Category Archives: Entertainment and Culture

Where Can I Find……

Don’t pull out your hair.  We’re keeping a running list of those things you may be searching for but just can’t seem to find.  

Dental floss:  Yes, dental floss exists in France but you won’t find it in the supermarket with the toothbrushes and toothpaste.   Stop by your neighborhood pharmacie.  You will find it there.

Fresh tortillas: Take a trip to the Latin Quarter to stock up at Mexi and Co., 10 rue Dante (5th arrondissement).  These flour tortillas freeze well.

For corn tortillas, we’re hearing good things about Mil Amores Tortilleria at 52 avenue Parmentier in the 11th.

Rice Krispies:  Kellogg’s products are widely available in Paris and you’ll easily find chocolate flavored rice cereal as well.  But for some reason, only two of the major supermarket chains carry Snap Crackle and Pop:  Auchan and Super U.  Unfortunately neither has a store in the city of Paris.  Check their Web sites for an outlet in a suburban community near you.

Graham crackers for making graham cracker crust: You can probably find graham crackers at one of the markets catering to Americans but for one-quarter of the price, grab a package of Speculoos cookies at your local supermarket. These Belgian treats, nicely spiced with cinnamon and cloves, crumble well and are the perfect foil for cheesecake, Key Lime pie, and pretty much any treat calling for a graham cracker crust.

Bread crumbs:   Take yesterday’s baguette, let it sit out another day until it’s good and hard, and then smash it with a rolling pin or put it in your food processor.  If you don’t have the time or the patience, you can usually find boxes of bread crumbs in the supermarket next to the flour.  Look for the carton marked chapelure.

A decent hamburger: Okay first of all, the beef tastes different in France so it’s never going to be like a burger back home. And second, let’s just say that neither France nor the U.S. can really do each other’s cuisine justice. That being said, there comes a time in the life of every North American expat when a decent burger is just what the doctor ordered.  So take a look at blogger David Lebovitz’s post: Where to Find a Great Hamburger in Paris and his review of the food truck specializing in American style burgers Le Camion Qui Fume.  Here’s a more recent take (in French) from Le Figaro:  Les meilleurs burgers de Paris.

A place to rent a tuxedo:   Two good sources are: www.jjloc.fr and www.lesdeuxoursons.com.  Bear in mind that you cannot rent accessories so be prepared to buy ties, shoes, pocket squares, even shirts.  Thanks to Anne at Fête in France for the info.

Dried sweetened cranberries:   Although you may find them elsewhere, you might be surprised to learn that the ubiquitous urban supermarket Franprix carries dried cranberries.  Look for a display of green or orange plastic packages with various types of nuts, dried fruit, and popcorn.    You can also sometimes find them from the fellow selling nuts, dried fruit, olives, and spices at your local open air market.  And the word in French for cranberries is…….”cranberries.”

Aluminum foil that doesn’t feel like tissue paper:  Look for the package marked papier aluminum renforcée which has roughly the same durability as the regular aluminum foil sold in North America.  Stay away from the regular variety which tears at the slightest provocation.

Aveda hair care products:  There are two licensed Aveda salons in Paris: Joel Villard at 16, rue de Saint-Simon in the 7th arrrondissement (Metro: Rue de Bac) and Montecino Salon at 7 rue du Louvre in the 1st.  Joel Villard’s stylists are trained at the Aveda Institute and familiar products like Rosemary Mint Shampoo, Be Curly, Shampure, and Hand Relief are for sale.  Call 01 45 55 85 69 for hours.

Information about what’s going on in Paris this week:  Pariscope is the definitive source for all things cultural — art shows, theater, concerts, movies, special events.  It comes out every Wednesday and is available for only 40 centimes at every press kiosque.  (And if your French is limited, check out this on-line guide  to how to read Pariscope!) Figaroscope, a weekly supplement to the newspaper Le Figaro. also comes out on Wednesday and includes feature articles as well.

A playground that suits my kids:  There are tons of playgrounds in Paris, ranging from a tiny seesaw and a sandpit in a pocket park to full fledged affairs for older kids.  The city of Paris has a complete list on-line arranged by arrondissement and you can download a .pdf here.  Look for the photo with the title “les aires de jeux” and click on the text that says “Consulter le document au format pdf.”  If that sounds like too much work, the 2011 list can be found here.

Fabric, notions, and everything else for sewing:   Take the metro to Anvers, head up the hill towards Sacre Coeur, hang a right and you’ll find everything you need for sewing whether you’re making clothes or decorating your Parisian apartment.  The two biggest stores are La Reine and the Marché Saint-Pierre but there are also a dozen or more other stores selling material, buttons, trim, and the rest.

Musical instruments and sheet music:   All musical roads lead to Rome, in this case, not the city in Italy but the metro stop on the border of the 17th and 8th arrondissements.   Some of the stores rent musical instruments but get there too late in the school term and you may be out of luck.

Plants, seeds, window boxes and other gardening gear:  Paris is thick with florists and you probably won’t have any trouble buying geraniums, vases, and small pots in your neighborhood.  If your needs go further, check out the stores along the Quai Mégisserie in the 1st arrondissement.  There’s also the Marché aux Fleurs on Place Louis Lepine on Ile de la Cité (Metro: Cité).

A cheap but decent manicure: There’s no equivalent in Paris to the $15 manicure you find in the Vietnamese nail salons in New York or LA. For the most part, a full manicure will set you back 30 to 35 euros. But if you can trim your own nails and deal with your ratty cuticles, you can get nail polish applied expertly for around 6 to 8 euros. Ask for a pose de vernis rather than for a manucure.

Plus sized women’s clothes:   Heather, the genius behind Secrets of Paris, says that “one of the best clothing brands for women shopping for size 42-60 (US sizes 12-28) is Jean Marc Philippe, a French brand with three stores in Paris (including 89 rue de Rivoli, 1st).  Down the street is another shop carrying sizes 42-62 called Couleurs (17 rue de Rivoli, 1st). In general, when looking for similar shops or sections within department stores, look for “Grandes Tailles” or “Femmes Rondes”.

Paris for the Disabled

A 2005 French law requires that public accommodations be accesssible to the disabled within 10 years.  Line 14 of the metro is fully accessible and all buses in Paris are now equipped with ramps and special mechanisms to allow those in wheelchair residents to ride safely and comfortably.   Many crosswalks have sound signals at the crosswalk to indicate to the blind that the light has changed.  And public toilet facilities are also designed for wheelchair accessibility.  But other signs of progress are less obvious.

Since full access still seems to be a long way away, here are a few sites to help negotiate the streets and institutions of Paris.  In addition, we’re told that if you’re planning to have visitors who are disabled, it’s a good idea to do a dry run in advance of major tourist sites.  If you need to rent a wheelchair, check in at your neighborhood pharmacie.

Access in Paris: a guidebook mostly geared for tourists, you can download chapters one at a time.  Includes information on hotels, tourist sites, public transportation, and signage.

Disabled Access in Paris from Sage Traveling:  a helpful online guide with sections on transport, hotels and tourist attractions.  While the site is designed to get you to use the company’s services,  there is quite a bit of information posted here for all comers.

Tourisme et Handicap:  a downloadable brochure on 200 sites (lodging, tourist sites) in Ile de France noting their level of accessibility.

Infomobi:  Information on public transport for the disabled (those in wheelchairs, the blind, deaf, and with mental disabilities) throughout Ile de France (in French).

Les Compagnons du Voyage:  organization providing personalized assistance to elderly and disabled persons travelling on the SNCF and RATP.  There is a fee for this service (in French.)

Medias Sous Titres:  a site focused on closed captioning of television, film, and cultural events for the hearing impaired (in French).

And here’s an article from the Boston Globe (2013) commenting on the experience of a disabled American tourist in Paris.

Tips for Getting Your New Year Off to a Good Start

Bonne année à tous!  Here are a couple of short items that will help you get off to a good start in 2011.

Les Soldes d’Hiver:  Yes, the annual winter sales start in Paris on January 12th at 8 a.m. and run until Tuesday the 15th of February.  Now is the time to make your plan of attack or risk losing out on the best deals or your favorite pair of shoes.   To get started, take a look at what Amy Thomas, a Posted in Paris contributor,  had to say in her article  on the Girls Guide to Paris site last spring.  (Spring, winter — what’s the difference?!)   And don’t forget: pretty much everything is on sale during les soldes, not just clothes.  It’s also a great time to buy housewares such as Gien porcelain, Jacquard Français linens, or any other French souvenirs you might have been eyeing.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree:  The city of Paris has set up 95 recycling points around the city through January 23.  (If you leave your tree on the curb by your building, it’s going to go into a landfill.)  To find a recycling point near you, go to this page on the city’s Web site and then download the .pdf file.   Your tree should be naked — no ornaments, no bags, and no flocking.

Catch Up on the Movies You Missed This Year:  From January 12th through the 18th, the UGC cinema chain and Le Figaro are teaming up to provide showings of 26 films considered among the best of 2010.  (Some of these released later in France than in the U.S. so don’t be surprised to see some of the 2010 Oscar winners among them.)  Best yet:  tickets are only 3 euros.   You can find more information here:  http://www.ugc.fr/typepage.do?alias=lesincontournables .  If your French isn’t quite up to snuff, check to be sure that any English language films are showing in VO (version originale).

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

Paris Pas Cher

Paris may not be the most expensive place to live as an expat (I think the honors go to Moscow) but it sure ain’t cheap.  But if you are clever and patient, there are bargains to be had.  Here are just a few ideas for enjoying the Parisian lifestyle when you’re counting your centimes.

Vente-Privee.com:  If you’ve got a hankering for designer clothes but not the budget, sign up for e-mail notifications from this on-line site.  You will get e-mails when a promotion is on.  Move quickly to make your purchase before stocks are depleted.   The offers are frequent (sometimes more than one a day) and the range is wide.  For example, this week, you can take advantage of sales on Longchamp bags and Hector & Lola cashmere sweaters.  In addition to clothes, the site also offers deals on shoes, wine, household items, beauty products, and even toys.

La Fourchette:  You can use La Fourchette to make restaurant reservations but the real reason to use it is to take advantage of the special promotions:  up to 50 percent off the bill, a glass of champagne, dessert, etc.   You can sign up to receive the offers in your e-mail or opt out of the e-mails and just use the site when it suits you.    You won’t find the hottest new restaurants here (as they can fill up tables without the extra promotion) but if you cross reference the good buys with restaurant reviews, you can enjoy a good meal at sharply reduced prices.

Groupon:  I haven’t used this site but here’s the information as reported by Ksam, author of Totally Frenched Out

The way it works is they negotiate some pretty great deals with companies all over France and then they publish them on their Web site (or you can choose to receive their daily e-mails). If enough people decide to participate, the “deal” is validated and they e-mail you your gift certificate. There are several ways to pay – I usually use PayPal.  FYI: The payment is only taken from your account if the deal is validated.

Here are a few that I’ve chosen – a massage + foot reflexology for 18€ instead of 50€, a 36€ gift certificate for the Happy Days Diner for 18€, a 15€ gift certificate for Jeff de Bruges chocolate for 7€, etc. Plus a surprise for C for our anniversary, but more about that later….

Groupon is available all over France, not just in Paris, so feel free to check out their site.  And if you do decide to sign up, it’d be great if you could do it through my parrainage link here.

And don’t forget the Web site of the guide book Paris Pas Cher.   While it’s not as extensive as the guide itself (which is available in pretty much every book store in town), it is free!

What are your favorite Paris deals?

Be in the Know

What’s the best way to stay up to speed on what’s going on in Paris? There’s no one answer but here are a few ideas that will put you on the road to being considered in the know.

Read the newspaper:   Obvious right? Or perhaps just hopelessly old-fashioned.  Even if your French skills are limited, scanning the paper, any paper, will do you good.   Le Parisien and France-Soir are easier to read than Libération and Le Monde.  Even better, pick up one of the free papers available at your neighborhood métro station.   I don’t know for sure but it seems like these papers (Métro, Direct Matin, and 20 Minutes) are written for about a 5th grade literacy level.   If nothing else, you should pick up Le Figaro on Wednesdays when it includes the entertainment insert, Figaroscope.  And if you can’t read a word of French, try the on-line English language entertainment guide, Paris Update.

Follow Paris blogs:  It doesn’t matter whether you just surf on over every now and then for a visit or subscribe to a feed.  Just make it a point to take of the advantage of their wisdom and knowledge of upcoming events.  Particularly good bets are Paris by Mouth, Secrets of Paris and Paris Weekends.

Pay attention to posters:  The city of Paris sponsors many festivals and it seems like every weekend, there’s some kind of  fete with themes as wide ranging as gardening, food and wine, music, art, cinema, sport, and, biodiversity.  In addition, there are frequent expositions at the large convention centers at Porte de Versailles and Porte de Champerret; these feature vendors, demonstrations, and all manner of activities on a single theme:  interior design, manga, independent vintners, automobiles, and yes, of course, chocolate.

Make friends:   Two heads are definitely better than one.  Tap into the expertise of colleagues, parents of your kids’ friends, fellow parishioners, and other members of expat organizations like the American Women’s Group, WICEthe American Chamber of CommerceParis Alumnae/i Network, and MESSAGE.   And take a look at Meetup Paris, an online forum that helps folks connect with others who have similar interest, whether that’s forming a playgroup for babies or playing rugby.

For TV Watchers Only

You’re in Paris and you want to watch television?  Fine by me.  But there are few things you may want to know to make the most of your viewing experience.

Over the Air Broadcast

France has its own technology for TV broadcasting so your American TV will not pick up programs over the air. It will work just fine with your video player, assuming you plug it into a transformer (to convert the electricity) and an adaptor (so you can plug it into the wall).  (Go take a look at our post on French electricity  if this leaves you baffled.) Many expats buy a French TV from those who are departing, often at very reasonable prices. 

Assuming your TV has an antenna, you will be able to access a handful of channels for free:  TF1, France 2, France 3, France 5, and M6.  If you purchase a triple play cable package (which bundles TV with your home phone and Internet service), you get access to dozens more channels as part of the basic package and even more if you subscribe additionally to premium channels like Canal+, Disney, and Eurosport.

Watching French television (particularly the news) is not a bad way to work on your language skills.   But if you just can’t bear watching CSI (which is called Les Experts here in France) dubbed into French, you can sometimes change the audio to version originale (VO) with your remote.  The details vary among cable providers.  My only advice is to look at the manual and keep clicking.   By some magic, my kids turned on the closed captioning for the hearing impaired on our TV so I can now watch French programming with subtitles in French.  Really, every little bit helps.

DVDs

DVDs are coded according to the region where they are made:  zone 1 for the U.S. and Canada, and zone 2 for Europe.   If you want to be able to play both, purchase a multi-zone DVD player.

Keeping Up with American Shows

You won’t be able to keep up with your favorite American shows by simply going to the network Web sites.  The sites can detect that your computer is in France, and, for licensing reasons, they block access to their content.  (The exception is some newcasts available by podcast either from the network or iTunes.)  Ditto for Hulu.com.   Apparently there is a way to mask your French IP address but the networks are catching onto this and blocking masked addresses too.   If you can’t live without your shows or your ability to follow your home town teams, here are a couple of options:

Slingbox:  Connect a Slingbox to a television in one country and watch it anywhere in the world via the Internet.   To make this work, you either need to have a vacation place back home with TV, cable, and a high speed Internet connection or a friend or relative willing to let you hook up to theirs.   Given differences in time zones, you really need a DVR to make Slingbox work well.  Otherwise, you’ll have to watch your U.S. prime time shows in the middle of the night Paris time.   The capital investment is relatively minor (less than $200 for unlimited viewing) and there are no monthly fees.  The catch here is that you need a willing partner, preferably someone who doesn’t mind you having control of their TV set.    If you can’t miss a Cubs game, this is the option for you.

SkyTV:  Sky is a British company that offers many channels of movies and TV shows via satellite dish.   If you’re homesick for British fare, this is the option for you although there’s quite a bit of American content too (such as American Idol, ESPN America, and the Food Network).   You have to have a British address to qualify for premium service but apparently there are people willing to rent their addresses to folks like you.   It’s not clear to me whether this is completely legit.   You pay for the box and dish plus a monthly subscription fee.  A friend had her Sky dish installed by DD Electronics.   She noted that they speak English and were very helpful.  Another Sky vendor is Insat.  You’ll have to check these Web sites for additional information and complete list of programing.

Apple TV:  Apple TV provides a small wireless device that will connect your computer to your television, allowing you to download anything you might buy or rent from the U.S. iTunes store  (both movies and television shows) at high speed and watch at your leisure.  To use the U.S. store, you need to have an American credit card with an American mailing address.  (There is also a French version of Apple TV; check the content offerings before you commit, however, to see if this works with your taste in shows.)   The Apple router costs around $230 (or about 270 euros from the French Apple Store) and the content is pay as you go. 

Streaming sites:  There are a large number of Web sites that stream movies and TV shows direct to your computer, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee.   To be completely honest, I am too chicken to do this.  You never know what kind of viruses you might be attracting or what else these sites might be downloading to your computer.   The calculus of risk, of course, is quite personal so think carefully about how much you really want to watch the latest episode of Mad Men versus having a functioning home computer.

You Tube:  An odd assortment of movies and TV shows are available for free on YouTube.   You may have to be creative with your search terms and you may end up seeing a favorite film with subtitles in Chinese.  In addition,  since YouTube clips can only be 10 minutes long, you end up watching in segments:  12 or so for  movie, 4 to 8 for a TV show.   It’s total hit and miss but you might get lucky.   For example, I recently watched that wonderful Valentine to Paris, Amelie, on YouTube.

Resources

Weekly television listings from Premiere
Television in France
(offering the British perspective)
BBC Guide to Watching French Television (aimed at language learners)