26 August 2010

Paris, Why I Love Thee

After a punch in the face by a crazy stranger, a chicken pox ordeal plus a very painful and emotional healing crisis, I still have a complete set of teeth, my sanity intact and the same love for La Ville-Lumiere. A thousand needles pricked my bubble and reality kicked me really hard in my bony ass, but nothing's changed: Paris, je t'aime. Here are the reasons why...

-For some odd reason, I feel welcome here. And no, I don't have many Parisian friends (in fact, I spend most of my time in solitude) and I am still having a difficult time stepping inside the circle of the industry where I want to be. But that doesn't deter me from having this feeling of acceptance that I haven't felt in my home country or Dubai.

-All my life, people repeatedly remind me and emphasize the fact that I am small. Some manager in a bank in Dubai even had this crazy opinion that I won't be able to get a job, just because I am small and skinny (what the?! I am not applying for a construction worker position!!!). Right here, right now I am still small; but I just don't feel...small.

-Almost everybody rides the metro. I love the fact that people wearing H&M clothes can ride and mix in one train with someone sporting a Chanel jacket or a Balenciaga motorcycle bag.

-I love (and hate) the metro. Navigo is there to further punctuate the feeling. The all-access train card is like a ticket to freedom and the key to the nooks and crannies of the fabled city.

-I drooled when I first entered the wonderful world of Louvre. More saliva escaped my lips as I visited more museums. But. I am more amazed by how the streets can be art galleries and art museums themselves.

-Lots of freebies: events, exhibits, magazines, movies, open air piano concerts, music music music, wifi at parks and libraries, haircuts, makeovers, wine tastings, Starbucks samplers, cocktails with overflowing champagne...

-So much to do, so little time. Winter, spring, summer or fall, Paris is alive and booming with all sorts of entertainment.

-I can be the best jologs here without worrying about tarnishing my good name. I can queue up for a bread sampler or free flavored water, or try a free 10-minute yoga in the streets and nobody would care (or do they?).

-I can just retreat to Jardin du Luxembourg or Jardin des Tuileries, sit down, breathe in fresh air and clear my thoughts whenever I feel like a deflated balloon.

-Lots of churches where I can kneel down and pray.

-The French has the finest junks ever. I experience a violent adrenaline rush whenever I go to flea markets and vide-greniers. Everytime I wish that I have all the money in the world to buy all the beautiful used items being peddled by the French.

-Best fireworks (so far). I squeezed myself through the terrifying crowd in Champ de Mars in last year's Bastille Day celebration and witnessed the grandest fireworks I've seen in my life.

-I came here packed with ambition. Until one day, a wise man I've met under the Louvre told me, "Work doesn't define who you are". Thus I came to my senses, unclenched my fists and since then I began to give more appreciation to the more essential things in life.

-My country failed. Dubai failed. Only in Paris did I attempt to learn the thing that I hated most: cooking (as if I have a choice). Not only am I getting better at cooking but also beginning to be an expert in infiltrating open markets. And now ladies and gentlemen excusez-moi but... I am now falling in love with food.

-Baguette, coffee, chocolates, crepes, champagne, cheese...

-Cute policemen and firemen. Sigh.

Jardin du Luxembourg

View from my room


Marques Avenue

The best months to raid shops and boutiques in Paris are January and July, as these two months are the soldes season in the city. But when you happen to be sleeping while these best shopping months are on-going, there's always the outlet stores to run to.

One of those that I recommend that's not very far from Paris is Marques Avenue. The average sized outlet store houses brands like Bensimon, Carven, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Cyrillus, IKKS, Guy Degrenne, Manfield, Quiksilver, Des Petits Hauts, etc.

9, quai du Châtelier
93450 Ile St-Denis
Metro: Mairie de St-Ouen(line 13), then take bus 166 (stop:Marcel Paul)
Monday to Friday 10h-19h
Saturday 10h-20h

25 August 2010

Getting Sick in Paris

After more than a year, I was about to grab hold of my dream to hit the beach and soak in the sun. And when I finally did, the mischievous gods played a joke on me. I, the girl who rarely get sick, was suddenly hit with the catastrophe of adult CHICKEN POX at the onset of my Spain vacation! How fun was that. I was itchy the entire time and of course the summer heat made all my suffering worse.

The entire time that I was in Spain, the rashes and itching was a mystery case. I had to go to the only hospital of Tossa de Mar and pay 60 euros and 50 cents just so the doctor could apply steroid cream on my lower leg rash and warn me to stay away from trees, animals, sun and sand.

And so for the first time in my life, I found myself missing France. It's like missing home. I had a very strong urge to run to the airport and take the earliest flight back to Paris Beauvais airport.

Why? Because of its topnotch healthcare system. I don't know about other countries, but in France, it doesn't matter if you have or do not have money, with or without insurance, legal or illegal. The country won't leave you to die. If you're sick, you will be granted medical care. That, for me, is like one of the biggest welcoming gesture the country can offer.

As soon as I was home sweet home, I immediately set a rendez-vous with the health center near my house. Since I still didn't have my securite sociale during my chicken pox ordeal, the consultations with the dermatologist were free of charge. Even my medicines were free! As if those weren't enough, the doctor and pharmacists were just really nice to me. In fact, I sought comfort from them when I was feeling all alone with my disease.

If you're sick and do not have securite sociale or if you are under a tight budget, fret not. Here's the list of Paris hospitals and medical centers offering free or minimal medical fees:

Centre de diagnostic et therapeutique
1 rue de la Cite (Metro: Cite)

Hopital Lariboisiere
Consultation Arc-en-Ciel
2 rue Ambroise-Pare (Metro: Barbes-Rochechouart)
Monday-Saturday 8h-16h30

Hopital Saint-Louis
Consultation Verlaine
1 Avenue Claude-Vellefaux (Metro: Goncourt)
Monday-Friday 9h-16h30

Hopital Saint-Antoine
184 rue du Faubourg-Saint Antoine (Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny)

Hopital La Pitie-Salpetriere
47-83 blvd. de l'Hopital (Metro: Saint-Marcel/ gare d'Austerlitz)
Monday-Friday 8h-16h30

Hopital Cochin
Polyclinique- Pavillon Achard
27 rue du Faubourg-Saint Jacques (Metro: Saint-Jacques)
emergency:24h/24 7j/7

Hopital europeen Georges-Pompidou
20 rue Leblanc (Metro: Balard)
Monday-Friday 11h-16h
emergency:24h/24 7j/7

Hopital Bichat-Claude-Bernard
46 rue Henri-Huchard (Metro: Porte de Saint-Ouen)
Consultations by appointment 01 40 25 80 80
emergency:24h/24 7j/7

Centre Medical et dentaire au Maire-Volta
-dermatology, gynecology, opthalmology, dental health
4 rue au Maire (Metro: Arts et Metiers)

Centre Medical et dentaire de l'Epee de Bois
-acupunctue, cardiology, dermatology, gynecology, opthalmology, dental health
3 rue de l'Epee-de-Bois (Metro:Place Monge)

Centre medical et dentaire Chemin-Vert
-dermatology, dental health
70 rue du Chemin-Vert (Metro: Voltaire-Leon Blum)

Centre medical Edison
44 rue Charles-Moureu (Metro: Place d'Italie)

Centre dentaire des Epinettes
51 rue des Epinettes (Metro: Porte de Saint-Ouen)
Monday-Friday 8h45-12h30 and 13h30-17h

Centre Medical Ternes
-acupuncture, cardiology, dermatology, gynecology
21 rue Pierre-Demours (Metro: Ternes/ Pereire)

Centre medical et dentaire Marcadet
22 rue Marcadet (Metro: Marcadet- Poissonniers)

Pole sante Goutte d'Or
16-18 rue Cave (Metro: Barbes/ Chateau-Rouge)

Medecins du Monde
62 bis avenue Parmentier (Metro: Parmentier)

Association Le Coeur des Haltes
Place Henry-Fresnay (Metro: Gare de Lyon)

11 rue Henri-Michaux (Metro: Place d'Italie/ Tolbiac)

Centre d'Investigations preventives et cliniques
-free health check-ups
6 rue de la Perouse (Metro: Kleber)
for appointment 01 53 67 35 35, 8h-18h

Ding Fring

This is where some of the clothes from the collection boxes of Le Relais end up. Ding Fring is one of the few thrift shops in France selling quality items recovered from generous individuals. The secondhand items vary from clothes to bags and even bed linens and curtains.

Frankly, I didn't find the goods as exciting as those of other thrift shops. The good part is that everything is clean as they were washed and pressed prior to selling. Plus I was able to spot a Ted Lapidus leather handbag for a mere 6 euros!

All proceeds go to Emmaus charity.

  • 340 rue des Pyrénées (Metro:Pyrénées)
  • 39 rue Labrouste (Metro:Plaisance/ Convention)

Le Musée du Parfum

If perfume interests you, then you shouldn't miss a visit to Le Musee de la Parfumerie (Fragonard). There you'll find a wide range of perfumery objects and distilling apparatus, as well as ancient make-up objects.

A guided tour is offered free for the visitors.

Le Musee du Parfum
9 rue Scribe (Metro: Opera)

The Theatre des Capucines Museum
39 bd. des Capucines (Metro: Opera)

Entree Libre

If you want more exciting stuff and the real-deal on perfume-making, leave Paris and drive your way to Grasse or Eze. Get a chance to visit the the perfume factory and laboratories, packaging rooms and even a costume museum.

L'usine Historique
20 Boulevard Fragonard

La Fabrique des Fleurs
Les 4 Chemins
Route de Cannes

Provencal Costume and Jewelry Museum
2 rue Jean Ossola

L'Usine Laboratoire