Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Balance Ton Porc

Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a dear, dear friend who was back in town.  Over drinks and nibblies, she expressed surprise at having forgotten about the overt cat-calling that goes on in Paris.  Many times, she'd just been sitting at a café, minding her own business, only to be interrupted by one or more men.  We laughed about the sheer balls of these men, and then I started regaling them with the"return of the gym bise-r", whom I had not seen for a few months.  

At the end of my story however, she reframed it in a way that I had never thought of before.  She pointed out that there was a guy who was repeatedly making me uncomfortable on a weekly basis, so much so that I had actually changed my work-out schedule to avoid him, instead of confronting him, or bringing it up to management.  What really got me though is when she brought up that I might not be the only one dealing with this guy.  What if he was doing this to a different woman every day, and we were all collectively just de-dramatizing it or not wanting to make a fuss?  I mean, that's the message that we keep hearing over and over again on the news - that the women thought they were the only one or that they were somehow responsible in some way, so they didn't speak up.

This whole conversation has occupied my thoughts quite a bit lately, especially as for the past few weeks I had been saying that I had been 'lucky' enough to not have my own #MeToo story to share. I mean sure, I run into enormous amounts of sexism in my line of work, but not sexual harassment.  But now I'm thinking about all the subtle ways that I modify my behavior to avoid being in those kinds of situations.  I take self-defense classes.  I don't go to certain neighborhoods at night. I pay attention to what I wear when I go out without C. I cross the street if I see an aggressive-looking man walking towards me. I enter the most-populated metro cars at night.  I take an uber so that someone will be able to trace me if I disappear.   I've come to realize that these are all things that I've been doing unconsciously - it's only now after discussion that I realize that no, it's not normal that women have to do these sorts of things on a daily basis.

On the flip side, I heard a really good counter-argument to the "women are asking for it by how the dress/look/act" line.  If someone's home gets robbed, you would never say to them "Well, you were really asking for it by having such a nice house.  I mean, with your lawn trimmed so nicely and all those flowers and fancy decorations - you really can't blame someone for breaking in".  Or "Well what did you expect having such a nice car?  Leather seats, all the options, fancy rims....your car was just begging to be stolen".   And therein lies the irony - we would never say that to someone about their things, but yet many people wouldn't think twice about making such statements about a woman's body.

Not that I have any magical solutions.  But maybe my girlfriend was right in that it starts with each one of us calling out the small incidents we see around us, instead of sweeping them under the rug, making a joke about it, or somehow thinking it was our fault.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

#parismaville

There was an interesting study released recently on the inhabitants of Paris, and I thought I'd share a few facts:
  • 53% of city dwellers are Parisiennes
  • 1/3 of the city is aged between 20 & 39 (vs a national average of 24%)
  • There are 325,000 foreigners coming from 176 countries
  • People marry more in Paris than elsewhere in France 
  • 18% of marriages are for people of the same sex (vs 3% elsewhere)
  • This one surprises me since having children in this city seems to be such a pain, but Parisians have more kids than the rest of the French - 12.8 kids per 100,000 vs 11.8 in the rest of the country
  • The employment rate is slightly higher here - 77% vs 74%
  • And conversely, unemployment is lower - 7.8% vs 9.7%
  • Only 10% of the intra-muros population uses a car to get around. 
  • 29% of Parisians volunteer (vs 25% nationally)
The top three things Parisians love about their city:
  1. The pure beauty of Paris
  2. The diversity of activities
  3. The public transport
The top three activities Parisians love to do:
  1. Stroll the streets
  2. Grab a drink in a café
  3. Exercise outdoors
The top three things Parisians dislike about Paris:
  1. The cost of rent
  2. Rudeness
  3. Pollution
My feelings for Paris were definitely mixed before I moved here, but this city has been great to me and you can now count me among the 93% of Parisians who love it!

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wanderlust

I ended up unexpectedly going back to the US at the beginning of the month for work, and flights to MN were horrendously expensive, so I decided to swing by NYC on the way back to lower the cost and see my BFF.  I was exhausted after two jam-packed weeks, and I didn't really want to do the typical touristy stuff, so I checked out the 'what's on in NYC' page and came across two unique events. 

The first one was a picnic in Central Park organized by the Breton-NYC association (my secret goal is to get my BFF to meet a French guy so that she comes back to France regularly).  Unfortunately the picnic was a bust - everyone already knew each other and they weren't interested in mingling with new folks.  Sidebar- there was no alcohol!  How can Bretons have a non-alcoholic picnic?!  It blows my mind. We did end up running into an American friend from my Bretagne days though, so that was a random coincidence, and it was fun to meet her (Breton) husband and their baby.

The second event was a 'Mindful Triatholon' organized by Wanderlust.  It was a 5K, 60 minutes of meditation, and then 30 minutes of meditation. It was around $40 to participate in the whole thing, but you could also attend just the yoga and meditation parts for free, which is what we did. It was a fantastic event, and because they were trying to break the Guinness World Record for Partner Yoga, we even got a free t-shirt! 

The sponsor booths were also amazing - I've never been to an event with so many great free samples. We got free kombucha, free natural drinks, tons of different energy/health bars, a free veggie burger, free (Samsung-sponsored lol) fresh coconuts, vegan yogurt, etc. The list went on and on, and I was really happy to stock up on some healthy snacks for the plane ride home. 

On top of all of that, there were some bonus activities that were normally only for people who had a paid ticket, but you could show up last minute and get on a wait list to get a free spot, which is how I ended up trying aerial yoga for the first time.

It was such a great day, with a great atmosphere - and I saw online that they are also doing it in various cities around the world, so I wanted to share the love.  This weekend, events will be held in London, Adelaide, Tampa and Washington, DC, and the following weekend, they will be in Philly, Milan and Detroit.  So if you like yoga and that sort of thing, check out their website here to see if they'll be holding an event near you!

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday musings

As I was walking to the gym this morning, I started thinking for some reason about my maternal grandmother.  She immigrated to the US from Finland in her early 20's and lived on a farm in a Finnish community her whole life, so she still has a very thick accent and never really learned to speak English fluently.

We have all always considered her to be your typical sweet little old grandma.  She is so loving and never wants anyone to fight or have any sort of conflict.  But I've never really considered until now if that is really her *true* personality.  So many of us expats here in France lament about never being truly ourselves in French - we say aren't as funny, outgoing, deep, expressive, etc - and it occurred to me all of the sudden that she has likely felt the same over the past nearly 70 years in the US.  Unfortunately though I don't think her English is good enough to understand me if I tried to bring it up....and my Finnish skills have long gone by the wayside after so many years in France.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Free boat cruise on your birthday!

Just thought I would pass along this bon plan for anyone who will be in Paris on their birthday:

The bateaux mouches company Vedettes de Paris will give a free 1 hour cruise ticket + a glass of champagne (or a muffin+soft drink) to anyone on their birthday.  You just need to show up and provide proof that it actually is your birthday. 

This offer is valid on all 1 hour non-theme cruise all year long.  How cool is that?  Too bad I learned about it just after my birthday...but there's always next year!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

C saves the day

A couple weeks ago, C & I attended my cousin's wedding in Colorado.  It was a short but beautiful trip out there, and not without its challenges, including its remote location. 

Earlier this year, my cousin had asked all of us girl cousins to be her 'something blue', which I thought was a cute idea.  So we were supposed to wear blue dresses, and I thought "Excellent! I've got the perfect dress to wear", and I thought I was all sorted. 

Three weeks before the wedding however, I was informed that everyone was confused about what 'blue' meant, so it was decided that we should all wear navy blue.  Grr.  My dress was decidedly not navy blue, and I was in the middle of a trip to China with a trip to South Africa immediately after that, so I definitely did not have time to be shopping for a new dress. Nor did I want to spend even more money on a wedding that was already costing us a pretty penny.

So I ended up hunting around a little bit on vinted during an airport layover, and came across a never-worn dress similar to this one:
I negotiated the price down to 15€, set up a pick-up time a few days later with the seller at the Hotel de Ville, and thought I was all set.

However, I got home and tried it on, and while it fit perfectly, I realized immediately why the seller had never worn the dress.  The way the fabric lay over the legs meant that with every step I took, it opened up the middle much more than I was comfortable with. And sitting down was even worse - the fabric fell completely to the sides, leaving my underwear and everything else on display.  Which would surely not do for a family affair... 

C got home and we discussed the possibility of adding a stitch to keep the two sides together, but the fabric was so fragile, I was worried it would rip.  So then I decided maybe I could find a slip - but who knew navy slips were so hard to come by?! Next I went to my tailor lady and asked what she could do, and she wanted 40€ for an underskirt (Um, thanks but no thanks).

So it was back to the drawing board, and after a lot of headache, I ended up buying a thin knee-length cotton skirt to wear underneath the dress, and I thought my problem was solved.  Except....

My work had been incredibly demanding in the weeks coming up to the wedding, and I was so exhausted by the time it rolled around that ironically I was not sleeping well.  I woke up in the middle of the night the day before our flight in a panic and thought "What if my suitcase gets lost??  I won't have anything to wear.  I better take the skirt out of my suitcase and put it in my carry-on". (My SIL was bringing the actual dress in their car so it wouldn't get wrinkled).  So I decided it was a good idea to get out of bed, dig around in my suitcase, find the skirt and set it on hotel desk since it was dark and I couldn't find my carry-on. 

The next morning we were in such a rush that I just ended up throwing it in a pile in the trunk with the suitcase and everything else....and I'm sure you all know where this is going.  We then park the car, take the shuttle to the airport, go through security, and just as we're entering the lounge, I realize - I left the damn skirt in the trunk! 

There was no time to go back, and I knew we definitely wouldn't be able to shop after landing, so C suggested we go look at the airport clothing stores to see if we could find anything. Unfortunately there wasn't much but the typical "Minnesota gift" shops, so I was in the middle of an exhaustion-induced panic attack, when C said "What if you wore a t-shirt instead?"  I was like "What??" and he replied "You could wear it around your waist and it would be like a skirt. It's almost the same material as what you bought..." 

I initially thought he was insane, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I bought a navy MN shirt, and then went into the women's restroom and wiggled my arms and torso through the neck hole.  And what do you know - it looked almost exactly like that damn navy skirt!

The day of the wedding, I borrowed a couple of safety pins from the bride to pin the sleeves in a criss-cross pattern in front of my stomach, and no one was the wiser.  I was able to dance the night away without having to worry about having my lady bits on display.  So I guess the moral of the story is "Don't be cheap and buy a dress you can't try on". Or maybe "Be sure to marry a calm Frenchman who can think outside of the box."

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Monday, May 29, 2017

4DX Movie Experience

This past weekend, C and I headed over to La Villette for two firsts.  One, our first picnic of the year by the canal, and two, our first time experiencing a 4DX movie theater.  If you haven't heard of it yet, 4DX is basically an enhanced theater, and France only currently has one.  Along with 3D and surround sound, 4DX theaters boast seats that move, blast air and have smell-o-vision.  Here's a trailer that's currently playing in French movie theaters to promote it:

I think it's pretty much mandatory that you see an action movie in order to take full advantage of everything the 4DX cinema has to offer, so we decided to see Pirates of the Caribbean in VO. The inside of the theater reminded me a bit of the rides at Disney that require a movie screen.  They were large, had foot rests and a protective bar in front.  There was also a small button on each one to choose if you wanted water or not:
I initially had it on, but ended up turning it off half-way through the film because who wants water spraying on their 3D glasses all the time?!

So what did we think? On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd say 6.5.  The timed seat movements were cool, but it did bother me a bit that they moved for both the antagonists and the protagonists.  I suppose they were just trying to give people their money's worth, but it was a little bit distracting to have the seat move for everyone, and not just from one person's point of view for example.  Two other things I wasn't a big fan of was sometimes it would poke you in the back to simulate movement behind you, but in reality, it really just felt like you had a kid behind you kicking your seat.  And secondly, the chair movement reminded me a little bit too much of airplane turbulence, and I kind of get enough of that when I fly.

There were also times where lights would turn on behind us to simulate lightning or explosions, but it wasn't that well done - it mostly seemed like someone was just turning on the lights during the middle of the movie and it was distracting more than anything else.  And the smell-o-vision was pretty limited - I think I only smelled something twice during the whole movie.  There were a few times where I thought it could have really made an impact and added to the movie - like a saltwater smell, or when a ship was burning or someone was cooking - but they didn't really take advantage of that at all.

The one thing I really did like though was the air movement.  Bullets whizzing by, etc didn't really feel realistic, but they did a great job at making us feel like we were really on a boat at sea with the wind in our hair, and since I love being on the water, this was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. 

Besides all of that, the other bit of frustration I had was the price. I have the Gaumont movie pass, which is supposed to give me unlimited movie access, but I still had to pay 6€ extra to see this.  That's not such a big deal, but I also had a free movie pass that I was hoping to use for C's ticket.  After spending a frustrating 30 minutes trying to reserve online and finally contacting Gaumont via social media, I found out free & reduced-price tickets couldn't be used for 4DX films.  That meant I had to pay the full-price of 20€ for C's ticket + 6€ for my own - so it ended up being an expensive night when I was initially expecting to pay 0€.

So is it worth it?  Given the price....I'd say it's worth trying once or twice, but I likely won't be making it a habit. I imagine it would be a really fun activity to do as a family (though FYI, there are height requirements), and C & I both agreed that an intergalatic-themed movie would also be fun to see. I normally don't like sitting in the front row, but I would definitely recommend it for this type of theater.  It makes the movie seem more realistic since you don't have anyone sitting in front of you.

Lastly, on a side note - the mall where the theater is located was surprisingly nice for the neighborhood.  It looked like an upscale American mall, with tons of cute boutique shops and American-style restaurants.  There was a burrito place, a juice bar, an Asian Fusion restaurant, a cute pub, etc, and I would definitely recommend checking out the shops if you are looking to purchase some unique France-themed gifts.  There was also an anti-gravity flying pod that looked fun too.

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