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February 26, 2008


The worst thing about only having internet access in school buildings? It is not socially acceptable to  cry in the school library, no matter how much you want to.


I highly recommend the blog where I read this story, and by the way, I am not the Julie who wrote the first comment.

Posted by Julie at 6:54 PM | TrackBack

A message from Europeans to Americans (Work in progress)

It's not that we dislike you. We just don't like you.

See, we don't know you. Our interaction with you so far has been limited to selling you “un pain au chocolat s'il vous plait” or being in the same metro car with you or passing you on the street (more likely standing in your way on the street). At this point in our relationship, your presence does not naturally fill us with joy or bring a smile to our face. Also, we do not really care if the rest of your day is nice. We do not wish you ill, but if the rest of your day is miserable, this will not affect us. Tomorrow, if we see you again, regardless of how your day was, you will still smile insanely, ask us what is up and then instantly change the subject or simply walk away before we have a chance to respond.

Posted by Julie at 2:26 PM | TrackBack

February 24, 2008

It's not that we dislike you. We just don't like you.

I have absolutely no time to blog right now, so naturally, that is all I want to do. But I won't. I will use the fact that my instincts are telling me to WRITE to actually write something for my school newspaper, where I have actual deadlines. Sorry, guys.

Meanwhile, American friends: When trying to understand us Europeans, remember this:

It's not that we dislike you. We just don't like you.

That really does explain everything, and if when I find the time, I will elaborate.


(Of course, the blog curse may set in, meaning I will not blog this because I have told people that I will. If so, I'm sorry, but it happens to everyone. I'm still waiting for RealClearPolitics' Horse Race blog to keep their promise to blog about the drawbacks of superdelegates. They promised.

Posted by Julie at 8:50 PM | TrackBack

This week

What? "This week" posts again? Does this mean that I will be posting nothing but lists of what I'm doing and reading, instead of actually writing anything? I hope not. But there is so much out there I want to recommend to you or warn you about. For example, this week...

I read 

I listened to

... because Julie Balise decided that having the same first name, writing World News articles on elections for The Planet, drinking Guinness, studying the American presidential elections and having grown up in Massachusetts didn't make us similar enough; we should also be compatible on Last.fm.

I ate

Posted by Julie at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

February 23, 2008

10 things I love


... and they all start with the letter F. This is a meme I got from aj_stalin. Comment here, if you want to continue the meme, and I will give you a letter.

  1. Friends
  2. Family (the first two were easy)
  3. French
  4. Fumer Interdit, as in the smoking ban I very much agree with
  5. Fabert, as in the rue where I live. It's not that interesting actually, but it's home for now.
  6. Fidelity, as in the Regina Spektor song
  7. Fitzgerald, as in Ella
  8. Fishnets, as in stockings
  9. "fantastisk", a word I use a lot (English-speaking friends, guess what it means)
  10. Food, including Fish, Fallafel and Foie gras


I thought it would be easier to write 10 things I really didn't like, so I started doing that: fascism, flying, flames, football, fundamentalists, flowers bought from the people who stick roses in your face just because you are not currently speaking the local language. And then I couldn't think of anymore. So that means I'm happy and generally a positive person, right? 

Posted by Julie at 11:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 21, 2008

Gode nyheter...

... hvis du bor i Oslo og savner meg: Jeg er i Oslo den første uken i mars. Det vil si at jeg reiser tilbake til Paris tidlig, tidlig om morgenen fredag den 7. mars.

Posted by Julie at 6:08 PM | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

Coffee in Paris

I always thought that if I lived in Paris, I would have a favorite café just around the corner, where Parisians have noisy two-hour lunches with wine, while the friendly, yet efficient waiters know me by sight and start making me an espresso as I walk in the door. And then I moved here and learned a sad, little secret: Parisians are good at cafés and bad at the actual coffee.

Most French cafés use Robusta coffee, which is cheaper, can be stored for longer, and is generally considered to be of lower quality than Arabica coffee. About half of the coffee beans imported by the French are Robusta beans, according to the International Trade Forum. US coffee imports on the other hand, are composed of 76% Arabica and 24% Robusta. Canadian and German imports are similar to the US, and the Nordic countries barely import Robusta at all.

So how do you get good coffee in Paris? Italian brands illy and Lavazza use only Arabica, so look for their logos. Le Malar, for example, on the corner of rue St. Dominique and rue Malar, uses Lavazza. Look for brûleries, the French word for coffee roaster. And then there is Starbucks, which is becoming almost as common as the traditional Parisian café. Just make sure you get your Starbucks coffee in an actual cup, as paper cups cool the coffee too quickly, seriously damaging the taste. Starbucks gives you exactly what you expect from a chain: consistently decent coffee, but never a fantastic experience. So where do you go for fantastic?

On rue St. Dominique, there is a specialty coffee store called Comptoirs Richard, with a bar in the back of the shop where you can get excellent espresso. It’s a five minute walk from the Bosquet building, so this is a good choice for a quick dose of caffeine between classes.

If you want to sit down, read newspapers and use WiFi, try espressamente illy, near Opera. With shiny metal decor and a display of brightly colored espresso machines, the atmosphere is far from traditional or French - in fact, it might seem a little cold. You can still enjoy a pretty good espresso.

In the same area, you’ll find Verlet, with a long line of people waiting to get coffee for their homes, and gesticulating Parisians at every table. I loved their coffee cups, and I wouldn't mind occupying a table here for a few hours with friends. However, while their espresso was good, it would have been much better if it wasn't stored pre-ground in an open container. Once coffee has been ground, the taste is getting worse by the second. As a general rule, if you don’t see a coffee grinder behind the counter, get tea.

My favorite is Cafeotheque Soluna by Hôtel de Ville. The espresso, which changes daily, is delicious, the friendly baristas clearly know what they're doing, and the comfortable atmosphere makes me want to bring a stack of books and newspapers and stay for hours. And as Parisian clichés go, a favorite café overlooking the Seine is just as good as one around the corner.

List of recommended coffee shops:

Comptoirs Richard
145, rue St. Dominique
Nearest metro stop: Ecole Militaire
Espresso at the counter: 2.60
(There is another Comptoirs Richard at this address: 48, rue du Cherche-Midi)

espressemente illy
13, rue Auber
Nearest metro stop: Opera
Espresso at the counter: 2

256, rue Saint-Honoré
Nearest metro stop: Pyramides or Madeleine
Espresso at the counter: 2.70

Caféotheque Soluna
52, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
Nearest metro stop: Pont Marie
Espresso at the counter: 2 for coffee of the day, 2.50 for other espresso coffees

Cafés Amazone
11, rue Rambuteau
Nearest metro stop: Rambuteau (not far from Hôtel de Ville)
Espresso at the counter: 1 (cheapest espresso shot tested)

I have not had time to visit these, but they’re worth mentioning:
Malongo, a French coffee chain
Nespresso on Champs Elyssée
Hediard, 126, rue dur Bac, by Musée D'Orsay

Two brûleries, not cafés:
Brûleries de Ternes 10, rue Poncelet, by the Arc de Triomphe
Lapeyronie, 3, rue Brantôme, by Centre Georges Pompidou

Originally published in The Planet

Posted by Julie at 5:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

Reality checks

Internet in my apartment room has been off these past couple of days. Perhaps this was a good thing, as it stopped me writing a rant about my cold/pain from getting wisdom teeth/fever/missed deadlines/inability to find decent, healthy food/overdose of croissants, baguettes and quiches. Seriously, I'm in Paris, and I'm happy to be here. But to be honest, my thoughts are alternating between "Oh, wow, I'm in Paris, I can see the Eiffel tower!" and "Why did I leave my friends, family and coffee machine?" at the moment.

Also, I'm trying not to spend all my money at once. Paris is a fantastic place to spend money. There are so many restaurants/boulangeries/lingerie boutiques/department stores/movie theaters/clubs/museums/bars that I could make exploring, shopping, eating and drinking a full-time job. In fact, I did manage to make it at least a part-time job by writing coffee shop reviews for the school newspaper. I'm usually overly careful with money, but I've been a little bit worried that going on a four month vacation - as in not working while being in a new and interesting place - will ruin every single one of my good habits.

So I'm glad I got a double reality check from John Scalzi. First I read his "Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money". After the jump are the tips from the article and its comments that I should be repeating every day while I'm here. Then I reread "Being Poor is Knowing Exactly How Much Everything Costs" to remind myself how great my life is. 

Fashion is the enemy of personal economics.


It’s insane for a poor person to routinely pay other people to cook and serve them food.


You are likely to be surprised at how many things it turns out you don’t really need if you have to wait to get them, and can actually see the mass o’ cash you’re laying out for ‘em.


When you do buy something, buy the best you can afford. Cheap crap sucks.


Save your money.


I like my coffee. I like electricity more.

Posted by Julie at 6:43 PM | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

Passing strangers

During my first month in Paris, at an American university, (waiting for money from Norway), I have thought about what culture I really feel that I represent here. I am European because I drink wine without getting drunk, feel comfortable in heels and fishnets, and know that there is a price difference when someone calls my French number when I'm in France vs. if I go to Italy. I am Norwegian because I know that neither a croissant nor a baguette is real bread, think all drinks in Paris are cheap and arrive at parties wearing boots and woolen socks and carrying indoor party shoes. I am American because I sound like one and use "we" when I talk about the US.

The ultimate test might be how I handle passing strangers.

Paris is not designed to cope with this situation at all. I have this theory: There are too many Parisians in Paris. The metro basically works, as do the wide boulevards (although not near Galleries Lafayette) and even parts of the Champs Elyssée (although not on weekends). But the charming narrow cobble-stoned streets and the sidewalks on any street were not built for actual people who really need to walk from point A to point B. They were built for chairs and café tables, for smoking waiters, for signs advertizing the "formule" of the day, for slow-walkers who take their time choosing which boulangerie they should buy their morning croissant from, and of course, for small dogs.

Oslo wasn't designed for people either, but this doesn't matter. First off, there aren't that many people in Norway. Secondly, Norwegians don't like interacting with strangers. This fear is hard to explain to Americans. What Americans call "friendly small-talk", Norwegians call "crazy/drunk/American/all of the above stalker tendencies". Norwegians back off when I come anywhere near an invasion of their personal space, which means they get out of my way. French people on the other hand, will not notice that I am standing right behind them. To get past them, I must either yell: "Pardon!" or just walk around them, in the actual street. If I meet someone face-to-face, the general rule seems to be that I must wait while they walk first, no matter what. Americans on the other hand, say "Excuse me," even if they are nowhere near me, just in case. They also smile more.

The last time I went to the US, the first thing that happened when I got there, was that a stranger talked to me and smiled at me and it didn't feel weird. I knew I was home. When I came back to Europe, the first thing that happened was that a stranger ran over my feet with a loaded luggage cart and didn't apologize. And I knew I was home again.

Posted by Julie at 12:52 AM | TrackBack

February 9, 2008

If I ever open a café, I will need a sign like this one. Especially given my previous record of giving coffee beans to small children

Image via Dad 

Posted by Julie at 3:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack