Tired of the fog? Try the frogs!

Unfortunately, it was not with my own wit that this phrase was thought up. I read it in an article in the Figaro yesterday (an advert by Place de la Défense, the businessy area of Paris, apparently you’ll see it in a lot of London underground stations). But it caught my eye and I decided to steal it, as it is specifically aimed at us English folk. But it’s true to say, while reading this article about how President Hollande wants to “make the most of” Brexit, I can’t help but think about how many bussiness people from the UK are going to want to move abroad and work now that the pound has dropped to an all-time low (lowest in 168 years, £1 = approx. €1.11).

However, I’m not going to bore you all with a post about the plunging exchange rate and the UK’s unequivocal mistake of leaving the EU. THIS post is about my personal pros and cons of living here in Paris, and if you are tired of the fog, whether you really should try the frogs … (Paris has fog too, one morning lo and behold I couldn’t even see the Eiffel Tower from my bedroom window).

Now of course I am encouraging living abroad, hence the name of the blog, so I am not saying don’t move to Paris. But at the same time I aim to be truthful, about the good and the bad of all the places I go to, so here goes:

Pros

  • Paris is obviously a beautiful city, I don’t really need to mention that. The Haussmanian architecture, the gardens, the monuments, the art … it’s never-ending and there is always something to see.
  • It’s always buzzing, so going out at night is just as fun and busy as at daytime (this can also be a con considering my window opens out onto one of the busiest streets off the Champs Elysées …)
  • The metro is very well connected to all parts of Paris – you can get from the heart of Paris, out past the ringroad into zones 3-5 in under an hour just using the metro lines (plus it’s €1.80 for a trip anywhere in zones 1 & 2, it’s not like London where it charges you by distance)
  • A glass of wine can be as little as €4 (that’s the cheapest I’ve found so far, I’ll update if I find cheaper, of course I would recommend just buying a bottle for a fiver)
  • Museums are free if you’re under 25, which is amazing if you’re a student travelling or if you are living here like I am because you can go to all these major museums (Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou) and be able to see all the exhibitions free of charge – just make sure you bring your ID with you.
  • Amazing for shopping … need I say more?
  • Paris prides itself on la gastronomie (gastronomy) and la gourmandise (love of good food) so wherever you go its likely the food you eat will be pretty great.

Cons

  • Pickpockets. I’ve already had the experience of a young girl approach me on the busy Champs Elysées and ask me if she could use my phone “to call her sister that she’d lost”. She looked about my age, and I noticed she had no handbag, a major red flag in the identification of a pickpocket. I politely said my phone was an English phone (true) and that it couldn’t make calls abroad (false), but that she should talk to one of the many police officers strolling nearby or go into a shop and use their phone. Sorry, but if you don’t have a handbag and say the police aren’t helping you, I’m going to automatically assume you’re a pickpocket. However, I’m sorry if you had actually lost your sister.

Hotspots for pickpockets: Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Opéra, however you never really know and they are pretty much everywhere (I’ve even heard of someone having their phone swiped on the metro), so just keep a look out and your stuff close to you. Check out my post on useful things to know about pickpockets in Paris and of all the different things you need to look out for – there are so many ways people can scam you in the streets.

  • Paris is expensive. It may be cheaper than London but it is still pretty pricey. However, there are ways of budgeting and as mentioned before, plenty of places to go for free to get a taste of French culture.
  • Paris is … I wouldn’t say safe, but well-patrolled in tourist areas. It’s like any city, but when you’re out in Paris at night you have to have your wits about you. You can’t just go wondering around by yourself at 2am after a Friday night ‘after-work drinks’. There are some areas which are considered quite dodgy, and I wouldn’t recommend using certain metro lines too late at night.
  • Nightclubs are expensive. Drinks usually start at €10, plus in most places it’s a €20 entry fee. I personally prefer going to bars where there’s a bit of a club scene too (the music is played loudly like a club so people tend to dance more as the night goes on) where drinks are cheaper and you don’t have to pay to get in.

As you can see, the pros outweigh the cons, and the cons really just mean you have to plan and think ahead while on your trip. Hopefully some will find this useful!

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A day in the Marais

Famous for its quirkiness and also known as the Jewish Quarter, the Marais has cobblestone pavements and narrow streets lined with boutiques that are filled with tourists at the weekends. Situated in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, its also a great place if you fancy a bit of shopping, or even just to sit in one of the terraces with a coffee and watch the world go by.

Place de Vosges

A really lovely spot in the heart of Paris to take a moment to relax. I went there on a Saturday afternoon when the weather was amazing and warm, so obviously it was quite a lot busier. But considering it is a beautiful little park in the middle of one of the hot spots in Paris, there really weren’t that many people flocking to Place de Vosges.

Amorino

The best ice cream in Paris, on a hot day in the Marais nothing is nicer than going to Amorino for a “glace” and wandering over to sit by the fountain in Place de Vosges. Italian gelato specialists, with flavours from pistachio to dulce de leche and with no artificial flavourings or colours, they’re also famous for creating pretty roses out of the ice cream flavours you choose. (I’ve also been to the shop in Odéon where there are less queues than the one in the Marais).

Afficher l'image d'origine Image by topsy.fr

L’As de Fallafel

This place is closed on a Saturday, but if you’re planning on going at lunchtime on a Sunday, give yourself at least half an hour waiting time. The queues of people craving the falafel from here go all the way down the street. So delicious, now I know why people call it the best falafel in Paris. 

The metro station is St Paul. If you wonder towards the Hotel de Ville area and cross the Seine, you’ll find the Notre Dame Cathedral and lots of cafes, restaurants and bars (now heading into the Latin Quarter territory). This is an absolute must on the Paris To-Do list!

Insider’s Guide to Alaska

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This summer 2016 I was cruisin’ the chilly Alaskan seas with the family, and yep, it was incredible. I feel like people don’t really think to go to Alaska and don’t consider it their first choice of holiday destination, but it really is such a beautiful place and so worth it. The salty smell of the sea and fishing boats when you walk ashore, the rustic towns and the Crab Shack – a major highlight of my trip. Here are a few unforgettable experiences I had when I was living it up in Alaska …

Glacier Sea Plane Tour in Juneau

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The feeling of taking off into the air from water is like no other. I was nervous to begin with as they were taking our weights in order to distribute it equally for each side of the plane, thinking “Ohhhh god we’re going to drop out of the sky …” But once in the air you forget you’re in a tiny plane, and just keep taking pictures of the exquisite glaciers below. Floating ice that moves forward from miles and miles back, you can’t really comprehend it.

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Salmon Feast, Forest Walk and Making New Friends at Taku Lodge

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The title sort of explains itself, except the friend we made was a 7ft bear. Yes, roaming out in the wild, where we enjoyed a salmon feast and listened to the history of the lodge and the forests around it, was apparently the dominant male bear of the island. He really didn’t seem phased by all the people trying to take pictures of him, only a few metres away, in fact he just stood up and starting picking the leftover salmon off the barbecue. The scary thing was, the only thing standing between me and the bear was a guy with a long wooden stick. Are you supposed to save me with that?! This day will always be unforgettable for me.

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Tracy’s King Crab Shack, Juneau

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If you like seafood then this place is incredible. Fresh crab cooked on site, served in little baskets with warm bread and garlic butter, and you’re given tools to basically just hack and eat away. You just pick the crab you want, how much and sit and wait for them to call your name out. I love how this restaurant just sits on the pier with a view of the water, the boats and the sea planes taking off.

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Sailing through glaciers

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Sailing through glaciers is a different but just as wonderful experience as flying over them. You actually hear the ice cracking as it’s moving slowly forward into the sea, only a few inches a day. This is Margerie Glacier and goes back 25 miles into the mountains. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you even see huge wedge of ice just fall and crash into the water. It’s something you only get on camera if you happen to be videoing at the time, but it’s incredible just seeing it happen.

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Family Hike in Skagway

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For those of you that know me well, I don’t do sports. So I wasn’t too excited when I heard we were all planning on going on a hike when we reached Skagway. But the more we talked about it the more I got quite psyched up for it. And I’m glad I did, because if we were to do it again I’d be the first one there. Walking (sometimes climbing, sometimes tripping over) through a stunning Alaskan forest, we wandered around a beautiful lake for a couple of hours and took lots of pictures. And we definitely made up for the calories we burnt off in a huge meal afterwards in one of Skagway’s finest.

Royal Butchart and Butterfly Gardens, Victoria, Canada

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Now I’m the kind of person who loves a good stroll around a garden, so this was so nice and relaxing, and a lovely way to spend the day and get some pretty pictures. The Butchart Gardens are completely family-run, and have been passed down through generations. Victoria is just generally a really beautiful city, we also wondered through and did a bit of window shopping before sipping a cold glass of rosé in the sun.

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Whale Watching

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I keep saying I have unforgettable experiences in Alaska but it’s true, and seeing whales in their natural habitat just swimming along side the ship was one of those experiences. You can actually do tours specifically for whale watching where you can go out on a boat and sail to the spot where whales tend to feed, but we were lucky enough to see them just alongside the ship leaving port one day. Whales are like glaciers, if you want to catch them moving, in this case, jumping in the air and splashing into the water on their backs like you see in nature programmes, then you need your camera videoing the entire time you’re outside. I, unfortunately, did not manage to capture this moment when it happened, I believe a couple of my family members did however. But it was extraordinary and something I’ll never forget.

If you love lodges, hikes, stunning landscape, fisherman’s towns and lots of seafood then Alaska really is the place to be.

❤️❤️❤️❤️

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.