Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, August 30, 2010

A conversation with C

Sometime in July:
So a lot of people have been asking me lately when we're going to move in together...
Yeah, I've been getting that too.
What kind of timeline were you thinking?
I don't know - maybe sometime in October or November?
Yeah, that sounds about right. I'm going to sign up for some alertes emails on and, just so we can start getting an idea of what's out there and what can afford.
That's a good idea. We should make a list of exactly what we want in an apartment. My musts are: on the line 12, easy access to Luxembourg garden, safe neighborhood. And a balcony and parking spot would be great, even though it's not likely. How about you?
Hmm....I'd say I'd like at to have least 45m2, less than 10 minutes from Montparnasse, and a decent-size kitchen. No higher than 3rd floor (French) if there's no elevator. My optionals would be: a bathtub, room for a washer, dryer & dishwasher, a cave and somewhere in the 5th or 6th arrondissement. And it'd be great if there was a gym nearby.
Do you care if it's an old or new building?
No, not really....but maybe newer would be better so that we wouldn't have to deal with creaky floors or bad plumbing/electrical work.

A week or so later:
Hey hon, check out this email I got. It's for an apartment in the 15th. It's 50m2, has a parking spot and a balcony. The only thing is the price - it's about 200€ less than it should be...
That sounds kind of suspicious, but it's through an agency, so we could at least give them a call and try to visit it. There's no harm in visiting a few places so that we can see what we like and what we don't like.

A few days after that:
So this is the apartment. As you can see, it's on the 3rd floor, with an elevator. It's 2 minutes from the metro, on a quiet street. There are plenty of shops around here and there are two gyms within a one minute walk. The parking lot is downstairs, as is the cave. It's 50m2 total, and has a nice big living/dining area. The balcony is a bit small, but it's big enough for a small chair and some plants. Now on to the kitchen- it is a decent size, with lots of storage, AND there's room for an oven, a dishwasher and a fridge/freezer. The bathroom is quite large as well, and has a bathtub, plus hook-ups and space for a washer & dryer. And now on to the bedroom. It's a bit small, but also looks out on to the balcony and has electric shutters, which are great for keeping out any noise. So what do you think?

We look at each's perfect. It has absolutely everything we want, at a really fantastic price. The only thing's available August 1st and we weren't planning on moving for a few months yet and it's not in my neighborhood (more on that another day). Plus Crystal & her husband had given us some good advice on getting an apartment through C's job, and there are some real steals to be found in Paris (though we found out afterward that we made too much money to qualify for any of the good stuff anyways).

We decide to think about it overnight. It really is the perfect apartment for us. And neither of us had any notice to give on our current places. The low price would allow us to make some small improvements, such as giving the walls a fresh coat of paint and replacing the carpet with parquet, with money left-over to buy some new furniture & appliances. The gym was just a few doors down and was worlds better than my current gym (for the exact same price). Taking it would also mean that I wouldn't have to spend the next few months pouring over ads or stressing about the fact that I was out of town so often and would miss out on visits. Or that I would be gone on a work trip when we would need to move. And that was all extra stress I certainly didn't need or want.

Which is how we found ourselves signing a lease on August 4th, and then spending the rest of the month cleaning, renovating, cleaning some more, shopping, packing and unpacking. There are few more boxes to put away and a few more decorations to buy, but we're just about settled in now.

So that was my August. How was yours?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Hammam Experience

This past week, a dear friend and I made our way over to the Mosquée de Paris. We were looking for an afternoon of relaxation and detox.After a bit of confusion - the entrance to the hammam is through a small door behind the pastry counter and not through the main door on rue Quatrefages- we found ourselves transported into another world. I'm glad I took the time to read a bit about how it works online, because it was like pulling teeth to get the cranky woman at the front desk to share any information with us. Nor were any of the rooms marked, so it's difficult to know where to go and in what order to do things unless you've read up beforehand.One thing that is nice is that they give you several different options - you can buy just an entrance into the hammam, or a massage, or a gommage - or you can do what we did and choose one of their formules. For 48€, we got a ticket for the hammam, a packet of black soap, a gommage, a 20min massage and a tea. You could also pay extra for a towel, robe, pareo, sandals or scrubby glove.

Once you have your tickets, you need to put your name on the massage list. Just a head's up - the massage area is right next to the front desk, which means anyone and everyone walking by will see you getting your (topless) massage. But there are obviously no men allowed in, so it's not that big of a deal.
After putting your name on the list, you walk straight ahead and down the steps. Turning right will take you to the changing rooms, where you will need a 1€ coin if you want a locker (you'll get it back at the end). Once you're changed, you need to backtrack a bit in order to get to the hammam.From there, you're expected to take a quick shower before going into the steam rooms. You'll walk by the "gommage" table, where a small woman will be vigorously scrubbing down someone. (Again, this is right in the open for everyone to see, so it's not for the shy).

Then it's on to the steam rooms. They are in order of hotness. The first is used as sort of a warm-up/waiting room. The second is the largest and has several enclaves where you will spend most of your time. There are buckets located all over the room, you should take one and fill it up. You can open your packet of black soap here and lather it into your skin. Those that have chosen not to get the "gommage" will use the scrubby glove in this room.
Once they've gotten used to the heat, most people will go sit in the the third room for a short period of time. It is HOT in there. The minute you walk in, your face feels like it's on fire. I made the mistake of breathing through my nose once and I'm pretty sure I burned my inner nose-hair. The closer you stay to the floor in this room, the cooler it is.

Then it was back to the middle room for a bit, with a shower in between to cool down before the gommage. What to say about it? Let's just say it's not for those with delicate skin. You lay on a plastic table and the little old lady just goes to town, scrubbing you from head to toe. She's very thorough as well. I told her that she must have tired arms at the end of the day, and she said yes, and that it was especially difficult now during the period of Ramadan since she couldn't eat or drink. Can you imagine standing in a boiling hot room all day long doing physical activity, with nothing to eat or drink? It's pretty impressive. She had a little tip dish out, so we both brought her a little something back at the end to thank her for her hard work.After the gommage, you can either go back into the steam rooms, or take a shower and head back to the main room for your massage. It's a little hard to know who's in what order, so if it's busy, you have to try to keep an eye on who got there before you. At this point, you can ask for your tea, or you can wait to have it afterwards in their café (and maybe give one of their pastries a try!).When it's your turn, the masseuse will ask you to lay your towel on the table. She'll then basically douse you in massage oil. Like the gommage lady, she means business. She'll find your knots straight away and go to town on them. She kept saying to me "Too much tension! You have too much tension! And you spend too much time on the computer!" C'est pas faux.

After the massage, you can either lounge around for a bit more, or take a shower and change. We opted for the latter, and then went out to sit in the café for a bit.The verdict on the experience? It was interesting if nothing else - though I wouldn't exactly call it relaxing, and the lack of information/instructions was frustrating. My skin did feel really soft though, and I imagine I would be a bit more at ease the second time now that I know how it works.

  • Bring your own towel to save money. But bring an older one, because it will get covered in oil during the massage.
  • You might also want to bring a bottle of water and your own pair of shower sandals.
  • Try to go during off-peak times if you want to avoid the wait. We went mid-afternoon and only had to wait behind 2-3 people for the gommage & the massage. It was about 5pm by the time we left though and the hammam had filled up considerably.
  • I'd read online that most of the women in the hammam go topless, but at least when we were there, most women were wearing both their bikini top and bottom. A few of the older women even had on one-piece bathing suits (though they had to take them down for the gommage & massage). So if you're a bit shier, you shouldn't worry at all about keeping your bikini top on - no one will look at you like you're strange.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fat Katz

The other day I saw an ad for a new American Diner that will be opening on August 29th. It's called "Katz American Diner" and it's on rue Mouffetard, just around the corner from my place.

At first I thought "Does Paris really need another diner?", but they do have different hours than the others - they're open from Noon to 2am. Plus they also offer free, unlimited soft drinks and tap beer all day long.I guess it's probably at least worth checking it out.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There's a small side street near where I live that is constantly changing. Pretty much every time I walk down it, there's something new to note.

It's a mostly residential street, with lots of small shops on the ground floor. Over the past few years, I've seen a lot come and go - people seem to set up shop, hang around for six months or so and then close their doors. And then someone else will come along with a new idea, throw on a fresh coat of paint, and the cycle repeats itself.

It's especially noticeable now that everyone's off on their August vacation - the workmen have moved in and are getting the new stores ready for la rentree.

Which is why I found this little hole so lovely. It just seemed so fitting for what happens in this street. All the layers people keep piling on. It left me wondering what else could be hidden behind all that paint. And about what all that street has seen over the years...

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yesterday, for lack of any other choices, I ended up eating lunch at a truck stop. I'm generally not a fan of these sort of places, because 1) They're filled with truckers who love to stare and 2) The meal usually involves a bloody steak and fries. Which is fine if you like that, but it's really not my thing...

Anyways, I managed to choke down the meal and pay, and then I headed out to my car. Which is where I came across this:
I was like WTF? What was a peacock doing in the middle of nowhere? And why was it running in circles around my car? And then "Wait a minute, just how much wine did I have with my lunch?"

It seemed rather manic, so I didn't dare approach. Instead, I called on the Twitterverse to tell me if peacocks were aggressive. I got five "Watch out, they're mean" responses and two "Don't worry, they're very sweet". The numbers spoke, and I kept my distance until he'd had enough and moved on towards the next car:
And then I shook my head and went on my merry way.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is how I've been feeling this week