Cooking on My Own

BreakfastI hate cooking.
My whole life, I’ve had parents, cooks, or dining halls to prepare food for me. But because I’m here for an extended amount of time, I figured that it was as good a time as any to learn to cook.

So far, I’ve been sticking to basic recipes like french toast and scrambled eggs. This morning I got a little adventurous and tossed some veggies in with the eggs. I’m actually surprised how decent this meal looks in the photo! Finding maple syrup was the hardest part of the whole process.

That and peanut butter are rarities outside of the States. I had to go to an organic food store to find nut butters and even in the specialty store, there was only one tiny jar of “American Style Butter of Peanuts.” The strangest part was that it actually tasted like peanuts. I was just a jar of crushed peanuts without any salt, sugar, or preservatives. It’s probably much healthier, but I wish I packed that jar of Skippy before heading across the Atlantic!

These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking

bootsEven though I’m almost 5’9″, I love wearing heels.

I chose not to pack any on this trip though because (1) they’re heavy and (2) they just aren’t practical for walking all over the city. One week in, I began to miss being a few inches taller and so (as most of my stories end), I went shopping.

I ended up buying these interesting heels from Promod by the Opera for only 20 euros! The tag said they were real leather, but I highly doubt it.
In New York, I always find myself wishing that there were more cheap-y shoe stores. And there are some, but the shoes you find there are not even worth mentioning. In Paris, there are tons places to buy cheap (and somewhat sturdy) shoes and unlike the US, the cheap shoes can actually be really cute!

It felt good to be back up at my preferred height, but I was definitely right in not packing any heels. The little cobblestone streets by our residence are not high-heel friendly.

What You Can Buy for 1 €

It Pastadoesn’t sound like a lot, but 1 euro can get you a long way in Paris!

You just have to know where to look. My favorite grocery store, Monoprix, is like a smaller version of Target. There’s a clothing department as well as kitchen ware, household products, and food. They’ve got everything from Oreos to hiking boots! Unfortunately there isn’t one near the dorms so I have to take a 10 minute metro ride to get to the closest location. Everyone thinks I’m nuts for going so far out of the way for this one store. There are grocery stores much closer to home, but for some reason I’m very attached to the Monoprix at Temple.

I have to cook some meals for myself in my little kitchenette while I’m here so keeping grocery costs low is a priority (more money for shopping!) Luckily, Monoprix’s prices do not disappoint. Each tBreadime the price comes up at the register, I’m shocked. Both this huge bag of pasta and this fresh loaf of bread were only one euro each. That bag of pasta is going to feed me for the rest of the month! For only one euro! You can get a box of cookies for 70 cents, a liter of milk for 90 cents or a one euro bottle of champagne! Maybe I’m getting a little too excited by groceries, but I think it’s incredible that (some) food is priced so cheaply!

My absolute favorite one euro purchase, however, can be found at a chain of thrift stores in le Marais called Free’P’Star. Last time I was in Paris, my friend dragged me there and I fell in love…but not immediately. The stores are dark and a little dingy with overflowing bins and racks of clothing filled to the max. It’s chaotic. Like worse than the Union Square Forever21 chaotic.. and that’s saying something.

Their draw-in factor is their infamous one euro bins. Shoppers go crazy digging through the huge tangles of old, slightly smelly clothes. There are a lot of horrible things in those bins. Stained shorts, old jerseys, ratty t-shirts *yuck*. But when you do find one great thing, it’s such a great feeling. You just have to find it before the crazy woman next to you does. Recently, I tossed a lot of the one euro clothes I previously purchased (the low price encourages you to just buy things, even if you’ll never wear them). My personal best Free’P’Star find was a denim jacket that I still wear to this day. I actually brought it back to Paris with me and it’s hanging in my closet right now!

I’m definitely going to head back there this trip and hopefully I’ll find some actually decent one euro clothes.

What I Stumbled Upon Today

On my way home today, I got completely lost. My phone died, but I thought I knew the city well enough to get home without it. Just Follow the Seine then turn left at the Marais.
I thought I knew where the Seine was and tried to keep that as a point of reference, but failed miserably. My brain is wired to navigate Manhattan style. In Manhattan, the bodies of water stay in straight lines, making it easy to orient yourself. All the avenues go up and down and all the streets go side-to-side (with the exception on the West Village where I tend to get disoriented and lost). For the most part, it’s the ideal city layout (not that I’m biased or anything).

In Paris, the roads criss cross and shoot out in every direction. There are roundabouts and intersections with over 5 streets. Even worse, the Seine snakes through the city. You have to know which bank you are on (right or left) to get a general sense of where you are.

Anyways, I ended up wandering down Avenue Montaigne and past the stunning Hôtel Plaza Athénée. I had never been on this street before and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it. Avenue Montaigne is like Rodeo Drive minus the fanfare and mobs of tourists reenacting Pretty Woman. Couture designer shops line the street. Chanel, Gucci, Valentino, Prada, LV, Chloé, Fendi, Céline, Ferragamo, Versace, they’re all there. I was too intimidated to enter any of them so I settled for window shopping at Dior and Harry Winston. A girl can dream, right?

Around the corner from the Dior window displays was an office entrance (Dior Headquarters?). Everyone coming in and out was fabulously dressed in what I assume was Dior. I tried walking into the lobby just for the sake of it, but was quickly turned away by security when they realized that I wasn’t an employee, just a crazy tourist.

The Jeanne Lavin Exhibit

Musée GallieraIn the Métro, I’ve been seeing all these ads for the Jeanne Lavin exhibition at the Musée Galliera (Paris’ museum of fashion) so I decided to finally check it out today.

There were rooms and rooms of day dresses, evening gowns, wedding gowns, gowns for balls, costumes, and even head pieces! The detailing on some of these dresses was absolutely magnificent. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t allow any photography in the exhibit so I don’t have any photos from inside.
My favorite dress in the entire collection was this black organza party dress from the 20s. There was grey-silver beadwork all along the straps, the plunging neckline illusion, and down the front of the skirt. The color combination was very BlackSwan-esque and I absolutely loved it. The dress wasn’t one of the featured displays so I can’t seem to find a photo of it anywhere online to share with you!

The museum building itself was stunning as well. There was a cute little garden with a bunch of locals hanging around and a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower!

My First French Faux-Pas

StarbucksLet me start by saying that I am a serious coffee drinker.
So are the French, but in a very different way. Their drinks tend to be very strong and very small. They are meant to be enjoyed leisurely over the course of an hour. At cafés, you have to order “American Style Coffee” in order to get a cup that can hold more than five sips. My ideal coffee, however, is a large cup that you can chug on the go. Each morning in New York, I grab my Grande black coffee with cream from Starbucks and head off to class.

Unbeknownst to me, eating on the go is not a concept that the French understand or find acceptable. As my professor informed me, “Food is meant to be enjoyed. It’s not something you rush.” On the Metro, you will never see any Parisians sipping coffee or even nibbling on a granola bar. They set aside time for food in their schedules and sit down for every meal.

There are only 39 Starbucks locations in Paris (compared to Manhattan where there are nine Starbucks stores for every square mile! (yes, I did the research)). So when I passed one on Rue de Rivoli, I couldn’t resist. I may have gotten a few stares, but who cares! I’m a tourist!

Is He Gay or European? (or just in Tisch)

DSC06167 In America, well-dressed men are not so easy to come by. And most of the time, those men who are well-dressed have no interest in dating us. In Paris, however, it is easy to see that most young men put an effort into what they wear each day. Sure, there will always be some boys in sweats and a ratty t-shirt, but those are few and far between here. The French have a cultural consciousness that we seem lack in the U.S. Dressing well is a sign of respect to those you interact with and shows that you care about how you appear to the world. In America, our stubborn attitudes and laziness is probably responsible for our current “sweatpants epidemic.”

This man in the park wins today’s best dressed award (by far)… People usually stray from wearing one color head to toe (unless it’s black of course), but this monochrome ensemble is just so classy. From the totally European leather shoes to the navy blue, this guy’s got it down.

And of course, I couldn’t finish this post without linking the song which inspired it all.

Afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens

This afternoon, I spent a few hours people watching in the hopes of spotting a few fashionistas, but much to my dismay, the Garden was largely filled with American tourists. There were a few uncomfortable moments when people passing by realized that I was photographing them and gave me strange looks. One man saw me pointing my camera, stopped walking, and turned around to figure out what I was trying to photograph behind him! Completely puzzled by my apparent interest in the trash bins, he waited around for a while before giving up. Though today was relatively unsuccessful, I’ll definitely be headed back to give it another shot!

An Introduction

2Hey there! My name is Rachel. I am an NYU student currently studying French and Art History this summer in Paris! You can read all about my tourist faux pas and fascinations in France before I return to the States on this blog. I’m interested in fashion so I hope to stumble across gorgeous and interesting street styles we can drool over while I’m here and in New York.

Stay tuned for more to come!