Friday, 20 November 2015

One Week On

Having time to reflect is always good. It’s something I’ve been doing quite a lot of this week. Taking time to sit and think about what has happened and how we are going to cope is something I think everyone needs to do. One evaluates how they see themselves in light of catastrophic events like those we experienced last weekend. It could so easily have been any of us that were at that fateful concert which makes me ponder my own fatality. It may seem morose but the attacks have reminded me how fragile life is. Perspective is a wonderful thing. The attacks last weekend have shaken the whole city. A city that has had its personality shaped by those who have stood up for what they believe in, for freedom and equality against repressive regimes. Paris is a beacon for all free thinkers amongst us, a symbol of love, culture and the good times.
I have seen so many posts on Facebook and other social media saying that we should also be praying for Beirut etc. This is true. However it does not negate our mourning. Our sorrow is not to be compared with that of another city; neither is better nor worse than the other. All loss of life is tragic. Paris is a city where anyone can say they are a Parisian no matter their nationality, creed or race. I am proud to call myself a citizen of this great city, it is truly like no other and what befell us Friday night last week was apocryphal.

There is a French word that has become particularly apt for me this week: rassemblement. It means coming together; something Parisians have been doing since the attacks. The fortitude of the residents of such a city makes me glad to call it my home. Still trying to process what happened find solace in the amazing reactions of the Parisians. When I started this blog I set out to become a native of this my favourite city and now I truly feel like I belong here. These attacks have shaken me so much because I feel a part of the city like it is an organic part of me. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think how thankful I am that I live here and no terror attack can change that. 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paris Attacks 13th November

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. Following the attacks last night it is hard for any Parisian to carry on as normal today. I look out of my window at Notre Dame and I see less than a quarter of the normal thoroughfare that goes through there every day. I would like to thank all of the people that reached out to my friends and I last night – some of you I speak to everyday, others I haven’t seen it years. It is testament to human resilience that so many of you cared so much to ask if we were ok.
I have never been scared like I was last night. Running away from Les Halles shopping centre because we heard someone shout there was shooting inside is a memory that will never leave me. But I had a family friend point out to me that we should not let this taint our views on such a wonderful city. From the #porteouvertes last night to all of my friends rallying round to make sure each and every one of us was accounted for proves that in spite of it all we won’t let it affect us.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

Paris and Literature

Paris is a city of literature. It’s pretty difficult to be a French student and to not have read a book that is either completely set or partially set in the City of Light. In fact it is hard to think of any major writer in the 20th Century that didn’t either live in Paris at some point or visit it. I’m thinking Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Orwell… the list goes on. Before moving here I would search out books that involved this beloved city of mine in order to learn more about its character. I would like to share some of these books with you dear readers. Hopefully they will be new to you but if not I would like to say you have very good taste in novels.
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Termed the Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Paris, this has to be one of my all-time favourite books. In fact the name for this blog was taken from a line in this particular novel. If you are in need of a book that makes you laugh, cry and contemplate your own existence then this is for you. It follows an American girl called Sally Jay Gorce, who vows to go more native than the natives and live life to the extreme in Paris. You follow her on a journey of self-discovery with a few entertaining side-notes along the way. It was loosely based on the author’s own experiences in Paris which lead you to think what a magnificent time she must have had.
From A View To A Kill by Ian Fleming
It would be very lax of me to not include a James Bond story in this selection as many of you know I am a massive fan of Fleming’s writing. This short story of his bears no relation to the classic 80s film featuring Christopher Walken and Grace Jones however that is not to its detriment. Bond has to investigate the murder of a motorcycle dispatch rider which leads to much intrigue. In my humble opinion the James bond novels are so good because they are such a good example of post-war escapism that you can still feel yourself slipping into another world when you read them today.
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Now for a book set in Paris that is actually in French! Fellow students of ULIP will probably hate me for putting this one on my list as it is one of our studied texts, but hey I like it. Georges Duroy is just scraping by when he bumps into an old army pal who gives him a job on a newspaper where he uses his position (and affairs with his friends’ wives) to move up the social ladder. It is a truly very funny book with some really absurd moments that will leave you questioning why you thought turn of the century literature was dull! But please never watch the film with Robert Pattinson in as it doesn’t do the novel justice.
Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
I read this book very recently and I must admit it might be the best book I have read all year. Many of you may be familiar with the Inspector Maigret stories of which this is the first. I won’t spoil too much of the plot because it is just such a charming read that you need to go to Waterstone’s and buy it now but all I will say is that I may happen to love it so much because his office in the book could be one of the ones that I can see out of the window in my bedroom!

I hope that these recommendations of mine will inspire you to read more literary delights that involve such a poetic place as Paris. Novels set in any location are only truly good when the author knows that city inside out otherwise there is just no integrity to the piece.  All four of these certainly make you feel like you are there in the city with the characters at that point in time which I think is what good literature is all about. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Paris Uncovered: Part Three

In the third instalment of my recommendations for how to experience Paris in the most native way possible I tackle three neighbourhoods that are not my usual destinations for a cracking night out but they have some hidden gems that are well worth trying out.
7th Arrondissement
In my first year in Paris I lived half in the 15th and half in the 7th so I know the area pretty well indeed. It can be seen as quite a quiet area trust me it has more to do than just going up the Eiffel Tower. Da Rocco is an Italian deli that is a stone’s throw from uni which makes lunches of escalope Milanese or Bresaola and artichoke ciabattas far too tempting. This family run establishment at 119 Rue de Grenelle caters to the crowd that flock in for their working lunches from the embassies that surround it. But if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite not too far away at 47 Rue de Babylone is Coutume, which has to be in the top 5 coffee shops in Paris. It may be slightly hipster with conical flasks instead of water jugs on the tables and its medical diagrams on the walls but they serve one of the best Chai Lattes I have ever consumed.
8th Arrondissement
You can hardly get away from the constant bombardment of Christmas related paraphernalia around this time of year. Unfortunately, I’m just going to add to that! The Christmas markets that open up annually on the Champs-Elysees are some of the best you can go to. From ice-skating to drinking mulled wine, you can do it all. This year they are even having the actor, Jean Dujardin coming to switch on the lights.
9th Arrondissement
Paris is the fashion capital of the world so it is about time that I recommend a department store to you all. Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann is one of the best. The sublime window displays and the gorgeous clothes inside make this place a delightful location to wander around and gaze at lots of pretty things. The magpie in me certainly comes out when I walk through the jewellery counters which luckily are so out of my price range they are no danger to my student loan.  Also in the neighbourhood you can find one of the most entertaining bars in the city. Dirty Dick has already featured on my blog but I can’t help but mention it again. This ex-brothel has been transformed into a tiki bar in every hipster’s favourite area – South Pigalle. So get yourselves along to Rue Frochot and drown your sorrows in something that is on fire and very alcoholic.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


When my boyfriend sent me a link to Paris’ first ever Oktoberfest, I was more than willing to let him buy us tickets to go and check it out. What could be a better way to spend a Saturday night than to drink litres of beer at a traditional Bavarian drinking festival? Last night we attended the said event and I was not prepared for what would ensue.
Arriving slightly later than planned (might have been my fault…) we managed to find our table. We were right in front of the stage. We had a prime location to watch the crazy German band that had already started. Their repertoire consisted of cheesy English songs translated into German. Have you ever heard Cotton Eyed Joe sung in German? I have. It was wonderful. After we had order a selection of sausages and two litres of beer we were ready to enjoy the frivolities. From the other people on our table constantly wanting to clink glasses to the band making everyone down their drinks at least once every half hour it started to get rather rowdy. I even had to stand on the bench in order to see, which incidentally reminded me quite a lot of their uncomfortable counterparts I’m used to from Scout camps.

The start of the Bavarian CanCan certainly heralded the moment the evening started to get lary. There we were drinking enormous glasses of beer that I could hardly lift let alone drink and the band refusing to speak anything but German (that A Level came in handy, well slightly) it was a cacophony of loud music and drunken singing with a slight bit of absolute bewilderment. But I would recommend it to anyone even though it was strange to be sat in a massive marquee with 300 or so other people on a weird kind of industrial estate at the edge of Paris. So who’s up for booking a booth together next year? 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

An Ode to Blighty

A few weeks ago I returned to my native shores for a very well deserved break before I dive head first into my third and final year at university. From moving flats to starting a new job, this summer has been an eventful one but thoroughly enjoyable one. However, I am very much looking forward to going home. No one ever told me how massively draining being an ex-pat can be therefore dear readers I am going to share with you my symptoms for an ailment I have named Fake Foreigner Fatigue.
This condition can become present in a patient due to having to constantly be aware that you are not in a country where people speak your native language. Don’t get me wrong. I love speaking French. In fact I positively enjoy it some days (although not in oral classes, funny that). Sometimes though it can become terribly wearisome having to constantly plan out what you are going to say. I can see how easy it is for ex-pats just to fall into a little Anglophone bubble. Sometimes you just want to hear the comforting sounds of a fellow countryman/woman complaining about French bureaucracy.
When I’m in France I forget how much I love British people. Occasionally I will encounter them in the metro and give them directions. The British spirit is generally so courteous and warm that sometimes you can feel homesick just from hearing random slang that you recognise. I miss the way an Englishman will apologise for being 30 seconds late or the manner in which they tut at queue jumpers. Is there anything more satisfying than seeing a pair of travellers searching Paris for a decent cup of tea? I admire their honourable quest but I fear that it is practically impossible.  
I’m genuinely quite amazed that I have managed to live in a foreign country for just over two years. I thought my love of Double Deckers (the chocolate bars not the form of transport) and cheap drinks on a night out was too strong to hack it here for so long. However I think I appreciate home a lot more. I love nothing more than the drive back home from the airport or popping down to the beach with my sister to eat donuts on the seafront. But I also love the buzz of Paris. I’m sat in a café drinking divine coffee and looking out at some medieval ruins. Where could I get that at home?
To summarise, I love Britain. The rolling hills and dry humour of the United Kingdom could never be replicated anywhere else. But I love Paris. It is such a melting pot of cultures and languages it pleases my writer sensibilities far more than I should really admit. I will leave you with a question. Can you feel at home in two countries? Because I think I can.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Tale Of Two Cities

I’ve lived in Paris for just shy of two years now, which is an achievement I can tell you though not one I will ever be given a medal for. But it could have all been so different. Paris wasn’t my only choice for university, oh no. I could have gone to London to complete my formal education. Imagine that. Me as a moody Londoner, getting on the Tube and huffing at people while reading Metro. Recently I was in the old Smoke and I couldn’t help but compare the two cities.
Let us start by comparing the public transport networks. While the Tube predates the Metro by around 40 years that doesn’t mean it is any more sensible. Living in Paris for such a long time means that I am no stranger to using a topological map in order to navigate myself around a city and I thought I knew the London Underground relatively well turns out I don’t. Or at least that it’s a lot more mental than the French version (who would have thought it?) Where is the sense in having three different train lines running from the same platform? Even the catastrophe that is Merseyrail doesn’t do that. Luckily I managed to bump in some charming locals who managed to help me with my route. In Paris you can barely move sometimes for employees of the ever powerful RATP who can help guide you to your destination. Recently in a fit of effectiveness they even stationed people all along the RER C which had been temporarily closed for repairs.
London seems busier than Paris too. If we compare the Champs-Elysees and Oxford Street I can try to quantify this. Both are major shopping streets in two major capital cities. Oxford Street is much nicer and has a Topshop (a major plus in my mind). Whereas the Champs has fake beggars trying to scam you out of your hard earned cash as you wait in the queue to be allowed in Louis Vuitton just so you can go and stare at pretty things. However you can actually amble up the Champs-Elysees with some ease while gazing at the wondrous Arc De Triomphe, such pleasures cannot be enjoyed on Oxford Street as you get battered by permatanned girls clutching at their River Island bags.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy both cities immensely. I just happen to feel that Paris has a better quality of life. Alright, we might live in much smaller apartments and be surrounded by the French all of the time but everyone takes their time with things. Drinking wine isn’t just something you do on a Friday night after a long week at work; it is basically a human right on the continent. London is definitely more eclectic and diverse than Paris but I wouldn’t switch them for the world. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Paris Uncovered: Part Two

Whilst sat in my hot and stuffy apartment (because I’ve got the windows closed to keep out the mosquitoes) I started to think of other places I’d quite like to be, preferably places with very good air-con. Due to my new job I’ve been dashing around all over Paris which has given me inspiration to do my second instalment of my top places to go and visit when in Paris. This time I’m tackling the ever popular triumvirate of the 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements.
4th Arrondissement
With it being so unbearable hot in this fine city I have resorted to drastic measures. Yes, I went there. I’ve decided to recommend you the best ice cream parlour in Paris. Since 1954on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, the family have been making the most delicious cold substances known to man. I went on my birthday to see what they were made of and I was not disappointed. I opted for the pear sorbet while Mike went for the raspberry. Both were good but the judge (me) decided that the pear was the best. If I could afford to live on Ile Saint Louis I would move there in a heartbeat. Not only does it have magnificent ice cream, it is quaint beyond belief whilst being much quieter than its bigger counterpart the Ile de la Cite.
Not to be missed in the 4th is Place des Vosges. I spent a week working there as a showroom intern for Paris Fashion Week in February and I can tell you it is one of the nicest parks in Paris, which handily also has free WiFi.
5th Arrondissement
This is the best arrondissement going. What’s that? Did you just say “Kate, you only think that because you currently reside in that area!”? I might inhabit this particular quartier but that by no means influences my judgement. My new favourite bar happens to be in this arrondissement. Teddys is a name that suggests maybe an American influence but you’d be wrong in that assumption. In fact it is a lot simpler than that. It is just full of teddy bears. And pub carpet. And leopard print walls. What could be better than that? If you make it to Rue Thouin then try the cherry beer called Kasteel Rouge or anything that comes in a funky glass. This establishment is very relaxed and does tabs unlike a lot of typical French joints.
When you stumble back from the clutches of fruit flavoured, hops based liquids then stop at Chez Suzette. I spent a very enjoyable pancake day in here with my dearest sister, Pip. The crepes are incredible and you can get them to go. Also Rue de la Harpe happens to be around the corner from my flat so I am tempted by their classic French treats more often than I should admit.
6th Arrondissement
My recommendation for this area has had rave reviews, notably my father who termed it sleazy. Bar Dix is a ULIP institution. Well we haven’t quite got “les mates rates” yet but not through lack of trying. What more could you want from a sangria bar than Chic on the jukebox and quirky art students in the corner?! What’s more there is a downstairs which has precarious steps and an enormous mirror that lets you contemplate your drunkenness without having to brave the cramped toiler.

Hopefully these little gems can help you pass the summer well or to plan your next trip. Speaking of spending the summer well, I’m going to go and check out where I can explore in the next arrondissements. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

La Rive Gauche

I moved into a new flat quite recently. I’ve moved around Paris quite a lot since I have lived here. From all the way in the 15th where I had views of the Eiffel Tower every morning on my walk to uni to the delightful Ice Palace which was just up the road from Gare Saint Lazare and provided plenty of tales from the Mafia Landlady. However now I have really gone up in the world (not quite 7 floors up though, I’m done with that). We have moved to the wondrous 5th arrondissement. With views of Notre Dame and the best bookshop in Paris just down the road, how could one complain?
On my way to the post office today I was walking down Boulevard Saint Germain and I began to ponder on my favourite part of Paris. I decided that I couldn’t really narrow it down so I’ve settle on having the entire Left Bank as my number one Parisian spot. For those who don’t know the part of Paris that is south of the Seine is known colloquially as the Left Bank or La Rive Gauche because when you are on a boat on the Seine it is on your left side. Neat huh?
You wouldn’t think that two halves of one city could feel so different. The Right Bank is a little too busy and mildly sleazy for me. It may have an eclectic nightlife and vibrant personality but I find it much easier to wander through the streets of the Left Bank where I can pop my head in obscure art galleries and buy a cheeky crepe from the vendor around the corner from my flat. The LB is historically more intellectual and feels like the Paris people have written about for centuries. The wide boulevards and the perfectly manicured parks are littered with statues of famous philosophers. Dusty bookshops are ten a penny and it is the perfect place to sit with a book and an espresso outside a café.

There we have it. My reasons for loving my new area. I’m off to go and discuss the meaning of life with some beardy, red wine drinking student. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The SitCom

Paris is a crazy place. There is so much happening that is mildly entertaining but also quite infuriating. In order to combat the ever growing list of little annoyances that we come across in everyday life, my friends and I have come up with a little saying to help us through the mad, the bad and the downright weird – “That can go in the sitcom”.
Channel Four’s Fresh Meat is all very well but I have no idea why they decided to set it in Manchester and not Paris. From landlords giving you 24 hours to move out of your flat to shouting at Americans for not even trying to speak French in the supermarket, there are untold hilarities in this fair city to translate into a very funny and bittersweet comedy that is sure to set the world alight. It could become the next international phenomenon. But don’t steal it, this is my retirement fund I’m thinking of here.
I live life by the motto “Do it for the anecdote”. (Oh and “Everything or Nothing” but I must stay away from James Bond trivia here.) What’s the point in doing anything if it won’t make a good dinner party story? This may all sound a bit clichéd but seriously you can’t argue with it can you? I must admit I do like talking and if I can make people laugh at the same time by regaling them with tales of calamities I have lived through then even better. Wildly gesticulating whilst describing how you managed to move two people out of their flats in less than twelve hours is my kind of an evening, especially if I have glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc in my hand at the same time.

So dearest readers, all I ask of you is this – next time you say me ask me the question, “Kate, how has your week been?” and I shall start to (hopefully) delight you with tales of woe and tales of excitement. Until then I shall try and keep the juiciest of details to myself so I can note them down in my ideas for the Sitcom. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Paris Uncovered: Part One

I’m trying a new idea out. In order to spice up not only my life but the content of my blog I have decided to recommend at least one place in each arrondissement whether it is a bar, a restaurant, or a museum. I shall endeavor to share my favourite places to go whilst avoiding come clichés and telling you some local secrets.

For those who don’t know, Paris is organized in a spiral. The districts or arrondissement start in the very centre with the 1st and work there way all the way to the 20th on the outer reaches of the city. It is a wonderfully logical system by French standards but of course it does mimic one of their favourite foodstuffs – les escargots. So let’s start at the beginning…

1st Arrondissement

Many moons ago when I first moved to Paris I received an unusual message from my Mum to say that I needed to go to a certain address at a designated time in order to collect a little present she had arranged for me. Loving the new spontaneity in my life I was excited about the adventure. My destination was a branch of internationally renowned Pierre Herme’s patisserie empire where a bag of baked goods was waiting for me. From croissants to macarons, you can purchase a plethora of French delicacies. Head to 4 Rue Cambon to sample their culinary delights after a bit of culture in the Louvre.

2nd Arrondissement

As I was compiling the list of places I want to include in this guide to Paris I couldn’t stop writing down names of places that were in this particular arrondissement so I have thus decided that it must be my favourite of all the areas of the city. Firstly I would love to recommend Sapporo or any of the other Japanese restaurants of Rue Sainte-Anne. You can always tell a place is going to be good when it is absolutely packed full of locals and they all are. When deciding where to go and have some ramen you are spoilt for choice on this bustling little street because everywhere is fit to burst. The food is glorious and the atmosphere is one of satisfied delight, but it is worth a trip to the one supermarket on the street. K-Mart is my number one place to get dumplings and sticky rice for those nights were only some Asian comfort food will do.
If delicious food wasn’t enough for you then Rue Saint-Sauveur in the same arrondissement has some of the best bars in France. Experimental Cocktail Club has to be one of my favourite drinking spots. It is expensive but it is worth it. The décor is partway between a rustic French barn and a Pigalle brothel which adds to the charm of the ever helpful bar staff.
As if that wasn’t enough it is worth a trip to the taxidermy shop on Rue d’Aboukir where they have incredible displays of animals from across the globe.

3rd Arrondissement

A bit of light relief might be needed after all of that eating and boozing and what better way to unwind than a bit of shopping? Merci has an eclectic mix of items. From clothing to homeware you can get pretty much anything at this store. Browse the stationary whilst being shocked at some of the price tags before settling down in either of the two cafes before making an impulse purchase at the till.

So there we have it, my brief guide to the first three arrondissements in Paris. Now it’s time for me to go and explore the next few! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Wandering Through The Streets Of The City

I bought a rucksack. Not a very expensive one. Not a very trendy one. But I absolutely love it. This recent purchase has prompted me to start getting out of the flat and exploring a little bit more. Every day for about the last week I’ve tried to go for a walk somewhere new. I’m very pro-walking as opposed to cycling (because I can’t) or taking public transport (because well people). You see a lot more things when you’re walking and you can change your mind as to your destination. Paris has made me go with the flow a lot. Especially recently when life throws up little difficulties.
Taking some time to just have a think and to burn off some nervous energy is very healthy for everyone to do from time to time. Paris is a perfect place to do this as well. It is easy to navigate. Every road has a café where you can stop off for a cheeky aperitif. Plus the scenery is to die for. From wide open spaces in the numerous parks to tranquil calm by the river, you can have it all. Admittedly there are lots of tourists who can be quite slow walkers and tend to get in the way but even they can provide some entertainment.
This afternoon I popped a bottle of water and my book in my rucksack with no knowledge of where I was going to go and just set off out the front door. It’s incredibly liberating to just aimlessly wander particularly now. It is only a matter of months before I start my final year of university. The real world outside of education is certainly starting to seem quite close now so making the most of hardly any commitments is my priority now.

Walking is free exercise too, as my Dad would say. You don’t have to pay to go for a walk. Being out in the fresh air is better than being sat in bed all day. I’ve been trying to soak up some Vitamin D this week as everyone feels better with a tan don’t they? With my sunglasses on and music in my ears I feel invincible. There is no greater feeling than the freedom you get from doing what you want when you want. It doesn’t matter where you go, so just bung some comfy shoes on and a book in your bag and discover somewhere new. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Les Provinces

Uni has finished. I’m in a new flat (well the one just above my old one but that’s a whole other story). I’m currently looking for jobs. So as the real world beckons me I’ve taken some time out on Paris to try and run away from the city. There are things that are truly wonderful about living in a big city. Decent public transport, varied nightlife and cosmopolitan atmosphere to name just a few advantages. But sometimes it is quite healthy to get away from the over-priced pints and the smoggy pollution.
France has a truly excellent rail network. I can’t fault them in this respect. Reasonably priced and clean trains are what the UK desperately needs. I’ve never even seen a replacement bus here. Recently I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s house and gardens with my Gran and in a shocking display of common-sense there was a shuttle bus from the train station to the visitor centre the likes of which you’d never see in the UK. Shame however that this didn’t happen when I visited Fontainebleau with my Dad this last weekend. We decided that the best way to get from the train station to the boulders we were going to climb would be to take a taxi. Easier said than done. I rang the number the tourist information centre had given me to have the man at the end of the phone hang up on me after saying he had never heard of such a place. After a second time of trying he said there would be a taxi ready in 45 minutes. He must not have like my Parisian accent. Instead we exploited France’s rail network again and go back to the next stop where we walked to our new destination.
But after the distinct hassle/non-hassle in both situations I had a delightful time pootling around nice gardens and peaceful forests. Watching the wildlife and sitting in the sun is just what everyone needs after a few weeks of intense stress. I’d recommend it to everyone to reorder their lives and to get themselves feeling more human.

 Also the bonus of being outside a capital city is that everything is cheaper - 50 cents for a bottle of water! It really does highlight the daylight robbery that goes on in my beloved metropole. Despite the Parisians snooty attitudes to les provinces I’d implore you all to visit the surrounding areas to this delightful city. It is hard to remember sometimes that France isn’t just Paris and harder still to remember that it’s really very easy to take a day trip away from the city.     

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Time is an Illusion. Lunchtime Doubly So.

No dear readers I have not been frequenting the Restaurant at the End Of The Universe but I have decided to let you into the much more exciting world of Parisian restaurants and eateries. As a student I don’t get to eat out much as I am usually sat at home with a cup of tea and half a kilo of pasta trying to power through some revision or essay work, well either that or catching up on Game Of Thrones.
Since my time in this gastronomic city I have been lucky enough to visit some delightful places to partake in culinary pleasures. French food is often known as the best in the world and I can confirm that 90% of the time it is. You’d think that you could never get a Croque Monsieur wrong but apparently you can. In my not so humble opinion the best place for French food is Chartier - a traditional restaurant that has bene going since the Belle Epoque and doesn’t seem to be shutting down any time soon. If you want to get a three course meal of classic cuisine for 15€ then this is the place for you.
The Parisian waiter is usually known to be surly but oh no, not in some of the establishments I have frequented. Some have been positively jovial! From the man at Chartier who called me Princess Kate after the name I happen to share with the Duchess of Cambridge to the cheery gentlemen who worked in a restaurant around the corner from a hotel my parents stayed it who found it to be extraordinary that I could speak French, I would say that all you have to do with a Parisian waiter to get them on your side and to not spit in your moules frites is to flirt with them.  It may seem backward or degrading but a flutter of the eyelashes and a slight giggle at their jokes can go a long way and who knows you might even get free stuff! Who can say no to perks like that?
But it shouldn’t just be French food you eat in this the most culinary city. A little motto Mum and I coined when we first came to visit my old flat is “When in Paris, Eat Tapas” after finding a charming place called La Bodega on Rue Cambronne that I have visited around half a dozen times since that first visit. Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, Israeli and Japanese are just some of the styles of cuisine that you can sample in Paris, so why bother eating steak all the time when there’s falafel or katsu curry around the corner?
Something I never tire of is French supermarkets. Now this might seem quite sad and tragic but seeing half a cow’s tongue in a plastic box just next to the chicken breasts never fails to spark my excitement. The exoticism of continental food outlets always manages to make me salivate at what kinds of things I can delight my taste buds with. And on that note, what’s in the fridge?......

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Education, Education, Education.

Many moons ago I sat some rather stressful and painful exams known to all as A-Levels. Now many language students are vexed by the kinds of stuff they have to learn as part of their courses when at school, but I can tell you some of these things can be very important believe it or not! I’m going to outline in this post exactly what I’m glad I learnt in Sixth Form and the vocab I wish I had known when I moved to Paris.
·         The Environment – when I was sitting my exams at the end of my school career no fewer than three out of my four subjects contained modules in the Environment. I was sick to death of saving the planet and renewable energy sources. Never wanted to hear about them ever again. But dear reader I am glad that I learnt all of those lists of words for it has helped me in this my adult life. Like the English love talking about the weather, the Parisians love talking about pollution. “Paris has worse smog that Beijing didn’t you know?!” and “I just need some fresh country air in my lungs” are not phrases that are unfamiliar to me when conversing with the natives. So thank you AQA, you have done me a massive favour for which I will be ever grateful for.
·         Plumbing – French plumbing is an interesting topic. In my old apartment it was certainly a thought-provoking topic due to the toilet that was so loud it could wake up even the most comatosed teenager. I wish I had known more about what the word for a block drain was or “How do I improve the pressure on the shower?” The main parties talk about Education reform a lot and all of them have passed over a change in the languages syllabuses. I urge them to reconsider and to implement more classes in which languages students learn more practical sentences which they can use in their travels around the world.
·         The Imperative – Those who haven’t had as many grammar lessons as me might be unaware as to what this term means, and for that I am quite jealous. It is the form of the verb you use when you are commanding someone to do something. Pretty useful eh?! After many, many lessons on this at GCSE I am so glad I know how to use it. It’s perfect for telling creepy men to “Get lost” and children to “Tidy their bedrooms”. So I would like to thank both of my secondary school French teachers for this particular nugget of grammatical knowledge. I am massively appreciative.
·         Meat and Fish – I love food. This may be evident to anyone who follows me on Twitter. I’m constantly asking for people to bring me different culinary delights, but I quite like cooking myself and not just people waiting on me hand and foot with mini doughnuts. Now most people can tackle a French menu, but can they tackle a French supermarket fish counter? I thought I could. Turns out I can’t really. Last time I tried to buy something from one I just pointed to whatever looked like a white fish because I had no clue as to what it was. Ended up buying a lovely piece of hake which was a pleasant surprise. I think school children should be given practical oral exams in dealing with surly supermarket workers and having to buy a shoulder of lamb as well as extracting the mother’s recipe for oeuf en cocotte from the man behind the counter.

There we have it. My shortlist of the things I had wished I had learnt at school and the ones I’m thankful I did. For all of you out there studying for exams that you feel are pointless, never fear they may feel like that now but I can assure you that snippets will be amazingly useful in the future. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Problems Of An Ex-Pat

I’ve been living in France now for just over 19 months and as what you might term an “ex-pat” I have encountered a few problems. Many people have a dream of living in a different country and that doesn’t mean they don’t love their home nation any less just that they wish to go and sample somewhere else’s culture. After recently writing a piece for the lovely people at the Franco British Chamber of Commerce and Industry about why I moved to Paris in the first place I started thinking about the downsides of being a foreigner abroad.
1.       Lack of Bacon – Not much needs to be said about this as all I have to say is the lack of this food of the Gods is in limited stock on the continent which is bad news for hangovers and quick dinners.
2.       Absence of Family/Friends – Even though there isn’t a massive time difference between France and Blighty but it does impact on when you can call up your nearest and dearest for a chinwag or for moral support.
3.       French TV shows – I don’t ask for much from a country but one thing I do require is a decent Masterchef-a-like programme of which France has nothing to offer. Finding sneaky ways to watch John and Greg eating strange taste sensations is just something you have to put up with as a Brit abroad who is in need of some cheeky, light-hearted entertainment.
4.       The Weather – Out in Liverpool today, I was commenting on the phenomenon that is sunshine in the UK. As soon as the rays of dawn grace our tired morning eyes we decide to don a pair of shorts and make the most of it. This eternal optimism just doesn’t happen on the continent. Partly because they get good weather most of the time but also because they can be reet miserable. I’d bet you any money that there is a Parisian still in a winter coat and knee high boats walking down Rue de Rivoli at this very moment.

So there you have it. My list of the problems one faces as an ex-pat in the Hexagon. It is by no means exhaustive however it certainly covers most of the main areas that we roast beef lovers have to deal with when living in the land of frog’s legs. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


It is the last week of term here at ULIP and across the UK universities are breaking up for Easter, which is also known in the academic calendar as the “quick I need to revise everything I’ve ever known” time. As a form of slight procrastination I have decided to explain a medical phenomenon that I have diagnosed in the student body with my wealth of medical knowledge and expertise in late night writing essays while simultaneously packing a suitcase for my return to Great Britain’s wondrous shores. You may only have a few of the symptoms they are as follows –
1.       Flasks filled to the brim with steaming hot black coffee clamped in the hands of tired looking students possibly with scraps of paper in the other hand and a crazed look on their faces muttering under their breath phrases like “no I can’t use the subjunctive there” or “Is this really a true representation of post-colonial history?
2.       Long conversations between friends on Twitter during lectures asking the really deep and meaningful questions like “What are we even doing here?” and “What is life?” Not necessarily existential crises maybe just confusion about French dialects.
3.       People huddled over their laptops in the library sometimes shouting things at them (definitely never done that one in the quiet area…) surrounded with piles of books, half of which are philosophy based which make onlookers question whether they are there for an actual purpose or just to make the crazed essay writer look/feel really intelligent.
4.       Meaningless arguments about who had the last waffle from the vending machine because no one can be bothered with real food and tensions are so high due to a mixture of having seen these people constantly for nigh on ten weeks and excessive stomach rumblings.
5.       The printer is constantly being used by people printing off Boarding Passes and Eurostar tickets like it will make the day they are going home come quicker.
So some of these might be slightly ULIP orientated but you get the message dear reader, at least I hope you do. If you see a student in the next week or two and you think they look a little under the weather or like they need a decent meal in them, they probably do. Take them to the local KFC/Falafel shop/Michelin star restaurant and treat them in this, their time of need.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

I Got All My Sisters and Me

On Friday night I went to go and meet a friend for a quiet drink. We’d agreed to meet in Pigalle which is around a 15 minute walk from my flat so I decided because the weather has been truly glorious in Paris recently that I would like to have a leisurely stroll down the boulevard. Now since moving to Paris I have become very used to comments in the street from men trying to get my attention. It hasn’t happened to me for a few months so I was slightly taken aback when two boys of a similar age to myself tried to get my attention by shouting things at me. In the wake of hundreds of demonstrations on Sunday for International Women’s Day I pondered about this kind of scenario which is so prevalent in some many major cities not just Paris. It truly seems shocking to me that I can’t walk to meet a friend without some kind of salacious remark being thrown at me.
I have grown up thinking that a woman can do anything she wants because I have never been told the opposite. Strong female role models in my life have proved to me that you can be successful in what you do as well as a wife or a mother. Or you can choose to be any of them. A common misconception of feminism is that it hates housewives, but this is contradictory to the concept of equality that is a core principal of women’s rights. To quote Beyonce “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In my brief time on this planet I have encountered many people, incidentally including women, who have no idea that this is the fundamental idea behind feminism.
As someone who is deeply excited by politics I find it apocryphal that more women don’t exercise their right to vote. The women who fought and died for our rights deserve us to exercise those rights and to strive for a better world where I don’t get catcalled for walking down the street or where we still have to have a day dedicated to women’s rights. Evoking the French libertarian symbol of Marianne I urge everyone, not just fellow females, to make every effort to improve life for women not just in our own countries and societies but those across the world.

 *jumps off her high horse* 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Film, Cinema and A Comfy Chair

I started off this year by reading Ayoade on Ayoade – A Cinematic Odyssey. I’m not one to usually succumb to a book because it has “celebrity status” but this particular tome interested me. I pretty much happiest when I’ve got my nose in a good book or when I’m curled up watching a good film. Now a book about film certainly has got me interested. But the book of which I speak is not the subject for this particular post. Instead I’ve been pondering about film.
I’ll watch any kind of film. Action. Comedy. Romance. Thriller. I like it all. Well pretty much all of it. Most people have this idea of university students chained to their laptops watching Netflix for entire weekends without seeing daylight. Now this is pretty much the truth. At least I do a fair bit of binge-watching whole series of TV shows for hours on end. This might seem like a waste when I live in such a culturally rich and beautiful city but I’ll tell you why I like it and more importantly why it isn’t such a waste of time.
There is something about film as a medium that can speak to you on a very direct level. Whether you just go and see a film for the sheer enjoyment of a good plot and the ability to just switch off for a few hours. Or you go and see a film to learn more about yourself or the world we live in. Maybe even all three rolled into one epic. You are entitled to that. Last year I went to the cinema on my own a few times. This seems really lonely and needy but I can promise you it was nothing of the sort. Half the time I find it really hard to find someone to watch a film with who isn’t just going because they have nothing else to do and who feels like they ought to keep you company. If you sneak in a cheeky beer or three and a few snacks, curl up on the seats and let yourself be immersed in the action, I can assure you there is no better feeling.
In my coming-of-age/existential/Parisian crisis that I’ve been having for some time now it reassures me to watch certain films that add something to my life. Oscar winner Birdman would be a perfect example of this. Despite seeing it in the UK I felt something in it resonate with my French life. The inner turmoil of authenticity and that nagging feeling at the back of your mind telling you what is right and wrong struck a real cord with me. The next film I watched after that was Chef. Sat amongst my delightful fellow Easyjet passengers I was sucked into the world of cooking and the feeling of making a breakdown something positive. For a recent seminar I had to watch Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (who says Arts degrees are all reading?!) Now despite my hatred of this film I couldn’t help but be seduced by the idea of walking around Paris at night and falling back in love with the true romance of the place (and not that depicted in the film).

So I call you dear reader, if tomorrow night you have no plans. No one to see. Nothing to do. Watch a film. Call a friend and watch it together in wondrous spontaneity. Or curl up with your laptop and have a big belly laugh by yourself. You will find out more about yourselves. I promise you that. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

50 Shades of Bad Dialogue

I’m stood in a queue on the Champs-Elysées waiting for a film. The line is snaking all the way down the road further than we can see without moving and losing our space in the queue. Can you guess the gender of most of the members of this line? Well, if you can’t then I had better tell you. It was mostly groups of women aged 18-30. What were we all going to see? The 50 Shades of Grey film.
As someone who hasn’t read the books I was intrigued to see whether all that I had heard was true. Would it really be sex scenes every five minutes? Was it poorly written? Would I be hooked by the characters and the plot? I can answer that briefly. No, Yes, No. There was not as much sex as anticipated. Obviously there was a bit and I wouldn’t advise small children to go and watch it but it was by no means all the time as I had imagined it might be. The dialogue is shocking. My lasting impression is that I would love to go through it with a red pen and re-write at least 50% of the interactions between the characters. The jittery, forced words said by people who are meant to be in love with each other just didn’t feel natural but in fairness the actors did do the best with what they were given. I’m by no means hooked by the franchise but it does throw up interesting questions for me.
From what I’ve read around the subject it is clear to see that there are scenes of abuse throughout the books, something we don’t see in the film. The representation of women in the film/books also makes my skin crawl slightly. As someone who has been brought up to know that women are not commodities and can do anything they want to it makes me uncomfortable to see the main female character treated like an object when people applaud the series for liberating women’s sexual freedom. It feels like this is some kind of oxymoron to me.

If you like the books and the film then that is absolutely your right. But just take a moment and think about them. Would you like to be in a relationship that is so volatile? I certainly wouldn’t. On this the most “romantic” of days I think a point of reflection about what women expect from society is important. Don’t just brush this off as “only a film” because that is like saying The Communist Manifesto and The Satanic Verses were “just books”. Any form of literature is propaganda whether it is mummy porn or political ideologies and it is our right to criticise either in a fair and balanced matter. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Pleasures Of Wandering Alone

Now that I live with people I don’t spend as much time completely by myself. It has been quiet reassuring to know that there is someone in the next room if the worst may happen like a burglar comes and steals my valuables (ginger biscuits and my Sean Connery poster), or if like the other day the electricity goes and you can’t find the fuse box to flick the switch (we found it eventually thank goodness – turns out it was in my room which is a little awkward).
But last week I spent a lovely afternoon just wandering around Paris taking it all in. After having a lovely “working” lunch with friends where we mostly talked about how much we love our lecturer and not about our group presentation, I had a gander around my favourite part of Paris – the Marais.
If you take a bit of time and just go where the crowd takes you occasionally then you can discover lovely little gems. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Marais but it is one of the areas in Paris that has all sorts of concealed parks and little windy roads that take you to independent cafes and antique bookshops. When you’re in somewhere so beautiful you should go and try and find the hidden gems. With Valentine’s Day coming up it makes me think that this is the romantic side of Paris, not the standard selfie by the Eiffel Tower but finding the place that does the best falafel and making friends with waiters.
My walk on Friday encouraged me to take some time and clear my head. It is easy to get complaisant in this day and age to take things for granted. My advice is to put on some comfy shoes and walk until you can’t stand up anymore and your head is full of marvellous places and people.
Oh and for your information the best place for falafel is L’As Du Falafel on Rue des Roisiers and don’t let anyone tell you any different. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Great Expectations

I was sat in my History lecture today and we were discussing the representation of Paris in Woody Allen’s film Midnight In Paris (incidentally I can’t stand the film – I blame you Owen Wilson) and I was thinking about what I thought Paris was going to be like when I moved here.
I seem to remember thinking I was going to be going to lots of galleries and sitting in bars having deep meaningful conversations with dark, handsome strangers who were painters or sculptors. I’ve been to a few galleries but no such luck on the handsome strangers’ front. It’s weird the impression that everyone has of Paris and its creative soul. In the imaginations of most it smells of cigarettes and has this ethereal presence that can’t help but enchant every visitor. There is the classic quote from Hemmingway that “if you are lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast” and I think that is what I expected of Paris.
The point of this blog was always to document my travels around the city and what jackanapes I got up to here but I don’t think I envisaged the extent to which I think the city has changed me.  I took the title of this blog from a book I read about Paris. The Dud Avocado is about an American girl who moves to Paris and aims to go more native than the natives. She is the mistress of a civil servant, she ends up as an extra on a film in Biarritz in a bid to become an actress, she loses her passport and declares herself a citizen of the world but the main thing she does is that she finds her true self in Paris. It might seem a bit corny but I think it’s the perfect place to do just that. I haven’t quite gone to the extent that the character in The Dud Avocado goes to but I think I’ve managed to push my boundaries here and challenge myself.
I’m not sure when exactly it was that I started feeling comfortable here but I’d say it was in the last 10 months or so. The architecture, the language and the people themselves were all things I felt I had to get to grips with. The architecture must seem like such a weird thing to say but I think I felt when I first moved here like I had to fit in with the city around me and that included looking appropriate in the setting. When I used to live by the Eiffel Tower I’d always have this monument staring down at me watching my every move when I walked out of my front door in the morning. Eventually I got used to it, but it took a while I can tell you. Now I keep getting asked whether I’m fluent in French yet to which my answer is not really. I mean I’m so much better than I used to be and I think a lot less about what I’m going to say and it all comes a bit more naturally. I just don’t feel like I’m quite there yet, maybe it is just that I haven’t fully grasped all the French tenses yet but hopefully soon that will happen. Parisians get a hard rep for being a little bit frosty which is true to a certain extent but if you try with them they’ll love you forever. When my family came to visit in the summer we went to this restaurant/bar on Rue Cler for Happy Hour pretty much every day for their St Germain liqueur cocktail. The restaurant was staffed by your typical Parisian waiters – quite cocky but essentially lovely. They could tell we were English from a mile off but as soon as I started chatting to them in French they absolutely loved us and came over to talk pretty much every time we went there.

I expected to be a lot more intimidated of Paris than I ended up being and for that I’m so glad. I’d say I still have some expectations of the city but that I need to go out and make them happen. Maybe soon I shall meet my tall, dark, handsome stranger in the next bar? Paris has taught me to go out and look for that next opportunity and to embrace what happens to you. Go with the flow it might just work out for the best. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo

Today in Paris something shocking has happened. One of the biggest shootings of the century was down to a satirical magazine. Journalists and cartoonists were the target of this act of terrorism. It shocks me that in this modern age freedom of expression has been attacked in this way. France is a country that fought for its freedoms and is a country that is founded on freedom. You can’t turn a corner in Paris without seeing a building inscribed with the words “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” so you could be forgiven for assuming that an act like this would never be able to take place given this national ideal. Living in Paris, you hear many people complain about the various demonstrations and protests because they’ve disturbed the daily commute or you can’t cross the river because there is a march taking place. But I think it’s massively important that people can express their views in a peaceful and lawful manner. The attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is there to shock journalists and cartoonists into silence. As an aspiring writer and journalist I have been compelled to express my views on this subject. Freedom of debate and expression in the media is vital to a functioning society. I heard something that I thought was very poignant in relation to press regulation – “Don’t ban it, just don’t buy it”. I understand how the cartoons produced by the weekly satirical magazine might have been found offensive but if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Even better, if you really want to express your opinions then a peaceful protest is the way forward. There is a man outside the metro stop by uni who really doesn’t seem to like Francois Hollande which is his right. He stands there nearly every single day with his homemade signs expressing his political right to protest. If only more people were like him and could act in lawful ways to defend their rights. We must not let this subdue the press when actually these are the kinds of ideas they, in my opinion, should be challenging and writing about and not the kind of press that simply prints trashy stories about celebrities just because they sell better.

My thoughts are with the families of those killed and with Paris as a city mourns this sad loss. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Late Night Thoughts

So I got asked the other night if I liked Paris or not and this got me thinking about what it is I actually like about possibly one of the most written about cities in the world. There are so many clichéd reasons to love the city of Light and they’re the reasons people visit on their romantic breaks. But I think the residents of the capital have different reasons why they enjoy their city. I’ve previously described my admiration and enjoyment of the novel Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert hence this apology for yet again mentioning it. There is a great part in the book where see talks about living in Rome and she talks about how living somewhere is different to visiting it. Some things are just different when you are there living them and you tend to appreciate different aspects of the place when it is a part of your daily life. Thus I’ve compiled a list of things about Paris that are better when you live there than when you’re spending a weekend there.
·         Baguettes – the quintessential French foodstuff. They just aren’t the same when they are fresh out of the oven and dipped in baked Camembert. You don’t get to savour these as much as the locals do when you are staying in a hotel as not many are fitted out with a cheeky oven to bake your own cheese (on a side note neither is my flat, disappointingly).
·         The museums – I love a gallery. But I don’t think I really started liking them until I got to Paris. I’m not really sure what the reason for that is, maybe it’s something to do with trying to make the most of everything while I’m there. I think that you don’t really get the benefit of all the museums and art galleries when you visit for a holiday. You spend all this time shuffling round behind the swathes of tourists on guided tours so you don’t get to savour in the art. The Louvre is so much more magical at half nine on a Thursday evening – the time when your standard tourist digs into their generic chocolate mousse in an “authentic” restaurant complete with dodgy service.
·         The Seine – Alright it’s a bit smelly and a rather attractive shade of brown, but there isn’t much better than grabbing a pack of beers in the summer and taking them down to Ile De La Cîté and having a drinking and a gossip with mates as the sun goes down, even despite the occasional rodent!

I’m rather looking forward to going back to Paris this Friday after spending the holidays at home. Hopefully I’ll be able to add a few more things to this list after finishing my second term of my second year at uni. I know I made the best decision when I clicked that button to apply to ULIP, so hopefully more crazy stories are to come along with maybe a bit of work thrown in.