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

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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?

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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

 

My mid-life check in

Bonjour guys,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Never not wearing my favorite Ace & Jig dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Bonus Advice: Fresh flowers makes everything better!

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

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

Bisous

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

Coucou,

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

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

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

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

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

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Liv & her 3rd grade teacher

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

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

This is a typical daily commute for me.

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

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

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

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

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Our favorite American bakery have been closed for weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bisous,

The Hall Conleys

Moving Abroad: Finalizing our visas at the OFII in France

Hi There,

So are you ready for this rad guide to finalizing our long stay visitor visa?! Here we go… Once you arrive in Paris at the airport you must go through customs and you get your passport/visa stamped with a date. We arrived in Paris on March 2, 2018. Wow, feels like years ago.

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This dated stamp is very important because it is your ticking time bomb to finalizing your visa. You get 90 days from the date of that stamp to send your OFII (French Office for Immigration and Integration) application and a copy of your stamped visa. Then you wait patiently for your convocation letters. Convocation is a fancy word for a letter summoning you to complete your visa process. You usually will get two letters for two separate appointments.

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Once you get the letter in the mail you will get an appointment for a medical exam. This appointment is outside of Paris but our Metro passes worked fine. We were lucky to get our appointment scheduled for 10:30 am. I was dreading a 8:00 am appointment which would mean we would have to bring Olivia with us so she was in school. It took about 45 minutes to get there and we arrived an hour early. We stood in line outside and after waiting about 40 minutes Antz realized we were waiting in the refugees seeking asylum line. Whoopsie. If you have an appointment you just go to the door and show the security guard your letter.

This appointment is to get a chest x-ray to prove you don’t have tuberculosis (how is that still a thing?) we also had our blood drawn, had a quick medical questionnaire with a doctor and did I mention I had to be topless TWICE?!

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I knew I would have to take my shirt off for the chest x-ray but I thought I could leave my bra on. We had to navigate the whole appointment with our terrible French and there seemed to be only a few doctors who spoke English. I reluctantly disrobed and went into a room with no female doctor as I anticipated, but a tiny male doctor who was intent on having a conversation with me about the Royal Wedding while I held my boobs awkwardly.

He tells me to stand in front of the x-ray machine and press my boobs into the screen. I’m like, okay anything to stay in Paris, I guess? He then tells me to put my arms down and put my necklace in my mouth so it won’t show up in the x-ray. Then he asks me if I attended the royal wedding? Do I personally know Meghan Markle because she is from Los Angeles? Then he tried to make me answer these annoying questions with my Olivia necklace in my mouth while I tried to keep my boobs on a metal x-ray machine. This really happened. This doctor was as tall as Olivia and he was one of the only English speaking doctors. I heard him say the exact same thing to the woman who went in next. She sounded more amused than I was.

So after I survived that trauma, I went into another room. There was a doctor who doesn’t speak English. He weighed me (I’ve lost 10 pounds!!) measured my height, gave me an eye test and drew my blood (ouchie). He was amazing with sign language so I understood everything. Then sent me to go wait again.

The last room is another take off your top area and then you walk into a small office. This time I kept my bra on because I was feeling like an unpaid prostitute. I casually sat down and spoke to a handsome doctor who had to use Google to translate our conversation. He explained that I was healthy, asked me some questions and stamped a certificate stating I was all good. He checked my heartbeat which is why I needed my shirt off. So ladies, wear a nice bra because you want to impress!

Then it was over. Hooray!

The front desk gives you the signed and stamped medical certificates and then you take the long, hot bus back into Paris. The funny thing is, the city we were in had this modern tram so we wanted to try to take it back into Paris. We hopped on and noticed we were heading further away from Paris so we took it back to the original station.

The Health Exam office is:

221 Avenue Pierre Brossolette
Montrouge, France

Our next appointment was a week later, also scheduled for 10:00 am. This OFII office was located in the 11th so it was close by. This time we knew to walk right in. We waited in a room for about a half an hour and listened to the three clerks interact with the people. Most of the people waiting spoke French but the few that spoke English ended up with the guy clerk. There was a mean lady and a nice-sounding lady. After hearing the mean lady, we crossed our fingers we would be called by the nice one. Luckily, she called my name! She asked for my paperwork and only spoke French. Since we hired a visa consultant, I knew everything she would ask for so it was easy to understand. She accepted all my paperwork and didn’t have any issues. She asked me if my husband was here and I called Antz over. He handed over his papers and she told me to relax and breathe as she stamped our visas.

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I have never said Merci more in my life. I was so happy! Guess what? Five months before March (October) we get to start the process all over again for our renewal!

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We decided to celebrate by going to lunch at one of the most touristy places in Paris.

I was feeling officially French but then we got a waiter who didn’t have time for me ordering in French. I literally was saying “Je voudrais oeufs avec frommage et un croissant beurre.” He then impatiently said “What do you want?” Le Sigh.

I am destined to never speak French.

This is what we brought to our visa appointment:

Proof of residence (lease agreement or housing attestation)
The clerk asked if we had a utility bill in our name but our utilities are included in our rent so she said okay.

Medical certificate (this is why you need to go to the first appointment)
I’ve also heard some people may need to bring a vaccination chart, they just asked me if I was vaccinated for tetanus and I said yes when I was pregnant with Olivia.

Passport with your stamped visa (I still hate the picture the LA French consulate took)

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Another passport size photo (remember when I bought $96 worth of visa photos?)

A receipt showing you paid your tariffs. Our timbres were €250 each. Children do not have to attend this appointment or pay a tariff.

Here is a straightforward list of what you need to apply for a long stay visa.

The address to send your OFII application and stamped visa is:

48 rue de la Roquette
75011 Paris, France

Here is a recap of our Los Angeles visa experience, please ask me anything in the comments.

Moving abroad guides: part one & part two, and my financial guide for applying for a visa.

We are legit French immigrants until March 2019!!

Bisous

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Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Bonsoir amis,

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

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

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The tacky flea market vs Brocantes

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

Just a tad too small.

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

Tell me I’m wrong…

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

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

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

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Hmmm, her birthday is coming soon, tempting.

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

This signage and lamp stall was my favorite but sadly everything was well over my budget. I would love to buy a French street sign but even the small ones were €250. I will keep searching.

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I love looking at taxidermy but would never dare own it. Cool cuckoo clock at the top. I really wanted a chandelier but I have no idea what size to buy, if they work or how to have it installed in our apartment.

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Another item I really wanted to splurge on was this incredible rabbit painting. I liked the size and the frame but I couldn’t justify spending €250 on a painting that wasn’t an original. Not when I’m married to an amazingly talented artist who works for cheap wine and kisses.

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I also was going to ask about this rad Moroccan fez hat but some old, mean guy who worked in another stall yelled at us to not take pictures did not seem to want to chit chat with Americans.

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After getting yelled at a few times for taking pictures (Okay, jeez didn’t know I was in a museum!) and running into one too many creepy dolls, we left just in time to get rained on. I’m glad we checked it out but I am an online shopper at heart. I’m still looking for those items on eBay and Etsy.

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The flea market address is:

142 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, France

Make sure you walk north of the freeway overpass, stay to the right and look for rue Jean Henri Fabre, there are entrances all along this street.

My ignorant, American ass was snapping photos most of the time but some of the vendors don’t want their merchandise photographed, so be sure to ask first. And please, say Bonjour and Merci to every person you encounter!

 

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Life in Paris: Month Deux

Bonjour mes amis,

It has already been two months since our arrival in Paris! I cannot tell you how fast this time has flown by. We exchanged our house in LA with a sweet French couple in Nation (12th arrondissement) for the first two months so we could have time to apartment hunt. I am so happy we were able to live in Nation mostly because we were able to experience a new part of the city we have never seen before.

I feel like I have finally mastered taking Liv to school on the Metro. I used to be confused about which direction the train would go and call myself out as an obvious tourist during the ride by watching for every stop. Now, we know all the train lines and have the cool, I can’t be bothered look while on the train. I do still get secretly excited when an accordion player is on the train. Although once on a crowded train I got my skirt caught in the door.

Side Note: My hair is huge here. I spend hours flat ironing it and yet the second I go outside it turns into an instant pouf. Must be the humidity, there is so much moisture in the air.

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Liv and I usually discuss our plans for the week and how we are adjusting to life in France during the ride. I ask her about the differences between LA and Paris. She makes statements like France is so much more cultural and historic than California. She told me, “In Paris everyone takes public transportation but hardly anyone in LA does. Most people at the grocery store are grumpy but here they care about helping you.” She also said the food here is much better than LA. She’s doing well in school. I have met some of the parents of her classmates (although very few speak English). Her curriculum is very similar to her French school in LA but they go off the campus for PE (which is called sports) and I feel terrible because I can’t help her with most of her homework (only math and English).

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After I drop her off, I usually take the bus home because the Metro is very crowded and grab my luggy to pick up the day’s groceries. I still can’t get over how frequently I have to shop here. We go through groceries like crazy!

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So far we absolutely love living in Paris. I still cannot believe we are here after dreaming of this for so many years. However, there are some downsides to life in France. Please don’t think I’m some entitled brat complaining about my great life, I just want to keep it real and show both sides of our life.

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It is very expensive! So far we have plunked down quite a bit of euros for household items (new towels, shopping at Ikea for our new apartment, basic toiletries). It’s harder to stick to a budget because we had to stock up on basic items. Our first week here I bought Liv a scooter, new clothes and had to replace a pair of shoes she outgrew. This month Antz and I needed some new clothes because we (happily) lost weight! I spend €225 every month on our Metro/bus passes but sometimes in a pinch, we need to use Uber and depending on how far we are from home, it can be expensive. We needed to rush home from Versailles to make it to a birthday party on time and it ended up costing €65 for a 30 minute ride.

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Liv really enjoyed her €9 smoothie.

Then Monoprix had to come out with this rad limited-time collab with Maison Chateau Rouge. Just take all my money!

The romper was for Liv but if they had my size I would totally rock it. I pretty much cleared out their home decor display.

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However, groceries seem less expensive here than in LA. Like cheese, meat and beverages are super cheap. But let me tell you about the most magical, delicious item in all of France… la beurre!

Back home I buy insignificant salted butter for like $3.99 on sale. Here, I only buy Sel de Mer de Noirmoutier and it is so delicious. I use it on everything, you could tell me it has crystal meth in it and I would still be like “Pass the butter.” I must say, America is missing out on this fucking amazing butter. It costs €2.35!

However dining out is still costing a fortune. We stopped ordering cocktails and are sticking to drinking water but we can’t seem to keep our bill under €75. Recently, while out on a stroll around the neighborhood we found the famous rue Montorgueil. The heavens parted and angels sang as we discovered the most intoxicating smells of baked bread, meats and fresh fruit. The oldest bakery in Paris is located here. It’s now my favorite place to buy fruit and we fell in love with all the restaurants.

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We brought home the best BBQ ribs and a half a kilo of cherries for lunch. Liv gobbled the whole tray in five minutes! Oh, and I am now a basket lady. I have bought three baskets since I got here. This is who I am now. Note: The fluffy hair.

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We found this incredible living wall called L’oasis d’Aboukir. It rains almost once a week so I guess that is why this garden is so insanely green.DSC_0158

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There are a few other annoyances here that I can’t seem to figure out. Like getting mail delivered. It seemed to be easier to get our mail when we were staying in Nation but that could be due to our sweet neighbors helping us out by accepting our packages. In our new apartment, we have a mailbox that we put our names on but nothing has been delivered so far. It took many attempts to find which of the local post offices our address belonged to. My French is not as great as I thought it was. I was able to pick up one package (I ordered five weeks ago!) yet three more are in mail limbo because we were told if our building has a locked gate, they can’t deliver packages. Uh, like every single building in Paris has a passcode door so why wouldn’t they at least email me or leave a note so I know where to pick up my stuff? Today I am going to Fed Ex for the third time to pick up a package that was delivered nine days ago! My Mom sent me a huge care package and it took me two weeks to figure out how to track it down.

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Another thing I will never get used to is the military presence here. I mean, they all seem like nice soldiers but it’s jarring to walk down the street and then boom, there’s five or six fully uniformed army folks casually carrying guns that look like they belong in a video game. I don’t dare take photos of them but they do say bonjour without a smile as I walk by. Oh, and they wear berets. I suppose I am lucky to live in a relatively safe neighborhood because there have been random knife attacks since we have arrived and sadly, I am always cautious when we are in large crowds.

I also seemed to have a hyper-sensitive aversion to noise. I was equally annoyed by the nonsense noise caused by our hillbilly neighbors (they had the world’s lamest garage band) in LA. Here, the sounds are subtle but torturous. For example, we noticed the first night while in bed, the upstairs neighbor’s toilet must be directly above our heads. Imagine the sounds we heard. They also had some type of saloon door that swings shut. This door produced a boom, bump, bump, bump sound all day long, just about every 30 seconds. I was very close to paying them a friendly visit to offer some felt pads but we moved into a new apartment. Just as we arrived at our new home we were welcomed by the constant cooing of les pigeons. They nest outside of our kitchen window and their incessant cooing sounds make me want to murder. Liv and Antz swear they can’t hear them so I’m the only one going crazy over the sound.

My final (first-World) problem is our new apartment doesn’t have a separate dryer. They consider this country sophisticated? I was warned about the hard, scratchy towels of Paris so I’ve always traveled with my own towel. The night before we left LA, I took a shower and used my soft, brand new bath towel that I packed in my carry-on. Then as we were re-packing our stuff I realized I only had enough room for either my winter coat or my towel. I was already wearing my camel year-round coat on the plane so I had to make a Sophie’s Choice. I decided it won’t be so terrible to buy new towels in Paris once we arrived. Guess what? Soft, plush towels do not exist here! I was stuck using my face towel for the first week. Monoprix does sell towels but they have a scratchy texture and cost $32.99 each. So, lesson learned, travel with your own pillowcases and towels. I did bring my allergy-free pillowcase covers with me. So, I’m living in 1925 y’all!

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I adore freshly dried linen sheets or hand-washed pajamas but putting on stiff as cardboard undies sucks! Now I understand why everyone has to iron clothes here.

In other fun news, it’s peony season! My favorite flower is in bloom and you can buy four stems for 20 euros. Well, that’s how much they were at the marche however Antz found a sweet bouquet for me for Mother’s day for just ten euros.

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This is how they look three days later, swoon.

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May 1st is May Day. According to Wikipedia, on 1 May 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on 1 May. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley.

Liv has been a crafting machine since most of her toys couldn’t fit in her suitcase. I took her to La Droguerie to buy a pom pom making kit. This colorful place is located on

9-11 Rue du Jour, 75001 Paris, France

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She was able to customize her own glitter! This kid and I were in rainbow craft supplies heaven.

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We try to go to visit a new arrondissement every weekend. The parks here are absolutely gorgeous. Just don’t ever step on the grass. When the sky turns blue here, you grab a picnic basket and run outside!

Jardin de Luxembourg
Rue de Vaugirard, Boulevard St. Michel, Rue Auguste-Comte and Rue Guynemer 75006 Paris, France

The boat rentals are €4 for 30 minutes. Liv chose Mexico to rep her Grandma Maria.

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I think the pony ride was €8. Sweetest pony but our seven year old child is a giant.

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Parc Floral
4 route de la Pyramide | Bois de Vincennes, 12th, 75012 Paris, France

We also love strolling our new neighborhood to hunt for Invaders.

Liv pointed out the heart shapes in the window panes of that heart.

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One evening we took a stroll and ended up on Île de la Cité just at sunset. I swear I am never going back to the US!! Life here is tres beau.

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Ask me anything about living in Paris.

Moving Abroad: Paris the first month

Our time here has felt like light speed. The year before we moved Paris was the longest of my life. Now the days are flying by in an instant. So, what is life living in Paris like? It’s amazing, complicated, sometimes cold, strenuous, always exciting and the best thing that has ever happened to me (with exception to marrying Antz and having Olivia!)

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This is just one of the hundreds of beautiful blue doors of Paris. I get caught up in the beautiful mix of this city’s architecture and the urban dirt. Besides my obvious tourist uniform, I know I stand out here because I’m the only person who looks up at the buildings and I always take note of the stamps found on buildings that show the architect and the year it was built. I appreciate every little detail.

I also am constantly hunting for Invader mosaics using his app on my phone. I have already found 48 just this month.

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I am going to keep it real. I love it here but it comes with the same issues as home. Most days are rad but some days suck too. I love the fresh food, the bread is insanely delicious and the charm of dining in French cafes never gets old. I do find eating at the cool places is becoming expensive, I miss In & Out drive thru and please, for the love of God, will someone bring blueberry bagels to France? They literally have every flavor but my favorite! We don’t yet feel completely settled because we will be changing apartments next month so we are still living out of our suitcases. We also haven’t figured out the final step of finalizing our visas which is stressing me out but also Merde, we have 90 days to get it together.

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Our first week here was heaven. Antz had the week off from work and Liv wasn’t enrolled in school yet. Since we had the rental car for a few days it made getting around town a piece of cake. We took road trips, explored the streets of Paris and stocked up on groceries. When I took the car back at Charles du Gaulle airport, I took the Metro home. I was quite proud of myself for taking public transportation 45 minutes through Paris, at night, by myself. I would never have done that in Los Angeles but the Metro is relatively safe although you do have to be aware of pickpockets. We purchased monthly Metro passes with the help of a kind Metro worker who didn’t speak any English. The Navigo passes require your photo on them so I was able to use our rejected visa photos. Monthly passes cost 75 euros each but I think that’s a bargain since we use them several times a day! So far the hardest part about using public transportation is the nonstop walking and stair climbing. Inside of the Metro is an underground labyrinth that seems to never end. The train line we take most often is the furthest away and about 5 stories deep. There is something I will never get used to when using public transportation. Total invasion of personal space! I get it, most times the train or bus is packed with hundreds of commuters trying to get to their destination however, I get so annoyed when strangers touch me or lean against me. I know that sounds very American gross of me but I like my bubble. Also, I get stared at…ALL THE TIME. I’m used to people looking at me, I look like a giant baby doll but this is awkward, borderline rude staring. I get the full up and down look and I’m not sure if it’s judgement because I am the only person in Paris who wears bright colors, is a foot taller than everyone and I’m usually dancing with my headphones on or confusion. Either way, I have a tough skin when it comes to the staring or I stick my tongue out at them and they stop. On the brighter side, despite my self-admitted laziness, we are walking so much more now than we ever have. All three of us have lost pounds since our arrival and I can see a difference in how my clothes are fitting. My wedding rings are loose on my finger!

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One thing I will say I am impressed about French people is they are avid readers. Nearly everyone reads on the metro. I have already finished reading Ready Player One in a few weeks which is something I never seemed to have time to do in LA.

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Everywhere we walk there are public bikes for rent called Velib. Liv is always asking us to rent them so one day I couldn’t take her asking anymore so I gave in. Turns out the bike seat wouldn’t lower enough for Liv’s height so she was having trouble steering and braking. Instead of using the hand brakes (her bike at home is a beach cruiser so she is used to foot brakes) she would just jump off the pedals and let the bike drop. It wasn’t going to work. Antz ended up walking with her the rest of the way home but I enjoyed my bike ride until I got off and realized how sore my butt was.

We had to do some shopping to commence our life in Paris so we hit up my two favorite stores, Bonton and Merci!

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Me plotting on how to steal this fiat I can’t even fit in!

Antz needed a new scarf so he tried on almost every scarf they had. I don’t know who suggested paisley print for mens scarves but he opted for a simple yet stylish chambray blue. I browsed the lovely Merci en Rose pop up shop but I didn’t get anything. I may go back and get a Merci tote bag (hard to pick a color). I also want those eyeglasses that make me look like an adult with a PhD. Liv almost talked us into buying her this adorable fisherman hat but it was just too small. I hope to find it in medium.

When they finally pulled me out of Merci we walked to Bonton, a rad kids store that has toys, clothes, accessories and furniture. I knew the only way to get Liv from bugging us about renting bikes was to get her a scooter. Every kid (and some adults) has a scooter here. I liked that she has something fun to do during our long walks and Antz didn’t have to worry about her crashing like the bike. She even paid for her own bell with her euros from Aimee.

I haven’t seen the kid walk ever since!

The second week Antz went back to work (from home) and I was devoted to enrolling Liv in school. This part really sucked. Before we left LA, I spoke with our school’s campus director (French version of a Principal) and he wrote Olivia a letter in French to give to her new school’s director. He gave me a list of documents we needed to enroll her, the school calendar and a list of school supplies. He seemed confident that we wouldn’t have any issues with enrollment. Monday morning we took Olivia to visit the school to meet the Campus Director and inquire about enrollment. We didn’t have an appointment so we arrived when school started at 8:30 am. Of course no one in the school staff spoke English so we stood around smiling and nodding for several minutes until Liv was somehow able to translate that we wanted to meet the director. The director reminded us of a character from Harry Potter but he was very friendly and kind. He took us upstairs and with very limited English, we discussed our desire to send Liv to his school. He told us he would love Olivia to come to his school and he complimented her French.  I almost hugged him with joy but he also mentioned, if we had the correct address for enrollment, he would welcome her. As we were leaving we asked to peek into a classroom to get an idea of what the environment was like. I was impressed to see the students all stand whenever the director enters a classroom. We used to do the same thing in Catholic school. We even had to stand anytime we spoke during class. Kids today have no idea how easy they have it! Liv mentioned how they didn’t have a smartboard like her school in LA. She hasn’t used a regular chalkboard in class before. He told the class that Liv was from Los Angeles and they looked at her like she was a celebrity. I was so excited for Liv to start school in a few days!

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When it was time for me to go to the Mairie (town hall) to enroll Liv in school things got much harder. Back home, I researched everything I would need to enroll Liv in the school. I knew I needed to bring her birth certificate, proof of address, our passports and her vaccinations. The day we went for some reason, I totally forgot to bring her French translated birth certificate. We had to come back with them and the woman informed us that because of our address, we would be assigned to another school. Olivia had to act as  our translator and due to the nature of our conversation, there were many words she didn’t understand or didn’t know how to translate. I tried my best to explain to the Mairie woman why we wanted to attend that school but she wouldn’t change her mind. It was the famous French bureaucracy that I had always heard about. It really wasn’t a matter of me talking her out of this, it was our address that dictated which school Liv would attend. I left the Mairie in tears. I have never felt more frustrated. The main reason we moved to France was for Olivia’s education and I wasn’t going to settle for just any school. It was my shittiest day here. The next morning, I brought her French translated birth certificates, copies of our passports, I made an appointment to meet with a doctor to translate her vaccination chart into French and I had to pick up an original document to prove our French address. Once I arrived at the Mairie, I felt determined to win this woman over and knew that I had one more chance to try to get Liv into the school I wanted. When I arrived at the Mairie, the woman told us she was leaving for lunch and I needed to talk with her colleague. The colleague had no idea what we were asking her and she was even meaner than the first woman. When I say she was mean, it’s more of a blunt attitude. French people aren’t very smily and sweet like I’m used to. I was learning that if you don’t have the right paperwork here, you are screwed. She didn’t seem to understand that I was in the process of getting Liv’s vaccinations translated (I had an appointment later that day) and she keep requesting copies of paperwork the other woman had already approved. I ended having to ask Antz to email me documents and walking to a print shop and getting the copies printed three separate times that day. Since it was Friday and the Mairie closed at 4:30, I finally called it quits. I was panicked. Liv was supposed to be enrolled by the first week and starting school the next Monday and I still hadn’t made any progress for getting her into the school we wanted. I spent all night trying to figure out a plan. I went back to the Mairie on Monday and decided, I’m going to sit here as long as it takes to get Liv into the school. I finally had all the documents I needed. I was still waiting for the French vaccinations but she seemed to be fine with us showing the school once we had them. I sat there for three hours confused at Liv’s translations and feeling ill that I would have to enroll her into another school. She finally said she needed to speak to her boss about making an exception. I guess she saw that this crazy American wasn’t going to leave until I got what I wanted. She called the campus director and I was like Yay! He will vouch for us. When she got off the phone she was like, the campus director told you he would welcome you at his school IF you had the right address to enroll. Oooh No! So, after a stare down she went upstairs and told Olivia something about having to speak to the mayor. I thought Liv’s translation was off but shortly after, a guy in a suit came downstairs and sat down with us. He spoke a little English so he told me we didn’t have the right address for that school. I explained my situation to him and showed him the letter from Liv’s school director in LA. I have no idea what that letter says because it’s written in French but he made a phone call and then asked me why do you want to go to that particular school. I tried to explain but I’m sure he didn’t understand my English. He then said all the schools here are the same. I was like, I know parents of children that go to the school, I have researched this school online, I want the location of this school and then I stopped myself from saying I walked past the school everyday daydreaming about Olivia attending when I made a surprise visit to Aimee. Whomever he called I owe them my gratitude because the woman printed a form and told me to sign it and was like, Okay you can go to that school! I almost passed out with joy. It took me a week longer to get her in but the next Monday would be her first day of school.

I can’t believe that the morning of Liv’s first day we woke up to this white powdery magic!

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Her first day was rad! She spent the first hour sitting in a fourth grade classroom. Everyone thought she was ten years old! She said at recess the kids were crowding around her like she was Michael Jackson. The best part is she had no problem with the language barrier. She has already made several really good friends. Her school starts at 8:30 am then at 11:30 they get an hour and a half for lunch and it’s served in an actual cafeteria! I thought those only existed in movies from the 80s. She isn’t so excited about eating French food but at least she’s trying new things. The rest of her day is from 1 pm – 3 pm, then after-school activities until 4:30 pm. She has an acting class and has joined the chess club. On Wednesdays they are dismissed early (at 1:30) so she goes to ballet class.

I researched a dance school when I came to visit Aimee so when we arrived, I signed her up for a month of classes. To my surprise, we showed up for the youth ballet class but everyone looked much older. I mistakenly thought one of the students was the instructor because no one spoke English. I could tell Liv was way out of her comfort zone. The teacher is BRUTAL! She doesn’t look like a ballet dancer but halfway through the class she unhooked her bra and kicked off her heels and started busting some serious moves. I was able to sit in the first class but I didn’t understand anything. Liv looked like a deer in headlights and I thought she would burst into tears any second. The teacher did a lot of shouting, clapping and stomping, it was intense but I loved that she pushed Liv and introduced discipline she has never experienced before. It wasn’t as strict as I’ve seen Russian ballet schools but it was not at all like her sweet, patient teacher at her ballet school in LA. After class one of the students tried to translate in English. All I understood was the teacher said Liv has deformed feet. I’m sure that was just a poor translation. I managed to take some secret photo during the class.

IMG_8070The woman in black is who I thought the instructor was. That is her teacher with the fiery red hair! At first, I didn’t think her teacher (aka Madam Black Swan) would allow her to stay but she met us in the courtyard and told Liv she was up for teaching her to Liv’s dismay.

She definitely outgrew her old shoes and leotard so we headed to the famous Repetto Paris store. I was surprised that she chose black this time. My seven and a half year old teenager!

IMG_8492This was my kid’s face after her almost two hour class! Three weeks later, she’s really enjoying the class. She still groans about having to go but she comes out showing off her new skills and her posture is visibly improving. I know it will only make her a more skilled and stronger dancer. (did someone say Stage Mom?)

We had to celebrate that challenging week with a date at Princess Crepe.

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It took me ages to find her a backpack for school. I originally wanted to use her Kanken backpack but it was obvious it was too small and every single kid at her school has this adorable French bag called Tanns. I asked some of the Moms where I could find them and they told me to go to Le BHV (a fancy mall). We only found a lame Frozen one. Finally, we walked around the neighborhood and bam! We realized there was a huge luggage store right around the corner from her school.

We all weighed in and this pink one was her choice. We added the iron-on patches of course.

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So with school all sorted out, I think I have the grocery shopping here down to a science. The first thing I learned is shopping on Sundays is limited because most stores are closed unless you head to the Bastille Marche which is a wonderful, large farmers market. I was bummed because they already sold out of the Spanish paella.

Monoprix has been my one-stop-shop, much like Target in LA, it has everything from clothes, to school supples, to groceries, to linens. I have a great Boulangerie (bakery) around the corner that I love but I’ve been pretty bummed for the last few days because they have been sold out of butter croissants. When that happens, I stroll down a small street nearby and find another bakery however, I have found that the croissants just aren’t as good. I think most fruit stands anywhere have consistently fresh produce but because they don’t soak everything in chemicals and pesticides like in the US, fruit spoils very quickly. We usually eat all the fruit on our walk back to the apartment. We still go all the way to the 10th arrondissement to our favorite boucherie (butcher shop) that sells our incredible rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes. That has been our favorite meal since we arrived. The guys know us because we go there once a week!

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I am so impressed by the level of quality and presentation the food is at Monoprix. Exhibit A: The meat and seafood section

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Something as simple as buying bacon requires a variety of tasting different meats and having the butcher hand cut a half a kilo (that’s always weird to us). I don’t know half of the meat they sell but everything looks perfect. I have never seen so many different varieties of cheese. When we first went shopping Liv was like, can we just please get plain old yellow cheddar?

The shopping baskets at Monoprix aren’t this chic. I wouldn’t have much need for a wheeled basket in LA, but I bought this cute one from Olliella to use (when it’s not raining) to carry our heavy loads home. The plastic carts at the store barely roll, have a handle that is always broken and the insides look like someone threw up on them.

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How cute is this guy?

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One of Liv’s favorite thing to do is use the fresh orange juice machine at Monoprix. Why isn’t this wonderful machine in every grocery store in America??!!

We drink a large bottle every single day. Feeling healthy AF! There’s a little section in Monoprix devoted to “American” products like regular mustard (the French only use Dijan), pancake mix, syrup and for some odd reason, Nerds candy (my favorite!). I was dumbfounded to discover there is no steak sauce anywhere in Paris. After complaining about it to Aimee she sent a care package with a lifetime supply of A-1 sauce. Yay!

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So what’s it like eating in Paris? Expensive! We are lucky to have Chef Antz prepare fresh butter croissants and omelettes for breakfast most days but when we eat out, it’s always an 80 euro bill. It’s hard not to indulge in decadent meals and the kid loves ordering escargot. I pushed myself to try something new so I ordered a duck dish with roasted carrots and potatoes. I liked it but I probably won’t order it again (too gamey for my taste). We usually stick with a fish or chicken entree. Paris has the weirdest business hours! Most restaurants open around 11:00 am and then close around 1 – 3 pm and don’t open again for dinner until 7 pm. This is so hard to adjust to since we usually want to get food afterschool. We get by with a goûter de l’après-midi (French for afternoon snack) we get something from the bakery or fruit stand but you are out of luck until after 7 for a meal.

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We have been guilty of eating at a few American restaurants as well. For my birthday we went to a Texas BBQ place called Melt, that was incredible. Best Brussel sprouts I’ve ever had.

Oh yeah, I am quarante-et-un now. This old lady had a birthday last month. I already got my wish, duh! My sweethearts found this rad rainbow cake for me.

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Antz and I had an early morning date at Breakfast in America (they have the fluffiest pancakes in Paris!) It’s nice to know we can take a break from the exhausting life of being French.

My biggest craving other than bread, butter and grapes has been popcorn! I go once a week to get fresh popcorn from the cutest place called Yummy Pop! which happens to be owned by Scarlett Johansson. It reminds me of kettle corn from the farmers market from LA and we have made friends with the girls who work there. They know my regular order and I know this may sound gross but it’s strawberry mixed with truffle parmesan popcorn.

The weather in France is not what I expected at all. When I was packing to come here, I brought heavy sweaters, scarves, gloves and winter coats. This is why we had so much luggage! I was preparing for blizzards and freezing temperatures. We have been pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoy the cold weather. It rains much more often than in LA but we haven’t been too cold. There have been a couple of times we were caught in a downpour without our umbrellas. I am getting used to wearing a coat or jacket and a scarf everyday. Even the few days when it snowed it’s been bearable.

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We are starting to get warmer weather. When the rain stops the sky is the most vibrant blue. Spring is here! This is a park close to Liv’s school. I cannot get over how beautiful this city is.

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So that sums up our first month here. This post almost took a month to finish because I was having some technical issues with getting my photos and videos to upload. Needless to say, it’s been a fun whirlwind. I am hoping to take it easy in the next few weeks. Liv has two weeks of spring break vacation and we are taking a trip this weekend.

Merci my friends for checking in!

Bisous

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Our Visa Appointment at the French Consulate

Salut. Today I will try my best to recall the story of our visa appointment. This is all a true story, no exaggerations.

I have given birth and let me say, that was a piece of cake compared to getting our visas. It did not go anything like I expected. I imagined a lovely office where we would sit in a private room and be able to speak with a French agent (let Liv show off her French skills). We all take photos with our new visas in hand.

 

NOPE!

I liken our experience to going to the DMV with no appointment. The day started off fine, we felt prepared as we could be. I didn’t forget anything, I took my stress pills. We all dressed up, as I mentioned in my last post, I wore my fancy new brogues for good luck. We left the house with plenty of time for traffic and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be (although I had a serious knot in my stomach). Google maps told me it would take 50 minutes to get there. GOOGLE MAPS LIED! They wanted me to take three freeways that I know would be a parking lot at that time of the morning. I took the streets knowing I can take shortcuts around traffic. All the drivers of LA were being assholes! I almost threw up and cried because the 50 minutes arrival time kept changing to an hour and 2 minutes. It took ages to go a few blocks. Every shortcut I took was met with someone driving 10 miles per hour. I was not happy. I think I gave Antz a heart attack with my crazy driving but there was nothing I could do, we arrived at the consulate at 9:04 am and our appointments were scheduled for 9:00/9:20/9:40. Yep, I blew our first impression by being late. Then we couldn’t find the entrance because it makes total sense to look for an address INSIDE a building. We park in the garage and look for the office only to have the world’s slowest speaking security guard tell us the French consulate was located outside around the back of the building. This guy.

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So, you do understand I was wearing my brand-new shoes made of leather. Meaning, not broken in and destroying my heels in blisters with every step. Please use your imagination of me shuffling in hurting feet walking around a huge building holding all our folders, fighting back tears, frantically searching for the consulate entrance. Can you see it clearly? Good!

As we are approaching an alley, we see a few people standing outside the building. We lined up behind them totally confused and worried about missing our first appointment. The door opened and we tried to enter with the other three peopl