Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, February 1, 2016

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping....

Does anyone else feel like 2016 has started off with more of a drizzle than a sizzle?  I don't mean weather-wise, just more the general mood overall.  Everything seems muted and in slow motion.

I'm starting to get a bit of cabin fever too.  I 'only' had three trips in January, all in France, and all these other potential trips to exotic destinations keep getting thrown out there but never materialize.

This is pretty much how last week went:

Co-worker:  Hey, Ksam, want to go to Japan?
Me: Yeah, sure, when?
Co-worker: *no answer*

Co-worker: Hey, Ksam, want to go to Russia?
Me: Not super excited about the cold, but why not.  When do you need me?
Co-worker: crickets....

Co-worker: Hey Ksam, want to go to Indonesia?
Me: Yes, but please give me some dates!
Co-worker: .......

Co-worker: Hey Ksam, want to go to
Me: Hold up. For the love of God, unless this is an actual trip with an actual agenda and actual dates, stop right there.
Co-worker:  Uhh....

It's not that I mind being home. It's been a long time since I've spent a whole month in France. And  I actually really enjoy our apartment, being able to cook a healthy meal for myself & C and working out in a real gym on a daily basis. It's just that the constant dangling of travel to far-off places right in front of my face is giving me a bit of wanderlust.  My passport is collecting dust instead of stamps. 

Sigh. I guess this answers my question of whether or not I could one day go back to a "normal" job.

Not yet anyways.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Travel hacks

Because of all my travel, I'm constantly on the lookout for the latest travel hacks to help make flying  easier or less stressful/more restful. I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of the Travelrest pillow, but I was intrigued by a new pillow called the Trtl, which claimed to be "The Travel Pillow. Reinvented".

I decided to buy one on Amazon over the Christmas break ($29 on Amazon US or 29€ on Amazon FR) and tried it out at home.  It wasn't a great sign that the people I was staying with immediately laughed at it and said it looked like I had been in a car accident.  (It's true, it did look more like a neck brace than I'd expected).  The fabric was really soft, but the inner support system was just not strong enough to fully support my head, so I ended up sending it back and sticking with my Travelrest for the flight home.  There are some positive reviews for it online though, and I have to say that their Customer Service was great.

There are two other cool new crowd-funded products that I would also love to try out - the first is the BlueSmart Suitcase, which promises to be the first Smart luggage.  It sounds really fun - it's got an internal tracking system, so you always know where it is; you can unlock and lock the case via your smartphone; it's got a built-in luggage scale; and it can even charge your smartphone or tablet, which is great for all of those airports out there that are stingy with their power outlets.  But it's also only available in the carry-on size for now, and after reading some of the reviews of the first model, I couldn't really justify the $399 expense.  Their customer service has also been criticized, and I have to admit that I wrote to them with a few questions about the product, and never got an answer back...

The second product is the Baubax Jacket, which claims to have 15 travel hacks in one jacket:
I actually think this is something that would be really handy for going through security - almost all of those things listed in the picture above are in my purse or pockets when I travel, so it'd be really practical to have them all in one place.

Because of my frequent flier status, I am often in the front row of economy class (unfortunately no business class for me!), which equals great leg room but also means I have to store all of my belongings in the overhead compartment during take-off and landing. So I think this jacket would also be useful for in-flight entertainment during those times since it can store both my tablet, water bottle and headphones. Plus no more digging around for my passport and a pen when it's time to fill out the customs forms. It also comes with a built-in neck pillow, blanket, 3/4 gloves and a hood with an eye mask.

And I like that it exists in several styles, since I at least *try* to look somewhat presentable on the plane (in the hopes that my magical unicorn first class upgrade will one day appear).
Prices are between $149-189 depending on which style you choose, so it's not exactly cheap, but at least for me, it's something that I would use enough to justify the cost.  It's only been recently released, so I'm going to keep googling reviews of the jacket over the next few months to see what users think, but I'm pretty sure this one will be going on my birthday wish list.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Paris Giveaway

There's a great new website** for women called Inspirelle that launched last fall, and they are doing an amazing giveaway for two nights at a four-star hotel in Paris and dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant.  If you're interested in participating (and who wouldn't be??), you can enter their drawing here.  I'll be crossing my fingers!

**I may be a bit biased because C has written a few articles for them, and I'm really proud of how well he can write in English. :)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review

I haven't been inspired to do much blogging this year, but it is nice to have an "end of the year" post on record.  2015 went by in a flash for me, probably because I spent most of the year jumping around time zones.  I made 10 (or actually maybe 11?) trips to Asia, and traveled to a few new countries, including South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.  There were also a few trips to the US in there, and several in Europe (UK, Italy, plus Turkey if that counts).

My biggest concern this year with all the travel was maintaining a healthy relationship, and I'm happy to say I think we did a pretty good job of handling all the trips abroad. I've said it before, but I'm so lucky that C is supportive of my career, and he put a lot of effort in to making sure the time we had together was quality time. There is no way I could do what I do without him. (And thank God for Skype and Google Hangouts).

Next year will bring less Asia travel, so unfortunately my new-found chopsticks skills will go to waste, but there will likely be several exploratory work trips to Russia & India. I'll also be making more trips to the US.  It's kind of funny, because we have gotten used to C being able to come with me on trips whenever we felt like it, but with his new job, he's back to 'only' 5 weeks of vacation. It seems like so much at first, but then when you start looking ahead to what I've got coming up in 2016, those 5 weeks get used up so fast!

One resolution I had in 2015 that I wasn't able to keep was attempting to enlarge our social circle. Almost all of our close friends have up and left Paris, so I'm left with a lot of acquaintances but not many good friends.  There are so many interesting people out there doing interesting things, and I'd love to get to know them better, but my work schedule has made it difficult.  Making new friends requires a lot of up-front time investment, and people eventually get tired of hearing "Sorry, I'm out of town again" and they stop calling. So I'm renewing this one as a challenge to myself in 2016.

I'd also like to continue making my health a priority.  All that travel makes maintaining my weight extremely challenging (there's always so many new things to try!), but a lot of hotels in Asia have gyms, so that helped this year.  It likely won't be the case in many places I'll go next year, so I'll have to be creative.  YouTube is amazing though for finding workouts you can do in a hotel room (or at home), plus I always have my TRX bands with me.  And likely a bout or two of the unavoidable food poisoning in India will help keep things under control. ;)

Anyways, 2015 wasn't my favorite year due to a lot of work frustrations, but C & I made some great memories together, and I am overall looking forward to 2016.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Same thing, different country

Sometimes life is crazy.  One minute you're planning a quiet weekend in the Pas de Calais with your in-laws, and the next, your boss is like "Can you go to South Korea?".   And thus began the scramble to plan a last minute trip half-way around the world.  Such is my life these days. 

I have quite a complicated itinerary to get to where I need to go in Korea and I was feeling a bit nervous about it, but eventually I realized that it was basically the same thing I did when I first moved to France:  Arrive in the capital, take a commuter train to a main train station, and then a high speed train 3 hours into the countryside.   And then all of the sudden it seemed easier - like 'You've done this before, no big deal'.  It's all relative, I guess.

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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 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. :)