Monthly Archives: February 2011

You Call That Furnished?

Every post here at Posted in Paris usually begins with a flurry of e-mails looking for information.  The one we got back from Susan Karp, a relative newcomer to Paris, was so well-crafted that we asked her to write the post.

by Susan Karp

I am sure that somewhere in Paris there exists a mythical, beautifully furnished apartment or two just waiting for some expatriate family to move into.  But we didn’t see any of those.  The furnished apartments we were shown were – as I said to my husband – fine if we could just get rid of all the furniture.  As we probably should have expected, the furniture in these apartments was old, tired and very much like my grandmother’s circa 1972.  I very definitely remember avocado and gold.

Before we found the place we now call home, we first stayed in two temporary apartments, the kind rented on a (very expensive) monthly basis, and these were equipped — as I always assumed furnished apartments would be – minimally but adequately.   There was a bed for everyone, a couch, a coffee table and a television that we could never figure out how to turn on.  One pillow, one set of sheets and two towels for each member of the family.  A dining table and chairs.

There were anywhere from four to six – often mismatched, sometimes chipped — plates, bowls, and salad dishes, cutlery and glassware for a family of four, two pots (rarely more) and a frying pan, maybe two.  Interestingly, there was always a knife block and usually a salad spinner.   To round it out, there was a motley assortment of serve ware (salad bowl, a platter), and the minimum of kitchen gadgets (spatula, wooden spoon) almost always purchased from Ikea (as were the plates and glasses.  In fact, I’m not really sure what people here did avant-Ikea.)

There was always a coffee pot (a Nespresso, even if there were never any pods left in the apartment), usually a microwave, and often a toaster.  The windows had curtains, the cabinets were left in place — now that’s an interesting and unexpected Parisian twist, how an unfurnished apartment often has no kitchen — and there was usually some kind of cleaning supplies, be it a mop or a vacuum. 

 It was enough to get by, certainly for a vacation.  But for a year, especially with kids?  No way.

With the help of a couple of other Parisian expats who’ve gone the furnished route, here are some ideas of what your future home may still be missing.  Whether you bring these items with you from home, purchase them here or forego them altogether will be a function of your personal tastes and budget.

What Makes a House a Home

  • Framed family photos, especially digital picture frames
  • Pillows and throws
  • Vases
  • Candlesticks
  • English language books
  • Board games, playing cards
  • Musical instruments
  • Sports gear

For those of you with kids:

  • Art supplies, including crayons (Art supplies – even colored paper — are ridiculously expensive here and while it is easy to buy colored pencils and markers, it is impossible to find good ol’ Crayola crayons)
  • Toys and costumes
  • Scooters or bikes (and don’t forget your helmets!)

Creature Comforts

Bedding:  European beds have different dimensions than American but enough people complained about sheets being too scratchy or stiff, or musty blankets that this really bears repeating.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my son’s Star Wars sheets in his Parisian bedroom.  And I’ve found it very difficult to find those kind of sheet sets in Paris. If you’re past the stage for that, consider bringing a down comforter, pillows, and flat queen sheets.

Towels.  Oh how I wish I’d gone to Target or Macy’s and stocked up on fluffy, absorbent American towels and bath mats.  I believe I am the proud – if humbled – owner of Paris’ most expensive bath mats because I like the rubber-coated American ones.  But bear in mind, if you don’t have a dryer, even the fluffiest American towel will be crunchy in Paris.

Slippers and comfy clothes for hanging around the house:  We very carefully weeded through our clothing, leaving behind anything that we considered too schlumpy for Paris.  But some Sunday mornings, I’d give up every pain chocolat in Paris for my favorite, too-ugly-to-leave-the-house-in sweater and a pair of sweat pants.  And when you’ve seen what’s on the streets in Paris, you’ll be happy to leave your shoes by the front door and step into your slippers.

In the Kitchen

Cooking – always hard in an unfamiliar kitchen – is even more difficult when you don’t have the right tools.  To be blunt, the knives are …. well, blunt.  Bring your own (paring knives, chef’s knife, bread knife) or be prepared to buy them.  Your furnished kitchen will also certainly be lacking American measuring cups and spoons, as well as: 

  • a pot large enough to make pasta
  • mixing bowls
  • resealable containers
  • baking pans for special purposes such as cake pans, muffin tin, loaf pan
  • ice cube trays
  • cutting board
  • many gadgets that most cooks consider essential: tongs, grater, peeler, garlic press, whisk, zester
  • meat thermometer

 Practical

 It’s all the little things you need to make life a little easier. 

  • Laundry basket or hamper
  • Electrical transformers and adaptors
  • Hangers (Do you know where wire hangers go to die? Parisian furnished apartments)
  • Storage of any kind:  Under the bed for out of season clothes, bins for toys, etc.
  • Door stops for when the windows are open
  • Small step ladder
  • Assorted tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers (all those things that you actually need right away, especially if you’re putting together Ikea furniture)
  • Hooks for coats (invest in 3M removal hooks before you come)
  • Picture hangers
  • Alarm clock
  • Kids backpacks: I cannot tell you how much money we spent on backpacks at BHV because I thought it would be “sweet” to get the same thing the European kids carry (which turn out to be Eastpaks at 75€).
  • Lunch thermoses:  impossible to find here.

You will probably find out that you need to buy:

  •  Table and floor lamps
  • Hair dryer and if you use them: curling iron or flat iron
  • Fan
  • Hand mixer
  • Tableware:  glasses, dishes, bowls
  • Flower boxes
  • Space heaters
  • Cell phones
  • A market caddie

 A final note:  Your camera, laptop, Ipad, printer, Ipod, and Ipod dock may become your most beloved possessions when you are far away from home.  These are incredibly expensive in France, about 50 percent more expensive than in the U.S..  If you are American, buy these before you leave.  Most new gizmos are dual voltage (that is, they run on both North American and European current) although you will likely need a plug adaptor.

Resources

Already on Posted in ParisFrench Electricity Explained, What (Not) to Wear in Paris and Don’t Forget to Pack The…..

Some suggestions for shopping:

Casa (housewares, accessories)

Castorama (hardware, appliances, some housewares and furniture)

Darty (appliances)

Ikea (furniture, bedding, houseware)

La Vaissellerie (dishes, glasses, cutlery)

 Susan Karp moved to Paris with her husband and children for – as she puts it – “no good reason.”  But even this cynical native New Yorker has been wowed by the city of lights.  A longtime freelance writer, Susan has contributed to Consumer Reports, USA Today, Newsweek International and is the author of the now-sadly-out-of-print Smart Guide to Profiting from Mutual Funds.

Caring for Pets

Congratulations!  You’ve jumped through the hoops to bring your cat, dog, or guinea pig with you to Paris.  Now, here are a few recommendations from the Anglophone expat community to keep your furry friends in good health, well groomed, properly fed, and lovingly tended while you take a weekend trip away.  If you have others to add, leave a comment and we’ll keep building this list.

Boarding

AVA
Ferme du Quesnoy
76220 Cuy-Saint-Fiacre
Phone: 02 35 90 11 44; 06 77 48 27 92
Note:  Located 1 1/2 hours west of Paris.  They come into Neuilly twice a week to pick up and drop off dogs.  Their prices are very reasonable.   Unlike other kennels, they don’t charge extra for the pick-ups.

City Canine
67, rue Balard, 75015 Paris
Phone: 01 45 57 47 06

Note: City Canine offers dog day care and boarding. The Web site is in English and everyone speaks English there.  Nice people, the facilities are very clean, and it’s located next to a 2-acre park, perfect for long walks.

Dogwalking.fr
Phone: 06 09 20 33 76 or 06 20 46 27 03.
Note:  They pick up at your place, take your dog for two 2 hour walks in the forest each day including swimming in the lake.  Your dog sleeps in a spare bedroom — no crates or kennel.

Taxi Dog
Phone: 08 25 82 94 36
In case of emergency, phone 06 28 04 21 97
Note: In addition to boarding, Taxi Dog also offers dog walking services and, as its name suggests, provides taxi services for dogs and their owners.  They will even take your dog to the vet or groomer for you.
Groomers

A.D. Paris, Salon de Toilettage
20, rue de Longchamp, 75016 Paris
Phone: 01 53 70 80 70
Note: Wonderful groomer; no English spoken;  very kind and caring dog groomers who will make recommendations if they see any inkling of a health problem while beautifying your pup. They’re not cheap– but not the most expensive either. Regardless, my Standard Poodle comes out looking like a million euros! I can highly recommend them.

Canicoiff
130, avenue Mozart, 75016 Paris
Phone: 01 45 25 45 75

11bis, avenue Jean Baptiste Clément,  92100 Boulogne Billancourt
Phone:  01 55 60 73 77

La Tour Canine
129, rue Lauriston, 75016 Paris
Phone:  01 45 05 54 25
Note:  Excellent, little English, but can get by well enough. 

Veterinarians

Thierry Bedossa
8, rue Ybry, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine
Phone: 01 46 24 08 34
Note:  Speaks English. 

Clinique Vétérinaire Laforge
72, rue St. Charles, 75015 Paris
Phone: 01 45 75 64 03
Note: This clinic is equipped to deal with all kinds of animals, not just cats and dogs.

Anais Le Treguilly
81, rue de Longchamp, 75116 Paris
Phone: 06.82.18.07.06
Note:  Speaks English

Clinique Vétérinaire Wagranville
4, rue Théodore de Banville, 75017 Paris
Phone:  01 47 66 53 56

Jean Christophe Gachet
32, rue Etienne Marcel,  75002 Paris
Phone: 01 42 33 90 33

Jean-Francois Gorge
81, rue de Longchamp 75016 Paris
Phone: 01 47 27 10 95
Note: Good vet, reasonably priced, speaks English

Ecole Vétérinaire Maisons Alfort
7, avenue du Général de Gaulle
94700 Maisons Alfort
Phone: 01 43 96 71 00

Feraoun Malik
84, rue Chardon-Lagache, 75016 Paris
Phone: 01 45 20 31 30
Note: Very patient with my fractured French

Olivier Noack
28, rue de Belleville, 75020
Phone: 01 46 36 66 26

Lionel Rohret 
4 rue Messonier, 75017 Paris
Phone:  01 47 63 40 40
Note: Excellent and speaks English

Michel Schamberger
47, avenue de la Republique, 75011 Paris
Phone:  o1 43 57 56 32
 
Lionel Schilliger
35, rue Leconte de Lisle, 75016 Paris
Phone: 01 45 27 23 85 35
Urgences 24/24: 06 75 75 35 35
Note:  I really like my vet; he seems to me to genuinely love animals, has done some volunteer work for the Brigitte Bardot Fondation, speaks English, and specializes in reptiles.  What really got me was my cat who normally gets totally freaked out at the vets and had to be tranquilized to have his blood taken by my previous vet.  But he was totally calm and relaxed with Dr Schilliger; it was quite amazing to see. He took his X-ray there, and also did an operation on him. Everything went smoothly and no complications. So I highly recommend him.  

SOS Vétérinaire Ile de France
Phone: 01 42 05 63 29

VetoAdom
VetoAdom provides emergency veterinary house calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  They serve the entire region of Ile de France.
Phone: 01 47 46 09 09 or 01 47 55 47 00

Dog Walking
A.J. De Campo
Phone: 06 03 94 18 86
Note: Found AJ through Craig’s List. He is a great guy, very responsible, always on time, speaks perfect English, has great referrals from other Americans. He lives in the 16th and only takes clients in the 16th. He charges 10 euros for an hour walk. He has also stayed at our apartment when we’ve gone away.

Pet Supplies

There are numerous pet stores along the Right Bank on the Quai de la Mégisserie but we’ve heard extremely mixed reviews about their products and their treatment of animals.  The same goes for the bird and small animal market that takes place on Sundays in Place Louis Lepine on Île de la Cité. Use your judgment and exercise caution when patronizing these merchants.

BHV
42, rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris
Phone:  01 42 74 94 31
They say BHV has it all; La Niche is the name of its animal store which is in a separate building just around the corner from the main store on rue de Rivoli.

Botanic
Rue Pagès 26, Quai du Général Gallieni
92150 Suresnes
This is a great chain store that is combination garden store, organic food store and pet shop. The “Animalerie” sells all varieties of animals – from fish to exotic birds and rodents.  They have an excellent selection of dog and cat supplies as well.  It’s open on Sundays and prices are generally better than in Paris.  They also have free underground parking.  It’s very easy to get to from Paris as it is  not far from the Pont de Suresnes.

Truffaut
85 quai de la Gare, 75013 Paris
Phone: 01 53 60 84 50
This gardening store also has a good pet section.  Plus it’s open 7 days a week.  Ile de France locations can be found in Arcueil, Bry sur Marne,  Cergy, Châtenay-Malabry, Domus Rosnay sur Bois, Ivry sur Seine,  Le Chelay, Mantes Buchelay, St. Denis, and Vélizy.

Etcetera

Centre Antipoison/Paris 
Phone: 01 42 05 63 29

Fichier National Canin
155, avenue Jean Jaures
95535 Aubervilliers Cedex
Phone: 01 49 37 54 54
In France, every dog is required to be tatooed with an ID number.  This association maintains the records but also provides all sorts of info on breed, dog shows, breed standards etc.

Société Protectrice des Animaux
39, boulevard Berthier 75017  Paris
Phone: 01 43 80 40 66
French equivalent of the ASPCA

International Ingredients: An Update

We’ve made major updates in an earlier post telling you where to find ingredients for the cuisine of countries other than France.  Take a look to see what’s new and rediscover old favorites:  http://postedinparis.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/in-search-of-the-right-ingredient-ethnic-groceries/

If you’ve got anything else to add, please leave a comment.  We’d love to hear from you.

Notes to Self

Today’s entry is reposted in its entirety from Chez Loulou: A Taste of Life in the South of France, the blog of Jennifer Greco.   Jennifer lives in the south of France with her husband, two dogs and a cat.  She is a chef, writer, photographer and French cheese addict.  

by Jennifer Greco

Olonzac Market Day

The expression “I almost had to give up my firstborn child” does not translate into French. Use it and they’ll think you’re certifiable.

Your neighbors and your hairdresser will never stop commenting on your weight gain or loss.

There’s a reason behind la priorité à droite. You will just never understand it.

The type of bra you prefer is a balconnet, not a banquette*.

As soon as they learn that you’re American, they’ll assume that you’re rolling in dough. The expression “rolling in dough” doesn’t translate either.

Stop trying to order your steak à point*. It will always arrive bleu*, no matter what.

That sweet looking, little old lady standing uncomfortably close to you in line at the boulangerie is trying to cut in front of you. Stand your ground.

It is de l’eau* or un verre d’eau*. Get that through your head already.

The day that you’re running late for an appointment in town is the day that all the streets on your route will be shut down for a manifestation.

You will never be able to pronounce the words grenouille* or moelleux*. Stop embarrassing yourself by trying to.

You will continue to have those incredible “oh my god I live in France” moments. Savor them.

As soon as you get comfortable and think you’ve got this whole living in France thing all figured out, remember that you really haven’t.
And remember to breathe.

*banquette – seat
*à point – medium
*bleu – rare
*de l’eau – some water
*un verre d’eau – a glass of water
*grenouille – frog
*moelleux – soft or mellow