About Me

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

Search My Blog

Monday, October 28, 2013

Update: What is Going On?

I was clicking through my old posts, reminiscing and smiling in that way you do when you have a warm memory and I realized- it had been months since I had written! It's time for an update and briefing on the direction of this fabulous 3 year project:

As of October 22nd, 2013, I repatriated back to Portland, Oregon. This was of course a decision that was made years ago when I originally packed my 2 suitcases and jetsetted to France. 3 years later, as I packed up my life of 3 years in France, I realized that I had truly changed as a person.

3 years ago, I was freaked out and worried about not being able to wander around in beat-up plastic flip flops. 3 years later, I couldn't even imagine owning  a pair, even if every single person in Portland has a pair they proudly flop around in.

The use of a knife during dinner, the American jokes, the mis-understandings in English, bar scene, the weird dating scene...

So the project is continuing but I will be treating a topic that is often left on the back burner and truly could prove of use- the Backwards Culture Shock.

As noted, most international story blogs end with the person moving home... but we all know, especially if you have lived overseas, that this is not necessarily possible. There are constantly little things that make you think of your other culture, the one you learned to fit and adjust into.

How can you handle the backwards culture shock?

Specifically, how can you continue to live French while being in America?

These topics and more will be developed over the period of my repatriating experience... especially since in the 3+ years I've been away, Portland has become a foreign city in it's own right.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Backward Culture Shock Series

As I recently came back to Portland for awhile (3 months) I've decided to start documenting the moments in which I stop and say, what that's weird--- knowing that as a Portland girl I would never say that.

Keep Portland Weird.

It's the title of our fair city, the slogan. And of course I am aware of this slogan so why do the weird things suddenly now seem noticeable?

Paris. I realize that I have been living so long in France, where everything has a system and a rule, I forgot what it was like being Portland.

Today's theme for the back shock: parks.

I walked into the Laurelhurst park with one goal in mind- compare to Parisian life. 

Suddenly I am aware of the way Paris life really is so different. First, all the parks are either paved in tar or covered in hills. There is no rocky, dusty in ground substance and sporadic plots of grass.

I remember the first time I saw a Parisian park on my own. I wandered on the way to an interview- Paris was so huge and new to me. I was frightened the minute I stepped off the train. So I went to a park, normally in Portland my escape. I stepped through the gates of the Jardin de Luxembourg and I saw loads of dust. Metal chairs. The worst was the sheer amount of people. Each person was entitled to a minuscule square of grass or to sit on metal chairs that would burn ones butt on a warm day.

I found a 30 inch x 30 inch square of grass and I sat myself on it. As I pulled out my nectarine a group of wasps came at me. I ran away.

Portland parks are so different. You walk in as though you are entering a miniature wildlife- animals are everywhere. There are sounds of cars from the street but nothing too harsh. The best is the size of the trees..

So large they tower as high as the buildings in Paris. Green green and beautiful. Then for the space! In Portland there is a Parisian studio apartment sized plot of grass for you (calculation is about 200 sq ft). 

As I sprawled my toes and stretched I had a slight moment of worry, I almost missed the busy-mess of Paris parks, it all felt too quiet. I expected someone to come barreling around the tree... Until I realized to let it go. I felt the stress from Paris just roll off like the leaves in the wind.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Being a Gym Rat in Paris

Another New Year, another resolution to get in shape... especially as one of my State-Side best friends (of the notorious Fab 5 as we are self-entitled) is getting married in August and I am to be the Maid of Honor. An honor, of course, but also the need to be in tip-top permanent photo shape by this summer.

Thus the dilemma of keeping in shape in France begins, as it has before. I once wrote a post about keeping in shape, but lately I've been getting creative and trying the variety of "keep in shape" options that Paris has to offer.

In Paris, every morning or evening, or even during the broad daylight, Parisiens are running about in their gym clothes and keeping in shape the old fashioned way. From "footing" to collective courses, here are the options in Paris:

Footing or Jogging
COST: Free
The French term for jogging or running, basically suit up, strap into some running shoes and off you go. I tend to keep myself to a nice Sunday walk, around 1 hour Sunday evening. Best locationgs to go footing:

  • The Eiffel Tower (pretty much a large around the Champs de Mars)
  • Bois de Boulogne (also known for the hookers sprawled somewhere in the woods, although which is better- running on dog crap or running across an Eastern hooker? Almost sounds like the beginning to a bad joke...)
  • On the waterfronts (although I avoid, due to strolling couples and again, dog crap)
  • Jardin du Luxembourg (about 25 hectares, lots of space.. and of course Gendarme eye candy)
  • Parc Monceau
  • Parc du Montsouris
Just be aware of pick pockets, dog crap on every surface (eyes down) random cracks in the pavement that send you flying head first towards the ground.

Footing or Jogging
COST: Yearly pass for the Velib' - 30€ a year
Once again, the great system of the bike share program, grab a bike from any of the locations in Paris: Station Map also available in the form of an iPhone application, and zip off to the next spot. The best is zipping around the tourists in Paris near the Eiffel Tower and freaking them out!  Just be weary of traffic rules and the fact that Parisian drivers are absolutely bat-crazy.

Krav Maga
COST: 300-450€ for a 9 month unlimited pass
I was once invited to try this type of very aggressive martial arts at the American Church in Paris. For those who hear the words and assume it is an Israelian meal, it is actually a form of Israelian street fighting used by their military for self defense. It sort of reminded me of an intensive kick boxing class, with actual moves one can use in cases of rape, etc. Not alot of high cardio, but definitely great for strength training. I felt it in my arms at least 2 days later.

Each course lasts about 1h30, intensive kicking and punching in the air. Fabulous if the thought of going out scares the crap out of you, and you feel like you want to get some self defense lessons, albeit expensive. Here are some links for more info, times, etc:
COST: 10€ per class, or a seasonal 3 month pass of 300€
I giggled at my co-worker the first time she mentioned the Swedish Gym, she was trying to pressure me to join her for one hour of 80's style aerobics, complete with tight gym clothes in flourescent colors. Of course, one cannot judge unless they've experienced, so I bopped along to the beat with everyone else.

This actually ended up being the closest to my 24 Hour Fitness days in Portland, the intensive ab-crunches, the supportive instructor... however the music was a bit lacking. Better for once a week lessons, just to get yourself moving in an active way.

Convenient as they have many courses across all the different arrondissements in Paris, downside is many classes in the evening are completely blindé and full of post-work crowd.

The website: Gym Suedoise in Paris

An Actual Gym Membership
COST: Between 40€ a month to 1000€ a year
The most ideal for myself, however one must adjust to their living situation. Gyms in Paris are not and will never be the gyms we have Stateside. First off, due to the high costs of rent and lack of space, they tend to be miniscule with machines uncomfortably crunched together. It sort of is like the high school gym all over again, that odd musky smell, lack of air conditioning, disgusting toilets and showers... often used as a glorification to go and sit in a steam room for an hour.

If there are weights at the gym, they are usually occupied by the most bro-ish looking men you'll ever run across, and they won't hesitate to talk to you if you are a lady lifting.

A simple Google search for: Gym Paris or Gymnase Paris will bring up the hundreds of over-priced options.

COST: 13€ for a 1 hour course, 18€ for a 2 hour or a book of 10 courses for 115€/160€, unlimited option also available for 100€ for a month.
I discovered Zumba thanks to a friend of mine last summer, if you've done Zumba then you know the difficulty in describing what it is.  It is sort of like Tangoing by yourself in a room full of screaming and clapping ladies, with a sweaty instructor shaking their ass like there is no tomorrow. You think you will end up laughing, but you are trying to hard to concentrate on the movements you end up sweating like a pig, one hour flies and you burned 500 calories in a snap.

However, downside, of course, is that often the courses in Paris are held in clubs, like actual dance clubs. Hence, that awkward vomit and alcohol smell sort of mingled with the musky sweat of non-showering French people (steretype alert) tends to leave you feeling a bit ill. Also, once again, no air conditioning in Paris.

However, courses are held all over Paris, and the unlimited pass allows you to go to any of them:

Join a Sport
COST: Varies between 5€ - 20€ per sport per time-slot, note that it is managed by the state so a working level of French is required
I have yet to join a community club to try out what they offer, the city of Paris has so many things to offer, for young people looking for work, people living in the city and wanting to get out, families, etc.

It's worth a gander: Practicing a Sport in Paris

The issue isn't that options aren't there, but it's simply the fact that it is much more difficult to discover these options in Paris as they tend to be hidden and a bit expensive. In America, the fact is our gym system is much better developed... however I have to mention that I eat about the same and don't go to 24 Fitness like I used to and I've managed to keep my weight the same. The car driving is exchanged for a daily 25-40 minute walk, sometimes run (busses or metros) in high heels and avoiding obstacles.

Utilizing a calorie-counting system is also wuite helpful, such as: My Fitness Pal

Bon Activité!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Le Brunch à Paris

Ah Paris, the quintessential romantic city in which one envisions a stroll by the Seine, a kiss under the Eiffel Tower... however for those who live in Paris, we become creatures of habit.

Wake up. Quick shower. Bus to work. Work. Lunch. Work. Bus to home. Dinner. Sleep. Repeat.

Which is why we, in Paris, tend to live for the weekends. Those lazy Saturday mornings, where you don't wake up heart pounding at 5am thinking you forgot something important at work, where you just do as you feel.

Brunch in Paris is a more recent phenomenon, branching from the Americanism that has spread across France post-Bush era.  The Yuppie culture from the 90's was a time of listenting to The Zombies while sipping a Chai Tea Latte in a chic Café. France has not been spared.

One of the things we have discovered as a 20 something Franco-American couple in Paris is the Brunch spots.

So popular, websites even started popping up, such as:

Ou Bruncher? or Brunch A Paris.com

Explications of the best local brunch spots, those to be avoided.. Of course in my American skepticism I realized the French are not quite sure what the concept of Brunch truly is. Some brunch spots offer a sort of croisement between both cultures, starting with a basket filled with crispy viennoisseries and finishing with a lumpy bowl of scrambled eggs. Some go as far as have a pancake, for dessert.

Every few weeks when we get the inspiration we tredge through the different sites and select our Sunday brunch adventure.

So far, some of the ones that we have discovered as a young Yuppy couple in Paris:

Café Charlot (38 Rue de Bretagne  75003 Paris)
Just a few steps from Métro line 8 (Filles de Calvaire) or Métro line 11 (Arts et Métiers) this little café somehow always has a little table in the corner for us. We've been there twice,

Interior of Café Charlot - Photo from Holiday Goddess
First time I took their Brunch Menu at 19€, which includes a drinks (coffee and orange juice), salty things (scrambled eggs, cream and smoked salmon, French toast and a fromage blanc) as well as unlimited breads.
Quite filling, and a nice little finish with some fresh fruit to soak up the fat. A fabulous choice after a soirée from the previous night.

However the next time we went, I decided I needed something different.  I am a personal fan and adorer of Eggs Benedict... those nicely poached eggs placed delicately on a pillowed English muffin and sandwiched with bacon or ham and a large coating of Hollandaise sauce.  For 13.50€, the restaurant has two of these delicacies, add 3€ for a coffee, 9€ for a hefty dessert and there is no need to eat dinner that night.
Eggs Benedict - 13.50€, Café Charlot in Paris
Cheesecake du Jour (Noisettes Caramélisées) - 9.00€, Café Charlot in Paris
Of course, there are weekends where the last thing we want is a large breakfast, so then we decide to hunt down one of our little American pastry shops and settle for a little coffee and a slice of American style cake.

Sugarplum Cake Shop (68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine 75005)
A little shop situated right up the street from the famous French University La Sorbonne, it's a perfect quaint escape from the bustle of Parisian life.

Interior of Sugar Plum Cakeshop, photo credit: Paper Blog
A selection of desserts and coffee items, ranging from 5€-10€, it's easy to have a pretty excellent slice of Carrot Cake and a latté for 10€, the price of a Starbucks and a pastry, but a much more pleasant atmosphere. It's easy to run into expatriates, writers, homesick students and of course the curious French.

Carrot Cake, Valrhona hot Chocolate at Sugar Plum Cakeshop (11€)
Of course the egg hunt doesn't stop at Charlot café, next stop to try out the authenticity of the name, Eggs & Co.

Eggs & Co. (11 rue Bernard Palissy, 75006)
First off, this place is quite small, translation, if you don't want to hear your neighbors or bend down to sit down, this is not the place for you. If you appreciate slightly off restaurants with unique personality, then do come... RESERVE however. Otherwise a lovely line of 30 minutes is what you will be welcomed with.

Secondly, there are eggs any way you want them.  In the fashion of Bubba from Forrest Gump, any type you can imagine, Eggs & Co serves.  There is of course a brunch at 22€, including the juice and coffee as well as eggs and a pancake for dessert.
Eggs Benedict at Eggs & Co., photo credit Jerome Dreyfuss
Upstairs of Eggs & Co., photo credit Ou Bruncher
L'Inedit Cafe (4 Rue Taine, 75012)
When I first moved to Paris, I gave English courses. One of my students was a fabulous lady, her English impeccable and she loved to eat as much as she loved to talk. She dragged her family out to Brunch and invited us to join to discover a little place with a fantastic menu at 18€ for everything, including unlimited REAL coffee. This place proposes the typical Frunch, French Brunch, with the pastries and eggs as well as a lovely dessert... we have been there twice and each time the ambiance was fabulous.

Interior of l'Edit Cafe, photo credit Bon Plan Party
Beginning of brunch (18€) at l'Inedit Café, photo credit Rygo Point
Le Passy (2 Rue de Passy, 75016)
As a bit of an upscale day, we decided to be a bit fancier and head over to the 16th for a brunch branché. The difference is this place has a brunch menu at 26€, drinks included, however the presentation is completely different. First half, salty, is presented in delicate little plates so that we can taste each dish. Then the sweet things come out, also in delicate mini plates. It is a bit expensive, but the restaurant is so beautiful it almost makes up for the price.

Exterior of Le Passy, photo credit Vous Avez Choisi

Interior of Le Passy, photo credit Ou Bruncher
Mini Desserts from the brunch at Le Passy
And finally, out of love for the Brits and all other Anglosaxons, we took a stop by the Frog chain:

Frog XVI (110 Avenue Kléber, 75116)
Nestled in a quiet little area on the west side of Paris, this little pub is immense in the inside. Chairs and tables for at least a cover of 200 people, we came on a quiet Sunday for their brunch. Unfortunately, no menu fixe, however there is a quite decent eggs benedict for 14€.

It wasn't the most exceptional brunch that I ever had, but still a place to visit. I assume this place is much more fun during a week night for a happy hour!

Happy Brunching!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...