Results tagged WTF from David Lebovitz

Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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How Much Butter Can Be in a Croissant?

croissant

Living in France for a number of years, my French has gotten pretty good. As long as I’m talking about food, that is.

Last night I was having dinner at Le Vin au Vert (70, rue de Dunkerque) wine bar with a few friends. One talks really quickly and with the noisy bobo patrons at the surrounding tables, chattering on les smartphones and getting up and down all night to race out into the sub-zero cold for a cigarette (at one point, there were more people outside than inside), it was hard to hear anything. So I really had to pay attention, and my attention wanes in direct proportion to how many bottles of wine have been emptied.

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Should I Move to France? (28 Questions to Ask Yourself)

Just the other day, I saw a tweet from Jennifer, asking her the question that many of us who live here get from time-to-time, “Should I Move to France?”

Paris rooftops

It’s pretty hard to decide to make such a life-changing move, for many people. Moving to a foreign country isn’t easy, but it does have it’s rewards. So I put together this quiz to help people make that all-important decision…

1. You’re working as a guard in a museum filled with priceless treasures. The alarm in the museum has been broken for two months and thieves have stolen €500 million worth of art. Video monitors showed the entire robbery in progress but as one of the guards on patrol, like the others, you somehow missed the whole thing. Do you…

  • A. Blame the mayor.
  • B. Blame the lock company that installed the crummy padlock which the thieves snipped off the gate, which was the only thing standing between them and one of the most exceptional collections of art in the world.
  • C. Blame the anti-smoking law because you had to go outside to have a cigarette, along with all the other guards at the exact same time, and the people who came up with that law couldn’t possibly expect you to keep an eye on things.

2. You’re in a café and just finished a €2 cup of coffee and you’re ready to pay. You suddenly realize that you only have a €20 note. Even though the waiter has a billfold bulging with euro notes, do you…

  • A. Order nine more coffees because he’ll swear he doesn’t have any change.
  • B. Offer to buy a round of drinks for everyone in the room.
  • C. Unbutton your blouse a few notches and lean over and give ‘em a good squeeze when handing the waiter the money.

3. You’re stuck in traffic when you hear an ambulance coming up from behind. Cars start moving off to the side of the road to let the ambulance through. Do you…

  • A. Move your car over to the side of the road, too, so the ambulance can pass and get quickly to the urgent medical emergency they’re going to.
  • B. Grudgingly move your car off to the side because even though the ambulance is racing to take save someone’s life, complaining that you’re going to miss the start Star Academy.
  • C. An opening in the road? What are you, crazy? Allez-y…!

4. You just bought a pricey new pair of trousers. When you get home, you realize the zipper is coming apart. Do you…

  • A. Block off two days on your calendar to exchange the trousers at the store for another pair.
  • B. Take the pants to the local tailor and pay the €32 out of your own pocket to have it fixed.
  • C. Throw them away.

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Biscoff Spread (Speculoos à Tartiner)

speculoos cream

I don’t have conclusive proof, but I’m going to say it anyways: the cashiers at my local Monoprix are perhaps the least pleasant people in all of France. I once needed to use their photo machine for some documents, which required a €5 note. So after waiting in two lines, asking two different cashiers to change a €20, they both refused. So I went downstairs to the supermarket and bought some groceries, which totaled something like €9.68.

When the cashier handed me back a €10, I politely requested 2 fives, mentioning that I needed one to use their photo machine. When she refused, I asked her why. And she snapped back, “Because I don’t have any change!” So I walked to the end of the counter where I could get a pretty clear view of her her cash box brimming with bills. Even though she had a sizable wad of €5 notes stacked up in there, if I wanted to change, I had to go back upstairs to the one particular register that is equipped to give change.

After waiting behind four customers, which I won’t tell you how long that took, when it was my turn, I handed over the €10, asking for 2 fives.

When she said, “What for?”…it took every gram of patience for me not to say, “So I don’t strangle you.”

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French Napkins

david

Last time I was in the states, because I had a few hours to spend strapped in a seat (on an airplane, folks—it wasn’t Folsom Street Fair weekend), a friend gave me a stack of magazines which track the comings and going of various celebrities. I know they were meant to be entertaining, but I must’ve been away too long, because I had no idea who about eighty percent of the people in the magazine were and if Suri Cruise or Ke$ha was strapped in next to me, I wouldn’t have any clue to how blessed I was to be in their celestial presence.

napkins

There were a lot of women with names like Trista, Jilly, and Bethany, who wanted to win husbands on television programs and were wearing turquoise dresses with remarkably sturdy-looking tetons and well-toned arms, which presumably meant they were ready for battle. I even learned of a crafty woman who was using her uterus to pick up a little extra spending money, even though from the looks of things, she had plenty of other things to already keep her pretty well occupied already.

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10 Common Ordering Mistakes People Make in Paris

steak, "Tuscan-style"

The other night I was sitting at Le Garde Robe, minding my own business, trying to get down a glass of natural wine. Being seven o’clock, naturally, in addition to being thirsty, I was starving, too.

And the lack of food (and sulfides) must have started affecting my brain because I started thinking about how I often hear tales from visitors, such as when they told a Parisian waiter they didn’t eat meat and shortly afterward, were presented with a plate of lamb. Or they ordered a salad, that was supposed to come with the sandwich, and was actually just a single leaf of lettuce. Hoo-boy, and yes, I’ve made a few gaffes of my own, too: I once ordered a glass of Lillet (pronounced le lait, which isn’t well-known around Paris) and the perplexed café waiter brought me out a long, slender glass of le lait (milk), presented with great panache, on a silver dish with a nice doily. Of course, everyone was staring at the grown man who ordered a tall glass of milk. And I don’t think it was because of the starched doily.

Anyhow, I was scanning the chalkboard at Le Garde Robe, looking at the various charcuterie and cheese on offer, and noticed filet mignon, and thought, “A steak is a funny thing for a wine bar to serve, especially one that doesn’t serve hot food.” Until I remembered what it is in French. And if everyone wasn’t already staring at the idiot at the wine bar, nursing a stemmed glass of milk, I would’ve kicked myself for thinking that’s a big, juicy steak. Which it’s not, in France.

1. Mixing Up the Mignons

Mignon in French means “cute”. And to my pork-loving friends and readers, that can only mean one thing: pigs. French people think cows are attractive.

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8 Coping Tips for Living in Paris

For a recent talk where I was asked to give for newcomers to Paris, I decided to share some of my coping strategies for living in a foreign country. I came up with a list of eight things that I do when it all seems too much.

Like this morning, when I woke up and found that before I hit the “Save” button and called it a night, my cable company dropped my connection, which deleted two-thirds of this post.

graffiti

Fortunately, I’m resilient now, and no longer a stranger to having to re-do things over and over. I sat right back down in my proverbial Aeron saddle and re-wrote them, which only took a few hours. Curiously, while I was typing away, a representative called me on my cell phone to try to get me to stay on as a customer. When I mentioned that he had to call me on my cell phone, since my land line service (which they provide) didn’t work, he didn’t see any irony in that. He probably also didn’t understand a few choice words I used, since I said them in English, which was a good thing.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of things you can do, including ripping your cable company a new one, that’ll make you feel a lot better when all seems lost and you feel like everything is conspiring against you. Like me, who courageously sat back down and started from anew—with an amazing bar of dark chocolate with toffee and salt (see #1), and went back to work.

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L’enfer de Numericable

Today, I stood in the middle of my apartment and screamed.

It’s not something I normally do. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Being fifty, I’d say my life is roughly half over and I hope to never have to do it again during my last half. (I’m sure my neighbors would be pleased if I never did it again as well.)

I’ve been dealing with my internet provider, who also provides—or is supposed to provide, phone service.

Since signing up with them last year, my service has been hit or miss. Since the beginning of August, it’s been all miss, and I’ve been missing phone service and internet access since then. I do remember the days before we have the internet, so while it’s a major inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world. (Unless you have a blog. Then it’s pretty close.) But not having phone service for nearly ten weeks is pretty crazy.

There’s a lot of grousing about French customer service. I’ve seen the good, and I’ve seen the bad. Usually the trick is to find someone who will help you and once you do, they’ll do what they can to help. And then the service is top-notch. You just need to find that person.

So far, I haven’t found that person at my cable company. And believe me, I’ve tried.

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