Insider’s Guide to Hawai’i

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My first and perhaps what you could call most random side post from the usual Parisian patisserie updates, however as a travel blog I think it is only necessary to write a post about one of my favourite places on earth – the beautiful islands of Hawai’i.

I learnt that the name is spelt Hawai’i by native Hawaiians, and the ‘w’ is actually pronounced as a ‘v’, so you’re really pronouncing it ha-vah-ee, but that’s by the by. For Christmas 2014, when I was the tender age of 18, I was lucky enough to spend 15 days cruising the luscious green islands of the 50th state with my family. I honestly really didn’t know what to expect except beach after beach after beach … And that’s exactly what it was, perfection.

Now everyone is different, but I definitely prefer the sun, beach, views-of-the-ocean kind of holidays, so for me, each port of call being a new island with a new sandy beach to sunbathe on, I was in heaven. Of course my family and I did other things too, but that was the main activity in question for our trip.

Here is a little list I’ve put together of the places we visited and the best things about them:

img_8717Over 150 year old Banyan tree, in Lahaina, Maui

  • Ka’anapali Beach, Lahaina, Maui – We wondered through the main street of the town just on the waterfront (Lahaina is quite small!) and we stopped off at a shaved ice shop where you can get colourful ice cones. There was also a beautiful banyan tree in the centre, which we were told was over 150 years old. We went to the Sheraton Maui hotel resort and spent the day chilling on the sand under the sun, while kids jumped into the sea off “Black Rock”. You can also hire snorkeling equipment to go and explore the coral reef and turtles that gather together just off the beach. Plenty of bars for a Mai Tai. It just so happens this is how we spent Christmas Day 2014, Mele Kalikimaka!

img_8231Lahaina, Maui

  • Hilo – For us, Hilo wasn’t a beach stop. We had a helicopter tour planned to take us over the live volcano of the island, however once up in the air the pilot told us he had to land as the weather wasn’t good enough to continue flying. Still an amazing tour to get some great snaps of the beautiful green island scenery, even if it was a bit cloudy.

img_8246Helicopter ride in Hilo

img_8323Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

  • Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, O’ahu – Yes, Waikiki beach really is what you think it’s like. White sand, beautiful view of the rocky green mountains out to the left, palm trees and restaurants lining the beach … However so so busy. You can never really get that perfect shot of the beach with the trees and the mountains in the background without an American tourist walking in front of the frame. We had an amazing lunch at Duke’s, an Hawaiian restaurant on the beach, where there was a live band playing just below on the sand. The ship set sail later in the evening at this port, so we spent it strolling through Honolulu, which I have to say basically resembles L.A.. The main cities of Hawai’i have been very westernised since becoming a part of the United States, which is fine if you want to go shopping or are there for business, but sometimes I do feel it takes away from the natural beauty that the islands have to offer, like their beaches and rainforests and volcanoes …

img_8305Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

img_8290Duke’s, Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

img_8398Kalapaki Bay, Nawiliwili

  • Kalapaki Bay, Nawiliwili, Kauai – Although nearly all beaches in Hawai’i are rammed with tourists, I was pleasantly surprised by Kalapaki Bay. A smaller beach in Nawiliwili, and just around the corner from where the ship was docked, we walked over to find a small cove-like beach, with a couple of food bars and a place to hire surfboards. We ended up sunbathing, swimming and eating mexican food on the beach, all without the usual hustle and bustle of tourists.

img_8356Kalapaki Bay, Nawiliwili

img_8382Kalapaki Bay, Nawiliwili

Now I’m also going to give Ensenada, Mexico a little shoutout as it was a port of call at the very end of the cruise just before we arrived back in L.A.. Great stop for just a wonder through the city (I’ll admit there isn’t much to it) however we did end up at Papas & Beer drinking bowls (yes, not standard glasses) of margaritas and well, I’m sure you can guess how that ended up …

img_8459Ensenada, Mexico

Now I know Hawai’i is an incredibly long way to go for anyone, especially us Brits, but I have to say the best way to do it is by cruise. We spent 4 days out on the Pacific getting there and 5 days back, and if you like being out on the open ocean like I do, it’s a perfect way to visit the islands. You wake up and you’re in a new place every day. As well as setting sail in the evenings, which always feels magical it doesn’t matter where you are, watching the sun set in Hawai’i made me realise that I really was in paradise.

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❤❤❤❤❤

Your Parisian Tesco


Yes, I am devoting an entire post to this supermarket, as it is just 100% worth the mention. If you’re living here, a stagiaire for a few months or you’re even just visiting, this is where you just need to go for your … everything. Monoprix (pronounced monopree) can be found pretty much on every corner, there will be multiple stores in every arrondissement, so it’s easy to find. To be honest, I wouldn’t even call it a Tesco, because it sells so much more; clothes, homeware, it has its own beauty section and pharmacy with hundreds of different brands … And it’s actually reasonably-priced. I have just been going there to grab my food for dinner on the weekends, but it is great if you want to do a bigger shop, they have all the different sections including a fresh fruit and veg section, with everything colourful and displayed in wooden crates, very European.

What you’ll also find in Paris is that food changes with the seasons – and this goes for pretty much everywhere. In restaurants, supermarkets, brasseries – they all tend to outsource their products locally, so when the seasons change, the produce changes, so the menus change. But this is something I like about eating out or buying food, things are never the same for long and it keeps your diet on its toes!

Petites Pâtisseries

So I may not have been here very long, but I seem to have managed to find my way around the cake shops very easily. It’s safe to say I take after my Dad and I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but since coming to Paris I just can’t stop. The pastries, the éclairs, the tartes… There’s so much variety and they’re so different to other places, the French pâtisseries are in themselves an excuse to come here and visit. So here are just a few of my favourite places to go to for a sweet treat:

Pâtisserie PAUL


Because I’m a Brit, I just call it Paul’s Bakery, but honestly it is the go-to bakery for me and a lot of other people on their way to work in the mornings in the Opéra area. I tend to get a croissant armande just before going to the office, the staff are friendly and quick to take your order, so even if there’s a long line in the morning, it goes down quickly. They have loads of different pastries and cakes to choose from, savoury and sweet.

Eclair de Génie


I think there are only three stores in Paris, but this shop is supposed to be the best éclair shop in the Ile-de-France region. I went to the store in the Marais, and it is basically an exclusive éclair boutique. I’ll admit, they’re not cheap, but they just look so beautiful and taste amazing, you have to do it, even if you’re only going to do it once.

Pierre Hermé

My boss was telling me this is THE place for macarons (yes macarons not macaroons, the French will correct you every time) and after going there, yep, I get it. So many colours and flavours, Vogue calls Pierre Hermé the “Picasso of Pastry” and if you go there you’ll see exactly why.

 

The CAF

This is NOT a walk in the park. But the money you get back makes up for the pain it is to sort out. The CAF stands for Caisse d’Allocations Familiales and is basically available to all those living in Paris on a low-income.

Things you need:

  • RIB – either the bank details of the foyer you’re staying at and they’ll reimburse you each month, or your own bank details and you receive the money, in which case do not fill out the part “demande de versement directe de l’aide
  • attéstation de residence en foyer – dated and signed by landlord
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Copy of National Insurance Card
  • If you’re not from Europe, you need a photocopy of your Visa
  • Proof of student at university two years prior (so if you’re appling in 2016 like I did, it would be your status in the year 2014)
  • Déclaration de ressources two years prior (again, if you were a student you don’t need to fill this out, just tick “absence de ressources”)
  • Details about your parents – names, birth dates and address(es).
  • POSSIBLY your birth certificate, in which case you need it translated into French

Yes, absolute mayhem, and it also takes forever to be checked and have the money actually start to come in, but it is dated, so you will get back payments. The CAF does not give you money for your first month’s rent, so for example, if you’re planning to move in early September, move in on 31 August, so August will be counted as your first month and you’ll receive money for September.

Update 1, 7/10/16: currently still waiting on any recognition of receiving the documents I sent off … And I have a feeling it’s going to take a while longer.

Update 2, 13/10/16: I have received a letter of acknowledgement of my application and they have given me a password to acccess my online CAF account. I need to log in and change/create my own password for my application process to continue.

France and its paperwork!

PAPERWORK. AND LOTS OF IT. When I arrived in Paris, after a quick plane journey from Exeter and navigating through Charles de Gaulle airport, I came to the foyer, my new home for the next 6 months. With two big suitcases, and a tired look on my face, I was expecting a quick “bienvenue” and to be shown to my room so I could take a nap. Don’t be fooled like I was. The next two hours were painful, and involved filling out and signing document after agreement after declaration … The French are meticulous with paperwork, a little OTT some may think, but I guess it’s all necessary. I was, suffice to say, quite overwhelmed by all the papers, and before you ask, no, I had never done this in English before let alone in French. But here is what you need to know in order to avoid the mayhem I endured, which the French call standard form-filling …

The likely documents you will receive on arrival are as follows:

  • an attestation de résidence en foyer which is proof and confirmation of your arrival at where you’re living.
  • demande d’aide au logement otherwise known as “CAF” – I’ve got on to this separately as it’s an important process, so make sure you check the post “The CAF”!
  • attéstation d’hébergement which is basically the signed contract between you and your landlord.
  • Locapass these are basically forms you sign that mean if you for some reason can’t pay your rent when demanded, this company will pay on your behalf and then you pay this company. All to keep the rent flowing.
  • certain agreements to sign that basically say you won’t make a mess or burn the place down, I also had to sign a document to say I wouldn’t misuse the communal computers in the foyer.

Things you should bring with you for when you arrive:

  • Passport, which I assume you’ll already have with you!
  • National insurance card (EHIC), or copy of proof of insurance
  • Work contract
  • Proof of being a student – this could be a student card or a written and signed attéstation from your university.
  • If you’re not a student, then some foyers ask for proof of employment for the previous year.
  • Proof of grant, for example your Erasmus grant, this will be called an attéstation de bourse.
  • A RIB (bank slip giving your bank details)

Of course, everywhere is different, and if you’re moving into an apartment instead then the process could be different depending on the landlord. But I hope for those soon to move to this amazing city will now feel a little more prepared! Don’t be disheartened, once the paperwork is out of the way you can start to really make the most of living in Paris!

Opening a French bank account

In my first week of living in Paris, I seemed to learn how to do this the hard way. I recall one Friday afternoon meandering back and fourth to different banks on the Champs Elysées, trying to get the message across that I was a stagiaire for only six months, only to be turned away saying I wasn’t eligible. One even said I had to pay a deposit of €10,000 to open the account, but rest assured it would be paid back to me after my six-month internship was over. I looked at the banker as if to say “do I really look like I have 10 grand to spare??” and at that point I knew there was something I was doing wrong here. After a chat with my boss and several other English friends also living in Paris who had been through this process already, I went to a bank in Opéra near to where I work and put my case forward.

I’m with the bank CIC, and the CIC bank in Opéra was very diligent, no hassle. I told them I was a stagiaire, here for 6 months and wanted to open an account. They told me no problem, gave me a time for an appointment, and a slip of paper saying what I needed to bring with me:

  • your passport
  • attéstation d’hébergement  or accommodation contract
  • attéstation de travail or certificate of employment (signed proof of payment from your workplace)
  • contrat de travail or work contract

Like the CAF, they also asked for proof of payment from my previous job, but because I told them I’m a student and have been at university for the last two years, they said I can just bring with me proof that I was a student, so I asked a professor at my university to quickly sign and send an attéstation d’étudiant which I brought with me.

The appointment itself took about half an hour, but if you’re better at French than I am, it may only take you 10-15 minutes. With just a few documents to sign, and a few details to give such as my email address, phone number and address of where I was living in France, I was good to go. My debit card was available to pick up from the bank about 10 days later.

While waiting for my card, like all banks I was sent letters welcoming me and thanking me for opening an account, a letter where I received my pin and a separate one with my carte de clés personnelles. This is basically what helps you to make payments and transfers online, I believe it acts as a card reader.

I pay a small fee of €3 a month, just to pay for my card, but I know other stagiaires that have gone with other banks such as Sécurité Générale which had no extra costs, and La Banque Postale is also supposed to be good if you’re only living and working in France for a short time.