Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why McDonald's in Paris is way cooler than McDonald's in America.

I eat at McDonald's about twice a week here.  Part of me feels like I am the typical American tourist treating McDonald's like my personal American embassy, and part of that may be true.  But let me tell you why McDonald's > everything else.

1. It's cheap. I live in an expensive, touristy area and it's often the only thing I can afford.

2. It's familiar. A burger is a burger is a burger, it tastes the same and it even has the same name. No matter how discouraged I am about my French not being up to par, they always understand me at McDonald's.

3. McDonald's here (at least on the Champs Elysees) is ballin.  Seriously.  There is a separate counter for coffee and espresso and pastries (macaroons, croissants, apple tarts, flan, muffins, etc. Think the Starbucks snacks but cheaper).  They have 3 chocolate mousse for dessert.  They even have BEER here.  AND, on top of it all, there are no open container laws in Paris.  I can get my 2 euro beer and then I can take it outside with me (not that I need to, but if I did, I could).  You can even drink on the metro (I've seen people drinking entire bottles of wine en route to their destination for the evening).

There are many things Europe needs to embrace, but in return America could take some hints about fast food.

Also, on a similar note, I've taken to walking pretty frequently, to ration metro tickets and to make myself feel better about whatever love affair with French food I had that day.  My sweet tooth has gone crazy in Paris.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The ATM is holding my debit card hostage.

Newest reason I hate Paris: today I went to take out money but I forgot my PIN so instead of giving me my card back the machine stole it.  I have 2 euros and 15 cents in my purse and next to no food. I will be living on crackers and the abundance of tea the last girl left in my apartment until I either get paid or get my damn card back.  *sigh* It's all for the story.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm still mad that they scared away my duck.

After dropping of the Girl at school yesterday I decided to walk home (to get some exercise and ration my metro tickets) and happened to walk by the Galleries Lafayettes, Paris' massive department store (look up a picture since I didn't take's crazy).  I also ended up near the Madeleine Church (originally a "Temple to the Glory of the Great Army" built by Napoleon, inspired by  the Maison Carrée at Nîmes, now a Catholic church in the 8th).  It's really odd because it looks so old but is in the middle of a much more modern area, not like the historic center at all.

I kept thinking, though, that even though I was walking by all this beautiful architecture in one of the greatest, most historic cities int he world, I wasn't appreciating it.  In Tallahassee I used to walk around campus or drive down the canopy roads and think about how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place.  Here, all I could think about was how loud it is, how obnoxious the tourists are (as if I wasn't one of them), how fat French women make me feel (partially why I was walking), and how the hoarde of Asian tourists with their oversized cameras scared away my duck at the Tuileries earlier today.  Tallahassee felt like home almost immediately; I'm still waiting to fall in love with this place.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The French are on strike

There was a transportation strike today, which apparently happens a lot.  A strike here is not a real strike, though, it seems.  They announce it several days in advance and only a few workers strike.  Every 2 or 3 or 4 trains still run on each line, and line 1 by my house remained fully functioning.  It was a bit more crowded today than usual, but not even a lot, because everyone is avoiding the metro because of the strike.  Only one of my trains today was really problematic.  No wonder French strikes are such a joke.  A "strike" that only makes public transportation slightly less convenient for one day can't be all that effective.
And it's all because they are trying to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. You work 35 hour work weeks and get at least 5 weeks of mandatory vacation time a year. 2 more years won't kill you.

Apparently there is no such thing as collective bargaining in France.  Management makes decisions without much input from the workers and then the workers respond with strikes when they don't like it.  This is ridiculous...then again, at least they aren't throwing coups and overthrowing the government every time they don't get their way. Could be worse I guess.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shakespeare & Co

Went with Leanne and Amy to this cute little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co to see a performance of a monologue (I lost interest and didn't pay attention, but the area was nice).  This bookstore is really quirky and strange, complete with an upstairs bedroom (also with books) and ladders in true "Beauty and the Beast" fashion (it was set in France, after all).
this is what a bookstore is supposed to look like.

entrance 1, before the reading

entrance 2, after I stopped listening to the reading and started playing with my camera instead.
We also walked through Notre Dame while we were waiting for the show to start (didn't take our time, we figured we'd be back later.  It's so nice to think, "we can just come back to Notre Dame some other day when we have more free time" instead of having to cram it all into one trip) and saw this bridge where people had tied ribbons or put padlocks with names on them on the chainlink fencing around the bridge. I don't know why it was there, but it looked pretty cool.
my Notre Dame picture. I'll have to take more later.

I just really liked this one for some reason. Locks and ribbons on the bridge.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bike at your own risk

Rode a velib today with Nicolas on our way to WOS so I could explain American football to him (my second unsuccessful attempt to interest a European in our version of football).

We went to the Marais looking for apartments for him, then saw Cyrus (it sucked), then biked from Les Halles (a sort of shopping mall) to the bar.  I had heard that there are bike lanes; what I did not know is that bike lanes are also bus and taxi lanes.  So I haven't ridden a bike since I was maybe 8, and now I'm doing so (rather unsteadily) while busses and taxis speed past and hoping they see me before they hit me (or before I hit them, also possible considering my biking skills).

I don't think this is something I'll be doing again, at least until I have some sort of insurance.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Tell Your Parents You've Been Hit By a Motorcycle (or, Hospital Food Sucks Everywhere, Even In Paris)

Me: "Mom, remember how we talked about starting conversations like this with 'I'm fine'?  Well, I'M FINE......butIgothitbyamotorcycle."
Mom: "....."
Me: "But I have no broken bones, a few scrapes and bruises, and one suture in my head. That's it. I'm walking and breathing. I'm fine."
Mom: "....well that's exciting."

So I figured since I've never been to the hospital before, why not check it out and get the full Parisian experience?

All I remember is that I was walking home from the family's apartment Tuesday night a little after nine, walking to the intersection, and then waking up in an ambulence trying to figure out why everyone was speaking French and why exactly I was in Paris.  It was one of the more confusing moments in my life.

After 2 nights in the hospital, 2 CT scans and an abdominal ultrasound (and a destroyed Ralph Lauren shirt and a pair of AE jeans), I was free to go, and even without social security or insurance the bill is only 2400 euros (unheard of for uninsured health care in America).  If I can work out social security it will be only 400 euros.  So I guess I'll have to work that out somehow.

Also, happy birthday Dad, sorry I missed it while I was cooped up in the hospital eating bread and water.  I will sent the postcard I bought as soon as I figure out the mail system.

Also, finally went grocery shopping.  Fresh food/produce/meat is expensive, but packaged food is really cheap and I only spent 12 euros on a decent amount of food.  Oreos here taste funny.

Camembert and Heudbert biscottes as I stare out my window at the Eiffel Tower. It's good to be home (or at least as much of a home as this place can be).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to work

I was alone with the kids tonight and they were really good.  The girl was in bed on time, and the boy asked me to hang out with him in his room while we did his homework.  Good signs all around I think.

First French class...big surprise, they only speak French.  I've found I can read French quite well, but I can't understand it when people speak to me...which is pretty much all the do in class. Everyone seems to be better than's awkward.

In the 2 hours between school and work I walked through the Jardins des Tuileries, a garden by the Louvre.  There are chairs and fountains and a ton of people running or just relaxing and eating lunch.  Maybe once these blisters heal (from wearing real shoes instead of flip flops) I'll run there too.  And of course, the Louvre is right there.  Also within walking distance of my apartment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some things within walking distance of me.

autumn comes at a normal time in Paris.

Hotel des Invalides from across Pont Alexandre III
lamp posts and golden statues on Pont Alexandre III
Hotel des Invalides

Arc du Triomphe, literally down the road from me.
entrance of the Petit Palais

entrance to the Grand Palais, from the steps of the Petit Palais.
I live on the other side of this building.

my street
the cafe under my apartment

Yeah, be jealous.

First attempt at going out, football, and the boy is not an ax murderer...yet.

Last night Leanne and I met up with a Norwegian girl named Isabel.  It's nice to finally have a few friends.  We tried to go to an American bar at AUP but it was closed so we took the metro to St Michel, a very studenty area near Notre Dame.  Lots of bars, cheap food, nightclubs, and bright lights...reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street (but smaller and Frencher).  After walking around for a while I decided to find WOS bar which I new was nearby.  It's an international bar that plays college football on Saturday nights...and they speak English!  It's officially my new favorite place for Saturday nights, or maybe every night.  I might have to become a regular here.

Also, met Nicolas today.  He seems quite nice.  We sat in a garden near Place de la Concorde (where they guillotined people during the revolution, pictures later) and then walked down the Champs Elysees to get coffee. We ended up at McDonalds, which is actually pretty awesome (I'll have to talk about that later too).

Afterwards I walked around looking for a grocery store that's open on Sunday (there are none) and ended up taking a lot of pictures, all of things really near my apartment.  Walking by the Hotel des Invalides kind of reminded me of Tallahassee...there is this huge green with people sunning, sleeping, or playing soccer, surrounded by this beautiful architecture and rich history (obviously on a much bigger scale than Tallahassee) and I missed home for the first time.  I also felt a little good about it, though...maybe I'll have to go back there.

French classes start tomorrow. Good times.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh yeah, I have to take care of kids...

First run-in with the boy today.  It seems he does whatever he wants whenever he wants, and his mother does nothing, and as a 12-year-old boy his primary solution to any problem is to call his mother on me.  She's not concerned about that either.  She also wasn't concerned that he lied to her about our argument to make me look bad, ut at least she told me she does not blame me for his behavior, and said "I know my children."  Fair enough.

The girl also tried to run away tonight, after she got punished by her tutor for not paying attention.  These kids might be crazy.

Registered for school today, and then wandered around for 2 hours looking for an internet cafe (still no internet in my apt, Christine is not too concerned, maybe I am much more dependent on internet than French people) and I'm starting to think this was a mistake.  I don't know anyone, I don't know my way around, and Paris is pretty much just another city except that I can't communicate with anyone.  I need to meet people I can talk to.  Even the family speaks French at dinner.  This could be a very lonely year.

On the bright side though, I have coffee with Leanne (a girl I met on facebook) and am meeting a guy named Nicolas on Sunday (also from online, that's the only way I have to meet people at the moment).  They both might be ax murders, but at least they speak English.  Friends are friends.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

from my new apt: 19 Ave Franklin D Roosevelt, 75008 paris

21 hours ago I was waiting to board my flight from TIA and I pulled out all the letters my family stuck in my suitcase and cried ridiculously in the middle of the airport while I read them.  I was legitimately thinking about walking out and going home; Paris can wait.  I apparently have commitment issues, with a city. (like, "look, Paris, you're really great and all, but it's just bad timing, you know? I'm not ready for this. It's not you, it's me.")

Now I'm sitting in a wicker chair in the middle of my new augmented-studio apartment one block off the Champs Elysees and watching the Eiffel Tower glitter with strobe lights every hour on the hour and I still don't know if this was a good idea or not.  I have 10 months to find out.

My apartment came equipped with an air mattress (already inflated), 2 boxes of tampons, 3.5 tubes of toothpaste, some shaving creme (which I don't usually use but I guess I will now), instant mashed potatoes, and 1/3 of a bottle of Disarrono.  Enough to live on until I get to the grocery store.

I think I'm allergic to this place; I developed a stuffy nose somewhere over the Atlantic and have had the urge to sneeze pretty continuously all day.  I also haven't slept since 8:30 am Tuesday morning.

The family is very nice, Christine is very sweet and the kids seem to like me well enough, even though I kept falling asleep while trying to read with her on the sofa (if you want your children to be well taken care of, don't leave them with someone who is this sleep deprived).  Even the boy seems to like me, but from what I've heard, I might be speaking too soon.  He says I'm funny, and not like other Americans.  I'll take it.

Bed for now, I'm sleeping in tomorrow then getting shown around by Christine. Bed Glorious Bed.
 my life packed away in one suitcase (checked), one carry on, and one backpack (with some things stuffed in the boots)
 The first room of my apartment, kitchen/bathroom are on the right
There are 123 stairs between me and the ground. No elevator. My butt is going to be awesome.