Friday, June 30, 2006

Mrs. B in Luxembourg

Mrs. B in Luxembourg
Originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.
June 30, 2006 was Dr. B's 33rd birthday, and to celebrate, we left Lucy in the capable hands of Flare, and hopped a train to Metz, France. Our friend R met us, and we drove to Luxembourg for the day. We walked around the charming capital city, and visited the castle of the Duchy of Luxembourg. Begun in 963 and carved out of a huge limestone mass, it has been used to defend the duchy for many hundreds of years. It fell into disrepair in the 1800's, and was walled up due to the treaty of London, but was reopened as a historical site in 1933.

Favorite quote of the day:

    "This part of France and Luxembourg look just like Wisconsin, but with castles."
    --Dr. B

We watched Germany trounce Argentina in the World Cup from an Irish Pub in Metz (yes, they are everywhere in the world, not just all over the US), and drove back to her home in Saarbrücken for dinner and the Italy/Ukraine game.

Please take a look at my Flickr page for more photos, and stay tuned for more from Germany and Switzerland!


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

They're Still Honking

It's an hour later.

Holy crap! Are we going to get any sleep tonight?



Allez Les Bleus!

Football fever has taken over France. All through the streets, people walk taller, eager to poke their heads into cafes and brasseries to hear the latest gossip on the team, and cheers of "Allez Les Bleus!" (Go Blues!) resound through the tiny rues. People make small talk about the last game at the bus stop and on the metro, defying the tradition of never speaking to their fellow passengers except during la greve (a strike). Kids practice "le foot" in courtyards, against brick walls, and dribble around the bornes seperating the streets and the sidewalks.

Tonight was a big game: France versus Spain, who (from what I've heard) has a very strong team. And tonight, France, once again, rose to the occasion. Despite the predictions of early glory dissipating as the tournament goes on, France came through tonight, scoring two goals in the last third of the game, to beat Spain 3 to 1.

After each goal, the entire neighborhood came to life. Shouts, screams, and a general roar of clapping, laughing and cheering were heard. Lights flashed in windows, neighbors greeted each other with the universal "WOOOO!!!" from their balconies, and everyone turned back to the set, to watch Zidane slam in the third and final goal in an amazing display of fancy footwork.

"It's a deke! A deke! That was a DEKE!" Dr. B cheered. Even I, who am not exactly what you would call "sporty", let out a scream and began my "Band Director clapping" (I am the loudest clapper you've ever heard), in support of my adopted country's football team, as they advance in the World Cup.

And now, as I type this on my laptop, horns are honking, whistles are screaming, sirens are blaring, people are shouting, and celebrations are reaching heights they haven't known in a long time in Paris. France is once again leading the world. Even if it is just a sport, I think it feels pretty good.

Allez les Bleus!!!

***Photo from the Les Bleus website.
***Deke is a hockey term. Click on the word to find a definition on Wikipedia.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend Update

Dr. B and I celebrated our 10th anniversary on Thursday with a special dinner out at Le Procope, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. In the Chopin Salon, we dined on traditional french fare, while persistently speaking french to the staff who served us, despite the fact that we were surrounded by Americans, and the staff was happy to speak English. (I wonder if they put us all in the same room on purpose?) The restaurant was founded in the 1600's and is supposedly the oldest still-running restaurant in the world. They advertise that Ben Franklin worked on the American Constitution there, which must be a draw for those who are visiting Paris from the US. I think we really threw the waiter for a loop, when he brought out our first course and realized it was me who ordered the pate en croute (potted spiced meat spread wrapped in a pastry crust) and Dr. B who wanted the tomato and mozzerella salad. Jeff tasted mine, and agreed that though the idea of pate scared him, it tasted pretty awesome, so he bought some at the grocery store the next time we went. Nonetheless, dinner was lovely; we ended our meal with a delightful creme brulee and digestif, and afterwards we walked along the Seine, talking and shooting pictures, in hopes that we'd get something really cool and arty-farty. Here's the best of our efforts; not great, I know, but we'll keep working on it. In the one of me alone, I am sitting in one of the little viewing spots with benches on the Pont Neuf, which you can see behind Dr. B in the photo of him. The Pont Neuf ('new bridge') is the oldest bridge in Paris, and was started in the 1500's. It has recently been cleaned, and looks brand new despite being over 500 years old. The one of the two of us was taken the old fashioned way, and I cropped my arm out of the bottom. (My college photography teacher is probably cursing me right now!) [**Note: I can't get the layout right on this--blogger is being weird--so I'll put these photos at the bottom of the page. I hope they don't cover any text. Sorry!]

Friday was spent helping friends move appliances they had just bought, eating great Italian food for lunch on La Butte aux Cailles, and later picnicing in the Parc de Montsouris with Lucy and Kyliemac joining in on the fun.

After an uneventful Saturday, Sunday dawned, with plans to bike around Paris with our friends and visit the vide grenier (garage sale--literally 'empty attic'), but someone had other ideas. The rain that was so desperately needed in Paris came down, and down and down and down. The biking idea was scrapped, and we figured that the vide-grenier was probably cancelled. Even so, Lucy still needed to be walked, so we headed up to La Butte just in case the sale was still going on. It was! We stopped under the awning to dry off at a funky little cafe that I had visited before with Aimee, Kylie and Lucy. We drank a coffee and discussed our plan of attack before turning around to head back through and dicker on prices for the items we were interested in.

Here they are. The pitcher is for water at the table, and appears to be brand new. I got it for 5 euros. I absolutely love it! The lemons are so cheerful, and the colors are great. Not a scratch on it! The posters are both of James Bond movies (we love old movies) on metal, and in French of course. A bit rusty, the one, but we can clean that up. We figure someday they will hang in a movie-watching room. 9 euros each (I thought it was too much, but like Dr. B says, they are a pretty cool souvenir, which we couldn't find in the US.)

Diamonds may be Forever (Les Diamants sont Eternels), but our time in France isn't. Catch it while we can...


Thursday, June 22, 2006


If you are reading this on bloglines and haven't seen the update yet, I have fixed the PQ error, so there's no need to comment just to point out what an idiot I am.

Yes, I posted last night at 1 in the morning after Fete de la Musique. At that time of night, I am lucky I spelled TP right.



News Shoes Flash!

Mephisto shoes are WAY cheaper in France! (I am pretty sure this is about the only thing on the planet that is.)

After visiting the Mephisto store near me, which had none in my size, and calling around to all the other stores in Paris, I found the shoes I wanted, in my size. I had a choice between fuschia and black, and anyone who knows me knows I already own enough black shoes to outfit a small army, so I got the fuschia. I had to head all the way to Madeleine to find them, and they cost a tiny bit more than my local store, but I think it was worth it.

In the US? $145. In France? 61-69 euros. That's practically half price! Close enough to a sale for me. Now, I just have to break them in.

By the way, if you speak French, and know which ones you want, the stores here will sell them to you and mail them to the US, which is still a way better deal than buying them full price in America. Here is the information for the store nearest me (the guy there was the friendliest french customer service person I have ever met!):

    124 bd Vincent Auriol 75013 Paris
    01 45 86 53 09
    Du mardi au samedi 10h/19h30, lundi 14h/19h30


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

T.P. & P.Q.

After school, C and P were eating their snacks, when C suddenly remembered that we needed to stop by the supermarket on the way home. "We are out of P.Q., Aluminum foil and wine vinegar," she said, while sucking liquid apple sauce from a Pom' Potes packet.

"P.Q.?" I asked. "What is that?"

"Oh, you know, P.Q. Toilet paper. We call it P.Q. for short."

"Oh. We call it T.P. Toilet Paper. What does P.Q. stand for?"

"P is for paper, and Q stands for cul. 'queue'."

"Isn't that word kind of, um, impolite?

"No, not at all! It's fine! Everybody says it. I say it to my Grandma," she answered.

Then she thought for a minute.

"Oh. Um, I guess it is. Impolite. But we say it anyway!" She grinned, and we headed into the store.

*****UPDATED: First, the "cul" thing is likely right, BUT--

Did ANYONE click the link and find another alternate meaning for "queue"??????

There is another one you may not have thought of!

Though yours is more likely the correct one. French spelling, not always my forte.

Isn't it interesting that we are arguing about potty mouth?


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"All Good Things Are Wild And Free"

Living in Paris, it's easy to forget about the wildness, the freedom that exist in the world. Or perhaps not to forget, but to misplace the feeling. Here there are so many rules, so many obligations, so many fences.

But every once and a while, someone or something breaks through and shows you that the spirit is still there, though reigned in by the limits of living in the city.

I wish I could have trusted and let go long enough to allow Lucy to join them. Even so, it was worth watching, just to see pure joy running by my window, along the narrow strip of grass, in the middle of this crazy ville.

*Title by Henry David Thoreau, US Trancendentalist Author (1817-1862).


Monday, June 19, 2006

Fête de la Musique: Planning Stages

June 21st, the Summer Solstice, is the day the French celebrate Fête de la Musique, or Celebration of Music. All over France, free concerts take place ranging from Garage Rock to Classical, World, Jazz and just about everything in between.

If you're here in Paris on this lovely day, scan the schedule, to plan your own celebration.

For me, it's rather like being at a smorgasbord of all of my favorite foods: I don't know where to start!


Sunday, June 18, 2006

When Are the Soldes?

Twice a year, french stores can have big sales. I say "can" because it's the truth--the government regulates sales or "promotions", so no one has an unfair advantage. This type of regulation is a direct descendant of laws from the Middle Ages, when the guilds controlled much of commerce and fabrication. In France, these take place in the winter (around February) and summer (July) and last 5-6 weeks, with exact dates set by the Mairie, or town government. The next batch starts July 5 and runs until August 15 UPDATE: June 28-Aug. 5.

Before arriving in France, I was a bit of a shoe-hound (thanks to DSW's clearance racks), and heels had a prominent place in my wardrobe. But, with no car and lots and lots of pavement and cobblestones, my heels are resting and waiting for our return to the US, while my flats and not-so-cute-but-much-more-comfortable shoes are taking the lead. As noticed by my friend B who visited earlier this week, Parisian streets are hard on the feets! B lives in Germany, and is no stranger to walking lots, but was surprised at how sore her feet got after a few hours of walking down the rues of Paris. Both Dr. B and I have noticed more foot pain issues since coming here, and tend to gravitate toward less fashionable but more supportive shoes.

In my searches, I have found the ones I really want. Made by Mephisto (I think it's a french company), they combine the comfortable support with the cuteness factor that makes me happy whenever I look down at my toes. Unfortunately, the Violette rings in at a steep $144 (US).

Now, let's just hope that they are on sale soon. If so, these babies are mine.


La Coupe du Monde

The World Cup is the Superbowl of Football, the original one (only Americans call American football just "football".) This event, however, only takes place once every four years. World Cup fever has taken over Europe, with flags flying, tacky decorations up in the fast-food restaurants, and people leaving their homes to sit in brasseries to enjoy a beer and the game.

This is somewhat unusual in Paris. Most bars here do not have the televisions blaring from every corner like many American places. There is a television tax to just own a television, so the number of TV's in public places and private homes is reduced--and those who have one have just that: one. (Kim lets me know this is per household, not per TV, but maybe once you've paid the yearly tax on owning it, nothing's left to buy a second! Not to mention the TVA--value added tax, like sales tax but figured into the price, the habitation tax on square meters of your home, etc. etc. etc....)

Despite the hefty tax, some businesses are seizing this opportunity to bring in flat-screens (possibly rented--that's my guess.) Along with your croissant and café normal or demi de Blanche you can check out the game, served by a waiter in a black bow tie.

Vive la France!

**(This photo is during the first half of the France/Korea game, on right now as I type. I took it while giving Lucy her evening walk, and in return, Dr. B took down the dry laundry and ironed his own clothes--just for the chance to watch the game from the beginning. He says that it is pretty much hockey, with no skates, more guys, grass and a ball. Close enough!)


Saturday, June 17, 2006

7 Things

So Katie tagged me way back in February, and as usual, I wasn't paying attention. Sorry about that! I will do my best to answer said questions.

By the way, you find out the most interesting things when you do a Technorati search on your own blog. Some weird bot-blog has a link to me because of the words "britney spears" and "pink". I don't even want to know.

Anyway, here goes:

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Learn to speak some Italian and German
2. Travel the world (I'm going to Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland in two weeks--that counts!)
3. Write a book that gets published
4. Grow my own food in a big garden (first we need the dirt)
5. Raise children who aren't jerks
6. Live in France Own a vacation/retirement home in France
7. Learn to really play the guitar (my studies were cut short by carpal tunnel syndrome) though I already play the clarinets, piano, oboe, flute, trumpet, trombone, saxophones, euphonium, tuba, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, timpani, spoons, tin whistle, etc. etc. etc. (Ah, the band director is definitely a Jill of all instruments, master [?] of one.)

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Be a bikini model
2. Speak with a Cockney or Brooklyn accent
3. Surf, ski, snowboard, roller skate/blade, skateboard or anything which requires balance except for riding a bike and walking/dancing in high heels, which actually took quite a bit of practice (First part stolen from Katie)
4. Ride or watch a roller coaster (they absolutely terrify me)
5. Eat Boston Baked Beans or Refried Beans (Yech!)
6. See a friend being hurt or picked on and not jump in to defend them, even if they're wrong
7. Stop setting high standards for myself and do everything I can to achieve them (I am a bit obsessive.)

Seven things that attract me to my mate:
1. His smile (joy/warmth)
2. His openness
3. The way he treats me
4. His idealism and ambition
5. His way of making people feel that they are normal even when they are totally stressing about something (he gets this from his Dad who is the KING of making you feel like it's all going to be fine.)
6. His artistry and ability to see the beauty in everything
7. His steadfastness

Seven things I say:
1. Et puis, voilà!
2. So, there you go, then. (This is Norwegian-American for "et puis, voilà!")
3. Literally (I use this word a lot, because people think I exaggerate.)
4. Freakin' Jack-Wipe! (This comes out of my mouth when I am driving and someone does something stupid or dangerous--it's a combination of several not-so-nice phrases, though each of these pieces are totally benign. I guess it's due to teaching Catholic school for so long.)
5. It's like a party in my mouth! (refers to food: said when I am eating something incredibly delicious and intense.)
6. I think it's about beer-thirty.
7. Oh-fer (insert descriptive word here.) Yes, I grew up in Fargo, ND. "Oh, fer cute! Oh, fer stupid! Oh, fer dumb!" Annoying, I know. I'm trying to stop, but it's kind of ingrained.

Seven books I love:
1. The Girl with the Pearl Earring
2. Gone With the Wind (I know, cheesy, but it's a big old romantic story--I love it.)
3. The Poisonwood Bible
4. The Scarlett Letter
5. Plainsong (Kent Haruf)
6. Giants in the Earth
7. Old Turtle

Seven movies that I've loved: (I didn't stop at 7, either. But 14 is divisible by it.)

1. A Foreign Affair
2. Marie Antoinette
3. Harry Potter 1,2,3,4
4. Le Divorce
5. Say Anything
6. Charade
7. Gone With The Wind
8. The Goonies
9. Legally Blonde (Yes, I like it! You wanna make something of it?)
10. Monsters, Inc.
11. West Side Story
12. Hello, Dolly!
13. Hellboy
14. To Catch A Thief

Seven People I Tag:

Yep, I'm taking the wimpy route. Do it if you want, don't if you don't. No pressure!


Friday, June 16, 2006


Yesterday, our fridge stopped working. Just...stopped. The dial to turn up the coolness sort of spun like crazy, and the massive glacier that was the "freezer" (it's in quotes for a reason) began to thaw. So I did what any reasonable person would do in a town without air conditioning in June.

I panicked.

I began the frantic phone calls to Dr. B at work, our landlady (who didn't want to fix it because she was replacing it anyway in September, and seemed completely overwhelmed that I was speaking in English, despite the fact that she is a retired English teacher), and Darty to set up a rendez-vous for an estimate (who, this time, had a very nice customer service representative that didn't make me feel stupid because it's hard to describe things when the aren't working when you have to do it in another language--who learns that stuff in class?) These phone calls, of course, left me feeling even more frazzled. I dashed out the door to head to pick up my girls after school, leaving Lucy with a chunk of glacial thaw to gnaw on, and cursing her for letting small chunks melt all over the floor and causing me to slip on my way out.

Dr. B called later, saying he had "fixed" it. Basically, he touched it, and the thing started to work again. I don't know why this happens, but it always does. (I've learned to just step away from anything attached to a cord--there can be no good that comes of me meddling with it.)

Which of course, left me to call our landlady again this morning (this time I spoke in French, and she seemed much less frightened), and Darty (who cancelled the appointment with only one question. "So it works now?")

Today, around 1:30, I went to the fridge to pull out the camembert, which I had been desperately trying to eat yesterday when the fridge had its little tantrum. Camembert is a lovely, wonderful cheese that Jeff calls "butt cheese"--in other words, it really, really stinks. The longer you leave it, the worse it gets, so I knew I had to finish it today. I tore through the several layers of ziploc freezer bags encasing our cheese stash, eager to spread its melty, creamy goodness on some pain aux céréales, tranché.

But all that remained was 2/3 of a slice of Fourme d'Ambert and a sad little dry hunk of Mimolette.

Tonight, the interrogation began.

"Where is the camembert?"

(Guilty look from Dr. B.) "Um, I had to toss it. It was...all...really bad...water... everywhere..."

He desperately looked at his laptop screen, as if something would suddenly pop up to save him, or maybe distract me from the questioning.

"Ah hah. Really bad, huh? Water, is it? Water everywhere."

"Yeah, it was soaked. Lots of water. The paper was wet and everything."

"Mm-hmm. Yep. In its two Ziploc freezer bags. Soaked. Riiiight."

He began to visibly color around the ears, and a smirk appeared at the corners of his mouth.

"You thought," I said,"you had a pretty good excuse, huh?"

"Yep," he admitted.

Little does he know, that just when he least expects it...WHAM! His peanuts are going to have a leettle accident... [Evil Laughter]

***Note: I think we've discovered that the grey thing in the middle of the turney thing is actually a defrost button. Now we feel really stupid.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Someone Should Have Smacked Me

Remember when I complained about the cold? Yeah, just goes to show.

Yesterday was 30 C (90 F). Which, in Madison, was hot, but not unbearable. But Paris isn't prepared for this. No one has A/C. I mean NO ONE. Restaurants? Nope. Grocery stores? Only the frozen foods isle (and really, how long can you look at a bag of peas before people just start to think you're weird?) Department stores? Sweat all over the stuff you can't afford.

Even the places that say they do are just a few degrees cooler than outside, if that.

So, if you hear someone say that the french are stinky, now you know why. You would be, too.

PS If anyone is sending a care package my way, some Decaffeinated Luzianne Tea would be heaven right now. (I get the shakes when I drink the leaded version.)


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Congratulations to my good friends MagE and G-Love, who are taking the plunge. Whoopie! I love weddings!


American in Paris

Saturday, I had planned a celebration for the annual Worldwide Knit in Public Day, but fate had other plans for Mrs. B, because [*GASP!*] Dr. B wanted to go (now brace yourself) SHOPPING! As many women know, getting the husband out to shop is not always a fun proposition. When he works full days at the lab (often staying until 7 PM), and thus never has time during the week to go to the stores, that leaves us with Saturday only, because most shops in France are closed on Sunday (and some on Monday, too.) But Saturday comes along, and Dr. B would rather be holed up in the Hobbit Hutch tapping away on his laptop, watching Dr. Who, reading Bandes-Désinées, or perhaps curled up with a bowl of peanuts and an Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming or Patrick O'Brian novel. So I knew, despite the fact that I had plans, that this opportunity must be seized.

We headed out to the Haussman area, due to the proximity of so many stores we wanted to check out. Dr. B has come to the conclusion that French men's pants are much, much better than their American counterparts, at least for him fit-wise. He is not six foot three, and isn't built like so many hardy Vikings were that settled our home state of North Dakota, so finding pants that don't come up to his armpits and that, if they fit in the waist, do not have room for an entire other person in the legs can be difficult in the USA. French pants are cut for French men who, on average, are shorter and slimmer than for whomever the American companies cut their pants. All of Dr. B's American pants have been relegated to the Red Cross, and we are slowly (as we can afford to) filling his drawers with slimmer cut French pantalons.

We started at Benetton, an Italian store, and had great luck with their cut of trousers. We decided to keep looking and return later if we had decided that these were the ones. After a walk through H&M (where Dr. B nearly had a panic attack--way too many people), and Zara (cut for Spaniards. Dr. B and I? Not Spaniards.) we stopped to get a sandwich, and ate in the park in front of a church nearby. It was hot, and the sun was brutal, so we agreed to head back to Benetton and pick up the pants that he liked. After the successful purchases were made (tan pants, jeans, and a pink/white stripe button down shirt), we stopped in a café for une bière. He was still (unbelievably) in shopping mode, so we hunted for a *Celio to pick up some new things (another button down shirt, short-sleeved, and two t-shirts).

"I know that this is a tough day for you," Dr. B said to me, as we headed back down toward the Boulevard Haussman. "Huh? What do you mean?" I asked.

"Shopping, and not looking at anything for yourself. I know you love to shop," he answered. We discussed the tax refund we were getting, and the payment for some consulting he had done recently. "It must be hard for you, in France," he said, "because the clothes are so beautiful, but so expensive, and all you feel you can afford is the really inexpensive and somewhat ill-fitting tops at H&M or Monoprix." At this point, I vowed not to pinch myself, because the happy daydream I seemed to be living was just too good to be true. "You should get yourself something special, that will always remind you of France, of Paris, and of being a beautiful Parisienne. Something really nice, that fits you really well, and that you love. I want you to, and I insist." Then, he set a budget. A budget for me that was about 400% higher than I would have set for myself.

We headed into Printemps, to look around and get an idea of what I might get. Dr. B waited while I scanned the women's clothing departments. I had an idea of what I would like, partly from some of the movies we've been watching recently (To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much), partly from the designer influences of the last few seasons (I love the full-skirted 1950's inspired designs, and the return to the classic Hitchcock look--a look that does not require Britney Spears abs circa 3 years ago), and partly from one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, An American in Paris (and I love the music! Did you know it takes 14 different "car horns" to play the piece?) Inspired by these and the A Dress A Day blog, I had a dress in mind, in black and white, with a full skirt, some sort of pattern, and one that I didn't have to "suck in" to look good wearing. I wanted short or no sleeves, and not too fancy, so I could wear it more often.

We hunted high and low, through haute couture and ready-to-wear, but couldn't quite find what we were looking for. Then, I saw it.

Well, almost. The dress was on a mannequin in the Caroll section of Printemps. The lines were perfect, the design was beautiful, the pattern was both printed and then embroidered, but the colors were just a bit off (beige and tan), and they didn't have my size. "If this was black and white, it would be perfect," I said, and chose several other dresses to try on. After a dressing-room goof (where I entered and used a room another lady was still using, but she had left the area and didn't leave her stuff, so I had no idea), I still hadn't found "the one". They either didn't quite fit right, didn't quite "work" with my shape, or felt scratchy to wear. We had nearly given up for the day.

Then, a security guard came by and said no one could leave for five minutes. Apparently, someone had fallen ill and the pompiers (paramedics) needed space to help the person and take her out of the store, so we continued to scan the racks while we waited.

Then I saw it.

The dress. The one on the mannequin, only in black and white. Not my size, but one bigger, that just might fit.

I tried it. It was perfect. I stepped out of the room to show Dr. B, and he said, "That's it." "Do you really think...?" "Yes, it just...pops. It looks great, and you look beautiful and so happy."

Although I haven't narrowed down the choices yet for our 10th anniversary dinner, I know what I am wearing. Une Américaine à Paris with the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world.

PS: I'll get a pic of me in it when I can. Currently I am in my jammies, with bed-head, so please be patient. You really don't want to see me like this, believe me.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How Rude!

Before arriving in France, I read all the books I could find about french politesse, not wanting to offend anyone with the forgotten "Bonjour!" or the accidental smile at an inappropriate time. This was a struggle for my Midwestern Upbringing, between the desire to not offend (for Norwegian-Americans this is one of the main tenets of our existence) and the natural habit to smile at people when they meet my eyes (which in France is considered rude or a come-on.) After a few weeks, I stopped caring quite so much if I bumped into people accidentally, because I noticed that they slammed into me all the time without a care in the world. The more I observed, the more I learned and soon, I began to "get" french politeness, and was Bonjouring and Au Revoiring with the best of them.

Then yesterday, at the grocery store, I was treated more rudely than I ever have been in Paris.

The line for the caisse was about five people long, and my basket was heavy due to the purchase of several different beverages. The surrounding lines were empty, with no one tending them, so I grabbed an extra order seperator (those little metal bars you put between your groceries and the person's ahead of you.) As she moved the belt toward her, the cashier picked up the metal bar, looked down to see another on the belt after the order, and despite the fact that there were three more people behind me, put the first order seperator under the cash register.

How RUDE! The older lady behind me looked around, bewildered, and proceeded to continue holding her groceries, waiting for the release of the only order seperator allowed on this woman's line.

As I came up to my turn in line, she ignored me, giving no eye contact, and not even a response to my "Bonjour, Madame." She rang up my order, pausing in the middle to have a conversation with another Champion worker, and rang it up. She turned toward me, not meeting my eyes, and said, "How are you gonna pay?" I indicated the bank card I had been holding since I walked past the stolen item detector in line and said, "Carte bancaire." She pushed the appropriate buttons, and I began to type in my personal code to authorize the payment.

When I was finished, I picked up my bags, and thanked her for the receipt she tossed in my direction. The older lady behind me, noticing that there were few plastic sacs left, said to our lovely checker, "Madame, there are not many bags, we need some more..."

The checker ignored her.

That was it. I had had it. She can be nasty to me, but this lady was someone's grandma! In my sharpest, most irritated tone, I said, "Madame! There are not enough sacs! She needs more sacs! AU REVOIR!!!!"

And finally, she snapped out of her stupor, and replied, "Au Revoir. Merci, Madame."

Politesse. It's the French/Midwestern Way.

Photo from M. B.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Coke?

I discovered this at the supermarket last night.

Not bad. Doesn't taste bloody at all. (Sango refers to the blood orange flavoring that has been added.) I think it's only available in Europe right now, though I doubt it will be released in America. (Somehow, I don't see a fruit with the word "blood" in the name becoming popular any time soon.)

Too bad, though--it's pretty good stuff. I like it much better than the Diet Coke with Lemon. (I am pretty sure they got their lemon flavoring from Pledge.)


Monday, June 05, 2006


2 pale yellow towels + 1 red towel= 2 peach towels + 1 red towel.

At least they came out pretty even. Let's just pretend I meant them to look like that, OK?



Dr. B and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, and we're looking for someplace special for a romantic meal. We can look in the guides, and could do the things that have already been done (but frankly, Tom Cruise's footsteps are not ones I'd like to follow), but we'd like something special, and different.

And cheap.

Well, at least not too expensive. Do you have any ideas? A special hideaway? A small day trip within reach of the trains from Paris? A romantic petit bistrot?

Please, comment away!


Tips for Tourists in Paris: Part 5

Souvenirs and Shopping

Shopping in Paris can be both fun and frightening. Chances are you will want something to remember your trip by, and France offers lots of things to buy--but they all have a price attached! Taxes are high here, and are included in the price you see (not added to the bill like US sales tax.) This makes many things more expensive than you might expect, so be warned ahead of time.

Visa is accepted in France, but some other cards are not. Cash is always welcome, of course. Paris is full of souvenir stands, and if that's your thing make sure you look around a bit for a good deal and exactly what you want. Avoid buying from people who don't have their own stand--they will sell cheap junk (like plastic flashing Eiffel Towers) for too much.

Above all, look for something that will make you happy, that you can enjoy for a long time. It's better to spend a little more on one item that will please you for years to come than to buy a bunch of cheap junk that will get tossed out. If your souvenir is a Longchamp bag, or a pair of beautiful earrings that will always remind you of the city of Light, that's what's important! After all, Souvenir is the French word for "Remember"!

Here are some items that may be good candidates for a spot in your suitcase:

    *scarves inexpensive or not (from 1 euro to several hundred), beautiful, available everywhere and pack well. Get one for Mom or Grandma!

    *food you can't take cheese, but you can take home scrumptious chocolates, bottles of wine, things in jars or sealed packages, etc. Make sure you check with US customs first, but bring home a taste of France if you can!

    *books There are many books about the sites of Paris, available in all languages, at the monuments and museums.

    *postcards a good substitute for pictures if it's cloudy or rainy when you visit.

    *cookbooks my favorite! Try a few french recipes at home!

    *posters or old maps to frame My dad and Pam frame an old (or old-style) map after every trip--very classy!

    *perfume French perfume is different, even if it's the same brand (US Chanel is made in America.) French perfume is made with potato alcohol, which lasts longer and has a slightly different scent. This can make a great gift!

    *Music purchase some typical French music, or something new! Serge Gainsbourg is the classic, but newer things by Emilie Simon or Carla Bruni are wonderful, and you will be able to enjoy them for years.(Yes, Bruni is Italian, but her french is perfect, her album is one of my all-time favorites, and the French love her.) Don't get DVD's unless you have a player that reads all zones--this is zone 2, the US is zone 1.

    *Fashion Fashion is very important to the French, and you will find things to suit every taste. If you see something unique, that you love, in a window--go ahead and take a chance! Won't it be fun to tell people, "oh, yes, I bought this in Paris!" A fun thing to do if you have time is to head to a consignment store (dépot-vente) and buy a used designer item for much less. Reciproque has a whole store full of Hermès scarves, for less than half the retail value!

No matter what, have fun! It's your trip--make it what you want it to be.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your visit to Paris.

À bientôt!


Tips for Tourists in Paris: Part 4

If you are anything like me, you don't like to waste money. (Who does?) But, France and especially Paris are expensive places to visit. Here are a few tips that will help you to save a euro or two, but be warned--you'll spend more than you want to anyway. C'est la vie! (That's life!)

Transportation (As I discussed before)
    Get the Carte Orange Hébedomaire, the weekly pass for the bus, metro and RER in zones 1-2. This is a great value, and will save lots of shoe leather and Advil, as well!

    Ask for the shuttle from the hotel to and from the airport. Less hassle, and usually a better deal.

    Avoid taking taxis in town. They are always more expensive, and the public transport system is excellent. If you do need one, you can only get on at a Taxi Stand. You can't just hail them. They will ignore you.

    Skip the hotel breakfast. It's likely 7-10 euros for bread or a croissant, butter, jam, and coffee. You can get these things at local bakeries and grocery stores for very little, and can even buy instant coffee you can make yourself. A coffee bought at a café is cheapest if you stand at the bar. They charge more if you sit, or if you sit outside. Yes, it is legal to do this!

    Head to a grocery store and pick up a few things to keep in your room. Minibars are super pricey, but you can get your own stuff much cheaper. Franprix, Casino, Champion, Ed, and Monoprix are some names of grocery store chains. Mineral water is super cheap in France, if bought at a supermarket. Grab some butter, jam, maybe some yogurt, snacks, beverages--you'll be glad you did when you are exhausted and hungry and don't want to face going out! Bakeries are plentiful, and you can get a baguette for about a euro. (You can even buy a 1/2 baguette, known as a 'demi' if you want.)

    You can find a bottle of wine for 2-5 euro, and it won't totally stink. Seriously! Wine is much less expensive here. Nicholas is a local chain that has a good selection, and you can find it at other local "caves" (Cahv--wine stores) or in your supermarket. They don't list by type of grape as often as American wines do, so be aware of this (wine buying can be confusing!) However, I've found that looking for some sort of award sticker usually will give me a decent bottle.

    Picnic! Parks are plentiful, and a rotisserie chicken can be found at most butcher shops. Pick up a baguette, some wine, maybe some fresh fruit and you have dinner AND entertainment for less.

    Sit! Stay! Restaurants and cafés consider any purchase the "rent" to sit at a table as long as you want. You drink your coffee, and you can sit there for 2 hours on one little dinky empty cup of espresso. This is not rude. People watch! Enjoy! The servers probably won't bug you, either. (This is another way of saying they tend to be slow.) A restaurant assumes that you will be sitting there for the rest of the night, and won't try to rush you out. Tips are included in the price, but you can leave a very small amount as an extra "Thanks for putting up with me" tip. Don't leave 15%--there's no need. Waiters are paid a decent wage here. However, they appreciate a few extra euros in their pocket at the end of the night.

    [Note*** PLEASE try to eat some local cuisine while you're here--you didn't fly this far to go to McDonald's and Subway. A croque-monsieur is a typical Parisian café food that is usually acceptable by even the most picky American eaters (ham and cheese sandwich, toasted and eaten with a fork). I like to say that if I don't like what I'm served, I'm not going to die--I've got enough "extra padding"!]

    Walk away from touristy areas. The cafés by Notre Dame charge more than twice as much for the same food as the ones two blocks away do, PLUS they will charge you to go to the bathroom, and the waiters tend to be more grumpy. A few steps will save you money and stress.

    Menu or Formule is a fixed-price meal of 2-5 courses, and is usually the best deal. Courses are not huge, so you will be satisfied but not over-stuffed. They will not have a 'doggy bag', so don't even ask. It's just not done here (if they do bring you one, thank them profusely. They are being really nice!) Portions here tend to be reasonable (though in some places this is changing), and sharing meals is uncommon.

    Butcher, baker, cheese maker Portions: if you want chicken (or whatever) for two, tell them that. They know portion sizes very well, and it's easier than you trying to figure out how many grams or kilos to order. (A kilo is over 2 pounds, so be careful when agreeing to it!)

Street Food Sometimes you won't want to take the time to sit for a meal (which is not the in-and-out affair it is in the US.) When this happens, street food can be great.

    Sandwiches are often premade, and may not look too appetizing, but will probably taste fine. I've noticed the bread tastes good and is fresh and moist, the chicken has never been dry, and they are filling and cheap. You will see LOTS of ham in Paris. My favorite is rillettes with cornichons (a meat paste that tastes like meatloaf to me with pickles). Chicken is especially good here because they don't breed big-breasted, super-dry chickens. They don't put mayo on the sandwiches, unless you ask (I don't, so I am not even positive if they have it or not.)

    Crêpes are thin pancakes that are filled with a variety of hot toppings. A ham, cheese and mushroom crêpe may cost only 3 or 4 euros, but will fill me up and give me energy for lots more walking and sight-seeing. Avoid the "turkey ham" [jambon de dinde]--it's really scary here! They put in LOTS of cheese, so if you don't want much, let them know before they start. The best crêpe places do not have a stack sitting ready-made; they make them from scratch with a dipper of batter spread on the hot griddle, and smoothed with a little tool. A special treat is "nutella/banane"--a crêpe filled with nutella (hazlenut and chocolate spread) and sliced banana. Mmmm...

    Grèques (pronounced "grek") You'll see lots of these around--they are places that serve Greek/Turkish/Kurdish food, and it is generally inexpensive and filling. Common are "Doner" sandwiches, which is poultry sliced off a large rotisserie and served in a pita with tomato, lettuce and your choice of sauce. Usually served with french fries, this can be a good meal for not too much money. I love the Kofta, which is spiced ground meat on a skewer, grilled (again with the tastes like meatloaf!)

Street Markets
    Street markets exist all over Paris, every day of the week. You can look here for names, addresses and schedules, but there should be some in your area. (Again, ask the hotel desk clerk.) This can be a great place to get bread, cheese, meat, fish and produce, as well as just about anything else you could possibly need (you can buy a bra there if you want!) If you go at closing time, they will give you lots of fruit and vegetables for very little (trying to get rid of it), but the prices are generally better than the supermarket on produce at any time of day. This is also a great spot to take pictures--think of how great they would look framed and hanging in your kitchen!

See Part 5 for Souvenirs and Shopping.


Tips for Tourists in Paris: Part 3

Language and Politeness

You are now in France. Not America or England. People here speak French and are very proud of their wonderful culture and language. Imagine if you were in their situation: how would you like it if someone came up to you and just assumed you spoke fluent French in America?

A few polite words will get you a lot further, and the effort to try makes a HUGE difference to them. If you are too embarassed to say one or two words, they won't assume it is your hang up--they will consider you rude and insulting. They'd rather hear you butcher a "merci" than assume that they will cater to you, even though they likely speak some English, and quite possibly one or two other languages as well. Even if your accent is terrible, it's the effort that counts.

Think of it this way: by speaking a few words of French, you are showing them that people from your country are polite, care about others' feelings, are worldly, and considerate. Come on, represent us well!

Here's a few words that should help:

    Merci. (mare- see) This means thank you. Say it often.

    Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame. (Bone- joor Miss-yuh/ Ma Dam [not MA-dum]) ALWAYS start with this. Even if all you are doing is asking for the bathroom or simply walking in the door. It is considered very, very rude to not say Bonjour.

    Les Toilettes? (Lay Twa let) To be pointed to the bathroom. Don't say the "s".

    Au Revoir. (oh ri-vwa) Goodbye. Always say this, too, even if you don't buy something in the shop. Again, it's another thing they consider extremely rude. They don't care as much if you don't purchase something, but if you don't say "Au Revoir" it's almost like a slap in the face to them.

    L'addition. (Lad is see ohn) To get the check at a restaurant, say this. They don't just bring it, like they will in America, unless you are having just a drink at a café, when they usually bring it along with your drinks.

    Parlez-vous anglais? (Par-lay voo on glay?) Do you speak English? They will probably answer, "A leetle beet!" and hold up two fingers like they are showing a small amount. My dad thought this was hilarious--everyone he asked did the exact same thing!

    Je ne parle pas français. (zhuh nuh parl pah fran say.) I don't speak french. (They'll probably figure it out from your bewildered look, but it's polite to know how to say it.)

    Pardon. Excuse me. To be used when you bump someone.

    Désolé. (Day zo lay.) Sorry!

Museum Tips

Paris is full of wonderful museums, and no trip would be complete without visiting some of them. Don't plan on seeing everything, unless you have a death wish (there's just too much!) Plan accordingly, with stops for snacks, lunch, etc., and try to pace yourself. Too long spent at any museum is just tiring, and (as my Dad, who loves museums, said,) "you'll get museumed out." A few hours, followed by lunch and then a different activity, will be much easier to swallow.

Here's some other things that can help you.

    Paris Museum Pass These can be a good deal if you are planning to do lots and lots of museums in a few days. I don't like to do this (see the above comment by my dad), so to me it's not worth the cost, but you'll have to decide for yourself. They do get you past the lines, though, which helps.

    If you can, buy your museum tickets ahead of time online, at FNAC (sort of the french version of Barnes and Noble), at the train guichet, or ask your hotel where you can get them. The lines can be really, really long.

    Use the bathroom when you see it. You may not see one again for a while. Bathrooms are not as plentiful or well-placed as they are in America. The sewer system was not put in the city of Paris until 1858, though the majority of buildings in the tourist areas predate that time by hundreds of years. Toilettes are often sous-sol, or underground, down a narrow winding staircase. Unisex bathrooms are common, and unisex sink areas are to be expected. Stalls will usually have a full door, so no one will peek under!

See Part 4 for Money Saving Tips for the City of Light!


Tips for Tourists in Paris: Part 2

You're here! You've officially arrived in Paris.

At the Hotel

French hotels are generally very pleasant places to stay. The staff will work hard to help you, and most staff will speak some English (though maybe not the maids, but the front desk should.) Hotels are different here, though, so it helps to know a few things.

    Rooms are smaller. MUCH smaller. Paris is the geographic size of Fargo, ND, with the population density of 5 TIMES that of New York City. Space is extremely precious here. (If you wanted to buy a tiny one-bedroom apartment, you could pay as much as a half million euros for it [600,000 USD]. Seriously.) The hotel is not trying to rip you off with a small room; this is just the way it is.

    Light switches are often outside the room. Not for your bedroom area, but for the bathroom. I think it's stupid (what if someone turned the lights off when you were, um, indisposed?), but that's where they are.

    The hotel may offer a breakfast, but it is not an American one--their breakfast is tartines et café, meaning rolls and bread with butter and jam, and a tiny cup of espresso. If you can't handle espresso, ask for either "café Américain" (they will just dilute it with hot water) or "café crème" or "café au lait" (diluted with hot milk.) There likely won't be a coffee maker in your room.

    If they have a hair dryer, I'd suggest using theirs. The higher voltage is very hard on American appliances (my friend had her curling iron literally melt when she was in Spain.)

    They may ask you to leave the room key at the desk when you go out. This is for your protection, but can be a little unnerving. Just tell them the name and room number when you get back, and you'll have your key. This doesn't mean they are going to steal your stuff (they are professionals, after all) but this will avoid lost or stolen keys.

    If you need anything (extra blankets, pillows, forgot your razor), just ask. They want to make your stay pleasant--it's their job!

Getting Around

    Transportation in Paris is great. The Métro, RER (fast train) and Bus all run on the same tickets, and can get you anywhere you want to go very easily and quickly. Have a map with you at all times (the one from Galeries Lafayette given as free in the hotel is a good one.) Sometimes, taking the RER or bus is easier and faster than the Metro (they were designed to fill in the gaps where the metro failed) so check those as well when planning your trip. Asking your hotel staff can help, too (they live here, after all.) You may think that walking all the time will be the best, but you'll probably tire out after a bit, and the metro and bus and RER will be there for you when you need them! They run from early morning until after midnight.

      Tickets: you can buy individual tickets (1.40 right now), a Carnet (10-pack, for 11 euros) or what's known as a "Carte Orange", which is like an unlimited pass. The Carte Orange HEBEDOMAIRE is the weekly one. It starts Monday and goes through Sunday, and if you use it 3 or more days you will likely get your money's worth. It costs about 15 euros. This is the best value, because it is unlimited, so you are not paying a euro or more every trip you take. They also sell a "Paris Visite" pass, but I've found that it's kind of a rip off, if you are mostly staying in Paris proper. If you are going out to some of the other monuments and using public transport to get to CDG airport, then it may be worth it for you. You can buy these at the "Guichet" booth inside the entrance of most metro stations. If it says something about "munis de billets" on a sign over the entrance, there won't be a guichet at that door. Find another entrance.

      Riding: the metro and train lines run all over Paris, and the direction is told by the name of the last stop on that line. For example, line 5 runs from Place d'Italie to Bobigny. If I want to go toward the north, I head to the side that reads Bobigny. There are lots of signs when you get in directing you to which platform you need, and it will list all of the stops on the line, so you can be sure that the one you need is there. Once you're in the Metro, you're in, so if you make a mistake, you can just get off and go to the other side and get back on. This also works for transfers--you don't need a new ticket to transfer from one line to another.

      Getting On and Off: The doors only open automatically on line 1 and 14, so on the others you'll need to push the button or lift the lever. If it's packed, don't sit on the fold down seats, and keep your stuff and arms and legs close to you. Hold on to the pole--you can get hurt if they stop fast (which they do.)

      You'll hear that the french don't smile. This isn't true, they do. But just like in any big city in America, if you smile all the time people will think you are either stupid or really naïve and you will be more of a target for pickpockets. If you laugh or smile to someone who doesn't know you, they will probably assume you are making fun of them, especially if you can't reassure them in perfect Parisian French. You know you're not, but they don't. Their culture is different, and even though you mean no harm, they won't necessarily understand. Smile and laugh with your companions, fine, but don't expect to chat up your neighbor on the train.

      Avoid touching your face after being in the train/bus. I am convinced that this is a breeding ground for illness. Wash your hands ASAP!

      Watch for pickpockets on the train and platforms, and especially at tourist spots (they LOVE the churches!) Don't bring everything with you, and leave your passport in the hotel safe if you can. Men who can keep their money in a front, inside jacket pocket will be less likely to be picked. Women's purses worn in front of the body with all zippers closed are more secure. Be aware. In front of Sacré Coeur, someone will probably try to tie a string around your wrist, and then make you pay 5 euros for it. Just say "Non, merci." and walk quickly away. Even if you say it in English, they'll understand.

      Sortie is the word for Exit. There should be some maps of the area posted near the exits, so you can get your bearings.

      If you go to Versailles, you have to have a ticket that goes out to that zone (zone 4), and returns. Buy it at the guichet for the RER, and make sure you say "Bonjour" and "Do you speak English?" before you begin. The clerks can be helpful, but deserve to be treated with respect. The person at the desk will tell you which train to take, if you ask. If they don't tell you, ASK. The French are not known for offering lots of information before you request it--you often have to ask them exactly the right question to get the answer you need. Also (this is really important) you can save 90+ minutes waiting in line by buying your palace tickets with your train tickets at the guichet. Well worth the extra few minutes speaking to the clerk!

See Part 3 for Language, Politeness, and Museum tips.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tips for Tourists in Paris: Part 1

After many visits from family and friends, I've found myself being hit up for information, as well as offering it freely on the streets to tourists I meet. I don't know about you, but getting ripped off is not my idea of a good time, so I've compiled a few tips that will help you to really enjoy your Parisian vacation (and to feel like you've got the inside story!) You'll find more info on lots of other sites, but these are the things that have been important to the people who've been here to visit me, so I thought I'd share. If you're coming to Paris for the first time or for the fiftieth, have fun!


    Pack as light as you can, planning the amount of toiletries you'll need so you can toss the leftovers and leave room for souvenirs. (Shampoo, etc. are much more expensive here, so bring from home!) Try to plan outfits that will mix and match to save space. (I stick to a few colors.) Washing things out in the sink and hanging to dry is an option you should consider. I did an 11-day Europe trip with a carry-on size bag and was so happy I did.

    Bring layers. Paris can be hot on one street, and you walk around the corner to a big wind-tunnel of a boulevard and you are cold. A scarf is a necessity (not just for fashion, you know!) as well as a light jacket, and other layers. I like to layer light items like cotton tops, light sweaters, etc. Even if you think you won't need them, pack at least one pair of jeans (this Spring has been cold!) You can always strip off, but when you're cold, you're cold.

    Plan to fit in. The French are known for dressing a certain way. They aren't dressed to the 9's 24/7, but they do pay attention to their appearance at all times. You will likely not see the same fashion things you do in the US (or wherever you live.) The french rarely wear gym clothes (sweat shirts, shorts, white tennis shoes, baseball caps). You will mostly see them in casual but neat clothing, leather or fashionable (but comfortable) shoes, and not-too-revealing items. The only time I've seen a young girl wearing the typical American college/Britney Spears combination of super low pants with the underwear hanging out, a spaghetti-strap top with the bra showing, the belly exposed and flip flops is when I came across some American tourists.

    You may think, "I'm American and I don't care what they say! If I want to wear my sweatshirt, cargo shorts, baseball cap and white tennis shoes, By Gum, I will!" but when you get here, you may feel differently. It's best to have a back up plan, because you will enjoy your vacation much more if you feel comfortable in your own skin. My stepmom laughed at me when I told her this, but when she saw some American tourists here who were dressed like that and how they stuck out (and how uncomfortable they seemed), she understood why I warned her. (Not that they would ever dress that way, but many Americans do when travelling.)

      *small umbrella (it can rain on one block, and be sunny on the next)
      *zipped carrying bag big enough to hold items you'll need and comfortable to carry/wear, but not too big so it's heavy (watch for pickpockets)
      *sunscreen (the bricks and stone here reflect a very bright, white light)
      *electric converter (but be prepared if it doesn't work. Pam's didn't work for her hair straightener thing, so she did the wash-n-wear thing for 2 weeks. The voltage here is more than twice as high as American electricity.)
      *a book (some nights you'll be tired, and want to spend some time vegging in your room. English books and magazines are expensive here.)
      *Camera charge cord, possibly another card for pictures (digital cameras)
      *Any medecines you might need. (Pharmacies are great here, but you won't be familiar with the medecations--the only one I knew was Advil Cold, which you can get now, though it's called "Anadvil Rhume". For your own comfort and peace of mind, it is best to carry it with you.)

The Flight

Flying through the night is often the way to go, but it can make it hard once you arrive. Paris is 6 hours ahead of the East Coast of the US (and add an hour for every time zone thereafter) so you may struggle to adjust. Some things that can help:

    Get ready for 'bed' on the plane. Do your usual teeth brush/ contacts out/ face wash routine, and pack something comfy, like squooshy socks. Try to snag a blanket and pillow early--they go fast.

    If you can sleep, even for a few hours, it will help with the jet lag. An eye cover can be wonderful for this, as well as ear plugs. I also take melatonin, which helps me to sleep without the groggy, gritty after-effects of some other sleep aids.

    Drink water. Planes are very dehydrating, and the better you feel, the better you will feel upon arriving. Alcohol and caffeine will dry you out even more, and the sugar in juices can be hard to deal with on a long flight. Eat lightly, but do eat. The sooner you convince your body of the new time schedule, the less difficult the time change will be. Food helps.


    Be prepared to be patient. Have your passport handy, but don't expect things to go at an American pace. They won't. And no matter how mad you get or how stupid you think it is, it won't change. (Trust me, I know.) There is even a verb in French for this, "patienter= the act of being patient". Things take a LOT longer to do here, in general.

    If you are taking the train into Paris, make sure you get a ticket for as far as you need to go. Ask specifically, and show them the address of the hotel. It's terrible to get where you are and not be able to exit! (This does happen, and has happened to me. I had a man help me climb over a turnstile because I couldn't get out and there was nowhere to buy the rest of the fare behind the turnstile.)

    If you are taking a cab, have the name of your hotel, street address, nearest Metro station, arrondissement, and a map printed out for the cabbie, because chances are the cab driver will not speak English. There are so many streets in Paris, and hundreds of hotels--err on the side of safety. You'll think "Oh, he'll know" but a misplaced apostrophe, a street that begins with an "l" but not used as the article--these things can throw it off and make your ride from the airport long. It will feel like they are taking you on a wild goose chase, but they are probably not. Paris is twisty turny and there are no direct routes anywhere. That's just the way it is. Be prepared to pay 75-100 euros (in cash) for the cab. They don't take cards OR American money. Don't even try paying with USD--they will just get ticked off. (Would you accept euros in the US?) You can get cash at the airport, from an ATM (Retrait). It might be best to ask for a hotel shuttle before you leave the US. If they have one, it's usually a better value and you know for sure the driver knows where to go.

    Added by kyliemac, "you can book a shuttle from the airport online from the states & they will charge your credit card (so no worries about euros and no tip needed!) - they seem to run from 24€ - 30€, door-to-door service from the airport to your hotel. it's very convenient, as you avoid all kinds of hassles (like stairs with your suitcases). you can google "airport shuttle paris" and come up with a bunch of options. it's less expensive than having someone come meet you at the airport... " (Thanks, K!)

    KNOW YOUR PIN NUMBER. In France, there are no fees for the ATM's and their exchange rate is the best, because it's up to the minute via computer. "Changes" charge a fee, and they may have older data. You can find ATM's everywhere (they are called "Retraits") and you can use them. Usually, they will give you a choice to read in English. They will suck your card in, but you won't get any money until your card is removed, so don't panic. But know your PIN. Don't write it down on your card or on your person, but make sure you know it. (My dad didn't, and it was definitely an issue.) The button in green marked "Validation" is the enter button, the red "Cancel" is, well, Cancel.

See Part 2 for "Beyond the Airport".


Friday, June 02, 2006

Not Fair!

Location: Paris, France

Date: June 2, 2006

Temperature: 8C / 47F

Cute new summer skirts and summer sandals? Just sitting there in my closet taunting me.


Wool sweater it is.