My Best-Kept Secret Souvenir from Rome

I know you may already be thinking of a gladiator helmet magnet to stick on your fridge or a bunch of post cards of the Trevi fountain but I prefer something else to preserve the memories from our travels. I am not a fan of buying lots of trinkets or cheap souvenirs I’ll never do anything with while we are on vacation. I do buy Liv a gold souvenir coin from churches we have visited (usually found in a vending maching for €2). My biggest frustration when we return from a trip is looking through all my vacation photos and seeing hundreds of photos of Olivia and Antz taken by me or Liv and me but hardly any of all three of us together besides a few not-so-great selfies. I get even more upset when we ask a relunctant tourist for a photo and it turns outs terrible. We have all been there. My last few trips I thought I found a solution by bringing a tripod with a remote however the museums did not allow selfie stickes or tripods so we had to leave it in the locker room. We have tried to set up the tripod outside however we didn’t feel comfortable with leaving our iphones out of reach when we were in a large crowd (and how do these influencers stop people from walking through your shot?!)

I finally had enough so I decided the best souvenir (and value) is booking a family photo shoot so I have photos of all us which I will cherish forever! I wish I could hire our friend and talented photographer Lee to follow us around the world and shoot us (our rad shoot in London) but alas, I am not as wealthy as a Kardashsian. So, I reached out to my friends who may know photographers in Rome that would be available for booking a family shoot. Mostly everyone was out of town because locals tend to skip town during the peak tourist season. I wasn’t having much luck finding someone so I ended looking online and I found a 2 hour walking tour that included a photo shoot.

We started off super early (to beat the crowds) and met two other couples at the Colosseum. It was already boiling hot but our tour guide found some shade to shoot us in. Victoria, our guide and photographer is an American who lived in Rome for several years. She was able to show us famous landmarks from an expat point of view and quickly take some shots during our walk.

The tour was pretty hurried due to the large tour buses arriving so we tried to stay ahead of the big tour groups, we had some good spots all to ourselves.

Our reward for getting up so early was seeing the Roman forums without the tourists, huzzah!










Our advice for posing for photos, don’t forget to let your silly side shine. I have so many photos of us in the same boring pose so I try to think of something different or pretend like we are in a magazine photo shoot. We do our best to capture the I’m a character in a Wes Anderson film aesthetic.


I can’t believe how far we walked in just one hour. Don’t forget to pack wet wipes, we were so hot and sweaty but the wipes kept us from looking like we were melting, I literally was soaked!

Some souvenirs are necessary, such as that Roma fan. Luckily we stopped at a cafe for some juice to keep us hydrated.

Another tip I have is to request candids but also be aware of the camera. I like the observational photos as much I like the posed ones because it shows us in the moment.

Grazie Victoria! We really enjoyed talking to her and sharing our expat annoyances and joys. Even though there was two other couples in our group she made us feel like we had her full attention. She also got our photos back to us in a week which is record time! I found her to be a great bargain but unfortunately due to Covid-19, I don’t see her actively online.

There are a few photography websites that you can find a photographer to book online:

Flytographer
Airbnb Experiences

I recommend to start by asking friends if they know someone because it’s easier when you find a photographer who doesn’t normally do tourist shoots. My experience has been they are less likely to take you to popular tourist locations and pose you in a generic (like school picture day) poses. I like finding someone that has a more edgier, artsy style (like Lee!!) Sometimes you have no choice because you want those to shoot at those landmarks but if we have been to a location before we tend to skip the main attractions and find a less crowded part of town. For example, I wouldn’t encourage anyone visiting Paris to go to the Eiffel Tower/Trocadero for photos. It’s packed with tourists and souvenir vendors so if you are coveting the perfect shot with the iron lady, head around the corner to rue de Buenos-Ayres and hope you don’t have too many cars parked on the street (again always go early!).

Of course when I went it was rainy and every car in Paris had to drive past when I was trying to get a photo.

Bon Chance!

How to find the almost-perfect Paris Airbnb rental

Bonjour,

Finding a perfectly charming Parisian rental can be headache-inducing but I’m here to give you tips and what to keep in mind when choosing an Airbnb rental in Paris.

Firstly, you need to think about the city of Paris like a snail’s shell. Each neighborhood is divided into 20 arrondissements in a clockwise spiral starting at the Louvre. Most of the major tourist attractions are located near the Seine river which splits the city in half. The southern side is known as
la rive gauche/the left bank which is home to intellectuals, jazz clubs and writers sipping espresso in cafes (Hemingway is a noteworthy resident). My side of the city, la rive droite/the right bank is considered the chic, party side. You will find the Moulin Rouge, high fashion boutiques on Champs-Élysées Boulevard and the bohemians of Montmartre. The further from the center you go, the less tourists (more quiet) and more working-class Parisians there are. This adorable map is helpful when deciding what area you want to stay in.

My first experience renting an Airbnb was our summer vacation in 2014. After giving up on finding a hotel that ticks all my boxes within our budget, I decided to look at rentals online. I liked how easy their website was to navigate and there is a wide selection of rentals. They have accurate photographs and honest reviews. I was able to save my favorite apartments to a wishlist and contact the owner to ask questions. I was a bit disappointed that the first three apartments I wanted weren’t available with kids but I was very happy with the one we ended up renting. Half of the time, it’s sheer luck that you find a nice place that has everything you want.

82935-img_4928

On the Airbnb website you can search by location, price and availability. Let me tell you that most apartments in Paris will often come with some kind of trade-off. You will have to put up with something lame in order to get most of your wishlist. Usually a place with a nice view will mean a strenuous flights of stairs. Larger apartments are often found in a part of town that you may not feel comfortable out late at night. I’ve even had to turn down a beautiful two bedroom apartment simply because it was across the street from a sex club. It’s good to check the address or neighborhood on Google maps before you book. You may score a place close to popular landmarks which will certainly mean noisy, obnoxious tourists, possibly a higher crime area (terrorist threats and pickpockets) and lower quality of restaurants. Don’t be too discouraged, Paris has amazing security and a police and military presence is reassuring.

In our case, we didn’t find anything available for two weeks in our ideal location le Marais, (the 3rd/4th arrondissements) but our rental was in walking distance from the the upper 10th arrondissement which was super convenient to the Metro station and we had a lovely, quiet courtyard so we didn’t hear all the street noise.

1103c-dsc_1330
The courtyard was quiet and lovely

Here are my recommendations to keep in mind for your search for the almost-perfect Parisian rental:

Stick to your budget.

It’s easy to fall in love with an elaborate pied-à-terre with a sparkly chandelier, and there are plenty of luxury apartments listed on Airbnb but the reality is, besides sleeping, bathing and occasionally eating, you really won’t spend much time in the rental during your vacation. Unless you are staying long-term, I suggest you keep the cost of the rental lower than what it would cost for a hotel per night. In my case I would have paid $299 per night for a hotel and our rental was approx. $150 per night for two weeks. Plus, we saved money cooking our own delicious meals and not having to tip hotel staff. Take note, Airbnb may charge a cleaning fee and a fee for additional guests. I like to introduce myself via message to the host before booking so I can get a feel for how they manage the property.

Who could say no to these happy faces!

Keep in mind during your search to look for a place that is bright, has lots of windows, and preferably not on a ground floor. Most of the apartments are tiny in comparison to American homes, so white paint gives an illusion of a larger space with a sun-filled apartment. High ceiling also help you not feel too claustrophobic.

Renting in Paris, it’s all about trade-offs.

I really wanted classic apartment with herringbone hardwood floors, an elevator in a Haussmann style building but the apartment we chose didn’t have any of those things. However it did have an awesome swing for Olivia, had a modern design, I loved the high ceilings and charming skylights in the loft. Although our place was small, the layout felt spacious and everything was efficiently designed. We wanted a place with a modern kitchen but we didn’t have air conditioning (A/C is rare in Europe) and it was brutally hot during the summer. We ended up leaving our windows open at night for a breeze but Liv and I were bitten by mosquitos everyday. We were pleasantly surprised how much we liked the area we stayed in. Normally, I would have chosen a place near the center of Paris but staying further out allowed us to shop and dine where locals go and that is how we found the absolute best rotisserie chicken in Paris. Find a place that has something you love but be prepared to give up something else in exchange for it.

Beware of dated apartments.

I know it’s hard to resist the 19th century rustic charm of Parisian apartments but the older the rental, the less amenities you will have. Things we take for granted such as a microwave, a dryer (French people love to use hangers to dry clothes), decent water pressure in the shower, WC (water closets) which are tiny closets with a toilet inside. Those gorgeous herringbone wood floors you may covet may be creaky and noisy and may be annoying hearing your neighbors. I fell in love with a few chic, traditionally rustic Parisian apartments during my search but I had to face the reality that staying in a period apartment with a three year old would have been a headache when she couldn’t resist touching the fragile antiques. We knew we wouldn’t be comfortable lounging around on older furniture. Plus laundromats are expensive and a bummer.

f04d4-rustic2bapartment

 

I almost rented this rustic apartment with the tiniest kitchen ever and five flights of stairs!

Renting a place with small children can be tricky. Some rentals have a strict no children under 12 policy while others may charge more for kids. Since Liv was three years old when were Airbnb hunting, we made a list of kid-friendly must-haves and list of would be lovely. I wouldn’t consider any places that didn’t have white painted walls, I also ruled out any rental with longer than a five minute walk to the Metro. I didn’t want too many stairs because we had so much luggage and I worried about our kid falling on the stairs. It turned out not to be a deal-breaker because Olivia loved the bath.

We showed Liv how to scoot down the steep loft stairs.

Be flexible about the location.

My favorite neighborhoods in Paris are le Marais 3rd and 4th arrondissement, and more recently, the 10th arrondissement near the beautiful Canal Saint Martin. It feels like a more authentic Paris with lots of cool boutiques, trendy restaurants and art galleries without the annoying tourists traps. Although just like LA, the cooler the location, the smaller and more expensive the rentals are (equivalent to Venice beach). There is also a pickpocketing issue throughout the city so always be aware of your bags. There really is no bad part of Paris, the further you are from the Seine the longer the walk, but you can always take the Metro or bus. Like any major city there is crime but it’s not as bad as big cities in the US, and I am a firm believer in not going out with my passport (unless I need it) or large amounts of cash. It’s also a good travel hack to keep a copy of your passport, drivers license on your cell phone and an emergency credit card hidden in your luggage (in your shoe) or somewhere safe.

7f578-dsc_1358
We loved buying fresh croissants every morning from the Patisserie on the corner.

If you don’t mind a smaller place, always choose the better location. Become friendly with your local baker, butcher, florist and fruit stand vendors. After a few days, we felt right at home in our Airbnb and even knew some people in our neighborhood by name. Liv made friend’s with our neighbor’s French bulldog.

Happy Airbnb hunting! I’m happy to answer any questions about the places we have rented. Do you have any Airbnb tips or hacks? Please share in the comments below!

Lizzie

20 Rad Things to do/explore/eat in Paris (with kids!)

Bonjour,

My sweet friend Karilyn who is a travel blogger at No Back Home, asked me to share my top twenty things to do in Paris with kids. Firstly, I’d like to dissuade the notion that traveling with kids can be a bummer. Non! If you are planning for a horrible time, you will end up miserable but prep yourself in advance for those unexpected meltdowns and keep these tips up your sleeve and you’ll be asking yourself why didn’t we travel with our kids sooner?

paris eiffel tower

We got Liv’s first passport when she was three, now she is nine, she has traveled to twelve countries, far more than Antz and I travelled by her age! So, let me help you make your traveling with kids blues fade away by following my guide to Paris.

I don’t travel anywhere without these must-haves:

  • Multi-function backpack – I cannot walk around all day with a purse. It never works for me, I carry too much stuff and I love to be hands-free so I carry this Goodordering backpack/tote. This has been my go-to travel bag for two years now. It has padded straps so it doesn’t hurt my shoulders and I love the extra pockets in the front to hold tickets and extra camera batteries. I use the side pockets for my water bottle and umbrella which you will read more about below. Invest in a reliable travel bag! I’ve seen too many Mom’s struggling with bulky diaper bags and flimsy purses.

ACS_0066

  • Anti-bacterial Wipes – Always handy with kids, I’m not a germaphobe but public spaces can be gross, so it’s always wise to have these on you for wiping ice cream filled faces.
  • A scarf – I have used a scarf as a picnic blanket in the park, to wrap my hair up on a windy day and covered myself up when visiting a church out of respect. I have this lightweight one from J.Crew.
  • Water bottle – There are lovely public water fountains all over Paris. Having a water bottle is essential to surviving a long day in Paris with kids.

  • Cell phone chargers – I have one for each of us because we play Pokemon Go, the Flash Invaders app and taking photos quickly drains our battery power. This one works great. Bonus: If you are an Invader fan, check out my Instagram stories.
  • Kids Headphones – If you are planning a long road trip, these are a necessity! Now that Liv is older, she prefers to listen to her own music and we can crank our old people tunes without any side-eyes from her. Plus I rather use my own headphones during guided tours than use the cheap ones they give you. Liv uses these.

DSC_1703

  • Snacks! – This one is a must-have for kids. Liv gets cranky when she’s hungry and Parisian restaurants close from 3pm – 7pm so I always have apples, nuts or granola in my backpack.
  • Small, travel size umbrella – I strongly recommend bringing an umbrella, even during the summer, the sky has been known to suddenly start pouring and it’s so frequent you will be happier you had it than not.
  • Backpack for your little one – I always let Liv pack a bag with her camera, a few books for long rides, her special lip gloss, a few small toys and her phone and charger. It makes her feel like she’s a big kid having her own things to bring when we travel. She has a Fjallraven Kanken backpack which was expensive but she’s had it for going on five years now.

  • I bought Liv her own instant camera and it has been a game changer for our trips. She loves playing photographer and it helps keep her busy when we are at museums or art galleries when she would normally run wild.
  • A retractable selfie stick – This one may be controversial. I really hate seeing these sticks all over touristy landmarks however, too many times I have ended up with no family photos or blurry, horrible photos taken by a stranger so I have given in to the selfie stick peer-pressure. This one is strongly recommended by my friend Kelly, who used it during her three month sabbatical while traveling solo. It has a built-in tripod and a remote. Just be aware most popular museums do no allow tripods or selfie-sticks.

Please keep in mind, you must say “Bonjour” when entering a business, to the bus driver or before speaking to any Parisian, not speaking first is considered rude. It’s always a good habit to teach your little ones how to say Hello, Goodbye and Thank you in the language of the country you are traveling to.

Okay, now that you are all prepped and ready to go, here’s the first stop.

DSC_0700

    1. Metro station
      (any Metro station)

      You may think walking is the best way to get around Paris but the city is huge and little feet get tired fast. If you pop into any Metro station you can buy a book of 10 tickets (called a carnet) which can be used on the trains and buses. I prefer taking a bus around the city so you can sitesee and enjoy a relaxing ride to your destination. The French public transportation is very easy to navigate and convenient. They even have the arrival times posted on most bus stops. Believe me, you will be doing plenty of walking later.

      DSC_0176

    2. Jardin des Tuileries
      Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris

      This is the Parisian equivalent to Central Park, located near the Louvre museum. Here you will find something for all ages. Playgrounds and sculptures are scattered throughout the impeccably manicured tree lined paths. During the summer and winter months there is a fun fair with games and carnival rides. You will find a carousel, snack stands, a puppet theater and my daughter’s favorite, the trampolines! They cost a few euros for 15 minutes of jumping so make sure you have cash on you.

      DSC_4768
      IMG_0813
      IMG_0976

      The museum de l’Orangerie is located in the south end of the garden which houses the impressive Claude Monet Water Lilies.

    3. Jardin du Luxembourg
      6eme arrondissement
      Closes at 4:30 pm during the winter months

      This is another popular park, it’s massive and lovely. There’s so much to see here you can easily spend a whole afternoon there! The most fun thing for kids is renting a sailboat and spending 30 minutes playing captain of the sea. Don’t worry, I am referring to a small toy boat and you get a stick to launch it into a lake. Each boat has a different country flag so be sure to choose one that you can tell you little one about.

      IMG_1481
      IMG_0393

      Liv chose Mexico which is where her Grandmother Maria was born. There are pony rides, ice cream vendors and stunning gardens, please be aware, you cannot walk on the grass here and you will get whistled at by security if you do!

    4. Try the snails at Cafe Charlot
      38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
      7 am – 2 am

      I know, your kids are probably like mine and will only eat buttered pasta or chicken fingers but I dare you to test their taste buds by ordering escargot at this trendy cafe in the Marais. Our kid refused to try them until we moved here, then she discovered all her French friends ate them, now she loves them. It is open all day, everyday (which is rare) and the waiters are very friendly towards Americans. I tend to opt for an early dinner so we are dining before the restaurant gets too busy and there isn’t much room for drama. Plus I like to get the best table for photos, of course. Be sure to grab a seat inside if you don’t want to be near the smokers and order a Saint Germain cocktail like the cool Parisians do.

      ACS_0591

    5. Cité des sciences et de l’industrie/City of Science & Industry
      30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris

      If your kid is a science geek like mine, this place is for them. There is a science museum, exploratorium, IMAX movie theater and VR experience. The entire area is perfect for kids with a park, boat rides on the canals and a small carnival. Try to go during the week so it’s less crowded.

    6. See the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night!
      Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris

      It is a no-brainer if you come to Paris you must see the incredible Tour Eiffel! Yet, I don’t want you to miss the nightly sparkle of the tower. There are always large crowds at the tower and the adjacent Trocadero but much less in the evening. Please note, you can no longer go underneath the tower without going through a long security check line so plan to be there ahead of time. The tower sparkles from sunset every hour until 1 am, it’s magical.

      DSC_5274

    7. Princess Crepe
      3 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 Paris

      What is better than a Parisian crepe? A Harajuku/Japanese crepe! This tiny place is nestled in the Marais and often has a line of people outside. Try the cheesecake and strawberries crepe, you’ll love it. Definitely Olivia approved.

    8. Disneyland Paris
      Boulevard de Parc, 77700 Coupvray

      Liv insisted I add the happiest place on Earth to this list. I will say, I adore Disneyland and it is much less crowded than the one in California. We take the RER A train from Chatelet/Les Halles station which takes about an hour to arrive at the Disneyland station. They have most of the same rides as the US Disneyland but with a European flair. Jack Sparrow charmingly speaks French on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. There is a Queen of Hearts labyrinth maze. I have heard they even have a pineapple whip (similar to Dole Whip) but it’s only available during the summer. The lines are much shorter and there is a seperate Walt Disney Studios park that is very cool.

      paris blog

    9. Montmartre Village/the majestic Sacre-Coeur Basilica
      1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris

      DSC_1031

      Montmartre is arguably the most well-known quarter in Paris. Kids will enjoy taking the funicular up the hill. If you look to the right of the church, you will see a small fence at the bottom of the stairs, you can take this fun photo (slightly tilted) so it looks like the houses are sinking.

      IMG_E1145

      Then walk around the street to your left past the funicular, at the corner you will catch a glance of the Eiffel Tower. Keeping walking up the hill and you will arrive in Montmartre village. There you can buy tickets for a ride on the Petit Train de Montmartre which will take you on a tour of the area. I highly recommend it.

      paris blog-2
      Skip the souvenir shops in the village and walk towards square Jehan Rictus to check out the Mur des Je’taime (Wall of I love you).

      IMG_0626

      Afterwards, you can have an unusual dinner experience at…

    10. Le Refuge des Fondus
      17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris
      Opens at 7pm (no reservations)

      Due to a heavy wine glass tax, this tiny restaurant now serves all drinks in baby bottles. There are two items on the menu; fondue and meat all served with skewers. This place is a total tourist trap that no locals would ever be seen in, but it is such a blast! The table seating is family style so people have to climb over the tables to be seated along the benches. The staff are notoriously mean and rude but I was somehow able to win ours over. He gifted us with a few baby bottles to take as souvenirs.

    11. Angelina
      226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
      10 am – 6 pm

      This place is a major tourist attraction but it is worth the wait. Located across the street from Jardin des Tuileries, it is a bakery that specializes in its signature, decadent, hot chocolate. I was so surprised to find out they also have white hot chocolate which is equally good, and I want some now!

    12. The Natural History Museum
      57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris

      Every town has one and Paris is no exception. There is a fascinating exhibit of the kingdom of animals on the second floor of this vast museum. In another building is Liv’s favorite, gems and minerals. It reminds me of the Natural History museum in Los Angeles and is definitely worth spending the day. It is located in the garden of plants which is especially pretty during the spring. Make sure to stop at the Dodo Manège carousel which has animals that are sadly all now endangered or extinct. There is also a zoo within the jardin des plantes but I recommend the next zoo.

    13. Parc Zoologique de Paris
      Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris

      This zoo is located in the 12eme arrondissement on the outskirts of Paris in the enormous bois des Vincennes. I had low expectations for Parc Zoologique because in my opinion, there is no better zoo than the San Diego zoo, so I was delighted to see animals I have never seen in person before. LIKE A SLOTH! I could have stayed there all day watching this sweet guy move in slow motion. We went on a very hot day so we had to keep moving. Antz took a photo of a spider bigger than my hand but I won’t subject you to that nightmare. Kids will definitely love the animal feedings so be sure to check the schedule.

      IMG_2990

    14. Choose your own Adventure
      Sports Saber League
      46 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 75010 Paris

      This one is perfect for days you are feeling burnt out on museums and crowds. We like to ask Liv if she could pick one thing to do, what would it be? She was asking about fencing for awhile but the classes were the same day and time as her ballet so I found a similar alternative, Star Wars LightSaber fencing. There is a beginners class on Saturdays and they provide you with a lightsaber if you didn’t pack yours. Antz and Liv did it for two hours and loved it. It’s nice to ask your kids what they want to do because you may find something you wouldn’t have thought to do.

    15. Sip mulled cider at the Christmas Market
      Tuileries Christmas Market
      Marche de Noel La Defense (the biggest one in Paris)

      There are several markets throughout Paris that are open during the holidays. I have only been to two, La Defense and Jardin des Tuileries, but there are several within the city. There are booths like a farmers market selling Christmas homemade goods, gifts and food. There are raclette booths which are huge wheels of gooey cheese that are melted and dripped onto bread. The market at the Tuileries has rides and an ice skating rink. It’s a must do if you are in Paris during the holidays. Mamma’s be sure to try the hot wine “vin chaud“, it’s mind-blowingly good.

    16. Eat dessert American style in Paris
      Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris

      We love our neighborhood which has a delightful American expat community. We have gotten to know many of the kind business owners at Boneshaker Donuts, Jean Hwang Currant cookies and Stoney Clove Bakery. Please make sure to let them know that Elizabeth sent you there! You will find every type of cuisine on a stroll down the famous rue Montorgueil. We love picking up a kilo (a French pound) of cherries to snack on during the summer.

      cherries montorgueil

    17. Musée des Arts et Métiers
      60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris

      Super cool, off the beaten path, museum of technology and mechanics. Your kids will love the room full of antique trains, cars and machinery. This museum is never crowded and will captivate your child’s imagination. We have been twice and still haven’t seen everything it has to offer.

    18. Rougier et Plé (awesome art supply store)
      15 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, 75003 Paris
      (there are several other locations)

      After all those visits to the art museums  your young artists must be feeling inspired, so I recommend stopping by this mega store to pick up a few art supplies. A small paint palette, a canvas and a brush is all you will need. Then head over to Île Saint-Louis (located on an island behind Notre Dame Cathedral) and spend an afternoon painting the dreamy Paris landscape along the Seine.

      Berthillon Glacier
      Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris

      Then stop by Berthillon for the best ice cream in town. Any of the brasseries on the corner of rue Jean du Bellay sells it. There is a fancy restaurant that sells it around the corner too.

      IMG_0764

    19. Go on a bike ride along Canal Saint Martin
      (for older kiddos)

      Download the Uber app – If you click the bicycle icon it will show you on a map where the Jump by Uber bikes are located. You can’t miss them with their cool, bright red paint. Once you scan them with your phone, you are all set to hit the bike lanes that run along the trendy Canal Saint Martin. The bikes are electric so it’s a smooth and easy cruise while soaking in the beauty of the canals. There’s also a two hour boat cruise that will take you through the canals many locks.

      IMG_4145
      IMG_1348

    20. Get Lost! – The best part of visiting Paris is wandering the cobblestone streets, you will always find something fun to do. There are so many photo booths (they make great souvenirs) and carousels scattered around the city. A few of my favorite kids stores to check out.

      Bonton
      Smallable
      Petit Pan
      Tartine et Chocolat
      Village JouéClub
      Shakespeare and Company (English bookstore)

      Bonus – Pre-Negotiate a deal with your kids for buying souvenirs

      I have to add this because I have been there and know what a downer it is when your kid sees a gift shop and the begging commences. I worked out two options for Liv which has saved me from many tantrums. She collects souvenir coins which are mostly found in churches and museums all over Europe. So far she has over 30 coins! They cost €2, and she knows she can have one so she doesn’t ask for everything in the shop. The second option is when she finds something she cannot resist (which is everytime) she can pay for it with her own money. This has been a great solution because she earns money by doing chores at home. She has learned to save and not do much impulse shopping.

      paris eiffel tower-2

      A few years before we moved abroad I bought Liv a toy set of world landmarks from Michaels. I also bought these two books, Maps and This is the World, which are informative and beautifully illustrated, to research our trips. We now collect landmarks from most of the cities we have visited. They all are under 2 inches tall so they fit in her Maptote travel bag.

      IMG_9954

Always have fun!

Lizzie


Elizabeth is a stay-at-home-Mom/blogger/tour guide offering custom walking tours of Paris at Mon Ami Paree. She is a francophile who is (slowly) learning French, adores traveling and documenting her colorful family’s adventures on her blog, Violently Happy

 

Paris Life Observations

As we have come upon our year and a half anniversary of moving to Paris, we have noticed many comparisons from living in Los Angeles versus Paris. I’d like to share the ones that I find challenging and downright ridiculous.

The biggest one is life without a car. In LA, we spent so much time in our cars that it created an insulated feeling. In my twenty plus years of driving in LA, I’ve rarely had to deal with public transportation. Things like worrying about being pickpocketed, or having a man stand too close to me weren’t an issue. If it’s hot or cold outside, there’s air conditioning or a heater to keep you comfy. Life in Paris means you have to be prepared for the weather and many times that means dealing with a hot, crowded bus or giving up all personal space. One the flip side, I do love that our family spends more time together going for walks, or renting scooters for the weekend to explore new neighborhoods (and mostly Invader hunt).

It has been freeing to not spend so much time stuck in miserable traffic.

These new Jump bikes by Uber just appeared on the streets and we love them. The bikes are electric so you coast along. The two issues with them is you have to use the Uber app to rent them and I am the only one with an account so I can only rent one bike at a time. They are also more expensive than renting a scooter so we don’t use them often.

IMG_2150

Spending a day riding a bike would be tortue in Los Angeles because of barking dogs, very few bike lanes and brutal hills. In LA, many people would have dogs as guards so you can’t walk down the street without getting barked at. Since people don’t have yards here, dogs are kept as pets and are trained so well that they don’t need leashes. I was amazed at how you don’t hear incessant barking here.

It feels like French people have a better quality of life because they go outside more. They are used to sharing their space because people don’t have their own private backyards so they go to public parks. The French are more inclined to help someone because it’s the right thing to do, rather than just being a bystander.

That being said, there are rude, overly aggressive drivers and motorcycle riders that make it dangerous to walk on the streets at times. Jaywalking is law here, you never wait for the light to change and most times when cars are stuck in traffic and they are blocking the crosswalk, after the light changes, they still drive against a red light even if you are walking. Then they shout at you and throw their hands up in frustration as if walking on the green light is somehow the wrong thing to do. It’s annoying as hell.

IMG_5134

A majority of Parisians live in apartments so the lovely old buildings all share garbage bins. Our building has about 12 units (two on each floor) so that’s a ton of garbage. But the trash is collected everyday except Sunday. There are two trucks that come by for regular trash and glass bottles. It was hard to get used to the daily traffic jam on our tiny one-way street as the trash truck slowly collects all the bins at 5pm. It’s incredible to me that a building with 12 apartments have as many bins as we had for our small house in LA!

Which leads me to one of the biggest annoyances about living abroad. We rented our apartment from an English speaking rental agency. Along with two months deposit we paid a hefty 6% agency fee. The apartment manager, who handles repairs, apartment issues and acts as a liason to the person that owns our apartment, is absolutely savage. She speaks English but for some reason only communicates by email in French.  We have been waiting to have our interphone (the phone that allows you to buzz people into the building) repaired since May 2018!!

Little did I know (I admit, I was too enamored with renting a dreamy apartment in the perfect location in Paris) that I didn’t think to ask about the building itself. We don’t have a gardienne which is someone who lives and works in the building to take care of the upkeep and renter matters (collect deliveries, deal with broken things outside of the apartment, helps you if you get locked out)

Similar to Mme. Madeleine in Amelie

madeleine2

We moved in without any info on what to do when a package is delivered, so I learned the hard way by going to three different post offices looking for my package that most deliveries in Paris are dropped off at a nearby shop that have a sticker on the door that says Chronopost. For our first year here, this shop was in front of our building and even though they were terribly disorganized, we got to know the shop owners and it wasn’t too difficult to find our packages. Then suddenly the shop closed and a new  business moved in that didn’t accept Chronopost packages. I asked our kind neighbor where to pick up deliveries but he didn’t know. Most times, I get an email or text with an address of where to pick up my package. It’s usually in walking distance but sometimes it’s a long bus ride away. Not so convenient for me and it would be wonderful to have someone in the building that can accept our packages. I should add, we pay a monthly building fee to cover the trash, water and elevator costs, yet when our building’s front door was broken, we were locked out for ages with no one to contact to let us in. The door was repaired and everyone got a new key but I paid for an extra key and I’ve been waiting for about three months and still no new key. There was also a time when the building was having work done to the exterior and the electricity was out in the stairwell. It was pitch dark and it was the first time I felt scared in the building. I wish I could go back in time and had the girls who checked us in the rental explain the building procedures, who to call in an emergency, what the trash policy was (we didn’t know which bin was for recycling) and how to handle deliveries. It’s all very figure it out yourself here but God help you if you make a mistake! If I had the legal right to work here, I would be the concierge of our building since I’ve home most of the day (would love a discount on our rent) but the language barrier would be too difficult.

French people I have encountered are either extremely kind and helpful or short and rude. That is my personal experience, not making a generalization. For example, we were at the parc de la Villette which is a huge park along the canals which have cute boat rentals. We saw a kiosk of park employees so we asked them where can we rent the boats. Her response (and keep in mind, Liv asked in French) “Over there” while vaguely pointing to the empty canal sidewalk with nothing there. I asked Liv to ask her to clarify where she meant. She merely repeated herself. So we walked over to the only thing she could have meant which was a sign post on the empty canal path.

Iceland plane

We figured if we waited there maybe a boat would come along and we could inquire about renting it, yet all the boats were on the north side of the bridge and we were waiting on the southside with no boats in sight. After waiting for 15 minutes we gave up. I also remember during a flight to Amsterdam on Air France, we left the gate late so I was concerned about making our connecting flight to Tokyo which was a fast 40 minute window. Since we were already late, I asked the flight attendant when would we be arriving? He looked me dead in the eye and said “The usual time!” and walked off in a huff. We ended up having to sprint through the airport and beg to cut the line in security to make our flight. This is the French way, employees do not make it a habit to provide customer service of any kind. It’s so frustrating because of course we Americans are used to “the customer is always right” attitude but I am well aware, this is not America and I need to adapt not the other way around. I just try to be patient and not lose my temper. Olivia is a Godsend because once people hear how good her French is, they quickly change their tune and usually are more inclined to help. It sadly hasn’t been the case with our apartment manager.

DSC_0128

I crack my Mom and bff, Aimee up with my horror stories of how I get treated by people here. The joke here is you can’t ask for help but God help you if you don’t know the rules. I try to take it in good humor but there are times (remember the La Redoute mattress fiasco?) when I don’t think I can stand another minute of the abuse and I lose my shit.

IMG_3353

This was the car I rented this summer when we hosted our friends from Finland. I asked for a car to seat six and this is what they had. They sent me to the basement to pick up this beast and as you can see I wasn’t fitting in the doors. Luckily I was able to ask a guy washing cars to pull it out for me using sign language but it’s things like this that drive me crazy. I barely made it out of the parking garage without hitting the mirrors in this huge Volvo. In LA, whenever I rented a car, the people at the rental agency would bring the car out to me. Spoiled, I suppose. The guy at the rental place also called me to pick up the car early which I gladly obliged. Then as I was checking out he tried to add an extra day charge on the rental because I was returning it after 3pm. I tried to explain calmly, that he asked me to come pick the car up early but I still needed to return it at the time I requested. I seriously had to argue with him over this. What kind of logic is that?!

Yet, the coin always has another side. There are so many delightful advantages to living in France. Things I never really appreciated in LA, like the architecture. I know everyone thinks California is so beautiful and it is, but it has thousands of beige, stucco strip malls full of tacky signage and billboards on every corner. I liken LA to the internet, you really appreciate websites without annoying ads plastered all over the page (yep, WordPress has ads all over my blog now 🙁 ) so when you find a clean, advertisement-free place it’s so pleasant.

It’s still my favorite thing just walking around and looking at the (non-neon) signage of Paris.

The French are well known for their amazing cheese, wine and universal health-care. Yet our latest experience has me scratching my head. Now keep in mind, we are American citizens with the good fortune to live here on a long stay tourist visa, but now that Antz is unemployed, we pay for our own health insurance policy from America. Which means we pay out of pocket and can submit a claim with our insurance (but with the large deductible, we don’t) so far, it’s not as expensive as we would pay in LA. In August, we took Liv to the doctor for her annual check up and wanted to make sure all her vaccinations were up to date before school started. Since we weren’t sure of what the French school system required, we asked the doctor for an update. He spoke English and had a medical student with him during the exam. They did the basics, checked her heartbeat, measured her height and weight. We asked about an issue she had with her ear but he needed more info from our pediatrician in LA so I had to email him later. He told us, she was up to date on her shots until she was about 12 years old and that was it. €75 to listen to her heart and tell us she’s tall and healthy. I was pretty stunned that we were charged that much for nothing. I emailed the doctor twice to follow up with him about the ear thing and got no response. It’s amazing how professionals will never call you back or email you when they say they will here. Well, hopefully next year we will be able to apply for French healthcare so we shouldn’t have to pay too much in the future. Thank goodness we don’t get sick often (knocks on wood)!

Funny story, last week we were coming from an appointment with our immigration lawyer and Liv and I took a scooter home. We were ahead of Antz who happened to notice a woman on the street looking at us with recognition. He knew she looked familiar so he asked her if she knew us. Turns out she was Liv’s second grade teacher from her French school in LA! She moved back to Paris and was teaching and she saw us riding by on our scooter. Antz texted me to come back and we took this photo. She was impressed by Liv’s French and so excited that we were living our dream in Paris. It’s totally a small world!

IMG_2570

And lastly, I get it guys, I count my blessings everyday I am here. It is a dream come true. Please don’t think I have some entitled, bratty, close-minded attitude when it comes to living abroad. I am completely open to this new culture, new ways of doing things and having a “go with the flow” attitude. I just want to be transparent and share some idiosyncrasies that I have encountered.

Do you have any tales to share about life in a foreign country?

IMG_1361

France still has the prettiest cleaning supplies.

Bonne journée!

 

My mid-life check in

Bonjour guys,

I’ve had the most formidable (as the French say), chill summer. We hosted many special and dear friends and family that we ended up staying in Paris all summer. I started a new venture called Mon Ami Paree walking tours and this weekend we are hopping on a train for our 17th wedding anniversary. It’s completely bananas to me that I have done anything for as long as seventeen years but I’ve been with lovely Antz for half of my life so I consider myself lucky. I’ve been thinking about how I am getting closer to the midpoint of my life (fifty is creeping on me) and all the things I’ve learned, failed and grown from. Here’s my list of real talk life advice that have shaped me thus far.

Don’t pick at your face. I am so old school in my skin regime that I still use toothpaste on my pimples and I never touch my face. Now that I live in a city without a car, I feel the dirt and sun more than ever. So, everyday I wash my face with Bliss fab foaming 2-in-1 cleanser & exfoliator with bamboo buffers  (I bought a huge bottle before we left LA) and moisturize with my Holy Grail Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizing Lotion. That’s it! I try my best not to frown but I am embracing my laugh-line wrinkles. Remember a pimple is temporary but a scar can be permanent.

IMG_4296

Manners first in everyday situations. When I was 11, I spent a summer in the exciting state of Oklahoma with my Grandmother’s sister. My Great-Aunt was super traditionally strict and she basically put me in charm school boot camp that summer. No elbows on the table, ask to be excused from the table and always say Good morning when you greet someone. These are no-brainer rules for Liv, lucky me I rarely have to remind her but it’s such a dying part of our society. Bring a gift the first time you visit someone’s house, hold the door for people struggling, make eye contact when you speak to someone. So many people have a hard time learning names but I always say the person’s name when we meet to remember it. I also write myself notes to remind myself (cute family we met at the park with two kids and live in the 2eme). Please learn a strong handshake. When I meet someone with a weak handshake I want to head bump them so hard. How far will you get in life with that weak grip? I don’t trust weak hand shakers. I often have to catch myself from saying “Bless you” out loud when someone sneezes on the bus because I get such strange looks (I forget, no one speaks English). One of the most charming things I appreciate here in Paris is you must always speak to a shopkeeper or bus driver when you enter. I also love how people offer their seats to elderly or pregnant women without a thought. From my observations, pregnant ladies get treated like princesses here. Remember, politeness goes a long way and shows integrity.

IMG_5889
Also, create your signature pose. I started looking up to the left when I noticed it makes my eyes look wider and brighter, it has become my default pose!

Always bring a umbrella! I have learned the hard way so many times since I moved to this land of unpredictable rain. I have gotten caught in rain and hailstorm without even a jacket. I am so LA that I forget to wear a jacket when I leave the house and the sun is shining bright. Little did I know it can take less than an hour for the weather to take a major turn. We have acquired so many cheap umbrellas because we get caught in the rain. Now I carry a bag every time we go out with two small umbrellas, my wireless headphones, a pack of wet wipes, portable phone charger and cords, hand sanitizer, our table tennis rackets (almost every park has a table) and a water bottle. These things used to live in the trunk of my car but now I have to schlep everything myself.

IMG_4851

Invest in quality lip balm. I used to throw Vaseline on my lips if they were chapped for years in my twenties. Then I got an Anthropologie gift card for my birthday so I bought some fancy Smith Rosebud Salve. I loved the smell of the balm but the container would get bent in my bag and it was too cumbersome and messy to open. So when I found EOS in sweet mint at Target, I was addicted. I literally brought 20 of them to Paris with me because I fear running out. My Mom even sends me more in my care packages because she knows I am obsessed. Find a quality lip balm and never leave home without it in your purse. Trust me, I had to stop at a 24 hour grocery store to buy some lip balm while I was on my way to the hospital when I was in labor with Liv.

IMG_9234
My Mommy keeps me stocked with necessities from LA. Still can’t ship In & Out burgers.

Don’t buy something with the hope of losing weight to wear it later. I bought a cute baby doll dress from Target thinking, it’s so cute and not expensive, I’ll lose some weight in my arms and be able to wear it in a few months. That dumb dress sat in my closet for five years. Why mentally psyche yourself up for something you can’t enjoy now? I no longer starve myself, or beat myself up about my weight. I am healthy and loved. I walk more now than I ever did and I feel great in my clothes. The apparel industry has come around to accepting that all women aren’t size six, so I feel great about being able to buy clothes that don’t look matronly or feel left out of what the cool girls are wearing. I was even asked to try-on clothes for two brands I adore (my darlings at Ace & Jig and Ban.do)  This 42 year old lady is still as rad as I was at 22!

QYYX4546
Never not wearing my favorite Ace & Jig dress

Embrace your quirky self! I used to have an unhealthy relationship with my hair. I have bleached it to death, chemically straightened it for years and mistreated it out of sheer laziness. The straw that broke my hair unhappiness was in January 2017. I was putting a chemical straightener on my hair when I had to take off my Olivia pendant necklace (the chemicals would ruin it)  I somehow lost my necklace that day so I vowed to never use that stupid (and damaging) stuff again. I haven’t put any chemicals or color on my hair since then. I replaced my necklace too. When I want to change my look, I get colorful braids. Now that I live in a more humid climate (my hair literally turns into a mushroom the second I go outside)

rain

I’ve learned to embrace my natural curls. I have an established hair routine that I do once in a while because I’m still lazy but the less I mess with my hair the stronger and healthier it’s been. I invested in products I know keep my dry, damaged hair moisturized and leave it alone. I broke my expensive flat iron when I first moved her because of the dumb voltage. I bought a new Euro flat iron but it doesn’t work as well as my old one so I decided, why go through the time and energy trying to make my naturally curly hair straight? Now I throw tons of leave-in conditioner and twist my hair, or sometimes I wear flexi rods overnight and poof! I’m little orphan Lizzie.

Young Lizzie (with long locks like Olivia’s) and Lizzie in her 20s (with ridiculous hair extensions)

ACS_0417

I’ve retired my signature braids for the summer to give my hair a rest and let it breathe. Braids are a protective hairstyle in the Black hair community but they can also cause breakage if you use the wrong type of hair or have them braided too tight. Plus they are annoyingly hot. I’m embracing my afro!

Please for the love of God know the difference between homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled and mean different things!) I am in a Facebook travel group and when I see adult people typing “I waisted a ticket because the whether was bad,” I have a brain meltdown. Listen, I am no grammar snob, I am completely aware my spelling is atrocious (thanks autocorrect for fixing that for me) and I am a serial run-on-sentence writer, but if you aren’t sure (not SHORE) which word to use, take a second and Google it. It took me years to grasp the difference between stationary and stationery. I subscribe to Word Genius which emails me a new word a day. I really wish I had a reason to use the word hornswoggle on my blog. Learn new things all the time. It’s cute to be smart.

Master your penmanship. I may sound so old-fashioned and prissy in my unsolicited advice here but have you ever tried to read a doctor’s prescription? I now live in a country where they write in lovely italic cursive however, I can’t tell an S from an R. Liv has beautiful penmanship, I have always instilled taking pride in your handwriting in her from an early age yet the French education system has taken over and she writes so teeny tiny, I can’t figure it out. I bought her a calligraphy set and she loves to practice writing fancy. Practice makes perfect and being able to write in legible handwriting is important even in today’s digital age.

IMG_0826

Not everyone is going to like you. Believe it or not, this can be hard for extroverts like myself to accept. I can be hypersensitive and believe it or not I get anxiety around new people. I am an only child so my friendships are everything to me. I have been told that I am a people person but I really have a small inner circle of only about five or six people who really know the real uncensored me. I’ve had to deal with people flaking on me, people mischaracterizing me and many people underestimating me for years. My confidence comes from learning self-trust. I am okay being the loud girl who listens to weird music or dresses like a toddler obsessed with rainbows, that is who I am, not sorry about it. I can’t help but be selfish about my happiness. I try my best to set an example for my (sometimes shy and quiet) daughter because growing up is hard and things like bullying, eating disorders and now the fake Instagram perfection standard makes it even harder. I never had a sibling to give me advice or tell me I look crazy so I’ve made great friends and spent time listening and learning. I now have many sisters (by marriage and my bff) but I wish I knew at 13 that just because someone didn’t like me meant something was wrong with me. Your people will get you. As you get older, you stop caring what other people think.
What strangers think doesn’t matter and are inconsequential to your success!

IMG_2425
Proud Pokemon Go nerd Mom. If you play too, let me know so we can be friends!

 

Fail, ugly cry and then try that shit again until you finally succeed! OMG, this was a hard lesson for me to learn y’all. I am notoriously impatient and when I don’t immediately get my way, I turn into the biggest brat ever. I have gone through every type of disappointment, felt like life was over for me and through all the drama and heartache, always came through better than I started. It’s weird when you are going through something serious, it feels like being stuck in quicksand. I now know that the harder something is for me to achieve, the more it’s worth it. I also know that anything worth doing requires sacrifice and commitment. You may sacrifice sleep, spending money, eating desserts but will it be worth the sacrifice in the end? Ask yourself this when going into a new venture. I have learned in the past twenty two years that my internal stress and anxiety is a complete overreaction. I know deep down things will work out because it always seems impossible until it’s done. The word is literally I’M POSSIBLE!!

Apartment-7

Bonus Advice: Fresh flowers makes everything better!

Any life advice that you learned from past mistakes you want to share? Comment below.

Have a lovely rest of the summer. I am still working on last summer’s travel posts, it’s taking forever because my laptop memory is full so for every photo I upload I have to throw away three. It’s moving slow but it’s possible.

Bisous

Expat Life in Paris: What’s it really like?

Coucou,

Yesterday Antz and I picked up our cartes des titres (annual immigration renewal) for our second year in France. Voila!

IMG_3388
IMG_9874

It just happened to be the hottest day in France’s history and our celebration was short lived for two reasons, the first was Antz carte de titre is expiring five months earlier than mine because he has an issue with his health insurance. The weird thing is we both submitted identical paperwork (we have the same insurance) so this is French bureaucracy at its finest. We will have to reapply in October to fix this costly mistake. Then on the way home from the Prefecture, Antz realized he accidentally left his phone on the desk of the lady who helped us. We hurried back and got his phone, so despite these hiccups, we are still here (at least until January 2020!) which is a victory.

IMG_0860

I wanted to update our expat life in Paris since it’s been quite awhile. Antz has been working freelance (with US clients) and Liv is finally on summer break. I am busy this summer hosting many friends visiting from the US. If you follow me on Instagram (you follow me, right?) then you can check out my Stories named Summer 2019. This is our first summer in Paris that we haven’t left town. I would love to share some of our daily experiences and observations that are different from our life in Los Angeles. Full disclosure, I don’t want to make this into a Paris vs LA comparison post or sound like I am complaining too much, I just want to give you a real perspective of some of the obstacles expats may confront. This doesn’t mean we don’t love living here and we are grateful everyday. I just want everyone to know, nowhere is perfect, even though photos may perceive it to be.

IMG_0682

School summer break – Liv’s school summer break begins after the first week of July. This is four weeks later than her school break in LA. It was difficult for us counting down those long four weeks mostly because France was experiencing a canicule (insane record high heatwave) this year and it was so hot that school was cancelled due to the extreme temperatures. The French have a strange aversion to air-conditioning so when it’s hot, it is miserable. The good news is she had swimming class every Thursday at school which is wonderful. I used to race across town on Fridays after school for Liv’s 15 minute swimming lessons in Pasadena and most of that time she spent just waiting for her turn to swim. After five years of lessons, she wasn’t really making progress and I didn’t feel like it was worth the money and stress. So, we love that extracurricular activities are included in the school day here FOR FREE! It really helped her cool down during the heatwave.

Apartment-12

During the last week of school, Liv’s class put on two performances for the parents. The first was a music and choir recital which was adorable beyond words. The older class sang “I’m Singing in the Rain” in English and I couldn’t help but giggle at their sweet accents. Liv’s class performed a play in French and Olivia portrayed a funny duck. We had no idea what the play was about but thoroughly enjoyed our duck’s antics. Antz made her costume using stuff around the house, bien sûr. He even painted her old Adidas yellow and felted a duck bill.

IMG_0428

Liv & her 3rd grade teacher

Most French families have second homes in the countryside so most of Olivia’s school friends are away on vacation during the summer. It’s been helpful that we’ve had so many visitors from LA so she’s seen many of her old friends. She also spent the first two weeks of summer break in camp! It’s a daily camp at the local recreation center (centre des loisirs). Everyday they ventured out into the city for field trips, swimming and nature hikes. She loved it!

It was a little hard for us to navigate the camp schedule because the website is in French and I couldn’t access my online account due to a glitch, so Liv had to translate for us the best she could. Our friend who works at her school helped us register her. It’s little things like this that sometimes can be frustrating. I need help setting up an online account so I can access the camp website yet there’s really no one to help me. I even went to the local Mairie (town hall) to get help to set up our account online but the woman told us she was new at the job and couldn’t help me. So everyday we didn’t find out what her schedule was until she came home and told us about it. I am still waiting to receive a bill in the mail for the camp a month later. Sigh, Que sera, sera.

This is a typical daily commute for me.

During the heatwave, Liv and I took the bus outside of Paris to go swimming. We arrived at noon but the attendant told us due to a “technical” issue the pool was temporarily closed. Such a bummer because it was burning hot and it took us over an hour to get there. Instead of going back home, we decided to go Pokemon Go hunting nearby and grabbed some sushi for lunch.

I love the Montreuil Mairie (town hall) and I caught a new 3-D Invader.

By the time we finished lunch, I called the pool and they told me it was open again. So, there is an inconsistent summer schedule in most of Paris. Did you know that a swim cap is required at public pools here? Liv’s cap never stays on because of her thick hair.

Most businesses have signs on their doors saying they are closed for weeks for summer holiday. August is the official month that Paris shuts down (the French enjoy five weeks of paid vacation) but most of my favorite places like Monoprix, our bakery and the farmers market will hopefully remain open. It’s been tricky when my friends visit because they want me to take them to all my favorite places but they have been closed all month.

58522022831__F7085060-C200-4C80-8E9D-95F5BFCDF3EE
Our favorite American bakery have been closed for weeks.

We are fortunate to live close to Monoprix (French Target) which is open everyday except Sunday evenings (they close at noon). I practically live there, I go almost everyday.

ACS_0393
IMG_1113

For the past year we have been carrying heavy groceries home in our bags so last week I made our first delivery order online. I was shocked that the minimum order was €50 and the earliest delivery time is the next day. It was almost a challenge to meet the €50 minimum to place the order. Luckily, I was able to stock up on bottled water, bags of ice and every heavy item I could think of. I used this app to place the order. If you happen to live in France and are thinking of placing an online order, please use my friend code for a discount for the both of us. The groceries arrive in crates which are easy to bring in our elevator. This is my €55 order.

I don’t know how often I’ll order delivery but it is a helpful service to utilize.

Since many restaurants are closed for summer vacation, we’ve had to resort to getting fast food because they are the only places open all-day. It’s not even close to how often we would eat fast food in Los Angeles but after a fourteen year boycott, I had to break my No-McDonalds policy out of a starvation necessity. Here’s the difference, McDonalds in France have grass-fed beef, growth hormones are illegal, there is no such thing as super size and the largest drink size seems smaller than a kids size! The restaurants only have kiosks to place an order and there are no refills on drinks. You can order fresh croissants and even a McBaguette. There is no fast service in Paris, you wait much longer for your food but they rarely get your order wrong and if you order food to go you will always get napkins, and they package your drinks so they won’t spill. I do find it absurd that they charge for ketchup but offer curry sauce and mayonnaise for free. Honestly, McDonalds reminds me most of back home. P.S. I think the pizza here is dreadful.

I’ve been eating healthier because the food here isn’t full of pesticides and hormones. I do still crave food from America. Antz made this silly photo of me along with my favorite foods.

IMG_1917
The pepperoni pizza, hot fried chicken and butter crunch candy are only available in the US and I miss them the most!

Navigating daily life in Paris can be a 50/50 split. The French have a way of making everything beautiful but also miserable. French people believe that air conditioning will make you sick so they have practically outlawed it except for tiny portable units that are noisy and only work if you stand directly in front of them. They are very progressive in their culture but some things they refuse to move forward on. If you order ice in a restaurant they look at you with utter disgust. Their language is elegant poetry that I could listen to all day, yet a nightmare to learn with a varying degree of arbitrary rules. Paris is a living piece of art. My favorite part of living here is discovering new street art and gorgeous architecture. It’s so refreshing not to be overwhelmed with advertising billboards, loud airplanes and tacky strip malls. I love finding new street art in our neighborhood. Sadly, someone has been going around the city painting over Invaders, the wall that awesome mural Liv is standing in front of was just demolished and someone tore down this Madame Chat. It’s so annoying that there are haters out there that must destroy to feel better about themselves. I am lucky I have so many photos of this precious art that is always disappearing.

Beauty is truly everywhere here however…don’t spend too long looking up at the stunning buildings because there is dog poop everywhere! It’s terribly smelly this summer due to the hot poop on the sidewalks. It’s weird how there are absolutely no stray animals in Paris yet so much poop. There’s also a urine epidemic that disgusts me. Yucky men pee in broad daylight on the streets with no regard. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen men standing against a wall or tree peeing in public. Listen, I can tolerate the smoke, I am used to the traffic noise but the pissing in public and nobody bats an eye, I do not like it at all. Women aren’t squatting on the streets openly peeing so why do men get to spray walls like feral animals? The city even puts out these open urinals (I suppose to suppress the peeing on buildings) but I don’t understand why this is even necessary? There are enclosed toilets everywhere so why do I have to walk around in piss puddles because baby boys can’t hold their pee pee until they get home like us ladies have to. Ugh! Do not fight me on this, it’s gross and needs to stop. Put your weiner away guys!

This adorable kitty on a leash at the post office, I absolutely support.

Désolé, on a sunnier note, Liv and I spend a lot of time at parks near our apartment. I love the small parks full of shady trees and benches. I haven’t seen many swings in parks here. There rarely is grass lawns that you are allowed to walk on. They usually have dirt or sand which bums me out because it’s dirty but there is a park with shock absorbent pavement similar to York Park in Highland Park. Most parks have ping pong tables so we bought our own set to play.

WMUX6783

For every complaint I may have, the trade off is we still live in freaking Paris! The most romantic city in the world. Like any place it has it’s typical up and downs. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve been told one thing and then the next day the exact opposite. We have been battling with our landlord for over a year to fix our excruciating slow wifi speed and replace our intercom phone so we can buzz visitors into our building. I spend hours sending emails and making calls to customer service and I rarely get results no matter how wrong they may be. It is practically criminal to admit a mistake no matter how glaring it may be. It’s become funny to us how many contradictions we encounter. The rules always change but no one tells you what the rules are, it’s up to you to figure it out. I’m quite proud that I’ve managed to rent an apartment, enroll Liv into a great school, made many friends (although several of our expat friends have moved on) without speaking the language or having any family here to help us. Everyday we still pinch ourselves we are here.

IMG_E0183

I love this flawed yet magnificent place and I feel French in my heart even with my ‘orreeble Fwench azcent! Merci, for reading my blog and I hope you stick around whilst I catch up on our travel posts from this past year. I am working hard to upload, edit and post over 100,000 photos.

ACS_0484

Bisous,

The Hall Conleys

My Evian water bottle crates

Bonjour,

I have a story to share about how I copped the most coveted pink Evian bottle crates. I first saw the Evian crates on Apartment Therapy’s Instagram a short time after we moved to France. I thought they were perfect for our apartment but I had no idea where to find them. The next thing I knew, I was seeing them everywhere.

All the brasseries have their bottled drinks delivered daily, so you can’t help but see the colorful crates stacked outside on the streets.

I have asked the staff at every brasserie about buying one of the crates however they told me the crates were rented from the Evian water company so they couldn’t sell them to me. “Ç’est impossible” seems to be the French National motto. Thus began my Evian crate obsession, asking every time I saw some at a bar or restaurant. I never even knew how much I was willing to spend on them (€25 each probably) because no one would even consider it. Finally someone told me to just go to the source and ask the Evian water company directly.

I never got around to that, we happen to be driving back from Cannes when I saw a ton of crates on the sidewalk.

I made a quick (and probably illegal) U-turn and jumped out to ask the guy who was making the delivery. He didn’t speak English so I had my official translator do her thing and he sounded happy to help me.

IMG_1364

So the guy tells us, he isn’t allowed to sell them but we can go to a nearby grocery store to see if they have any. I had butterflies in my stomach with excitement!

IMG_E1367

We followed the guy a few blocks away to a Franprix store (a smaller version of Trader Joes) and he spoke to the guy at the register. I was grinning like a crazy person when he walked us to the back of the store. He then pulls out a 12 pack of Evian plastic bottles of water and is like “Here you go!

OMG!

The language barrier is no joke. So that was a complete bust, I disappointedly drove back to Nice. I was over it by then. I knew that I would just end up bidding on an Evian crate on eBay for like $200 with ridiculous shipping. I looked for the crates online and I didn’t find any for sale.

So, the next day we went to the the Cours Saleya market in old town Nice. As we were walking over Antz noticed a door he thought would be interesting to photograph.

As I was posing in front of this door trying to get a shot without so much shadow, a guy came over with a delivery of water bottles and of course he had a few Evian crates.

IMG_8985

At first, I just moved out of his way but Antz insisted I ask the guy. He was confused by my horrible French but Liv translated and he told us to hold on while he went inside. I was fully prepared to hear the same thing “Ç’est impossible.” Well, he was smiling at us and he told us to come with him. We walked around the block to his truck. He jumped up and started moving things around. I was asking Antz for cash, not sure of how much I should offer. He then slide over a Coke Cola crate towards me. Liv then said “Non, rose Evian s’il vous plait.” I almost started crying when he jumped down he handed a crate to me, then another one he gave to Liv. I told him I only had €20 but he refused to take it. You guys, this angel straight up gave me two of the most sought after things I’ve been searching for in Paris for months!

Cannes-2

I gave him bises (two kisses on the cheeks) and said Merci a million times. I mean look at my face!! Nice is so aptly named. I couldn’t offer anyone any amount of money to get one of these things in Paris but he just gave them to us. So freaking rad!

I was ecstatic. It didn’t at all occur on me that I had to haul them on the plane back to Paris. I didn’t really care, I was just so happy to finally have them.

Cannes-5

If I had the space I would buy all the vintage postcards and portraits I could find. I love Victorian photographs.

 

This vide-grenier (antique sale) had so many good treasures. I was looking for a French emblem often worn after WW1 and WW2. The first ones we saw were expensive. He wanted €75 for this one.

DSC_0651DSC_0652

I found some cooler ones for €40 for two. They are so fragile, I’m afraid to wear them out because I don’t want to lose them.

IMG_9044

I also fell hard for this Parisian landmarks charm bracelet.

IMG_2009

I wish I bought it but it was a little over my budget and the bracelet was too snug. If it had a few more links it would have fit more comfortably. I am still on the lookout for a vintage bracelet, it’s exactly what I want.

I ended up having the Evian crates wrapped in plastic at the airport for €25 and then Air France charged me another €70 to fly them home, so in reality I spent almost €100 for these crates but I love them so much, I think they are totally worth it.

IMG_9120

I am currently using one of the crates for our plant and the other one is our printer stand until I find a replacement. I could also use one for a bed for Lola or to hold my records. They are super cute and functional.

IMG_4026IMG_9392

Have you ever been on a mission for a sought-after item? It’s so much harder here in France because my go-to websites don’t ship here. Yet, it’s still fun to search for treasures.

Bonjournée!

Moving Abroad: Six Months

Salut!

Well, in the blink of an eye, we have lived in Paris for six months. We are at the halfway mark of our year abroad and those 183 days went by in a flash. 183 days is a significant number for our family because that happens to be the number of days Antz company has allowed him to work remotely. We discovered this just two weeks before our departure date last February. This added to our stress and anxiety but since we put in so much hard work to get approved for our visas, set up a home exchange, took Olivia out of her French school in LA, and we set everything up to be in Paris for an entire year, we just left not knowing what would happen with Antz job.

IMG_1241

Let me explain what the 183 day rule is. There is a treaty with France and the US so that either country can collect income tax from residents living there past 183 days. So in our case, if Antz were to continue working past six months, he would have to start paying into France’s tax system (paying for social services, income tax, etc.) while also still paying income taxes in the US because he is employed by an American company. This article explains it better than I can. To me it sounds like double taxation but there is an exclusion up to the first $100,000 of income in the US. Which for us means he would pay 45% of his income in taxes in France but only 28% past $100,000 in the US. So basically 63% of his income would have gone to taxes for our 2019 tax return. This was not the best case scenario for us financially. Also, his company was not able to set him up as an international transfer employee on a work visa due to the high expenses to add him to European payroll. We even requested to have him work freelance as an independent consultant but that didn’t work either. So his company gave him two choices, return to the US in 183 days or separate from the company. He did both. It was the hardest choice to make, Antz has worked for this incredible company for over 18 years. He was at the top of his career as a Senior Art Director. His company had premium benefits, generous salary and bonus, 401k, profit sharing, traveling to industry events and parties, summer Fridays meant he had every other Friday off, and he worked with some amazing people. I can’t tell you how difficult the decision was. I mean, France is rad but it’s not perfect. We are renting here which feels unstable, but in LA we owned our house and we put so much work into making our house lovely. Every month I worry about the currency conversion which varies so much that sometimes we pay $150 – $200 more depending on the day I pay our rent. We are in the process of getting a French bank account but it is honestly a nightmare. There is also a language barrier that makes simple tasks challenging. Liv is a wonderful translator but even she can’t help with adult things like setting up our cell phone service or making an appointment to have the heat turned on in our apartment. There is crime here like any large city, and if I walk through certain parts of town alone, I feel vulnerable. I had a car in LA so I never had a guy follow me making lewd comments like here. Once I had to call Antz to meet me on our street because a guy wouldn’t leave me alone. There is terrorism here so when we walk in crowded spaces, I can’t help but feel tense or worry about large trucks driving by. There are more grumpy, rude people in customer service than I ever dealt with in LA. I recently tried to make an appointment over the phone but six out of ten people hung up on me when I asked if they spoke English. That is on me, I need to step my French up. I hate the constant smoking, I get I am in a foreign country but blowing smoke directly in my face is infuriating. I also have to deal with renewing our visas every six months which is a headache. However the benefits still outweigh the cons for us. Liv attends a wonderful French school that is only a ten minute walk away for FREE! This is our number one reason for being here. She is attending such a great school here, her French is impeccable and I love that she gets a hot lunch everyday in a cafeteria and after school activities are included in her daily curriculum. She gets a half day on Wednesdays so she can go to ballet, which frees up our weekends for travel. That is our other major reason to stay. Traveling here is so easy and affordable I can’t see going back to LA only to wait all year for Antz to get a few weeks off of work so we have to cram a vacation in a short time and spend half of our travel budget on a long flight from LA. We have traveled more in the last six months than we have in six years. My main goal is to visit 20 countries and they are all just a train ride or a short flight away. I also am looking forward to having actual weather!

image1-11

Living in sunny Los Angeles for 40 years was nice, but we rarely had thunderstorms or more than a few days of cold enough weather to bundle up. I have never been in Europe during the fall so I am excited to wear coats and scarves. I am also excited for the lovely Christmas markets coming soon! Well, it’s not like I need to sell living in Paris, my point is moving here comes with huge sacrifice. The first was leaving his job but finding a new job here in Paris won’t be so easy. Everyone I know keeps telling us that French jobs do not pay well. So we had to have a back up plan to keep us going financially. We used most of our savings to move here in March and even though we are saving a lot by not paying tuition or a car payment, it’s still expensive living in Paris. In the end, we realized we weren’t happy in LA and that is most important to us. The bottom line is he made great money in LA but he was working long, stressful days and we only had weekends to spend time together. Most of his salary went towards our bills and tuition so even if he made less here in France, our expenses are less. We also spent all our time in our cars which caused our lifestyle to be toxic and unhealthy. Since moving here, we spend so much more quality time as a family (I am sure it’s mostly because we don’t have a TV!) and walking everywhere is pretty awesome. So, we agreed we would stay in Paris as long as possible!

So a month ago we decided to sell our house. It was heartbreaking to do but really I couldn’t think of any other options. Our tenant was only renting during the summer and she was paying $1,000 less than we listed it for because she was able to pay cash in advance. We couldn’t live here and not have a stable long-term renter in our house. There are also so many expenses of being a landlord which would have been difficult to handle from abroad. Since our house has increased in value recently, I met with our real estate agent who happened to be in Paris on vacation with her family to discuss the idea of selling. She was so positive about it we put together a plan just to see how things would work out. Antz was going to fly back to LA at the end of August due to the 183 days deadline being Sept 1st so we decided that if the house sold in a month, we would stay. If the house didn’t sell (my worst case scenario), I would pack up our apartment in Paris and return to LA with Liv. Thirty days is an insane timeline but our agent was confident we could do it. This meant that Antz had to begin the process of getting our cat Lola legally documented to travel to Europe. He had to take her to an USDA accredited vet for an exam and she needed an official microchip implanted. Then she needed a rabies shot and there was a 21 day mandatory waiting period. We had to keep the house furnished so it would be staged for the open houses. We had four dates scheduled and a deadline of Sept 17th to accept offers. I was super nervous because after two open houses we only received one offer for an insultingly low amount. In order for my crazy plan to work we had to get a magic number and I was sweating when the final day arrived. The offers slowly began to come in that afternoon. All of the offers were over our asking price but nothing was close to our magic number. The good news was since there were multiple offers we could counter everyone and ask for over our magic number. We only got one person to agree to our counter offer but we got a little over our magic number!! I had to go to the US Embassy to sign the escrow paperwork with an American notary. The visit was intense, many French guards were quite mean at the entrance. I had to go through several security check points and they took my phone and held it during my visit. I managed these shots before they confiscated my phone.

My poor husband had the daunting task of selling all the things we no longer needed, (we felt like we gave away most of our furniture for next to nothing but this was our cleansing period) cleaning out the house (he must have donated and thrown away one hundred bags) and garage of twelve years of overwhelming stuff in two freaking weeks! Then he had to pack up the house, move our stuff into storage at my Mom’s house and ship our remaining items to France in a storage cube.

IMG_2310

Our entire lives worth of stuff had to fit in this 7 foot storage box. It will be shipped to France via boat and won’t arrive until January! I will lose my mind if my breakable stuff gets damaged.

IMG_2302

I can’t tell you how stressful this was for Antz, all while he was still going to work everyday and dealing with Lola’s stuff. The sad part was we were apart for a month which seems short, but he missed Liv’s first day of school.

To add to our agony we discovered that Antz cell phone wouldn’t make calls in LA so we could only communicate by FaceTime calling on wifi and texts for thirty days. This guy wins at life. We both had our moments of doubt, frustration and sheer panic but he rose to the occasion physically and mentally in a way I never could. He was running on two hours of sleep by the end of the month. He also had to contend with flying back to Paris with our not so friendly cat Lola. I took two wise precautions for her flight. The first was ordering her these claw nibs (her pink fake nails) so she wouldn’t be able to scratch Antz or the carrier. The second was booking Antz in a premium economy seat on his flight with Air France. It was double their normal fare, but he had more room for Lola and fewer people around to disturb.

IMG_2321

Anyone interested in flying a pet from the US to France? This is a long, tedious process and we didn’t have a day to spare to get everything done. The first step is taking your pet to an accredited USDA veterinarian. Our regular vet wasn’t accredited but there was one nearby that they recommended.

Los Feliz Small Animal Hospital
3166 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-3309

I made our appointment online before Antz flew back to LA. The first day he returned he picked up Lola from my best friend Aimee (who was happy to say bye to our cranky feline) and he got her an official microchip inserted. Even if your pet has a microchip in case they get lost, this is a special chip that is registered with the US to track pets abroad. Then she had to wait a mandatory 21 days before getting a rabies shot. It’s important to know that even if your pet has been vaccinated for rabies (like Lola has) they must get another rabies shot 21 days after the microchip has been implanted. We were happy to find out Lola lost weight since her last appointment so she was just under the 8kg restriction. So this put our timeline right on schedule. I made an appointment with APHIS which has an office in Los Angeles to get Lola’s health certificate endorsed. You must make an appointment, no walk-ins.

Los Angeles Animal Import Center
222 Kansas Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

No pet can travel abroad on a commercial airline without this document (this doesn’t apply to service animals). If you have a dog, it is also mandatory to show a test for tapeworms and flea medication. There is the choice of flying with your pet in the cabin or the cargo. Air France said they only allowed pets up to 8 kg on board. Well 8 kg means 17.6 lbs and our chunky Lola was 18 lbs at her last vet visit! I am a member of a Expats in France group and I read many horror stories about pets in the cargo of airplanes so I was very worried about Lola’s flight. I was confused when it came to finding an airline approved carrier. If she was going in the cargo of the plane, she had to be in a hardshell crate with very specific measurements. However if she was flying in the cabin, she could travel in a soft-carrier but the measurements varied by airline. I ended up ordering this backpack carrier from Amazon. I knew with all the luggage Antz was bringing and having to carry Lola’s paperwork and his passport, it would be easier for him to be hands-free. I was so worried she wouldn’t fit comfortably in it but a week before his flight, the carrier arrived and he sent me this.

image1-10

She fit snug as a bug and I also ordered these pet pads in case she had an accident. Antz was smarty pants to use a large safety pin to keep the pad in place when the carrier was upright.

I ordered a harness in case Lola tried to escape at anytime. Antz had to take her out of her carrier when going through security and he held her while they did a thorough check. Luckily, our vet gave him calming medicine to give her on the day of the flight. Antz had a couple of hiccups the week before his flight. He had an appointment with the APHIS to endorse Lola’s health certificate at 8:30 am. Because it was near LAX, he had to leave the house before 6 am to be on time. He was the first person there and when he went to pay the $38 dollar fee, they told him that the vet filled out the wrong form! Antz was livid. I never seen him so angry. Turns out the vet gave Antz the form for pets traveling in the cargo hold but Lola was going to be inside the cabin. At least they were sympathetic and allowed him to return the next day with the correct paperwork, or else we would have needed to make another appointment a month later. So this meant that Antz had to drive to the vet’s office, pick up the correct health certificate and drive out to El Segundo the next morning. This all took place during his last week he was working in his office so you can imagine his level of stress. Once he had the endorsed health certificate you have exactly ten days to leave the country. This is important that you already have your flight set up prior to getting all the forms completed. I booked his return flight only two weeks before his departure since we were waiting to make sure our house sold and he would be able to sign all the escrow paperwork before returning to France. Luckily, there were a few premium economy seats still available. I had to call the airline and let them know we were bringing a pet on-board and they charged us $150 fee at check-in at the airport. Most airlines only allow a few pets on-board so it’s a good idea to let them know in advance. The day of Antz flight home was crazy, remember, his phone didn’t work unless he was connected to wifi, so I was only able to hear from him if he was on Starbucks wifi. Terribly frustrating! Lola decided it would be fun to run outside on the morning of Antz flight. He had to ask our neighbors to come help look for her all morning while he was still packing and needed to take a shower before his ride to the airport showed up. We were down to a few hours before he found her under our neighbors house. He had to crawl under there to get her, merde!

My Mom flew to Paris a few days before Antz so I was hosting her all while he was going through the worst of the drama. It was wonderful to have her here as a distraction from all the stress. She has been amazingly supportive of our decision to stay abroad even though that means she will see us less.

Antz somehow managed to pack up and clean the house with the help of his sister and nephew (Merci Clinnie & Justin!). We sold as many pieces of furniture that didn’t fit in our shipping cube. We gifted special items (our plants, and items I couldn’t bear to sell) to our friends and family.

It’s a hard choice to leave the comforts of our home and move to a different country for such an uncertain future but we can always return. We left Antz Honda Element at my Mom’s house and we are renewing our visas in January. I hope this helps anyone thinking of making the move abroad. The past six months was a great test to see if we could make a life in France viable. It’s challenging, frustrating (more so because we don’t speak French yet) but rewarding beyond all expectations.

IMG_2363IMG_2343

I am happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

 

Bisous.

Moving Abroad: Month Four

Well, as you can see I just skipped right over June into July for our monthly update. I can’t tell you how much we love living here, but nowhere is perfect so I will also let you know what isn’t working for me. We are finally settled into our apartment here in the lovely Marais. We live in the upper part of the 3rd arrondissement and feel like we are in a prime location. We have this beautiful view and it’s still unbelievable that we live here.

DSC_0998

Now that summer is here we have been enjoying longer days. It’s weird to us Americans that the sun doesn’t begin to set until after 10 pm at night! Liv usually goes to bed at 9:30 pm and it’s still bright and lively outside. Liv’s last day of school was Friday and these three extra weeks of school have been killing me. I have so many trips planned and guests coming to visit that I couldn’t wait for her to be done with school. She started second grade in Los Angeles during the last week of August 2017 and she finished the first week of July 2018! I would say that’s too long but she missed almost three weeks in March so I’m happy for was able to make up the missed time.

I’m super bummed because her school director is retiring this year and we have already established a rapport with him. I am skeptical to meet his replacement. No one will replace my sweet Harry Potter looking Monsieur W. I have met several parents of Liv’s classmates and even volunteered for a school fête. Even though I didn’t understand anyone I was very popular because I was serving the rosé.

What you don’t see in this photo is when I ran out of “blue” juice for the kids and I already pre-poured Rosé for the parents, someone brought out “pink” juice for the kids and it was identical in color so I had to keep track of which cup had juice for kids and which had wine for adults. I mean, it is France so no one seemed to care if a kid had a sip of rosé. Much less uptight people.

Liv invited us to the most adorable recital. Her Grandmother would be so proud of her xylophone timing. How adorable is her music teacher?!

Liv has a close friend in her class who speaks English but she is moving to Canada. Her parents invited us to their Farewell picnic at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

IMG_5429

IMG_5447

We have met such fascinating people (many are journalists and writers) and most of them are expats! Our new friends have lived in Paris for more than ten years so they gave us invaluable advice for living abroad. We were welcomed into their group and we are looking forward to getting together with them soon for happy hour!

We are fortunate to live on a lively street and we’ve become accustomed to the late night noise (reminds me of late-night parties in Highland Park minus the ranchero music) however the cigarette smoke from the bar seems to rise up to our third floor and destroy my eyes. I know I am hyper sensitive but I can smell a cigarette a mile away and it’s sometimes hard to sleep! We don’t have a TV in our apartment so we watch Netflix and Hulu (Handmaids Tale is getting too close to reality!) on our iMac computer but we have been keeping up with this silly little thing called the World Cup by the cheering from the two restaurants on our street! ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!

IMG_6746IMG_6128IMG_6718

We know absolutely nothing about soccer (or any sports) but I love supporting France.

So this is the longest I’ve gone without having an actual television with cable in my forty-one years and I must admit, I like not being a slave to the boob tube. It’s nice to not get caught up in the 24 hour CNN drama or spending idle hours watching reality/trash. The only reason we don’t have telly here is our apartment manager promised to hook up new cords for the tv but never sent a guy. We have learned to pick our battles with this apartment management. When we first moved in, I was livid that we didn’t have wifi for almost two weeks. Like, I was ready to sue these people and I raised the loudest, most obnoxious stink about it. I demanded compensation for the days without wifi and they laughed at me and were like “Who’s gonna check me, Boo?” Then finally, they sent a dude over and he set up the router in Liv’s room right on the lovely fireplace mantle.

IMG_6117

He told me there was nowhere else he could hook it up in the apartment. The French have a way about making you feel grateful for when they do the bare minimum. I mean by the time the kid installed the wifi, I didn’t care if the modem it was in the middle of the bathroom. I just was desperate to get back onto Instagram and check my emails. Then there was a list of repairs we needed in the apartment. We were told the handyman would come on the first day we moved in, and he did…but instead of the list of things I wanted fixed, he was only there to fix a broken lock on a window. That he didn’t even fix! So days passed and we went out and bought a new shower head and lamp for Liv’s room but Antz could only halfway install them without his tools. He rigged the showered to work with a hair scrunchie but it took days to get the repair guy back to install it correctly. He halfassed installed the lamp (notice how crooked it is in the photo) and sort of ignored the rest of my list so c’est ce que c’est. After a month of waiting for the TV cord, we decided to let it go. There so many great elements of living here to complain.

The good news is the rude, noisy pigeon I told you about either moved or is dead and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve grown accustomed to the loud, rowdy bar downstairs (they seriously sing Queen songs all night long) however it’s the morning after that bugs me. On our walk to school in the morning Liv and I play a game called don’t step on the broken glass bottles or dog shit. It’s not a fun game. I suppose I didn’t spend close to the same time walking the streets of LA, so I wasn’t aware if there was a people not cleaning up after their dog problem but here, it’s ridiculous. Like mountains of poop and evidence of many unfortunate people slipping in it. Now that there was been less rain (to wash the shit away) and scorching hot weather, along with the daily garbage on the street, you could just imagine the smell. On the brighter side, the boulangeries tend to overpower the stench with the smell of fresh baked bread and I hear the streets are filthier in New York.

I was lucky to get to celebrate two Mother’s day (American and French) so I was treated by my loves to brunch at my favorite place, named after my favorite flowers Peonies. It’s a tiny, cute cafe that also has flower workshops downstairs. We have been a few times and it’s our favorite place to get carrot cake.

I have been forced into eating healthier against my will because the food here has less chemicals and preservatives and I find the fast food is pretty gross. I still miss In & Out and fried chicken desperately. However I have been fine with eating rotisserie chicken and buttery croissants. When we were in Nantes waiting forever for the delayed train, I bought a bag of cheetos from a vending machine. The bag looked identical to the ones in LA but I’ll never forget the taste of stale cardboard and dust. Nothing remotely like good ole’ American cheesy cheetos. That awful taste will follow me to my end of days. I even craved a salad for the first time in years a few days ago. We found a salad bar place near our apartment that makes custom salads.

IMG_6084

Father’s Day was the same date in France as the Us so we took Antz for Fête des Pères to a space I heard about on the ‘Gram. I didn’t know what to expect when we trekked out to the boonies (13th arrondissement) across the river. Station F is an old train station turned into a massive co-work space and restaurant called La Felicità which reminds me of Downtown LA’s Grand Central Market.

DSC_0239-2IMG_4874-2

You can see it’s pretty rad. Most of the restaurants are Italian. Italy happened to be playing in the World Cup semi-finals during our dinner so the staff was singing songs in Italian.

IMG_4501DSC_0248

The food was really good! I had truffle pasta and Antz had smoked salmon. Of course Liv had pizza. We definitely will go back again.

cropped-ACS_0081.jpg

This month there has been lots of people selling antiques on the street of our neighborhood. I have been browsing all the magnificent wicker baskets but I haven’t committed to buying anything just yet. I would have taken more photos but I was yelled at by a guy when I took a photo of his dinosaurs. I don’t understand the no photos stance here at all.

IMG_6088

I wanted to buy a bouquet for our apartment so I mustered the courage to visit the lovely flower shop by our apartment and I made the transaction without speaking any English! The owner, Julie, barely spoke English as well so we used a lot of sign language. We put together this pretty bouquet and I made a new friend.

The end of May and early June we saw a surge of art take over the city. Aimee told me to get my ass over to the Palais du Tokyo to see the dollhouse exhibit that looked exactly like Olivia’s Calico Critter dollhouse. Liv damn near lost her mind when she saw the exact same rabbit family she has living on the top floor.

This cute little place emerged from Gare Nord.

IMG_5632-2

A new rad mural popped up around the corner from our place.

IMG_6023

So just as I was sad about missing the Los Angeles Invasion by one of my favorite street artists, Space Invader, I was shook to see that my hero BANKSY hit up Paris with new art! I happened to be driving a rental car when I found out he put up a piece in the Porte la Chappelle area. We found it very quickly based on his Instagram posts and just my luck…we found this.

Just a few hours in daylight and someone already destroyed it. I understand why Banksy installed it in this neighborhood. It’s a migrant area in a rough part of the 18th arrondissement. I guess they didn’t like the attention the art piece was creating when they are suffering there. I hate to say it, but the migrants here in Paris are still treated better than in America. PATHETIC!

On the drive home, we found this Banksy a few blocks from our apartment next to the Georges Pompidou Center in le Marais.

IMG_5627

Early morning the next day, I stopped at Bataclan before returning the rental car and found this shrouded angel Banksy. Have you seen the Netflix documentary about the November 13th attack? I have watched it several times and it’s heartbreaking to hear the events of that night directly from the survivors.

Antz and I spent an early morning Banksy hunting while Liv was still in school and we found a few. The Napoleon one is also in the 18th near the Stalingrad Metro. The poor doggy is located in the 5th near La Sorbonne.

IMG_6595

IMG_6599

There are a couple more I didn’t see in person but I haven’t been anywhere near the Eiffel Tower (tourist trap) or Montmartre (I don’t go there because it’s all hills). Also, I heard someone carved out the mouse on the champagne cork. I didn’t hear about his last piece which is about the student uprising that took place at the Sorbonne in May 1968 until a few weeks later. I also found a recent Invader in the area that also commemorates the May 1968 student protests.

These are from his website.

On Liv’s last week of school we had an after school snack (known as the goûter) at the Hello Kitty Pop Up Matcha Cafe. The matcha donuts were yummy but we didn’t like the matcha iced lattes.

IMG_6533IMG_6555

So all is well so far. We have found the cutest laundromat near our place however, it’s pricey to me (I usually do three loads for €40!) but I rather have nice fluffy dry towels which makes doing laundry there bearable. Liv has been a wonderful laundry helper.

IMG_1227IMG_6771

I’m sorry I’ve taken forever to post lately but I gave my blog theme a makeover and it took my old lady brain ages to figure it out and I’ve been super busy with all the many trips we’ve taken in the last few months. I promise to post about them soon.

Bonne journée mes amis!

Peonies

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Bonsoir amis,

There is a huge antique (Brocantes) flea market in Northern Paris. You have to walk through a few blocks of fake flea markets before you find the real one. I’m talking really tacky jeans, shady looking jewelry and cheap knock-off designer sunglasses. There are guys also selling “Chanel” perfume and unboxed cell phones aggressively. Once you make it through that, you will find a lovely antique flea market. We spent a few hours looking for items for our new apartment. I wanted a vintage street sign, a Camroon Juju hat, a Moroccan Fez, an embroidered tablecloth, and a steamer trunk. I left empty-handed because everything was super expensive. I am not into haggling over prices and most of the vendors were cranky. We encountered a few very friendly people however more vendors seemed annoyed by our presence than pleased.

I did stop at the tacky flea market for a second to try on this African necklace. Not for me. I need a longer neck to pull this off.

image2-10DSC_0658

The tacky flea market vs Brocantes

IMG_0851IMG_2120
DSC_0700DSC_0701

I didn’t even dare ask the price of these vintage Louis Vuitton steam trunks, but aren’t they dreamy?

Just a tad too small.

IMG_E2085IMG_E2099

Olivia was looking for a ring with her birthstone, which a pearl but I told her most of the jewelry looked cursed. Kidding! There was so much cool antique stuff but so expensive.

Tell me I’m wrong…

Should I just casually purchase a crystal ball? Or do I need these guys in our new apartment?

So, if you thought the sweet doll from Annabelle was “scary” then meet her older brother known as Mister Nightmare!

Liv kept saying, I want a doll. They aren’t scary, Mom, they are just authentic!

image1-15
IMG_2088

Hmmm, her birthday is coming soon, tempting.

This silverware was beautiful. I have the worst feeling those nightgowns were worn by actual ghosts!