Half year mark, get set, GO

img_20160619_210600A week ago (August 16th) I passed the six months mark since my arrival to Paris. It’s funny, because I totally missed it. Last night it dawned on me, that I am at a point which I was wishing for a few months ago; when it was tough, and I was so tired, frustrated, and often sick. I was hoping, willing that it will get better. So it goes, the good life arrived, I stopped counting the months, and let the summer unroll!

Well, with that said, I feel like my adjustment to life in France is just a beginning of exploring and learning. So, what makes life here so interesting?

Improving French
in addition to proper pronunciation, there is a million expressions worth knowing. If you ever wondered how to say someone is very lucky in French, or even funnier the expression of being grumpy, check out this wonderful post by Morgane Croissant here
I found that communication with locals is enjoyable, and understanding the French of elderly much better than the younger people.

Food and Wine
it seems like the stores and markets have more variety of produce, cheese, dairy, and baked goods than in North America. I’m not so much into meat, but the variety is staggering (birds, rabbits, rolls, minced, gelatinized, in puff pasty, tartes… you name it) and the selection of seafood is quite amazing. In the near future I would love to add to the innumerable posts on French produce markets, as they are quite fun. The prices are not always lower than the grocery store, but you could sample and get last minutes deals of stall keepers selling fruit by the basket for a 1-2€, or fish per a batch of 5-8€
After drinking on average three bottle of wine a week, I am passing to the next level and learning to discern wine from different regions of France, as Loire and Bergerac do produce VERY different kinds of wine, and putting the names of regions and vineyards in my memory bank is satisfying. Enjoyable wine can still be bought for around 5-7€

Eating Out
quite fun, and can be an AMAZING experience of flavours and novelty of presentation if you find a good place. however, value for money is Paris is difficult to find. We found some reasonable basque restaurants with regional food for good price. Always have wine with the meal! And check out lafourchette for great restaurant promotions of up to 50% discounts for al budgets, and with each visit accumulating points which can be used toward meals.

Travelling outside of Paris
we tried to avoid the airports,  and took bus, trains, and blablacar (shared car-ride) this summer. The highways have the most amazing break stations, with a variety of selection of cooked meals, and snack stores, as well as a hall full of automatic coffee machines. The trains always leave on time, are air-conditioned, comfortable, and have a lovely wagon-café with huge windows.

Finding the good deals
Tuesday movie night, 4.50€ per person
site leboncoin for gently used furniture
buying tickets on trocdestrains.com for tickets sold off by travelers who don’t need them
balinea and treatwell for discounts on SPA, personal care and massageVELIB in the city, often faster for short distances than public transport , and first 45min of the ride are free with the annual membership
August and summer vacation
bakeries, restaurants, cafes, small shops, pharmacies, and even places which cater to tourists shut down for summer vacation, train tickets triple in price, and highways can become congested for miles as vacationers try to get away or drive back to the large cities. Either way it’s better to stay put wherever you end up, at least for a couple of weeks, to avoid the stress you travelling as much as you can.

Reading
French literature is incredibly varied and enjoyable.  I discovered some amazing translations of Italian literature into French as well.

Apartments
it is true that finding an affordable apartment can be tough, but somehow I managed to find a six months contract for 20% below market price. the strangest expectation of the French owner is that the renter has a monthly income of 3X the rental, and has a guarantor which pays the rent in case of insolvency. now that our apartment search is coming up in a month from now, I am already shaking my head at the 1200€ for 40 m2 places, and wondering how can people afford to live here.

Apero
so it seems like happy hour has finally found a French sister, sd French brasseries and cafés are offering 18h00-20h00 specials for afterwork drinking. not as cheap as in Canada, but still a good excuse to have a couple.

Shopping
even though I was skeptical, the 50-60% discounts do exist during the famous biannual six weeks of shopping in France. Whereas most chains can have clearance sales anytime, without advertising it, the sales is the time where every single shop has something on clearance, and sometimes it is even worth it. I was really happy with my 50% discount on BVLGARI perfume and KOOPLES sportshoes, the key is to stop in time.

Paris Day

Officially I designate February 16th as Paris Day. Last year I arrived  to begin a job in Paris, and today it’s the one year anniversary. Milestones.

Honestly, I have to admit that living here was a dream of mine for many years. And  in my late twenties it was pushed out by other things, and funny enough that’s when it happened. When I read the email that a major international organization was offering me a contract in Paris, I was in my Vancouver office. I don’t know why  I had to run to the bathroom sobbing because a little tiny voice which I stopped listining to a long time was shouting with glee, but the adult in me was terrified because now she had to go from wishing to doing.

Back when I was still dreaming of how my life would be here, it was something quite magical. In my imagination it would unexpected, perfect and beautiful, my heart full to the brim with passion, and my talents blossoming with every new adventure and experience. Somehow living in Paris was linked to making a mark on the world. But it was not an ambition, it was just that Paris was where I thought my life magic would happen.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

I don’t know when I stopped listening to the magic, it happened gradually through the years of dedicating myself to stability and living a life of an office worker with regular hours and confinment to normalcy. Luckily, there were a few flashes which brought the great changes, when I let myself stay in England for a few months to just see what happens, and where I remembered who I was and met my husband.   And now this, a year in Paris has passed, one of the greatest dreams of my life, and I managed to act like nothing different is happening while living here with my husband.

There is a time and place for everything. And for the remainder of what I have left in France, I would like to give it credit for the special time it is. And as last year I wrote that I would like to see life throught my Paris lenses, to let this brief moment in time to open myself up to truly being transformed, I now feel it is again a good time to revisit this need of writing about what I am seeing. It’s exciting.

There is a place in center of Paris which is small enough and out of the way enough to merit the charm of a hidden gem. It’s also relentessly difficult to get in, with epic lineups which could last for hours. This place is a patio bar on the rooftop of Bazare de Ville (BHV), called Le Perchoir Marais. I walked past many times by a queue on rue de Verrerie stretching along the whole length of this historic parisian department store. Tonight we arrived at 19:45 to line up, half hour before the opening times. Determined to be ushered in as the first guests of the evening, we were surprised to see a few couples already there. The love of Parisians to queue is quite remarkable, it happens everywhere!

We were checked through security, and led through the entrance to BHV service elevator, taking us to the 7th floor, then through a long corridor lined with office doors. The bar itself was dimly lit and the music was a cool mix of retro beats. there was a good selection of low wooden benches covered with soft stuffed pillows.  But obviously the highlight was a semicircle of Paris cityline, opening up in three directions. From where we were sitting I saw the Eiffel tower glittering, creating a special moment classically Parisian. I always think the Eiffel tower has a certain feminine quality, an elegance in shape and owning its existence not for utilitarions but purely aesthetic purpose. And when the lights begin to dance on it, well it just steals the show!

A little bit about BHV store. It is located two steps from the ile de Cite, in the heart of Paris. It originates from the humble beginnings of a groups of vendors on rue de la Rivoli, similar to how other major department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche have got their start in mid to late 1800s. In 1856 a man called F.X. Ruel opened his first novelty shop and began accumulating storefronts and expanding the family business of selling items at fixed prices and for a variety of budgets. He famously exhibited the catalogues posters on the front of the building. The current dome and wide windows fits very well with the grand style of Hotel de Ville across the street. And in the last few years there had been green architecture additions, such as the 1400 m2 rooftop garden producing bio products and honey, as well as a green wall on the BHV Homme store.image

BHV is known for it’s do it yourself-home improvement department which was added in 1974. The basement floor is full of decor and renovation finds, old and new. I think BHV appeals to the people as it still caters to all budgets, staying true to its origins.

The BHV loyalty card is worth getting, as not only it gives access to discounts on special days, you also accumulate 5% discount bonus in 10 euro increments, i.e spend 200 to get 10 toward your next purchase.