Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

People keep asking us how the wedding planning is going and it's always hard to give an answer. We did a big push back in May to get the majority of things set up so we could have a stress-free summer - and by golly, we were actually pretty successful so we haven't really had anything to do these past few months except enjoy what passes for summer in Paris.

But now that the big day is rapidly approaching, we're trying to do the same again - ie take care of the last-minute things before September so the month leading up to the wedding is also as calm as it can possibly be. Which means that these past few days, we have been running around like crazy doing wedding stuff. Things like confirming the cake, the flowers, the dinner, etc.

And speaking of the dinner...C called the restaurant on Sunday to confirm the date and the time. When they answered, they said "What? There's no way we can have a wedding dinner - we are closed, the restaurant almost burned down this summer!"

I was on the phone with someone else, and when I heard the tone of C's voice, I immediately cut the call short so I could listen in. Apparently there was a big fire that started in the kitchen and they have been closed since June for repairs and renovations. I listened as the owner's son also told C that once they reopen, prices were going up and they were going to completely change the menu and so our choices would no longer be valid.

Now as a side note, when we talked to them in May, they asked us to pick a few menu options and then have all of our guests choose what they wanted so the chef could order ahead. So that's what we did....we had all of our lovely guests choose what they wanted to eat, and now he was telling us those options were no longer valid!

I was starting to feeling slightly panicky - like "How on Earth are we going to find another restaurant a month before the wedding??", when C asked if we could come down and talk to them in person.

So that's what we did yesterday morning. It's true that the restaurant is still heavily under travaux, but you can tell they are nearing the end. And the owner, whom we know much better than the son, reassured us by saying that they have other events scheduled far before our wedding, so they would definitely be reopened by October 1. He also said they would honor our menu options (and budget) too - whew!

One crisis averted.

Then it was time to call the photographer. Who immediately said " What? I can't do any wedding photos! I'm on maternity leave!" I started feeling the panic rise again until C got a little bit stern with her - after all, we had a signed contract and everything so the least she could've done was to call us. And besides, we talked to her in May, so she should have already been several months pregnant by then. At which point we all realized that it was just a misunderstanding, and that she had thought that C was a new client calling to reserve a date.

Crisis two averted.


Luckily everything else has gone a lot smoother than that, and I am already imagining these turning into funny wedding stories. I'm also grateful that C has been so willing to help out and take on his fair share of tasks. I tell ya, he's a good man.

Now all that's left is the dress fitting & the hair/make-up trials before wedding....hopefully there will be no snafus there - I am just imagining the dress lady accidentally mis-altering my dress or the hair lady cutting off a big chunk of my hair or something!


Monday, August 22, 2011

A corn what??

The other night, C & I were laying in bed, reading. I was flipping through a chick magazine and stopped on an article on guilty pleasures. There were various celebrity quotes, and when C took a break from his (boring, IMO) army book, and this quote by Teri Hatcher caught his eye:He was like "What?? A CORN dog?? What on Earth is a corn dog?" I was confused for a second because I'm a bad almost-wife** and sometimes I forget what I did with whom (ie. that I had been to the MN State Fair many-a-time with Fab but that C has never been).

So I explained what it was and how one eats a corn dog. A hot dog, on a stick, dipped in cornmeal batter (btw, do you have any idea how hard it is to explain 'cornmeal batter' in French??) and then fried - I swear, it just about blew C's mind. Why would one ever think to do that?

And really, why would one ever think to do that?

**C's new nickname for me. It's cute, non?


Saturday, August 20, 2011

My (belated) birthday present from C was a trip to Geneva last weekend to see their fantastic hour-long fireworks show.It ended up being a fantastic weekend full of sun and good food (and great fireworks).It was set to music - a nice mix of both modern and older songs.Le bouquet final :I definitely recommend it if you like fireworks - but bring a picnic and get there early in order to get a good seat. I had to laugh at the people next to us, who took the picnic idea to the extreme. Over the course of several hours, they cooked a full sack of potatoes, sausages and even chicken legs on this tiny little grill:And then there were these young Frenchies, who brought plates, silverware and real wine glasses to enjoy their meal:They sure do take their eating seriously here.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thanks anyways dear

What happens when you ask a colorblind man to fill a bowl with (frozen) red peppers:


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Since a lot of you out there are expats in mixed-nationality relationships, I thought I would post something I found out about recently that was extremely shocking - yet it has received surprisingly little publicity:

As of yesterday, August 15, 2011, the US Embassies in France can no longer issue immigrant visas for US employment, fiancé visas or family visas. Everything must now be processed through the US Citizen and Immigration Services in Chicago! Meaning one office is going to process immigrant visas for most of the countries in the world. How insane is that?!

Here are the new instructions according to the American Embassy website:

Filing Instructions beginning August 15, 2011:

Beginning August 15, 2011, petitioners residing overseas who wish to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, may do so as follows:

  • If the petitioner resides in a country in which USCIS has a public counter presence, the Form I-130 may be filed directly with the USCIS field office (see instructions below) or through the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the below addresses.
  • If the petitioner resides in a country where USCIS does not have a public counter presence, the Form I-130 must be filed with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the addresses below, unless the petitioner requests and is granted an exception based on one of the criteria described below:

USCIS Chicago Lockbox addresses for regular mail deliveries:

P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, IL 60680-4107

USCIS Chicago Lockbox address for express mail and courier deliveries:

Attn: I-130
131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

For additional information about how to file a Form I-130 with the USCIS Chicago lockbox, please see the USCIS website at or contact USCIS by phone at 1-800-375-5283.

First of all, lockbox?? WTF? Couldn't they have come up with a more professional sounding word than that?

Secondly, I looked at the USCIS website, and apparently there are still some embassies in Europe who are allowed to issue these types of visas: Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and the UK. So if you're in one of those countries, you're fine - but everyone else has to go through the US, unless you have a situation that "merits exception", in which case you can request one of the above countries to review your application (in France's case, it'd be Italy).

As a side note, I also came across this on the website regarding student visas: According to the US immigration law, foreign students are not allowed to attend public secondary school in F-1 student status unless they reimburse the school authority for an amount equal to the school's per capita cost of education.

If I'm reading that right, does that mean foreign students now have to pay full tuition? There are so many great exchange programs out there where schools just "swap" students and each pays their normal home country tuition, but the above makes it seems like this would be no longer possible?

I don't know...It just makes me angry that 1) our consular services have to suffer because of the budget crisis and 2) that we are making it harder & harder for qualified students & workers to come to our country. All of that talent is going elsewhere in the world, where it's easier to get in and receive funding. A lot of those people are researchers and scientists, and now all that knowledge is being shared with other countries. It's like people don't realize the long-term impact this insular thinking will have on the US and our prosperity...Not to mention that if C & I ever decide to go back to the US, it is going to be one big pain in the heinie!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Last night some friends and I met up at Opéra to see Bridesmaids (or "My Best Friend", as it's known in French) for our weekly dinner-and-a-movie date.

We headed back to the métro and were doing some last-minute chatting when we noticed this in front of the Opéra building:There were a whole bunch of colorful 2CV's lined up in front of the steps, with drivers wearing striped shirts and funny hats. We moved in for a closer look and saw "4 roues sous 1 parapluie" printed on the door. That name sounded familiar, and a quick Google search turned up their website. We thought maybe they were there acting as taxis for a post-Opera show, but then we noticed a photographer was there, directing them on how to pose and position their cars.
It'd be kind of a fun way to tour Paris, non?


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thanks to everyone who left comments and/or emailed on the wedding dilemma post!

Annie was the first to comment and suggested 1001listes. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I checked it out - they do work with quite a few more stores (including Darty) and the prices were much more reasonable. So I started to look around and add items to our "panier". When C got home, I showed it to him, and he was immediately suspicious (as he often is of French websites - and maybe rightly so?). He figured there must be a catch somewhere, and after what Emily said, I started hunting around on the internet for reviews of the site. Some were very positive, but others claimed it was very difficult to actually use the money they'd received, especially for some of the bigger stores like Darty or Decathlon.

For those places, you had to find what you wanted to buy (FYI: discounted and sale prices don't apply!!), call up 1001listes, ask for a gift certificate for the exact amount and then wait for them to process it and mail it to you by registered letter (on your dime to boot). Then you could take your certificate to the store and cross your fingers that the price hadn't changed between now and then or it was back to the drawing board. There were also pretty big fees for using the money at non-partner stores (15%+) or if you didn't use it all up within a year.

Overall, it is still a good option because the site has been fairly-well translated into English and it does let people from all over the world contribute to it, but it sounded like just too much hassle and paperwork to me. (Also, C looked up their finances online and they have lost money for the past few years, so he was also worried about them going bankrupt and us losing our moola- same for Zankyou too btw). But funnily enough, while doing my research, I also learned that the site had first been bought by TF1 and then more recently by Galleries Lafeyette.

I did really like the idea that several of you suggested though. I didn't realize beforehand that could ship outside of the US, or that you could set it up automatically so that people could send the presents straight to you (at their cost). I also like that they have a really great selection of products at good prices - no 500€ pillows there!

So after much thought, I think we are going to use Emily and Meredith's idea of a honeymoon website, where people can purchase various items for the honeymoon, and then also have a small registry for the Americans who don't feel comfortable giving towards a honeymoon.

Now we just need to figure out how to inform people - I guess we have plenty of time still since the American reception won't be for several months after the wedding. But from what I'm seeing online, it's sort of gauche to include anything about presents in the invitations? Instead, you are supposed to include the address for your wedding website, and then on there have links to your registries. Who knew this was all so complicated?? (But then again, I'm definitely not the queen of etiquette...)

I always swore I wouldn't do a wedding website, but looks like I may end up having to do one after much for trying to keep things simple, right?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A business lunch in Saint Gilles Croix de Vie


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The countdown to the wedding has begun!

The original goal for C & I was to get most of the wedding planning done in May, so that we could "profite" of June and July before starting up again in August. Except the weather in June & July was crap so not much profite-ing was done, and of course now it's turned nice in August. Oh well.

One of the big things on our list was to sit down and figure out what to do for a wedding registry. This is complicated by the fact that we are having a small wedding in France, so most of the people who will want to send us gifts are in the US. But given the luggage weight limits, it would take us years to bring everything back. Not to mention that American appliances, etc wouldn't work in France.

So back to square one - what to do?

In France, it's quite common for people to give money, either towards a home purchase or the honeymoon. I started hunting around and found out there are some really nice sites out there that let you design a personalized wedding website so people can choose what the money goes towards - say "paint" for a house, or a "couples massage on the beach" for the honeymoon. So in an ideal world, that's what everyone would do - but from what I can glean from American etiquette sites, that's still sort of a faux-pas. I mean, it sounds like you can have one, but that you also need to have other options for people who are offended by just giving money.

Back to square-one again.

Then I came across the Printemps website. Printemps is one of the major department stores in Paris, and it turns out their wedding list can be in either French or English. The actual descriptions of the items themselves are in French, but the site is English and there are pictures there, so in theory, someone in the US could make a purchase and then we could go pick up the item at Printemps. We don't really need anything for our apartment, but at least it would give our guests another option. Sounds perfect right?

They had a selection of things you could add directly from their website, but it was very limited, so last Saturday, C & I headed down there to the actual store to take a look. I was really looking forward to getting one of those scanner guns and then going crazy, à la Bridezilla.

Except once we got there, we discovered they had no scanner guns. Instead, they give you a piece of paper and one of those tiny pencils, and then every time you find something you like, you have to go find a sales person and have them write the UPC plus some sort of secret code on the sheet. FOR EVERY SINGLE ITEM. Do y'all know how hard it is to find a sales person in France?

C was about ready to give up right then and there, but I persisted - we'd already come all the way down there, why not at least take a look? So we set off with our piece of paper and started walking around the store. We would both pick something up, look at the price tag, freak out, and then ever-so-gently set it back down. Like I saw a really nice wooden bowl - the kind that are as smooth as butter - but the price was almost 100€! I can't ask a guest to pay 100€ for a frickin' bowl! Same for the pots, pans, etc.

Okay, on to the linens section. Our table runner is getting stained due to C not being used to eating sauces, so why not add one of those? We found one we liked and walked over to a saleswoman to have her add it to our list. But she personally did not like that color (gray) -how about this lovely red? No thank you, I already have one like that and it's a little too Christmas-y for me. Well how about this pretty pattern? No thank you, we are really looking for something dark to hide stains.

And this is where the lady flipped out. Hide stains? What do you mean "hide the stains"? You do know you have to wash table runners every day right? Umm...sorry lady, but no. What do you mean no?? It is just what's done!

I looked to C for confirmation, but he looked just as confused as I did. We just sort backed away slowly while she gave us the evil eye and mumbled stuff about "kids these days" under her breath.

Alright, let's give bedding a try. We could use a new duvet cover and maybe a new pillow or two. We head over to the pillows and I pick up the softest pillow I have ever felt. I tell you, it was like laying on a cloud. There was no price on it (that should've been our clue right there), so after trying a few others, we flagged a saleswoman down and asked her. After giving us a ten minute spiel on the benefits of this pillow, I interrupted and asked "Excuse me, but what is the actual price of this lovely pillow?".

The damn thing cost 500€ people. 500 EUROS!!! For a pillow! My eyes just about bugged out of my head. I asked if she had an less expensive options and she brought us over to another stack. After going on for a while about the percentage of goose down vs duck down blah blah blah, she told us that this one only cost 350€. Sorry lady, still out of our price range. Okay, how about this one for 200€?

Upon seeing our faces, she finally brought us over to the discount pile, where there were two crappy little pillows for 90€ each. Now I'm telling you, these were the kinds of pillows you can buy in Carrefour for 5€. You know, all lumpy and uneven.

And that was C's breaking point. He very rarely rants, but this time it came out - Printemps was a huge rip-off, they jacked the prices up on everything, they made it extremely complicated to open a wedding list, etc. And I could only agree with him. After a few hours, we only had two things on the list - and one of them was an eye mask.

Printemps' selling point is that "It's your wedding! Go nuts!" but both of us are just too practical to do that. I cannot in good conscience ask my guests to pay out-the-nose for something they could buy in the US for a much more reasonable price. I just don't have it in me. Not to mention that the prices are in Euros, so there'd be an even bigger mark-up with the exchange rate.

So we're back to square one yet again.

Obviously I'm not the first or the last foreigner to get married in France, so I'm hoping someone out there in the blogosphere will have found THE perfect solution to this dilemma.... And if so, please leave me a comment here!