Decorating a Parisian apartment with color!

Coucou,

It has been awhile since I have posted an update on our Parisian apartment. I have gotten so many compliments from visitors who tell me that our place looks so LA. Yet, I didn’t plan to go for a Californian vibe intentionally but I suppose you can’t take the LA outta ya girl.

Searching for an apartment in Paris can be as competitive as getting into an Ivy League university. There is so much demand and very few places available within an affordable price range so many people have to make compromises when apartment hunting. We were in the same boat so when we saw our place, I had to look past the messy girl who was living here at the time. We needed a place fast and we were only planning to lease for one year so we weren’t too picky over minor details. For example, I really wanted our place to have ornate crown molding and a quintessentially French chandelier. Well, the light fixtures in our place are pretty much non existent and we have basic crown molding with just the tiniest amount of French charm for me to be happy. I asked our property manager if they had time to paint a fresh coat of white but they said we could paint it ourselves, at our own expense. Another reason we chose our place (besides the location and the size) was it came fully furnished.

I should say I feel very lucky to even have white-ish walls because many apartments we looked at were very orange, red and lime green. We were happy we didn’t have to spend a fortune on basic pieces of furniture and I can’t believe the Maison Chateau Rouge x Monoprix home line released the same week we moved into our place. I bought many accessories to add a much needed punch of color. I love the light we get from our gorgeous floor to ceiling windows and the layout works perfectly for our family of three. Antz and I still can’t believe we got this place in our dream location!

There are two choices when renting in Paris, furnished or unfurnished. The latter is not what you may be used to in the US. An unfurnished apartment means there is no kitchen. In most cases that means no sink, no appliances and no cabinetry. Oui, you will find an empty room with pipes coming out of the wall. However, a furnished apartment is equipped with everything you would need down to your dishes, forks, spoons and knives. Our apartment had obviously been rented by students due to the choice of furniture and the wear and tear of the inventory. We happened to end up with some Asian style pieces that I would never in a million years choose for our place but I knew I could tolerate it for a short term stay. We moved in under the impression it would only be for a year and then we would move back in our lovely, newly renovated house in LA. So we packed away a majority of their kitchen items and the linens and bought our own basics from good ole’ Ikea. If I knew we would be staying here permanently from the start, I would have invested in higher quality dishes and cookware but we shipped as much of our things from LA as we could fit in a shipping pod, what we bought is fine. Poor Antz had to account for hundreds of items from a list I sent him and sort them by what to ship to Paris, what to store at my Mom’s house in California and what to sell or donate. When it got down to the wire, not everything I wanted made it to Paris (I really wish our Christmas decorations were shipped but we really have no room to store them) and more items ended up being donated than I would have liked but he had such a huge undertaking, I can’t complain about the results. Thanks sweetheart!

So our pod shipped from LA in September and didn’t arrive here in Paris until late January. It took the longest around-the-world journey but we are grateful it arrived in relatively great shape. During the months of waiting, I would have panic attacks that our ship would be invaded by pirates (they still exist right?) or a giant rogue wave would knock our container off the ship. I know, I watch too many movies but my life’s precious treasures were packed in that box so I imagined the worst case scenario. Only two pieces were damaged during the move.

I still don’t know how Antz and I managed to unload 60 boxes into our place in less than an hour but I will admit that I could have kissed our building’s elevator that day.

So, after a year of living practically out of suitcases and decorating our apartment without spending much money, we were finally able to start making the place more like our permanent home. I relied on covering the bad furniture with as many colorful textiles and accessories as I could.

Our apartment was quite bare bones on the day we moved in. There was an inventory of all the items and furniture the apartment came with. I was so giddy about moving into our version of a Parisian pied-à-terre, I barely paid any attention to the condition of their old stuff. As soon as the rental company girls left I literally threw all the stuff into boxes and shoved it into our only tiny closet.

We went from having three closets and a two car garage to this one walk-in closet for all our storage. It’s a miracle we are able to figure out where to put everything. When we first moved in, we could tell the last tenants did not clean at all. Guys, I’m not even joking there was a cheap TV that wasn’t plugged in attached to a freaking VCR! They also had a Sony radio set up that did not work. Too bad I didn’t bring my old CD collection with me.

I can’t stand the couch that our place came with but that’s what you get with a furnished apartment. I threw some blankets and pillows over it and try to ignore it’s existence. The bare walls made me a little crazy so I put up my Rifle Paper Co banner just for something to look at. I had to use the hooks that were already in the wall so it says “jolie maison” which means pretty house.

Our hallway/breakfast bar is a convenient space for Liv to do her homework and a crafting area but there isn’t much I could do with those contemporary stools. They are not very comfortable but nothing else really fits in the awkward space and if I replace them I would have to leave the new stools in the apartment when we move.

The showerhead in the bathroom was broken. There is no hope for this tiny bathroom. We scrub it clean as best we can and I added a few bins to store my hair and beauty products. The only redeeming quality it has is the towel rack which is lovely in the winter.

It still hasn’t been properly repaired but at least Antz found a way to prop it up so we don’t have to hold the showerhead (when I see bathrooms with a handheld shower, I’m always curious to how they manage to bathe like that). I was super annoyed that whoever designed the tile in the bathroom for chosing a beige grout that appears to look dirty. I bought a cool shower curtain from Etsy but we can’t figure out how to install a curtain rod around that useless glass partition. I also couldn’t find any bleach to properly scrub and sanitize the tiny bathroom. We even had a maid come in to clean but this room needs a complete renovation.

Our living room is comfy spot (not you couch!) Lola loves to sunbathe next to the windows. I am so happy Antz brought some of his artwork because it really transforms the space. The only two pieces of furniture we shipped was our gray armchair and a bedside table. Our books are everywhere but I don’t mind books as clutter. It gives us a reason to look at them more.

The kitchen is the most eifficient room of the apartment. We are happy that we were able to fit most of my dishes and kitchen stuff in the little space. Antz brought my crockpot and waffle maker from LA but we have only used the waffle maker so far. I’m scared to plug in the crockpot with an American adaptor because… fire. I bought the cutest Smeg tea kettle for Christmas although Liv is the only regular tea drinker in the family. Our egg rug is still holding on almost fourteen years later.

I will say, the best investment we made in our place was replacing the washing machine. I can’t wrap my head around the French people who dry their clothes on racks. We had to do it for a few months and I almost went crazy with having to iron everything and our towels would never fully dry. We spent almost €40 everytime we went to the laundromat to dry our clothes. We bought a dual washer/dryer and although it takes forever (the French do not like wasting too much water so every appliance is eco-friendly) it’s a million times better than going to the laundromat.

Antz works in an office space in Liv’s room which is great because if he has a work call, he closes the French doors and shuts the curtains. We were lucky that the last tenant left an office chair so we didn’t have to buy a new one.

Here is the before and after of Liv’s room. This was my favorite room to decorate. Eventually I want to change out the mirror to a more French style.

Her room looked like this for the first year before we got our container from Los Angeles. Now her room looks like this. All the colors!!

It was easy to inject color in Liv’s room. We bought some yarn from the lovely craft supply store La Droguerie and Antz and Liv made these colorful pom poms for her Ikea lamp shade. The Thundercat figures are from Antz office, he has many more toys and collectibles but there was no space to display them here so they are in our storage shed at my Mom’s. We stacked her books in front of her fireplace because we have no bookshelf space. I bought her blanket from Anthropologie last Christmas. It was drama getting that package and the import fees were insane but I think totally worth it. I was happy to replace the broken bedside table with a white table from Ikea that just fit the tight space. Now her Miffy lamp has a home. Her grandma sent some gifts last Christmas and the whale nightlight fits right in.

I bought this gumball rack from Domino when we still lived in LA but I never had enough wall space to use it. It fit perfectly next to her armoire and she has a place for her cute bags.

There wasn’t a curtain in Liv’s room so I used my beloved Rifle Paper Co tablecloth and it has worked well for the past two years. The owl lamp is from Ikea. Olivia is going through a Japanese kawaii phase (check out her tiktok) so she has requested a makeover of her room for her birthday this year. I have started ordering new bedding/accessories and I’m excited to give her room a new, fun look. There is a shop here called Hema that has really affordable items.

Our bedroom has made a big color change too. I wasn’t able to pack to all my bedding from our house in LA so I have been taking advantage of the soldes (sales in January) from my favorite shop in Paris, Merci. I want every color of the rainbow in their linens.

I liked the minimalist design of our bedroom at first, however, not having a headboard wasn’t comfortable. We also lacked storage. I couldn’t take the empty walls and shelves much longer. I ordered a new bed frame that has storage inside to hold all my bedding and a larger mattress.

I am not an interior designer, I just like to be surrounded by pretty things. I have so many challenges like hiding Lola’s huge litterbox or finding places to store all our suitcases, so I use bins and crates for everything. I found these adorable, collapsible bins in pastels colors.

These bins now hold my clutch purses, my camera accessories and I got some bigger ones for Liv’s craft supplies and Antz felting wool. I am obsessed with them.

Well, tomorrow is my birthday which also happens to be the first day of spring. We are on day four of a fifteen day quarantine in France so we spent the entire day doing some major spring cleaning. Since we are stuck inside our apartment for another week or so, I put our new spring bedding out and it has cheered me up so much!

Thanks for checking in and I hope everyone stays safe and positive during this tough time.

a tout!

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Expat Life: Two Years Abroad

Bonjour,

Today marks our second year living in Paris! It is still surreal that we have packed up our life in Los Angeles and moved into a 700 square foot apartment in beautiful Paris. At the beginning of the year we met with our immigration attorney to apply for a Passport Talent, which is a four year residency card that would allow Antz to work as a freelance artist. Another benefit of this card is we will receive access to French healthcare. The hard part for us is we will start paying French social services (just like the US public programs, the French pension which is similar to social security) which will be 25% of our income. Our long term goal is to apply for a resident card so we have to show proof of paying these taxes anyway. Antz and I will have to take a French verbal and written test so we will have to crank up our studies. We won’t find out if we got the Passport Talent until April so for now I am crossing my fingers and toes and asking for all the good vibes we can get!

In the meanwhile, we are still loving life in Paris. 2020 has been the warmest winter in France so most days are sunny even though we still have to wear our coats and scarves. I don’t think we will get snow but hopefully we will find some during our upcoming trip to Copenhagen for spring break.

My birthday is in a few weeks. I am super stoked because my favorite video game ever Animal Crossing is coming out with a new release on the same day! It’s called New Horizons and it looks so awesome.

I have played Animal Crossing ever since the first one came out on Nintendo GameCube back in the old 1900s!!! I was so bummed when I couldn’t hook up our Nintendo Wii to our computer monitor but we decided not to buy a TV because they actually have an annual tax on TVs in France. We use our iMac computer to stream TV on Sling, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu and Amazon Prime so we don’t need a telly at the moment. Nintendo is releasing a rad Animal Crossing limited edition Switch so I pre-ordered one for my birthday gift. Liv and I are so excited to play! Let me know if you play too, I will post my friend code on my Instagram. Antz drew a cartoon me with my favorite Animal Crossing villager, cute Bunnie.

Occasionally he takes commissions so message him on Instagram Anthonyconleyart

I asked Antz to weigh in on our two years abroad and this is what he had to say:

✌🏽So two years have passed and these are some pluses and negatives.

😉Our door buzzer works now and it is great! No more running down stairs to open the door.

🤗We’ve discovered bacon exists at Marks & Spencer (a British grocery store).

🎨I am now working from home as a freelance artist which is nice because I can spend more time with the girls.

🤫We are on a path to getting a passport talent but I don’t talk too much about it cause I might jinx it.

😊I’ve been cooking a lot more (he’s an amazing chef!)

👎🏼 Negatives include, we’ll be paying french taxes soon.

👎🏼 Our plumbing in the shower still sucks!

Liv is in her third term of public school. She started in 2nd grade and is now in 4th grade. She loves her school and last week her class started swimming lessons which she really enjoys. I can’t believe California doesn’t offer swimming lessons given we live in such a sunny climate. Every French student learns to swim and that is such a great life skill to have. Extracurricular activities are included in the school curriculum and it is so helpful to no longer have to rush Liv to private swimming lessons and spend hours in traffic. Liv has started a new hobby on weekends, in French it’s called le roller. So many Parisiens skate, I bought her these peach Moxie skates.

We feel like we have a solid daily routine. Antz takes Liv to school and I handle pick up and ballet. We eat at home more than we did our first year which is saving us money. I recently went to an event at The American Library in Paris because a few of my expat friends were talking on a panel about what it’s like to be an expat in Paris as a person of color. It was so enlightening. I was happily surprised to see a crowded room full of Black expats, some who have been living here for decades and some who just arrived for a semester of school. It was cool to meet people who were going through the same challenges I have been through. I also was happy to venture across the river into the 7éme after dark alone. Lucky for me, my friend happened to be there and she took the Metro home with me.

I was so happy to join this illuminating discussion hosted by beautiful, intelligent ladies and I met a lovely reader of my blog 👋

It is so nice to have two whole weeks of school breaks instead of one week we had in LA. We just returned from a road trip in Germany (I’m excited to share a post from our Valentines day soon). Our next trip will be to Copenhagen which I am super excited about. I have always wanted to visit the Scandinavian countries and we are going to drive into Sweden for a day. I have so much planned!

It’s weird how fast these two tumultuous years have gone by. I have become accustomed to living in Paris yet I still don’t speak French fluently and I encounter issues that I have no control over.

Here is my list of great and not-so-great things about living abroad:

  • I feel like I have endless opportunities living in France that I no longer had in Los Angeles. I guess growing up in LA, I feel like I had been there, done that so many times that I got bored. Here, everything feels new and exciting. I still haven’t visited every museum, cafe, shop or park in Paris so there’s always something new to explore. I feel so much inspiration being here. I recently bought these gorgeous art supplies from Paper Fashion that I plan to use this spring when it’s warmer. I rarely draw or paint so this is outside of my comfort zone.
  • I love the freedom from being car-dependant. I occasionally miss my car because of the convenience and especially during colder days I would prefer my heated seats but our lives revolve around walking, public transportation or renting an e-scooter. I don’t miss the traffic or stress of the LA lifestyle. It’s refreshing to walk to Liv’s school and say hello to the guy who repaired my broken necklace, or stop and chat with the local baker. I never had relationships with locals on this level in LA because everyone was in their own busy bubble. There is a sense of take your time here and I notice more camaraderie among strangers because everyone walks. In LA, you spent so much time isolated in your car it wasn’t healthy. I breathe so much better and get more exercise (even though I hate sweating) taking a walk is so beneficial for your psyche.
  • Our finances have completely shifted. In LA, we were homeowners, we had two cars, we paid tuition for an expensive private school and we had to save for a short vacation once a year. Travel is such a priority to my well-being that I was depressed about not being able to travel more often. Now, we don’t have the burden of debt, mortgage or tuition, we are able to afford to travel more frequently. The best ways we can afford to travel are two factors; swapping our apartment and using my credit card points for car rentals. I still can’t believe I booked our flight to Copenhagen for €15 each.
  • We discovered Circus bakery! Their cinnamon buns are life-changing.
  • I wish I could figure out a solution for getting packages in a timely and drama-free way. This is something we Americans take for granted. I have pulled my hair out trying to track down lost packages, waiting weeks (sometimes even months) to get a package from the US. There is no system of accountability (May I speak to your manager only works in America) and the customer service here is close to non-existent. It was more stressful around the holidays because I paid so much money to ensure I would get my packages on-time but Paris had a transportation strike that made things difficult. A few days before Christmas I almost paid a taxi driver to drive me to the UPS facility outside of Paris just to pick up my package. The items were delivered two days after Christmas but I ordered them December 3rd with a arrival guarantee of December 15th. Nothing is on-time here and I’m still adjusting to that.
  • As many friends as we have made here, we spend more time together as a family than before. We really enjoy hanging out together. Liv and I share the same hobbies, we play Pokemon Go, hunt for Invaders and we like going to shops in Paris that sell cute kawaii items. We are already planning Liv’s kawaii themed 10th birthday party because I have learned my lesson and I am ordering all the supplies months in advance.

  • The language barrier, it isn’t really an issue in our daily lives however when it comes to administrative things like dealing with our landlord or visa stuff, it can be a nightmare. Google translate isn’t helpful when I really need to use it. You see, the French language is very idiomatic which can make translating it difficult. Imagine having to read the fine print in a contract written in legal terms. It’s English but I still don’t understand what they mean. All I hear is how adults talk on Charlie Brown cartoons.

    I translated a recent email and was left utterly confused. I get what they are attempting to say but it feels like it’s written by a robot.
Dear users,

No containment measure now applies to people who have stayed in risk areas (northern Italy, China outside Hubei, Iran ...).

Indeed, these stage 1 measures, intended to avoid the entry of the virus into France, are no longer useful according to health authorities as soon as the virus circulates in France. Only returnees from Hubei province or one of the two "clusters" of French territory (Oise and Haute-Savoie) are subject to such measures as a precautionary measure and until further notice.
 
Students living in Creil, Montataire, Nogent sur Oise, Villers Saint Paul, Lamorlaye, Crépy en Valois, Vaumoise, La Croix Saint Ouen and Lagny le Sec are therefore asked not to come to the conservatory until further notice and to inform the tuition department for the reasons for their absence.

These measures obviously apply to conservatory staff.
 
Thank you for your attention and the spirit of responsibility that you will be able to demonstrate alongside us.

The Directorate of Cultural Affairs


I endure this often and it leaves me feeling like a frustrated child. I also find it challenging the way Liv’s school communicates with the parents. I have such limited contact with the staff that I have to use a notebook to send and receive messages. This means Liv has the burden of giving us information from school and you can guess a nine year old isn’t the greatest at remembering things. I feel so out of the loop compared to how overly involved I was in her previous school. We rely on Liv for translating and that can be stressful for her. I feel so grateful that she is so mature and can take on such a task for her immigrant parents.

  • Sometimes I find myself annoyed with the French logic. Now that I’m an expat, I am more aware of cultural differences I never paid attention to before. For example, I observe people set you up for failure here rather than help you succeed and it feels frustrating to fall into these traps. We wanted to sign Liv up for her roller club. We were told by the skate shop to call 48 hours before the class to register. I called them on time and we were told the class was already full and we should have called sooner. Well, I followed the instructions on the class brochure so… sigh! When I signed Liv up for ballet, I asked several times how much would her lessons cost. For me, this is a big factor when I do anything, how much will it cost? Well, turns out the cost is determined by your tax level, ours being tariff 6 out of 10 (which is on the high end) so I had to go to city hall to get a form that proved our tax tariff. Once at the town hall, there was no one available to give me the tax letter. I had to go to another town hall to get it which was really inconvenient. I tried to set up an account online but there was a glitch in the system that no one could help me with. Weeks later, I finally got the tax letter and submitted the form in person. I was told I’ll get a bill in January and they didn’t know how much it will be. This all took place in September. Liv was in ballet class for four months before I even found out how much her classes were! I was relieved to finally get our first bill but I still have no idea how long we will be billed or what any future classes will cost. This is baffling to me but totally normal to French people. There is no real direct answer to questions. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone at times but it’s manageable. Maybe I need to relax and go with the flow more but I am so accustomed to planning ahead and not being so last minute.
My sweet Mom sent us a care package with some fun toys inside 👽
  • Whoopsie! I forgot to update you on how Lola is doing. Grumpy old Lola is content as can be. She sleeps all day and drives me crazy because she’s up all night, meowing and using her litter (which is in our bedroom because it doesn’t fit anywhere else) 😩
    Lola has her own Instagram account now leavemealola she says to please follow. I am looking for a cat hotel to board her during our trip to Copenhagen in April.

Overall, as weird as this may seem, the annoyances are worth it. I know I appreciate simple things more. I encounter more friendly people than not. There are times when I tackle it like a game and I am determined to win the person over. I still am at odds with our apartment manager, she is the hardest nut to crack. I am so proud of our kid for her ability to adapt and thrive in an environment where she is often left to her own devices. I am tremendously grateful for Antz for making sacrifices left and right for us to have this incredible life. He left an amazing job, financial stability, his family and friends to move to this foreign place all to make us happy and if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

So again, thank you to my kind readers who have followed along on this journey with us. We feel supported and in good company. It really warms my heart when someone says to me they read my blog. I love making this connection and I hope to spark the expat fire in you! Throughout all the challenges, we only have this one life to live and I’d rather try and fail then not try at all and never open the possibility of succeeding.

Have a rad day!

Lizzie

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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France still has the prettiest cleaning supplies.

Bonne journée!

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bisous,

The Hall Conleys

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Bienvenue dans Notre Appartement Parisien

Bonjour Amis,

Let me confess, the first two months were exhilarating and equally stressful for me. I was absolutely enjoying our time living in Nation (12th arrondissement) and exploring beautiful Paris but also I was staying up all night looking for potential apartments. Every time I got close to scoring a fabulous place, someone else would snap it up. I was starting to believe it was because I wasn’t French but we had our French friends call on our behalf and they got the same response. I was so close to renting my dream apartment on the sweetest street ever when the agent said the landlord just approved someone before us. I mean, I called every day, left voicemails, sent emails all during the whole enrolling Liv into school drama. I commend my own strength because I thought I would have a mental breakdown with stress and disappointment. It was house hunting all over again but with a two month deadline. I was also working with our real estate agent in Los Angeles trying to get our house rented. My stress was at an all time high during the first few months here.

Every apartment I saw I would compare to the beautiful, perfect place that we didn’t get.

I grieved over this place. It was €2400, a block from Liv’s ballet school, a 15 minute walk to her school, on a private street. I would have lived with the tiny fridge and non existent storage for those floors and that price. I asked the agent to be put on a backup list in case the renter fell through. This put me in a worst state because nothing came close to this place in terms of layout, gorgeous Parisian charm and price. I found a larger, cute place but it was in a sketchy area of the 10th near Gare Nord which would mean a 10 minute bus ride to school and then a 20 minute walk. I was running out of time and feeling like we would end up homeless in Paris.

The second I saw our apartment on the French real estate website I recognized it from years earlier when I first began looking for apartments. I couldn’t believe it was available the day after we were scheduled to move out of our exchange and it was under my budget. I immediately emailed the agent to schedule a viewing to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true. I’ve had such bad luck getting in touch with an agent (mostly due to not having a French phone number) and then discovering days later that the apartment had already been rented. I made sure to let them know I was ready to sign the lease that day. I made two lists of criteria for our apartment search.

Must Have – Dealbreakers
Close to our max budget €2450/$2950
Two Bedrooms
Shower
High ceilings
Hardwood floors
Washer/Dryer
Oven/modern kitchen amenities
Walking distance to Liv’s school
Close to Metro/public transportation
Smoke-free apartment

Like to Have – Bonus
Haussmann building
Elevator
Balcony
Office Space for Antz
Herringbone hardwood floors
Large Refrigerator (typical Americans can’t live with a minibar fridge)
Dishwasher
Storage (for our 14 suitcases!)
Nice view
Close to le Marais
Parisian Charm/Crown Molding
Fireplace
Good Layout
Nice furniture

I know I sound picky but every single place we found had something missing from my Must-Have list. Mostly two bedroom apartments were over budget or too far from school. I began getting more flexible by the second month and started considering one bedrooms, longer commutes to school and really horrible layouts. We visited an apartment that was way under-budget but on the 6th floor with no elevator and the world’s narrowest bathroom. It was as wide as the bathtub and you practically had to step over the toilet to get into the tub. There was no shower and even though it had herringbone floors in the living room, the place was dark and how no traditional Parisian design. It also wasn’t in my ideal neighborhood but the price tag was the only thing that made it enticing. The only reason we didn’t end up getting it was the owner wanted someone who would rent it for at least two years. So I guess that was a blessing in disguise. When it comes down to house hunting, location and price were my main dealbreakers. Everything else was negotiable. It took days of going back and forth to get the agent to schedule a viewing. The problem was the renter didn’t want to show it until the place was available so I was cutting it close to our move-out date. I finally got a call to see it so I dropped Liv off at school. Because it was so close to her school I decided to walk around the neighborhood and wait for our appointment. I was almost two hours early and the agent was late (because she was French, of course!). We buzzed the door of the building and waited. The appointment started fifteen minutes late so she tried to call the renter to let us in. We saw the window was open to the apartment but she didn’t answer. She called the agency and they confirmed the right place and right time. After a half an hour of impatiently waiting, she said let’s reschedule for next week. UNLUCKY LIZZIE! I was practically in tears and starting to feel like this was hopeless. I already began to fall in love with the neighborhood. Everything was a close walk and my favorite shop (Monoprix) was just a block away! I was already familiar with the neighborhood and getting excited that I could actually live in my favorite part of Paris.

All the while I was getting no leads for renting our house in LA. Our agent had a few open houses but hardly anyone showed serious interest. My agent was sure it was due to our cat Lola coming with the house and it being rented fully furnished. I was so nervous we lowered the price and asked my angel best friend Aimee to foster Lola for us so we could rent our place with pets. Then we found a family with a dog that was excited to rent our place. After a FaceTime meeting, I signed the lease and waited for them to send the deposit and then they flaked. This made Antz and I very nervous because we couldn’t rent a place in Paris without renting our house in LA. Like, a scale of 1 – 10 in the stress department, I was about 100. After some negotiations and hard work on our agent’s side, we found a lovely single woman with a cute small dog. She signed the lease, sent the full rental amount for three months and we are very relieved to have a responsible adult living in our house. Whew!

After the most intense week of my life the agent finally got the tenant to show us the apartment. The chick didn’t even offer an apology for not showing up for our first appointment and she laid in bed while we saw the apartment, lame. The place didn’t look exactly like the online pictures but I knew they were three years old. The renters were disgusting and they had a dog which I’m sure they didn’t clean up after. The courtyard is my least favorite. It’s dark and has cobblestone so Liv can’t really ride her scooter in the back. The furniture was rearranged in an odd way and older than I guessed but when I saw the floors, the light pouring in from the floor to ceiling windows and the beautiful fireplaces, I said, straight out of a movie “We’ll take it!

Then came the rental process. It’s a little more different than in the US, the French don’t really have a credit score rating. We also didn’t have a previous rental or French tax return to show so everything came down to Anthony’s pay stubs and being the first person to see it. I spent several days running back and forth to the print shop making copies to send to the agency. They needed to see our bank statements, we had to buy French annual renter’s insurance and they requested a letter from his job stating he would be employed for the year. I was worried about getting the letter in time because like I said before, apartments go fast and we were not prepared to lose this one. Thank goodness Antz job sent the letter right away. I saw the place right before we took our trip to London and we electronically signed the lease while we were in London! I couldn’t believe we finally did it. I have heard so many horror stories about Americans getting scammed online by having to wire huge cash deposits and losing the money. Or the landlord requesting up to a year of rent for a security deposit. We only had to put down two month’s rent deposit and pay an agency fee. I was ecstatic! I could finally breathe after so long, I found a place of our own in le Marais, a seven minute walk to the kid’s school with almost everything on my must-have list. The first week we didn’t have wifi so I almost died but lucky for us, we extended our house exchange so Antz would go to the other apartment to work. I don’t even mind that our building has world’s smallest elevator or the wonky furniture. I got my herringbone flooooooooooooors!! (Hope you heard that in Oprah’s voice)

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I packed my beloved Anthropologie tablecloth, a few family photos and as many crafting supplies as I could fit in my suitcase. I would have brought my Things Will Work Out print but Antz made a good point that it could have gotten damaged in my suitcase due to the size. The living room is a nice size, I like the open-ness. The couch is not comfy at all. I really wish I could ship my new couch from LA, but I doubt it would fit in that space. The telly isn’t plugged in, we have been waiting for the rental company to order a new cord for weeks now. We get by without it. Our new plant is lovely and her name is Josephine. She is un-killable.

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My Mom shipped this Origin magazine from LA because our house is featured in it!!

I adore the French doors and the open flow from Liv’s room to the living room. The layout works perfect for us because Antz works California hours (3pm – midnight with an hour break for dinner) so he can close the doors during his conference calls and Liv is usually sleeping while he’s working. Antz was fortunate enough to inherit a comfy office chair from the previous tenants. When we were staying in Nation, he was using an antique chair that was cool but uncomfortable. It may be ugly but it’s super comfy! I think he has a better office set up than back in LA. His favorite part is sitting by the window and watching the rain while he works.

I bought the world map from a cute shop in le Marais for under €30. I’ve always wanted to get her a world map but never had the wall space in LA. I may add some framed photos and artwork on the back wall. Antz doesn’t want to add any holes, so we’ll see. I love the white palette of the apartment but we wanted to add some color so I bought a pom pom kit and vibrant yarn from La Droguerie.

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Now you can see why I brought so much luggage! I packed Liv’s Miffy bedding and a suitcase full of her books and toys. Our sweet neighbors friend in Nation gifted Liv with books in French for her library. It’s nice to finally have a minimalist space but I miss my cool stuff from our house in LA. I was lucky to nab the last Chateau Maison Rouge footstool at Monoprix. We rented a car for move-in day and drove 45 minutes outside of Paris to stock up at Ikea. We bought basic bedding (comforters/sheets/pillows), that lamp shade and the sheepskin rug. I also had to buy some new kitchen supplies, a flatware set, wine glasses, a new bath mat, storage bins and throw blankets. The apartment came with plates, pots, pans and utensils. Lucky for us, Ikea is universal so everything was identical to Ikea in Los Angeles. I even used our Ikea Family rewards card for a little discount!

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I also brought a sewing kit, art supplies, a few books, a giant (and heavy) accordion folder with our important paperwork and our huge iMac computer (which serves as our TV). I was so concerned it would get damaged on the flight to France but as long as you pack it in the original shipping box, it’s fine. I packed an entire suitcase with our bedding from home. We used vacuum-sealed ziplock bags to pack. It works, I was able to fit a king size comforter, pillow cases and sheets but it made the bag heavier. I also bought the bedside lamp, Ikea, I love you!