Category Archives: Home and Garden

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”.

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.)

Laundromat Matters

When you’re living abroad, the most simple tasks can sometimes be the most complicated. Seemingly easy things, like shopping at the grocery store or getting money out of a cash machine, take on a new level of complexity. One such task is doing your laundry at the self-service laundromat or laverie. Getting your clothes cleaned isn’t rocket science, but figuring out how to work the washing machine and what products to use is trickier than it sounds, especially if you don’t understand French.

If you’ve got dirty laundry spilling over your hamper, use our mini guide to get your pile of whites and darks washed and dried. After your first visit to the laundromat, you’ll get the hang of it. You may even end up doling out help to puzzled Parisians who sometimes have trouble figuring out the laundry machine directions themselves!

(If you have clothes that need dry cleaning or you’d prefer to use a laundry service, read our earlier post here.)

Useful Vocabulary

laundry le linge
wash la lessive
washing le lavage
laundromat la laverie
washing machine la machine à laver
detergent la lessive
to wash or scrub lessiver
softener l’assouplissant or l’adoucissant
stain la tache
stain remover le détachant
bleach l’eau de Javel
to dry secher
dryer le sèchoir
dry sec (m), sèche (f

(For information on international fabric care symbols, visit this link.)

Typical Laundromat Signage

Fire Safety

Despite several highly publicized fires in the City of Light, it was only recently that French legislators passed a law mandating smoke detector installation. By January 2016 all living facilities in France are required to have smoke detectors (détecteur de fumée). Paris’s beauty makes it easy to forget that Haussmann didn’t have safety codes in mind when renovating the city. Nor did medieval architects consider how difficult it would be for a firetruck to race down a narrow, cobblestone street. Several hundred years later, despite the services of the city’s brave firefighters (les sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), many of Paris’s buildings remain not only fire hazards, but fire traps.

Whether you are moving to Paris permanently or relocating for the long term, it is important to check if where you’re staying is equipped with at least one smoke detector. When you’re planning a move and packing your suitcases, smoke detectors aren’t the first thing you think of, but they might be the most important thing you pack or buy on arrival. Paris brings to mind baguettes and bistros, not fires, but the reality is that such dangers can occur anytime, anywhere. Considering a fire breaks out every 2 minutes in France, a smoke detector is an essential purchase. For as little as 20€ you can make your space fire safe. Even though smoke detectors aren’t mandatory yet, they are relatively easy to find. Major home stores, local hardware shops, and even some bigger grocery chains sell smoke detectors. For a sure bet though, visit one of the stores listed below. These stores also sell everything you need for a quick and easy installation.

Mr. Bricolage  (Click here to see the store’s presentation on installing smoke detectors. The slides are in French, but a website like Google Translate can help you get the most important information from the presentation.)

166 Rue St Maur, 75011 Paris

21 Rue Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris

Castorama

C C Les Arcades 1/3 rue de Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris Clichy

11 Cours de Vincennes, 75020 Paris

119 Avenue Flandre, 75019 Paris

BHV Rivoli

55 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Donating Goods to Charity

Spring cleaning or planning for your next move?  Either way, it’s the time of year for cleaning out closets and getting a fresh start.  If you find that you have too much stuff, here are some ideas of how to shed yourself of unwanted clothes, books, and household items.  And you may help someone in need at the same time.

The city of Paris offers free curbside pick-up of bulky items in the different arrondissements and greater city area. The service is generally offered twice each week with varying times for each area. Before placing any items curbside, please call 01 55 74 44 60 for direct information and scheduling. Note that it is not lawful to place oversized items on the curb without pre-authorization. For pick-up details in your area or to make an appointment on line, visit the city’s Web site and fill out the online form.

Emmaus Communautes will come to your apartment and pick up bags of clothes, shoes, toys and/or furniture that are in reusable and resalable condition.  They are similar to what many Americans know as the Salvation Army.  They will not come for just one bag, so if you call, be sure you have enough to make their trip worthwhile.  Be prepared to tell them how much you have for pick up.

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil
40, rue La Fontaine, 75016 Paris,
Tel :  01 44 14 75 20

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil is a Catholic-run  orphanage in the lower 16th that has a second-hand shop to help fund the home.  According to the web site they sell the following :

  • clothes and shoes for all ages
  • costume jewelry, silverware, dishes, artwork
  • linens such as sheets, towels, tablecloths, curtains
  • books, records, toys

You can leave things in good condition, Monday through Saturday from  9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sales take place on Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. and then again from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm.  Saturday hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  There is parking available on-site so you can unload without fear of blocking traffic or being ticketed.

You can also find drop boxes for clothing at several locations in and around Paris:

8th arrondissement: St. Philippe de Roule, at the intersection of rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Franklin Roosevelt

12th: La Halte des Femmes (Coeur de Femmes day shelter) 16-18, passage Raguinot, M: Gare de Lyon

13th: La Maison Coeur de Femmes, 77, rue du Château des Rentiers, M: Porte d’Ivry or  Nationale

A list of 300 collection boxes managed by the organization, Le Relais, can be found on-line.  In addition,  these organizations may also accept secondhand clothes and shoes:

La Croix Rouge at 01.44.43.11.00
L’Armee du Salut at 01.43.62.25.00
Le Secours Catholique at 01.45.49.73.00
Le Secours Populaire at 01.44.78.21.00

Yahoo hosts a bilingual online recycling group called Freecycle Paris that not only enables you to donate your items (clothes, furniture, appliances, etc.) to other members who need or want them, but also allows you to browse for items that may be of interest to you.  The group is free to join.

Finally, both the American Library in Paris and SOS Helpline will accept used books, CDs, and DVDs in good condition

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.

Help for the Do-It-Yourselfer

If you’re an expat living in an apartment in Paris, chances are that a) something needs fixing, and b) you don’t have the tools to take care of it. If you have some do-it-yourself know how, though, there’s an alternative to the expense and hassle of finding someone else to do the work for you. Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of the always helpful resource, Secrets of Paris,  has the details on how to rent tools from the city of Paris at one of its bricothèques or from Zilok.fr.  Check out what she has to say:  http://www.secretsofparis.com/heathers-secret-blog/borrow-or-rent-tools-electronics-stuff.html .