Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Saturday, June 13, 2015

J'ai testé pour vous...

A few days ago, I had to catch a mid-week flight and instead of taking the RER or the Air France bus as I normally would, I decided to try out the new EasyBus service offered by EasyJet from the Louvre to CDG, at the low, low price of 2.99€. (As a side note, you do not need to fly EasyJet to book a seat on this bus, it is open to all travelers).

C also had to head out to the airport for other reasons, so we booked our tickets and off we went to the Louvre. The pick-up site was listed on the address as 2, place André Malraux, so we used handy google maps to locate the big ol' number 2 in front of a pharmacy.  Except the instructions also said that the pick-up site was in front of HSBC...which was all the way across a busy intersection at 3, place André Malraux. So we weren't quite sure where to wait, but we decided to camp out in front of the HSBC.  I noticed another French woman though who was obviously confused by the instructions as well, because she spent 20 minutes nervously pacing back and forth between the two sites.

The bus was supposed to arrive 10 minutes before the pick-up time, but our allotted time came and went...and then so did 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minutes.  At that point, I was starting to panic a bit, and it was decision time...do we keep waiting it out?  Do we head back to the line 7 and hop on the RER B at Chatelet?  Do we run down to Opéra and try to grab the Roissybus?  Or do we try to grab a taxi?

Since we had luggage, we didn't want to go back into the metro, and a taxi was deemed too expensive in rush hour, so we hoofed it to the Roissybus (which - holy crap - costs 11€ now!).  But luckily we both made it on time in the end, minus a few extra euros of course.

C & I have both emailed them asking for an explanation and a refund, and I have also reached out to them on several of their social media sites, but to no avail.  I also booked them for my flight to Bangkok next week, so I'm currently trying to decide if I should give them another shot or not?  It does say on the ticket that you can take any bus up to an hour before your booked time (assuming they have space), so I may just go early and give it another try, especially since the tickets are non-refundable. Either way, I guess it's just another example of you get what you pay for!  Or otherwise maybe just using them from CDG to the Louvre, since you don't really have the same time constraints...

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Starbucks offer for the ladies

Another quick update for anyone living near in France and near a Starbucks - I just noticed the June edition of Glamour has a coupon for a free Yogurt Frappuccino at Starbucks, valid through the end of the month.  You have a choice between two flavors - Red Fruit & Mango Passion. 

If you don't subscribe to Glamour, you can always pick one up for 1€ at your local newstand.  It's still worth it since the smallest version of the drink costs 5.55€, so it's a great freebie and then plus you'll have a girly magazine to read while you sip it. :)

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Metro News

I'm about half-way through my 3 crazy month travel spree:
  • Week 1- near Cholet
  • Week 2- Thailand
  • Week 3- China
  • Week 4- home (woohoo!)
  • Week 5- near Cholet
  • Week 6- Istanbul
  • Week 7&8- Thailand
  • Week 9&10- US
  • Week 11- Return to France
  • Week 12- near Cholet
  • Week 13- nothing booked yet, but that's still a ways out...
It's starting to make me regret getting annual passes for the metro, the gym and the cinema...but oh well, too late now.  And I hate using the individual metro tickets anyways, I always end up with a million of them everywhere, and never know if they've been used or not, etc.

But I did actually take the metro yesterday and picked up one of the free newspapers, so I thought I'd share a few interesting articles.

First of all, the Regional Tourism Committee has started renting out these little wifi boxes to tourists in order to give them better mobile access during their vacation.  The box is about the size of a telephone, has a 6h battery span, and allows you to connect up to 10 devices to it.  There are about 100 available, and you can rent them at the information booths at CDG and Galeries Lafayette.  The cost is pretty reasonable too - 7,90€ per day. 

There was a second offer for tourists too - Appart'City is offering a special for the month of June that allows customers to name their price for a hotel room.  The promotion is valid all over France and can be booked online at www.appartcity.com.

And lastly, if you don't like speaking in French on the phone or can never get your doctor to pick up, there is a new website called www.RDVmedicaux.com.  The site has over 2600 general practitioners and specialists (including ophthalmologists) in over 500 cities through France, and basically lets you book a doctor's appointment as you would a train ticket. They will send you a confirmation via SMS, as well as a reminder SMS the day before your appointment.  I can see how something like this would be extremely practical, both in helping you find an available doctor near you and also during les vacances.  I know there have been times in the past where I've had to call as many as 10 doctors before finding one available during the month of August!


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chan poot tai mai bpen

And here I was thinking I wouldn't have any fodder for an April Fool's post this year!  Those of you who guessed it was true were right on - there is indeed a possibility that we could move to Thailand a year or two from now.

So obviously I've been thinking a lot more about the practical side of living there - starting with the weather.  Oh, the weather! And the humidity!  During my last trip, I was out on site in the middle of nowhere for a week and working in 110°F/43°C with no fan, while wearing long pants and rubber boots and no socks.....talk about gross. Let's just say it was a killer and I was in major need of a hose down when I was done every day.

And then it comes down to a place to live.  What is the housing like? Is there reliable internet access?  Are gyms popular?  Will I be able to adapt to the food?  What kind of budget will we need?  How will we pay our mortgage in Paris?  So I've been asking a lot of questions about how much a 2 bedroom apt would cost, where are the best areas, how do people get around, where do they buy groceries. And of course the visa/work permit question comes into play, as it seems like a pretty complicated process (although to be honest - is it ever an easy process??).

Then there's the language. At least when I started learning French, I was able to tell myself that I already knew about 40% of the language, I just needed to learn how to pronounce it properly.  That doesn't really work with Thai. My brain is pretty much already full with English, French, Finnish plus the basic communications I have learned in Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, etc, and for whatever reason, Thai is just not sticking. I cannot seem to get past Hello (Sa wat dee kah), Thank You (Kob Khun Kah) and Water (Nam).  The words are just so darn long.

Plus there's the whole issue of tones....the Thai language uses long and short tones, high tones and low tones to change the meaning of a word. For example: "kao" can mean: nine, knee, rice, come in, news, etc depending on the tone used.  And to my farang (hey, wait, I know a 4th word!) ears, they all sound exactly the same.  Though I guess it's similar how many Americans can't hear the French nasals, and have trouble distinguishing between vent/vin/vont.

But of course Bangkok would be a great city to be based out of, and my work would likely require a lot of travel elsewhere in SE Asia, which could also mean some fun side trips for the two of us.  Plus the people are absolutely lovely - even though I stand out like a sore thumb, I feel like much less of an outcast in Thailand than I did in Bretagne. I'm also lucky to have a wonderful husband who totally supports my career and is willing to follow me anywhere in the world.  And I guess at least one good thing is that it would give me a lot of new blogging material, which has been sorely lacking as of late.

So who knows, we'll see how things play out over the next 12-18 months with our Asian market expansion. We could continue living on in France, or a year or two from now, I may need to make a blog name change to "Totally Bangkok'ed Out"...although that sounds a little dirty.  Maybe "Totally Thai'ed Out"?  or "Totally Thai'ed Down"?   A voir !

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Is change in the air?

As some of you may have noticed, I've been making quite frequent trips to Bangkok lately, and I'll likely continue going at least a week per month between now and July.  Like most global companies, mine is working on expanding East, and as the only specialist in my subject matter for The Company, this has meant an increased need for my skills in Asia. It also does not hurt that for whatever reason, despite me not being a people-person, I am quite popular with the aging bigwigs of the companies we work with, which makes them more likely to sign contracts with us.  I guess if ever it doesn't work out with C, I know I'll always be able to find a rich second husband abroad. ;)

Seriously speaking though, because of its geographical location, my company is considering possibly open up an office in Bangkok in a year or so, and given my specialty and the fact that I am part of a young, mobile (and childless) couple, there is a good possibility that if we open the office, C and I will be asked to at move to Thailand for a year or two.

All of this has had me looking at my trips there in a new light.  Like - could I really move across the globe?  I guess I've done it once before. But I've been in France for 12 years now.  And we have a good life here.  I was so much younger and more adaptable when I initially moved abroad....plus now we own our own home and have (high) monthly mortgage payments to make. Can I deal with the extreme humidity? And the time difference would be killer with my US colleagues....So needless to say, there's a lot for us to consider. Luckily though, C will be able to accompany me during my May trip over so he can take a look at Thailand with fresh eyes too.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Le pere Noël

We spent the Christmas holiday in the Alps with C's brothers & sisters and their families, and I actually ended up being a bit disappointed in how un-Christmas-like it was.  They weren't into my holiday music or Christmas movies, there were few decorations besides the tree and we didn't have an all-out Christmas dinner like most French families do.  My Christmas cookies were poo-poo'ed (though they did end up liking them in the end). The whole thing just seemed more like any-old weekend than the festive holiday get-together that I was hoping for.   But I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, my in-laws are all very non-traditional and not at all into commercial celebrations.  I just thought that things would be a bit different now that there are young kids in the family...

This was our first Christmas celebrating with C's family though, and I love finding *the* perfect gift for people, so I put a lot of thought and effort into present shopping, especially for the kids.  After opening the gifts, one of our nieces was playing with a gift we gave her, and I started telling her mother where I found it and why, and she interrupted me and said "You mean where SANTA found it".  And I was like - "No, this was a present from us".  And she said "No, you mean from Santa" a little more forcefully. 

I was confused, so once the little one had left the room, I asked what that was all about, and she explained that the kids thought all of the presents had come from Santa.  I couldn't really understand why Santa had to bring every single gift - but her rational was that the kids wouldn't believe in Santa anymore if some gifts came from other people.   But it went as far that even gifts from the neighbors or from the grandparents a few days after Christmas were also from Santa, with the explanation that "Santa made a mistake and dropped them off at our house for you".  I tried to explain that made the whole Santa theory even less credible, because come on - the guy's been delivering presents for millions of kids around the world for years, and he's still making delivery errors??  But she wasn't having it.

I guess my whole problem with this theory is - why it would be so bad for the kids to thank whoever gave them the gift? Growing up, in my family, we had a few presents from Santa and the rest from family members, and we had to go around and say thank you to each person and give them a hug.  And that seems like it would be much more in line with the French obsession with politeness.  Kids are taught to do the "bise" before they can even talk, and "hello, goodbye, please and thank you" are drilled into them once they do start talking, so what's wrong with showing gratitude for a gift? 

We had a NYE party at our place last night, and one of my French friends confirmed it was the same in her family, and said again "But they wouldn't believe in Santa if we didn't do that".  So I'm curious how things are done in other French families and if it is a French tradition I just haven't come across yet?  I guess there are still things for me to learn about French culture even after 12 years here!  I'd also be curious to hear how things are done in other countries that celebrate Christmas (or other bi-cultural families in France), so please leave a comment below.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A year in review

*knock knock*  Is this thing on?

It's been so long, I've almost forgotten how to blog.  Plus I've noticed fewer and fewer feeds in my blog reader...I wonder if blogging is dying a slow death while other social medias take over, or maybe 2014 has just been a busy year for everyone?

I was thinking though about all 2014 has brought, as one tends to do at the end of the year, and man, what a crazy year it has been.  Mostly positive - becoming homeowners, lots of travel and some personal growth in there as well.  But also some stress - mainly work-related, but also some due to me trying to be a supportive wife for C's top-secret project.  Trying to balance the fear of financial risk (especially after you just signed a 15yr mortgage) with encouraging a spouse's dream is a tricky thing.  But more on that some other time...

I was able to visit some pretty amazing places over the past 12 months- I had to actually flip through the calendar in order to remember them all:
  • France - too many trips to count
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Japan
  • Morocco - two trips
  • Taiwan - three trips
  • Thailand 
  • US - four trips
  • UK - three trips
Plus we managed to sneak a few fun trips in there - I spent a week in Bali with my bff, and C and I took two trips to the Alps, plus romantic weekends in Lisbon and Strasbourg. 

2015 isn't looking to be any slower for me work-wise.  I was in the US the week before Christmas, and a lot of our time was spent visiting Very Important People in the Dept of State and International Trade Offices.  Our quest for global domination continues, one chicken at a time (though I guess that is only funny for those who understand what I do).

My goals for 2015 include maintaining my healthy/fitness as a priority and practicing daily gratitude. Some of the places I travel to remind me on a regular basis of how lucky I am to have been born in the US and to have had the opportunities I've had, and I have been trying to make the effort to be actively grateful for it.  For example, I was able to get home 4 times last year - not many expats get to do that, and while the trips are tiring when they're coming after a multitude of other trips, it also means I got in some very precious family time (including being able to attend my brother's wedding).

Speaking of work, we've been going through some pretty intense training sessions that have had me thinking a lot about my approach to life and my interactions with people.  I'm a pretty blunt person and I'm slowly starting to realize how abrasive that can be at times, so I would like to work on finding the balance between being honest and delivering the message in a non-hurtful way.

My other work goal is to attempt to not always assume the worst, ie to try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  For example, if a co-worker is rude or hasn't delivered on a project, I would like to be able to take a step back and say "Ok, hold on, they've maybe got X,Y, or Z going on in their personal life and are just having a bad day" instead of getting worked up or taking it personally.  I don't think it will be easy for me, but I do think (hope) it is a skill that can be learned over time, ie you can't control other people's reactions, but you can control how you react to them. 

I also hope to be able to disconnect a bit more from the Internets when I am home - C and I have much less time together than your average couple, so focusing on quality time instead of quantity time becomes all that more important.

So hopefully 2015 will be the year of being intentional - of focusing on the positive, really thinking about how I spend my time, and working on personal growth.  It sounds really cheesy when I put it down on paper, but it's where I'm at right now.  I wish all of you an equally productive 2015 (and hopefully you've all got some tasty champagne chilling in the fridge now to toast in the New Year).

*Tchin*!