Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quick Tip: The RER to the Airport

Since I wasn't taking any luggage with me I took the RER to the airport. Earlier I had to go to Champs Elysees and then 2 trips to Place d' Italie, but I wasn't paying attention when I took line 1 to line 6, and I got in the station before (or after depending on your direction). I took the line all the way to Nation so at this point (6 trips) I wasn't in the mood to spend any more time underground. But this is me after all and I was running behind. I couldn't miss yet another flight. I had already spent the price of a new ticket on 3 change fees so I said 'fuck it' and made my way. 

I didn't really know what to expect. I mean it's the metro but someone tried [badly] explaining to me how it worked and I was bit confused. Since my metro was Monge I took the 7 to Châtelet. I tried buying the RER ticket at Monge but I didn't understand the screen and the guy at the ticket booth was an asshole. He started yelling "Opera!" at me so I just told him to piss off and decided I'd get it at Châtelet.

When I got to Châtelet I followed the signs and just my luck when I got to the RER ticket stands the machines weren't working and there was no one in the booth, so I had to go back up the 50 million stairs to the Rivoli exit and buy it. The ticket runs €9.95. 

Once I got back down I had to depend on the signs again. The signs once you get to the platforms are a bit confusing, but I found the platform for B. This is where the screens come into play. The line splits so you have to make sure the upcoming train is going to CDG, and going to your terminal, so know the terminal beforehand. The monitor by the escalators will tell you what time the upcoming trains are expected to arrive. And the signs on the platform will tell you which train is coming in next. Luckily the next one when I arrived was a non-stop to Terminal 1. Once the train reached Terminal 1, I had to walk a bit and down some stairs to another train that takes you right to the terminal. 

Make sure you have your ticket on hand because when I got off a bunch of men were checking everyone's tickets. I had stuck mine in a pocket so like a numpty I had to search for it. In fact I thought I had lost it, which would have been ironic since I never, ever throw my used tickets on the ground (really France invest in some that dissolve in water). And then to get out you have to feed your ticket through the machine again. 

The whole thing took me a little over an hour. If I had had more luggage I probably wouldn't take it. I prefer the convenience of taxis afterall. But since all I had was my purse it seemed efficient enough. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quick Tip: The Batobus

There are a few Seine "river cruises" but for something less cruise and more public transport, the Batobus should be tried. They have something like 8 stops along the Seine at all of the major tourist destinations. For €16 a day you can take it as many times as you want. I recommend it because it's not exactly a cruise like Bateaux Mouches or Bateaux Parisians, it's a water taxi service that happens to give you a scenic journey. You don't have to sit in traffic and it's easy enough to find because all you need to look for is the Seine (when I first got here I was so thankful I lived on St.Louis because even if I got lost I knew 'just find the Seine' and I could make it home). 

If you're not into crowds, and waiting, and aren't a tourist, it might not be your cup of tea during the summer months. Since I live near Jardin des Plantes (the last stop) I have the pleasure of seeing it whenever I chill out by the Seine. It's always packed and the line is super long. I once saw it pass by four or five times and it never made the stop for the long line of people waiting because there were just too many people already on it. But it's an interesting concept and a much more scenic way to see Paris. And best part they have something called "the Batobus Treasure Hunt". It's only in French though :/ 

Their website:

And for a true cruise experience complete with tour guide voiceover:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Visiting the Doctor

In 'merica going to the doctor is a pain in the ass. I'd like to think it's making us a stronger people and one day we'll have mutant like evolutionary qualities that can only be achieved by having a really unaffordable healthcare system. And no "Obamacare" is not free healthcare. It's just a program making it mandatory for you to buy insurance. Insurance which is somehow more expensive now? 

Another lovely aspect of the US healthcare system is having to make a doctor's appointment like a month in advance. This is also something that makes me just say "fuck it" and forget about the whole damn thing. But hey if you ever get shot make sure you whip out your iPhone and online checkin with the ER so you don't have to wait. Our healthcare system is truly bizarre. Technologically advanced and yet archaic all at the same time. 

Let me put it into perspective for all you non-Americans. I live in one of the 5 biggest cities in America, where thousands of doctors practice. I once called like 5 doctors and couldn't find anyone who could give me an appointment with less than 4 weeks notice in advance. One even had a wait of 2 months. I guess those fuckers spend all day playing golf because there is no way they are that busy. I dated a doctor so I know their trickery. It's no wonder we have an ER problem. If the doctor won't see you until 2 months later, of course you're going to opt for the ER to get seen today. 

Anyhow I had to see a doctor because I needed a physical for the Directee and I was feeling like shit. I was even more lazy than usual and I was being told a bug was going around my area and I should be checked out right away. This made me laugh of course, my American mentality had me saying "don't worry I'll get over it". Not to mention I never get sick. I was born premature and I had grandmothers who made me practically live outside as a kid so my immune system is Fort Knox (which sucked when I was a kid because I never, ever got to stay home sick), but after more than a week I was still dragging ass and I decided maybe I should give it a go.

I googled English speaking doctors in the area and got lucky because the one closest was actually on the next street. But my luck she wasn't open Friday through Monday so I had to wait.

I was a little curious as to how this would go down because usually you make your 30 day in advance appointment and you have to provide your insurance. How would this work in France? Surely they don't accept Aetna here. 

I called up the office on Tuesday but the lady answering barely spoke Enlgish. The only thing I was told when I tried to get any information was to make an appointment, so I made my appointment for the next day and showed up 15 minutes beforehand. There wasn't a receptionist so I asked the other woman waiting if I was in the right spot because it didn't look like a doctor's office. She told me I was so I took a seat and waited. The doctor came out a few minutes later and asked me if I wanted to wait for her or to just see her resident. I wasn't interested in waiting and it wasn't anything more than a form so I saw the resident. 

She was really nice but the whole process was a bit weird. It wasn't very "medical" looking. At least not like any doctor's office I'd visited before. No fancy machines, no fluorescent lights, it was a desk and a medical table in a creaky old Parisian building.

She took my height, my weight, my blood pressure, and checked my lungs and that. It took about 15 minutes max of mostly her asking me if I had anything. Then she signed the form, gave me something for insurance reimbursement, and sent me on my way. Easiest doctor's visit I've ever had. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quick Tip: Public Transportion Planner

The RATP has a nifty little tool on their website if you need help figuring how to get around. You go to this site: http://www.ratp.fr/itineraires/en/ratp/recherche-avancee and type in the address of where you are, and where you want to go to, and it will give you the bus or metro, and an estimate on how long it will take. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Doing Paris On Your Own

I've seen a few ads here and there enticing people to move to Paris by internship or childcare and can't even begin to tell you how much it irks me. I look at the prices of these so called programs and it annoys that there are companies taking up to $1500 to send you to Paris or looking to charge just $300 for the application! 

As I said I was going to take that route. I wasn't sure about moving here on my own and I wanted the security of knowing that someone had my back, but now that I'm here I'm really glad that I didn't do it with the help of a company. It will take some effort but it can be done. And at least you won't be throwing your money away on some carpetbagger company who is robbing you for really doing fuck all on their part.

So the scariest thing is the visa. But once you get over that hurdle you'll be fine. First let's start off with a look at getting here by childcare. If you want to go through a company like Euopair, which only charges you €90 after they place you, I recommend it. But only because €90 is nothing, but if you want to go through these other companies that charge $280-300 for just the application then I'm going to let you know that you're throwing your money away. 

First post an ad in Fusac or some other publication. I posted an ad for English tutoring and got a lot of a call backs. It cost €36, a small price to pay for publicity. Now once you find a job, the family will need to apply to sponsor you at the Ministry of Labor. The application can be printed online. Make sure they are aware of the rules of having an aupair and that they are willing to pay for your healthcare and taxes. Any family that wants an aupair has to do this so there's no getting around it. There are plenty of people that post ads saying they want someone who already has working papers. I'd be a little weary of that. If they can't afford the cost of an aupair, they shouldn't have one. If you already have working papers, they don't need to apply to the Ministry and they don't have to pay your healthcare, or taxes, and that just seems shady. Sorry but I never could, and never will, deal with cheap people. It's one of my pet peeves. 
Oh and minimum you must be making €80 a week. This is French law. If you're paid less than that you need to see someone about collecting wages owed. They're also supposed to provide you with one meal, if they don't, they're supposed to give you an allowance. It's only like €4.80 a day, but on €80, any little bit helps. And definitely see if you can get a family who will pay for your French lessons. Some families apparently do this. They don't have to, but I guess there are people out there who recognize that €80 is not enough to live on, especially when you're paying €50 a week for French classes. 

Once the application has been submitted with other paperwork like your school transcripts (translated into French), copy of your passport, letter to the family, etc, you have to wait for the French authorities to approve your application. If it's approved, you make your appointment at the French consulate in your area (again with more paperwork to be handed in), and if approved by them, well then you make your way to France.

Now on to the internships, these are a bit harder. I found mine through Craigslist. There weren't very many by the way. And if you need something that isn't gallery work or social media/pr related you might have a harder time. You can try finding the list of American companies and applying that way but I haven't tried that avenue. A French friend of mine is actually having a hard time finding an internship at the moment. But unlike her, you're not French and therefore you might have an easier time finding one because companies aren't obligated to pay you if you only work so many months. If you were a French citizen they'd have to pay you €400 a month because in France they don't have the slave labor internship laws America has. 
If you plan to work less than ninety days you won't need a visa. If you want to work longer, you will. The easiest way to get a visa is to apply for a student visa. As I mentioned in an earlier post you'll be "a student of the French language". 
One thing some of the companies offer is housing which can be a big deal if you don't want to bother doing it on your own. You still have to pay for it but they'll probably offer some kind of discount because they'll stick you with a host family or in student accommodation. I personally prefer to live on my own, but if you don't mind living in a dorm or with a family outside of Paris, then the $5000 fee Cultural Embrace charges for their program probably isn't a big deal. If you're an aupair you'll have housing, but if you're an intern, you'll need to find something. I would suggest going through Cite university. They have a ton of links and they can find you a host family, or a dorm, or even living in the home of an old person where you basically pay in keeping them company. 

I know it will take some effort, and time, but in the end you'll save yourself some money by doing it on your own. Besides Paris is expensive enough as it is, put in the work on your own and you'll have money for other important things like food and hanging out with friends.