safe here. You can just walk from Notre-Dame and over a bridge and you will be on the island that is known for its Berthillon ice creams (Oh, and try Amarino Gelato if you come, as well- it’s less famous but just as good). Although for the ‘how it’s super expensive’ part, I do live in a International Foyer, which is like a dorm. There are over 30 represented nationalities, and hardly anyone here is American or British. It’s awesome to be able to practice my French ‘chez moi’!  I started school at the Catholic Institute of Paris (Institut Catholique de Paris), or ICP, on the 24th. That was a little exhausting though, because I feel like I would’ve wanted more time to ‘settle in’. Only just now do I feel settled in/ feel like I actually know where the grocery stores are, know how to use the metro, know where some major sights are, know how to do my laundry with the French machines, etc. Also, I feel much more confident in my language skills and in my ‘being independent in a big city’ skills now. There’s people everywhere and I just have to be street-smart, I keep reassuring myself.

We did a lot of touring and visiting in and around Paris (WAIT: places like Germany and all other Western European countries are a pretty short trip away?!) and saw the Versailles gardens  on one super rainy day where I somehow lost all of the pictures I took, went to a chateau (that’s castle) in Nitray, FR for wine tasting one weekend, and went to Germany for Oktoberfest this past weekend. We went to Heidelburg (sp?), a super cute city, for a few hours first and then ended up in another city (I don’t know how to spell it, but it starts with an H and was pretty close) where our hotel was. There, we partied it up with our Paris Program’s son and his five French friends who all bought as beer and gave us shots. These Europeans are pretty generous and they don’t seem to want money for the stuff they buy us. I actually drank more that night (or so it felt like) than I did the whole day at Oktoberfest, leeeet’s be honest. Oktoberfest, though, was a blast and a half. Like, a really, really good time and I would recommend it to anyone who can tolerate beer/ anyone who’s gonna be drinking or is down to have a good time. I would love to come back someday and maybe go to the one in Munich. I enjoyed Germany a lot and would like to explore it a bit more/ actually eat a bratwurst and sauerkraut there.

As for right at this moment, I’m pretty sick with a bad cold. My throat was super painful though, and that seems to be going away. I felt much like I did when I first came down with mono last summer! Not fun. I’m just going to be resting this weekend, cleaning my room, getting things organized, etc. Maybe a couple minor outings, but I’m not quite ready to do toooo much until this is gone! BUT, I am thrilled to announce that I’m going to Mont St. Michel in Normandie for the 20th and 21st of October!! I am super excited to be spending my birthday there. What more could I ask for, really? I enjoy weekends spent with my program from university, too. Until next time…

Hillary, Sofie, and I at Oktoberfest from last weekend!