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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cupcakes in Paris: What a Fad

Fad or fade in French (same pronunciation). Actually that word means boring in French, but the word in French that typically fits into our American concept would be la mode or une tendance.  So what is up with all this tendance around the word cupcake?

Recently I was watching a reportage on M6 discussing the explosion of American bakeries around Paris.  I decided to do a bit of investigation and try to list out some of these cupcake houses by arrondisement, but then got carried into a whole new domain.

le cupcake
According to the French a cupcake is:

  • A masculine noun (meaning starts with "le" or "un")
  • Une tendance du moment (the current fad)
  • Comes from any Anglo-Saxon country, but usually America
  • Called "Fairy Cakes" in Britain (who knew?)
  • Called "cup cakes" due to the fact we use a "cup measure" to make them and they are the size of a tasse
  • Popular for tea parties, weddings, birthdays, baptisms and birthdays
  • An art in pastry-making that allows for ANY kind of cupcake and flavor (toujours sucré)
According to Americans, a cupcake is:
  • Traced back to 1796
  • Small individual cakes designed for one person
  • Becoming more a trend as years go on
Now, I am used to the whole cupcake frenzy, when I was working at the Children's Museum in Portland we had lots of fancy fundraising events, the start was usually Cupcake Jones, a luxury cupcakery that sells 12 of little mini fancy cakes at 16.50$ a pop.

That whole upscale pricing has caught onto the explosion of Cupcake shops in Paris.  It's become such a fad that Parisiens are even dishing out piles of cash for the tools and classes.

Fait Maison, les Kits Cupcakes
For example, Made in Cupcake offers cupcake making kits at a price of 13€.  Some searches can show kits selling at even higher prices, such as the Sibo Sibon kits selling at 27€ for the cupcake papers, coloring kit and some sprinkles... things I used to buy at the dollar store in the States.
Kit Cupcake, 27€ Sibo Sibon
The most shocking seems to be the ateliers created by pastry makers in Paris to teach the common house wife, girlfriend, loving boyfriend or die-hard Ameriphile how to create little masterful cupcakes.  L'Atelier des Gateâux charges about 45€ for a cupcake making course, and in the end you can take home a little box of your masterful creations... about 7 cupcakes designed and made by yourself.

Thanksgiving Store: Chocolate Kit, 5€
Gone are the days when I bought a box of quick-mix, threw in some veggie oil, water and eggs and scooped the mixture into mini cake pans.. this is a whole new level of fancy that I never even knew existed.  

Some of my favorite flavors I've discovered (from Scarlett's Bakery):
  • Tiramisu: Coffee flavored, cream cheese topping
  • Pistache: Pistachio flavored, cream cheese topping
  • Citron Meringué: Vanilla bean base, meringue topping
  • Red Velvet:  Red velvet cake base, cream cheese frosting
Now onto some addresses:

23 Rue Rambuteau, 75004 Paris
Established in 1988, several great reviews

Synie's Cupcakes
23 Rue de l'Abbé Grégoire, 75006 Paris
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 8pm

Cupcakes and co
16 Rue des Tournelles, 75004 Paris
3,50€ a cupcake, open Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 7pm

Miss Cupcake
22 rue la Vieuville, 75018 Paris
4€ a cupcake, considered pretty expensive and reviews not too hot

L'Atelier des Gâteaux
23 Rue de l'Abbé Grégoire, 75006 Paris
Open odd hours, 2:30 to 6:30pm Thursday through Saturday, 3,50€ a cupcake

154 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris
Open every day 11:30 to 8:30pm

Sugarplum Cake Shop
68 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 Paris
Great American café feel, unlimited drip coffee and CARROT CAKE

Can you think of any others...?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Everyone's Sick in Paris: la Pharmacie et le Medecin

It started about three weeks ago, I was still packing up from Lyon to move to Paris and I felt I had an uncomfortable fever, slight cough and a stuffy nose.

Fast forward three weeks later and I'm now getting over one of the most annoying colds that I've ever had.  It was about a week and a half ago that I started coughing, it was a raspy and productive cough.

See but Sasha from two years ago wouldn't have known how to handle such a situation.  In the States I'd be zipping down to the local Kaiser clinic and getting a 10 dollar check-up.  In France, there are normally a few ways to handle it, but the first is always a visit to the Pharmacy.. which is exactly what I decided to do on Monday evening after I was coughing so hard during a business meeting I thought okay, this is just ridiculous.

Pharmacy Signs from here
Pharmacies in France can be found in every farm, city, village and large tourist areas.  You can tell from about  a mile away, there is often a neon green cross symbol floating above a shop that states, clearly, Pharmacie.  Of course, it should be noted that even though there are Pharmacies on every street corner, not every Pharmacie has the same pricing.  In fact, each one is owned and managed by a different pharmaciste, and some like to hike prices upwards of 120% of average price.

Some medications are completely regulated by the French government, disallowing the practice, called les medicaments génériques or generic drugs.  Often a drug has a générique counterpart which reduces the cost by quite a bit.

Take for example birth control, while there are the various methods, la pillule rests the most common form.  For a price of 5€ a box (3 month supply) and 60% reimboursable if prescribed by a doctor, that's an average of .60 cents a month for protection!

So when getting sick, the norm is to pass by the Pharmacie before going to a medécin.  On Monday I swung by my local pharmacy (243 rue vaugirard 75015), and explained my symptoms.

Me: Bonjour messieur.
Pharmacist: Bonjour madamoiselle (still not sure when I will hit the "madame" status, but that's for a whole nother post)
Me: Je voudrais savoir si vous auriez quelques choses pour une toux grasse, et un nez tout bouché.
Pharmacist: Bien sûr, (he goes and shuffles around pulling various pills and bottles) ceci est très efficace, prennez 3 fois par jour.

6€ later and I had a small bag full of medicine.  Just for future reference, "un toux grasse" means basically a cough that's productive, and a "un nez tout bouché" means a stuffy nose.

Now if it gets worse, the best option is to hit up a medecin generaliste by looking up a local name.  My personal doctor is M. Missonnier at 81 bis Rue Blomet 75015, totally a great doctor... in fact now he's my medecin traitant.

Doesn't matter which one you choose really.  Each time you go to the doctor, if you don't have a Carte Vitale (which often exchange students don't) it's important to ask for a feuille de soins, basically a sheet that will enable you to receive a reimboursement.  Same for the prescribed medication, at the pharmacy as for a feuille de soins and they'll type up the price.  Send this in to your chosen insurance and presto! A check for a percentage.

The doctor can also give a certificat médicale if you are sick, allowing for days off from work or school with no penalties, and often with pay.

If you want the doctor you visited to be your main doctor, ask for a feuille de medecin traitant and then send into your chosen insurance or mutuel.

All-in-all la bronchite, le rhume and all these lovely sicknesses are prevalent in the large cities in Paris.  Sort of normal considering the recent the sudden drop of temperatures from the last few weeks and the lack of local hygene (métros).  If you live in Lyon or in Paris, remember to:

  1. Wash or disinfect your hands after every metro ride
  2. Don't wander out in the cold if you're already a bit sick
  3. If you are sick, don't go out and spread it around
And of course, some fun and useful sick terms:
  • Je tousse (I am coughing)
  • Je suis malade (I am sick)
  • C'est contagieux (it's contagious)
  • Une allergie (an allergy)
  • Je dois moucher (I need to blow my nose)
  • Un mouchoir (a tissue, usually a Kleenex)
  • J'ai de la fièvre (I have a fever)
  • J'ai une mal à la tête (I have a head-ache)
    • au ventre (stomache-ache)
    • à la gorge (sore throat)
    • aux yeux (sore eyes)
    • au nez (hurting nose)
    • etc
Soignez-vous and try not to catch the epidemie de maladie in Paris!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Life as a Stagiaire in Paris

So since I've finished the first part of my Master's degree (all the courses part) it has now begun the official "stage" part, or internship for Anglophones.

Being a Stagiaire in France is much like being an intern in America- long hours, low pay, brain and back breaking work... except I have been lucky enough to be accepted for an Intern at the AmCham.  Even though the pay is still the minimum required by France (436,05€ a month), I have the possibility to meet and network for my job hunt coming up in October of this year.

So what's it like?  Well I'm sure every internship is different, according to the sector, mine is a development and membership focused internship.  Basically I have to meet important people, do some member retention, fundraising challenges.. every day is a little different but always interested and down my path.

Of course, being a Stagiaire I am on the "stagiaire diet", meaning because I can pretty much only afford my rent and groceries, eating out is not an option nor a luxury.. so I end up eating:

My poor intern lunch, 1,50€
Which is all right, I normally am so busy leaving for an hour to eat at a fancy place wouldn't be really possible.

Stage Culture
Because Universités in France are so intense, most students don't end up working during school sessions.  In the States I pulled a full-time job in order to pay for rent and food, but in France it's impossible.  Believe me, I tried, last year when I started the program I was working 20 hours a week, it was impossible.  School is about studying, intensive and repetitive classes, unclear professors... because the culture is not one that provides "books", the information is pulled from going to the classes themselves.

Thus, students tend to pick up summer jobs to get some pocket money- and then in their 4th and 5th year rely on internships to get professional experience.  That is a big problem as well, since most jobs after University have a paradox (you need experience to work, but you need to work for experience), so many French graduates work a few years in terrible positions in order to build the experience.

"Ouais, je n'y resterai pas, j'y quitterai dans quelques années après je ramasse suffisamment d'éxperience..."

Now for those of you who aren't from the expensive schools that will hold your hand and find you an internship, here are some sources of internships, I'm not sure how it works overseas, but through a French université it is required to be paid if it's more than 3 months.  Also, internship cannot be a direct copy of a salaried position (meaning interns can't be receptionists).

Here are some sources:
http://www.directetudiant.com/theme/stage - Stage source, in French
http://www.stage.fr/page/accueil.aspx - Stage offers, in French
http://www.frenchamericancenter.com/english/internship.asp - American Internship resource, in English

One Last Thing...
Even though I hear about a lot of Americans hopping planes and installing themselves in Paris because they believe that it's so "international" French isn't obligatory.. it is.  Every position you will be in will expect a level of French.  I've seen many American wives (usually the ones that end up dragged over) stuck because they can't find work.  Some of them don't need work, their husbands tend to make enough, but they feel useless.  (Like Julia Child says, "All these wives, they do NOTHING here, it's terrible") So if you find yourself in this position, enroll IMMEDIATELY in French classes.  Learn the language or else your career won't advance.


Friday, February 10, 2012

81 Rue de Loo

Alright, I am getting way behind on my blogging... so much for my New Year's Resolution!  I think I'll just have to spend my free Friday's prepping up some hot stuff to discuss... especially since my recent move to Pah-ree!

So, as a super die-hard, probably born in the wrong time period FAN of Julia Child, I was just ravie to have #1 on my "To Do in Pah-ree" list "Visit Julia Child's 81 Rue de Loo Apartment Building".

Well, because my hours are usually between 9am to 6pm Mon-Thurs, and Bri isn't free until 7pm on Fridays; that leaves us the weekends to run errands, visit, enjoy a bit and discover Pah-ree.

Thus the reason we found ourselves at a little Café in the 8ème plotting our mission to see the infamous 81 rue de Loo.

First off, Pah-ree is amazing.  I keep finding these incredible little pockets of America and cultures popping up all over different areas of the city.  I have discovered that the 8th Arrondissement is sort of evolving into an American sub-culture.

Take for example the whole onset of Cupcakes in Paris; I remember cupcakes were big when I left the States- all the big fund raising events would have the classy Cupcake Jones; and now Paris has caught the drift.  A search for these American delights leads us to many American cafés located, none other than, the 8ème.

Which is how we found ourselves in the Sugar Plum Café, located at 68 rue Cardinal Lemoine.. yup... 8ème.
My horribly shot photo of the barista at Sugar Plum Café
As soon as we entered the shop my ears were buzzing... something wasn't right.. everyone was speaking in.. ENGLISH!  All the menu- English!  All the people spattered about- English!  Amazing experience that I hadn't had in over a year and a half.. so of course I did the first thing I could think of.  I ordered a slice of good ol' American style Carrot Cake.

Cake 4€, bottomless crap coffee 2€
And did I chow down?  I forgot how much I loved carrot cake until I was downing fork after forkful of the stuff.  Bri ordered some weird chocolate thing.. was a bit dry- but his Valrhona Hot Chocolate? To die for.

After I was all fattened up and American-ed out, I decided it was time to go see Mrs. Child.  A quick métro ride later we found ourselves in the Métro leading up to Julia's street.. I imagined her taking the métro everywhere.. she had walked where I was walking. Her and Paul had strolled where WE were strolling.
Métro Roo de Loo
I was almost beside myself with excitement!

As we climbed up onto the street I started feeling like I did when I visited her exhibit in the Smithsonian, excitement... sadness (wishing she was still around and that she'd wanna meet me.  She'd like me, I'm no Julie Powell!)
On the corner, why was it TAGGED?
And then, of course, I got to my destination.  Ladies, gentlemen, die-hard fans of Julia Child, I present to you 81 Rue de Loo, her residence during 10 years when she begun The Book in France:

81 Rue de Loo
It was amazing.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Life in the 15th

The last day in any city tends to be a bittersweet experience.  I'm no stranger to saying good bye as I've lived in several different cities.  I lived in Forks until I was 14 years old, packed bags and moved to Portland, moved all around the city and then jet-setted at 23 to France.

Before Bri + I were a couple, we were just party-buddies in Portland
I was looking through photos and realized that in the 3 years Bri and I have been together we've visted a pretty decent list of place, always with a smile and a back-pack.
One of our backpacking trips
  • 2009
    • Roadtrip from Portland to New York
    • New Orleans, LA
    • Savannah, GA
    • Washington DC
    • Maryland
    • New York
    • Lyon (first time)
  • 2010
    • MOVE to Lyon
    • Venice
    • Paris
    • Barcelona
  • 2011
    • MOVE to Paris
Today is our third year anniversary, and now we start a new life once again in a new city.  We're going to Le Lutin dans le Jardin, a restaurant that has a fabulous discount through 'La Fourchette' (21€ instead of 42€).
This is about 1 year after we got together

View from down our street
Our new life means a new apartment of course, and one that is about 35m2 (half that of the last apartment in Lyon) and 1100€ a month.  Ridiculously expensive. Our apartment is in the 15th in Paris, a quiet neighborhood outside of the bustle of life, towards the south end of the city..

Suprisingly, despite the 30 minute crowded metro rides, I feel suprisingly calm in this city.  It is very similar to life in Lyon, but much much larger.  I was warned before moving about the gens impolis but so far I've only came across kind and gentle people.

I was asked 3 times if I needed help dragging my giant suitcase up the metro steps (including a woman!), I was caught by a nice businessman when I was about to fall over trying to elbow out of my metro stop.

Actually so far, Parisiens are quite pleasant outside of rush-hour.  During rush-hours (9am-10am, 12pm-1pm and after 5pm) they tend to be pushy, but you kinda have to be in order to get INTO the metro.

In the area I live I am 5 minutes away from buses, a step away from a boulangerie, boucheries (3 of them), fruit stands, grocery stores, 2 métro lines... in fact I am even better situated than my first apartment in the center of Lyon.

The air feels much drier in Paris, and my contacts feel polluted after half a day wandering around.  I carry hand sanitizer for after my metro rides, and wash my face as soon as I get home.

There are differences, but they are differences that I can share with my blog, things to discover, things to report about.

So, I'm off for a "Gastronomique Expérience" and get ready for some experiences!

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