Our first trip in Europe, I decided about Amsterdam because of two reason Van Gogh and people of Amsterdam. To our delight it was really great and was a great escape from noise and crowd of Paris.The city is not so big compared to Paris but very clean and friendly. As most tourist books suggest Dutch people has unique and very efficient solution to their day-to-day problem. The streets are not crowded with car.We reached there on Saturday morning and visited Van Gogh museum followed by Albert Cuypmarkt. We had Surinamese for lunch and Indonesian for dinner. Both were great. Both these countries were Dutch colony but you get roti in Surinamese cuisine.Sunday we visited Rijks museum. The main part of museum was closed as they found asbestos in museum. But they had all the major work of Rembrandt and other great Dutch masters for display and the entry fees was reduced with free audio tour.Monday we rented bike and biked a lot. Yes a lot for 3 to 4 hrs and in that time we crossed the south canal belt few times. We had Falafel for lunch and Nepalese for dinner; the falafel was great I think the best falafel I tasted so far.Yes it was a great trip, which ended on Tuesday morning as soon we back to Paris with general strike for 2 week in a row.
Me and Pamela are living in Paris for a while now and we are still enjoying going around and exploring Paris. Lots of my friends asked me about our personal opinions on the same before visiting Paris and France for a week or so. So here it is will all the best information that I can write down with out making it too boring for you.
A brief about Paris:Paris is divided in 2 main parts by the River Seine; the left bank and the right. Traditionally the city was divided just like a human brain left one for art and music where right one for money and power. Now there no such difference any more. It has 20 districts or arrondisement in a snail pattern starting at the center of Paris.
Top attractions: [Not in any particular order]There are lots of Photos from Paris in www.santm.com
- Eiffel Tower
- Sacre Coeur
- Arc de Triomphe
- Champs Eleysees - and Concorde
- Notre Dame and Saint Chapel - If possible a cup of coffee on the top roof of Samaretine (now closed till 2012) to have the best view of Paris Center. But you can try Institute de Monde Arabe .
- La Defense - Paris version of New York Manhatten.
- The Mega Stores - Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
- Boat Ride. This gives the best magnificent view of Paris architectures
- Bastille - Best hang out place lots of bars and food place a happening place
- Moulin Rouge or Lido [Both French Cabarets] your choice ;)
- Tower Montparnasse
- Louvre - home of Monalisa
- Orsay - best place to go if you like impressionism artists like Monet/Gaugh etc.
- Rodin - Sculpture
- Picasso - the name say it all
- Be aware of pickpockets and small thefts.
- Paris is a small City it is only 15KM by 10KM.
- Ask for a metro Map when you get here.
- It involves a lot of walking so get yourself a good pair of walking shoes.
- There are not many public toilets and you need to carry change [coins] to use them.
- Get yourself a phone card from "TABAC" [where you buy cigarettes] for calling inside and outside France. There are special cards for India or US if you need any.
- Metro tickets you can buy the 10 tickets "carnet" or day pass depending upon your travel plan. You can use the same on any other public transport as long as you with in Paris.
- Each Street corner will have road names and tells you which arrondisement you are in.
Getting a place to Stay/ Hotel:It is expensive when it comes to hotel in Europe and Paris in particular. The rooms are small and expensive. Personally I think if you get a hotel around Latin Quarter that is 5th, 6th is best as you are close to city center and the locality is nice. 7th, 8th are also good with 1st to 4th. Paris is very safe city in general. I personally do not like the area around the big Train stations of Gare de Nord and Gare del'Est The 18th,19th and 20th are should be avoided from my own prospective and you have happen to stay in 13th-16th make sure your hotel is not very far from Metro Station as these are more residential arrondisements with metro stations not very close by like center of city.
Food:Few lines about French food; if you do not take fish and a Indian vegetarian then there are not many choice for you L. Fish and Sea food is very common in French cuisine; it is almost considered vegetarians some times. But the pastry, bakery products and chocolates are delicious I am not joking.But there are lots of Indian place to choose from but make sure you ask for right amount of spices as it is very scaled down for locals.
It was great that we just went there without any plan. Various kinds of musical instruments & on different themes were played by young student musicians. A nice place for free concert and music if you are around Paris. We spent quite a long time. But, we could not attend the final grand Jazz program, as it was already around 9 PM.
Jaya(my cousin sister) and her hubby Purbayan visited us along with Satyajit on very rainy Sunday. They came to Paris for their own private concert. They were on a tour to Europe and playing Indian classical music. Purbayan(sitar) and Satyajit (tabla) are very talented in their own field.It was our great pleasure to have them as guest. Due to rain we reached the concert bit late but it was a great performance. An evening, which I will remember for a long time.A very bad week with Metro strike ended in delight.You can find lots of web sites...
It started on Tuesday the 13th. My manager gave me a lift to work. On the way back I walked, it was long but nice walk through Bois de BoulogneWednesday, the strike was supposed to end; but it continued in a French way. So, I have to work hard to fix my bike and went by bike to work. In that process I got an ache on to my shoulder, which did not allow me to sleep for a whole week. And the strike continued till Friday. On Wednesday, Murly after realizing that there is no public transport, he walked 2 hours to reach work. On the way back some one showed him a shorter route.Thursday, Pamela after missing two classes decided to go to her French school and walked across Paris, which took her one and half-hour to reach only. Returning was not a fun for her either.On Friday things started getting better and on Saturday it ended for now.
On the 9th of April we were supposed to collect our new Titre De Sejour (Long term VISA) from Cite Prefecture de Police. The interview was fixed almost 3 months ago and we reached there before our scheduled time to be make sure this time there is no big problem. But our turn came around 4o'clock which is almost one hour behind our scheduled time. And after checking all our paper she says oh! You need to pay 55 Euros now as you got a new passport. Then the trouble started - so I went to another counter to buy Notary Stamp for the same amount. But they only take cash which I did not had enough at that moment. So after asking them where is the nearest ATM I went out and on returning with cash....?The main entrance was closed so I tried to persuade a lady police to let me in as my wife, my passport every thing is inside and I am stuck in this "no man land". She didn't understand anything or doesn't wants to understand at all. But with repetitive appeal she understood or got bored with me to let me in. But to my surprise ? GOD!!! that counter got closed to give any Notary Stamp. So, trying to behave properly and without loosing any temper I asked that lady on the counter to get me some thing in written officially so that I do not become an refugee in France for next few days till I get my new visa. It again took some time and repeating the same problem she wrote it on paper that I need to come back on Tuesday morning after the long weekend of Easter. And best part was Pamela got her work done without any problem.The problem is French people cann't think other than French way and I sometime think they even don't know there are other way(s) to the same which might be better than their way. Just to say - to cancel your cell phone contract it takes two months after you send registered letter with acknowledgement but, taking a new connection it only takes an hour.Thankfully, no one asked for my passport during these past 3 days and I again had to wait for 2 hours in the same place for getting 9 month of Extension to stay in France.
Here is a set of stuff about flat hunting, contributed from many sources. One note. Most of this is for finding a flat on your own.Don't go near
Hestia.fr (many a tale of woe has originated from here) Get your 'dossier' together straight away. Needs photocopy of Present employment contract Last 3 pay slips Last 3 rent receipts (or in my case my 1 year mortgage statement from the UK) Last 3 utility bills (I put in my quarterly bills for water, Electricity and gas) Birth certificate (Not a must) Passport RIB (i.e. bank details) Last years Tax statementIt's like a competition; the person with the fullest dossier gets the flat.Sort out your guarantor. Due to French tenant law, it is not legal for a landlord to kick you out during the 3 main months of winter. Thus you can stop paying and they can do nothing ?till spring. In Paris landlords protect themselves by demanding a guarantor who will pay your rent if you default. To be eligible the guarantor must be on the French social security system. For most this is a parent.Foreigners can look to French friends, but beware, there is a big stigma to this. Since it is generally your parents that do this, asking someone else suggests that your parents are poor. Generally people will be shocked to be asked.Another alternative is 1% lodgment. 1% lodgment is really looked down on. Makes you seem poor. Poor people do not get flats in Paris.Last option is get your company as guarantor. Personally I?d push this. If you are family members in France talk to them.Apartment sites www.acheter-louer.fr www.explorimmo.com/static/figaro/ (Monday paper) Check regularly through the day www.locat.fr www.proapart.com fr.123immo.com www.alouer.com www.pap.fr Des Particuliers a Particuliers (Thursday paper get it by 7:30am) www.immostreet.com www.immostreetpro.com/etude_saint_lambert/hab_spe.php uk.seloger.comcheck regularly through the day (_en is English) fr.classifieds.yahoo.com/fr/rn(tends to be a bit far behind, pretty much everything is gone by the time it appears) The American Church (Quai d'Alma, go in person to notice board)Sites if you want to share. Not very common in France: - www.coloc.fr; www.colocation.fr; www.bonjour.fr;www.fusac.fr they sometime say they are looking for English speaking flat mates on colocation.fr. Fusac has both short term contracts and share ads. Best to get the Magasine, has more in it than the website.Finding where it is - Maps www.maporama.com www.ismap.com www.mappy.fr www.france.com (metro/RER/SNCF maps etc)Understanding the classifieds www.paris-anglo.com/housing/guide/housing_word.htmlMight be worth checking the Fusac site. Fusac is a free magazine mostly for the ex-pat community. Great for buying second hand furniture etc, but apartments will be expensive, because most will be short-term. www.fusac.frFurniture, etc.: - www.ikea.fr (the classic) www.habitat.fr www.conforama.fr www.mezzaline.com (seems to be pretty kiddy orientated, but there is furniture)White goods: - www.darty.fr www.conforama.frOther things to note: You pay the insurance on the Flat. The difference between furnished and unfurnished is pretty big. In general it is more than 250 euros per month for a 1000 euro flat. The notice period is 3 months, for an unfurnished flat. 1 month for furnished (I think). The deposit is between 2 and 3 months You pay the agency fees, all of them. These vary. Can be up to 12% of 1 years rent. For unfurnished the standard contract period is 3 years. For furnished the standard contract period is 1 year. You can escape your contract without penalty if you leave the country. You must have a bank account. Can be awkward, as you need an address before you can have a bank account. If your French is poor, try running these through Babel fishbabelfish Specify the address in the web site box.Drinking and eating: - www.parispubs.com www.theauldalliance.com www.mooseheadparis.comArrondisementsGet used to the Arrondisement (district) numbers. It?s like a snail; the 1st is the very centre of Paris.And it winds out in a spiral to the 20th.Good areas are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 15th. Though of course not the whole of them, they have their bad and their good parts.However, the 16th and 17th are only good if you happen to like little old ladies wearing fur and dragging ratty little dogs around (you know, the types with tartan jackets and yap lots, constitute a light bite for a proper dog).The best areas that you are likely to be able to afford are 3rd, 5th, 6th and 11th. Families might prefer the 15th The 5/6th is the Latin quarter. It is probably the liveliest part of town, it doesn't have a bad part.Lastly: Think about buying. The loan rates are pretty reasonable. The housing costs are much cheaper on the purchase side than on the renting side. You can get English speaking notaries to make life easier for you? Down side. Even after you find a place, it will be 3 months minimum before all the paperwork is sorted out.
It has been a long time we were exchanging e-mails and phone calls with Ritu, but could not meet her in-person. She is a friend of Akiko's Paris friend. A long chain; but a start to make social contacts in new place. I am personally not that social to make friends at party or other social gatherings that is one reason holding me to join local Expats club.Ritu arranged a great picnic and was very nice to meet all other expaticians. It was great day and we had lots of food and fun. It was a very beautiful park in 19th arrondisement infact, place for newly wedded couples to take their wedding pictures.
After figuring out, lots of museum have free entry on first Sunday of every month we started with our museum tour with Louvre. Oh!! It is a museum in itself. I am sure all of you know some thing or other about it. We started our tour with Egyptian section last month. We are still visiting & we think we only covered 1/3rd so far after two Sundays. God knows how many sundays it will take to complete this whole museum.Some times it felt like how these people stole so much from Egypt. But again these practices were quite common in India with all the invaders from Persia to London. Any way the stronger ones are stealing oils and other resources from another country now.....
Ramkrishana Mission or center of Vendantic Society as we know it, commonly is situated out side of Paris. A great place just to go and spend some time in peace. It was birth anniversary of Ramkrishana when we went there first time. We were very unsure how to reach the Center. But it was a miracle we found some one speaking English at the station to guide us. This center is quite big area-wise compared to San Francisco and Berkeley one that we visited. If you are interested, please check their web page for the same.http://perso.wanadoo.fr/centre.vedantique/We met some nice families of our mother tongue. They are living here for quite a long time, more then 30+ years which was big shock to us. I am not yet in love with the idea that I really want to live here for long or not. But it was nice to know some people.
Terry "long hair" or that Canadian came to Paris from Palo Alto. It was nice of Terry, Jaroline (Wife of Terry) and Greg to spend two evenings with us. It was a great as for the first time we had some friends while dining. The big surprise was Terry got a nice hair cut in Paris at end of his trip which was a big change. But,I am sorry I did not have a camera to capture the same.Now, it was time to say goodbye to them just like others whom we left at Bay Area.Hope to catch up with this crazy "F***" guy some time some where.......
OK, we moved to our own apartment after all. This whole week was very busy and hectic.Monday: It started with getting informed that my checkout from hotel was the very same day. But I was not informed about this before. And hotel people informed Pamela and disconnected telephone; a real mess. We could not connect each other and convey what was happening at two ends. I must have to admit the HR practice is worse here.YES, it is the worst. I didn't have so bad HR even when I was in a contracting company. May be these HR people feel like they have done a great favour by hiring you. So I told I am not going to move out from hotel if needed I will pay from my pocket and wait till the delivery of my shipment from US is done. So after heated arguments they say oh!! No problem how many days you want to stay more ....Tuesday/Wednesday: I took two days off from work. I think I should have given time off to get settle in my apartment. Any way the movers came on time and really worked hard to make the delivery at 3rd floor without lift. I realized the sofa is too.. big for my place and I still wonder how I am going to get rid of this big and heavy stuff. Lots of box to open and arrange and we are trying our best. I must admit Pamela did a great job. In mean time we went to get curtains and other needs from nearby stores.After, all these I still realize the weekends needs lots of work.Weekends, started with Darty - the Electronic super store here to order freeze, washing machine etc and we ended up going to IKEA on Sunday for some small furnitures.
First time we went to sign the lease. They asked me to write cheque of almost 3000. Oh!!but I didn't had French cheque book yet & there was no money in the account either. What a shame!!! No one told me. So I went back to work and found I will be paid only once a month here. Need to wait till month end.So after a week I came with the cheques and got the keys of the apartment.