Friday, April 11, 2014

Paris Marathon Round 2: For the Love of Pizza

I was reading through a note book that I often take with me on my travels. During a daytrip to Luxembourg in 2009, while sitting on a terrace eating a pizza with a Belgian beer, I recapped my trip in about two pages. At the end of one page I scribbled, “PS train do a marathon, please.”

Little did I know how that would end up coming true, and then some.

Last Sunday was my second Paris Marathon, with some 40,000 people taking to the Champs Elysées and racing through the city’s streets. I’m back to normal after a couple nights of sleeping soundly and eating copiously (we ordered 8 pizzas after, they were finished within 24 hours). But oh what fun…

It all started with a 5:30AM wake-up call, some breakfast, some morning music, and then a quick metro ride with fellow marathoners to the corals. Rarely is there so much energy on a Sunday morning…

Exiting at the FDR stop, the crowd was there, just as I remembered from last year. The urge the pee began, and I excitedly joined other runners, peeing right by the Tiffany’s store with zero risk. I jumped into my very ambitious 3.5 hour coral, hoping to finish the marathon quickly and painlessly, only to pee again in front of onlookers as we approached the starting line. Inhibitions? Ha.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Say "Gender-Neutral" In French Anyway?

...and boys don't cry.
It’s an exciting day. You head to Monoprix, the Target of France. You beeline to the home section. You see the all-too-familiar logo as you begin the hunt for that perfect Hallmark greeting card.

Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a wedding, maybe it’s just a friendly “Thinking of you” card that requires the illustration of a bouquet of flowers because, let’s face it, they’re not worth a real bouquet. While nothing compared to the Hallmark card stores of American mall fame, the choices are all there.

On this particular Friday, I was looking for a card for a friend about to give birth to a baby boy. The French don’t really do wedding showers, but that wasn’t going to stop us, and it was all planned. But I needed the perfect card, and finally, I found the category entitled, “naissance,” or birth. What a find!

Quickly, however, I realized that the task would be a difficult one. My friend, the farthest thing from a 60s housewife, wasn’t bound by traditional stereotypes. But these cards were.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Studying at the Sorbonne: The Costs

I’ve been getting a few messages from prospective students around the world about studying at the Sorbonne. It’s exciting and terrifying to hear from people just starting their journey, and I can imagine all of the questions they have. Essentially my memory of starting at the Sorbonne in 2010 was one giant question mark over my head.

How will I make ends meet? Will I understand the professors? Will the work be too hard? Am I too old? Am I too experienced? Am I not experienced enough? What will I WEAR?

Here I am, over three years later, still making it, trudging away at my doctorate. For those just starting in the undergrad or masters programs, however, there is of course much advice I could give you. So I will. While I love to answer questions via email, I want to make some information instantly handy, so hopefully you’ll find some answers here regarding practical information for the Université de Paris system (note: I am no expert at all on the Grandes Ecoles, like ENS and Sciences Po, but a lot of the same info will apply).

If you have burning questions, or themes you’d like covered, let me know! But why not start with the most pressing: money. Students can work the equivalent of 20 hours a week, which doesn’t amount to much if you’re making 8-10 euros per hour. Don’t rule out other student jobs, like tour guiding for backpacker groups or looking for a paid internship (good luck!), but whatever the case may be, there are a few notes to keep in mind.

Student life can be rough in a city known as one of the most expensive in the world, but fear not. Money woes need not prohibit studying in Paris if you know what you’re doing…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reburying Hidden Gems: On Travel Writing Sloth

...and this one!
Check out this gem...

Who isn’t a travel writer these days? With so many blogs, websites, books, magazines, and other publications out there, everyone and his (or her) uncle can write about travel. The general requirement isn’t a degree in journalism or even expertise in, well, writing. Mostly anyone who goes somewhere and does something can write about it as an expert (or “expert” if you will). But even that’s not a given anymore. Am I complaining? Not at all. Multiple points of view are, plainly speaking, awesome.

Destination writing, however, is often as much about getting clicks on a website or getting invited to press events as it is about sharing information and helping our your fellow traveler. Whether it’s a blog, a tweet, or a thoroughly-researched in The New York Times, travel writing has exploded with social and other online media, and few of us can remember what it was like in the days when guide books were the only recourse. Ah the simpler times...

But all of this potential and power has made travel writers, dare I say it, lazy. While updating a travel guide recently, I think my track changes feature on Microsoft Word was about to blow a fuse. Aimless litanies of useless information, adjectives like “great” and “nice” splattered everywhere, and passages written by someone who doesn’t have a solid command of Paris geography (let alone the English language) were feeling my wrath.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

First Paris Half Marathon: The Recap

Barreling down Rue de Rivoli, crowds on all sides, darting my way in and out of runners from Mexico and South Africa, I didn’t feel nearly as fresh as the last time I ran this stretch during the first few kilometers of the Paris Marathon in 2013. Instead, I was more than halfway through the 2014 Semi-Marathon, huffing and puffing my way against the clock.

The goal? Ideally, 1 hour and 40 minutes, but I was content with anything under 2 hours. It would be a first. The record for the course was 59 minutes and 44 seconds, so my goal was a modest one at best.

Joined by 40,000 runners, I left the Bois de Vincennes feeling good. Really good. Having binged on Rice Krispy treats the day before (gluten free!), I felt full of energy. Training had gone well, the sun was shining, and I had already gone to the little boys’ room three times (once on the fence right by the starting line -- your welcome, onlookers). Things were looking up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Camera Killed the Coffee Star

It's cold to drink, but I'll get at least 15 likes...
I don’t make coffee at home. I don’t need my morning jolt to wake me up, nor would I ever be very far from any since I live in Paris. I discovered a café down the street that offers a coffee and croissant for 2 euros. I don’t care if it’s not organically-grown fair trade brew from a rehabilitated criminal living in some distant corner of the world. It’s coffee. If I want it, I’ll drink it.

Often, however, I’ll go to one of the newish “boutique” coffee joints that are taking locally roasted beans (it’s as “local” as coffee can get in France) and making some really great stuff. It doesn’t end up costing more than most cafés, and it tastes really, really good. These places often have that “local” feel to them, where you can chat with the baristas who eventually know your order right away. It’s great, really. Hats off.

About 4 years ago, I actually used to work for one such place, just as coffee was becoming “king” in Paris, according to The NewYork Times. I loved being able to interact with customers, to have a real rapport. I appreciate what these places are doing, but I’m not sure how long this local can keep going to them, even if they do know my order before I sit down.

First off, just try to find a seat. It’s not always easy in these cozy palaces. As I sat by the window, awaiting my cup, a French girl walked in with a look of disgust – even more disgust than on a good day. She couldn’t find a seat at the coffee shop, and promptly turned around. It can be frustrating, since it’s never really a fight at a traditional café, but hey, at least the boutique coffee shops do take-away without a fuss.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Paris First World Problems: Round 1

Inspired by the wonders of social media, where #Paris seems to have taken over my life, I’ve started to notice some things that many people tend to exaggerate. It’s fun to embellish and practice hyperbole, it’s a great tool, but when it’s not paired with proper perspective, it can become borderline offensive. Here's round 1 from some of my latest observations...

My sushi delivery is taking forever
That moment when you realize that you ordered sushi online to be delivered to your 5th story walk-up, and you know you don’t even have to leave the delivery boy a tip. He better not have forgotten the miso.

Even the gelato is frozen...ugh...
I hear they serve frozen meals here...

I had to eat a meal made of partially frozen food
Maybe you’d like a really fresh meal, but plenty of people, about 840 million of them, wouldn’t complain if their broccoli came from a freezer instead of right from the ground. But they probably wouldn’t appreciate the fresh stuff anyway.