Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, April 25, 2013

La Nuit aux Invalides

Next week, C & I have tickets to check out "La Nuit aux Invalides".  It's the second year the 3D sound and light show has been produced in (and literally on) the inner courtyard of les Invalides. They have a website here in English, and tickets are 12€ for the show or 20€ for the show plus a guided visit of the Dome afterwards. 

Keep it in mind if you're looking for something fun to do with all of the bank holidays coming up!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Les 24H du Vélib

For all of you Vélib fans out there, be sure to mark your calendars for the second annual 24h Vélib on June 15 & 16. The goal of the two days of festivities is to have people cycle 25,000km with 400 vélibs and to raise money for three different associations: Good Planet, Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque or la Fondation du Patrimoine.  They will have a little village set up near the Petit Palais, and then on the Sunday, they will close down the Champs Elysée for the bike ride.
So if you've always had a secret desire to know what it feels like to be coming into Paris with the Tour de France, now's your chance!  You can show up anytime between 8am and 8pm, and take one of the 400 available bikes for a spin down the Champs.  You'll be allowed to do 10 "tours", and then you can decide which one of the three associations you want to donate your ride to (the association with the most number of rides will get a little extra bonus at the end).  Last year, they rode over 17,000km and raised more than 40,000€ for the associations. 

For more information, you can check out their blog, their facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A day in (French) life

Yesterday, I had a long RER ride out to Evry for our masters project, and I spent a lot of that time reading the free metro newspapers.  There were quite a few interesting tidbits in there, so I thought I'd share some of the stuff I came across in a blog post.

The cover was of course about the horrible happenings in Boston, but that was followed up on the next page with an article about one of the "Toddlers & Tiaras" participants.  I'm telling you, it's the beginning of the end once T&T makes the news in France people....

Right next to it was another article explaining the French expression "Fumer comme un pompier".  I used to use this to describe Fab (and some of his family members), so it was interesting to read the origins of it.  Apparently at the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th centuries, firefighters would coat their uniforms with a sort of fatty grease, which would help protect them from the high temps once inside a burning building.  But the heat would in turn cause the grease to smoke, so when they could come out of the building, there would be all kinds of smoke barreling off of them, hence the expression "To smoke like a fireman".

Next up was a rather unfortunate trend as of late - apparently many Parisian construction sites (especially in the banlieu), are being robbed of materials. That in itself is not news - it happens on construction sites all over France - but these robberies are now happening in broad daylight instead of at night, so the construction workers themselves are being put in danger.  There are also mafia-style groups out there offering "protection", in exchange for exorbitant payments.

For the Grand Palais fans out there - after turning it into an ice rink last fall, they have now decided to turn it into a gigantic drive-in movie theater.  Except you won't really drive your car in - the hall will be filled with 500 convertible Fiats that you can rent out for 19€ a piece, from June 10-21st. They don't specify however if that's for one person or for the entire car though...  There were also be a diner on site, as well as a roller skating rink and a dance floor.  Tickets go on sale April 26th.

McDonald's plans on investing 200 million euros in France this year, with half of that money going to open 40 new restaurants.  McDo in France is always an ironic topic for me - the French accuse the Americans of eating there daily, yet you never go by an empty French McDonalds.  They are always crawling with people, no matter where you are in France.  It reminds me a lot of the US in the early 90's, when it was one of the only places that young families could afford to go out and eat (and the kids could play), and where teens could have their first dates on a limited budget.  But still, why so judge-y France?   Take a look in the mirror!

Orange, SFR & Bouygues have all announced plans to roll out their 4G networks.  This will not help those of us who suffer from regular dropped calls, but it will improve internet & download speeds - it will take 1 second to download a picture, 5 to download an application and a minute to download an entire movie (versus 31 minutes for that same film with 3G).  Coverage is still extremely limited for now - only Lyon, Montepellier and La Défense are available for SFR clients for now for example, but the operators will be legally obligated to provide 4G to 25% of France by 2015, and to 60% of the country by 2019.  Though most people probably don't even have a 4G-ready phone right now anyways, so the current limited coverage isn't really a big deal.

If you've been in France for a while, you've probably heard or seen one of the "managerbouger" slogans at least once. It's a government initiative that is designed to encourage people to eat their fruits & veggies, limit snacking and exercise regularly.  Their latest project is a website designed to help you find a healthy menu to prepare for tonight. (An app will be available shortly). They have uploaded over 2300 recipes that can be sorted by ingredient, price and ease of preparation - so if you're having a panne d'inspiration for tonight's dinner, check out 

Lastly, for the FroYo lovers out there, two young Frenchmen have opened up a Yogurt Factory in the Marais (and one in Marseille as well).  Their fat-free fro you can be eaten as-is, with toppings, or it can be made into a smoothie.  Could be a nice alternative to Gelato, now that the sun is finally out in Paris.


Monday, April 15, 2013

This past Friday, I got up earlier than usual in order to attend a private event at the Centre Pompidou.  The lovely Edna, thanks to her Irish connections, invited a group of us bloggers to be the guests of Premier Tax Free.  We had breakfast on the top level, overlooking the (rainy) roofs of Paris, while listening to a few informational speeches on French-Irish relationships.  Who knew there were so many ties between the two countries?

Then it was off for a guided tour of the Eileen Gray exhibit. I enjoyed the exhibit, but quickly took to chatting with others because I couldn't handle the guide's verbal tic - an extremely guttural 'Uhhhhh' every couple of words.  I'd recommend checking out the blogs of Jennyphoria or ParisImperfect if you want more info on her pieces - those two ladies are better bloggers than I am, and took a lot of notes.

I, on the other hand, was busy taking in the views and remembering that I live in a pretty amazing city.  I have been traveling so much lately that all I have seen is the inside of the CDG airport or the Montparnasse train station, and because I no longer have the fabulous view I had in my shoebox, it's easy for me to forget that I actually do live in Paris.  So the event left me with a renewed desire to leave the three-block radius of our apartment and get out and explore the city again.
I also wanted to give a small shout-out to Premier Tax Free, since they were kind enough to invite us. Their whole goal is to help tourists get VAT refunds for items they have purchased.  Within the EU, you have to be a non-EU resident in order to be eligible, but they also help tourists in many non-EU countries, including several in South America and Asia.

Something I didn't know is that the amount you need to spend in order to be eligible for the refund varies greatly by country - for example, in England, it's only 25£, or in Ireland, it's 30€.  Whereas France is 175€.  As a side note, these totals reference how much you need to spend on one purchase in one store in one day, and don't forget to ask the cashier for the refund form (though some of the bigger stores even have their own VAT refund desk that can help you out).  And then you just need to get your receipt stamped by airport customs, and then either drop it off and a VAT refund booth or mail it in.

I've never done it yet since I usually buy most of my big purchases in the US, but I do know several people who have gotten refunds on computers, phones, etc.  Considering that VAT taxes can go as a high as 25% in some of the countries, it can end up being a pretty nice chunk of change back in your pocket!

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