Expat Life: Three years in Paris

Bonjour mes amis,

It’s the truest saying that time flies when you’re having fun, well three years has passed in a blink of an eye so here’s our annual expat update.

To be honest I have had the worst case of writer’s block imaginable. Ever since the first quarantine that began three days before my birthday in March 2020, I have been pretty depressed (as much of the world, I’m sure). Without being able to travel, most restaurants are closed and we have no idea when we will get our vaccines, we have been staying home as much as humanely possible. Olivia has been handling this limited lifestyle like a champ (her attitude is much better than mine). She now has ballet class via Zoom and plays video games with her friends online.

We are currently in our third (semi) lockdown in Paris. This means only essential shops are open, schools and workplaces are still open and there is a citywide 7pm curfew. You still need an attestation (permission slip) to travel outside the house. The government has allowed up to 10km for exercise but due to the warmer weather and longer days many Parisians are spending more time outdoors despite France’s Covid numbers remaining alarmingly high.

My second birthday in lockdown!

Our family has been inside our apartment since my birthday (my 4th 40th was last Saturday) for no reason other than we are playing it safe. January 2020 we officially were granted the privilege of paying a whooping 22% of Antz income into the French social system (medical, retirement and social charges) but we still haven’t received our medical cards. Which puts us in a vulnerable situation if any of us get sick. We have been trying to get our cards but the insurance office has been excruciatingly slow. Thus far only people over the age of 70 are eligible to get a vaccine and President Macron just suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine so we have no idea when we will get the shot. The US is finally gaining traction on getting everyone vaccinated at record speed (thanks to President Biden) but sadly now that more American states are lifting lockdowns and relaxing mask usage, there has an uptick in Asian American/Pacific Islander hate crimes and mass gun shootings. Sigh, lame white supremacy is thriving more than the virus.

Thank goodness we live in a golden age of filters

After what felt like the longest, weirdest year of our lives, we finally got some snow that I was secretly wishing for. It’s still fun for us Californians to wake up to falling snow. We can’t be the only ones because many people were outside playing in the snow with us.

Last night I rebooked our planned trip to Copenhagen for the fourth time and now I’m optimistically hoping to go in spring 2022. Que sera, sera. I wish the US government would extend everyone’s passport for an extra year since we haven’t been able to travel.

I don’t have much to update you on other than an entire year of puzzles, going viral on TikTok and baking more banana bread than I ever want to eat, I’ll share a story that happened a short time ago.

We survived a fire in our building!

You guys, it was so scary but also felt like we were in a movie. I was awake around 1:45 am (thank you, insomnia) when I heard a commotion upstairs in our building’s hallway. This is pretty frequent occurrence because there are some young neighbors who throw house parties that get a little rowdy late at night. This sounded like many people falling on the ground so I went to our door’s peephole to see if someone fell down the stairs. I saw the hall light was on so I opened the door just as I heard our neighbor saying “They don’t speak French.” she looked at me and said “There is a fire!” I immediately woke up Antz and told him the building is on fire! I woke up Liv and she immediately started crying and asking where’s Lola? I was running around the apartment while throwing on my coat screaming put on your coats and slippers. I grabbed our bag of passports and my backpack and threw in my laptop. I couldn’t think because my heart was in my throat. I didn’t know how bad the fire was at first but I smelled the smoke and started to see red embers from above our stairway. Antz tried to put Lola in her carrier but it wasn’t zipped so she just walked right out the other side so I gave him my backpack and took Lola. By the time we made it out our door (this all happened in less than a minute) there was a ton of people in our tiny stairwell. I couldn’t see what was blocking everyone but I also saw something falling in the hallway so we squeezed pass some slow moving folks. Then we saw some guys holding the ends of a blanket that was carrying the elderly woman who lives above us and were struggling to get her downstairs BECAUSE SHE WAS NAKED FROM THE WAIST DOWN!) I pulled Liv into my coat and they told us to go ahead past them. Antz offered to help but there was no room and they shouted in French to just go. I saw one guy in nothing but his underwear and sneakers. By the time we got to the ground floor I was able to get a sense of how many people were in our building. This was the middle of the night on Sunday morning so our street was deadly silent. I ran across the street with Liv and Lola and sat on the curb trying to catch my breath and calm Liv down. She was upset but also incredibly astute given the circumstance. Antz was hanging out in our lobby trying to offer help or see if anyone else was coming down. Liv started to panic that the building would collapse so he came outside. It took about 10 minutes before the fire truck arrived and I just sat on that icy curb holding Lola and Liv in my lap praying the rosary over and over while crying. It was surreal. I knew we had renter’s insurance but I wasn’t prepared to lose everything we owned. Liv kept crying and laughing saying how lame it would be to lose her newly-started manga (Japanese comic books) collection. Lola was surprisingly calm and didn’t try to escape my grasp. I was trying to offer whatever I could to some of my unfortunate neighbors, one who was heavily pregnant and barefoot in the 30 degree weather. I am lucky I keep my gloves, a scarf and water bottle in my bag. Our immediate neighbors who we are close with happened to be away on vacation so I left him a voicemail letting him know what happened. Turns out the pregnant woman is married to a fireman and he was the one who knocked on everyone’s door and got the firemen so quickly. She told us he was supposed to work that night, I was so grateful he was there with us (guardian angel). When the trucks arrived, they moved us into an apartment lobby across the street. We couldn’t tell if the bright glow from our apartment windows was the fire or Liv’s colorful nightlight. We waited in the lobby for about an hour when the police came and took everyone’s keys so they could check our apartments. Based on Olivia’s translation, the fire started by the elderly woman leaving a candle unattended. Her caretaker/nurse was fully dressed but barefoot (we asked Liv to translate what she was saying but Liv said everything she said sounded like gibberish). The elderly woman has terrible dementia so the fact that the caretaker didn’t notice the candle had me fuming.

After what felt like forever the firemen told us we were being moved to a hotel nearby. We all walked around the corner, my family all had our coats and our slippers but I don’t know how the other neighbors walked in pajamas with no coats, in socks and some barefoot on the filthy and wet ground!

Firemen gave us masks while were stuck in the dark hotel lobby for hours with no idea how our building was. Fortunately for us, we met a few of our English speaking young neighbors and said hello to some of the quieter ones that I’ve never seen before. Turns out the pregnant lady had her cat in a carrier box, she found some socks and her husband got her a coat too. One of our neighbors (who reeked of cigarette smoke) told Liv his two kitties hid under the bed and he couldn’t reach them. I took some random photos during the ordeal but they were all blurry because my hands were shaking so hard. Afterward I posted an Instagram video on my account when I was finally able to compose myself. I talk about the neighbor who lives upstairs in more detail and incoherently ramble while my adrenaline wears off.

Lola the grumpy cat has never behaved so well in her life, she was literally hugging me the whole time. This was our first encounter with a fire other than the wildfires in California which never were a direct threat to us. By 5 am the firemen finally told us we could go back into our apartments. Hooray! When you get that close to possibly losing your life’s possessions you start reflecting hard. When we were fleeing this dangerous situation, I thought, it’s just stuff but I was also regretting not grabbing Liv’s baby shoes (right there on my shelf) Antz getting his work laptop, and Liv was devastated thinking about losing all her stuff, it’s heartbreaking. Our tiny Parisian apartment has become the epicenter of our entire world and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing all the things we’ve collected over the years. Antz irreplaceable artwork and all my little keepsakes I’ve hoarded mean so much to me. I kept hugging my little family of four and reaffirming to myself, as long as we are safe, things will be fine.

The police drove us back to our building in their cool SUVs (our driver drove down the street backwards at a high speed as if we didn’t have enough adrenaline pumping that night) and tried their best to speak English to us. They assured us the building was safe and told us the firemen would return the next day to check the smoke levels. I was terrified our ceiling would collapse since the fire started right above our living room. We could see a huge pile of burnt wood on the sidewalk and the upstairs neighbor’s window was broken. The smoke wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it was too cold to sleep with the windows open. The damage wasn’t that bad other than the hallway carpets being soaked, the stairwell walls and floors were dirty and our mailbox door somehow ended up damaged. I was worried about our building’s tiny elevator but it just needed sweeping. Later we discovered our main door was broken so we can’t buzz people into our building again (see my last post about the door drama).

The firemen were super cute! I was blown away with how young they all were. When we got home we saw they had a table set up outside and they were drinking coffee (or wine?). They were pleased to find out we were Americans and they kept trying to speak to us in English. They measured our ceiling (definitely didn’t notice those sagging beams before) and we saw all the doors had codes written in chalk. Our elderly neighbor must have been taken to a hospital because she was taken away on a stretcher (with a blanket wrapped around her unclothed body!) and we haven’t seen or heard her again.

Now that we’ve been through that melodrama, I feel like veteran Parisians. The next day we washed and vacuumed everything in our place. I packed an emergency bag and Liv baked us a delightful cake for Valentine’s day. We were ecstatic to have a roof over our heads!

I finally got my visa renewed in February (Whoo-hoo!) and we are coming up on French tax season (d’oh!). We are going to try to take Liv to a park in northern Paris to see the cherry blossoms this weekend but I’ll have to confirm we are within our allowed 10 km. After a year of being quarantined, sadly we are kinda used to not going out and socializing. Liv and I are gamer/TikTok buddies so we are excited for all the new Animal Crossing New Horizons updates.

How has 2021 been for you so far? Any life-changing events? It’s so weird that I don’t have more to share but Covid has made everyone slow down and chill out on the hectic schedules we were so accustomed to. This has been my greatest achievement this year so far. We completed it in three days, a new record!

Au revoir!

What is the hardest part about living in Paris?

Bonjour,

You may be thinking my answer would be our struggle with the frustrating French bureaucracy? Nope, to be honest if you have all your paperwork in order and are 110% mentally prepared to deal with whatever type of drama they throw at you, you will be able to get what you need done. Additionally, we pay a fortune to have a lawyer accompany us to our appointments which takes most of the annoyance off our shoulders. Well then, it must be not being able to speak French, oui? After almost three years living here (in March 2021) we have gotten by fine with our basic French and lots of sign language. Most French people speak more English than they let on. Plus our ten year old translator has made things a piece of cake!

So what could be so hard about living in the prettiest, most sentimental city in the world?!

Something I completely took for granted when I lived in our home in Los Angeles…DELIVERIES!

I have been an avid online shopper since Amazon only sold books! I ordered everything from our weekly groceries, all our clothes, to Antz contacts online. I enjoyed the convenience, was able to hunt for great deals and I admit, nothing felt more satisfying than getting a package delivered. It totally feels like Christmas. Our house in Los Angeles had a locked gate so the delivery person had to ring our doorbell to deliver a package. This was how I received 75% of my packages. In the rare instance I wasn’t at home, they would just toss it over our fence (which was covered in ivy) in our front yard so the package was hidden and even though they tossed a few fragile items into our thorny rose bushes, we rarely lost a package. I have to say, nothing prepared me for how the delivery system worked functioned in Paris. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t!!

Our first two months in Paris we were staying at a temporary house swap so I wasn’t shopping online as often as I normally would. The few times I needed to order a package, we discovered that the post office wouldn’t leave packages unattended at our building if they didn’t fit inside the mailbox. So I would have to take the note the postperson left to the post office around the corner, then show my passport to pick up my package.

The apartment we were staying in was in a gated building on a private street so we didn’t encounter any issues with accessibility. We benefitted by getting friendly with our awesome next door neighbors who would take our packages for us if we weren’t home. The few times we had to pick up packages from La Poste was exciting for Liv and me (at first). Then, I started shopping online more regularly and instead of having to go to the post office, we had to go pick up our packages from shops in the neighborhood (in French a package is called a colis). These places were usually Mom and Pop businesses (like a shop that repairs cell phones or a print shop) that would hold packages as a side business. The shopkeepers we encountered were disorganized and slow. Most of the stores had erratic business hours so if we went after school to pick up at package at 4:30, they would already be closed for the day. The problems really started when I would get an email saying my package was attempted to be delivered but it wouldn’t say where, only saying it was delivered to a local business with no address. Thus began the package scavenger hunt. There was even a few times Antz and I had to make a long trek outside of Paris to the UPS distribution center to pick up my package even though there was no attempt to deliver to our address. Fed Ex packages were the easiest to pick up because there is a store in Opera that was a nice bus ride away and they have the best customer service and tracking system. However it’s the most expensive shipping option.

Then we moved into our apartment. We don’t have a concierge which is someone who handles issues of the building. So everything was a learning curve to figure out how to get our packages. It took several trips to the three post offices in our neighborhood to find out which one we were assigned to. Then we discovered that our packages were being delivered to the store on the street level of our building. We built a friendly rapport with the African couple who owned the business and the woman was nice enough to wave to us everyday. Sadly, last summer they closed the business and a new owner moved in that didn’t take packages (to our dismay) and even though they were just as friendly, we had no idea where our packages would end up. My Mom sent us a huge care package that cost me $100 to ship from LA. It took almost a month to arrive and tracking the package was a joke. The US Post office website said the package arrived in Paris customs but I couldn’t track the package beyond that. The package was no longer tracking from the USPS service once it arrived in France and La Poste did not have any record of where it was because it didn’t have a French tracking number. My Mom would ask me everyday for a month if the package had arrived. You guys, the frustration was at an all time high!

When I finally tracked down the package I was shocked to have to pay a huge import duty fee! My Mom didn’t know at the time but she declared an extremely high value of the items she shipped. She thought the higher the value the more insured it would be in case it was lost and that ended up costing me another $100 for maybe $40 worth of items. It got even worse when I shopped my first Black Friday online. I was thrilled to find my favorite US stores were now shipping to France, so I placed big orders since we were furnishing our new apartment. However I was not paying attention to detail during checkout and I seemed to overlook the disclosure that import duty fees were my responsibility. I was hit with over €300 in import fees when the packages finally arrived months later. There have even been a few occasions when the delivery person require a duty fee at our door in cash. A few times I had cash on me but if I didn’t have change, the delivery person would smugly keep the rest as an involuntary tip. Now I keep change in a bowl with our keys for deliveries.

So, you must be thinking, yeah Liz everyone has their own delivery horror story, it’s not as bad as you describe. Let me tell you the most recent tale of the lone yellow sneaker.

But first let me tell you about the evilest, most vile company to ever exist…Chronopost. Our first Christmas in our new Parisian apartment was festive, perfectly wintery and my most miserable time because of the stress stupid Chronopost put me through. I thought I had learned from my past shipping mistakes so I ordered most of my gifts online months before December. I even paid extra for insurance because I knew my packages had a tendency to disappear. This particular package I ordered from a shop in LA, only allowed priority shipping to guarantee it would arrive before Dec 15th. It cost me as much as the items in shipping but I was determined to get my package in time. Other packages began to arrive but this was still during the time we had no working interphone (the outdated phone that allows us to buzz people into our building) so when a delivery person rang our bell, we would have to throw on our shoes, and run downstairs before they left. I had a 79% success rate.

Yep, there goes one of my packages because our dumb interphone didn’t work and I missed them. The worst part was they never leave a note saying when they will return so I would have to wait days and hope I don’t miss them again. Once I missed a delivery and they shipped the package all they way back to my Mom in LA!! I ended up losing $60 in shipping costs and my understandably irritated Mom told she was going to stop sending us packages.

As you can tell, I was getting at my wits end with these packages. I continued to track the expensive package with Liv’s Christmas presents which was promised to arrive in early December (no later than Dec 15th). Around that same time France’s bus drivers and Metro staff decided to go on strike (La Grève during the holidays, perfect timing). For weeks public transportation came to a halt and so did most deliveries. La Poste has a company they outsource to deliver packages called dumb Chronopost. The delivery guys are (how can I put this delicately?) the worst at their job ever!! They obviously give zero fucks about their job and it shows. They don’t wear uniforms like La Poste employees do so it harder to spot them. They are so hard to deal with, even if you speak French it’s nearly impossible to get your package. They will leave your package with any random person and be like I delivered it. I am not joking, I have walked down our street and went into every single shop asking if they had my package. Ask any French person what do they think about Chronopost, I bet you $100 they will roll their eyes. So I see my package had arrived in Paris on-time but it was sitting in customs for a few days. Understandably, customs is like the mafia, they need their cut so they hold packages hostage until you pay a ransom but they release the package usually about a day or two. After Dec 15th came and went I started getting nervous so I asked Liv to call to see what’s the hold up. Guys, the Chronopost people on the phone yelled at us, hung up on us, literally asked me “What do you want us to do about it?” and I got into a screaming match with a horrible woman on the phone after she raised her voice at Liv. I was losing my mind because I spent so much money to make sure this package would arrive before Christmas and no one would help me get it. Finally one person took pity on me after days of abuse over the phone. She suggested I go to the distribution center and pick it up myself. Sure! Great idea, however there was a strike so I couldn’t take public transportation. I had to go to Gare Nord train station and find a taxi driver willing to drive me half an hour outside of Paris and back home. After frustrating negotiations I finally talked the driver down to €100 (insane but I was desperate) that I would pay upon our return home (I didn’t trust him to wait for us and I didn’t want to get stranded). In the taxi on our way there, the Chronopost person called me to tell me my package may not be at the location after all. I was only a few blocks from the train station so I explained to the driver the trip is cancelled. He pulled over and locked the doors and said “€100!” in French. Olivia and I were pretty much being kidnapped in this taxi driver’s smelly car until we paid him. I was raging internally but I politely explained, he only drove us 5 blocks and I wasn’t paying him €100. I tried to compromise and said I would give him €20 because of the inconvenience and it was all the cash I had on me. He called his boss and yelled into the phone while I called Antz and told him I’m probably going to be on the news that night if this fool wouldn’t let me out of the car. After arguing with his boss and himself for a long time he snatched the €20 out of my hand and let us out but can you see how absolutely livid I was at this point. I called Chronopost again as it was now three days before Christmas and that’s when I snapped. I threatened to sue, I asked to speak to everyone’s manager, I Karened like no Karen you have ever seen before. I was walking home during the call so Liv had to ask me to calm down because people were staring. Long story short, the lady on the phone rudely asked me “What you gonna do there is no way you will get it before Christmas?” and I just started crying. Liv had no idea why I was so upset because I couldn’t tell her it was her Christmas presents. The store that charged me the ridiculous shipping fee really felt bad about it but they shipped the item to France on time as promised and they had nothing to do with customs or Chronopost’s bullshit. So Christmas came and went without the package. I had other stuff for her to open on Christmas morning and she didn’t show any disappointment about the package finally arriving three days later. I learned a valuable lesson to never trust companies that say they will get a package to you in time overseas but I’m still raw about the whole ordeal.

My friend Leslie in LA has sent packages to me and most of the time it was surprisingly hassle-free! I really need that teacup. My sweet kid wearing her late Christmas gift (a kigurumi in Japanese) pajamas that she hasn’t taken off since last year! My spirits were lifted by the beautiful gift wrapping skills of my endlessly patient husband who has to hear the brunt of my rants. F-U Chronopost, you are trash!

So back to the story of the missing shoe! Last month I couldn’t help but do a little Black Friday shopping. I know, I’ll never stop putting myself through this drama. I had a credit with Madewell that was expiring soon and they were having such a huge sale, I decided to order some things for Antz and myself. Well, I knew if I shipped it directly to France it would take forever and cost me an arm and a leg so I decided to send it to my bff Aimee’s address. She got the package in LA and was able to send me some things I needed along with some stuff for Liv. I was feeling good about it because I knew I saved so much with the sale and Aimee shipping it, I was finally coming out ahead. Plus there was no pressure to get the package in a hurry. Well, one morning our doorbell rang which was strange because it wasn’t our building’s loud interphone buzzer that is from outside the building but the doorbell inside the building. Antz answered the door and it was our upstairs neighbor (who we never met before) with a package saying it was ours. This has never happened before but he accepted it and the neighbor left before we could inquire further. It was the box Aimee sent a few weeks earlier and it looked like this.

We have seen damaged boxes before but this one takes the cake. There was a bunch of stuff inside and luckily nothing was damaged however when Antz was taking everything out he noticed there was only one of my New Balance sneakers in the box. I told Aimee to just send the shoes without the shoebox so it would weigh less. Just like Cinderella, I took off downstairs hoping to find (not my Prince) but the Chronopost delivery guy while holding my one yellow sneaker. Of course, he was nowhere in sight (not like I could tell since they don’t wear uniforms) but I did bump into our postman so I tried to explain the story in my terrible French and showed him the shoe. He kindly made a call on his cell phone (it sounded like he was calling the delivery guy). He asked me to text the photo of the shoe to him along with my address which I did. He told me to go home and wait for the delivery guy to return. Hooray, I was feeling hopeful!

This was about three weeks ago and I’m still waiting to hear from the delivery guy. I know I will never find my lost shoe so I had to call (with Liv’s help) La Poste and file a claim (which I seriously doubt they will reimburse me). I guess I’m going to start a new mix & match sneaker trend with my lone shoe. I was more amused than upset about it and luckily I got the shoes on sale for $40 so it wasn’t that huge of a loss. I was more excited that my Hello Kitty mask survived in the destroyed box.

Aimee has been regularly sending us packages since we moved here. I jokingly call her my mule because when she comes to Paris to visit us, she brings an entire suitcase full of stuff from LA. She has been my Target shopper for things I can’t find anywhere in Europe (my particular deodorant brand, Liv’s multivitamins and seasoning Antz cooks with have been our top requests).

I have been fortunate enough to find items like my natural hair shampoo and conditioner at beauty supply shops near our apartment (even though they are much more expensive for smaller sized bottles). We also found a few American specialty stores in Paris. One of our favorite is called In Good We Trust located in le Marais where we shop for things like baking soda, cake mix and hard to find American grocery items.

I made a TikTok video about the shop that got over 11,000 views so the shop owner gave Liv a free gift (red velvet cake mix) for promoting his biz. BTW, Follow me on TikTok!!

In Good We Trust
67 Rue Quincampoix
75003 Paris

11:30am – 8pm (Closed Mondays)

We don’t buy ranch dressing but I know many expats who can’t live without it. About once a month we go to stock up on items but it’s quite expensive so we try to stick to necessities (no $14 cereal for Olivia!) There is another American shop on the Left Bank called The Real McCoy. We have gone there three times and it was only open once. They said they closed early due to the Yellow Jacket protests but I was annoyed they don’t stick to their listed hours.

As much as I am grateful for these type of shops I would love to help them out with their inventory because they often stock candy that is readily available in all Parisian grocery stores (Americans don’t just eat M&Ms). I would be elated if they carried Secret deodorant and Aveeno daily moisturizer so I wouldn’t have to ship it from the US.

The Real McCoy
194 Rue de Grenelle
75007 Paris

11am – 7pm (Closed Sunday/Monday)

There are some things I have yet to find in Paris even though folks insist are available. For instance, liquid vanilla extract. I was only able to find it in powder form but it tastes too grainy when I bake cookies. Speaking of baking, there is no baking soda or baking powder. I have tried to substitute with the French biocarbonate and it failed miserably. I am lucky that my amazing friend Leslie sends me a supply from Trader Joes and Japanese snacks for Liv!

There are somethings I can go without but Ziploc freezer bags isn’t one of them. I packed a bunch when we first moved here but we used them up right away so I had maybe five left to last us for months. I also couldn’t find scotch tape with a dispenser that actually worked. I bought a 10 pack from Amazon for double the price but French brand tape annoys me! These are the real issues expats face abroad (along with double tax returns, constantly adapting to a new culture, being thrown into a way of life that is often impatient and confusing).

Well, this has been theraputic. I always feel like I need to add the disclaimer that I am beyond lucky to live in this wonderful city with all it’s charm and faults. I would love the French to get their delivery system under control but as the song says…

Bonne soirée

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 shower head in the bathroom was broken and barely any water pressure. There is no hope for this tiny bathroom. We scrubbed it clean as best we could and I added a few bins to store my hair and beauty products. The only redeeming quality it has is the heated 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 weird toilet. We even had a maid come in to clean but this room needs a complete renovation.

Our living room is a comfy spot (not you ugly 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!

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

How to find the almost-perfect Paris Airbnb rental

Bonjour,

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

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

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

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

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

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The courtyard was quiet and lovely

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

Stick to your budget.

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

Who could say no to these happy faces!

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

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

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

Beware of dated apartments.

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

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

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

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

Be flexible about the location.

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

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We loved buying fresh croissants every morning from the Patisserie on the corner.

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

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

Lizzie

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

Bonjour,

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

paris eiffel tower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    1. Metro station
      (any Metro station)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    7. Princess Crepe
      3 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 Paris

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

    8. Disneyland Paris
      Boulevard de Parc, 77700 Coupvray

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

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

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

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

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

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      Afterwards, you can have an unusual dinner experience at…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    13. Parc Zoologique de Paris
      Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Berthillon Glacier
      Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Always have fun!

Lizzie


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

 

Paris Life Observations

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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

Places in Paris: Pink Mamma

You guys, I have been on a hunt for really good pizza in Paris. I know I won’t find any deep dish, extra cheesy and greasy pepperoni like my beloved Round Table Pizza so I needed to compromise with a decent Italian pizza. I heard about a beautiful restaurant called Pink Mamma in Pigalle, a popular spot on Instagram so we headed out on a late Saturday afternoon. We took the bus to Pigalle which took longer than we expected so we arrive a little after 7pm (just after opening). I was surprised to find a long line ahead of us. Then I realized there were no reservations so when we made it inside the hostess told us to return at dix, Liv translated to us that she meant come back at TEN PM!! Holy Cow, there was no way I was going to wait three hours to eat. We were starving. Since we were already there I decided to hang out and take photos of the four story gorgeous interior. The decor is different on every floor and I tried to capture what my eyes saw however, it was awkward taking photos of strangers eating so I had to be discreet about it. Luckily, the light was at golden hour so Antz took these incredible photos of me feeling like an Italian Goddess. I never looked so fancy riding a public bus before.

 

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The four story staircase was bananas. It was like being inside of an art gallery. We spent a lot of time checking out the paintings.

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Was hoping to snag this table on the top floor but it was reserved for a party of five.

 

I mean, could I ask for better light. My kind hubby was playing paparazzi while the diners were looking at me like I was an alien. Whatever, I was feeling myself!