Autolib: Tips on Using Paris’ Car Sharing Service

autolib

On the heels of the wildly successful bike sharing venture, Velib’, the city of Paris launched an automobile sharing program, Autolib’, in 2011.  Although we here at Posted in Paris have not yet had the occasion (or the guts) to test out one of Autolib’s blue cars, Heather Stimmler-Hall, the knowledgeable author of the terrific Secrets of Paris site, has all the details in this article from March 2013.

For up to date info on rates, locations, etc. (all in English), try the Autolib’ English language site.

Christmas Tree Recycling

IMG_5538It’s always a bit depressing taking down the Christmas tree and packing away holiday decorations, but it’s even sadder when you have to plop your tree by the garbage bin and wait for it to be carted off to the landfill, droopy branches and all. But, just like last year, the city of Paris can save your tree from this gloomy fate. Now through mid January,  the Mairie de Paris has set up dozens of locations throughout the city where you can take your tree (minus any and all decorations) to be recycled. The recycled trees will be used as compost and mulch in the Parisian gardens. The list of recycling points can be found here.   (Scroll to the  bottom of the page.)

Replacing An American Passport in Paris

passport-1

Photo credit: Ann Mah

If your American passport’s been lost or stolen, take a deep breath.  Writer and Paris blogger Ann Mah has taken the guesswork out of the process with this informative post (originally posted on her site annmah.net).  Many thanks to Ann for allowing us to repost.  And be sure to check out Ann’s new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating which is getting rave reviews.  It’s the perfect gift for your favorite Francophile (including you.)  Did I mention the recipes?

by Ann Mah

After my passport was stolen a few weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris to replace it. (Though my husband is a Foreign Service Officer, his assignment in Paris ended last year, and I visited as an ordinary American citizen.) A lot of people are intimidated by the American Embassy — and it is a bit of a fortress — so I thought I’d share a few tips to smooth your path in case you need to urgently replace your passport in Paris. Learn from my mistakes, friends!

After you discover the loss of your passport:

Report it to the French police. This will probably take hours, but it helps guard against passport fraud and/or identity theft. Also, I found the gendarmes extremely kind, sympathetic (and one of them was pretty cute).

Visit the U.S. Embassy in Paris website, specifically the page U.S. passport services and read the information carefully. I don’t recommend phoning the Embassy switchboard as the website is extremely helpful and offers all the information you need. Bottom line: if your passport was lost or stolen, you can apply for an emergency replacement in person, without an appointment, by showing up at the Consular Section of the US Embassy, Monday-Friday, 8.30 am sharp. (Note: The embassy is open during regular business hours, but closed on French and American holidays.)

What to bring to the embassy:

Bring your forms, completed in advance. Go to the U.S. passport services page. (Really, I cannot emphasize this enough.) It will tell you which documents you need and give links to the forms, which you can print and complete in advance. You can also fill out and print the forms on computers at the embassy, but the system there is not reliable (I had trouble printing, for example) and I got yelled at when I asked for help.

Bring your wallet. You will be charged for your new passport. They take Euros, US dollars, and credit cards, including American Express.

Bring lots of loose change — specifically one- or two-Euro coins. If you are applying for an emergency passport, you can take the photos at the embassy, but the photo booth only accepts change and on the day of my visit the change machine was out of service. Loose change is also handy in case you want to buy a snack or coffee from the vending machine.

Bring something to read to pass the time — a book or magazine. There will be a lot of waiting.

Note: If you are applying for a regular (not an emergency) replacement passport:

You cannot take your passport photos at the embassy. Instead, take them before your visit — I recommend the day before. Photo Madeleine — a five-minute walk from the embassy (41 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8e) — shoots photos that meet the required regulations. Also, bring a pre-paid Colissimo envelope. The embassy will ask you for this so they can send your new passport back to you. You can buy the envelopes at the Concorde métro station. The embassy also sells them via vending machine, but they cost €25, the vending machine only takes change, and the change machine was out of service the day of my visit.

Your visit to U.S. Embassy Paris

Make sure to arrive at 8.30 am, or slightly earlier. You’ll wait in line to go through security. You cannot bring your cell phone, i-Pad, laptop, or any electronic equipment into the building, but you can check them at the guard hut. I also had to check my Kindle, which made me very sad as it was my only form of entertainment. Don’t bring a Kindle.

Be prepared to spend several hours at the embassy. I arrived at 8.30 am and didn’t leave until after 12 noon. The lines are long, especially on a Monday, when everyone who has lost their passport over the weekend applies for a new one. The good news is, I found my fellow passport theft victims to be extremely friendly and chatty and their stories of being robbed on trains and in markets were fascinating cautionary tales. I also thought the Embassy personnel was also very professional and polite (except for the woman who got testy with me about the printer).

Don’t expect to receive your passport immediately. If your flight is scheduled for the same day, change it to the next. I saw a woman in tears because she hadn’t changed her flight –even though she’d read the website, (which clearly states “we cannot guarantee that we can issue a passport in time for same-day travel”) she didn’t believe it. Believe it.

There is a clean bathroom.

If you have a question, ask a security guard. There are a few of them wandering around the waiting area. I found them all very friendly and helpful.

With any luck, your emergency passport will be ready the same (or next) day and you’ll be able to go home, a smarter traveler with a good story under your belt.

Thanksgiving Dining Options

Mary Kay Bosshart, intrepid adventurer of Paris and author of the blog Out and About in Paris, recently posted her suggestions for Americans seeking a Thanksgiving dining experience in Paris.   She graciously allowed us to repost here.

IMG_2564When I was a child, my mother and father would ceremoniously gather our family of seven in the living room a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving Day. One by one, we were asked to name our favorite holiday dishes while my mother meticulously transcribed the menu onto a sheet of paper. My older brothers and sisters, who always seemed to go first, enthusiastically called out the star attractions: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. When my turn finally came, only the uninteresting dishes, like “relish plate” or “scalloped corn”, seemed to be left. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day for families. A time when we pause to give thanks for all of our blessings.

If, like me, you’re going to be far from your loved ones on Thanksgiving Day, here are some ideas for where to celebrate this American holiday in Paris.

Breakfast in America: This American diner is offering two seatings of a traditional dinner that includes an aperitif, a starter, turkey plate with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable, cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin, apple or pecan pie for €32.95. Wine, alcohol and other drinks are not included in the price. Reservations via email required: bia.thanksgiving@gmail.com. Breakfast in America, 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris.

Ralph’s: Ralph Lauren’s namesake restaurant in its flagship boutique in St Germain des Prés celebrates Thanksgiving in true American tradition with the season’s most festive dishes including turkey, stuffing, apple pie and more for €120 per person. Call Ralph’s at +33 (0)1 44 77 76 00 to make reservations. The two seatings (6:30 and 9:00 pm) are sure to fill up fast.

Blues-Bar-B-Q: My favorite barbecue joint in Paris will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for €35 per person. There will be two seatings (6:30 and 9:00 pm). Reservations are required. Blues Bar-B-Q, 1 rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris. Phone: +33 (0)1 48 06 79 53

The Moose: This Canadian sports bar and grill is organizing a Thanksgiving party with a traditional menu. If you would like to follow the NFL football games direct from the United States, this is the place for you. Call for more information and to make reservations. The Moose, 16 rue des 4 Vents, Paris 75006. Tel: + 33 (0) 1 46 33 77 00

La Cuisine de l’E7: The restaurant of the 4-star Hôtel Édourd 7 is offering a fixed price menu with pumpkin soup, cornbread, stuffed poultry, sweet potato purée, cranberry sauce, pumpkin tart and ice cream for €40 per person, drinks not included. Reserve online or contact the restaurant. La Cuisine de l’E7, 39 avenue de l’Opéra, 75002 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 61 86 11

Joe Allen: The classic American restaurant has created a special menu with traditional favorites and interesting alternatives, like corn chowder with Thai curry, roasted pumpkin and ricotta enchiladas with spaghetti squash coleslaw, grilled marinated tuna steak. The three-course menu is €46 and includes coffee or tea. Reserve online or send an email to thanksgiving@joeallenparis.com. Joe Allen, 30 Rue Pierre Lescot, 75001 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 36 70 13

Le Saint-MartinJust in case you don’t eat your fill of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, this bistro is offering a traditional menu for €40 per person on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. Reserve your table or order your feast to go via email (lesaintmartin@yahoo.fr) or phone. Le Saint-Martin, 25 Rue Louis Blanc, 75010 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 07 73 68

American Church in ParisFor a less expensive option, enjoy turkey and all the trimmings for €25 per adult and €18 per child under 12 in the Thurber Room on Saturday, November 23. The family seating at 5:00 pm features children’s activities and a special movie. The adult seating is at 8:30 pm. Tickets available online. American Church in Paris, 65 quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 62 05 00

Meetup’s “The Paris Thanksgiving Dinner”: Mainly for expats who live in Paris, Meetup’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be between €37 and €40, including a glass of wine. A short, digestive, slow-paced, post-meal walk to Sacré-Cœur will follow the meal. Join Meetup and reserve online.

Grange aux Dîmes de Wissous: located outside of Paris, this gastronomic restaurant is offering an all inclusive traditional Thanksgiving dinner for €49.90. Included in the menu are pumpkin souffle, corn pancakes, roasted turkey stuffed with chestnuts, cranberry relish, pecan pie, pumpkin pie and more. La Grange aux Dîmes,  3 Rue André Dolimier, 91320 Wissous (approximately 30 minutes from Paris) Tel:+33 (0)1 69 81 70 08

Ideas for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner:

Whether you’re on your own or in a group, I highly recommend Le Foodist’s “Cook and Dine”. After a glass of champagne, you’ll hone your cooking skills for two hours and then sit down to a five-course meal while your host shares wine, stories and images to explain how all the dishes relate to the local culture. It’s Thanksgiving with a French twist! The all-inclusive evening is €130. Reserve onlineLe Foodist, 59 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)6 71 70 95 22.

Alternatively, we thoroughly enjoyed stuffing ourselves with delicious Basque food at Chez L’Ami Jean two years ago. Here’s a blog post from the archives with more information.

Make your own Thanksgiving dinner:

You’ll find all the essential ingredients to make your own holiday dinner at the aptly named Thanksgiving and The Real McCoy, two small American grocery stores in Paris.

It’s also possible to order a roasted turkey from your local butcher. Just be sure to plan ahead and order it about three weeks in advance.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  For those of you who will be cooking, take a look at our post on American groceries if you’re missing that special something.  You might be surprised, however, what you can find in Paris without going too far from home.  Supermarket pain de mie works fine for your stuffing (just leave it out on the counter over night to get it good and stale) and markets catering to the West African community almost always have sweet potatoes.  Cook up some potimarron for your pumpkin pie.  Cranberries can also be found in open-air markets but be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for them.  And make sure that turkey you ordered will fit in your oven.  Bon appetit!

Paris Farmers’ Markets: Dos and Don’ts (Mostly Don’ts)

Many thanks to Sedulia Scott who writes the Rue Rude blog for allowing Posted in Paris to repost these words of sage advice.

Went to the marché, or farmers’ market, this morning and got a little carried away on the flowers– €49 later, I came home with some peonies, Easter lilies (which in France are called arum, but I just read that both names are wrong: this is not a real lily), some yellow freesia, and four bunches of lilies of the valley, which will last only a few days, but are a symbol of May. Children sell them on May Day here on all the street corners. Aren’t they pretty?

Today, as usual, the market was full of foreign tourists gawking at the lovely food and product displays. As the vendeuse was cutting the stems and wrapping up the flowers (she gave me some foliage for free), I saw out of the corner of my eye a tall, impatient American man, identifable by his khaki pants and button-down shirt, but also by his attitude. While the florist was taking care of me, he had gotten more and more annoyed. The florist was aware of his annoyance but not of its cause and looked puzzled. Finally he just laid down his money, pointed at the lilies of the valley in his hand and said, “Pour les fleurs,” and flounced off.Enfin, he would have if he’d had flounces. The florist made big eyes at me and said, “What’s wrong with him?” and then shrugged her shoulders.

What was wrong? He didn’t know the rules of the marché. I didn’t either when I first came to France. So, for your viewing pleasure, here are a few!

1) Enjoy the market all you want! It’s fine to walk through slowly and gawk at the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, meat, and surprisingly high-quality linens, etc.

2) Don’t touch the food! This is not done. Mais non, non, non! The merchant will serve you.

3) If you don’t plan to buy anything, photograph discreetly if at all. Understandably, the vendors don’t love being the focus, year in, year out, of lots and lots of cameras of people who never buy.

4) At the height of the market, it will be crowded and you will have to wait your turn at popular, high-quality stands. If you are a customer, make a signal if the vendor doesn’t realize you’re not just a tourist staring. Then wait your turn. There may not seem to be a line, but there is. The French don’t love orderly queues. But the vendor notices who’s first, second and so on. If they make a mistake, it’s not usually out of malice toward tourists but because too many people are waiting. Sometimes there’s a long wait, that’s just how it is. When it’s your turn next, make a little signal with your hand. Whatever you do, don’t lose your temper. And remember to begin with Bonjour! and finish with Merci! Au revoir! 

While you are waiting for your turn, don’t expect the merchant to pay you the least bit of attention. This is the problem my American man, at the beginning of this post, must have had. The vendeuse was completely ignoring him to focus on me– this is the polite, correct way for a vendor to behave in France. The American was expecting her to acknowledge him and in some way say “Don’t worry, you’re next,” or “I’ll be right with you.” But to the vendeuse, that would be rude to me.

5) If you don’t speak French, no problem! Say Bonjour and then ask if they can speak English. If they can’t, there is always someone nearby who can and will come to your aid if you need it.

6) If you are not a regular customer, watch carefully what you are being given! The French way of privilégier-ing their regular customers means that non-regular customers are the ones on whom they try to fob off the less good produce. Feel free to point at an unsatisfactory choice and say, “No, not that one! That one.” French customers do this all the time. Smile!

7) If you come at the very end of the market, you can get some good bargains, but a lot of the best stands my be out of produce. Also, the market people have to spend quite a lot of time taking their stands down, and they aren’t happy to have a customer show up just as they are putting things into the truck. So try to get to the market before 13h15. (I have no idea what time to show up in the morning. I am not a morning person.)

And voilà, one of the greatest pleasures of France!

La Rentrée: Back to Paris

It’s that time of year again–la rentrée. The tourists return to their homes and Paris begins to bustle as it fills back up with residents readying themselves for fall. Summer is behind us, work has geared up and school is in session. Whether you’re new to Paris or returning from holiday, here are a few posts to help you and your family get into the French swing of things.

School Supplies
School Calendar
Back to School Clothes Shopping
Sports Equipment
The Rhythm of the Week
Making a House a Home
Getting the News
Making Sense of the Supermarket
Where Can  I Find…

Visit our categories section to find more extensive information on settling in the City of Light. There are posts on everything from dealing with food allergies in Paris to where to find the city’s 24 hour gas stations!

BLOOM

Each year since 1970 the Women of the American Church (WOAC) host Bloom Where You’re Planted, a program designed to help Anglophones settle into life in Paris. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, October 5th. The program begins at 9:00AM with a continental breakfast and chance to meet other participants as you take a stroll through the exhibitor hall. After breakfast, there are five whole-group sessions that discuss everything cross cultural adaptation to Parisian history with one of the city’s most informative tour guides and well known authors, Peter Caine. The morning sessions are followed by a buffet lunch and breakout sessions later in the afternoon. Topics for the afternoon seminars include cutting through red tape, the French education system, staying healthy in Paris, and much more. If you are new to the City of Light, BLOOM is an excellent opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your new home and connect with other English speakers. To register and see the complete program, visit the BLOOM website here.  The fee is  40 euros.  And trust us, the BLOOM book itself is worth the price of admission.

Bloom Where You’re Planted at the American Church in Paris
65 Quai d’Orsay 75007

bloom@acparis.org