Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'm From the Murder Capital Where We Murder for Capital

People always have an opinion about safety in this city. I have more than a few people tell me how unsafe it is and how I need to constantly be alert like I'm living in downtown Freetown or the Southside of Chicago. I have other transplants constantly giving me tips and basically trying to scare the crap out of me. I had one lady (who's French) tell me that I should never wander outside of Paris into the suburbs because it's basically Earth in Elysium and I should expect mass shankings on the metro (she's rich, white, and once told me how nice it was that there were no black people where she lives so possibly racist...).

It borders on sensationalist, especially since I encounter more than a few girls who have heard "stories" and are a bit paranoid. It's probably worse because most of them are like 18, have never been on their own, and this is their first time leaving home. They're so paranoid about it that it sours the experience. It's bad enough being slightly antisocial because you're a fish out of water and homesick, but being irrational doesn't help that. Stop watching Taken for starters. 

I'll concede that I've lived in bougie areas. I mean I thought Jardin des Plantes was pretty grubby, but I guess it's considered a nice area, and St. Louis is pretty idyllic, so I haven't exactly experienced "gritty" Paris (Port de la Chapelle doesn't count?), but walking home at 4 am through 3 arrondissements, with a stop near Les Halles for a panini (the cabbies were all off that night I guess cause I couldn't find one damn one), and taking almost daily walks along the Seine at night, I think the probability of experiencing said crime is much higher, yet I live to tell you that I haven't. If I didn't experience it in tourist hell, you probably have a harder time finding outside the touristy areas. 

Excercise caution but don't let it get you paranoid, or keep you from enjoying new experiences. And seriously stop watching Taken.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Editor's Note: Expect Some Downtime

Posts may be moving or disappearing a bit. I'm doing some tweaks. Possibly a redesign... I haven't decided. I hate html, and coding, and all of that techie stuff. This is why I could never fux wit MySpace. Don't expect it 100% anytime soon. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quick Tip: International Shipping

Most of the larger US stores deliver outside of the US, which is good news, but I haven't tried shipping anything yet so I don't know how much import tax is. Check back with me in the fall when I start updating my winter wardrobe and then start cursing American stores for not being better at takeover. Yes, hate me French people, but I really miss my cheap American products. Do I have to mention again that things are cheaper over there? I still don't even know where I can buy things like towels... (and I doubt I can get my favorite Ralph Lauren ones for $10). 

In England you could ship packages under your student status and not pay any import duties, but I haven't researched if France has that same kind of system. Sometimes I really hate the language difference, because after Googling for an hour I'll probably just give up trying to figure what it could be called in French. Gah! 

If you encounter an American store that doesn't ship to France, or if you just want your American mail forwarded to you and family members don't want to have the hassle of shipping all your crazy shopping addiction tendencies and J.Crew catalogs, try myUS.com. They give you an "American address", which just routes it to their facility and then they ship it to your international one.

I haven't used them yet because I haven't found a store that doesn't ship to France but when I do I'll definitely give them a go if it's too big for my mum to stuff it in a flat rate box. I haven't really inquired about their prices so that also makes me a bit weary. My mum once tried to ship me a care package of American junkfood, Pantene conditioner and Johnson & Johnson's Baby Oil Organic Shea Butter Body Wash (not exactly bricks), but it came out to like $80 at the post office. Nun-uh. The shipping was more than what was in the box! And that was the cheapest. UPS and FedEx wanted to charge $180-210. RI-DIC-U-LOUS. Planes fly over here everyday, I don't know why it costs so much to find some empty room on one of them. Globalized world my left foot. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Doing Your Civic Duty

I'm sure I've mentioned here that I'm a lover of politics so of course I went ahead and registered for absentee voting. This year is the midterms, so not the biggie, but nevertheless important. If you're going to do your civic duty, reminder you have to register to vote a month before. Possibly more if you're applying to absentee vote? It's probably a lot of trouble, especially since it has to be done by post, which is just idiotic when there's perfectly good internet to be used, but I'm not going to miss my opportunity to vote just because I'm no longer in America. 

Yeah I know it's basically useless since I'm a liberal socialist in a red state but on a civic level San Antonio (and Austin) is pretty democrat so while Rick Perry may get to rule for another day, at least the Southern part of Texas will have some liberals. I have hope that one day we'll get an Ann Richards type revival (if you don't know who Ann Richards is check out the doco HBO did. She was inspiring and a true boss bitch). 

If you're like 'meh' to the whole voting thing, I really hope you change your mind. I took that Ray Bradbury story to heart when I was a wee second grader so I tend to get high and mighty when I hear people say "what does it matter if I vote?". Ugh! It's so important. It really is. If you're currently in America, come November 4th take your ass down to those voting booths. There's no excuse. Not even "duh bitch it's a weekday, I work". If you have to work that Tuesday, tell your boss to eat a hard one because they're infringing on your right to vote. Legally they're not allowed to deny you time off.

If you're abroad go to www.VoteFromAbroad.org and it will give you a PDF of the application after you've entered all of your information. It will then give you the address of your county's voting office. It tells you to mail it in but I sent it to the email address listed and the lady who works in the San Antonio office accepted it. No need to kill some trees or buy postage. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Language Schools

Here's a list of language schools for those interested. Campus France has their own list (if you're applying for a visa), otherwise this is a mix of some of the approved ones and randoms. The biggies of course are Sorbonne, Alliance Francaise, and France Langue. Make sure you read the fine print because some ask for enrollment fees, deposits, and course material fees, in addition to tuition. If you're trying to apply for a visa make sure you sign up for the correct number of hours. If you're an aupair you'll get a discount but you need to show proof of your work contract when you enroll.

Lutece Langue - 4th arrondissement 
Starting at €141 for 7 hours, 1-3 weeks

Sorbonne - 5th arrondissement 
Starting at €1750 for 15 hours a week from September to November 

Alliance Francaise - 6th arrondissement 
Starting at €250 for 20 hours a week. Lower prices for courses with less hours.

Accord - 9th arrondissement
Starting at €310 for 20 hours a week. Accepts monthly installments for tuition. 

L’Atelier 9 -9th arrondissement
Starting at €830 for 80 hours over 4 weeks

France Langue - 9th, 16th and 5th arrondissement 
Starting at €250 for 20 hours a week.

Paris Langues - 14th arrondissement 
€800, 15 hours a week for 4 weeks. Offers accommodation.

Campus Langues - 19th arrondissement and La Defense
Starting at €59.60 a week for 10 hours a week

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Everything's Cheaper In America

Remember how I brought up not finding your favorite brands in France? Well I'm for serious when I say stock up before you leave (I had a French friend asking me to bulk buy them Colgate Optic White toothpaste?). I don't mean pack all of your closets, but make sure you have your favorite things that you're sure you can't get. For instance jeans. More specifically JBrand. I couldn't find them, or Hudson's or Joe's or Current/Elliot or rag and bone. I guess the French aren't as big on "premium denim". I was once going to intern for rag and bone during Paris Fashion Week so they must sell them somewhere.

American brands in general are a bit sketchy to find. Some brands I couldn't find at all (like BCBG/Max Azria/Herve Leger) or brands that are there, like Theory, are much cheaper in America. I walked into the Theory store on Rue Saint Honoré and couldn't believe the markup. No bueno. I love their clothes but I'll make pilgrimages to America for that, or use Saks' worldwide shipping option.

JCrew Italian ballerina flats was something else. I love JCrews flats, in fact their Italian leather (and merino wool) in general is an obsession. While they did begin shipping to France, I don't even want to know what the cost of shipping is. Or if I have to pay tax. I mean I'll still find a way to get my fix, but I bought like 10 pairs while in America just in case. 

Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate, while sold in the US, Canada, Japan and China, not available in France. In fact pomegranate everything. Really annoying. The one pomegranate juice I found at Carrefour was like €6 for a tiny carton and I think it was a smoothie. Yuck. And forget about finding Pom (the Pom White Tea and Pom Coconut Water are amazeballs). I barely found Naked, and when I saw Green Machine I could have dropped to my knees and kissed the floor at Monoprix. It's probably not all that healthy for you but whatevs. I'm not big on breakfast so I need fruit and veg pre-blended for me in a convenient to go bottle. 

But you can buy Passion tea at Starbucks. I haven't found anyone who makes it just right though, probably because they don't have sugar syrup? Or I'm not ordering it correctly in French? But I mean how hard is it to understand "Trenta iced Passion tea sweetened"? (they don't have the Trenta size in France just FYI). Because all Starbucks are not created the same, I carted some Tazo packs just in case because I didn't see any when I was over there. 

French products are sometimes cheaper at home. You wouldn't think right? But, for instance, I wear YSL's La Nuit De L'Homme and it's €60, but $65 in the US? Duh dollars is cheaper than euros. Even Armani foundation (the best product in the world) is €64? It's $62 in the US. I really have no clue how it works out that way. We haven't exactly agreed on that EU/American Free Trade agreement just yet.

Don't worry though as long as you're not looking for drugstore makeup brands you should be ok. I am the laziest girl in the world. I hate wearing makeup, or doing my hair, or any of that girly shit, the only thing I wear daily is mascara and lipgloss, so don't quote me, but as far as I'm aware Sephora carries pretty much everything from it's American stores in it's French stores. At least the one on Rivoli seemed to. I didn't go into the one on St. Germain, and the one near Les Halles was kind of small. If you're a makeup girl you might want to Google you're favorite brands just to be sure. 

However if you're a lingerie girl, like me, don't expect to find all of your favorite department store brands. I'm obsessed with buying lingerie. I think it's actually more of an addiction because I literally have one suitcase in Paris that is just underwear. When I'm being lazy I love CK and Natori but I couldnt find them at BHV. If you're an American girl who is more of a VS girl, they deliver worldwide. I don't know what the price diff is though because I don't really buy their stuff (I prefer unlined bras and VS seems to be allergic to any bras that don't have at least 3 inches of padding). 

Honorable mentions: knot socks, Chapstick, Crest/Colgate, Pantene, (even though I kind of love Klorane), Nair, 5 blade razors, American Apparel thigh highs, and pretty much all electronics (I have yet to find $1 headphones and $250 laptops like at home), and of course that includes iProducts. Apple's European prices are not the one. The French price is cray cray. $300 versus €679? Yeah, non merci. 

Thankfully there's always Blighty. Phew! Most American products can be found in England so if you don't mind shipping, or Eurostaring it every once and again, you're not completely out of luck. Sometimes it's reassuring knowing London's just a hop, skip and a jump away. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Calling All Aupairs!

If anyone is interested in aupair/babysitting job offerings, message me. When I was last in Paris I had an ad up for tutoring and now I receive tons of people looking for native English speakers. I'm not looking for work but I know there has to be potential aupairs out there, and families are messaging me looking for someone so why not do a good deed and help people connect right? They're only offerings for Paris. Some are just a few hours a week (for those who are only interested in a bit of extra dosh), some are live in, most are just looking for someone after school to speak English with their kids. I guess latchkey kids is an American concept.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I Am the King and Will Not Beheaded

Moving to Paris is by no means easy. Moving in general is costly, but moving to a city where the value of your home currency is less than is no bueno. I'm like 10% poorer now. And as an American you have to get used to A LOT of cultural changes; paying more for everything you pay very little for at home (even French products?), nothing being open 24 hours (which is the EXREMELY frustrating), convenience in general, the language (although coming from a city with two dominant languages I'm used to not hearing or reading English everywhere), and you can basically kiss all of the brands you're used to goodbye. I'm not just talking about clothes; Tylenol, Pantene, Chapstick, Covergirl, these are all brands that do not exist in France. 

But by far the hardest thing for me was not having as much access to prepared food. Not fast food, but delivery and takeout. If I was a caveman I would have died from hunger because I would've been like "who do I have to pay to kill and cook for me?". At home the only thing in my fridge are bottles of water and Champagne. But on the plus side not spending at least $40 a day on just restaurants saved me a lot of money.

At the end of the day you have to be a risky idiot to take the kind of leap that involves leaving everything you know for something different. You have to be hard headed and determined, and have an unshakable confidence that makes you not give two fucks because the French are really good at testing you. I readily admit I'm a sufferer of Yeezy syndrome so in France it works in my favor. It isn't easy and failure is something you have to be okay with because it's going to happen. There's no way around it. Just chalk it up to growing pains and move on. 

If you're already over here, and feeling homesick, and thinking you shouldn't have done this, it's okay, in the beginning we've all thought it. As cliche as it sounds, it does get easier. You get used to all of the changes (and I say that as someone who hates change). True right now it's white noise but soon you'll be trying to finagle ways to extend that residency permit and all of your struggles and negative feelings will be a distant memory.

And if you're not ready to take that leap just yet, try out England. They're basically like home but with a different accent. You won't have to deal with culture shock. 

Or give Australia a go. At least Australia has Target (England has Walmart). Oh how I miss Tarjay. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

To Flat Share or Not to Flat Share

I started entertaining a flatshare which probably isn't a good idea for me. I'm a twin, so I'm very adamant about what's mine is mine. In fact the only time I think you should ever live with someone else is if you're sharing last names, and even then a Woody Allen/Mia Farrow, Tim Burton/Helena Bonham Carter type sitch might not be such a bad idea. Blame it on my grandparents. They owned a bunch of real estate and used it so they didn't have to live together (Catholics, smh). But now I know what all of those cheating creepers who hit on me meant when they said they found it easier to cheat than leave their partners because then they'd have to flat search. Lack of rent control in Paris is killing love. 

But I couldn't believe the ridic cost of renting in a flatshare. I thought it would be cheaper (and a good idea because if you're moving to France for the first time and don't want to go it on your own, having a French flatmate might be a good idea for you) but f' that. If you pay anything over €600 you should know that you could get a studette for that price. I don't exactly advocate studettes because no one should live in less than 20m2, and they should be banned as basic Human Rights violations. Let me put it into perspective, it's 215sqft. That's just the size of my bedroom in my apartment at home (my apartment as a whole is 65m2). But I guess which would you rather have, your own space for that price? Or sharing your bathroom with someone else?

And for those that don't know what studettes are (bedsits in the UK), they're those teeny little flats that usually have the shower in the corner of the room. Before Paris I had never seen that. And sometimes the bathroom is shared by other flats on the floor. They usually measure between 9m2 and 17m2 and usually the "bed" is a convertible couch (clic-clac). I've never been in one so I can't comment on the claustrophobia but NYC apartments look like palaces in comparison (and that is a city that regularly implements "pressurized walls"). 

This company called Comfort Paris starts off at €800 to stick you in a flatshare. I don't know what arrondissements this starting price is in but I'm here to tell you that's some bullshit. A company exploiting foreign students is all shades of fucked up and nothing pisses me off more than some asshole exploiting people. Especially when they're using their Americaness as a tactic for luring them in. They actually have a waiting list which makes me feel so bad for the people considering using them. Please go to Cite Universitaire and ask them for help. 

I'm not exactly jonesing for a job as an estate agent but I've looked at so many apartments I can look at a flat and value it. This is what happens when you start perusing the Parisian market. Start researching rental sites so you can get an idea of what costs what it in each area, cost for size, amenities, etc. This will make it easier for you to know if an owner's poking your eyes out. Consult the map I posted in an earlier post so you know which areas are cheaper, and don't jump on something just because it's the first thing that comes to you. You might lose out on a flat or two but you gotta break a few eggs.

One thing that helps, post an ad. That's the easiest way to get people to contact you. And a lot of people on Fusac are more willing to contact you because it costs to post there. They save money by consulting the wanted section. They're also usually owners so you don't have to deal with ridiculous agency fees. Make sure you stipulate that you want to be within the périphérique if you're only looking in Paris proper. I put central Paris and still had people trying to convince me that the suburbs were great. Um no, not ever. 

The most important thing, try not to stress. It's supremely frustrating, believe me, and you might not get everything you want. You might have to lower your expectations or live in your 5th choice area. As I stated before, the 18th and 11th have tons of rentals. But start early, and make sure you have ways of getting out of it in case you get stuck with something that looks nothing like the picture. 

If possible have a friend who lives in Paris look at it for you and have a lawyer friend go over the contract (quick life tip date at least one doctor and one lawyer so you can always ask for advice). Most importantly make sure that contract is beneficial for you. Do not sign anything until you're sure you've gone over everything five times and it works in your best interest. And if you hand over money make sure you have a way of getting it back, no cash (places like airbnb are usually guaranteed and your credit card company will usually give you back disputed funds if you pay with it). 

Other sites:
http://www.appartager.com (I don't really recommend this because I had nothing but dudes messaging me, like this isn't Tinder, get a life, and you have to pay to view certain members messages or send messages). 
http://www.pap.fr (most posters want proof of income three times the rent and previous rental references. Mostly for people who are already established in France). 
http://www.ciup.fr/ (Cite University offers help for students and teachers moving to Paris)
http://autroisieme.com (some French guy sent this to me on Twitter. I haven't really used it because there aren't very many ads but it doesn't require you to pay). 
www.airbnb.com (make sure you look at the flat's map and postal code because so many people put "in central Paris" for listings in Montmartre. That's not even close to central Paris. I guess they're trying to dupe tourists who don't know that from there 'center Paris' is actually a 20 minute metro ride). 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hustle Hard Since Fisher Price

I've gotten asked this and I'm not really sure how to answer because I don't know exactly how France regulates it, but according to my student visa I'm allowed to work 60% of the duration of my visa, which comes out to like 25 hours a week. I know that everyone has different stipulations on their visa so check yours to be sure of the hours. But I don't know how students, or those that are actually in France to work, pay for housing, and food, and the general cost of living in Paris on that kind of budget.

I know as an American working less than 40 hours a week seems absurd. After all we love money and how else are we going to make money if we can't work?!? American kryptonite. But I don't know how overtime (working more than the 25) and that kind of thing works in France. And none of the French people I know complain about not being able to work more. If anything they complain that they work too much. I can't even. 

At one point I worked 80 hours a week because I was getting paid extra for basically doing what I liked and who doesn't like more money? I still get money from my parents but they don't put out as much as they used to since I started working a little less than two years ago. Yeah I really shot myself in the foot by getting a job because now I have to pay for stuff. But I'm not all against working to support my expensive habits, especially since my jobs consisted of me mostly playing with Louboutins and Chanel. It wasn't exactly "hard work". It was more of an obsession. You'd be surprised how much time goes into making a store look the way it does. But I doubt this weird American work ethic flies in France. Especially since they tell you you can only work so much. 

I don't know how they would check on that type of thing. Your W4 forms? Or whatever the French equivalent is. You would think they wouldn't totally be against it because you're now paying French tax, so the more you work, the more goes in their pocket (and feeds the economy. America trained me well)? If I can find someone to give me more information I'll definitely post it here. You could try consulting the Ministry of Labor, but trying to get anyone in the government to answer your questions is like pulling teeth. Most of the time they don't even know what they're talking about. And if your French isn't that great it's going to be even harder. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Too Legit To Quit

I guess if this post had a soundtrack it would be Nina Simone's "Feeling Good". Or Santi's "Disparate Youth". "They all said i was misled but now the odds all stand beneath me". I am legally a French resident starting June 15th. (Suck it American Embassy). 

Yay. It should feel sweeter but maybe it hasn't sunk in yet? Or as usual it's all about the challenge and the thrill of the chase for me... I need to get some psychoanalyzation to fix that. 

My appointment was Friday and they mailed my passport back on Tuesday. I guess they're quicker than they say. I hate my photo. I am not photogenic at all, but I'm throwing some serious attitude in my picture (that CO I swear). And not in a fierce way. It's "just take the fucking picture" face if I ever saw. I'm tempted to lose my passport just so they have to update all of the photos inside. Would that be too narcissistic? 

I really thought I was going to get a denial stamp. When David Cameron came into office and started halting immigration that was the day the music died, and I figured with France getting progressively more Far Right with each election, they'd start limiting their numbers too. The Indian guy next to me had to give them his bank history, his airline tickets, and his lease and mine didn't ask for that so I figured things were not going in my favor. *Nerd Alert* I went online and researched the appeal process just to have all of my bases covered, and after reading about all of those visa denials, I was for sure that was going to happen. Quick tip if you are denied, the general consensus seems to be don't appeal becuase it's useless, just reapply. 

I thought they needed way more information than they asked for. Their biggest worry is that you'll never leave and suck up their socialistic resources right? And with a handy new French social that's a worry non? But I guess being an American can be an asset sometimes, we don't do that government aid shit so no worries other governments. We're a nation of born and bred hustlers, unfortunately socialism will never be our thing. Screw the bald eagle, Scrooge McDuck should be our national symbol. 

I didn't do all of this to punk out now, but I'm going to miss certain American aspects, like pop culture (France is behind by like 6 months), pomegranate errthang, bad bitches (truly a foreign concept), and Texas barbecue. Although I thought I'd come back home and be all excited to have my favorite American/Mexican food back... not so much. 

Don't get me wrong I scarfed down brisket for a whole week like cow's were going extinct. Texas barbecue is the food of the god's, but it will be so nice to go back to healthy food (I was practically vegetarian over there). I've put on like 10lbs since being here. But It's not such a bad thing though, being in Paris made me way too skinny. Thankfully it's all gone back to my tits and ass (although I can do without Iggy Azalea thighs), which I missed having.

Now comes the fun part, and by fun I mean that sarcastically obvie, renting a flat. Urgh the Parisian rental market is a nightmare. And for some reason Marais (the 4th) is one of the hardest neighborhoods to find one in? One of the guys I'm talking to owns a flat there and reiterated the same gripe. He said it took him a long while too. I don't know why that is... 

Guess what's the easiest and cheapest? Yes, Montmartre. UGH. Never. Not even for €650 a month. (For those unfamiliar with Paris, by no means adhere to my preferences. Montmartre is super cheap to rent in. You can get an actual one bedroom for the price of studios in other areas, and there are always a ton of rentals available, so look into it if you're not interested in spending a small fortune on rent. The pic above will help you figure out which boroughs are cheaper to live in). 

Because Marais is like finding a needle in a haystack, I'm expanding my search criteria and looking in the 5th, 6th and 1st (yes, my estate agent hates me). The 1st is a bit... sterile, but when I was first moving to Paris I was going to rent a flat off Rivoli in the 1st so I know there are some there. I do wonder though why I can never find anything on Cite? The 1st side looks heavily residential but I never see rentals for the area? One of my creepers said he used to rent a flat there so surely it's not the 'island of home owners'.

My bottom line is to stay south of the 2nd or 3rd. Grands Boulevard/Poissionniere/Bonne Nouvelle are way too busy at night. Not to mention I hate those Haussmann streets in the 8th. I'm not really a fan of the area where Rivoli turns into Saint-Antoine (near the St. Paul metro), but one of the other guys I'm talking to swears by the area. That's where my old Franprix was and I mentioned in the other post everything is like €2 more there than in the 5th. Markup is not the one.

Another guy I'm talking to loves Republique, but... Just like I wax poetic about Marias, he's the same about his hood. He says Canal St. Martin has a great nightlife, it's lively unlike other areas, blah, blah, blah, but that's the problem with opinions from Parisians, they all have a reason for why their neighborhood is the greatest. In my opinion they're too far east. I don't want to go past Boulevard Bourdon. 

And nothing south of the 5th, 6th or 7th. Like the 8th, I also consider the 7th too far west and too domesticated. There are a few nice streets, but it's full of twats wearing sweaters around their shoulders, like it's 1985 and they're going to bully Molly Ringwald for being a poor. Who knew Scott Disick was the look? This also excludes the 16th. I know it sounds like I'm being very limiting, and have a very rigid criteria, but you get used to certain neighborhoods, or want a certain aesthetic, and suddenly a little city like Paris gets even smaller. I'll keep my options open, but this is how I'm going into my search.

Besides my preference when it comes to my homes seems to be as close to the center of the city, and the river/water as possible (Trastevere facing Tiber Island, Port Vauban, Mayfair, Gramercy Park). Sure the inner circle is pricey, but the way I look at it, you can't put too high of a price on convenience. When I lived on St. Louis I had like 4 metro stations to chose from, as well as an RER, and a number of bus stops. When I lived near Jardin des Plantes it was 3. Plus I could walk everywhere. Yes, I was not a fan of the plethora of tourists that would clog up the bridges making my walk to Hotel de Ville go from 5 minutes to 25, but you learn to avoid certain places on the weekends. 

This time around I'm not going to stress about flat hunting. It's summer times in Texas and I forgot how outdoors-y I get this time of year. I'm from the city, but I always spent my summers on the water. It was the most idealic Southern childhood so something in me switches to "summer mode" (nostalgia), and I want to spend every day outside soaking it up (when it's not 100 degrees). So I'm going to enjoy my last few weeks in hell's waiting room, being as very Texan as possible; kayaking in Zilker, hiking in Government Canyon, floating the Guadalupe, and basking in the Texas Hill Country (the pic above is Hamilton Pool). Now that I know what the rental market is like in Paris, and what to expect (an unmodernized shoebox) I'm going to be less stressed about flat hunting. Come what may right? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hell Bent on Getting Shit Done

I first made an appointment at the Consulate back in March, when I was supposed to leave Paris, and there were a shit ton of appointments, but I guess kids be getting ready for uni or something because there was nothing open when I went to check, and I ended up having to get some cancelled appointment that popped up during my session. It gave me only two days to prepare for the interview, but it was either now, or two weeks from now, and ain't no one got time for that.

My application to Campus France hadn't yet been completed but they mentioned that you could go before they finished the process so I figured 'fuck it' and made the appointment. Just a heads up, don't try to use Campus France on Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. It turns out the application hadn't been completely validated because the validation button wasn't coming up on IE so when I contacted them to figure out what was what, they said it hadn't been submitted. When I opened it in Firefox, the website was fully functioning. 

And FYI contacting them is a bitch. It's completely email or fax. When I let them know how soon my appointment was though they gave me a phone number. When I called they couldn't find my file so they said if they could locate it they'd process it by the end of the day. I figured if they didn't that would be between them and the Consulate. It wasn't my fault if they got paid and didn't follow through.

But they did end up finding it, and I had my mini interview on the phone. The lady was really nice. She asked me about the language school I was going to attend, and about career goals, but it was mostly for her to check over everything to make sure it was complete. I'm still confused as to the purpose of Campus France.

I asked her if she had any advice to give me for the interview the next day and she said just make sure I had everything because I needed to provide them with a "story". She said above all don't mention any plans on trying to stay long term. She said make it seem like you're getting in and getting out. And she said "don't mention a boyfriend if you have one". Solid advice.

So my appointment was at 10:30 in the a.m., which meant I had to wake my ass up all early to drive to Houston. I would have flown but two days before and the tickets are cray, cray. They need to move all of those international consulates to Austin because I can't fux wit Houston. One of the 50 million times I was flying to London I had a few hours to kill between my flights so I went out to get some nosh. I'm driving along and begin to notice I'm in Crackville, Texas. I pull off the highway and stop at the light when all of a sudden this car comes rolling to a stop. The tires were sparking because they were blown out and homeboy was driving on rims. The hood was smoking and smashed in. And this fool was passed out, slumped over the wheel. I'm still confused as to how the car stopped. Any way a hooker from a gas station across the intersection comes running up to the car, pushes the dude across to the passenger seat, gets in, and drove off with that bitch on fire. This all happened before the light turned green. And that in a nutshell is H-Town. 

But don't worry the Consulate is in Uptown Park near the Galleria (read: money, honey. That pic above is of the froufrou suspended ring street signs). The consulate itself is not what one (or rather me) considers a "Consulate". It's in a high rise on the 6th floor of an office building. It looks just like any other business. You wouldn't know what it was if it weren't for the signs saying "visa appointments, this way". There wasn't security or anything, and they didn't take my cell phone away from me. There wasn't even a receptionist. Just signs everywhere. So I got in, shoved my visa appointment form under the window, like it said, and waited. 

There's no privacy either. You walk over to the other side of the reception area and there are two chairs with a glass partition separating you from the visa officer. It's like when they show jail visits on tv, the officer talks to you completely through microphone. I though I'd get lucky and get the guy who was interviewing another person there because he seemed really nice and flirty when he asked me about my visa appointment.

Side note I've noticed that Frenchmen who emigrate to America are always super charming. I didn't encounter that in France. I'm starting to guess it's what happens to them when they get Americanized, they adapt that sexy American swagger and cojones, without being too American. It's a really hot combination, like a perfect mix of the two. But my luck I got a lady who was a massive bish. 

She didn't really ask me anything. I was expecting an interrogation. All she asked me was why I was going and then to pay the fee. The website lies by the way, they do accept credit card (Visa, Discover, and MasterCard), and if you pay in cash (like it says) bring exact change. She got really pissed that she had to go and ask around if anyone had change. And it only cost me $69. I don't know why the price is much higher online. I thought it was going to be $135. 

She tried to get my biometrics, which is different from the UK visa process, but then got angry when she couldn't get my fingerprints, and just snapped "nevermind". I don't know if I should take it as a bad sign that she didn't get my prints...  And the whole time she and the other man bickered at each other in French. It was really bizarre. She then told me it would be 10 days, and then sent me on my way. The whole process took about 10 minutes. It took me longer to park than it took for the visa interview.  

The other guy next to me wasn't American (none of the people trying to get visas were), and it didn't seem like his interview took long either. He didn't have all of his paperwork (neither did I), and the CO just told him to email it to him (mine didn't say anything about it). He then asked if he could come back later in the day and pick up his passport, and they were like 'give us two or three days'? Now the Brits may have scarred me for life because this was nothing like their process. UK Border Agency is no joke. They will fuck you up the ass and not even spit on that shit first. So I thought getting a visa was much harder than that. I mean she didn't ask where I would be living, how I was going to pay for my stay, nothing. Aren't these pertinent questions? 

Any way I don't have a lot of confidence in this now. And on the way to Houston I heard "Happy" every 30 minutes. I haven't listened to that song since the "Julien incident" so I consider it a bad omen. I know what you're thinking "bitch is you high? It's just a song". Yeah another one of my weird little quirks. I also don't date guys who drive BMWs because my last two boyfriends drove them and I consider it a bad sign. Not to mention that shit is budget luxury, and only sorority girls drive that shit. But I digress. I'm probably looking for signs where there aren't any.

So we'll see I guess. I'm not really looking forward to the next 10 days. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick Tip: Catching Gigs

I'm huge on music. I'm used to going to gigs on the daily, but when I first got to the city I was a disappointed by the lack of nightlife. I'm used to Austin where something goes down every night. I know what you're thinking Austin?! Unfortunately Austin kicks Paris' ass when it comes to the scene. It's crazy how many bands run through that town on the daily. Where else can you check out Flatbush Zombies, Sleigh Bells, John Legend, and DJ Shadow in the same week? Or Blondie and Russell Brand on the same night? And if you're lucky you can get in on secret gigs. My uncle hangs out in this bar near the convention center and always ends up partying with random ass musicians (random like Robert Plant random). Or you could end up at a house party with Bill Murray. If you've never checked it out definitely give it a go. It's a year round party town so no matter when you visit there's always something to do. 

And at least once in your lifetime I suggest you check out SXSW because it's free booze, free food, and free shows. The city goes into party mode for two weeks. RSVP to everything. And get to know someone who lives there. it's impossible to find a hotel, or a cab, or even parking. My gay boyfriend had to park my Rover in the ghetto one night (and then forgot where) because there was parking literally nowhere. It took us like 15 minutes walking the wrong side of town. I thought we were going to get shanked trying to find that bitch or car jacked or come back to my truck on cinder blocks. And he was wearing a giant Chanel 'rob my ass' sign. Luckily Austin is filled with insufferable hipsters so don't worry.

Any way I figured Paris being Paris, it would be going down all the time. Not so much. One of the French dudes I'm talking to works as a music producer, and swears that's not the case, that Paris has a big music scene. *sideeye* But who knows maybe the summer is better for the scene? I know they have Rock en Seine and Music Day... 

In the meantime here's a Parisian version of Do512. I'd still suggest keeping Twitter updates on your favorite bands though because the site doesn't list every show. Le1f ☥ was playing this month and I didn't know until Messkid tweeted it two days before. It's not the most comprehensive listing but it'll do for now. 

And if anyone knows of any Caribbean/Latin/Dancehall clubs in Paris, hit me up. I heard there's a vogueing battle club near Pigalle? I know Paris isn't exactly Brixton, but there has to be a twerk club somewhere in that city. The few clubs I went to were weak. I'm going out so I can move my hips like Shaki, not so I can stand around nursing a drink. Nor am I trying to pick up straight dudes (this is why I prefer gay clubs. Dudes in Paris are grabby). I realize that this is somehow regarded as "gross American behavior" but there's nothing wrong with putting your back into it and popping that pussy like a big booty trick in a Diplo video. Express yourself. http://youtu.be/BKaL7WL-onI. At da strip club once I watched a stripper stunt to Bandz a Make Her Dance. She clapped her ass perfectly to the claps in the song. It was amazing. I so wanted to ask her to teach me (Frenchie had an obsession with me 'touching toes', in six inch heels no less. He was a mad freak, but this is obvie a skill one needs in life 😒). Are there no Jamaicans or Trinidadians or even Brazilians in Paris?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Editor's Note: Reflections on a Disaster

I won't be adding to the blog. I'm not sure if it's indefinite or not. I'll be back in Paris for Fete de la Musique but it's unknown whether that will be for a week or permanently. I'm in America waiting to hear what the French say about a visa. We'll see how it goes. If they let me back in I might have new misadventures to regal you with. xfingerscrossedx Actually let's hope it goes more smoothly. 

I'd like to keep the blog alive but I'm sure I've given all that I've learned as 
a first timer who went to Paris with zero knowledge of anyone or anything. There were many bad, a few good, but at the end of the day I went in thinking I would hate the city, and ended up loving it.

I don't think I want to live in Paris forever. I get the travel bug too often, and I've never been good at commitment. I get bored too easily, I change my mind too often, and I'm far to mercurial to know how I'll feel tomorrow, much less a year from now, but I do know that I would like to see more of that pretty bitch. At least enough to feel like I've discovered all that I can and then move on to a new city (could this mentality also be why my relationships don't last...?).

Maybe someone finds this useful. Maybe it dies in some dusty old virtual filing cabinet. Who knows.

Because, Of Course

Not to be outdone of course I spent what I thought was my last full day (long story) in Paris giving Montmartre another go. I tried not to have a negative opinion of the place so I thought 'find some good in the bad'. And then I took a wrong turn and ended up in the farthest northern reaches of Paris (at Porte de Clignancourt and Porte de la Chapelle respectively). 

And yet I still didn't feel unsafe (*cough* tripadvisor posters scaring people). But I will say GPS sucks ass. I could not figure out whether to go up or down because it doesn't take into account that you're walking, and what direction you're going in. I kept walking aimlessly thinking I'd hit Clichy before realizing I was actually going north and was at the last metro stops. Finally I just gave up on finding the right number and hopped on whatever metro. I had to make two changes but at least you can get home, no matter where you are.  

I just have to face it, Montmartre and I don't get on. There are too many stairs and too many tourists. Not to mention creepers. That scene in Clueless when that dude jumps on Cher and she pushes him off? That's how the dudes in Montmartre are. Always trying to grab you, or they get right up on you. Learn to say two things before you go "not interested" (which usually doesn't work), and "fuck off". 

Maybe when I've totally disassociated it (I can't even watch Amélie anymore), I can see it from an unbiased point of view. But until then it's the home of an asshole, and I much prefer medieval Paris anyhow. My love for Le Marais... what can I say? It can't be put into words.

On To the Last Minute Advice...

I'm trying to think if there's anything else I can really say... some tiny hints that don't require entire blog posts. I'm sure I'll keep updating this post when I start thinking of little snatches here and there. 

One piece of advice, go with Orange. They were the best carrier I had. I had Bouygues for the first month and they sucked. There was a giant dead spot in Marais and on St. Louis. My phone connected to SFR sometimes (in the 10e for some reason?), but my phone just stuck with Orange after a while and I never had a problem with them.

Spend your days trying out zee French, no matter how bad you sound, or how much your French friends make fun of you. And when people try to switch to English, don't let them! I didn't even hang out with any Americans and yet I still didn't pick up much. 

Though saying 'metro' was my Achilles heel but now that bitch ain't got nothing on me. I'm trying to convince Cedric to speak French at me. At the very least so I won't feel sad about not being there anymore. Not hearing it everywhere I go is the hardest part. I miss all of the chatter. 

Oh and that myth that French people don't speak English, is just that, a myth. Everywhere I went, except once to the dry cleaners, everyone spoke English. Just like you have a hangup about how you sound in French? French people think the same way about speaking in English. Or maybe they just don't want to be bothered by tourists. 

Buy the book when taking the Metro. It's cheaper buying in bulk, and you'll use them eventually. Even better the pass. You don't realize just how much you'll use it. Despite my bouginess and love of taxis, I'll conceed the metro is quicker (and cheaper). I guess that's another upside to socialism, no airs about taking public transport.

Ask for VAT refund slips if buying anything over €145. If the store doesn't offer on the spot refunds, you'll need them before taking your receipts to the airport, where they get stamped, and then you mail off everything. If traveling during tourist season don't expect a refund for up to three months. 

Make sure you have all of your electronics otterboxed before you leave. Everything is like double the price in France, and then even more because you're paying in Euros. I prayed I wouldn't drop or break my iPad or cell phone because I didn't want to have to replace them. I'd see a price tag for an iPhone and I couldn't help but laugh. €709? I hope French people make a yearly pilgrimage to Boston (no tax) to buy their electronics. if you're like we Americans, and upgrade your iProducts every September, you're really getting ripped off. 

And make sure you have extra headphones. Seriously, headphones are your bestfriend. No one (usually) bothers you when you have them in. And unless you're out with someone else, you'll use them every time. When mine broke I cursed myself because I didn't bring another pair and I knew that I wouldn't be able to find the ones I used. Even if I did, they'd cost double what I pay for them in America.  

Frenchmen are pussies. Get used to it. Assertiveness is not their strong point. They will stare at you like you're an animal at the zoo but don't expect them to actually make a move. You'll always have to go up to them. In fact you'll know whether a guy is French by whether he takes the initiative or not. 

But once you do go out with them, don't be put off by how strong they come off. I'm not one to express my feelings, so strong declarations of love for a complete stranger is a bit much for me. Whenever I went out with a guy the next day they'd be blowing up my phone with these sappy text messages and I found it weird. I guess it's just the French way? 

Pack lightly. I know what you're thinking, you're going to France you need to dress to the nines. Please no. That's how I could always spot a tourist, because she always looked ridiculous. You're not Carrie Bradshaw, this isn't Sex and the City. French girls don't put that much effort into their clothes. It's a simplicity you'll soon get used to. 

Walk everywhere. You will be surprised just how quickly you'll pick up a sense of direction and eventually you'll be able to maneuver those streets like a boss. It's kind of sad actually how little some Parisians know about their city. Seeing all of the little nooks and crannies and using Wikipedia will eventually turn you into a master. Just walking everywhere led me to 11 of the 20 arrondissements on sheer accident and I'm glad because I saw many places that I probably wouldn't have otherwise (like finding a basketball court in Marais. French height being what it is, do they make the hoops shorter?).

Grocery stores are closed on Sundays (or close at 1pm), and if you're looking to score some bread, veggies, fish or meat, you're out of luck on Mondays, unless you go to the grocery store. One Eric Kayser and Maison Gaumer on Monge are open on Mondays though. That's just smart business. 

Monoprix on St. Michel is cheaper than the Carrefours in the area, and Franprix on Rivoli is more expensive than both. In fact most places on Rivoli are much higher than on St. Michel. I guess going to where the students are means better deals? Although happy hour is better in Marais than it is in the Latin Quarter. Oh and Monoprix takes American Express, Carrefour does not. 

Learn to order wine everywhere you go. The French are absolute shit at mixing a cocktail. I think they got progressively worse with each place I went to. I guess they haven't caught on to the art of "mixology". At one point I think I was just drinking straight up soda water. I don't know why it's impossible for them to mix some liquor and a chaser but it's no bueno. Don't waste your money.

Try to stay away from the American Embassy unless you really, really need them. Going to that place is a ducking nightmare. I couldn't even get in. I had to call a consulate officer to come to the gate. And yes I know the guards aren't American, but they're assholes. One of them told me I couldn't walk on the "American side of the street" so I told him "fuck off" and threw the V sign at him and apparently he complained. Now normally I don't tell perfect strangers to fuck off, I'm Southern after all, but they tried to get me to jump through hoops, and I don't care who you are, I don't play that way. 

Apparently you can only cross to the Consulate through the "specified crosswalks". Bitch please. I don't pay up the ass in taxes so you can tell me when I can cross a damn street. And the Consulate officers aren't any better. The one I talked to had some attitude on her. Don't get me wrong, I gave as good as she did, but it took everything in me not to have a 'Hold My Gold' kind of moment. I can be the nicest person, but do not test me, I will go full hood on your ass. Eventually I had to be transferred to someone else because "I was too rude".

Paris for the Beginners of this World

So that's that. I'm sure I'll keep updating this post. I have a shit memory but like lightening it will come to me later on and then I'll chastise myself for forgetting something really important.

I never expected to write a blog, and I never expected it to be seen by anyone. The boughettoness and hastiness of poorly crafted articles didn't give it away? Mostly I just needed an outlet. But I've been seeing traffic here and there and I hope people have taken something away from the Murphy's Law tragedy I call my life. 

That was something that was really important to me when I first started this experience. I am a nerd, and I research everything. I wanted to be prepared for what it would be like to move to this city but all of the blogs about moving to Paris were a lot of candy coated, sugar dreams. Fluff. Being the pessimistic realist I am, I know life isn't sunshine and kittens, and that's why this blog borders on the negative sometimes (sorry). 

My most popular, and most negative, posts have nothing to do with Paris itself. Which is a little heartbreaking. I guess depressing, slit your wrist type situations make people feel better (to laugh at?) because the Julien Benais posts seem to be what gets ya'll talking. I get a lot of feedback with regards to that whole situation, and I'm sorry to disappoint but this is one tale that won't be wrapped up in a pretty little bow. This isn't Girls, he's not Adam (he doesn't possess the depth of character). 

Don't let the movies fool you kiddies, you don't always get closure. There's nothing to say there really, he was an experience I could have gone without. Life lesson girls, there is such a thing as being good on paper but not in real life. I guess my advice then would be, if you ever get the displeasure of meeting him, which apparently happens often according to the feedback here, is he like a Montmartre staple? Just run in the other direction. You don't build a reputation as "the asshole of Montmartre" by being a nice guy whom everybody loves. 

Final Words

At the end of the day just enjoy Paris. There are many things I wish I could do differently in my travels. Mostly I wish I could find someone who is just as impulsive and spontaneous as I am so I can stop doing this shit on my own. But despite that, I guess I wouldn't change much. Being on my own teaches me to fend for myself. It would have been nice to have an easy, drama free trip but I know a lot more than I should know so I guess at least I'm prepared for the harsh realities of this cold, cruel world.

And if you end up being a solo dolo traveler like myself, learn to enjoy it. Sure it's not always fun to not have someone to "share" things with but it's also a little empowering to do these things on your own. I was really surprised by how many people I met who were shocked that I was there by myself. Paris isn't exactly Liberia, ya know? If you're a fellow western first worlder, you're just going from one cushy little country to another cushy little first world country, but this one comes with lots of bread, and cheese, and wine, and socialism. 

One more important thing, don't put too much emphasis on what you "should" do. I got so tired of people judging how I spent my time there. So what that I enjoyed spending my days on the Seine and never went in the Louvre (as an art history minor I should probably have my degree taken away). But the Seine is my happy place. The place I go to to feel calm and reflect. I met some weird people, and I saw some strange things, and for me that's enough. What's worthwhile for you, might not be for them. Fuck it, and fuck them, do what you want. It's your experience, live it doing what makes you happy.