Surviving the Paris Metro.

One of the first culture shocks I experienced when moving to Paris was the, “where’s the rest of it” experience. This question came with every drink, coffee and breakfast I ordered. The “petite” French life style they say exist is one stereotype that is an overwhelming reality.

Petit dejeuner

“French Breakfast”

The only places to get more than a 2oz cup of coffee, Starbucks and McDonald’s, of course and beers start at 25cl. Some places don’t even give you a larger option and soda’s only come in one size, barely there with no refills. This trend seemed to be the same for most meals except dinner but beverages and breakfast especially. Dinner is the largest meal of the day, which makes sense since you have to eat after the, “The French breakfast”. This breakfast normally consists of a croissant, baguette with butter and jam, juice and of course, cafe. Coffee refills are laughable in most restaurants unless you plan on paying another 2,50 euro for your 2oz.  Though this downsizing took awhile to get used to, (especially the beverages) I have to admit, I eventually welcomed the change. You grow to savor and enjoy every bite, sip, which most American’s were never taught how to do. When lunch and dinner come, you have plenty of time to bulk up as these meals take just as long as watching an opera.

Though I became accustomed to this transition, four months into my “petite” mornings, I was starting to really miss my weekend tradition of a huge, “super sized” brunch. $10 all you drink Mimosa’s, blood mary bars lined with 17 different types of olives, hot sauces and shrimp, 5 egg omelets stuffed with red bliss potatoes, is what I new only as Sunday brunch. It was my favorite day of the week and the perfect solution to the weekend hangover. However, moving to France, the idea of Sunday brunch was not as appreciated the way I was used to it. Though there are many places that offer brunch, not exactly what I was used to.

When moving to the 17th arrodisment, I was hit with the craving when I passed by a colorful, cute, trendy cafe called, Sans Gene. The front glistened with a “brunch” sign outside and patrons were drinking the biggest beers I have ever seen in Paris. This reminded me a lot of Snooze back in the US, which hosts one of the longest running brunch lines in the west. So, immediately I gather my friends and headed over for to try a taste of home.

20140330_151707

Enjoying with friends, how I know Sunday brunch

 

Friendly staff, trendy decor with an eclectic atmosphere greeted us for a Sunday brunch I had been anxiously waiting for. Sans Gene offers a 24 euro brunch with unlimited coffee or hot chocolate, bottomless juice, traditional French basket of breads, a beautifully sectioned plate with a bacon and egg English Muffin sandwich (which I have not even seen those sold yet in France) salad, fromage, spring rolls and even a choice of dessert. Since, I don’t eat meat, they were kind enough to substitute salmon for me.

Part of our new upgraded brunch

Part of our new upgraded brunch

This masterpiece brunch was absolutely delicious and more than satisfying for the price. The best part was the jar of Nutella they put in the middle of the table for your baguette. A necessity, I learned here in France. Afterwards we sat and had their great selection of cocktails, which start at only 6,50 euro. Don’t feel like you have to rush to wake up or you will miss brunch. Brunch is served until 6pm!

If you stay or want to come back another day, ensure to get one of their massive draft beers for happy hour. Happy hour is from 5pm-8pm everyday and the place is always jamming with local people, it makes you finally feel like a real Parisian!

So, if you want to get out of the mobs of tourists and are craving your American sized beers and brunch, then Sans Gene is a do not miss on your list! Metro Stop: La Fourche, Line 13 http://www.sansgene.fr

St. Patrick’s Day is officially one my favorite holidays. I hoped moving to Europe I would be able to experience the ultimate celebration in Dublin this year but you have to save some dreams for years to come. Since, I could not make it there this time, I was looking forward to seeing what the celebration was like living in my first European city, Paris.

wpid-20140318_002911.jpg

Even without an Irish bone in my body, I feel as though I am related to the land of green, somehow.  I love everything about the Irish celebration, the parades, the costumes and of course the parties. On my adventure to Dublin 8 years ago in September they proved their reputation strong. No matter what time of year it is, they seem to celebrate as it was St.Patrick’s Day, everyday. So, one day I will check it off of the list for the official day in Dublin but until then I will see what the rest of the world has to offer.

Though I am used to the “Americanized” version of St. Patrick’s Day, I still look forward to the celebration every year. Living in Denver, I experienced one of the countries biggest and best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. An all weekend celebration with a parade, 7k runs and as much green beer as you can handle. Now, moving to Europe I was hoping the celebration would continue being so close to Ireland.

Unfortunately, it was not up to my high party standards, which I should have known. St. Patrick’s Day does not seem to be a holiday that would be widely adapted by the French. Since this is a country filled with some of the best wine in the world and about two beer companies. Plus, there is no artificial flavoring here in France, how could they make green beer!

After finishing school on St.Patrick’s Day we went to seek our experience here in Paris. There was a presence of celebrations going on, mainly around happy hour between the two most happening Irish chains, O’Sullivans and Corcoran’s. We got excited to start the night and then headed over to Finnegan’s Wake to try something new. However, by the time we got there, which seemed early around 9pm, most people had their fill by happy hour. Guinness hats were falling off and there was no evidence of Irish singing or car bombs. We got our beers and cocktails with glowing  straws and enjoyed the traditional Irish atmosphere. I could say it was the calmest end to the celebration I ever experienced but I think I knew that would happen. I officially realized this is not a widely celebrated holiday when I saw a girl wearing a Guinness hat she got in a pub that said, “Happy St. Pat’s Day, 2009.”

Do you call this recycling?

So, if you are in Paris on St. Patrick’s Day (or any day) and need to get Irish, here is a list of Irish pubs in Paris. Many of great music  and happy hour throughout the year and you will have no problem getting your Irish fix. If you are in Paris by chance on St. Pat’s and you want to not feel as guilty about your indulgence, then Sacre Coeur offers a noon St. Patrick’s Day mass. Stay Green my friends!

1. O’Sullivan’s. With several locations in Paris, they offer two floors of upbeat “new” Irish atmospheres. They have a large variety of beer and bar food with daily specials and happy hour until 9pm. After keep the party going till 4am for the DJ playing the best Top 40. http://www.osullivans-pubs.com.

2. Corcoran’s. A great place to start the night out with some traidtional Irish fair and drinks. They offer daily happy hour till 9pm, dancing and a fun atmosphere in their 6 locations around Paris till the wee hours of the morning. Metro http://www.corcoransirishpub.fr

3. Guinness Tavern. If you are searching for a fun spot to party all night, dance and hear great music this is the place to be. They offer live concerts and great drinks. Doors open around 7pm and close when the last Guinness is drunk, around 5am. Just a “budget warning” for those on a hostel travel budget, this is one of the more expensive pubs. www.guiness-tavern.com.  31bis Rue des Lombards, 75001. Metro: Les Halles/Line 1

4. Galway. A great place for live, traditional Irish music, good food and relaxation. They have a wide variety of beers from all over the world and offer a good atmosphere for a pint after a long day of sightseeing. 13 Quai des Grands-Augustins, 75006. Metro stop: Saint Michel/Odeon/ Line 4

5. McBride’s Irish Bar: One of the most central Irish pubs in Paris right in the heart of Châtelet, this is one of the true definitions of Irish bars in the middle of the action! Celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day with live music and great variety of traditional Irish beers and plenty of picnic style outdoor seating. http://www.mcbrides.corcoransirishpub.fr. 104 Rue Saint-Maur, 7001. Metro: Châtelet/Line 4

6. O’Mulligan’s: St. Patrick’s Day and everyday, this lively and fun Irish pub will never let you down. A great spot to hang out with your friends and listen to amazing guest DJ’s every night of the week. Check out their list of DJ’s and pop in on St. Pat’s to enjoy a great pint with friends for a different “spin” on St. Patrick’s Day. 54 Rue St. Denis, 75011. Metro: Parmentier/Line 3

7. The Green Goose: Looking for delicious Irish food and a quieter celebration? This spacey and traditional Irish bar and restaurant with it’s fantastic selection of delicacies is a favorite of many Parisians and tourists. You will celebrate St. Pat’s with a fabulous meal and delicious beverages. 19 rue des boulets, 7011.

Finnegan’s Wake: Unfortunately, this placed closed down and it was great to celebrate it, so I thought I would keep it “in honor.” A very traditional Irish pub with a laid back atmosphere,. Tucked away on a side street in 5th arr., it is claimed as the first Irish pub in Paris. They offer 4.50 euro beers for happy hour and though non-very Irish, a pretty good mojito too. Metro stop: Jussieu/ Line 7 http://www.finneganswakeparis.comMetro: Nation/Line 1 or 6

 

 

superbowlIronic as life is, it never seizes to amaze me how it takes its turns. This year, irony played its role in the form of my favorite American holiday, the Super bowl.

 As I finally saved the money, obtained the visa and decided to leave it all behind to live my dreams in Paris, one of my favorite things about the US was about to be enjoyed without me. My last resident city, Denver now prepares to have a possible historic celebration as the Broncos tie their laces to face the Seattle Seahawks under the leadership of Denver’s new God, Peyton Manning.  I envy all the “the mile high” fans, well who are literally high now, back in my homeland at this moment. Though this will be an all-nighter for me, as the kickoff is not until midnight in Paris, I consider this almost a second New Year’s type celebration.

 Nachos, beer helmets, parties, betting pools and of course, football, brings glory and embellishes what it truly means to be American on Super bowl Sunday. Ever since I can remember, when the Buffalo Bills blew it against the New York Giants in the 1991 Super bowl, I loved the excitement, anxiety and insanity that Super bowl represented. Everyone had an excuse to get loud, come together as it is at Thanksgiving, to enjoy lots of food, friends and most importantly watch football.

As the US prepares to enjoy one it’s most consumed holidays and my favorite, I wonder where, in my new home, I can feel the most “at home”.  I  Googled where to watch football in general in Paris, months before I left  but  the same bar, The Princess and the Frog, came up in several different sites, funny how that works.  As I wanted to be enwrapped in what would be the biggest celebration Denver as ever seen, I decided to do my own research for the best celebration in Paris.

So, here’s what I found. In Paris, if you are living here, studying here or just happen to be here for an overnight layover, here’s 7 additional bars partying for the 2014 Superbowl on February2, 2014. Kickoff is at midnight so be prepared to cheer with the true fans till the morning hour.

Paris Bars showing the 2014 SuperBowl

 1. The Great Canadian­

Located on the river in the 6th arr,  and the heart of Saint Michele, this pub apparently hosts the North American football fan hide out. No matter what the game, this pub is a must go to for any sporting event your withdrawing from. The menu is filled with typical North American fare and you will feel right at home among other fans. This Sunday for the Super bowl, it will cost you 20 € to get in the door but two drinks are included (anxious to find out what that means) However, get there early because tables are limited. As I want to feel the most “at home” to cheer the Broncos on, this is where I will be.  Metro Stop: Saint Michele\Notre Dame, 25 Quai des Grands Augustins, 0146335420, http://www.tgcparis.com

2. The Moose

The name alone gives away its roots but this Canadian pub combines traditional Paris with North America. Tucked away on a small back street between Saint Germain-des-pres and Odéon, this has become a well-known sports destination for North Americans. The Moose offers plenty of reasonably priced food and drinks with plenty of seating. They will be offering the same 20 € entrance fee with two drinks included for Super bowl Sunday. Metro Stop: Odéon, 16 rue des 4 vents, 0146337700, www.mooseparis.com

3. Bulls Brothers

Saint Michele offers this lively pub with great happy hour specials and a nightly DJ. There is large basement full of seating and plenty of tv’s upstairs to watch the game. Admission is free Super bowl Sunday and 5 € beers the entire evening (or morning). They only serve hot dogs and chips, so you may want to eat something before-hand. This is already becoming one of my favorite spots in Paris for a quick, cheap drink with friends throughout the year. Metro Stop: Saint Michele\Notre Dame, 27 rue de la Huchette, 0178901068

4Cafe Oz

This Australian pub has several locations throughout Paris. The one located in the 1st arr. at Les Halles has a huge wrap around bar with tv’s at every corner. They offer a nightly happy hour at 4pm and then again at 9pm featuring a beer of the week. There will be free entrance on Super bowl Sunday but no drink specials. Metro Stop: Les Halles, 18 Rue Saint-Denis, 0140390018, www.cafe-oz.com

5.  The Blok

Situated next to the bumping Guinness Tavern in Les Halles this vibrant, trendy bar and nightclub offers the cheapest beers I have seen, 2.90 € beers all day. There is one large flatscreen overtaking the extremely colorful bar but not many tv’s downstairs which provides a chic nightclub. They will be showing the game Super bowl Sunday with free entrance but no additional specials. Metro Stop: Les Halles, 33bis Rue des Lombards, 0143318661, www.blok-paris.com

6. Pomme d’Eve

The only South African pub in Paris, proves how South Africans like to party by staying open till 5am every night, except Tuesday. The exotic drinks and vibrant atmosphere serves a great spot Super bowl Sunday or any night of the year. They show sporting events from all over the world and will be hosting the Super bowl on Sunday with no admission fee. There are no additional drink specials but this is a must got to bar at least once. Metro Stop:Cardinal Lemoine, 1 Rue Làplace, 0143258618, www.lapommedeve.com

7. The Frog and Rosbif

Next store from the Montorgueil market, this traditional English pub is part of the Frogpubs chain. They offer traditional burgers to match their selection of micro brewed beers. They host an early happy hour and show most sporting events but primarily rugby and soccer.  This Super bowl Sunday they offer free entrance featuring a BBQ menu with drink specials from 11pm. Metro Stop: Les Halles, 116 rue St. Denis, 0142363473, www.frogpubs.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velvet rope, security and an overflowing line packed with anxiously waiting onlookers, is what I encountered on my way to take the train one day at Saint Lazare station. What could this be for?  Is there an opening of a new store, restaurant or a possible celebrity sighting? Is George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Uma Thurman or one of the other celebrities that frequent Paris inside? These are the questions I asked myself as I passed by the extensive line wrapping back to the front of Starbucks on the top level. The line was protected with thick red velvet ropes as at any hot nightclub and headed with security guards wearing bright orange armbands. When I stopped to turn to the right to see where the front of the line began, nothing could have prepared me, especially as an American for what I saw. “ This line is for Burger King?!”

The first anxious Parisian Whopper consumers  in December

The first anxious Parisian Whopper consumers in December

 

Velvet rope and security guards are not the first symbols I relate to Burger King but in Paris, they are the first thing any Parisian will tell you about the fast food giant. When the first and only Burger King in Paris, opened last month it was “the king”. Saint Lazare station, which traffics trains to the Parisian suburbs, metro lines and houses a trendy mall throughout its three stories, sees hundreds of thousands of people each day. However, this station now has become not just a train station but a destination for an “evening out” as it holds one of Paris’s most popular restaurants.

The "VIP" line at BK in Saint Lazare

The “VIP” line at BK Saint Lazare

 

Besides, the first obvious question I asked myself, “Why would anyone living in one of the world’s culinary capitols, wait in line for a Whopper?” In addition I continued to ask myself, why is Burger King just arriving in Paris as a Starbucks and McDonald’s shockingly appear on every corner.  Come to find out, my roommate informed me, Maud, that this is not Burger King’s grand appearance but their rebirth.

The restaurant existed in the 90’s but closed in 1997, as McDonald’s became the dominant burger chain. Unlike, the states, there is limitation to how much “junk food” can exist in this glorious culinary universe.

The French government regulates how much “Americanism” can be allowed here in the country. Music, television and restaurants are all restricted to certain quantity. This as to not corrupt citizens with the steroid filled, “junk food” lifestyle we have come to endure in the US.  As an American, we dream of enduring a place like France where escargot, caviar and specialty formage flows like wine. We obsessively grasp every photo-opt possible, while drooling with envy over our magnificent foie gras meals. wishing we could eat like this everyday forever. Yet, as we frolic around Paris, reading our guidebooks for the best Michelin star restaurants, the French are envying the presence of “everyday junk food”. Though, Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks all exist here, the items are extremely limited. As I spoke to my roommate Maud, pondering the concept of ever getting sick of the endless escargot, formage and caviar, it comes down to the internal human instinct inside all of us, you always want what you can’t have.

Burger King had become the most anticipated “junk food” restaurant in Paris proving that the presence of American culture was not a visible in France as I had imagined. Except for Starbucks, as it was in other countries such as, Germany, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Burger King all claimed a presence as if you were in Grand Central station. However, when I saw this “VIP” line and the excitement of anxious look on Parisians faces waiting for their first bite of a Whopper, I knew that I was still far away from home.

One of my many finds of Dunkin Donuts in Berlin, Germany

One of my many Dunkin Donuts finds in Berlin, Germany

I finally decided now in January, that I had to be part of this experience. I refused to step in any of the American chain restaurants here in Paris, except to use the Wi-Fi, while I was in my culinary dream world. Since McDonald’s served simpler meals than the US including macaroons and beer, I assumed BK must be different too. As an American living in the states, I never went to fast food restaurants, unless I was extremely desperate. Though I am a “pescatarian” and don’t’ eat meat, I know as American there should be a warning label when eating at most fast food restaurants.

“ Warning, side effects of this hamburger may include, diarrhea, nausea, birth defects, warts, acne, fatigue, hem rods, antlers out of your head, gray hair or make you look Paris Hilton”

 

Security guards are neccessary here

Security guards keeping order to the long lines

It had been six weeks since the grand opening of BK, the lines at lunch and dinner where almost as long as the day it opened but early morning, mid afternoon or late evening seemed to be more reasonable. Now, in late January as all the holiday shoppers had returned to their daily routines and the lines less than half than the entire month of December, the excitement was still there. To my surprise this afternoon, I was standing in a “shorter” line, which still took 20 minutes to get inside and another 25 to order.

I giggled with others, as though at a premier nightclub, when security had to escort someone to the back of the line. A beautiful, young French girl in her late teens or early twenties, tried to “work” the security guard to cut the line and meet a friend. Like at any club where cute girls are their own golden ticket to the front of the line, she tried to “woo” the security guard to the front but he wasn’t having it.

While almost attempting to abort the mission, I decided to wait it through and the young male security guard lifted up the horizontal rope to let our next anxious group of consumers in.  When arriving inside, I saw customers smiling, laughing and enjoying their meals while wearing their staple “Burger King” crowns, which I didn’t think existed still. I remember how exciting it was as a kid to go to “Burger King’ for play dates with friends. We wore our crowns, enjoyed a double cheeseburger and loved our meal back when BK was considered a decent meal. Now, as Burger King and other fast food restaurants went to the bottom of most of our lists, it was somewhat refreshing to see excitement again in something that has been lost.

It is ironic that back in the US I would not step foot in this restaurant but here in Paris, I was willing to give it a try. The menu was digital as most fast food menus have updated to, the trend continued to keep the menu was simply French. No triple whoppers, no bacon, no ranch dressing and no dollar (or one euro) menus, of course. However, the additions made up for, ganache cake, glazed donuts and beer as a beverage choice instead of a soda……..at no extra charge.

The "speciality" dessert selections at BK

The “speciality” dessert selections at BK

 

I reviewed the small menu available as I waited in line I reviewed my limited choices, since I didn’t eat meat, and crinched a little as I thought of my only option, a fish sandwich. However, I said hell with it and got a “King Fish” meal. As I waited the 45 minutes, though at a fine dining restaurant in Paris, I grabbed a king hat and hoped it would be as good as I hoped.

I sat down to try my “gourmet” Burger King meal in the small restaurant looking over the entrance of Saint Lazare station. It was tough to compare to my last BK meal, as it had been so many years. Though as Paris keeps up to it’s reputation, any meal in Paris is a good meal, no matter the restaurant.

One of the "newest" trendy Parisian meals

One of the “newest” trendy Parisian meals

I first unwrapped my fish sandwich to see if the mayonnaise situation was any better than I remembered and, strike one. I scrapped my bun on the few napkins I had to wipe the pound of mayonnaise off.  As I continued with the clean bun, the fish was considerably fresh for a fried fish patty but the initial flavors wore off and the memory of “why I don’t’ eat here” came back.

I went to try the fries, remembering Burger King hosting the title of best, crunchiest fries of the American fast food chains, hoping the legacy continued but strike two. My fries were lukewarm, chewy and un-flavorful but maybe it was just a bad day. I resumed to sit with the others, finished my seven-euro meal and left like I always did after any fast food meal, like shit.

I am glad I waited and experienced one of Paris’s “hottest” new restaurants, if anything for the conversation piece. Though we all need some junk food in our life, no matter what city, I think I will return to my original plan of formage plates, oysters and salmon crepes. No matter what, every experience is a good one and I can truly say this proves we take for granted what we cannot have. Nevertheless, lastly, Burger King no matter what the fuss, where in the world, it is still just Burger King.

 Here’s what to expect at the Parisian Burger King:

  1. Prepare to be in line, from security to the order line, for a minimum of 40 minutes.
  2. The word menu translates to meal
  3. Meals, as in the US, include a side and a drink
  4. The most expensive meal on the menu is 9,60 euro and the least expensive is 6,20 euro
  5. Dessert includes glazed donuts, chocolate and vanilla ganache cake
  6. You can order beer and is include in your meal as a drink choice
  7. If you order a salad there is only one type of dressing, yogurt
  8. There is no breakfast
  9. Hours are 10am-11pm everyday
  10.   Remember, you’re in France!

As all the holiday decor disappears, the New Year begins and tourists head home to start their daily routine, only the true Parisians are left to resume their lives.

After starting my first day of French language classes yesterday for four months at Accord Language School in the 9th arrondissement,  I felt the calm vibe of the city. It is the first time since the rush of the holiday season, I felt like a true Parisian again. In January, money spent on Christmas gifts, tourist attractions and for myself, spending my first couple weeks splurging on some delicious formage, wine and attractions to introduce myself to the city, has made extricluar activites short. January, the month where money is restricted, “fun” is a word that has strict limits.

In Paris though, there is always something to do, on any budget. This seems almost a oximoron as Paris normally equals expensive but if you look closely, there is a pool of activities to enjoy in the winter, while waiting for the spring flowers.

We have been blessed with a warm streak in the city the past few days as today almost reached 60F. A few new girls from my school who I met, invited me to join them for the afternoon as they play tourist with their short time in Paris. Our worldly group, one girl from Switzerland, Korea, Australia and myself from the US, made our way over to the Hotel de Ville to enjoy some outdoor skating in the sun. After grabbing some less expensive lunch at the La Crossanterie, we enjoyed the walk over to Hotel de Ville through Chatlet. The sun glistened on the outside rink as the carousel out front slowly spun and the kids just getting of school raced around the rink laughing and chasing one another.

A Korean, Australian, Swiss and an American walk into a skating rink....

A Korean, Australian, Swiss and an American walk into a skating rink….

Since ice skates were not exactly on my “pack for Paris” checklist, I was able to afford the  5 euro rental for skates. There is no charge to use the rink if you bring your own skates and the one hour time limit seemed pretty “unmonitored”.  One thing that is monitored is your winter gloves. They are required and if you forgot to bring them, their rentable for a 4 euro fee. It was so nice to have a break in the weather that I left home without my gloves. We decided to take turns going around the rink in pairs.

Trying out my ice legs again

Trying out my ice legs again

I could not have asked for a better view of the beautiful detail on one of Paris’s most beautiful and historic buildings. It was a glorious, warm winter day in the sun and though my skating skills were rusty, it was a great day. We stayed for a couple of hours, laughing and truly enjoying the day as any Parisian kid would.

The view of Hotel de Ville ice rink

The view of Hotel de Ville ice rink

So, when in Paris this winter and looking at your quickly depleding pockets, Hotel de Ville offers a inexpensive treat on a great afternoon or for date night. Once you are finished practicing your Olympic skating skills, you can head over to grab some crepes or gaufres Nutella for an extra 3 euro.

The rink is open Monday through Friday, 12pm-10pm and 9am to 10pm on the weekends, everyday until March 6, 2014. Montparnasse also offers an outdoor rink. Metro stop: Hotel de Ville