Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sleep like royalty…

…or at least sleep near where royalty used to live.

Sometime next year a luxury hotel will open on the Château de Versailles grounds. So those of you with a few extra euros can book a room overlooking the Orangerie or a lake.

Following the same theme, a BBC article discusses luxury hotels in relation to poverty in Paris. It points out that new Paris hotels feature suites costing over 20k euro per night while over a tenth of Parisians live below the poverty line.

Click here to read about the Versailles hotel and here to read “Parisian luxury hotels mask city's growing poverty”.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Naturalized Framerican

As the next step in my frenchification process, I had to attend a naturalization ceremony. I’ve never been one for ceremonial hoopla but since attending was mandatory to receive the documents proving that I am now a frogette, I braved the cold and traipsed to Rue des Ursins in the 4th.

I’m used to anything having to do with the prefecture taking a long time. Even when you receive a letter stating to arrive at X hour, you usually have to take a number and wait. So I decided that it would be a good idea to get to the location early. It wasn’t. Another lady and I arrived at 12:30 (the letter stated 13:00) only to be told to come back 5 to 10 minutes before 13:00. Have I mentioned that I’m not a fan of cold weather?

When I went back around 12:50, there were a lot of people waiting outside. We were directed upstairs and after waiting in a small room, we were brought in 3 groups into the naturalization room. We watched a film on what it means to be French and the Sous-Directeur (I can’t remember his name) went on and on about the many famous French people who were originally from elsewhere. We stood and sang La Marseillaise. Fortunately, the words were provided since I don’t know anything past “le jour de gloire est arrivé”.

After singing the national anthem each person’s name was read in alphabetical order, and we went up to get our packet and kiss the Sous-Directeur (the men gave a handshake). We numbered about 100, and there were a lot of people from the Maghreb countries. The rest were from other parts of Africa, Asia, South America and a few were from Europe. There was even one man from Italy. Not surprisingly, I was the only American.

To see the video on what it means to become French click here and to view photos from a previous ceremony click here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter calling card?

I was on my way to have dinner with a friend last night, when I noticed a name written in the snow on one of the cars. As I kept walking I saw other names on other cars. I don’t know if the same person wrote all of the names or if someone did the first and others followed the example. Either way, I thought it was amusing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fremont is not a suburb

It’s always interesting to hear perceptions of my hometown from “outsiders”. But when I read a recent article about Seattle in the Telegraph, I thought – this guy clearly has not spent much time in the city.

Never mind that he refers to Fremont as a suburb (I assume that it’s a UK vs. US terminology difference). In only the 2nd paragraph he states It's a city whose presiding geniuses are Kurt Cobain (the late frontman of Nirvana) and Frasier. Uh…no to both. Cobain is from Aberdeen, which is about 100 miles from Seattle and is closer to Olympia and Tacoma and Frasier is a fictional character from a TV sitcom. Ask any true Seattleite to name someone famous from the city and I can guarantee you that Frasier will not be on the list.

Mark Jones, the author, also mentions that Seattle houses Microsoft and Starbucks. Ok on Starbucks but another big NO on Microsoft. MS HQ is in Redmond, part of the eastside a.k.a. the dark side.

I know I probably sound nitpicky, but these are the details that do matter to those of us who come from and have lived in the Emerald City. I can let Nirvana pass, since Seattle has claimed the band as its own. But mixing up the eastside and Seattle is quick way to make me doubt your credibility when talking about anything related to Seattle.

Mr. Jones waxes lyrical about t-shirt shops, Fremont, his hotel and tells readers that the waterfront is disappointing. I give him a B for effort, however I’d say that Mr. Jones has missed the ferry with this one. Why focus on Fremont and the Pike Place Market? And anyone who’d spent any time in Seattle would know not to go to Pioneer Square at night (unless you're looking for a certain type of experience). What about Capitol Hill, Queen Anne or Green Lake? How about popping over to Alki for an amazing view of downtown or hopping on a ferry?

I’m not saying my Seattle is the only Seattle, but there are many other parts and aspects of the city Mr. Jones could have mentioned. To read his take on Seattle click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuileries Art

Modern art in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What kind of prints?

Less than a month after Rachida Dati’s fellatio inflation mix up, it appears that she isn’t the only French politician with something other than politics on the mind.

During an interview, France's interior minister, Brice Hortefeux mixed up the terms empreintes digitales (fingerprints) and empreintes genitales (you don’t have to speak French to understand that one).

Read about it here.

Oops, I put the wrong link in the original post. It's now been updated with the correct one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Seattleite ET Parisienne

About 3 weeks ago I opened my mailbox to find one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received. When I saw the return address, I got a bit nervous because the envelope was so thin and I assumed it was probably bad news.

Then I opened the letter and read:

That's right folks, as of last month, I am officially a froggette (froggette-yank, or Framerican according to the Brit, to be more accurate).

Of course, this being France, I still have to wait up to 6 months to receive the official documents I need to get a French passport and ID card. But now I can whinge about French bureaucracy as a foreigner and a citizen....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Manif et moi

I had an appointment yesterday evening and when I got to the bus stop I discovered that the bus I was supposed to take wasn’t running due to a manifestation. So I decided to walk and ended up smack in the middle of the protest.

I’ve seen Parisian protests before, but usually from a safe distance. While part of me didn’t mind adding this to my list of French experiences, the rest of me was annoyed at having to push my way through the crowd.

Here are some photos:

Monday, October 11, 2010


I stopped by the local Monop to pick up a couple of things and had an odd exchange with the cashier. It took place in French, here’s a rough translation.

Him: Bonjour
Me: Bonjour
Him: (after a few seconds): Do you speak English?
Me: Yes
Him: Are you Anglophone?
Me: Yes
Him: You’re not American?
Me: Yes
Me: Did you ask because of my accent? (even though all I had said was “bonjour)
Him: No, I’ve seen you a couple of times and you have a certain style.

I’m not sure how I should interpret his comment…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 years and $7 billion

Jerome Kerviel, the former trader who cost Societe Generale billions of euros has been sentenced to 3 years in jail. He is also supposed to repay the 4.9 billion euros ($6.7 billion) that Societe Generale claims it lost as a result of his trades. Read about it here or here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

7 ans

I’ve been in France seven years. Some days it feels like I’ve been here forever and other days I feel just as “foreign” as when I arrived. It’s been a journey full of joys, frustrations and many other things and I can’t imagine not having come to this country.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay, but for now the journey français continues…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How long until chivalry kicks in?

I was waiting at the bus stop when an elderly lady with a cane shuffled up and stood near me. The bench was occupied by 2 middle-aged women, another woman who looked to be in her 30s and a guy in his late 20s or early 30s. None of them moved.

I waited a good 10-15 seconds and then I turned to look at the guy. He was staring in the direction of the old lady then glanced up to see me giving him a look. He immediately asked the old lady if she wanted to sit down. She accepted and thanked him.

Perhaps he would have done the same without my non-verbal prompting, but what was he waiting for?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Low-income Lizzie

I’ll state up front that I’m not a fan of the British monarchy (or any monarchy). The Brit and I have, on occasion, disagreed about its usefulness, or lack thereof in my opinion. But I think even supporters of the out of date institution must be taken aback by the latest news about the top royal across the channel.

Apparently Queeny tried to get funds meant for low-income families, schools and hospitals to pay for heating her palaces. Read about it here or here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reminet no more

Le Reminet used to be one of our favorite restaurants in Paris. It was owned by a nice couple from Normandy. The husband was the chef and seemed to put calvados is almost every dish. Everything we tasted was amazing…Until they sold the restaurant to the current owner.

A couple of years ago we went to Reminet for dinner and noticed that the food just wasn’t as good. We asked the waiter if the restaurant was under new ownership and when he recovered from his shock, he answered that yes, the restaurant had been sold a couple of months earlier.
 While the food that night wasn't horrible, it wasn’t anywhere near the level we were used to. So we stopped going back. I read a positive review on another blog, so the Brit and I decided to give it another try. Maybe they’d improved during the past couple of years. It turns out the opposite had happened. This time the food wasn’t good, it was pretty bad.

The Brit had stuffed courgette (zucchini) with grilled prawns. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t anything to write home about. I had filet au boeuf with mashed potatoes. I ordered the meat medium, but it was well done. So well done that the Brit had one bite and couldn’t eat any more (we usually share our meals). He suggested that I send it back, but I’m not one to make a fuss and even though it wasn’t very good, it was edible. Plus the quality of meat was disappointing (especially given the price) and I figured that having the same bad meat less cooked, wouldn’t make much different.

After we finished eating and the waiter cleared the plates, he asked if we enjoyed our meals. I pointed out that the meat was overcooked and his response was a cavalier equivalent of “oh yeah?” before walking off.

When we arrived, we planned on having a main course and dessert, but the main courses were so disappointing that we skipped dessert and made our way to Mariage Freres where we knew the sweets would not disappoint.

Overall, the best thing about our meal at Reminet was the wine. I won’t say that people shouldn’t go to Reminet. But I will say that if you want a good meal in Paris there are definitely better options.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Instruments and exotic animals

Today around lunch time I came across this scene at a restaurant across from the Pompidou Centre:

And an hour later I passed by this where Rue Aubry le Boucher and Place Georges Pompidou meet:

It’s days like this when I love this city.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rant: He’s a connoisseur

During our long weekend in Florence, the Brit and I had dinner at Osteria di Giovanni. Everything was wonderful except…there was a loud, obnoxious American dining at the same restaurant.

It was bad enough that he was speaking very loudly at (I can’t really say he was speaking with them) his two companions, but at one point he complained to the waitress that his filet mignon “had too much tendons”. He said that he was a connoisseur of filet mignon and his piece of meat should be like bubble gum, but it came from too low on the cow.

His companions appeared to be quite embarrassed while I and people at other tables starred at him in disbelief. The waitress offered dessert as compensation for the too-low-on-the-cow-filet. When she brought a slice of chocolate cake, the jerk’s response was “I don’t want it”.

A few minutes later he left the room with his glass of wine. His companions got up and apologized to the people at the table next to them and on the way out they apologized to one of the waiters. Mr. Connoisseur was not only oblivious to the discomfort of his fellow diners, but he clearly didn’t notice or care about that of his companions.

He and people like him are the reason American tourists have a bad reputation abroad. To Mr. Connoisseur and anyone like him, please stay at home with your bubble gum filet mignon.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where are the famous people?

I’ve lived in Paris for a few years and I have yet to spot anyone famous (at least as far as I know). A couple of friends, however, have hit the celeb jackpot. The first had been in Paris less than two months, when she dined in a restaurant just a couple of tables away from Carlos Santana. Mr. Santana was apparently in the company of a couple of thin and significantly younger women. About a week later she spotted Benjamin whats-his-name, the supposed lover of the latest Mrs. Sarkozy.

Another friend almost ran into (literally) Carla Bruni herself a few weeks ago. Clearly I spend time in the non-celeb parts of town.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

This exchange took place today, in French, at the office.

Her: Is Friday the 13th unlucky in England?

Me: I don’t know, I’m not English.

Her: Where are you from?

Me: The US, I’m American.

Her: Oh, I couldn’t tell from your accent.

No tea for you

A colleague and I had lunch at a Thai restaurant that we go to quite often. On this day, the lady informed us that the tea machine was broken so there was no tea with lunch. Because the fixed-price lunch menu includes jasmine tea, my colleague politely asked if the price would be reduced. Since we were getting less, it made sense to us that we should pay less.

Rather than just saying, “no the price is the same” the lady went off and told us that everyone else in the restaurant agreed to pay the full price. As if that wasn’t enough, she then told us that the price was already cheap and asked how we expected her to pay taxes and pay the rent.

After the lady’s tired, my colleague and I agreed that we wouldn’t return to that restaurant any time soon, which is a shame because the food wasn’t bad.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Language influences how we see the world

The Wall Street Journal posted an interesting article on how the language we speak influences our point of view. Read it here .

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

French World Cup team suspended

After their World Cup tantrum, members of the French national team have been put in the corner for a time out. Read about it here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed Seattleite is queen

I can now say that I’ve seen the inside of Paris’ oldest hospital, Hotel Dieu. My Hotel Dieu adventure began Friday night when I felt like I had something on my right eye. I tried rinsing the eye with water and when that didn’t work, the big Brit was sweet enough to find a pharmacy that was still open (this was around 11 pm) and got some eye drops. Unfortunately, the pharmacy didn’t have an eye bath.

We tried flushing my eye several times with the drops but I still felt like something was stuck under my eyelid. We went to bed and I hoped that the problem would work itself out during the night…It didn’t.

Saturday, we tried the drops again and when we still had no success, the Brit insisted that I go to an eye doctor. I called a few ophthalmologists, but of course, since it was Saturday they were all closed. That meant one thing – a trip to the emergency room.

I did some googling and found out that Hotel Dieu has an emergency ophthalmology department, so that’s where we headed and spent a large portion of the afternoon. I waited over two hours before the doctor saw me, all the while wondering if I would go blind because the urgences wasn’t so urgent.

At first, I had a student doctor who spent a few minutes looking at my eye and trying to fold up my upper eyelid. The “real” doctor entered and took what seemed like less than a minute to show the student how to fold the lid and discover what the problem was.

Turns out there wasn’t anything stuck under my eyelid, but I had extreme dryness (probably from the heat combined with aircon in the office) and irritation from something that was on my eye, but had vacated. So basically something got onto my dry eye and scratched it a bit.

The good news is there’s no permanent damage. The bad news is that I lost a Saturday afternoon and have to put in eye drops 3x a day for a month.

I also discovered that the hospital has rather nice inner courtyard and garden. Here are a couple of pics.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bus stop lady

I see you sitting at the same bus stop nearly every morning. It’s the only bus that goes by, yet you never get on. Are you waiting for someone? A husband, lover, friend? Who are you? What’s your story?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wall art

This wall art is on Rue Saint-Martin a few blocks north of Rue de Rivoli. I walked by when the two people in the photo were adding to the abstract art. There are thin strings on the wall and the “painters” place white dots along the string to create the circular art. I think it’s pretty neat.

On another note, it’s friggin hot here. It’s been in the 90s the past couple of days. I’m afraid of August, if it’s already so hot.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stormy Paris sky

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Women can soon wear trousers

A few months ago I posted a link to an article on the rule banning women in Paris from wearing trousers. It now appears that the archaic law may be lifted. Read about it here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yet ANOTHER strike

French civil service workers went on strike today in protest of Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age. Read about it here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

French tantrum leaves South Africa

France’s World Cup team lost against South Africa. Now the players have to come home and deal with the upset fans. Team captain Patrice Evra has already apologized and claimed that the French people will find out what really happened in the coming days. Time will tell…

Monday, June 21, 2010

French football team implosion

I don’t know what’s going on with France’s World Cup football (soccer for my compatriots from across the ocean) team, but it seems to be having some serious issues.

First Zizou says the team manager is not a coach and disapproves of the lack of teamwork. Then one of the players, Nicolas Anelka, gets into an argument with the coach, refuses to apologize and is kicked off the team. Anelka’s removal resulted in the team refusing to train. And now France’s team director, Jean-Louis Valentin, has quit.

Zidane has added another two cents saying he believes the team can win against South Africa. But at this point, does it matter? The team sounds like a bunch of preschoolers in need of a nap.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chalk drawings

These yellow chalk drawings have been appearing in my neighborhood during the past few weeks. I have no idea who is drawing them or what they mean.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SPD violence trend

One would hope that the SPD’s recent headline-making brutality was a rarity, but another unbelievable incident makes me think that Seattle police officers are losing their minds.

A policeman stopped a 17 year old female and her friend for jaywalking (yes, the Police in Seattle apparently have nothing better to do) and when they resisted he ended up punching her in the face. I think she and her friends went overboard in their behavior, but did the officer have no options aside from decking her? Video of the incident is here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Splatter perimeter

I was heading to the metro when I passed a man walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t pay him any attention and when he turned his head the other way and tilted it down I just assumed he was going to spit as you often see men do in Paris. How wrong I was. As I passed him, he vomited on the sidewalk. Fortunately he was far enough away that it didn’t splatter on me. The joys of living in a big city…

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

At least he left something on

We’ve had some very nice (and some not so nice) weather here lately. It’s not surprising that when it’s sunny, Parisians go outside in droves and apparently some people are more “comfortable” with their sunbathing than others.

I was having lunch with a few colleagues in a small park, when I noticed a shirtless man walk by. I didn’t pay him much attention but a few minutes later one of my colleagues motioned in his direction. I looked over and saw him removing his trousers (I didn’t think to take a photo until after the trousers were off). He was in the park, wearing nothing but his boxers. My initial reaction was ça se fait pas, but apparently ça does se fait. I suppose I should be grateful that he wasn’t wearing a speedo or tighty whities.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

McDonald’s in France welcomes gay people

This seems like an odd message for a fast food chain to send unless they’ve had problems in the past with being seen as homophobic.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What do you think happened?

Let me start by saying that I didn’t stage this photo. I was walking by, saw the empty shoes and socks under the mailbox and had to take a picture. There weren't any barefoot people around so I have no idea what happened to the owner/wearer of the shoes. Any guesses?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I went to London via Eurostar yesterday and while waiting to board I was sitting next to a man who, based on what I overheard, was a volcano travel victim. He was on the phone describing his upcoming journey: Paris to London to Wales to Dublin to Cork. Not a pleasant sounding day for him.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Obamania Continues

I was on the bus a couple of days ago when I noticed an older woman. She must've been at least 60 years old and it was her attire that caught my eye. In addition to a red Led Zeppelin t-shirt, she was wearing a hat with a large sticker that said OBAMA. On her jacket, she had a pin with the American flag and Obama's face. I have no idea if she was French, American or some other nationality. But it appears that Obama has at least one very proud fan in Paris.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Metro station or IKEA showroom?

I haven’t seen it in person, but apparently IKEA has taken station domination to a new level. The Nordic furniture company has “furnished” several Paris metro stations for a couple of weeks. Read about it and see a photo here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Septuagenarian safe sex

I’ve come across this ad in a few places around Paris and each time it cracks me up. It’s not unusual to see ads in the city advocating the use of condoms, but this is the first one I’ve noticed that uses a senior citizen as the primary model. The headline says that condoms protect from AIDS, and just below it states “Odette 13,874 condoms”. Use condoms and you may live a happy and sex-filled life as long as Odette’s. I think that's pretty straightforward.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Furnished apartment search

Do any of you know of a good agency supplying furnished rentals of 6 months or more? Or perhaps you know of someone who has a furnished rental in the 10th arrond available in April. If so, shoot me a message with the info. Thx!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trouble in Sarkoland?

Apparently there are rumors floating around that Sarko and Sarkozette have grown tired of each other and are seeking "comfort" elsewhere. I have no idea if there’s any truth to this…if you’re curious read more here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The man behind “The Man” has died

Gene Porter, the owner of Dixie’s BBQ in Bellevue and creator of the "The Man" hot sauce, has died. If you like ridiculously hot sauce, then Porter’s The Man is for you. My one encounter with The Man occurred when I was working for a small start-up company in Seattle and the boss decided to take us to the eastside to meet The Man. After one bite, I was convinced that part of my tongue had been burned away. According to the PI/Bellevue Reporter article Dixie’s will remain in business, but it won’t be the same without Gene Porter there to ask if you’ve met The Man.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is it the sex or the cigs?

The French have been known to show naked women in ads so when I read that anti-smoking ads with a sexual overtone have sparked some debate, I was surprised. The Family Minister objects to the ads because they “…might constitute an affront on public decency…” and the Families of France spokesperson claims that the ads don’t make sense. Whether you like the ads or not, given the number of young people seen smoking in France, I think something needs to be done. Read about it and see the ads here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Who drinks Gallo anyway?

French winemakers have been found guilty of scamming E&J Gallo. Read about it here or here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Paris Carnival

This past Sunday the Brit and I passed the Paris Carnival parade in the 3rd near Arts et Metiers. The Parade included people dressed up in costumes and a drum band. The photos are fuzzy because my phone camera couldn’t get a clear shot of the people dancing and moving around. Visit the official site here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Paris Parking

Apparently the driver didn't realize there's a street on the other side of the crosswalk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More snow in Paris

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paris Xmas trees

The Brit and I were walking near Palais Royale a few days ago when we spotted these Christmas trees made from pop (or soda depending on where you’re from) bottles. Nifty idea - saving a tree while also recycling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

French parliamentary committee wants to ban veils

A French parliamentary committee has issued a report proposing a ban on wearing Muslim veils. The ban, which is supported by Sarkozy, would apply in public buildings and on public transport. Not surprisingly France’s political parties are split on the issue. Read about it here and here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Discount or discrimination?

Air France offers second seat to obese people but can also prevent them from flying. More info here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

France proposes law against psychological violence

Apparently reaction to the proposed law is mixed. Some feel it’s a good way to address non-physical abuse while others are concerned that it could be used against the people it is meant to protect. Read about it here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It appears the French are still fascinated by Obama.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finally, proof that my “healthy” derriere is actually healthy!

According to a BBC article “Carrying extra weight on your hips, bum and thighs is good for your health, protecting against heart and metabolic problems”. Read about it here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

France tops quality of life index

The US comes in at #7. See the top ten with photos here.