April 26, 2009

Illegal = global

I never downloaded music illegally at all - until internet radio Pandora became off limits because I didn't live in the US.

The market for illegal mp3 files is global, while the market for legal music is still supposed to be limited by international borders. Why?

Øyvind Solstad at NRK Beta writes (in Norwegian):

One world - not 200 countries.

The music- and film industry seems to think we still cross the Atlantic in steam boats, and that we don't hear about things that happen in the US just because we live in Norway. So they ignore the fact that young people don't think about international borders and where things come from. (...) People don't understand why they can't listen to some songs on Spotify in Norway, but if they drive over the Swedish border and go to an internet café they can. They don't understand why they can't see American music videos on YouTube or shows on Hulu.com. They don't accept that slow bosses in the music- and film industry still haven't come up with a system where an artist can release their music all over the world (Øyvind Solstad, my translation).

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about this problem for journalism class at the American University of Paris (click "continue reading" for the full article).

A week later, my American friend was trying to buy a song from iTunes. She couldn't, because her laptop was American. I could buy it for her, because my laptop was Norwegian.

We were both in Paris at the time.

That is absolutely ridiculous.

Does piracy kill music – or globalize it?

Julie Andersen – Journalism 2 – April 2008

If music is distributed through the internet, where you live need not matter for what music you can buy. In theory, anyone with an internet connection can have the same access to music. Yet the record industry is still enforcing national borders, in an effort to stop illegal file-sharing. Is a college student who downloads mp3s a greedy thief or an informed activist? Is file-sharing bringing the music industry down, or are record labels and music retailers to blame?

In summer 2006, a copyright bill was drafted in France, requiring music downloads to be compatible with all portable digital music players. Apple sent an e-mail statement to Bloomberg, saying this would result in “state-sponsored piracy”.

Music on CD can be transferred to a computer and then played and distributed in several formats. Mp3-files, one of the most popular formats among illegal downloads, are compatible with most media players. Legal downloads from Apple are only compatible with iPods and the iTunes computer media player.

France amended the draft, so that copyright holders could still set compatibility standards. Had France forced Apple to make its downloads compatible with other music players, iTunes Music Store France would have closed down, regardless of what the artists wanted, according to the BBC.

The music industry likens illegal file-sharing to shoplifting CDs. When you shoplift a CD, you get the same product without paying for it. When you download illegally instead of legally, you might get a better product without paying for it.

Following the shut-down of popular torrent-based file-sharing site Oink on October 23rd 2007, Rob1, a blogger who has worked within the music industry, wrote what his commentators labelled “the bible of file-sharing”. He encouraged music fans to stop buying music from major labels in order to force a change in the way music is distributed. Rob called Oink: “the most complete and most efficient music distribution model the world has ever known” and wrote: “If the music industry had found a way to capitalize on the power, devotion, and innovation of its own fans the way Oink did, it would be thriving right now instead of withering.”

People who download music illegally, claim that they can't afford to fill an iPod at the 99 cents per song rate that iTunes is offering legally, and that if they like a band after listening to their music for free, they will find a way to support them. According to promusic.org's guidelines to online music: “(...) there is no general right or exception that lets you copy before you buy without permission, for the obvious reason that once something is copied it probably won't be bought.” The question is, would it have been bought if it were not copied?

Sara2, a 20-year-old American student at the American University of Paris, says she would never pay 99 cents for the songs she downloads illegally today. She has been downloading music since 1999, but she still buys CDs. She will typically get recommendations from music blogs, download some songs, and then buy the album if she likes the music.

Moving to Paris has made this more difficult. “There is nowhere I can get music here in Paris,” she says “A lot of the stuff I want is obscure - albums you can barely find in the US and definitely not in Paris.”

Natalie3, another 20-year-old American student at AUP, says: “I used to buy albums in high school, but now that I'm in France, I'm not going to spend the equivalent of 20 dollars on a CD. But music keeps me going, so I either stop going, or a friend sends me songs over the internet.” While she does not believe in downloading music through torrents and file-sharing sites, she exchanges zip files of albums with her friends.

She likes to spend money on her favorite band Radiohead, who released their latest album In Rainbows as a download and allowed fans to set their own price. “I think artists can get their music out online legally – MySpace or allowing downloading from your site.” she says, “But the real CD came with stickers.”

Both girls say that allowing fans to download, is good publicity for a band. However, Radiohead could not have sold their album this way if they were controlled by a label, and their music is not available on iTunes.

Sara plans on working in the music industry, and she says: “It's all about politics. An artist can be totally trash, but if they're marketed toward the right demographic, the label will still support them.”

Despite having a friend in the States who was sued for 5000 dollars for file-sharing, Sara is not worried about getting caught. “Should I be?” she asks. In France, privacy laws are much stricter than in the States, and they have generally prevailed over copyright laws. Although AUP has a policy against file-sharing, Ali Rahimi, director of Information Technology Services at AUP, says that the university respects students' privacy. Firewalls on the AUP network make downloading to student's laptops while on the school network difficult, but Sara knows how.

Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails frontman and music producer, admitted to New York Magazine that he was an Oink member and that “If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now.” While many file-sharers have agreed with him through blogs and forums, Natalie says: “I don't want the CD to disappear. I believe in album artwork, and I believe in the crisp smell of the CD when you open it for the first time, the sound of the case when you open it, and wondering whether or not there are lyrics. I want that to keep happening.”

1Known online only by his first name.

2Named has been changed.

3Name has been changed.

Posted by Julie at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

January 31, 2009

"My problem is simple - I love food"

"Today I have been thinking about my thin friends and why they are thin. Three of them are thin because their husbands left them and they dropped weight likes stones into water.

I ask my husband if he will leave me for a while. He shakes his head. (...) Where does this leave me then?"

- Lucy Cavendish

"My problem is simple - I love food," writes Lucy Cavendish in The Observor. She tells her life story through her weight: An eight-year-old twice the size of her best friend becomes a thin 16-year-old, goes on the pill and gets hips, spends her university years getting fat on a diet of pizza, shrinks without noticing and then finds herself in Manhattan where no one eats and no one cooks, with a boyfriend who sees extra weight as a lack of self-control. They split up, and weight drops off her "like melting lard". And then she marries a man who loves to cook, and she writes paragraphs about the wonderful food they eat together. She is happy, but strangers assume she's pregnant, and her five-year-old asks her:  "Why do you have boobs on your back?" So she goes to Weight Watchers:

"I watch my husband put soft butter and crème fraîche into our mashed potatoes and it makes me want to cry. I see him ladle wine onto Dover sole and then add lashings of butter and I cry some more. I see him rub goose fat all over our roast potatoes and I want to shout "stop, stop, stop" in anguish.

This denial means I'm becoming very boring to live with. I don't want people to come round for dinner. I don't want evenings out in restaurants or lunches in pubs. My husband spends his life dolefully looking at the fridge."

Stories like this bore me, because I've heard so many of them before. And they scare me, because I've heard so many of them before. Friends who stop eating because they're too happy, friends who show up at my apartment with chocolate and potato chips because they're fighting with someone, friends who offer me a kilo of candy because I'm fighting with someone, the traditional box of post-break-up Ben&Jerry's, the chart one of my friends checks off when she remembers to eat, the no-carb no-fat (face it: no-food) diets followed by chips and dip and beer. From my fourteen-year-old sister's classmate who only eats apples to the guy who said to me on a first date at a Chinese restaurant: "Oh, so you're an eater? Cool!" - is the denial Lucy Cavendish describes really the normal way for women to live? When the Weight Watchers people are shocked that she's never been on a diet, is that because everyone actually is?

In October 2007, Jane Shilling wrote in The Times: "I thought it might help to set up a support group for British women who have a normal relationship with food. There must be a couple of you out there." I posted a long comment and thought: "Yes! Sign me up! I may not be British, but I'm feeling lonely over here. I'm sick of discussing my friends' thighs."

Now, as I read Lucy Cavendish's story, it's scary how much of it I can relate to. It's not like I can't tell my life story through food and body image too. The reason I don't is because it's personal. It's not in the part of my mind I let the whole world read.

That doesn't mean it isn't on my mind more than I would like.

My first friend in Paris, Brittany Zale, earned heroine status in my mind when she told me: "I'm going to spend a semester in Paris, and when I go back to the US, I will have gained weight. Anything else would be sad."

So we enjoyed three-course dinners with red wine and had macarons and champagne for lunch. I knew that this was my chance for fois gras, crème brûlée and croissants amandes for second breakfast.  When I returned to Norway in the summer, my mother said: "You gained weight in Paris didn't you? Or maybe I just lost weight." Annoyed, I retaliated by putting on a dress I had bought in high school, going to a party and indulging in chocolate cake and more champagne and red wine. (Picture)

Because I love food, and I don't want that to be a problem.

Posted by Julie at 2:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 30, 2009

Joyous playlist

During our last weeks in Paris, Julie and I listened to her "Joyous playlist" on her iPod as we walked back and forth between my basement apartment by Invalides and her host parents' apartment across the street from the Bonne Marchée.

Some people say I listen to depressing music. I once played Damien Rice's "O" at work, and my co-workers seemed worried. I don't think it's depressing. Unless of course, you have something to be depressed about.

So in case you need it, here's a joyous list of songs. It starts with one that will always remind me of sitting on a yoga mat at Invalides, eating strawberries before finals, being happy and knowing that everything is about to change.

Yelle - Amour du sol

The Ditty Bops - Wake up

Django Reinhardt - Minor swing

Jem - Finally woken

Ella Fitzgerald - You're the top (this video is a different version than the one I'm used to, with Nat King Cole and different lyrics)

Eels - Fresh feeling

Ed Harcourt - All of your days will be blessed

Posted by Julie at 9:17 PM | TrackBack

December 9, 2008

Window shopping

You may have pennies in your pocket and not a prospect in the world, and only the corner of a leaky bedroom to go home to; but in your new clothes, you can stand on a street corner, indulging in a private daydream of yourself as Marlene Dietrich. - George Orwell, 1937

There is something to be said for retail therapy. It does not work in the long term, but pretty things have an immediate calming effect.

The one time I actually bought something on a retail therapy shopping trip, it was my one (!) pair of painful shoes, and it was after a disastrous macro economics exam. They made my feet bleed, but they're still shiny and low-cut and go with everything (silver and gold goes with everything!)

The safest and most enjoyable window shopping is after the shops close. I recommend Avenue Montaigne at night. But browser-window shopping is more convenient, and still safe if you keep your credit card in another room. And so... some fashion links.





In addition to recommending D2 and The Guardian Fashion here are the style blogs I subscribe to right now:

Posted by Julie at 12:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2008

Dressed for anything

Anyone who knows Norwegian culture, knows that the social norms are very different in the woods and mountains than they are in the cities. Norwegian skiers and hikers greet and even smalltalk with strangers, but this will never happen on an Oslo street (unless the Norwegians are drunk). The rules of fashion vary too. One of my first blog posts ever was about the "hytte look". After spending a weekend in the woods with my new college class, I wrote about the way Norwegians dress when they head up to mountain cottages. There is an unspoken rule that even if the only "hiking" you do is walking for half an hour on an asphalt road, you should still put on your "hiking outfit" (Like this or this or this, or maybe something like this). 

After a semester with Americans in Paris, and recently entertaining an American Eurail tourist for a long weekend, I've had some interesting Europe vs. US fashion conversations. During one of these conversations, I realized that when Norwegians leave Oslo and head up into the woods, they become Americans - friendly, but badly dressed.

Despite the many "dress like a European" tips in American travel books and websites (an example), I can usually spot the Americans on any European city street. Not only are travellers in general easily recognizable with their philosophy of "in order to be ready for anything on this trip, I must always dress as if I were about to climb Mount Everest, even if I'm just walking down a Norwegian street".  But as my American backpacker friend explained, they don't want to overdress, because then it looks like they care too much.

"So I should make an effort to dress down so that Americans won't think I'm making an effort?" I ask. Maybe I'm too much of a European city girl, but to me, that doesn't make sense. 

There are sensible rules for what to wear in more or less extreme conditions. But often the most important reason for wearing hiking clothes or “travelling” clothes is to show the others that you are above such silly things as fashion, that all you care about is practical matters, and that you are now leaving your superficial, fashion-conscious city life behind and returning to nature. And we all know that high-tech windproof jackets are much more natural than, say, cashmere sweaters.

Coco Chanel once said: "I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny." When I think of dressing so that I'm ready for anything, I have something more Chanel-ish in mind. She also said: "Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury." So I never buy anything uncomfortable, and that includes never buying anything I think is ugly.

I've wanted to read a chapter of Almost French to both this backpacker and many of the other people who think I "try too hard". Almost French is a highly recommended book about an Australian girl who visits a man (Frédéric) in Paris, and decides to stay with him there. Continue reading for a short version of this chapter, which explains the Paris approach to dressing.

Perhaps my most revealing lesson in French dress standards occurs one Saturday morning soon after moving to Paris. Rushing to the bakery to get a baguette and croissants, I chuck on an old, shapeless jumper and my warmup pants, which I'd rediscovered at the bottom of a wardrobe when we were packing up our place at Levallois. Catching sight of me, Frédéric looks appalled.

"Warmup pants?" He's never seen me wearing them before.

"What's wrong with that? I'm only going to the bakery."

There is a second's pause. Frédéric's eyes implore me. Finally, he manages to speak.

"But it's not nice for the baker!"


Paris fashion is not about blindly following trends irrespective of whether or not they suit your body shape. It's no coincidence that movements like punk and grunge never really took off here. How unattractive. The French don't dress to make political statements. (...) The essence of French style can be summed up in two words, which linked together are loaded with meaning: bon goût. Good taste.


It isn't until I interview the fashion designer Inès de la Fressange that I truly understand Frédéric's abhorrence of warmup pants.


"Do you find that it's, you know, an effort trying to look good all the time?"


"To stay the whole day neat and impeccable is much more comfortable than looking like you're in your pajamas. You see, these women with tight leggings and huge sweaters, they imagine that because they are a little round it's better if they wear something big. But they just look worse. It is much more comfortable to wear a jacket that is well cut in a nice fabric than it is to look awful."

She pronounces the last word "offal". And suddenly it's quite clear to me that I have spent a good part of my life looking offal. Fifteen minutes with Inès and I've mentally chucked out all my baggy sweaters for those nights in front of the telly. (...) Never wear shorts in Paris, they're only for tourists, she declares. I cringe, recalling how I'd arrived at the airport for that first summer holiday wearing shorts. What was I thinking? "When it's very 'ot, it's better to wear long pants in linen or cotton. You would feel more 'appy, and we would feel more 'appy too." 

And there it is - the explanation for Frédéric's pathological aversion to warmup pants. The simple statement that instantly elucidates why in hotel rooms he'll remove any paintings from the wall that don't meet his approval. (...) "They're ugly. I didn't feel well." (...) He can't help it, you see. The thing is, the French are highly sensitive to aesthetics. Anything unattractive - even something as insignificant as an underdressed tourist - can make them uncomfortable. It spoils the lovely scenery. They become irritable. Unwell, as Frédéric put it.


Catch me on a good day and I can look soignée and stylish. But on a bad day, racing through the streets with wild hair and flying laces, I must leave a trail of "unwell" Parisians in my wake.

Excerpt from Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Posted by Julie at 12:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 29, 2008

Paris off the top of my head

De første Paristips jeg kommer på når folk spør - ingen grunn til å ikke dele dette med alle norske lesere.

Paris-tips har jeg alt for mange av. Her er noen, sånn off the top of my head.

Skal dere opp i Eiffeltårnet, gå i trappene så langt opp som mulig. Det er en egen kø for det, som er kortere enn heiskøen, og det koster mindre. For å komme opp i det øverste nivået, kjøper du en tilleggsbillett når du har gått opp trappene så langt det er mulig. Eiffeltårnet er egentlig best hvis man opplever det enten fra Champ de Mars, eller Trocadero. Jeg synes utsikten fra Sacré Cæur eller Pompidou er minst like fin.

Museer er ofte gratis på kvelden på spesifike utedager, for alle under 26 år (student eller ikke student)

Min yndlingsbydel er den fjerde (20 arrondissements til sammen). Der finner du Notre Dame, verdens beste is på Berthillon på øya back Notre Dame, Le Marais som er den jødiske bydelen, med små brostensgater og fantastisk fallafel og jødiske bakerier. Mange barer i dette området også, i tillegg til Soluna Caféotheque (52, rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, Pont Marie metro stopp) (Mer kaffeinfo her) Det er også her du finner både bruktbok-bodene langs begge sider av Seinen, og på venstre bredd, Shakespeare and Company, den engelskspråklige bokhandelen der filmen"Before Sunset" begynner, og der man kan overnatte hvis man er fattig forfatter.

Fortsetter du vekk fra elven på venstre bredd, er du i Latinerkvarteret i 6e arrondissement. Dette er det tradisjonelle studentområdet, så her er det rimelige spisesteder og mange utesteder. Du kan spise bra tre-retters måltider til under 20 euro her, og etterpå anbefaler jeg sangria på Le Dix, 10, rue Odeon (Odeon metrostopp)

For bittelitt mer penger, kan du få en litt bedre versjon av samme tradisjonelle snegle-baguette-kjøtt-grønnsaker-crème brûlée kombinasjon på Au Pied du Sacré Coeur, 85, rue Lamarck i Montmartre. Det finnes MANGE bra restauranter i Paris, men der har du i hvert fall ett konkret tips. Foran Sacré Coeur er det alltid liv og folk som drikker øl og spiller musikk om kvelden.

Går man av metroen på Opera, finner man all kjedebutikker og de to store varemagasinene Galleries Lafayette og Printemps. Marais har en del fine butikker, og vintage shopping i Rue de la Pompe i 16e arrondissement er bra. Les Halles og rue Rivoli skal visst også være bra for standard kles- og skoshopping, men for å være ærlig, handlet jeg langt mindre i Paris enn man skulle tro, gitt at dette er motehovedstaden.

Posted by Julie at 11:45 PM | TrackBack

May 5, 2008

May in Paris

Since we have so little time left in this city, each day should be "miraculous", according to Julie*. Finals? What finals?

Miraculous things to do in Paris on a long weekend:

Soundtrack for all these miracles:  

The Legionnaire's Lament, by The Decemberists

* According to this Julie, and also according to Julie Balise

Posted by Julie at 2:41 PM | TrackBack

April 26, 2008


I am testing Windows Live Writer. If this works, blogging without a stable Internet connection will be possible. But I actually started this post to tell you that I am not planning on blogging that much this month. It is my last month in Paris, the weather gods seem to have come to their senses after my rant, and I would like to spend my time doing things that do not require me to be inside near a source of electricity.

Right now for example, I wouldn't mind being on the Champ de Mars with my classmates, after having said "Yes please!" to supposedly "Italian" vodka smoothies and Czech beer, rather than: "No thank you, I need to write this afternoon." AUP just had "world's fair", where the nationalities of the school are represented with tables of food and alcohol. I have had coffee from Saudi Arabia and food from Thailand, Sweden, the USA, Romania and Armenia for lunch. And now I'm back in a very much deserted university library, sitting by an open window and hearing birds chirp in the courtyard outside. I am writing a paper on Joseph Nye. And you know what? I'm really enjoying the day, even though I'm stuck inside. And if I get some work done now, I will reward myself by spending the evening on the steps in front of Sacre Cæur.

I will be leaving Paris on the morning of Thursday, May 22nd.

Posted by Julie at 5:06 PM | TrackBack

April 14, 2008

Rant of the day: Parisian weather

Update, a few hours after this was written: After reading your comments, I have learned that this weird weather is happening all over Europe. Maybe I should just be thankful that I am experiencing it in Paris of all places. Whatever, I needed to write a rant today. If it wasn't the weather, it would have been the schoolchildren in front of me in line at the boulangerie. And that would have been meaner of me.

In Zadie Smith's On Beauty (recommended by the way), an Englishman who lives in New England reflects on how delusional New Englanders are about weather. He is annoyed by the way they say things like: "Oh, England. It's cold there, right?". Because let's face it: New England is cold. In the summer, it is humid and hot and uncomfortable unless you are under water. But in all the months when you want it to be warm, it really isn't. I practically live in the Arctic, but I have never been tipped over by the wind (as in standing still and then falling, only because the wind is blowing) in my home country. No, that only happened to me in Arlington, Massachusetts.

I would like to expand on this character's theory: All people, except Scandinavians, are delusional about the weather. I've been compiling lists in my mind ever since I got to Paris: things I miss when I'm here, things I will miss when I go back, and things I definitely WILL NOT miss when I go back. And it does not make sense at all that Parisian weather is on the last list. Norway is supposed to be cold and miserable, right? Norwegians are supposed to be able to handle any weather, right? Guess not, because I am not handling this weather well.

Today for example, I put on sunglasses as I left my apartment. As I walked out of my courtyard, the Parisian weather gods saw me, saw the smile on my face and decided that I was just too happy. Enter HAIL. When was the last time it hailed in Oslo?

Yes, it's cold up north. But it is predictably cold. I walked outside in a tank top, eating ice cream, last Thursday.  The following Sunday, IT SNOWED. No wonder I keep getting sick. And no wonder Parisians are fashion-conscious - in order to dress for the weather, they need to change three times a day.

And now that I am inside, in class, it's not raining. The forces of nature are against me.

Posted by Julie at 1:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2008

The French according to the New York Times

This is all very true. And with the exception of their horrible rules for interviews, I generally like the French and their attitudes. I like the idea of a country where fitting in means you need a knowledge of history, lingerie, manners and always choosing the right outfit. And the double bisou is a lot more practical than I once thought. I mean, a hug is actually more intimate, in my opinion, and kissing the air next to someone's cheek doesn't require you to put down your shopping bags.

Posted by Julie at 3:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2008


I'm not sure what it was. A couple of sunny days in a row always helps my mood. Maybe it was the five different people who asked me for directions in both English and French in fifteen minutes - and the fact that I had answers for all of them. Or how happy I was to see my American friends when they got back from spring break, and how much I had missed them - each one specifically and individually for different reasons. When my mom and then friends of my friends visited Paris, I could point out interesting things for them to see. I have a favorite bench on L'Esplanade des Invalides, and I have internet access there. I understand enough French to eavesdrop on conversations. And - this might just be my imagination - but sometimes I can pass people on the street.

For whatever reason, as I rode the escalator out of the Invalides metro station on Sunday afternoon, with a view of the Eiffel tower, the golden dome under which Napoleon is, and my own building, I felt like I was home. I live in Paris.

Posted by Julie at 6:05 PM | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Being a tourist in one's own city

After my week "back home in Oslo", I went "back home to Paris", and my mother visited me for a few days. My parents usually don't enjoy touristy things, and they have brought me up to dislike them too. With my family, visiting a foreign country involves getting back in touch with whatever friends we have who are currently living there, and following them around while they go to school and go grocery shopping. Naturally, the original plan was for my mom to follow me around and observe my daily life in Paris, but since there are no classes, most of my friends are travelling Europe, and watching me blog from the library gets old, we gave in to tourism instead. 

I realized that I was never a tourist in this city. From the moment I got off the bus that took me from Charles de Guelle to Avenue Bosquet, I have been either busy or tired from having been busy. Not counting the pictures for the coffee shop reviews, I've taken maybe seven photographs, most of them really bad ones. So, nearly two months after first arriving in Paris, I opened a guide book. I read what travel writers have to say about my new home. I posed for photos in the classrooms, at the Louvre, inside Le Bon Marché, in front of Hôtel de Ville, and with the Eiffel Tower in the background at various times of day and night. I chose cafés based on which authors used to sit there. I got up early and walked in the rain to an outdoor market, just because it's more interesting than getting groceries at an actual store.

And I realized that there is no reason not to continue living like this. 

Posted by Julie at 5:53 PM | Comments (1) | 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

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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.

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May 2, 2007

You know you're from Paris when...

I'm posting this here now, so that I can return in a year and check how many of these I get then. Because if everything goes according to the current plan (which changes at least once a month), I will be living in Paris at that time. 

1. You consider Boulogne, Neuilly, Saint-Denis etc to be the countryside. I mean, Porte de Versailles or Porte de la Villette mean there IS a door, and therefore an outside and an inside, right?
2. You know that, when you take the subway and you have to go through Châtelet, you NEED a ticket because you know exactly where the police is hiding (behind those glass window things)
3. You're SO over the sound the Carte Imagine R makes when you swipe it on the machine
4. Your very first clubbing experience was at Les Planches. Now you think it looks more like a nursery than a club.
5. You know that a martini means a martini, and not that gross vermouth and gin mixture.
6. You find it normal that someone is randomly peeing in the street.
7. You peed in the street at least once in your life.
8. You think that having a car in Paris is useless, but to go from Concorde to Les Champs Elysées, you take a taxi.
9. You can tell only by looking at their clothes from which arrondissement people are.
10. Shopping is a competitive sport, fashion, a way of life.
11. You actually consider walking in dog shit with your left foot lucky (it happens so often, it might as well be useful)
12. You know the subway map by heart, but you have trouble learning the different regions of France.
13. You know that coffe isn't suppose to be served in a cup that looks like a bathtub. And you drink it at the bar, standing.
14. You hate Paris and Parisians.
15. You love Paris and Parisians.
16. When foreign people ask where you're from, you say "Paris", and not "France".
17. You could write a poem on Ladurée/ Pierre Hermé macarons.
18. You have never been on the Eiffel Tower, or on a boat on the Seine, and you only go tothe Champs Elysées when it's Sunday night and you need to buy a book at Virgin for class on Monday.
19. When people say "Paname", you want to bleach their mouth.
20. You're so dramatic, you say you want to kill yourself at least five times a day.
21. You're surprised when someone holds the door for you at the subway exit.
22. You're even more surprised when a sales person asks if you're looking for something in particular. Actually that would never happen.
23.You know the guy whose sister's friend who's the cousin of a girl who knows the manager.
24. You got shit faced when you were 13, and now you drink real drinks, and look down on people who do vodka/beer shots at frat parties.
25. "Putain", "bordel", "merde" or the ever famous "putain de bordel de merde" are not considered "bad words"; I mean, you use them every day, and sometimes it's affectionate.
26. You don't really get excited when you go clubbing; you just take your bag and go.
27. You know that Paris is not a city, it's an attitude.
28. When you see "schales" in the street, you think that they should be banned from the city and burned at the stake.
29. You thinks it's normal when you know the life story of the butcher/baker/cashier of G20/homeless guy rue de Rennes/sales woman of H&M.
30. You KNOW that it's the most fabulous,angry, stylish, bitchy, comic, even romantic (even though you HATE clichés) city in the world and that, although you left, you will come back and stay for good.


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