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.