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Friday, November 23, 2012

16 Things Americans Need To Get Over in Paris

Suck it up.

I spent 34 days strolling around the glorious City of Lights, people watching and taking the aesthetics of Paris. The journey was nothing but an adventure. Paris reminds me of New York City in so many ways. Like many who visit the city for the first time, the allure never faded and there was a constant barrage of romantic images of Paris in my head. I established my routines, made friends, and came across ex-pats who shared their adorations and especially frustrations with Paris. It was really interesting, humorous, and added a new appreciation for the things that come easily for me in New York City. The cities compliment each other very well, yet the differences are many. 

16 Things Americans Need To Get Over In Paris

1. Laundry is expensive. You could quite possibly spend more Euros on laundry than food. At home, in New York, I developed a method of tackling laundry every four days. This method helped me avoid lugging two weeks worth of dirty loads and spending precious Saturday mornings in the laundromat. But, in Paris, with washers starting at 5 Euros, you might want to reconsider.

2. Doing laundry takes awhile. You WILL lose precious moments of your life washing clothes. It's inevitable. The washer runs for an exact 45 minutes. That means you can expect to spend at least two hours in the laundromat. If you can walk to the laundromat, perfect. If you have to take the metro, prepare to allot some time from your day and look at is as an exploration.

3. Dining in is mandatory. The only type of restaurants that have to go boxes are McDonald's and KFC. I wouldn't let their food enter my body in the U.S., let alone Paris. Late nights, when it was cold and rainy, I just wanted to grab a quick bite to eat from the American-styled cafe nearby and bring it back to my apartment, while enjoying some awful American movies dubbed in French, like The Blob. (Yes, I really watched and enjoyed the Blob in French.) The best the server could do was offer to wrap my food in aluminum foil. I wasn't interested.

4. You HAVE to speak French OR at least TRY. When in Rome…You can't come to the city and encounter every stranger with "Parlez-vous anglais?" You'll never pick up the language if you don't engage in real person dialogue that involves more than "Bonjour."

5. Waitstaff doesn't think you're that special. I often found myself missing the waiter in the U.S. who comes to your table every ten seconds, while you're still chewing your food to make sure your food is satisfactory, although you haven't had a chance to swallow. Re-fill your glass of water when it's low without asking or just fawn over your table every five minutes to earn his tip. In Paris, once you're seated, you're on your own and you wait, patiently.

6. The Billboard charts are not relevant. Sorry, you're just not going to hear the top ten U.S. hits in the club. The Parisians love dated hip hop hits. And, could someone please tell me when Eve's, "Got What You Need" was a club banger because it goes hard in the clubs. That's if you even know the song. I thought it was on someone's lost mixtape. 

7. Sometimes, the music won't have words. The DJ could do an electro, tech, dance, I'm not even sure what you call it set for almost ten minutes and you just groove and pump your first in the air to it like that is your jam from back in the day.

8. Napkins, straws, and ice are not priorities. First, the bartender served me warm sangria. Warm sangria? Who serves sangria warm? I, kindly, sent it back asking for ice and he dropped two cubes in my glass. What is with the French and ice? I missed my bartender back home dunking my glass in a tray of ice and filling it up with a little over four ounces of liquor. Second, why is it so hard to find a napkin? I can walk into a bar in New York City and easily grab a napkin and go. Finally, I won't go into how difficult it was to find a 20oz bottle of juice or soda to take on the run, but all I wanted was a straw to enjoy the juice in that bottle. 

9. Ginger ale is forbidden. Ginger ale is not really popular in France. And, no, "Schweppes" in Paris is not the ginger ale brand. It's actually tonic water.

10. Patrons will bump into you, step on your foot, and charge past you like a quarterback in the club without as little as a "Pardon," "Desole," or "Excusez-moi" (Like my French?) And, you just have to accept that. 

11. You will use salutations until they go out of style. It's imperative to begin every sentence with bonjour or bonsoir, depending on the time of day, and end with merci or au revoir. I felt like a child learning etiquette for the first time having to say please and thank you ALL the time. From H&M, to the laundromat, where I just wanted to experience peace and quiet time, each person I encountered greeted me with a bonjour even if we weren't engaging in a conversation and left with an au revoir. But, we didn't even speak for more than two seconds. I wondered if everyone was really that polite. I was beginning to feel like I was a greeter at Walmart. "Bonjour, and welcome to Walmart.

12. Waiting for coffee at Starbucks is liking waiting in line to vote. No surprise there. 

13. Pedicures are expensive.  At 28-30 Euros, I decided I'd try to master a pedicure on my own. I even went to the 'hood to negotiate and no deal. Taking care of your feet is just expensive in Paris. 

14. If you have natural hair, you will get accosted with flyers for weaves. It's like nothing I've ever seen. Some of the bad weaves in Paris remind me of the bad hairstyles when Halle Berry was in Baps. 

15. Customer service doesn't exist here. And, once you accept that, you'll be fine. My flight from Geneva, Switzerland to Paris was rescheduled without my notice. I asked to speak to a manager or supervisor at the airline and the representative politely informed me there was no negotiating. I was just going to have to buy a new ticket and that was pretty much the way things ended.

16. You can't tweet in the club. Tweeting, Instagramming and updating your Facebook post to notify the world that you are in the club is extremely offensive. The few times I had access to free wi-fi, I jumped at the opportunity to post my awesomeness and I was found to be rude or my hosts thought I was bored. I was more than pleased to be there and wanted to let the world know. Do yourself a favor. If you're at an establishment and you're not feeling the music or bored, then leave instead of complimenting your time with social media. Otherwise, you'll find yourself bored, nursing a drink in the corner and failing miserably. 

BONUS: For my male friends who haven't quite tapped into their feminine energies, French men kiss each other on the cheek, twice. I've watched fathers kiss their male sons on both sides upon meeting. I've seen my closest French guy friends say what's up to some of his closest friends with a kiss on each cheek and they are just as masculine as ever!

Who cares about the rest of the stuff, when you get to twirl underneath this?


Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Post by Frantzie: Living My Best French Life on a Super Low Budget

Pictures of Paris 

The pictures in this collection are courtesy of my iPhone. My photos focus on all of the people, places, and establishments that I visited. I took these photos during random moments. And, many of these places were inexpensive. Some of these places were referrals or I just stumbled upon them. I'm not a photographer, but I have eyes and I love making memories. 


Walking in Paris is amazing and I spent almost the entire time doing so.


The Jardin du Luxemborg



Joggers running in the beautiful Jardin du Luxemborg.


 


I was told you haven't seen Paris unless you've seen the Louvre, but there are so many gems of a museum in Paris like the Musee du Quai Branly that features indigenous art from all cultures. I took in the History of Hair exhibit.


The late Princess Diana's flame.


People still come by from all over to write heartfelt messages along the wall.


I found this in the lobby of the W Hotel near Opera.


Thanks to @pintszdinfluence who blogs at pintsizedinfluence.com we discovered this abandoned building turned art street haven in Pantin, just outside of Paris. You can learn more about it here untappedcities.com/paris/.

We discovered two artists/photographers at work near Pantin. You can find their work here soulimpulse.tumblr.com


I asked him could I tag my name, but my travel mate reminded me that I could lose my passport. 


That's me climbing over the median to get to the abandoned warehouse.


The Louvre is amazing, but you really don't know the history of Paris until you visit the Musee Carnavalet. Most of the national museums are free every first Sunday of the month. 


Sacre Coeur, a popular landmark.


You can see most of Paris from Sacre Coeur.


We had the pleasure of attending a poetry slam/reading at Shakespeare & Company bookstore.
The man I caught standing in front of the sign was fitting for the night.

We had the pleasure of listening to the talented poet and writer Aja Monet. You can find Aja's work in poet Saul William's new collection of poems, Chorus. http://amzn.to/TMW0vY


It was a packed house at the bookstore. So, we listened to Aja's poems from outside the store, in the rain. What's sexier than listening to poetry while sitting in the rain in Paris?


There are works of art and artisanship all over Paris. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Kehinde Wiley's exhibit.



Kehinde, the man.



More free exhibits. Hollywood's Paris exhibit at the Hotel de Ville.

The Hotel de Ville.


I took in some night life at places like Noire Platine.



Millefeuille from Angelia Cafe on Rue de Rivoli.


Paris has some of the best, velvety, rich and thick hot chocolate I've ever experienced. 



In Paris, even Starbucks are fancy.


Cave la Bourgogne.



Caribbean food in Paris at Babylon.

The McBaguette looked so tasty. But, I couldn't give it a chance.


Karaoke in French? Visit St. Michel Pub.


Paradisiaque. Paris has some of the best (inexpensive) restaurants ....


...and deserts look like this.

I love a good cocktail and Ballroom has it....


The drinks catch on fire and are served by cute French waiters like this...


When you're in Paris on a Wednesday, visit Earth's Kitchen, where they love the ladies. Drinks are free for ladies from 8p.m. to midnite. 

Barbershop in Oberkampf on Ave de la Republique was my most memorable destination. And, DJ Baba Flex is now my favorite international DJ. Look out on their calendar to see when they host their Friday Paris Soirees playing the best in classic hip hop, R&B, and soul. 

Guest Post by Frantzie: Pictures from my Halloween in Paris


The line for costumes at Clown de la Republique. 


My cab driver told me that the French don't celebrate Halloween. It's an American thing. I didn't feel homesick at all watching my friends on Facebook prepare for their costume parties.  I wouldn't have to spend any money on a unique costume or come up with something creative from my limited travel wardrobe. Then, my Parisian friends suggested that my travel mate and I come to their Halloween party. I agreed. Easy, I thought, there won't be too many people dressed in costumes. Instead of being lazy, I decided to try my luck for a costume store in the area. To my dismay, there was a line around the corner. Little did I know, it wasn't just the ex-pats who celebrated Halloween. Here are some pictures from my first Halloween in Paris.

Another amazing costume.


Location Costumes on Rue du Faubourg. The line was around the corner.



My failed attempt as a Zombie from the Walking Dead.




Best costumes of the evening.




After seeing costumes like this, I felt so ashamed for my Zombie!




Grainy photo, but still a good costume.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Post by Frantzie: Impressions of President Obama's Win in Paris



Four years ago, I watched the U.S. Presidential Election with close friends at a restaurant in midtown, waiting nervously for history to happen. All the television monitors in every bar, restaurant, and store nearby were tuned into the same channel. When the announcement came four years ago that President Obama won the elections, my friends and I let out huge cheers, embraced like we had just experienced the birth of our first born, and ran up and down the streets of Times Square trying to climb light poles and shouting, "Yes we did!"

This year, I watched from Paris, France, but I didn't feel a distance to the race. I felt excitement and intense anticipation. I wanted to be up considering the six hour time difference from home for whatever happened. I missed most of the news on the U.S. elections prior to the the election because I never turned on the television back at our apartment. I was too busy living my best French life. I never shared conversations on why an Obama win was important until the night of the U.S. election. I was insulated from the 24-hour relentless media coverage and it felt good.

The night of the U.S. election I met up with local French friends at one of my new favorite bars in Paris, Earth's Kitchen, (http://www.yelp.com/biz/earths-kitchen-paris) where ex-pats, U.S. visitors, and Obama supporters united. We shared conversations over beers about our concerns. We were packed like sardines with droves of ex-pats and U.S. visitors from all over the  surging on the bar to witness the results, but it didn't matter. Shoulders touching each other and accidentally spilling drinks on one another, we were all American that night. I shared hugs with an Obama supporter from San Diego, American students from the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris and none of them looked like me. It reminded me of when James Baldwin first arrived in Paris and he mentioned that his first and closest acquaintances were white American students and artists. That night, I forgot I was a Black woman from New York. I was just proud to be American sharing a moment with my fellow Americans.

There's nothing like being home to watch the U.S. election but being overseas was a profound experience.

I gifted my Obama 2012 pin to a French guy. The way his face lit up...
And, then we celebrated a win.

The scene on election night in Paris was like the MTV Music Awards.