Our time here has felt like light speed. The year before we moved Paris was the longest of my life. Now the days are flying by in an instant. So, what is life living in Paris like? It’s amazing, complicated, sometimes cold, strenuous, always exciting and the best thing that has ever happened to me (with exception to marrying Antz and having Olivia!)
This is just one of the hundreds of beautiful blue doors of Paris. I get caught up in the beautiful mix of this city’s architecture and the urban dirt. Besides my obvious tourist uniform, I know I stand out here because I’m the only person who looks up at the buildings and I always take note of the stamps found on buildings that show the architect and the year it was built. I appreciate every little detail.
I also am constantly hunting for Invader mosaics using his app on my phone. I have already found 48 just this month.
I am going to keep it real. I love it here but it comes with the same issues as home. Most days are rad but some days suck too. I love the fresh food, the bread is insanely delicious and the charm of dining in French cafes never gets old. I do find eating at the cool places is becoming expensive, I miss In & Out drive thru and please, for the love of God, will someone bring blueberry bagels to France? They literally have every flavor but my favorite! We don’t yet feel completely settled because we will be changing apartments next month so we are still living out of our suitcases. We also haven’t figured out the final step of finalizing our visas which is stressing me out but also Merde, we have 90 days to get it together.
Our first week here was heaven. Antz had the week off from work and Liv wasn’t enrolled in school yet. Since we had the rental car for a few days it made getting around town a piece of cake. We took road trips, explored the streets of Paris and stocked up on groceries. When I took the car back at Charles du Gaulle airport, I took the Metro home. I was quite proud of myself for taking public transportation 45 minutes through Paris, at night, by myself. I would never have done that in Los Angeles but the Metro is relatively safe although you do have to be aware of pickpockets. We purchased monthly Metro passes with the help of a kind Metro worker who didn’t speak any English. The Navigo passes require your photo on them so I was able to use our rejected visa photos. Monthly passes cost 75 euros each but I think that’s a bargain since we use them several times a day! So far the hardest part about using public transportation is the nonstop walking and stair climbing. Inside of the Metro is an underground labyrinth that seems to never end. The train line we take most often is the furthest away and about 5 stories deep. There is something I will never get used to when using public transportation. Total invasion of personal space! I get it, most times the train or bus is packed with hundreds of commuters trying to get to their destination however, I get so annoyed when strangers touch me or lean against me. I know that sounds very American gross of me but I like my bubble. Also, I get stared at…ALL THE TIME. I’m used to people looking at me, I look like a giant baby doll but this is awkward, borderline rude staring. I get the full up and down look and I’m not sure if it’s judgement because I am the only person in Paris who wears bright colors, is a foot taller than everyone and I’m usually dancing with my headphones on or confusion. Either way, I have a tough skin when it comes to the staring or I stick my tongue out at them and they stop. On the brighter side, despite my self-admitted laziness, we are walking so much more now than we ever have. All three of us have lost pounds since our arrival and I can see a difference in how my clothes are fitting. My wedding rings are loose on my finger!
One thing I will say I am impressed about French people is they are avid readers. Nearly everyone reads on the metro. I have already finished reading Ready Player One in a few weeks which is something I never seemed to have time to do in LA.
Everywhere we walk there are public bikes for rent called Velib. Liv is always asking us to rent them so one day I couldn’t take her asking anymore so I gave in. Turns out the bike seat wouldn’t lower enough for Liv’s height so she was having trouble steering and braking. Instead of using the hand brakes (her bike at home is a beach cruiser so she is used to foot brakes) she would just jump off the pedals and let the bike drop. It wasn’t going to work. Antz ended up walking with her the rest of the way home but I enjoyed my bike ride until I got off and realized how sore my butt was.
Me plotting on how to steal this fiat I can’t even fit in!
Antz needed a new scarf so he tried on almost every scarf they had. I don’t know who suggested paisley print for mens scarves but he opted for a simple yet stylish chambray blue. I browsed the lovely Merci en Rose pop up shop but I didn’t get anything. I may go back and get a Merci tote bag (hard to pick a color). I also want those eyeglasses that make me look like an adult with a PhD. Liv almost talked us into buying her this adorable fisherman hat but it was just too small. I hope to find it in medium.
When they finally pulled me out of Merci we walked to Bonton, a rad kids store that has toys, clothes, accessories and furniture. I knew the only way to get Liv from bugging us about renting bikes was to get her a scooter. Every kid (and some adults) has a scooter here. I liked that she has something fun to do during our long walks and Antz didn’t have to worry about her crashing like the bike. She even paid for her own bell with her euros from Aimee.
I haven’t seen the kid walk ever since!
The second week Antz went back to work (from home) and I was devoted to enrolling Liv in school. This part really sucked. Before we left LA, I spoke with our school’s campus director (French version of a Principal) and he wrote Olivia a letter in French to give to her new school’s director. He gave me a list of documents we needed to enroll her, the school calendar and a list of school supplies. He seemed confident that we wouldn’t have any issues with enrollment. Monday morning we took Olivia to visit the school to meet the Campus Director and inquire about enrollment. We didn’t have an appointment so we arrived when school started at 8:30 am. Of course no one in the school staff spoke English so we stood around smiling and nodding for several minutes until Liv was somehow able to translate that we wanted to meet the director. The director reminded us of a character from Harry Potter but he was very friendly and kind. He took us upstairs and with very limited English, we discussed our desire to send Liv to his school. He told us he would love Olivia to come to his school and he complimented her French. I almost hugged him with joy but he also mentioned, if we had the correct address for enrollment, he would welcome her. As we were leaving we asked to peek into a classroom to get an idea of what the environment was like. I was impressed to see the students all stand whenever the director enters a classroom. We used to do the same thing in Catholic school. We even had to stand anytime we spoke during class. Kids today have no idea how easy they have it! Liv mentioned how they didn’t have a smartboard like her school in LA. She hasn’t used a regular chalkboard in class before. He told the class that Liv was from Los Angeles and they looked at her like she was a celebrity. I was so excited for Liv to start school in a few days!
When it was time for me to go to the Mairie (town hall) to enroll Liv in school things got much harder. Back home, I researched everything I would need to enroll Liv in the school. I knew I needed to bring her birth certificate, proof of address, our passports and her vaccinations. The day we went for some reason, I totally forgot to bring her French translated birth certificate. We had to come back with them and the woman informed us that because of our address, we would be assigned to another school. Olivia had to act as our translator and due to the nature of our conversation, there were many words she didn’t understand or didn’t know how to translate. I tried my best to explain to the Mairie woman why we wanted to attend that school but she wouldn’t change her mind. It was the famous French bureaucracy that I had always heard about. It really wasn’t a matter of me talking her out of this, it was our address that dictated which school Liv would attend. I left the Mairie in tears. I have never felt more frustrated. The main reason we moved to France was for Olivia’s education and I wasn’t going to settle for just any school. It was my shittiest day here. The next morning, I brought her French translated birth certificates, copies of our passports, I made an appointment to meet with a doctor to translate her vaccination chart into French and I had to pick up an original document to prove our French address. Once I arrived at the Mairie, I felt determined to win this woman over and knew that I had one more chance to try to get Liv into the school I wanted. When I arrived at the Mairie, the woman told us she was leaving for lunch and I needed to talk with her colleague. The colleague had no idea what we were asking her and she was even meaner than the first woman. When I say she was mean, it’s more of a blunt attitude. French people aren’t very smily and sweet like I’m used to. I was learning that if you don’t have the right paperwork here, you are screwed. She didn’t seem to understand that I was in the process of getting Liv’s vaccinations translated (I had an appointment later that day) and she keep requesting copies of paperwork the other woman had already approved. I ended having to ask Antz to email me documents and walking to a print shop and getting the copies printed three separate times that day. Since it was Friday and the Mairie closed at 4:30, I finally called it quits. I was panicked. Liv was supposed to be enrolled by the first week and starting school the next Monday and I still hadn’t made any progress for getting her into the school we wanted. I spent all night trying to figure out a plan. I went back to the Mairie on Monday and decided, I’m going to sit here as long as it takes to get Liv into the school. I finally had all the documents I needed. I was still waiting for the French vaccinations but she seemed to be fine with us showing the school once we had them. I sat there for three hours confused at Liv’s translations and feeling ill that I would have to enroll her into another school. She finally said she needed to speak to her boss about making an exception. I guess she saw that this crazy American wasn’t going to leave until I got what I wanted. She called the campus director and I was like Yay! He will vouch for us. When she got off the phone she was like, the campus director told you he would welcome you at his school IF you had the right address to enroll. Oooh No! So, after a stare down she went upstairs and told Olivia something about having to speak to the mayor. I thought Liv’s translation was off but shortly after, a guy in a suit came downstairs and sat down with us. He spoke a little English so he told me we didn’t have the right address for that school. I explained my situation to him and showed him the letter from Liv’s school director in LA. I have no idea what that letter says because it’s written in French but he made a phone call and then asked me why do you want to go to that particular school. I tried to explain but I’m sure he didn’t understand my English. He then said all the schools here are the same. I was like, I know parents of children that go to the school, I have researched this school online, I want the location of this school and then I stopped myself from saying I walked past the school everyday daydreaming about Olivia attending when I made a surprise visit to Aimee. Whomever he called I owe them my gratitude because the woman printed a form and told me to sign it and was like, Okay you can go to that school! I almost passed out with joy. It took me a week longer to get her in but the next Monday would be her first day of school.
I can’t believe that the morning of Liv’s first day we woke up to this white powdery magic!
Her first day was rad! She spent the first hour sitting in a fourth grade classroom. Everyone thought she was ten years old! She said at recess the kids were crowding around her like she was Michael Jackson. The best part is she had no problem with the language barrier. She has already made several really good friends. Her school starts at 8:30 am then at 11:30 they get an hour and a half for lunch and it’s served in an actual cafeteria! I thought those only existed in movies from the 80s. She isn’t so excited about eating French food but at least she’s trying new things. The rest of her day is from 1 pm – 3 pm, then after-school activities until 4:30 pm. She has an acting class and has joined the chess club. On Wednesdays they are dismissed early (at 1:30) so she goes to ballet class.
I researched a dance school when I came to visit Aimee so when we arrived, I signed her up for a month of classes. To my surprise, we showed up for the youth ballet class but everyone looked much older. I mistakenly thought one of the students was the instructor because no one spoke English. I could tell Liv was way out of her comfort zone. The teacher is BRUTAL! She doesn’t look like a ballet dancer but halfway through the class she unhooked her bra and kicked off her heels and started busting some serious moves. I was able to sit in the first class but I didn’t understand anything. Liv looked like a deer in headlights and I thought she would burst into tears any second. The teacher did a lot of shouting, clapping and stomping, it was intense but I loved that she pushed Liv and introduced discipline she has never experienced before. It wasn’t as strict as I’ve seen Russian ballet schools but it was not at all like her sweet, patient teacher at her ballet school in LA. After class one of the students tried to translate in English. All I understood was the teacher said Liv has deformed feet. I’m sure that was just a poor translation. I managed to take some secret photo during the class.
The woman in black is who I thought the instructor was. That is her teacher with the fiery red hair! At first, I didn’t think her teacher (aka Madam Black Swan) would allow her to stay but she met us in the courtyard and told Liv she was up for teaching her to Liv’s dismay.
She definitely outgrew her old shoes and leotard so we headed to the famous Repetto Paris store. I was surprised that she chose black this time. My seven and a half year old teenager!
This was my kid’s face after her almost two hour class! Three weeks later, she’s really enjoying the class. She still groans about having to go but she comes out showing off her new skills and her posture is visibly improving. I know it will only make her a more skilled and stronger dancer. (did someone say Stage Mom?)
We had to celebrate that challenging week with a date at Princess Crepe.
It took me ages to find her a backpack for school. I originally wanted to use her Kanken backpack but it was obvious it was too small and every single kid at her school has this adorable French bag called Tanns. I asked some of the Moms where I could find them and they told me to go to Le BHV (a fancy mall). We only found a lame Frozen one. Finally, we walked around the neighborhood and bam! We realized there was a huge luggage store right around the corner from her school.
We all weighed in and this pink one was her choice. We added the iron-on patches of course.
So with school all sorted out, I think I have the grocery shopping here down to a science. The first thing I learned is shopping on Sundays is limited because most stores are closed unless you head to the Bastille Marche which is a wonderful, large farmers market. I was bummed because they already sold out of the Spanish paella.
Monoprix has been my one-stop-shop, much like Target in LA, it has everything from clothes, to school supples, to groceries, to linens. I have a great Boulangerie (bakery) around the corner that I love but I’ve been pretty bummed for the last few days because they have been sold out of butter croissants. When that happens, I stroll down a small street nearby and find another bakery however, I have found that the croissants just aren’t as good. I think most fruit stands anywhere have consistently fresh produce but because they don’t soak everything in chemicals and pesticides like in the US, fruit spoils very quickly. We usually eat all the fruit on our walk back to the apartment. We still go all the way to the 10th arrondissement to our favorite boucherie (butcher shop) that sells our incredible rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes. That has been our favorite meal since we arrived. The guys know us because we go there once a week!
I am so impressed by the level of quality and presentation the food is at Monoprix. Exhibit A: The meat and seafood section
Something as simple as buying bacon requires a variety of tasting different meats and having the butcher hand cut a half a kilo (that’s always weird to us). I don’t know half of the meat they sell but everything looks perfect. I have never seen so many different varieties of cheese. When we first went shopping Liv was like, can we just please get plain old yellow cheddar?
The shopping baskets at Monoprix aren’t this chic. I wouldn’t have much need for a wheeled basket in LA, but I bought this cute one from Olliella to use (when it’s not raining) to carry our heavy loads home. The plastic carts at the store barely roll, have a handle that is always broken and the insides look like someone threw up on them.
How cute is this guy?
One of Liv’s favorite thing to do is use the fresh orange juice machine at Monoprix. Why isn’t this wonderful machine in every grocery store in America??!!
We drink a large bottle every single day. Feeling healthy AF! There’s a little section in Monoprix devoted to “American” products like regular mustard (the French only use Dijan), pancake mix, syrup and for some odd reason, Nerds candy (my favorite!). I was dumbfounded to discover there is no steak sauce anywhere in Paris. After complaining about it to Aimee she sent a care package with a lifetime supply of A-1 sauce. Yay!
So what’s it like eating in Paris? Expensive! We are lucky to have Chef Antz prepare fresh butter croissants and omelettes for breakfast most days but when we eat out, it’s always an 80 euro bill. It’s hard not to indulge in decadent meals and the kid loves ordering escargot. I pushed myself to try something new so I ordered a duck dish with roasted carrots and potatoes. I liked it but I probably won’t order it again (too gamey for my taste). We usually stick with a fish or chicken entree. Paris has the weirdest business hours! Most restaurants open around 11:00 am and then close around 1 – 3 pm and don’t open again for dinner until 7 pm. This is so hard to adjust to since we usually want to get food afterschool. We get by with a goûter de l’après-midi (French for afternoon snack) we get something from the bakery or fruit stand but you are out of luck until after 7 for a meal.
We have been guilty of eating at a few American restaurants as well. For my birthday we went to a Texas BBQ place called Melt, that was incredible. Best Brussel sprouts I’ve ever had.
Oh yeah, I am quarante-et-un now. This old lady had a birthday last month. I already got my wish, duh! My sweethearts found this rad rainbow cake for me.
Antz and I had an early morning date at Breakfast in America (they have the fluffiest pancakes in Paris!) It’s nice to know we can take a break from the exhausting life of being French.
My biggest craving other than bread, butter and grapes has been popcorn! I go once a week to get fresh popcorn from the cutest place called Yummy Pop! which happens to be owned by Scarlett Johansson. It reminds me of kettle corn from the farmers market from LA and we have made friends with the girls who work there. They know my regular order and I know this may sound gross but it’s strawberry mixed with truffle parmesan popcorn.
The weather in France is not what I expected at all. When I was packing to come here, I brought heavy sweaters, scarves, gloves and winter coats. This is why we had so much luggage! I was preparing for blizzards and freezing temperatures. We have been pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoy the cold weather. It rains much more often than in LA but we haven’t been too cold. There have been a couple of times we were caught in a downpour without our umbrellas. I am getting used to wearing a coat or jacket and a scarf everyday. Even the few days when it snowed it’s been bearable.
We are starting to get warmer weather. When the rain stops the sky is the most vibrant blue. Spring is here! This is a park close to Liv’s school. I cannot get over how beautiful this city is.
So that sums up our first month here. This post almost took a month to finish because I was having some technical issues with getting my photos and videos to upload. Needless to say, it’s been a fun whirlwind. I am hoping to take it easy in the next few weeks. Liv has two weeks of spring break vacation and we are taking a trip this weekend.
Merci my friends for checking in!