Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WTF Wednesday: Next Stop - Vomit Station

The metro is not the safest, nor the most refined place in Paris, but I wasn't prepared for this week's happenings. (I recently read about the poor girl who was killed by a pick-pocket, pushed on to the tracks. What a tragic story that still gives me the willies.)

I take the train everyday, twice a day. Two different lines, so there's a stop in between... all-told, I chill in the station at least six times a day, which means one thing: More exposure to the crazies that call them home in the winter.

They lay across the benches, and pass out in the stairwells, bref, lounging & smellin' up the joint is where it's at. I'm not completely heartless, but after you've seen hundreds a year the phenomenon becomes less shocking. I don't even get freaked out anymore when they mutter insults at me. (I always have to resist the urge to talk back to the shoe-less man with food stuck in his beard calling me unkempt. Really sir? My hygiene is not up to snuff? I'll run home & jump in the shower for you, but first let me pick that hunk of sandwich from your facial hair.) I was starting to feel pretty proud about mastering the art of ignoring, a true sign of my French integration.

But it was all a ruse. A hoax. A sense of false-security. Life was about to teach me another lesson: just when you think you have things under control, an SDF will inevitably try to yack all over your brand new brown sued boots. (I might be paraphrasing just a smidge.)

I must be some kind of Puke-magnet. In the last 2 days I've seen no less than three vomiters, and all within ten meters of my vomit-sympathetic-person. Perhaps it's my perfume? Perhaps it's my face that's making them retch? Who can say how the minds of the mad function? Whatever the reason, I seem to have a very specific effect on them.

There I was, minding my own effing business when a liter (or possible two) of homeless man lung-butter pours out within ear-shot. Something happened when I heard it. I felt like the world started moving in slow motion. I turned, ever so slowly, already shuddering.

Now, the important part... HEED THESE WORDS READERS...

DO. NOT. LOOK.

I don't care if people start running, screaming and babies burst into tears -- just don't. You're going to want to. It's actually worse than a train wreck because you can't always smell those, but the Ode-de-Wine-and-Baguette-Spew was pungent enough to spark my curiosity.

Lord help me, I looked. (And f%#@ me, it was a doozie.)

Oh man did I regret that shit. Even now, the images come back to me in flashes at the oddest times, usually while eating. I don't think I'll ever be the same.

The odd thing, other than watching someone puke that god damn much, was that my horror was not even close to coming to an end. The same series of events occurred at 2 other stations, with 2 other hobos.

Though each had their own particular style of upchuck, each was equally disgusting.

Ahhh.. public transportation. Gotta love it. I wonder if it's the same in other big cities? Am I the only one?

WTF?

The Paris Proust Files: Inspiring writer, award-winning journalist, Beth Arnold!

Beth's writing needs no introduction. Its quality and excellence speaks for itself really, but I'm going to give her one anyway. What I love most about http://www.BethArnold.com is... nah, I can't choose just one thing.

I love her style. It's professional, but personal and it doesn't take any crap from anyone. Jeeze, even her photo seems to scream "No-Effing-Nonsense".

I love her subjects and stories. They range from fashion to politics, and often include tid bits about my beloved France. They're funny, they're funky, they're close to home, they're far out... it's like a story-burrito. A mish-mash of delicious literary flavors that take me on a trip when I scarf her words as if they were my last meal.

Not to put too fine a point on it, she's one HELL of a writer, and lovely to grab a glass of Chardonnay with to boot. I highly recommend her blogs on Huffington Post, "Letters From Paris", and her own website. Check'em out, bring your appetite for curiosity and adventure :)

Thanks Beth for agreeing to do the interview!

Virtues: What do you like most about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too conceited? What makes you so flippin' amazing? (You know this is what people mean when they ask 'what are your strengths', don't look so shocked.)

Hopefully, I tell stories that my readers are drawn into, enjoy, and don't want to leave, because they're on the journey with me. Also, we human beings are emotional creatures. I believe I connect to my readers' hearts in some way. I aspire to connect with my readers on many levels no matter what I write.


Faults: What do you like LEAST about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too pathetic?
I can get carried away, repeat myself. Also, I don't like it when I'm a bit lazy and stay on the surface of something, when I don't dig deeper.

Chief characteristic: Define yourself or your writing in 1 word that I can repeat to other people when I talk about you behind your back, ie: He/She is so _______.
passionate


Men: Is there anything about Parisian men that doesn't make you roll your eyes? What do they do that makes you think, "Oh yah. That one's def from Paname!"?
France is a society that believes their manners are culturally important and, in fact, chic, but (generalization) most French men are not "gentlemen" in the way we think of that term. In the South, we call that good home training. And my point of view is that we need good manners to make our lives a little nicer and to actually work more smoothly. But how wonderful is it that French men have actually been trained to be a little more sensitive in terms of the art of life. It's not being a "pussy" to go to museums or to talk about the arts-- and for that to be an important part of living a real life.


Women: What about the Parisian women? Quite the bag of 'tude eh? Or are we the ones who require re-wiring?
In my humble opinion, French women are more restricted, for example, than American women. They're more conservative--which doesn't give them the mobility that we feel in life. Our American openness is a great gift that we often take for granted.

As for the whole French woman, fashion-beauty-thin thing...These are generalizations, of course, but not all French women are thin, chic, or gorgeous. Some French women have beautiful, impeccable style. Some have zip. What many women I see on the street must think of as "fashion" is a raggedy Wicked Witch of the West look to me. French women do like to buy products and take care of their skin, but the cosmetics industry worldwide is pulling the wool over our eyes and raking in billions of dollars by selling marketing concepts to women to freshen us up and young us up. "How to be like a French woman...You'll be like a French woman if you.....This is also what's happening with the idea that all French women are "thin" and "aging better." These are myths perpetuated with products, books, etc. to "sell" us something, which doesn't happen to have anything to do with reality. And these marketing concepts make women feel bad about themselves and feel like they must buy these products to "fix" themselves.

Of course, we want to look our best--but loving ourselves is so much more important than the corporate BS being sold. Why don't we ever learn that we're being manipulated for money?


Heros: If you could be any Frenchie who would you be, and why? (Good luck choosing. Between the painters alone you're totally screwed trying to pick one...*evil laugh*)
I'll say Eleanor d'Aquitaine. She was a woman who held real power when very few did. She was progressive, led an amazing life, and stood up for herself--stood her own ground. She may not have done everything perfectly, but she kicked some real ass. She did not go gently unto the night--but burned across the sky and lit some dazzling stars.


Emotions: What about Paris brings out the 16yr old drama-queen in you: happy, sad, mad, excited, love, hate; what brings out these emo-spaz-attacks? What do you love/hate most about Paris?
One of my loves is taking a walk in the center of Paris--by the Seine, the grand monuments, the tiny rues with charming shops. It is absolutely breath-taking no matter how many times I've been down the same path. Beauty envelops me. It seeps into my cells and permeates my air. I never fail to realize how lucky I am!


Places: In what Parisian hood would you love to live in? We all have our favorites! Why is it yours, what makes it all that?
A couple of my hates: This is again a generalization, but the total incomprehension of customer service drives me nuts. I don't mean in a cafe. It's annoying when a waiter is slow or snarky, but so what. I'm talking about when one really needs help with a problem--like with France Telecom or other big entities--and the help person is not at all interested in explaining something to you or providing a solution. He wants to tell you that whatever you need is impossible. Why? Well, because he can't think outside the box. It isn't allowed, and he must go by every antiquated and obscure rule. The French don't understand that customer service means you're supposed to help the customer--not compete with her.

And then there's the basic inconvenience of French websites. The French don't know how to construct websites that actually work. B.A.D.


Wishes: What typical French characteristic do you wish you possessed? (If you say ability to to eat mounds of Camembert and stay thin, I may smack you.)
I lived in the 2nd Arrondissement by the Place des Victoire for five years, and every day I stepped outside my door, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I live in the 20th Arrondissement now, and I've grown to love and appreciate its greenness, its young creator energy, the wonderful food that surrounds me, and being in a real neighborhood. But I have to say that the center of Paris is my spiritual home. Probably the 2nd (or 1st) Arrondissement would still be my favorite spot. Beauty, history, convenience. Ah...

The ability to make a gorgeous display--whether in the window of a boulangerie, a tiny boutique, a florist, or a green grocer.


Motto: What's your motto when in France? How do you minimize the hardships of life abroad?
Remember how much I have to feel grateful for. There is such an abundance! (And thank God for Skype and trips to the U.S. when I bring back a suitcase full of what I can't or don't want to buy here.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coming up -- Paris Proust Files Interview with Beth Arnold!

Yo peeps, I still have one last Xmas gift for you all -- the Paris Proust Files interview with Beth Arnold!!
Can't wait to post this little bute that I've been hiding in the bottom of my stocking all month!

Thanks Beth, look for it today or tomorrow :)
xx S

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Paris

Despite my absolute obsession with Christmas, being merry this time of year has been a challenge. So many things conspired against my joy and good cheer during the holidays. Being far from loved ones has put a big fat wet towel over my desire to wear a ridiculous reindeer-antler headband. Clearly, it was serious.

That's not all I didn't do. This year I didn't write cards. I didn't make cookies with my best friend and sing songs with family. I didn't make a giant dinner with them, eat too much, and watch "White Christmas" while everyone chatted over coffee. I didn't stare at my cousins, and note how their faces have changed/grown. I didn't go to the mountains and stare out at the white peaks, hot chocolate in-hand. These are just a few of my traditions that define the holidays. Love. Friends. Family. Memories.



But I'm not sad today, despite all I'm missing out on. Of course, I ache to see the people I usually spend this time with. I want to pull out my ridiculous "ugly" sweaters and be the one who makes all the inappropriate jokes.

I know they're four thousand miles away, thinking the same thing I am, wishing we were all together. But it comes down to one thing: I knew what I signed up for.



Life as an expat is a ying/yang experience. You wear berets. Ying. You eat crème brûlée. Ying. You walk past the Eiffel Tower and watch it sparkle. Ying, ying, ying. You miss your family like crazy. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang.

It's a fast-moving roller-coaster of highs and lows that leaves me wishing that I could just pick up my family, plop them down here and say "OK, now you all GO BE HAPPY, and I'll see you for dinner." It's so simple in my mind.



I'm making a tart au citron out of all these effing lemons. I sucked in the city streets and went for holiday drinks with expat friends here. I skyped with my family, it was the next best thing to being there! I made cookies here with my French fam, and we had our own inside jokes around the fire. Our glasses were filled to the brim with Champagne and wine to die for. We ate Fois Gras, Chapon with roasted vegetables and Chestnut purée, stinky cheeses, and of course... my chocolate chip cookies! We even had snow, by god, SNOW in PARIS! It's been pretty magical.

Let's not forget the other benefit of having family far away at Christmas... PACKAGES!!!! I love getting my favorite goodies in the mail. Thanks everyone for being so thoughtful and meticulous in sending me my favorite gum, oatmeal, brands of relish and loads of other precious goods that are so hard to locate here.

New traditions are creeping in to my "perfect Christmas" picture. I feel so blessed to have two families that are so wonderful when some people don't even have one. I have to say, the hubs & the hugs really got me through the yang of this year's lack-of-family.

Whatever you're doing, wherever you are... don't forget, it's Christmas, and no matter how many things are plotting against your happiness, there are a thousand little things that are in your corner. Add them up. Make an army out of them.

And have a very, Merry Christmas!!


ps - a little something to brighten your day...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Guestage Girl's Guide to Paris: Scrooge's Guide to Christmas in Paris part II

Cross posting here from Girl's Guide to Paris!


You’ve been waiting for it. Here’s the second half of Scrooge’s Christmas goodies! In case you missed the first half, check it out here.

(9) Hit the museums
Though they’re not holiday exhibitions, I highly recommend grabbing tickets in advance at FNAC for the Louis Vuitton show at the Carnavalet or the Basquiat show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

(10) Go see a ballet
If your budget permits, head out to some of the great spectacles happening around the holidays, like the Lac des cygnes (Swan Lake) ballet at the Opéra Garnier. The second half of the performance is amazing. Reserve seats in advance, as tickets at this beautiful opera house go fast.

(11) Go to a show
I love the Théatre Edouard VII—so beautiful and a lovely place to spend the evening having apéros at the café before heading off to a show. Peter and the Wolf is a great Christmas classic, but, FYI, it’s in French. Get tickets here.

(12) Check out Sleeping Beauty’s Christmas château
Chateau Vaux le Vicomte is transforming itself into the Sleeping Beauty château for Christmas. More info here.

(13) Pick up some homesickness snacks
Feeling homesick? Maybe a box of mac and cheese will help ease the pain? Here are a few stores that can help quench your cravings.
The Real McCoy
194, rue de Grenelle, in the 7th. 01 45 56 98 82.

Thanksgiving
20, rue St.-Paul, in the 4th. 01 42 77 68 29.
Epicerie Anglaise
5, cité du Wauxhall, in the 10th. 01 42 00 36 20.
(14) Get some homegrown grub
Don’t feel like cooking? These places can do it for you.
Breakfast in America
17, rue des Ecoles, in the 5th. 01 43 54 50 28.
4, rue Malher, in the 4th. 01 42 72 40 21.
Classic greasy-spoon American café.
Joe Allen
30, rue Pierre Lescot, in the 1st. 01 42 36 70 13.
NYC feel for dinner.
Merce and the Muse
1, rue Charles-François Dupuis, in the 3rd. 06 42 39 04 31.
Coffee shop dream, a-ma-zing munchies.

(15) Ferris wheel rides
I’m deathly afraid of heights, so this one is not for me, but I hear the views are enchanting from the top. The Ferris wheel is located at the place de la Concorde; the cost is 5 euros for kids under 10, and 10 euros for the rest of us geezers. Read more here. Enjoy, brave souls!
So tell me readers, what would you do? What’s your perfect Christmas in Paris? Send your thoughts in the comment box below.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Now a message from buddy the elf.

PSYCH... OMG, you thought I was going to go all Will F. on your ass didn't you? "Buddy the Elf, What's your favorite color?!"... seriously though, that movie is the complete and total shit and I would probably watch it daily if I didn't fear the judgmental looks from my hubs.

December has been bat-shit-crazier than the cat-shit-crazy last few months... So, I've got some extra posts to put up! 3 to be exact. So I'll be putting up one each day, and then I'll probably go into over-work-myself-into-a-coma mode, yet again.
Hoping you all have a really wonderful holiday, filled with love and joy and and snow and children laughing and big fake santa clauses and alcohol and fat honkin' gifts and double rainbows and unicorn nuzzles, wherever you are.
XX S

Guestage: Girls Guide to Paris - Scrooge's Guide to Christmas in Paris Part I

The Champs Elysées, in Paris, aglow with holiday lights
© Nicolas Laverroux

Cross-posting from Girl's Guide To Paris...
I’m one of those holiday nuts. December 26 begins a countdown to my very FAVORITE time of year! I break out the decorations and CDs way too early. I shop year-round for gifts. Though I’m ashamed to admit it, I actually own a pair of tacky reindeer horns. Bref, I go off the holiday deep end. I have so many wonderful memories with my family that it’s a time of year I really cherish.

After five years in Paris, I consider myself very lucky to have gotten to see my family every year. Every year except THIS year, that is.

The Job-Gods have conspired, and I’m pretty sure that it’s just not gonna happen. (Insert ridiculously long string of swearwords here.)

No giant Christmas trees. No caroling off-key. No yards decorated with power-draining life-size Santas. No baking until my thighs look like two enormous tubes of cookie dough. Worst of all—no family. It was bound to happen. Le sigh.

Needless to say, my inner Scrooge has come out and bitten me on the ass.
To combat this Christmas crisis, I’m going to pull out even more stops than usual. I’m going to fight fire with twinkle lights.

In case you’re in the same boat, or if you’re lucky enough to vacation here for the holidays, here are a few things to fill your days with the cheer and charm of Paris at Christmas.

The Eiffel Tower, in Paris
© Nicolas Laverroux
1) Lécher les vitrines! (window-shopping, or -licking, as they say here)
The window displays at Galeries Lafayette, Printemps
and Fauchon are not to be missed. Even the most stone-hearted grinch will ooh and aah at the sight of these beautiful works of holiday art.

2) Marché de Noël des Champs Élysées
The Champs is so gorge this time of year you may have an involuntary bowel movement. Lights are in every tree down the lane, and you can smell vin chaud, or mulled wine, cooking a mile away. A must-see for sure! There are loads of stands where you can buy gifts, but I’ve never been tempted to. Unfortunately the website is 1995 GeoCities tricked out, but all the info is there!

3) Ice-skating at the Hôtel de Ville
This one is a classic I’ve never done. Though I’m sure I’ll fall flat on my face a half dozen times, the Christmas spirit will cure my black eyes and bloody nose! It’s free if you have your own skates; you can also rent them for 5 euros. More info here.

4) Notre Dame Christmas events
Those of us who live in the city rarely stop by this old pile of bricks, but if you can brave the crowds, the holiday display is lovely. There’s also a holiday concert on Monday, December 20.
Paris has many ways to help you enjoy the holidays
© Hervé BRY

5) Gift shopping
Though some of my friends think it’s too close to the “halles” experience, I like to grab a buddy and get my shopping done on the rue de Rivoli.
If you’re on a budget, hit the Marché aux Puces for original gifts like brooches, watches or gloves. Or you could get the classic gifts: berets and scarves. They make wonderful presents for the winter season and are very “in” whether you’re in Paris or Wisconsin.

6) Events at the American Church in Paris and the American Cathedral in Paris
Every year the American Church in Paris has loads of holiday events, including Christmas Eve services, but the candlelight Christmas concerts are by far my favorite. The music is beautiful and completely worth the trip. Plus, Christmas caroling at the end is a blast!
The American Cathedral in Paris has a beautiful midnight mass ceremony. Though the details haven’t yet been published, I hear from the cathedral’s office that there is caroling, and it’s a lovely way to celebrate religiously. The festivities begin around 10:30 p.m. Check the website for more details.

7) Take a tour
A couple of my top picks for Paris tours are Context Travel and David Lebovitz. A tour is the best and easiest way to see Paris the way YOU like it whether you be a chocoholic, a cheese addict, a wino or simply a lover of the beautiful Parisian views.
What would you add to the list? Share your suggestions in the comment box below.

Scrooge’s Guide to Christmas in Paris: Part II is coming soon, with even more tips and tricks to enjoy your holiday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

WTF Wednesday: Paralyzed in Paris.

Photo credit: Antoine Walter | http://www.flickr.com/photos/anw-fr/
There is really only one explanation for today's happenings: Paris suffers from an acute precipitation denial syndrome.

When it snows here, it's as if the transportation gods huddle up and decide that life in our fair city must come to a screeching halt. Highways close. Buses stay parked, toasty-warm in their stations. Trains conspicuously stop running despite their subterranean status -- why should being under ground stop them from joining the transportation party-poopers?

And the would-be passengers? What are we doing? Hmm... well we're FREEZING OUR ASSES OFF on the sidewalk waiting for phantom buses, we're cramming ourselves against other, equally miserable train voyagers, battling for an extra inch of breathing room. That's what we're doing.



Paris... you're not a new-born puppy sitting perplexed in a pile of white, frozen confetti. Get over it. Snow exists, and you're gonna have to do something about it some day!!!


In short. GET. THE. NET.


Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I will say that I had a total blast sliding all over the sidewalks on my way home from work. Salt, schmalt, I want to slip & slide home every night -- boots be damned, it was fun!!


Happy WTF Wed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guestage Girl's Guide to Paris: Christmas Shopping in Paris!!

©Tarek DJ http://www.flickr.com/photos/djtarek/
Read the rest on Girl's Guide to Paris!

You’re in Paris for Christmas! Now . . . where to shop? Forget Les Halles: too crowded. Oubliez Champs Elysées: too touristy. Here are 10 places to get your credit card warmed up. Happy shopping!



1. Rue de Rivoli

Though some of my friends think it’s too close to the Halles experience, I like to grab a buddy and get my shopping done on rue de Rivoli. There are tons of great shops and plenty of cafés in the neighborhood for when you need to take a breather.



2. Boutiques in Montmartre & the 17th

If you want the real Parisian experience, you’ll have to hunt for shops in the quaint Montmartre or Marais neighborhoods. Montmartre is all done up this time of year, and you can pick up your touristy classics while you take in the famous monument. Get your miniature Eiffel Towers, postcards and T-shirts galore, then head over to the 17th Arrondissement for some boutique shopping at boutiques like Anne et Marionon rue des Dames.



Anne et Marion

58, rue des Dames, in the 17th.


3. Department Stores

You can always go to Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, but I find them overwhelming. If you’re brave enough, hit these two stores for all the goods, from fashion to flatware!

Galeries Lafayette

38, rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, in the 9th.

Printemps

102, rue de Provence, in the 9th.

4. For the ladies
In a pinch, I head to Kookaï, Naf Naf or Les Petites—they haven’t let me down yet! For more basic/classic items, I’m a fan of Mango. Zara sometimes has cute accessories and scarves, but I wouldn’t recommend their sweaters, which tend to shrink, or their shoes, which are of poor quality for the price.

5. For the guys

Celio and Uniqlo are options that won’t break the bank. I like Gap better, but find it’s a bit cheaper in the States for the same quality.

Read the other ten tips here - we've got something for everyone!!

...Did I miss your fave spot? Tell our readers about it!! What's your fave spot to shop?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A million calories later...

Why can't every weekend be like this last one? Seriously? I am racking my brain, but I can't come up with a decent reason. We laughed, we drank, we ate, we told embarrassingly-hilarious stories, we walked, we ate... did I mention we ate? It was in a word, fabulous -- but not without it's little trials and tribulations.

I consider myself to be rather naive. That said, after having tried to leave the city on a Friday after 6:30pm, it's clear that naivety is the tippy-tip-top of an iceberg the size of Canada that is, my cluelessness about driving. Getting in and out of Paris is like trying to squeeze a traffic hippo through the eye of a needle.
It should've been simple. Pile in the car, & hit the road. Le sigh. Our satellite reception was scrambled. We were cut off by an endless string of douches and a-holes. Motorcyclists were kicking the passenger's windows as they nearly tipped over while trying to zip between our car and our neighbor's. We were cramped on Paris' midget Periph', bumper to bumper, praying for deliverance from our highway hell.

But, it was worth the toil. When we arrived at our little house in the middle of nowhere, the guys were waiting for us, armed with comfort cocktails. As the fire crackled, and our chefs whipped up a tomato basil risotto that knocked us on our asses in one of those happy-food-comas.

On Saturday I felt like I was at big-kid-camp. We gathered around the flames, sipping our coffee and chatting while the eggs sizzled. We mowed that food as if dinner were a vague, far-off dream.

Mulled wine was concocted and half the group went off to Provins for a tour and the rest of us attacked the turkey!
We made all the classics:

- Turkey
- Stuffing
- Green bean casserole
- Cornbread
- Cranberry sauce
- Pumpkin & Pecan pie
The feast was sumptuous, and we maintained the American tradition of saying what we were all thankful for, it never fails to lift spirits even higher.

Miraculously, we had the energy to play charades until the wee hours of the night. Did I say play charades? I meant, the girls team beat the boys team to a pulp with our impressive miming skills.

Sunday, with heavy hearts, we packed our bags and enjoyed a last brunch, complete with French Toast! We capped off the weekend with a long walk in the woods. It was an anti-Parisian trip, we felt miles away from our daily lives and jobs. I loved every minute of it.

This year I didn't spend the holiday with my family, but we had plenty to be grateful for.

Check back, I'll be adding recipes once they're collected!
Happy Thanksgiving,

Xx S

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Say What: Don't be a "Dinde" & How to make the most delicious turkey ever!!

How to make a delicious turkey? Do you brine? Do you season? To stuff or not to stuff, and what with??

Forget all that. This one's easier than you realize. Simply invite a slew of friends & family over. Pour copious amounts of alcohol down their throats until they can't even remember their own name, let alone, if the turkey was edible. At least, this is my plan.

This weekend a bunch of us are piling in the car, and driving out to the sticks to get our drink on... I mean.. to celebrate Thanksgiving! I'll be posting about it after, that is if my head will exit my ass after the dinner wine, champagne, mulled wine, bloody mary, and cocktails. It's a big if.

And it's a good thing too, missing the fam this year and wishing I could be there to celebrate. I'll give them a ringy-dingy tonight, but I think it'll be short & sweet before I get all blubbery.

This Thursday Say What is rather simple, and turkey-related en plus!

Do you know what it is to be "a turkey"? In French, you can sometimes say, "I'm going to make the ________" to say you're going to be have in a certain way. Ex: "I'm going to act like a cry baby" = "Je vais faire le bébé".

It so happens that the phrase "I'm going to make a turkey", "Je vais faire la dinde", has a double-meaning. For us American and Canadian expats, it means to cook a fowl and subsequently stuff ourselves with it 'til forced to open the fly of our pants. For the French, it means, "I'm going to act like a complete f*%#ing idiot."

So "cook" your turkey, don't "make" it, or you'll make our Franco-friends chuckle while you proclaim that you're going to act like a moron.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

xx S

Monday, November 22, 2010

Celebrating my imminent freedom with pounds of sugar and butter

I have the most incredible, wonderful news readers: I've got about eight days of work left. EIGHT DAYS mother fuckers. Sixy-four hours of time left on my sentence and then I never have to set another foot in that maudit place again! It's over two weeks, but still... pretty damn sweet. So sweet that I decided, that even though I've been through hell the last year, and I'm nursing a slow-recovery to this awful cold business, we could all use a little more sweetness.

I've baked over a hundred of David Lebovitz's chocolate chip miracles. Unfortunately for my ass, they're delicious, and I feel myself slipping into a sugar coma from taste-testing. But the real miracle was that a little bit of American spirit still thrives in this city. Like all amazing stories, mine begins with tragedy.

I woke up & then promptly went back to bed for about four hours. Felt damn good, gotta love Sundays. When I roused from my serial-napping it was almost 4pm. I mosied on into the kitchen to start cookin' when I realized ... the world was going to end. 

I had cookies to bake for my going away party tomorrow, and, as was typical with my luck lately -- I was all out of baking soda! Baking soda. Worth about $2. On every single god-damn shelf in the states, but I'm here. Where it's available in three stores in the entire city. Only one of which was open on a Sunday.

There's that "levure" stuff, but I've barely the time to make cookies, let alone test-run them, so I couldn't be sure that would work. I had a rep to live up to here, and wasn't prepared to risk it after so many successful batches. (Just takes one to earn your "crappy cook" label, and my chances for redemption were nil.)

But all hope wasn't lost. There exists a little piece of America here, it's called: Thanksgiving.
On a cute side street in the Marais, this heavenly store holds a lot of pricey, but rare goods ripe for the picking. Including my baking soda, thank you very much! A lovely woman with a very thick American accent rang me up and in just under an hour, I was almost home triumphantly holding the powdered gold.

Thank GOD for expats. Or my colleagues would've had to deal w/ that Pepperidge Farms crap, and I couldn't have that.

G'night & sweet chocolate-chip dreams :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Upcoming shiz...

Keep your face glued here because we have even more cooler funistical bags of neatoness coming up soon:

Thanksgiving retreat post: About a Turkey
Xmas post: Scrooge's Guide to Xmas in Paris
Jobs Post: Ten ways working in France is different from working in the US
Another Paris Proust Files interview in Dec!

Now... I sleep.
xx S

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Paris Proust Files: Forest Collins, Mixology Specialst, Cocktail Genius + GIVE AWAY!

Photo cred: Melanie Vaz
Get ready, because the Snark Parade is about to trample through your interwebs. But before you read on, check out another fave blogger of mine, Kasia from Love in the City of Lights, who has also interviewed Forest in her article The Dream Life of Forest Collins! Read it for more info on her background, how she wound up in Paris and of course, Forest's lovely sense of humor shines through in that one too!

GIVEAWAY ENTRY DETAILS: WIN A FREE DRINK at the next meet up!
- Comment below - tell us your favorite Parisian bar & why
or
- RT this story on twitter with @ShaNeSaisQuoi


Though Paris may not be as big as other major international hot spots like New York, or London, they have one thing in common: TOO MANY DAMN BARS. Should I go here? There? NO, no wait. Someone said this place was better than that place. And then there's that new one that just opened up, it's getting rave reviews. But should I trust them? Do we have similar taste? Do they know what the hell they're talking about or is it all just buzz?

By the time I get done reading all the reviews on Yelp, Qype, Cityvox, LaFourchette, and all the opinions from friends & bloggers my head is spinning and pea soup is ready to hit the walls. How the HELL does one find a good place for cocktails in this town without trying them all yourself?

I'll tell you: 52martinis is how.

Not only does this lovely expat know her martinis, but she has impeccable taste in bars. I can personally guarantee you that if Forest likes it, it's gotta be good. The best part is that you can join her escapades! Every Wednesday she has a cocktail evening, and monthly a big meetup! Looking to meet expats or people who enjoy good places? Now you have no more excuses to stay home! Here's where you can get info on her meetups: http://www.meetup.com/52Martinis/


And now on to the Paris Proust Files interview!

Virtues: What do you like most about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too conceited? What makes you so flippin' amazing? (You know this is what people mean when they ask 'what are your strengths', don't look so shocked.)

This is where I’m supposed to say something meaningful like “I don’t take myself too seriously. This allows me to learn, accept, analyze, synthesis and hopefully, from that process, come up with something new to offer in both writing and life - rather than just regurgitating what everyone else says. I believe true art is about creation rather than representation. Both have their pros, but I think – I hope – that by not taking myself too seriously, I (will eventually) have the ability to create something new, rather than just represent something that already exists.” But, it’s way more interesting just to tell you that I think I might be double-jointed, which makes me pretty flippin’ amazing!


Faults: What do you like LEAST about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too pathetic?

Like a lot of writers, I hate to “kill the little darlings.” But they’re so cute, so funny, so me, so appropriate. I always have to tell myself “Shut up and get out the damn butcher knife!” And, even then I’m not as cut-throat as I should be.


Chief characteristic: Define yourself or your writing in 1 word that I can repeat to other people when I talk about you behind your back, ie: He/She is so _______.

I have no problem with people talking behind my back, but I don’t want to know what they say. If it’s bad, I’ll just feel like a jerk. If it’s good, I’ll just feel like I have to live up to it and that’s a lot of work. But, when people do talk behind my back, I hope it’s to say she’s so sincere. Because as much of a nutcase as I can be or as diplomatic as I might seem, I hope that I always can, one way or another, be true to myself and express what I really believe. If not that, let’s just hope they say “She’s full of shite, but she’s totally effin’ hot!”


Men: Is there anything about Parisian men that doesn't make you roll your eyes? What do they do that makes you think, "Oh yah. That one's def from Paname!"?


They lie about their height…although maybe that’s universal. But, my first very un-PC answer was going to be “they’re short.” Then I realized I can’t throw out a blanket statement like that without some serious research (i.e. looking on the Internet.) It seems the average height of a French man is 5’ 7.5” (1.75 meters.) No way are half the guys in Paris taller than me and I’m only 5’6” (1.71 meters)! Trust me; I compare our height in the reflection of the metro window when we’re all crammed in there standing up during the strikes. So, I revert to my initial answer: Parisian men are short. Perhaps the national average is balanced out by all 6 foot Frenchmen who live in the countryside or move to Scandinavia where all tall people live.


Women: What about the Parisian women? Quite the bag of 'tude eh? Or are we the ones who require re-wiring?

I find French woman quite endearing and would like to be friends with them. However, they seem to have it in for me because I talk a lot of crap about the size of their men! Seriously, I find French women fall into one of two camps with me. They’re either overly friendly and want to have a pet American copine or they are very stand-offish, eyeing me over their Perrier’s with a look that says “You will never be française…” That being said, I do have some really amazing French girlfriends, so I can’t really generalize.


Heros: If you could be any Frenchie who would you be, and why? (Good luck choosing. Between the painters alone you're totally screwed trying to pick one...*evil laugh*)

I’d sound completely pervie if I said Anaïs Nin. I’d sound completely up my own cul if I said Montaigne. So, I’ll go with Chanel. She seemed to have faith in her own judgment, crossed boundaries and created something new, which is still influential today. And, whether she is credited with creating it or just popularizing it, an LBD is a girl’s best friend!


Emotions: What about Paris brings out the 16yr old drama-queen in you: happy, sad, mad, excited, love, hate; what brings out these emo-spaz-attacks? What do you love/hate most about Paris?

I’m one of the most emotional unemotional people I know. I’ll cry watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and then hear about the world’s greatest tragedies with more of a practical “let’s not cry about it, what can we do?” approach. So, simply the fact that I live in Paris gets me pretty spazzy sometimes. But, then again, the fact that I can drive a car sometimes blows my mind…so perhaps this question is best left to the experts.


Places: In what Parisian hood would you love to live in? We all have our favorites! Why is it yours, what makes it all that?


I really like my old hood, around Place de Clichy. I don’t want something too bobo or trendy. Place de Clichy is close enough to the gentrifying Batignolles and my current locale, the village-y Montmartre, but also close enough to a bit of grit to make it interesting.


Wishes: What typical French characteristic do you wish you possessed? (If you say ability to to eat mounds of Camembert and stay thin, I may smack you.)


Of course, that stylish scarf thing. I pretty much look like I’m off to strangle myself!


Motto: What's your motto when in France? How do you minimize the hardships of life abroad?


The same as my motto anywhere: Keep your head down, your eyes open and be nice to everyone until given a reason not to be. But, when given that reason, give ‘em all you’ve got.



Thanks Forest!

Don't forget to enter to win your free drink, & to check out Kasia's interview as well!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WTF Wednesday: Bag o'Pills & Sprays

OK ok, so I know it's not Wednesday, but gimmy a break. I was out of it yesterday. In lala-land. Off blowing my nose, not eating, coughing so hard it sounded like my lungs had been replaced by party-honker-toys (whatever they're called, I've no idea, I'm on drugs.)... bref, I was not doin' so hot.

So I called in sick to work, went to see my Dr. who told my my blood-pressure was too low (that's odd, considering all the stress I'm under, you'd think it'd be through the roof?!), and sent me home with 2 days bed rest and a lot of prescriptions.

My doctor is adorable. I want him to be my grandfather or something. He never remembers I'm American and when I tell him I'm from the states, he starts speaking in broken English and calls me "Lady".

"Get on table Lady. Breath Lady. Ok you go home, sleep, Lady". It's so cute I wanted to laugh, but that would've provoked a coughing fit and I'd have had to spit mucus in his sink, making me less the charming American he took me for, so I just grinned.

Being in the light-headed funk, I didn't notice how much medicine he had prescribed. I went to the pharmacy, handed over the papers, & sat down for 20 min. while she got everything ready. It wasn't until she handed me two giant, filled-to-the-brim, bags of medicine that I realized something was odd.

In the states, they'd probably send me home with a bottle of Nyquil and a $150 doctor bill. But in France, they take it much more seriously. I have antibiotics, aspirin, some kind of stimulant to help w/ the bp thing, nose sprays, cough syrup, vitamins and all other manner or treatments. I'm surprised they didn't send the pharmacist home to rub my feet.

I was curious. I weighed my bags o'goodies. 4kg of medicine, boxes included. Now THAT deserves a WTF Wed post.
Also, this didn't cost me a dime. French gov picked up the tab on the whole shebang. Love France. Love it.

What do you think about French health care?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Girls Guide to Paris Guestage: 5 Reasons to Love & Loathe Paris

My baguette has come in, readers. I live, drumroll please, in PARIS! Yes, the Land of Lovers. The District of Divine. The Magnificent Metropolis. I call “Par-ee” home. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, ”OMG that must be amazing!!!” . . . I’d have enough nickels to fill the Louvre and a sore neck from all my ecstatic nodding.

I’m not going to play it down: living here is a dream come true, and I’m reminded of that a thousand times a day. But everyone has bad days now and again (like yesterday, when I stepped in actual human excrement), but no matter how awful it gets, I love to sit in the park or watch the passers-by from a café and say to myself, “At least you’re not having this day in Wisconsin.” (Works every time.)

And yet, as much as I am in love with the City of Light, its denizens find a way to wedge poo underneath my high heels when I least expect it.

Paris sometimes reminds me of a bad relationship. There are reasons to stay in these toxic situations, and as many reasons to leave them.
1. It’s Flippin’ Gorge

Paris is like that really beautiful man you just spotted at the end of the bar. Expertly ensembled, coiffed to perfection, sculpted as if he were the god of a Gucci campaign . . . he gleams. Just one little problem: you are as noticeable to him as the gum stuck under the bar stool.

Paris knows this. It’s the apex of urban life and makes my hometown look like the pimply-faced band geek I used to be. I suspect the rest of France secretly despises Paris, fully aware that the other cities represent the proverbial ugly sister.

It’s amazing to be surrounded by the elegance of a city that’s in bloom, and at times I want to throw my hands in the air and sing “La Vie en Rose.”

The downside to all this beauty is the standard it sets. You can’t bum around in your pj’s in Paris. If you dare take a stroll in your workout shoes, be ready for some odd looks. Looks that in no uncertain terms inform you that you’re below the bar. You’re not even level with the ground on which that bar is perched. Oh, no. You’re sunk deep in the layers beneath the Earth’s crust, swimming in a molten fashion hell, and you should probably be set aflame for your faux pas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Moodlifters 4th edition

Another Monday... another reason to read JNSQ.
I've caught my first shitty cold of the year. It's crap out. Winter isn't looming, but rather banging on our doors saying "Let me in you assholes, I'm here to make sure your nuts get goosebumps!" (watch out fellas.) And worst of all... my job is still... STILL... going to last another month and a half before I can declare freedom from that torturous chamber of daily despair.

Let's have a laugh. Enjoy some of my favorite links, just a few but you'll take it & like it.
Happy Monday
xx S





Nick Holmes - Mustache

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Paris Proust Files: Give-away Winners!!


Nearly a hundred of you participated in the give-away via e-mail, twitter, blog comments and DM -- Thanks to everyone who shared their traits, impressions and comments!

And now, the moment of truth!!

The Winners are...

Paris Karen and Christine (@camorose)!

Congrats ladies! Please send me via e-mail your addresses so I can send you the books! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
As for the other participants, this won't be your last chance to win something fab! Next giveaway is coming up after my interview with Forest from 52 Martinis, so stay tuned!!

xx S

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Feature - Reforms, Rants and Rationalizations, OH MY!! (Bonjour Paris Guestage)

Crossposting here, read it on Bonjour Paris!

Here it comes. Day one of the latest bout of major national strikes against the retirement reform. I feel like the French have become a lot of fisherman, frantically reeling in seaweed strands from an empty lake, and then getting so upset they tip their boat over.

I know you're mad. I know it's unfair. But, just because some bully came & stole your lunch money, doesn't mean you have to dump my hamburger into my lap. What? That's what it feels like to me. They crap on you, so you crap on the nation. So there. Take that, nation! ... oh wait.. you... didn't...do anything.

If I were the government I'd be laughing at us. We're face-punching ourselves, our limbs have gone rogue. I get why the strike is happening, and I get that people are trying to provoke a reaction, but how many politicians do you know who take the metro?

This strike literally has no end in sight. The great pout could go on for weeks, nay, MONTHS, and there's absolutely nothing the rest of us can do about it but get smooshed in the trains. Harrumph.

This is not the first, and probably not the last time I'll blog about this. Paris + reform = strike. That's the long & short of it.

The expat community in Paris is pretty magical, so I asked them to share their two cents. I asked them:

Why is it that transportation industry strikes more than anything else? Do we rely on them to do our striking for us or do they just hate their jobs more than the average Jean? What's your take on the strike? Do you think it's helpful? Do you think it will get something accomplished? Yay or Nay?

Lay it on me.

And here's what they said! Thanks to everyone who chimed in, looking forward to what our readers have to say as well!


Thus said the tweeps & bleeps:

THE SKY IS FALLING! Oh no, that's just snow...and strikes. Both disasters - whether induced by Mother Nature or Mother F--kers - turn Paris (and all hope of a normal schedule) upside down. Case in point: today, I've already had a press conference, a lunch meeting and an afternoon rendez-vous cancelled, all due to "la grève." (Or perhaps I smell?) ENOUGH ALREADY! Want to get the French government's attention? Note: THEY DON'T TAKE THE METRO. Or the bus. Or the RER. Find a French politician's chauffeur and kidnap him - that would be more effective. Steal his cigarettes. Cancel his lunch reservation at l'Arpège. Or tell his wife about his mistress (oh, she already knows - nice try). THAT would be a more effective strategy. But causing daily pain to us plebians just trying to get through the many arrondissements that is the escargot of Paris? Not fair. The strikes are part of what makes France, France. A 60 year-old French guy actually wanting to rush off to work (after a trip to the gym for 40-minutes on the ellyptical followed by a Lipitor-filled smoothie then a doctor's check-up- oh wait, sorry I'm confusing him with an AMERICAN 60ish year-old, the French guy actually listened to the radio for 40 minutes, smoked a cigarette and ate a slice of baguette with butter then left for his 2.5-hour lunch break) is not a French man at all. But I feel for you, Monsieur De la Lazy, you've worked hard* (*by French standards) your whole life and you want a break. OK, great. Protest. Yell. Scream. March in the streets (well not mine, but you get the idea). But don't mess with my metro.



Rebecca's response cracked me up. :) True, all that.

There was a sentence by a writer at BonjourParis.com in this article on the strikes: "The government is the one side that has showed flexibility and a willingness to negotiate, whereas unions are indoctrinated and being quite stubborn in the face of economic realities. "

I agree with what is written there. I was talking to my American friend who lives in the south of France about the strikes and she said what we have right now is what happens when people "cry wolf" too often, which is what happens every time there is a strike (and she has lived in France for 14 years, too, and seen this over and over): every time a new contested issue comes up, the ante is raised, and the game of bluff ensues, and the stubborn unions come off as being so because they have to keep up the appearance of not being pansies when it comes to concessions. I think the unions are doing just this right now - but they are playing a game at which they can't win. If the age of retirement is not raised, pretty soon the entire social system is at risk, and the French of the future will find that they are not retiring until they are 99 to be able to keep the current system going. Okay, so 99 is a bit of an exaggeration. But with the age of mortality creeping higher and higher, people at 60 often still have a good 5-10 years of work in them! I can understand wanting to retire, I really can. And retirement at 60 would be great. But when every person in other developed nations is working until the age of 65 before being able to cash in on benefits, 62 still sounds pretty peachy!

Anyway, something has got to give. If unions do not agree to the age of retirement at 62 and if a cohort of people are not willing to be the first to do it, something else will eventually have to be sacrificed. And when it comes to that, I guess then the whole process will ensue again in the endless cycle of how these things get worked out in France.

In the meantime, as a foreign expat, I kind of like to just sit back and play sideline analyst. :) Backseat driver. That kind of thing. Kind of like this. :)



Marina  (s: I should tell you all, Marina is a Frenchie! Yes, they answer too!!)
You probably guessed that I support the strike. As always with this government, the decision has been taken without consulting unions.

For me the argument: "in Europe and in the rest of the world they did the same" is not valid. First, they did the same but not as brutal as it is in France (they took more time).And, in France, we have a special way of life and we want and need to keep it.
The argument: "we don't have the money" doesn't seem really solid when you consider the "bouclier fiscal" and the money they found to save the banks last year.
Finally, as a woman, I'm outraged that we need to work during the same time as men. We are payed less than them, need to stop working to raise the kids...

I don't know if it will change something but it's always good to show that French people are pissed off with the government and his unfair decisions. Just to let them know that at the next election they will be in danger.


Having lived in France for the past 22 years, I've learned unions (declining in membership) strike first and then negotiate. How much inconvenience they cause is another story. I have attended so many strikes that feel more like a 4th of July parade -- where people sing, chant, and NATURALLY eat. There's are always food trucks.

If you're not trying to get from here to there (the hell with the office), people form a type of solidarity. I've hitchhiked, ridden on the back of motor-scooters, biked and confined my projects to places I can walk. BUT = I cyber commute no matter where I am so I have a definite advantage.

The key point is the government is not going to cave over the pension reform. As an American, the idea of retiring at 62 sounds pretty good to me. France has the lowest retirement age in the EU. Germany's retirement age is 65 and it's being upped to 67.

Yes, the trains are a mess, canceled flights (although not long haul ones) cause havoc. The Eiffel Tower is closed today. If I had one day in Paris, I could be upset.

One thing I do want to weigh in over is the fact that CNN, France 24 and other media outlets can cause things to look worse than the reality.

As for the students weighing in - some are smart enough to have voiced they know life expectancy is much longer than it was when the pension system was established.

Strikes to worry about - dock strikes, truckers because of the movement of goods (e.g. food). Would my bet be this will be the last strike = no. Do I think there will be more days of disruption - yes!

My worries are more centered on France's economy, the Euro zone and the fact that too much bread is being pre-made. BUT, I would NOT live anyplace but Paris.

Please forgive me if I am sounding ditsier than usual. I am having some eye problems and if there aren't a zillion typos here, I would be shocked.



Honestly, while the strikes are a giant inconvenience if you're entering or leaving France, it is the media that dramatizes the situation subsequently wasting everyone's time. The metros run almost normally as do the buses, and the strikes simply attests to the fact that the French are still gung-ho about fighting for what they believe in. Of course, what these protesters want is unrealistic - unless you've been working since age 15, like my neighborhood baker, you've got 42 years of work ahead of you. The fact is, the French retire earlier than other EU countries and even those with late retirement are in the process of pension reform (like Germany and even the United States). Yes, it invariably garners an eye roll when one speaks of the proverbial strike but it's emblematic of their undying sense of solidarity and freedom of expression. I can only imagine what kind of disaster America would turn into if something like this were to take place - but life goes on and regardless of whether or not their demands are met or ignored, their energy will be redirected to another folly of society. It's just a question of when. So either we laugh and think to ourselves, well it could be a lot worse, or we ruin our own days by buying into the drama perpetuated by the media from all corners of the world. I choose the former!



Ashleigh
I've experienced many strikes over my years in France. I can definitely say that I have never agreed with the reasons for any of the strikes. I am also pretty sure that by inconveniencing me and the rest of the general public, you're not accomplishing much besides annoying people to the point where they no longer support your cause (if they did to begin with). That said, my reaction to strikes has been very different depending on who was striking. For example:

High school teacher strikes in 1998-99 => "Hell yeah, class is canceled!"

High school student strikes in 1998-99 => "Wow this protesting thing is pretty fun! Lycéens en colère, y'en a marre de cet'...What? my backpack is open? My wallet was stolen during this great moment of high school solidarity? F***ing, stupid, French students and their worthless strike! This would never have happened in Wisconsin!"

Garbage strike in Gare d'Austerlitz circa 2001 => "OMG the stench! This is unbearable, please give them whatever they want so they come back to work and pick up all this garbage! OMG...RAT!"

General strikes, RATP included, 2004 => "Man, I'm exhausted after walking for 1 1/2 hours to get to this final exam, I hope I can stay awake long enough to finish the test and walk all the way home! What? The final is postponed because no one showed up due to the strikes and I'm the only idiot who walked all the way to school?! F***ing fonctionnaires! You should all be fired, you lazy jerks! I would have aced that final,too!"



Margo
Indeed! it's like les grevistes are pissing off the wrong group: commuters, you know the people going to work... and paying taxes which fund retirement. Merci et vive la solidarité! Signing off, to start walking to work tomorrow morning.



Do I agree with the current strikes in France against pension reforms? No I don’t! Why? Well, I’m not a expert on French politics but my reasons are pretty basic. It’s because it’s the same old, same old, isn’t it? I mean, it’s the same people that are striking as for every other strike, whenever they want to moan about something all the rail workers go on strike bringing the country to a standstill don’t they? Not so long ago the same people were on strike because they were having their Charcoal Bonus taken away from them – how long has it been since any of the French trains ran on charcoal? Needless to say their strikes ended in a positive result so the precedent has been set and anyone in France that’s unhappy now just has to throw their toys out of the pram like an angry child.

Of course this isn’t the soul reason of my anti-pension-reform-strike sentiments. I believe that it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee in France. Retirement age here is one of the youngest in Europe and many other countries are also having to review pensionable age so it’s not as if France is alone. It’s time to face facts: with the extended life expectancy in France it’s just not realistic to expect to retire at 60 not to mention the fact that France is already crippled by debt and with all the baby boomers retiring now serious measures have to be taken to ensure that everyone will be able to retire.

Not to mention students! How many people do I know that are still students in France aged 28, 29 or even 30? I’m not talking about foreign students either or mature students, I’m talking about people who have never worked (it’s not that normal to get a student job here), never contributed to the system and are now demonstrating in the streets so that they get their pension? In my view if you have the luxury of a long further education which will generally enable you to make loads more dosh than someone with a “standard” education then isn’t it fair that you should work the appropriate number of years and not just expect to retire early?

Then you get the mugs like me who started work at 18, did a business degree whilst working, contribute heavily and for ages into the system with little benefits because of self employment status and who probably won’t get a pension anyway.

Whilst all of this is going on, other changes are being made to the French tax system and many people are completely ignorant to these changes. Middle class families are likely to be faced with higher tax bills due to the probable changes in the fiscal reductions for people that employ help at home such as a Nanny, cleaner or even after school tutoring. Many families take advantage of these fiscal advantages to employ someone thus creating legal jobs for those needing the cash and allowing them to contribute to the system all whilst saving on their tax bill. If this goes through it could cost the average family with children hundreds, if not thousands of Euros each year. Now, who’s in the streets demonstrating about that?


Sarkozy is correct in this case, the retirement age must be raised so that France can compete on the European and global playing field and in order to avoid bankruptcy and a ballooning deficit. Let's hope the government does not cave. Speaking personally - I need to board a flight from Paris to London tomorrow so that I can catch a flight back to NY. Fingers crossed that I will be able to get out. Tourism is huge business in France and constant interruptions of basic services also hurts this sector. Doni



Forest - @52martinis - http://52martinis.blogspot.com
I must live in my own little world, because I took the metro this morning and didn't even notice there was a strike so I might not be the best person to ask about this week's Feature Friday question.  I should probably be embarrassed about that!


Power to the People!

Strikes are a historic and enduring part of the French vernacular: they are the means via which the public express their opinion in this country. But who decides on how to govern France, the people or the government? A democratically elected government should be the answer, but when the elected government go back on what they promised during their electoral campaign (no reforms to retirement, in this case), it makes sense that the people are up in arms. I for one am impressed when I see a whole nation of politically engaged people, who take an active interest in their future and who mobilize themselves to get their argument heard. The fact that the student unions are also involved I find particularly impressive - as they rightly argue, raising the age of retirement would be likely to have a dramatic impact on unemployment and thus would directly affect their work prospects.

This strike is one of the reasons I love this country and am proud to call it home. If I miss my flight tomorrow because of it however, I might become slightly less impressed. Champagne socialist, moi?


Paul - @parispaul - www.parisinspired.wordpress.com
Everybody in the world has an equal right to strike, the French are just more equal than most. A prime example was the winter I saw the jobless "strike" here because their unemployment benefits didn't include a large enough Christmas bonus. As shocking as that may be, what really gets up my nose is that, on strike days, the Metros run regularly all morning to take me to work so I can fill the corporate till, but are few and far between in the evening when the time comes for me to get home to my family. It seems to be a fair trade Union would be more concerned about the employees' shoes than the CEOs' pockets. That said, all this is rather moot for me as regards the issue at hand because the only retiring I'll be doing in my foreseeable future is for the evening.



Living in Paris for only one year, I'm still trying to understand and accept the many 'French ways', ie, the culture of striking. I appreciate that the French take a stand on what they believe in, but is there no other way than to protest endlessly? Often at the inconvenience of the entire nation (and the many 'innocent' expats who would be very happy with 62 as a retirement age). Certainly this action will lead to discussions and eventual negotiations? (Or so my American optimism chooses to believe.)

With all this continual commuting chaos, thank God (and Delanoë) for the Vélib!



Cailin - @cailinash - http://awhitepicketfence.com/
I should preface by saying I wholly support freedom of speech, the right to strike and civil rights.  However, being a Canadian I must say that we hardly strike about anything.  If we do, the government legislates us back to work within 3-5 days.  I understand fighting for what is right & just, but I just feel that far too many people maybe affected by the strike. Again, this is me being a Canadian but if I were a steel worker or even a student I would first think about how I would affect others around me and how they function in their everyday lives.  Like will the single mom be able to make it to work on time or the elderly person who needs to visit a loved one via the RER?  Again, just my two cents.  Although, if Canadians were to strike like the French I'm positive a lot more things would be done in this county for the greater good.

@JeremyRibando Pension reform is inevitable in most developed nations - including France.


@ParisCosy Yes, but in my office,too much work for me! I agree with the strike!!! you know it's important to make strike, in France!!^^


@petitfranceblog Yay. I think it's just what the French do, need to stand strong against the gov't & always on top of workers' rights. In their DNA :)

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