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 led 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


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.


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.

March 27, 2014


Somehow, despite having lived in France for 4 and a half years (admittedly not consecutively), I have avoided up till now purchasing and using French deodorant. And no, I wasn’t just not wearing it! Somehow the deodorants that I’ve brought with me were enough to last.

I use solid deodorant, and I really made my last stick count. I was stabbing the weird plastic-y part at the end with a q-tip to ensure I got every last bit of use out of it. But, one can only put off the inevitable for so long, and so I ventured forth on the search for French deodorant.

Why was I going to such lengths to avoid French deodorant? Well, I have never seen deodorant in a solid form over here. They tend to prefer aerosols where you spray particles under your arms, or liquids.

Granted, I haven't done an extensive search, but as part of my on going quest to integrate into French culture, I decided to branch out.

While I know some of my fellow Americans use liquid deodorant, I never have. So faced with the unknown and my limited number of options, I went for something my compatriots use: liquid deodorant.

I hate it.

It’s wet. It stays wet. It takes eons to dry. If I’m running late and don’t give myself enough time to dry off, the underarms of my clothes get wet.

It’s cold, and I’m already cold in the mornings.

It’s slimy, and after application my underarms remind me more of frog skin than human skin.

My liquid déodorant, aka early morning torture.

I’m just glad I bought a travel size bottle.

However, my travel size solid deodorant lasted me 6 months... Looks like I’ll have to deal with cold, wet, slimy underarms for a while to come yet.

Update: thanks to my awesome readers, I was able to find solid déo!

February 23, 2014

Stage: le début.

For all my complaining about how unorganized my university is, how uncommunicative the professors and administration are, and how nobody ever seems to know what’s going on, I can at least now say that it has prepared me pretty well for the realities of being an intern in France.

After accepting the offer and settling on a starting date in December, come mid-January I still had no information about how my first day was going to be. This continued until the week before my start date, when I decided that I’d rather know than wait around. I called them to double check the starting date and find out what time I was expected. I then learned that I should be there at 9 in order to attend orientation.

While no further details were given, I was at least grateful to know this little tid bit. Knowing the first day was going to include an orientation calmed my nerves.

While I had them on the phone, I wanted to ask if it would be okay if I took an extra long lunch on Thursday in order to pick up the keys to our new apartment. However, they misunderstood me and thought I said lundi (not jeudi). That’s how I discovered that we were to be lunching with our bosses and other new interns on the first day.

I cleared up the confusion, but was glad that there was some otherwise I'm sure I would’ve been kept in the dark until jour j.

Just like orientation for the master, after my day of learning about the operations of the place, I still felt like I knew how nothing worked. We were not told if there was or wasn’t a strict time to come into the office. We had been told we’d learn how to use their time sheet software, but somehow or other it didn’t happen. I was told my desk would just be temporary, as they hadn’t found a place for me just yet. They then gave me a bunch of papers to read to play catch up on my project, and left me to figure it all out on my own.

Three weeks into it, I am getting the hang of things. I was able to figure out the time sheet situation mostly on my own, and as far as I can tell there are no future plans to change my desk.

I guess France is gonna be France. At least I get to look at this on the walk to the métro every day.

La Défense.

February 1, 2014

Goodbye Troyes

This Monday I will start my new internship in Paris and say goodbye to Troyes. While the unknowns before me do make this a stressful change, I will not be sad to leave, at least not in the way I was heartbroken to leave Lille.

Timbered houses in Troyes.

Troyes is a beautiful fairy tale miniature city. But whether it was because the university wasn’t actually in the city, or because I was less interested in the cultural opportunities, or because I’m less impressed with (the 9) medieval churches now that they’ve become the norm, I never made Troyes my city in the way that I did with Lille.

I don’t feel at home here like I did in the North. I felt certain that I wanted to get out of Troyes when I did my internship. However, when we walked to the library today to rent some DVDs, I couldn’t help remarking how beautiful this little city is. And how maybe if I’d been less of a homebody, it could’ve felt more mine.

While it’s been fun living in Champagne and drinking bubbly on the cheap (~13€/bottle!), I am ready for a new adventure.

So Goodbye fair city. I will miss the church view from my bedroom window, the small cobblestone streets and timbered houses, and my favorite pizza place. Thank you for a year and a half of discovery, hard work, and not distracting me too much from my studies. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you as well as I should.

Until we meet again.

January 25, 2014

Liebster Award

A while ago I was nominated for a Liebster Award by one of my new blogger friends, Dana from As Told By Dana. I've been a bit lazy and the questions she asked were a bit personal so it's taken me a while to get around to it. Nevertheless, I present to you, the Liebster Award!

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I wanted to remember every moment where I felt “French.” When French people mistook me for one of them, or I partook in a part of their culture, I wanted to share it. I quickly caught on to the fact that I’ll never be completely French, and now my blog talks more about how weird the French can be (and why I love it).

2. If you could go anywhere in the world, right now, where would you go, and why?

Southern California to spend time with my family and my pets, with a trip to where ever my brother currently is as well. I love to travel and go on adventures, but I have a lot more opportunities to do that than I do to go home and spend quality time with my family. Plus, I could use some good Mexican food.

3. If you had the chance to travel back in time or into the future, which would you pick, and what would you want to see/find out?

I would like to time travel to the future, as Benjamin Franklin said, “The rapid progress true science now makes occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon.” I would love to see the progress humanity has made, not only technologically but also socially.

4. Apple or PC?

Apple. I have a macbook and an iphone.

5. How did we meet?

Through blogland!

6. What is your guilty pleasure?

Right now, it’s Les Ch’tis à Hollywood! I love me some bad French télérealité.

7. At my funeral, I want this song played:

I have thought very little about my funeral. I love Fiona Apple and her album The Idler Wheel is my favorite music so maybe that?

8. What do you think of when you hear, “Wisconsin?”

I think of my cousins. My dad’s sister and her family live in Wisconsin, but it might as well be another country. There are definitely cultural differences between us Californians and them Wisconsinites.

9. What is your favorite season and why?

I think that depends on which country I’m living in! In California, that would definitely be summer. I love spending my days at the beach and nights around a bonfire. In France, it is way too hot and humid in the summer for it to be my favorite. Winter is definitely too cold. I think it rains too much in the Fall, which leaves me with Spring. Spring is probably my favorite season in France because it’s starting to get warm again but it’s not yet humid. Although after writing this I’m coming to realize I might not be all that into this whole season thing, seeing as in Southern California we go from extremely nice weather to a little bit less nice weather during “winter.”

10. I never, ever, want to do this again:

Ride a vomit smelling bus.

11. What do you like most about yourself?

My enthusiasm and excitement about life. I’m a huge geek, love to reread Harry Potter (and read in general), dress up at theme parties, and play games. Sometimes France tries to stifle this part of me, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it means being a little bit too loud sometimes.


And so I pass this award as well as the questions Dana posed onto some of my much deserving blogger friends:

Bread is Pain

Kaley... y mas

My Blondering Life

January 20, 2014

Chez soi.

Winter break was the second time I visited my parents in their new home. The first time I was accompanied by the boy and had so much to show him that nothing felt different, really. Yes, the house was new, but enough of the old pieces of furniture were there (including, as my dad said, “these old pieces of furniture” while referring to himself and my mom) that it still felt like home.

This trip was different. While only a thirty-minute drive away from my old house and my old neighborhood, it was far enough away. I didn’t visit the beach I grew up with. I only got to eat at a handful of my favorite places.

Some of this was due to the fact that my evil brother got me sick and ten days is already too short, but even still it felt more like visiting a new place than coming back to one I knew so well.

I didn’t feel the need to drive down to Beach Cities Pizza and taste the most-delicious-breadsticks-and-ranch-dressing-of-my-life first thing upon arrival, as has been the practice.

There was less urgency in the visit, maybe because I know I’ll come back again some day even if I don't know when. I was more interested in spending time with my family than hitting my old haunts (although I refused to leave California without having gone to the beach at least once).

Obligatory California Ocean sunset picture. The pacific ocean always feels like home.

Part of me can’t help wondering how much of that is due to the fact that France becomes more my home all the time. After summer vacation, I took more things with me to France than I brought back to California. I took things that I’d never taken before, thinking I’d be moving back "home" soon enough.

I still don’t think I’ll live in France for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t feel so temporary anymore. It would seem that France has become more than just my country of residence, even if I need my own personal stash of Cholula to stay sane here.

January 6, 2014

Deux Mille Treize

2013 went by way too fast with me way too busy getting my graduate degree to blog sufficiently. Here's a quick rundown of my year:

I finished my first semester of my masters with 7 finals, and started my five week inter semester break (can't complain about French vacation days). The boyfriend and I headed down to his hometown, Grenoble.

Grenoble, a city surrounded by beautiful mountains.

We also took a day trip to Geneva.

With vacation still in full swing, we headed north to Lille, Bruges, Delft, The Hague, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

Windmills in Zaans Schans, right by Amsterdam.

We got lost and eventually tasted the best beer in the world, too.

Second semester started and life got back to normal.

My aunt and uncle happened to be taking a trip to Paris, and I was able to meet up with them for two days. We had absolutely gorgeous weather and even went on a Paris by Mouth tour, where I got to taste delicious wine, cheese, and bread.

Poilâne bread, a Parisian specialty.

For Spring break, the boy and I headed back down to Grenoble. This time we went hiking in the mountains to see the Chartreuse monastery.

The monastery hidden among the mountains and fog.

Finished the first year of my masters program, and, yes, headed back down to Grenoble. This time I was able to see a glacier at Mont Blanc and tour Chamonix, a picturesque mountain village.

Chamonix, with a glacier in the background.

The boy and I flew all the way to my stamping grounds, California. We visited LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Carmel, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and my hometown. We drove up highway 1 with my folks to get the real American road trip experience, and by the end of it all I needed a vacation from my vacation. Luckily I got just that, an extra week home with nothing but family and R&R.

Las Vegas Blvd and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The boy and I moved into our new apartment, complete with a view of a medieval church.

And so began the second year of school, which is proving to be way more intense than the first. But even more importantly, I turned 26! I threw myself a pirate themed birthday party. It was awesome.

I was vaguely trying to find an internship for next semester, but with reassurances from professors that it was too early to look, wasn't too worried about it.

While missing out on yet another Halloween due to France's lack of enjoying candy while disguised, we did take advantage of the week off to go explore Italy, Alba to be exact. This little known village is surrounded by vineyards and is home to the allusive white truffle.


I finally started applying to a ton of internships.

I celebrated American Thanksgiving with a wonderful group of people, and started to stress out about the lack of response to all of my internship applications. I started to apply to even more internships.

Bought my first ever French christmas tree!

Me, my Christmas sweater, and the tree.

Also finally had some positive answers to internship applications, and took a day trip to Paris for two interviews. Also, I got offered an internship! I can't wait for next semester.

I was also able to celebrate the holidays at home with my family, and so this year ended on a really happy note.

2013 is gonna be pretty hard to beat, but I think 2014's up for the challenge. Happy New Year everybody!!
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