Archive for July, 2007

es kill ya do wee-fee ee-see?

So if you’re in Paris and Internet-less like I am most of the time, here’s a handy guide to WiFi hotspots in Paris.

First off, there is a list of WiFi hotspots in Paris at cafes-wifi.com (French), or type in your address or zip code anywhere in the world and get a few places at free-hotspot.com. But I have no idea how you’ll get to those if you’re Internet-less! I don’t even know how you’ll be able to read this. Whatever, just save a copy of the search results to your computer and you should be golden.

Secondly, the whatever governmental in-charge people in Paris are trying to blanket the city with WiFi, starting with municipal sites, like mairies (the mayor’s offices for each arrondissement), libraries and parks. Yay! Two places I have already confirmed with it are the Parc Monceau and the park next to the University of Paris dorms at RER Cité Universitaire. I’ve heard that service is still a bit spotty in the bigger parks, but most bibliothèques already have it, apparently. They’re open until ten or eleven in the evening, so take advantage of them when you can.

It’s kind of annoying to have to do it all the time, but there’s WiFi available in virtually every McDonald’s you visit. I usually go to the one hidden in an indoor shopping complex off the Champs-Elysées (better known as the place where that guy makes all the bird whistling noises in the front). It’s underground, so you don’t have to look too lame, and the seats are pretty comfy, plus they’ve got tons of power outlets (very rare!).

Other known locations for free WiFi are the Centre Pompidou, Starbucks, and the Columbus Café chain (it’s sorta like Starbucks…). A lot of other cafes have WiFi too; just look for the WiFi sticker affixed on the window somewhere near their front entrance, or just ask a waiter, “Es kill ya do wee-fee ee-see (Est-ce qu’il y a du wifi ici – Is there WiFi here)?”. Actually, you should probably make sure a cafe has WiFi BEFORE you order something and not assume that you can surf the Internet while you imbibe; I’ve been to the cafe across the street from my apartment multiple times, ordered something, and THEN asked about WiFi. (€2.70 for each demi-tasse de cafe and it’s STILL broken. Argh!)

And always make sure that your laptop is fully charged before you venture out looking for WiFi. Parisians apparently know the consequences of public goods, and therefore it’s hard to find plugs for free electricity, even in McDonald’s. (Don’t forget to bring your charger and French plug adapter just in case though.)

That’s about it. Too easy? Ah, but my next post will be about Couchsurfing– or, how to house young backpackers out of the goodness of your heart while making sure that no one too sketchy stays with you.

how to survive Paris in the summertime

As promised! A guide to surviving Paris in the summetime, if you’re like me and can’t go into hermit mode like you normally do because you don’t have any Internet chez vous.

1. GET THE HELL OUT OF YOUR APARTMENT
There’s so much shit to do in Paris, especially in the summertime when there are tons of things going on. July 14th, camp out on the Champ de Mars for a fantastic, big-name Bastille Day concert (if you want to be in the front row, get there at like 1pm). Every night there’s at least one good club open for free (bonus if you’re a lady: many clubs have a ladies’ night, like Le Queen on Wednesdays.)

If you don’t have a lot of friends in Paris, get the hell out and meet new ones! Rock clubs are great for this, because bars and techno clubs are way too sketchy. It’s hard to meet people in the daytime during the summer because Parisians are usually out of town for vacation then, especially in August.

2. SAVE YOUR MONEY
There is so much free stuff going on in Paris that spending money would be kind of idiotic if you have the patience to look. The week-long Fête du Cinéma at the end of June gets you into movies for 2 euro if you go to another movie at full price (you’ll get a pass). There are jazz concerts, and tons of bars and stuff have free music (theoretically you have to buy at least one drink, but whatev). Just pick up a copy of LYLO (‘Les Yeux, Les Oreilles‘) which is a handheld guide to gigs and concerts all around Paris for the next two weeks. You can usually find it at the handouts table in clubs, small CD shops and other music stores, or in the student center at schools (like in the basement of ISEP).

If you’re a student under the age of 26, a whole new world of free or cheap things opens up to you. With a student ID card (the International Student Identification Card, or the ISIC, works too) you can buy year-long museum passes for ridiculously cheap (15 euro at the Louvre, 18 at Orsay, 22 at the Pompidou– and that gets discounted during the Nuit des Musées in May), movies are discounted, food at university restaurants (‘Resto U’s) is mad cheap, even yearlong Navigo passes are discounted (apply for the Imagine R if you’ll be here for the year; not only is it way cheaper, you get to go anywhere within the Transilien/SNCF zones during weekends and holidays!).

If you really want to buy stuff like food (kind of important), try the open-air markets for produce and cheap accessories (5 euro for ballet flats. Yes.), which are usually open on the weekends and perhaps Mondays, Wednesdays and/or Fridays. And there’s the gigantic Marché aux Puces in Métro Porte de Clignancourt for everything non-edible, from shoes to leather jackets to multicolored bags. Take advantage of the waning sale season!

3. STAY COOL (but not too cool)
Expect there to be alternating periods of sweltering heat, rain, and cool and cloudy. Go ahead and wear a tank top/t-shirt, but always have a light extra layer in your bag if you’re a coldy-cat like I am, or plan to stay out until dark (which comes pretty late in the summer, but you get what I mean). It could be sweltering outside or in the tourist-filled museums and monuments, but you never know when it’ll get cloudy or whether you’ll walk into an air-conditioned Metro or building (which is rare, but still).

During the canicule (dog days of summer– the really hot part of August), if you do want to wear as little clothing as possible, keep Parisian dress standards in mind: no booty shorts or exceptional cleavage– too much skin will get you shamelessly hit on. Also, flip-flops are common, but if you want to be more fashionable, go for tennis shoes or the sandals with the elegant middle strap; cheap but good-looking ones with black straps are found at H&M. They make most feet look really pretty and elongated.

4. BE FASHIONABLE
The main point: no matter how hot or cold it is, never go outside looking like shit. Parisians take this to heart because for them, Paris is so small that they never know whom they’ll run into. For the rest of you, though, here’s a guide on what to wear so you don’t look too disgustingly much like a tourist:

For going out during the nighttime, or daytime, in general.
Guys: Collared shirt, ALWAYS. And maybe dark jeans or slacks with shoes. In the daytime you can get away with a nice brand-name t-shirt (no college tees!), but even if you sweat like a pig, get a fucking dress shirt.
It’s Europe, so remember that colors like pink, purple and yellow do not diminish your manhood. Unnaturally bright vestments, however, may make you look like Eurotrash, i.e. cheap, gaudy and/or verrry sketchy.

Girls: In the nighttime, the older the crowd is, the more likely you’ll be able to get away with a mini or cocktail dress, or any dress in general. Do yourself a favor and stick to a flattering pair of dark skinny jeans, because Parisian girls’ stick-thin legs probably put yours to shame. If you do wear a t-shirt, it should at least be a band tee. Tennis shoes usually complete the outfit, but if you have bejeweled I-strap sandals like those described above, those work too.

If you do want to wear a dress, wear a comfy t-shirt dress belted at the waist, but this is usually worn with jeans too. In the daytime, summer dresses of the flowery and even brightly-colored kind are usually ok. Just don’t go overboard.

It’s Paris. Like in any other true metropolis (‘cept maybe Tokyo), dark colors are your best bet in any season. This is why Californians stick out like brightly-colored sore thumbs in New York City during any season but summer.

The end! I’m sure there are other things you can do in Paris, so I’ll probably be adding more to the list. Next post will probably include something about getting free WiFi in Paris, as that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since I moved out of my host mother’s.

about self-censorship, or, a blogger’s worst nightmare

I just found out that certain members of my family have found this site somehow. No idea how, since if you’ll notice, I’ve taken care to keep my real name out of it. Anyway, it’s an uncomfortable prospect, but it’s one of the risks I assumed when I started this blog. (God knows how much of my past online fodder my dad’s been able to find. Man, getting flamed by your dad is SO uncool.) I tried my best to make this blog easy to stay away from if they were of the opinion that ignorance is bliss, but I figured that it’d only be a matter of time if their curiosity got the better of them.

Taking this into account, I’ve decided to try and go on blogging as if I still didn’t know that my mom or dad were looking over my shoulder. I mean, if anyone has a right to know what I’m up to while in Paris, it’s probably my parents, right? They’re the ones preventing me from starving here. It’s only fair. Besides, I’m kind of sick of constantly hiding shit from them for fear of criticism or wrath. At this point, it would be an insult to both my intelligence and theirs if I were expected to forever be as obedient or conservative as they’d like me to be, because that would take a ton of lying on my part, and a ton of blind acceptance on theirs.

So anyway, Warning: In this blog, I drink, I curse, and I tell no lies. Would I act the same way in front of anyone and everyone in person? Of course not. But I speak in this blog like I would speak to most of my friends, and on the Internet it’s hard to mask one persona from another. Writing in this blog would cease to be enjoyable for me if I had to censor myself any more than I already do, so the best I can do now is keep my name out of it for the time being, and hope that I won’t get filleted later by my parents, mentors, or prospective employers.

N.B. Mom and Dad: I’m sorry if any of this gives you high blood pressure. You know how much I hate not being honest. Anyway, chill, you’ve raised me well enough– and jeez, you know I’m not doing stuff like going around whoring myself for money, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking you guys for any! So stop grumbling, Dad, I’m fine.

And now we return to our irregularly scheduled blog posting.

bastille day (and the stanford weather machine theory)

14 juillet, known as the Fête nationale, celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison (which no longer exists, but you’ll see a bunch of tourists at place de la Bastille looking for it anyway), and the death of maybe a hundred people, one of whom had his head sawed off and impaled on a stick. This is what happens when you piss Parisians off.

Anyway, on Bastille Day the president is paraded down the Champs-Elysées and there’s a free 7pm concert on the Champ de Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower, full of big names and young girls who’ve camped out there in the blazing sun since noon waiting for Tokio Hotel. Trains and buses within a mile or two of the Eiffel Tower are curiously shut down after the concert starts, preventing Metro stops from being super-populated terrorist targets and forcing fat American tourists to walk for the first time in their lives. The concert is followed by fireworks in front of the Eiffel Tower, for those who didn’t have to be carried out of the mob on the Champ de Mars by the Red Cross after collapsing from heat exhaustion.

I think Paris borrowed Stanford’s weather machine last weekend, because it’s been raining for the past three weeks and has begun to rain again today, but on Saturday it couldn’t have been sunnier or more beautiful.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the Stanford weather machine, it is a theory that some Stanford students affectionately use to explain why the weather at Stanford is gorgeous for visiting high schoolers in the spring and incoming freshmen in the fall, but is complete crap between the months of November to March.

There is speculation that Stanford University owns a machine– a weather machine, if you will– that somehow dissipates all rain clouds during the end of spring, the beginning of fall, and all of summer. Any bouts of rain are therefore explained by either the weather machine being decommissioned for repairs, or the weather machine being on loan to a particularly wealthy city.)

So it’s complete crap again today, and I have to go to the Surcouf on the other side of town to buy a new Powerbook G4 adapter to replace the one I lost in Liverpool. I have no idea why it’s still so expensive– aren’t Powerbooks old models already? Can’t I get a price break here? Since when did Apple become so evil?

I’m sorry that these post-May posts have been completely useless and uninformative. I blame it on my power-less computer. I promise that my next post will somehow involve tips on surviving Paris in the summer and how to not die of boredom when you live at the top of a seven-floor walk-up with virtually no computer. Oh, and pictures.

about the apartment

I live at the top of a seven-floor walk-up apartment. (It’s actually eight floors if you count from the ground floor English-style.) It’s a miniscule two-room chambre de bonne (maids’ quarters, which is what they were originally) and the shower is in the kitchen and the toilet is down the hall. I share it with a 26-year-old girl from Russia, dorm-style.

There are tons of advantages to living on the very top floor: I always get exercise, there’s no noise coming from above, rats and stuff usually can’t make it up there, and the view is absolutely gorgeous– a sea of Parisian rooftops, and if you stick your head out the window and look to the left or right you’ll see the Sacré-Coeur or the Tour Eiffel.

However, the piping is kind of strange. We have two sinks in the kitchen– one for dishes, one for toothbrushing– and the shower in the corner. I think they all share the same drainpipe; whenever one sink runs for too long, the other two get backed up. And seeing bulate-infested drain water bubbling up from the shower drain is enough to discourage anyone from bathing for a while. (Bulate is a word in Tagalog meaning worm-like microbes… I think. I have no idea how to translate it.)

So yeah. I haven’t taken a shower in about a week. I’m beginning to gross myself out, but gahhhh the bubbling shower drain will be in my nightmares for ages.

lookin’ for a job, livin’ on a prayer

Due to the massive change of plans involving loan grace periods and my lack of funding, I will only be taking one French class at the Sorbonne in the fall. Because I will no longer be a full-time student, I won’t be able to hold a steady job in Paris unless I get paid under the table (or work for free!). Luckily, there’s still high demand for fluent English speakers, so I could probably find a babysitting job. I’m just too chicken to hold phone conversations in French, so I’ve been replying to FUSAC and craigslist ads that have e-mail addresses. It’s a bit late to be job-hunting, so I don’t expect much to come out of my inquiries. For now I’m living off of the one credit card I have that works overseas, and whatever my mother wires into my bank account.

The guy that lent me the guitar is also trying to convince me to go the Pont des Arts with him and sing for money. He has this portable mini-amp, so he could bring his electric guitar and a mic and we could jam to “Hotel California” and “No Woman, No Cry”.

I’m beginning to like the idea. In Paris, it’d be a joke to get arrested for panhandling— just take the Metro anywhere and there’s a 50 percent chance that a beggar or street performer will come into your car and solicit money. And apparently a bunch of Parisian musicians got their start that way (like Edith Piaf!). Plus I might just be taking one step closer to my dream of becoming a Japanese rock star…

about liverpool (and european security)

How to get a free ride on the RER to Charles de Gaulle Airport
1. Get to Gare du Nord at 6:30 in the freaking morning.
2. Try to buy a ticket to CDG from the ticket machine, then remember that French ticket machines don’t take bills, and thus you are expected to pay 8.40 euro with either a bank card or loose change.
3. Say “fuck that shit” and notice that one of the ticket barriers to the RER, as always at the Gare du Nord, is completely open.
4. Enter and find the platform that leads to CDG.
5. Get on the train.
6. Pray that the metro Nazis aren’t going to swoop down on your car and charge you 50 euro for not having a ticket. (Well it’s not like you have to pay that fine anyway…)
7. Get off at CDG Terminal 1, and notice that the exit doesn’t even *allow* purchased metro tickets to be used upon exit because they’re broken… or because it’s so early in the morning.
8. Realize you don’t need a ticket to leave if you enter through the disabled set of doors.
9. Exhale. Or, mutter “What the fuck?” under your breath over and over again.

How to leave France with an expired visa and with no proof that your application for a temporary residence permit is currently being processed
Pre-requisite: have an American passport.
1. Go to the airport with your passport. (And get your boarding pass if you haven’t already.)
2. Realize that you have an expired visa and your temporary residence permit is still being processed, so you may not be able to leave the country.
3. Go to the passport control officers and hope they don’t notice anything.
4. Get your passport stamped.
5. Go through security.

How to get on a French EasyJet flight on time
1. Get your boarding pass right when check-in opens and get through security.
2. Arrive at the gate during the time that they’re scheduled to open it and discover that no one’s there.
3. Wait at the gate for an hour.

How to get back into France from Liverpool with an expired visa and with no proof that your application for a temporary residence permit is currently being processed
Pre-requisite: have an American passport.
1. Get drunk.
2. Get on the plane.
3. Get off the plane.
4. Wait in the passport control line still drunk or with a hangover.
5. Decide to laugh at everything that happens, even if you *do* get deported.
6. Find yourself in line with a gaggle of 5th grade Liverpudlians.
7. Get waved through the passport control with the kids.


What?

This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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