November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving: year six.

Six years of being away from family and other Americans on this very American holiday has made it seem almost the norm. I am once again hosting a Thanksgiving potluck with my French friends (using my tried and true French thanksgiving recipes), and I am once again using this as an opportunity to reflect on all that I am thankful for in my French life.

This year, I am thankful for:

1. The French boyfriend
My constant proofreader, who helps me navigate French bureaucracy, I am so thankful to get to cuddle up next to him on a daily basis. I’m especially thankful this year that he drove my parents to Switzerland and spent an entire day with them sans moi because I had left my passport in Paris… Thank you so much!

2. Amis
As always, I also can’t imagine my French life without all the wonderful people I’ve met out here, from the amazing people I just graduated with to the new friends I’ve made in Paris. From commiserating about the daunting visa process to helping deal with the stress of office life as well as, now, the job-hunting process, I’m so grateful for you all.

3. Graduation
After two years of hard work in the classroom and in the office, I am officially a Master! I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten this degree in France with such lovely, wonderful people, and I am also grateful for the fact that my university just happened to be in Champagne as that led to celebrating this milestone with the delicious beverage that shares the region’s name at very reasonable prices.

4. APS
I am so grateful for the visa that allows foreign bearers of a French master’s degree stay in France for one year in order to look for employment in their field of expertise. It’s given me the opportunity to stay here for one more year, hopefully soon find a job, and continue this great adventure.

5. Paris
Living in Paris has lead to a plethora of reasons to be grateful. Not only is the city beautiful and full of wonderful museums that I can visit for free on the first Sunday of the month, but it’s also a big tourist destination, which has meant getting to spend time with friends who didn’t think Troyes was worth visiting.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

October 31, 2014

Aller au ciné

The price of going to the movies has always been a factor in why I hardly ever go to the movies. Plus, since moving to Paris and no longer being under 26 (the age when Europe no longer considers you jeune), the price I have to pay to go to the movies has exponentially increased, exponentially decreasing my frequency of attendance.

If I do go, however, it’s because I want to see something that is going to be freaking awesome on the big screen. I want explosions. I want magnificent scenery. I want larger than life everything.

Unfortunately in Paris, bigger prices do not equal bigger screens.

On our first trip to the movies, after paying an absurd amount of money for a ticket, the boyfriend and I headed down an endless amount of stairs, and just as I was beginning to suspect we were heading to the center of the earth, when finally we arrived at our salle (room).

The room itself was small. There must have been no more than 50 places, and as such, one would expect the screen to be smaller than say a 200-person room. However, the screen wasn’t even proportional to the room size. It was tiny.


The screen in question. I made sure to include that guy's head for scale.

Suspecting that the problem might have been the fact that we were seeing the movie a while after its release date, I gave Paris the benefit of the doubt and went to the movies again. And again, the screen was miniscule. So much for ever going to the movies!

However, luckily for those of you who wish to see your Hollywood blockbuster on an American sized screen, I do not give up so easily. After visiting several different theaters, I have finally found one that is up to snuff. 

The screen towered high above our heads and was wider than most Parisian buildings. It was even curved, giving the viewer the experience of really being in the movie. The actors were at least three times as big as me. This theater definitely met the criteria for larger than life. 

Check it out:
UGC Ciné Cité La Défense
Le Dôme - Centre commercial Les 4 Temps

October 19, 2014

Tacos

While most of this blogs chronicles “how weird I think everything French is,” it’s becoming harder and harder to do, as I’ve become steadily more accustomed to life here (five years might do that to a person).

Last weekend, I felt especially comfortable in my little French life. I felt especially Parisian, and it all started off with tacos.

I had given up on ever tasting Mexican food worth eating in France, but then I moved to Paris and had a colleague who was equally desperate for good Mexican food.

After some quick internet research, we decided to go try a little hole-in-the-wall place over by the Canal St. Martin called El Nopal. It was maybe the best decision of my life. The tacos were heavenly, and it wasn’t just my lowered expectations talking.


El Nopal.

Since there is no seating at the restaurant, I (and many others) have made a habit of taking my tacos and beer over to the banks of the Canal St. Martin to bask in the sun’s rays and enjoy the nice view.


Delicious vegetarian tacos.

On this particular visit, after savoring the tacos while engaging in nice conversation, my friends and I walked along the canal and even got to witness a péniche (barge) leveling out the water to make its way up the canal. We stumbled upon a few vide dressing (sort of like pop up second hand stores), and once we made it to the Marais we visited several art galleries.

As evening settled in, we found ourselves on the terrace of a small Parisan café, enjoying glasses of varying varities of French wine.

Before having lived here for so long, I would think eating non-French food would probably be the least Frenchy thing I could do. Even though I already knew that the French eat Mexican food too (the lines outside of El Nopal are a testament to such), it didn't fit into my definition of "French." Now I know better.

I can have my Frenchness, and eat (delicious) tacos too.


Check it out:
El Nopal
3 Rue Eugène Varlin, 75010 Paris

May 29, 2014

La cantine

My internship has come with many perks. The company is paying for half of my monthly metro pass, there is a small gym with a trainer and group classes available for free (yes, even to us interns), and there are two in house lunch dining options available with very reasonable prices.

Up till now, I have avoided eating at French cantines(dining halls/canteens). My first experience was during my time as a teaching assistant. They didn’t have anything that accommodated vegetarians, and so I would just make myself a sandwich and eat in the teacher’s lounge.

Next up, as a student, the cantine still didn’t have many vegetarian choices, and since I didn’t want to pay €3,50 for a plate of fries and over cooked carrots, I brought leftovers from the previous night’s dinner that I would reheat in the student’s lounge.

But now, as an intern, I eat at the cantine. There are many more options for vegetarians at this cantine, and for that I’m greatful. Plus, they have understood that it is disagreeable to pay the price of a meat meal when you don’t take meat, and charge less for a vegetables-only plate.

All of this is a vast improvement from previous cantine experiences, and I am grateful for cheap eats, especially as everything is expensive in Paris.

That said, I just don’t understand why the French culinary greatness can’t extend to vegetables. It has been my experience that the French think they can just boil a vegetable until its soft, put absolutely no seasoning, herbs, or spices on it, and declare it done.

Normally I love broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, but every time the cantine serves them they are just lukewarm mush.

After three months, I now know which plates I like and which plates I don’t, and more often than not, the dishes served fall into the don’t category. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking and choosing parts from different dishes to make up a worthwhile plate, but I still think side dishes should be just as important and flavorful as the main attraction.

That's why I put herbes de provence on my hauricots verts(green beans).

May 7, 2014

1e dimanche du mois

Paris. Despite having spent a semester abroad here, many weeks visiting with my parents, and weekend or day trips visiting with friends, there somehow remains museums and other activities left undone.

While I have enjoyed the freedom of not being obliged to visit 4 museums in one day, or even to “see the sights,” I still want to take advantage of living in the city of light.

That said, things have gotten a lot more expensive in my life recently for two main reasons. First of all, Paris is just darn expensive. Second of all, according to the European Union, I am an old fart.

Paris public museums and monuments are free to residents of the European Union younger than 26 years old, and seeing how I’m now 26, I have to pay my way. Most places don’t even have student-discounted rates. Apparently by 26 years old, you should be done with that whole higher education thing.

Luckily, the city of Paris thinks that everyone should be able to enjoy its many wonderful museums, and so they are made free to the public the first Sunday of every month.

I’ve taken this opportunity to visit some lesser-known museums, including le musée des arts et métiers.

Filled with old timey science apparatuses, cars, planes, construction materials, and communication technologies, this museum is cool.


Science.

It also reinforced the notion of how I am no longer “young,” as it had on display items that were younger than I am (like an iPod).

To top it off, I overheard a young child asking his grandpa, “qu’est-ce que c’est grand père? (what is that, grandpa?)” pointing at a certain item of older technology on display in a glass case.

ah, ça c’est un magnétoscope pour les VHS (ah, that's a VHS player).” But just stating what it was wasn’t enough. The grandpa had to continue to explain how at one point in time, that was how people watched movies at home.

Nevertheless, it was really cool to see old cars as well as old giant computers, and seeing how much technology has changed over the years made me excited for the future, even if I am "old" now.
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