Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A lot of you are probably aware of this already, but just in case, I thought I'd share a pretty cool website I came across a few months back. It's called Groupon (the French version of CityDeal), and as the name suggests, is a site for group coupons.

The way it works is they negotiate some pretty great deals with companies all over France and then they publish them on their website (or you can choose to receive their daily emails). If enough people decide to participate, the "deal" is validated and they email you your gift certificate. There are several ways to pay - I usually use PayPal. FYI: The payment is only taken from your account if the deal is validated.

Here are a few that I've chosen - a massage + foot reflexology for 18€ instead of 50€, a 36€ gift certificate for the Happy Days Diner for 18€, a 15€ gift certificate for Jeff de Bruges chocolate for 7€, etc. Plus a surprise for C for our anniversary, but more about that later....

Groupon is available all over France, not just in Paris, so feel free to check out their website. And if you do decide to sign up, it'd be great if you could do it through my parrainage link here.

Happy Deal hunting!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Batteries: recharged

I'm still in the Loire Valley for another few days, which means I had the choice of going back to Paris for the weekend or staying in the area. After a quick search online, I found some cheap train tickets for C and a cute B&B and the decision was made - C would come down from Paris and we'd spend the weekend in Noirmoutier.

We really lucked out with the weather - unlike the rest of France, we had blue skies and sunshine. There weren't the highs of 28°C that we'd had earlier in the week, but it was still pretty warm for late September. Warm enough for me to have new tan lines anyways.

It was a fantastic weekend, full of sun, sand, seafood and se....wait a minute, this is a family-friendly blog. We'll just leave it at me feeling relaxed and refreshed after all the driving and long hours of last week. :)

Beautiful (and empty!) beaches
Hunting for lunch
The famous salt fieldsOne of the very delicious dinners we had


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1018 km

This is what my week looks like. Traveling for work sometimes has its downsides....

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Give back

Today I'd like to share a really great organization named Kiva that I first heard about last year, while reading Kari's blog. I was really interested in participating, but as time went by I forgot about it, until I saw a post by Kim a few weeks ago.

Kiva's tagline is "Loans that change lives". Their "about" page says the following:

Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending.

Kiva was born of the following beliefs:
  • People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.

  • The poor are highly motivated and can be very successful when given an opportunity.

  • By connecting people we can create relationships beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.

Kiva promotes:
  • Dignity: Kiva encourages partnership relationships as opposed to benefactor relationships. Partnership relationships are characterized by mutual dignity and respect.

  • Accountability: Loans encourage more accountability than donations where repayment is not expected.

  • Transparency: The Kiva website is an open platform where communication can flow freely around the world.

As of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans.

I don't know about you guys, but I think that's pretty darn cool - a whole bunch of people coming together all over the world to help out those in need, by giving as little as $25 a pop. Such a small sum for us can make a world of difference to someone else. So I decided to make my first Kiva loan to a woman in Ecuador who was hoping to purchase seeds to plant beans and rice. She has 8 months to repay it back, at the end of which I'll be able to recycle my initial investment and loan it to someone else. It's a gift that keeps on giving!

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

In all the moving hubbub, I completely forgot about my Franciversary! Seven (long) years ago, I very naively gave up my career, family & friends and moved to France. I admit there were a few times when I thought "If only I could go back and tell pre-France Ksam to not do it, to not go". But no regrets baby.

It's been a long ride, with probably more downs than ups, but it's made me who I am today. And I'm happy to say that after all of this time, I feel like I'm moving forward again. I finally have what I had when I left the US at the ripe old age of 23 - a good job, a good man, a decent apartment and good friends. That was always one of the most frustrating things to me about having moved to France - it was such a huge step back for me, both personally and professionally. And granted, this is not where I thought I'd be at 30, but I'm okay with the directions things are heading.

But most of all, I'm glad I stuck it out. I'm glad I decided to stay. I'm glad I took the time to discover myself again and I'm glad I didn't just rush into another relationship. And to C's credit, he, unlike all the others, knew how to be patient. He took his time and didn't force things (even though part of me fought it all the way, as I'm sure a few dear friends can attest to!). But ever so slowly, I found myself opening up to him. And now here we are living together. In an apartment that is just all kinds of awesome.

So yeah. Seven years later, I'm not anywhere near where I started, but that's okay. I guess it's like they say - it's about the journey, not the destination, right?


Sunday, September 12, 2010

A moving tip

I rely very heavily on the internet for my job, so it was hors de question for me to go without for any time period. Because of this, I was considering flat-out opening up a new line with my operator (SFR) to avoid the standard 2-3 week internet outage during the transfer.

I was just about to do it when I noticed that SFR has a new option for people moving house. You can now keep your current account open, and at the same time, start the process of opening an account at the new place. They recommend giving a minimum of 2 weeks notice (though more is better).

This meant that I was able to keep the internet on at my place until it was up and running and the new one, without any outages. I was so glad I'd done it that way too, because it took France Telecom a week to send a technician out and then SFR another week to transfer our account, so I really would have been out a minimum of 2 weeks. But instead, my internet was cut off the very same day it was turned on at the new place. Nickel.

I'm not sure if France Telecom does this too, but a quick search online shows that Free & Bouygues also offer a similar service, so it's something to keep in mind if you'll be moving in the near future!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

A day in the life

So yesterday was probably one of the most mortifying days I've had in a long time. I was off to Brittany again, to visit a new customer. After I was done, I made my way over to the hotel. Everything was all closed up and there wasn't any sign on the door explaining anything. I waited a bit, and then started feeling annoyed because 1) I had a lot of work to do and 2) what's the point of asking what time you're going to arrive if they're not even going to be there?

Another client shows up, and after making small-talk for a bit, I offer to call the front desk, hoping it would be forwarded to the manager's cell. She answers, and is basically like "Who are you? And what do you want?". So I'm a bit snippy back to her, but she takes her sweet time coming to open the door (or so I thought...).

When she finally opens it, she looks at me like "What do you want?" I think "Are we really going to play this game?", but instead I repeat again that I'd like to check-in. She asks my name, takes a look at her book, and then says "I don't see any reservation under that name". I say "I called at least two weeks ago to book". We go back and forth for a little bit, with me insisting that I'd reserved and her insisting that I hadn't. I think to myself "Argh, why does she always have to be such a cranky b*tch?"

Which triggered a little trip down memory lane....

She was so awful to me last time that I'd vowed to never stay there again. And thus had shopped around a bit and booked a much nicer hotel several kilometers away.

Meaning I in fact did not have a reservation there.

Yeah. Crap.

I mumble something about going to the car to get proof of my reservation so I can think for a minute. And then I panic and I peel the heck out of there.

Meanwhile, I get a call from my real hotel, wondering where on Earth I am, since I'd said I was waiting outside. So I have to explain that I was at the wrong hotel and am in fact now on the way. One of the those times when you wish the world would just open you up and swallow you whole.

I arrive at the hotel, under the scathing gaze of the owner, who is standing there with her arms crossed, tapping her foot. I feel like a complete ass. I apologize profusely, and decide to make an attempt at ass-kissing by explaining that I normally stayed at the other hotel, but that I'd seen theirs online and that it had looked loads better. She purses her lips and then tells me they own them both. Argh again! Open Mouth, Insert Foot.

I can feel myself red with shame and embarrassment. She silently gives me my key and shows me to the room. It actually is really lovely. I say thank you, and she closes the door. I move to open the window. But it's rather dark in the room, so I don't see the big wooden beam over the window. I whack my head so hard my teeth rattle, and I fall to the ground in pain. I open my eyes slowly and see stars (and not just because the carpet was covered in them).

So now I am mortified AND I have a huge bump on my forehead. I turn in circles in the room for a bit, and then I remember the sign I'd seen a few kilometers back for a dolmen. Now dolmen are one of the (few) things I actually liked about Brittany. They fascinate me. And I find them calming. Sometimes I think I must have been a Celt in another life. So I park the car, and start walking through the forest to find it.

I come through a clearing, and ah! There it is.Isn't it beautiful? Sitting *just so* on top of its rocky posts for thousands of years.

Now I get that the one above was likely used for burial grounds, but what could this guy have been used for?I sit there for a while, letting the sounds of nature wash over me. Birds chirping. Leaves rustling in the wind. Cows mooing in the distance. I can feel my heartbeat slowing down.

And then I start making my way back to the hotel.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The other day, someone buzzed our apartment on the intercom. I thought maybe it was the mailman, so I answered, and had the following conversation:

Me: Hello?
Dude: Let me in
Me: Um, no.
Dude: Let me in! I'm here for the scaffolding that's going up tomorrow.
Me: No, sorry, I don't know anything about any scaffolding.
Dude (really aggressively): Yes you do! Just let me in already!
Me: I told you, I'm not going to let some random person in the building.
Dude: Aw f*ck, just buzz me in.
Me: *Hangs up*

The dude decided to continue ringing our apartment for a few minutes. I started feeling a bit nervous, not to mention annoyed, so I sent C a message. He wrote back saying I should call the police (who are just up the street). But then the buzzing stopped. A few minutes later I heard quiet footsteps in the hallway and I got all freaked out. C offered to come home and check it out. I declined, but decided not to venture out for a few hours just in case. I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly jumpy. (Hey, it's gonna take a while to get used to living in a place where I can't see the entire apartment at once).

When I finally did go outside, I saw that someone had posted a letter in the entryway saying that there is a "mandatory" inspection of the boiler the following day and that we should either be home or leave our keys out front. (ha!) First of all, boiler? We have individual heating in this building, so there is no boiler. And even there was, it'd be in the basement and they wouldn't need access to our apartments. Second of all, the dude clearly said scaffolding. The words are somewhat similar (échafaudage vs chaudière), but my French is definitely good enough not to confuse the two. And lastly, I remember our apartment agent saying that the apartment already had a contract with another company, so I knew there was no way it was a mandatory inspection.

Plus, C deals a lot with frauds, and I've heard enough horror stories from him to know how these things work. These shady companies go around and put official-sounding letters everywhere, and then they 1) either force their way into your apartment and do a fake inspection of something (water heater, heating system, TV, etc) and charge you a fortune for it or 2) they force their way into your home (especially if you're elderly) and then rob you (or they stake things out and come back another time).

C decided to call them and see what their deal was, and apparently they were just as shady on the phone as they'd been in the morning. They refused to answer any of his questions and didn't even have any clue we had individual heating. Since they'd referenced our building's syndic (tenants' association??) in the letter, he then called them. Where they hemmed and hawed and basically avoided answering any of his questions as well. So now we're assuming that they're in it together and that someone on the syndic probably gets a kickback from any money made.

These kinds of things piss me off, and I felt the need to post it in the hopes that it will prevent someone else from being taken advantage of too. So many people - be it foreigners, the elderly, etc fall victim to these kinds of scams just because they don't know any better. These people are so forceful that they make you feel like it really is mandatory and that you don't have any choice.

I had to laugh that night though because then C came home and immediately installed this on our door:
But he is right, at least this way no one will be able to force their way in if I do ever end up opening the door.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One of the newer things I've learned about C since moving in together is that he is a closet dumpster diver. I was actually quite surprised by it, because he's so neat and orderly (read: anal) about most things in his life that I have a really hard time imagining him being able to pick something up off the street. But yet practically every night during our travaux, he'd come home with something new.

August really is THE moving month in Paris, and our new neighborhood was no different. All month long we saw various moving trucks come and go, and without a doubt right after, there would be furniture, decorations, etc on the street. Some of the things he's picked up have been great - like an old bookshelf he was able to turn into a custom-made shoe rack for our bedroom. Or the multitude of moving boxes he found, saving us a small fortune by not having to by any. Other things though have gotten a big fat No Thanks from me, and have ended up right back where he found them.

But then there's today, where I come home to this:
Any guesses as to what my manly man is planning on doing with a mini hot pink guitar?? Cuz I sure have no clue...

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Saturday, September 4, 2010


It's amazing what hours of scrubbing and 40€ of paint can do for a balcony:

The nasty entryway closet:

The kitchen (though the volet switch hasn't been fixed yet):

Old/new flooring:

And the best for last - the nasty bathroom closet is now nice and white, and houses my favorite purchase - a gigantic washer & dryer that we bought for 180€ from an American couple desperate to sell before they moved back to the US!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

René the mole go back to your hole

Taking a break from unpacking to share something that I just heard on the news. This has just become the number-one downloaded song in France:

René La Taupe - Mignon Mignon Version complète
envoyé par minette39. - Regardez des vidéos d'animaux drôles.

I just have to say....WHY? What is it that makes people like these dumb jingles? I can't be the only one whose ears bleed when I hear this kind of stuff.

And why do the French have such a love for 3D animals anyway? You see them everywhere - on talk shows, game shows, etc. I just don't get it - there's nothing more ridiculous than seeing an adult talking to an animated personnage as if it was really there, but yet it happens all the time.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A couple of you asked if we ever figured out why it was so cheap. And that answer to that question is YES. After signing the lease, we came back to do the Etat des lieux, and that's where we realized just how much work we had ahead of us. During our first visit, we'd only seen the potential of the place; during the second, the reality of it all hit us.

A lot of the walls looked like this, which meant first having to scrub them clean, smooth them out and then repaint:And then there was this lovely carpet that had to be removed and replaced:And the state of the balcony:The biggest project though was having to clean, sand, clean again and repaint the nasty shiny pale yellow paint that covered the kitchen and bathroom walls. Also, notice how the shutter switch is taped to the walls - probably half the plugs in the apartment were like that:And here's another example of the paint in the bathroom closet - it was just so darn grimy. How do people live in such filth?
Also, why is it so acceptable for people here to leave their apartments without cleaning them first? Every apartment I've lived in has had to be scrubbed down from top to bottom before we could move our stuff in. The previous tenant here left crumbs in all the drawers, a couple boxes of food in the kitchen and some old tupperware on the shelves. How is that okay?

I think this experience has taught us both that we aren't cut-out to be renovators. I suck at decorating and don't enjoy painting, so it was a pretty long month. Plus I was working poor C pretty hard - most nights we were up until at least midnight doing travaux. I'm telling you, the man has the patience of a saint. Luckily almost all of the hard work is done now, and we mainly just have unpacking to do now. And I'm really happy with how it turned out. Maybe I'll post some before and after pictures once everything is put away.