Monthly Archives: December 2010

Free Rides for St. Sylvestre (aka New Year’s Eve)

If you’re planning on heading out on the town on New Year’s Eve, the RATP has a little gift for you:  free rides on the subway, buses, trams, and RER trains throughout Ile de France from 5:00 pm on December 31st through noon on New Year’s Day.   But be advised that the Metro itself only functions in its entirety until 2:15 am.  After that, a limited number of lines (and stations on those lines)will stay open.    Noctilien bus service will be in effect with certain closures.  To get all the details, download the special guide.  Have fun!

The Skinny on Getting Married in Paris

Today’s post is reposted with permission from Parisian Party, the blog of Kimberley Petyt, an American wedding planner living in Paris.  Kim has been creating events for almost 10 years, both in the U.S. and in France.  Her firm, Parisian Events, caters to the English-speaking community in Paris – people who either live here on a long-term basis, or come to Paris just to celebrate their wedding or special event.  Her specialty is combining traditional American elements with classic Parisian elegance- and ending up with fresh, stylish, “oh la la” events that keep guests talking for ages after!

by Kimberley Petyt

le baiser de l'hotel de ville, doisneauFrom the classic Technicolor dance scenes of An American in Paris to more recent films like Moulin Rouge and Amelie Poulain- for many Americans, Paris is the epitome of romance. And what could be a more romantic place to get married? For most couples, after deciding to get married in Paris, the first thing they do is make a giddy, “so crazy this just might work” phone call to their local French consulate, where they are instantly jerked backed down to earth by their first official French Non: “Mais, mademoiselle! C’est impossible! You must live in France for 40 days before you can marry in France. Impossible! Why are you calling me? Au revoir!!” Click…. And for some couples, that will be that. In a flash they’re swept directly to Plan B, their local country club with a Paris themed reception, do not pass Go, do not collect 200€…

Some couples, though, will want to see the dream through- they may choose to have a legal ceremony in their own country, and then come to Paris for a symbolic ceremony. Symbolic ceremonies aren’t legally binding, but are as romantic and as meaningful as you’d imagine them to be. I’ll post more about symbolic ceremonies in the future. This post, though, is for the hard-liners- those couples that are ready to dance with the big boys, to run the gauntlet, fight the fight… Getting legally married in France as a foreigner will be one of the strongest tests to your “coupledom” as you’ve probably gone through so far. Forget about Couples Fear Factor: if you can survive this, you can survive anything…

The Nitty Gritty

What the curt civil servant at the embassy told you is true. In order to be legally wed in France, one of the couple needs to have lived in France, in the district around the city hall in which they plan to marry, for a minimum of 40 consecutive days before the wedding. Some sources say 30 days, but you have to add on an additional 10 days for the city hall to publish the Banns – a public announcement that is put up in City Hall for 10 days preceding your marriage that lists your names and your impending marriage date so that any estranged husbands or wives have one last chance to find you before you’re married off…

Before asking for that sabbatical from work, though, you should know that this one little detail is actually a big one. You must show 2 proofs of domicile (“justificatifs de domicile” )- a gas or electricity bill (a cell phone bill doesn’t count), a rent receipt, a lease, a French social security card, etc. If you are planning on renting an apartment here on a short-term lease in order to meet this marriage requirement, know that it could take several months before you receive any of the above documents. Another option is to live with a friend or relative, and have that person sign an attestation d’hébergement sur l’honneur. This is a statement swearing that you have been living at that persons residence, and that they take responsibility for you if you happen to be a drug trafficker or illegally downloading “Desperate Housewives” or something. There is a ton of small print on this one, including a huge fine and a short trip to the guillotine if its ever found out that you, in fact, Paris City Hallwere not living with them.

If you are able to meet the 40 day requirement, the first thing you want to do is to get the most recent list of required documents from the city hall (mairie) in which you plan to marry. Most of these documents have specific time frames in which they must be dated before being submitted, so it’s important to get the list as soon as you can. Here is a general list of the documents that you will need to be legally wed in France. It’s important, though (and I can’t stress this enough) that you get the official, most up-to-date list from the mairie in the district (arrondisement) that you are planning to marry.

A valid passport or a French residence permit (“carte de sejour”)

A birth certificate (”extrait d’acte de naissance“): Most city halls require that you present an original copy of a complete birth certificate (with full details of your parents) issued within 3 months of your wedding date along with a sworn translation. You have to get the translation from a sworn translator (”traducteur assermenté“). Sworn translators are listed at every “mairie”.

A certificate of celibacy (”attestation tenant lieu de declaration en vue de mariage ou de non-remariage“) less than 3 months old

An affidavit of law (”certificat de coutume“) Many mairies request an affidavit of law (”Certificat de Coutume”) in addition to the affidavit of marital Status from foreigners. The affidavit of law certifies that the American citizen is free to get married in France and that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. Only an attorney licensed to practice in both France and the United States may execute this document.

A medical certificate (“certificat médical prénuptial”): You both must get a pre-nuptial medical certificate which says that you were examined by a doctor “en vue de mariage.” (Don’t get nervous, girls- it’s just a standard check-up plus a couple of blood tests: blood type, syphilis, rubella and toxoplasma…) The marriage banns cannot be published until medical certificates have been submitted to the mairie. The certificates must be dated no earlier than two months before the publication of banns. Any qualified doctor can perform the medical examination (the Embassy publishes a list of English-speaking doctors).

Proof of domicile (”justificatifs de domicile“) (see above)

A “certificat du notaire“: If you are planning on having a pre-nuptial agreement, you must go through a lawyer (a notaire) who will provide a “certificat du notaire” which must be submitted to the mairie as well. It must have been drawn up no more than 2 months prior to the marriage.

If there are no pre-nuptial contracts, then you will be married under the communauté réduite aux acquets. This means that what each of you owned personally before the marriage, or whatever comes to you afterwards through inheritance, remains your own, individual property. Only that which is acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both parties. (If you’ve ever seen or read Le Divorce, this scenario may look very familiar to you…)

If either of you were previously married, you must provide a certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

In addition to all of the above, you will also have to choose and provide information on your witnesses (”temoins”)- 2 to 4 people who will act as sort of your best men and/or maid of honor, and sign the registry after the marriage ceremony. You will need to provide their names, addresses, their professions and photocopies of their passports with your dossier.

All of this needs to be presented to the Mairie in time for them to check and approve your documents before posting the Banns- they typically ask for your completed marriage file 10 days before their publication, but I usually suggest that my clients submit their dossier sooner than that- the curt civil servants will almost always insist that there is a document missing, sending you into yet another frenzy of frantic phone calls and emails.

When all has been accepted and approved, you will receive word from the Mairie of your wedding date and time (you can request a specific date and time ahead of time, but they will assure you that nothing is confirmed until the dossier has been approved). Keep in mind that you must be legally married in a civil ceremony before you will be allowed to have a Catholic church ceremony in France. After your civil ceremony, you will receive a “Livret de Famille” (Family Book) a sort of wedding certificate that also has pages for all of your future children. This little blue book is the Holy Grail. If you live in France, this book will make your administrative life here a lot easier pretty much until the day you die (in which your death will be noted in said little blue book). If you don’t plan on staying in France, think of it as the ultimate wedding present.

Getting married in a foreign country is rarely easy. A Parisian wedding is just a bit more difficult than that. But if you are willing and able, the lasting memory of exchanging your vows beneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, or in the cobbled halls of a centuries-old chateaû is worth a few months of frustration.

Like I said, if you can survive all of the above, your marriage will be built to last.

 

Ice Skating in Paris

by A. Letkemann

If you’re new to Paris, you may not be aware that Parisians enjoy winter sports as much as the rest of the world does. The usually milder weather is no deterrent to ice skating enthusiasts, as evidenced the selected list of available rinks below. It’s good clean fun for the entire family, very affordable, and certain rinks offer breath-taking views.

Hôtel de Ville
49, rue Rambuteau, 75004 Paris
Métro: Hôtel de Ville
December 17, 2010 — February 27, 2011

This is the larger of the three rinks (25m x 50m), with a smaller space for kids and beginners. There is also a large play area with activities for children (under 6) and a giant teepee! Open every day: weekdays from noon to10:00 pm, weekends and public holidays from 9:00 am – 10:00 pm. Last admission one hour before closing. Free if you have skates, 5€ to rent them (free for kids). A piece of ID necessary to rent skates. Please note: gloves must be worn.

Stade Sébastien Charléty
99, boulevard Kellermann
75013 Paris
RER : Cité Universitaire (line B) Tramway : Cité Universitaire (line T3)
December 20, 2010 to December 31, 2010

The stadium in the 13th arrondissement will be transformed into an area for winter leisure activities for children aged three 16. Activities include a 4 zip-lines, snow garden (300m²), games, walks in snow shoes, sledging, ice-skating on synthetic ice, trampolines, merry-go-rounds and miniature golf.

Eiffel Tower
Champs de Mars, Paris 75007
Métro: Trocadéro, Bir Hakeim RER C: Champs de Mars
December 15, 2010 to February 9, 2011

The first floor of the Eiffel Tower is transformed into a glittering ice skating arena as one of the highest rinks in France (57 meters)! The Paris ice rink opens to the public every day from 10:30 am to 22:30 pm. This year the Eiffel Tower’s 200 square meter ice skating rink will feature interactive sensors that will project images depending on the movement of the skaters. Access is free for visitors to the Eiffel Tower (regular admission fees apply) and skates are provided with identification. (Customers cannot bring their own skates.)

Montparnasse
place Raoul Dautry, 75015 Paris
Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe
December 17, 2010 — March 5, 2011

Rink measuring 22m x 35m with a 150m² ice garden for the teeny tots (3-6 year-olds). Open every day: weekdays from midday – 8:00 pm, weekend and public holidays from 9am – 10pm. Last admission one hour before closing. Free if you have skates, 5€ to hire them (free for kids). You can also take a free skating lesson at the weekend between 10am and midday, but places are very limited: for 5-8 year-olds: 8 places, for 9-12 year-olds: 10 places and for 13-80 year-olds: 12 places.

Editor’s Note:  You can also skate indoors year round at L’Espace sportif Pailleron in the 19th or at the Sonja Henie patinoire, part of the Palais omnisports at Bercy in the 12th.  Follow the links for hours and fees.

Merry Go Rounds: A Paris Christmas Tradition

by A. Letkemann

Need a break between two mad sessions of Paris Christmas shopping? Why not occupy your little darling on one of Paris’ free merry-go-rounds – for free! – and watch them whirl by as your feet recover. Music, lights, wooden horses… we all have memories of these traditional merry-go-rounds from our youth. Now it’s time to carry on the tradition with your own children, and for free. What more could you ask for!

The FREE carousel rides begin Saturday, December 18th and continue until Sunday, January 2, 2011.

Here’s the list of the 20 free merry-go-rounds for Christmas 2010 in Paris:

3rd arrondissement: Square du Temple

 4th arrondissement:  Place de l’Hôtel de Ville  (2 merry-go-rounds, one at each end of the square)

 5th arrondissement:  Square Saint Médard

6th arrondissement: Place de l’Odéon

7th arrondissement: Place Joffre

8th arrondissement: Place de la Madeleine (behind the church) and Place de la Concorde

9th arrondissement:  Place Lino Ventura

10th arrondissement: Square Alban Satragne

11th arrondissement:  Place Léon Blum

12th arrondissement:  Avenue Daumesnil

13th arrondissement: Place d’Italie

14th arrondissement: Rue d’Alésia

15th arrondissement: Montparnasse

16th arrondissement: Place du Trocadéro

17th arrondissement: Place Docteur Félix Lobligeois

18th arrondissement: Square Louise Michel

19th arrondissement: Place Armand-Carrel

 20th arrondissement: Rue Belgrand

Parking in Delivery Zones: A Guide for the Confused

In response to continuing concerns about the paucity of parking spaces in Paris, the city announced December 1st a new scheme to allow parking in spots normally reserved for deliveries.  This will create 7,000 new parking spaces during the evening hours (8:00 pm to 7:00 am).  The scheme was tested in the 3rd and 17th arrondissements, allowing the city to work out the kinks before going citywide.

Under the new plan, delivery zones are divided into those that are shared and those that rest exclusively for delivery vehicles.

How can you tell the difference?

If there is one yellow line painted on the roadway, the zone is available for parking outside of delivery hours (8 pm to 7 am) as well as  all day on Sundays and holidays.

 

Photo courtesy of www.paris.fr

If there are two yellow lines, the zone is reserved for deliveries at all times. Zones sanctuarisées pour la livraison des professionnels

Photo courtesy of www.paris.fr

French Phone Numbers: A Method to the Madness

For Americans used to toll-free helplines, living in France, land of service calls that require you to pay for help from them, can be a bit of a shocker.  But there are toll-free numbers here too.   And among the phone numbers that are paying, there is a gradation to how much these calls cost.  Here are some tips on how to make sense of it all.  Caller beware:  the specifics of your own phone contract — landline, ADSL,or mobile — may affect the amount you pay for making these calls.  Check the fine print.

In general, numbers that start 0800, 00800, 0804, 0805, 0809 are considered numéros verts and calls to these numbers are free from a fixed phone line.   

Numbers beginning with 0810, 0811, 0819,  and 0860 are called numéros azur.  You may call these for the price of a local call.

Other numbers beginning with 08 may be called for a fee.   Charges mount progressively beginning with minumum charges of 0.12 € per minute and going up to a flat fee of 1.34 €  per call plus 0.34 € per minute.  Fortunately, you do not pay for any time spent on hold.

Certain hotlines are supposed to be free, such as those for customers to follow up after a sale or with a technical problem, or those of your own phone service.   The rules are confusing, however, and even if you technically have the right to appeal charges, it’s probably not worth your while.  Instead, if you have a concern about phone charges, check the fine print before you dial and use a fixed line rather than your mobile phone.

There are also numéros courts which have just four digits.  Those beginning with 30 or 31 are free; all others are paying.

If you are serious about saving money, there are a number of Web sites you can consult that publish the free numbers for reaching enterprises that may only be advertising the numbers for which charges apply.   We can’t vouch for these sites but take a look if you so choose: 

http://www.nonsurtaxe.com/

http://telephonie.sanjb.net/numero-telephone-non-surtaxe.php

Holiday Tipping

by A. Letkemann

The holiday season brings hordes of tip collectors, many of whom will be descending on our residences to solicit tips, sell calendars or other knick knacks for services they perceive as having been delivered over the previous year. By edict of the Mairie de Paris, door-to-door solicitations of this sort are not permitted.

If you feel that the mailman, garbage collectors, pompiers, etc. have earned a gratuity, then it is recommended that you contact your building concierge to contribute with the other residents.

However, you can give an annual tip to your concierge if you wish. The amount should depend on the level of services provided and your satisfaction with the services (perhaps around 50€ or more). If you feel comfortable doing so, you could ask your French neighbors how much they recommend. It is also customary to tip household help at this time of year, but again this is optional. Around one month’s salary is a common amount.

Heather Stimmler-Hall, who writes the Secrets of Paris blog, has a slightly different take on holiday tipping.  Check out what she has to say on this topic.  And then do your own calculus about whom to tip and how much.