Archive for the 'Paris' Category

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 (French), or type in your address or zip code anywhere in the world and get a few places at 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 a music festival (and guitars)

Story One: So there’s this event on June 21st called the Fête de la Musique. It’s basically an excuse for half of the residents of Île-de-France to get shitfaced and turn central Paris into a dump for one glorious night of debauchery. There are free concerts all over Paris and its periphery, and many of the concerts include huge names (Tokio Hotel performed at one venue and I didn’t know until it was over!!! cry cry cry). Then afterwards, people take to the streets because many shops and cafés are open really late, and the Métro and RER are open all night instead of closing at 1:30 am like they normally do. This all amounts to lots of trash and broken glass in the streets, converging at Notre Dame. The riot police come out and line up in front of Notre Dame at around 1:50 am because the fête is officially over at 2 am, leaving a TON of shit in the streets and a lot of drunk Parisians in its wake.

Anyway, after a great concert at Denfert-Rochereau, I walked with a couple of friends to Châtelet (FYI, that’s pretty far). My friends absolutely REFUSED to let me go back to my apartment alone, and for good reason– a small Asian girl alone in the RER in Paris at 3 am surrounded by hordes of drunk and loud French men on the drunkest and loudest night of the year? That’s pretty much ASKING to get raped– or, if you’re lucky, groped and harassed. Or followed home. ::shudder::

Story Two: I went to the Truskel bar alone on Saturday just because I saw its ad for “Punk Rock Karaoke Night”. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with my aspirations to Japanese rock stardom, I am currently trying to get underweight and learning how to play the guitar and looking for a punk rock band in desperate need of a singer.) As you might gather, a small Asian girl alone in a bar full of drunken French and British people is not the way to be. But I’m not the type to go down without a fight.

Anyway, the bar closed before the Metro opened, so I was stuck on the steps of the metro at 5 am with a glass bottle that I figured I could use for self-defense when this guy started talking to me. He turns out to be a great guitarist, and I end up at a random person’s very pimp house (the kid lives in a mansion– in the middle of Paris. He has GOT to be loaded) with him and a bunch of friends (who turn out to be sixteen-year-olds! Why am I so old?!), jamming and singing along to The Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz.

After chilling with him and jamming on the Pont des Arts the next day, said guitarist guy invites me to a concert by his band, and then lends me a guitar to practice with! Amazing. I’ve been thinking of buying a guitar here, and one just runs right into me. God, I love random acts of awesomeness.

So now I am continuing my guitar lessons from where my dad left off when I was in high school (he used to play Beatles songs all the time when I was little, and I finally let him teach me a few chords when I got older, but I’ve forgotten most of what he taught me :P). It’s a great way to kill time in my Internet-less apartment.

I’ll update you on my job hunt later. I’m going to be a part-time student, which means I can’t have a steady job, but I can do odd job-type things like babysit for a family obsessed with getting their kids to learn English. Oh, the places you’ll go in Paris if you’re fluent in American English.

what’s goin’ on

A few notes from my past month of missingness:

I don’t have the Internet at my new apartment. It may be someone else’s worst nightmare, but the truth is I’ve been looking forward to being Internet-free. I’m practically ADD, so the Internet distracts me a ton. Unfortunately, at Stanford, wifi is EVERYWHERE on campus, so my productivity is practically nil in my room. In my host mom’s place I was able to just sit on my ass all day and surf the net. I’m kind of glad that I can’t do that now, even though I miss French and Japanese dictionary functionality and instant Google searching for stuff if I ever continue working on my still-nonexistent paper.

The lack of Internet will hopefully get me off my ass and out into the world, which means it’ll give me a reason to go down the stairs– which means I have a reason to go back up seven/eight (depending on what country you’re in) flights of stairs and get rock-hard legs. Fantastico!

– Being a tourist for me is really weird. I’m not used to being in cities like Paris or New York on a schedule. For me it’s always like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go see _____. Oh well I’ll come back and see it later.” But tourists never seem to have enough time to think like that. I always think of them going, “Well, we have to do this this and this, so let’s get up at the crack of dawn, wait in line for five hours, then finally get to take our touristy pictures that no one’ll care about except us!” (I also have a strange aversion to tourist pictures.)

I can type on a French keyboard now! Well, my laptop keyboard is American so I have to type without thinking about looking at the keys. The Q and A are switched, the Z and W are switched (have you ever tried doing command-Z (undo) on Firefox on a French Mac without thinking? Shit!), the semicolon is an M and you have to use the shift key to type in any numbers or a period. I created a handy guide to typing in French on an American keyboard, including really hard-to-find characters like the M#@@#ing front slash.

My PowerBook has taken all kinds of abuse. Granted, its CD-ROM is no longer functional, the internet cable jack no longer keeps the cord in place, my power cord has some exposed wire after I tripped on it, and I can only properly load photos from my camera through one USB port, but yeah, I’m amazed it’s still working after I’ve had it for more than two years and dropped it various times on carpet, hardwood floor, brick tile and concrete; jammed it into my backpack sideways; stepped on it; sat on it; tripped on the power cord and yanked it off my bed to crash to my brick tile floor; ran it through various x-ray machines in sleep mode; spilled water, milk AND cereal, and other various drinks on the keyboard; biked over very uneven concrete with it in my bike basket…

Yeah guys, the casing is insanely sturdy. Even though it’ll be warped if you drop it onto a hard surface, it should still work to some degree. No guarantees on jacks or the CD-ROM, but the AirPort and at least one USB and FireWire port still work for me and that’s pretty much all I need. I think Bluetooth still works too, but I lost my bluetooth-equipped phone and I haven’t used it since. Just get a nice neoprene sleeve for your baby and it should be able to take on most everyday abuse. And for God’s sake, put it in your bag with the spine or side opposite the spine down, not like a book or it won’t latch shut properly and the Stanford Bookstore will offer to replace the entire case for you for like $200 when you can just carry it around properly and it’ll return to latch-shutting in no time.

For my next post, I will talk about music, the Fête de la Musique, and how I met this one guy at a bar and now have a borrowed guitar. No guarantees on the regularity of my posts from now on, but I’m trying my best to get to a WiFi hotspot once a week to tell my mom I’m safe and sound and ask for more money. Hoo yeah, I really need a job.

how NOT to enroll in the sorbonne: a cautionary tale

My plans have again drastically changed, and I’ll be taking a French Civilization course in the Sorbonne for the fall. It’s a program of the University of Paris IV: Paris-Sorbonne, but it’s not part of their regular curriculum. I really WANTED to enroll as a regular third-year student and take a regular curriculum, but I made a few harrowing discoveries upon talking to their Acceuil des élèves:

– If you’re from the U.S. (and other countries with four-year college systems):
To transfer in as a third-year Sorbonne student, you need to have completed your fourth year at your American college. French kids do three years of undergrad then go on to their Master’s, so this apparently makes perfect sense.

– So I had to have enrolled as a first- or second-year student. But for foreign students, registration to enter a given year as a first- or second-year student ENDS IN JANUARY. Compare this to the regular enrollment process, which starts in fucking JULY. The extra seven months seems to be due to getting a carte de séjour, but it’s French bureaucracy, they’re probably just trying to screw foreign students over.

Thus, I will now be paying €2,250 for three months of a single French class instead of €471 for an entire year of university.

France, I LOVE it when you screw me. You do it slowly and take a lot of time, but when you finally bring me to a climax, I’m completely helpless in your grasp and it takes all of my willpower not to scream out loud.


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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