Friday, 30 December 2016

Parisian Resolutions

The New Year is almost here. Is it just me or did 2016 drag on a little bit too long? I've decided to make a few little resolutions to make sure that this year is my best yet. Everything is finally coming together in my life so I'm ready to set myself some goals that I can hopefully fulfill! 
1) Do more yoga. Lists of New Year's Resolutions are always littered with promises to do more exercise but this is less about my physical well being and more about my mental well being even though they are both clearly linked. Yoga and meditation have always helped to keep me centred and relatively stress free. Doing more of both can only be a good thing! I've been a little lax this year in terms of exercise. We are always told that it is a great mood enhancer but for me the exercise isn't the stressful part, it's everything that goes with it, getting ready, planning where to go running, sorting the gym membership... The list goes on. So for me, I think some good, free videos that I can do in the comfort of my own small flat are the way forward. 
2) Become friends with the women in the bakery. I've started this already but I will make a bigger effort next year. My dream when I moved to France was to be known by all of the local shopkeepers who would tell me all of their culinary secrets and give me free food (al very Julia Childs!) Unfortunately this hasn't happened yet. I'm making good progress with the delightfully efficient women who run my local bakery and I am working my way through all of their flavoured eclairs. Hopefully 2017 will be the year I finally become regular welcomed with greetings of "How was your day to day?" or the immortal "The usual?"
3) BAKE! I hope you all read that in the voice of Sue Perkins. If not go back and start again! I used to bake a lot. Back when I could use the stuff Mum had in the cupboards and had a decent set of scales. I remember the night before my German Oral Exam I stressbaked 36 madeleines which is a skill I would like to get back. There is something very soothing about watching cake rise, that's probably one of the reasons GBBO has done so well. In a tiny parisian kitchen it can be hard to create amazing patisserie but a good old Victoria Sponge or three might be manageable. 
So there we have it. My resolutions for 2017. I'm rather glad I threw the yoga in there at the start so you didn't all judge me for my obsession with baked goods. All I have to say in this my last post of 2016 is that I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and let's hope it turns out better than this one! 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

La Cuisine Française

What is France best known for? It's food of course! I have to admit it was one of the reasons I liked learning French at all. Most of my time here is spent thinking about what I'm going to eat and where I'm going to buy it from. Only last night I ventured out into the cold night to acquire a raspberry eclair, which was definitely worth it. Saturday included a trip to my favourite market in the whole world. The one I used to live by on Avenue de Saxe. After some hilarious flirting with the vendors in order to get more samples of foie gras, blue cheese and charcuterie than was decent, I ended up buying myself a very simple but hearty lunch. A roast chicken leg with gratin dauphinoise which was full of garlic and herbs. What could be better than a simple but delicious meal made by someone else that you can take home and savour. That's exactly what I adore about French cooking. The simplicity. Many people think that it is all showy and complicated. Well the stuff you have in high-end restaurants in is, but the food that real French people eat is full of goodness. Why overcomplicated something that is already divine? There is no logical counter-argument. This doesn't mean that is boring and uses the same flavours repetitively, oh le contraire! The ingredients are simple but shown off. Take a simple steak tartare. Incidentally this is my favourite meal. The beef is beatifully tender and succulent. The capers are sharp and cut through the fat of the meat. The frites on the side providing that crisp texture that is so pleasurable. The diced raw onions that are sweet and crunchy. The rich egg yolk perfectly placed on top. You are exposed to all tastes, textures and cooking techniques in one simple dish. This is classic French cuisine at its best. 
The French are very proud of there food, some would even say snobby. With cooking like this, wouldn't you be?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Flying Home For Christmas

Do you see what I've done there? Changed a well known and popular Christmas song for comic but factual effect. Very clever of me I know. Anyway, enough of that. I'm finally home for Christmas. Let us all rejoice. I get to be in the land of great cups of tea, rain and bacon. It was touch and go whether I thought I would be able to come home but luckily the flights were at sensible times. It has been a few months since I have been back which doesn't seem like a long amount of time for some. However I am certainly in need of a rest and lots of hearty food surrounded by my family. This year I have gone back to the UK more than another year I've spent living in France so these last two months have been rather difficult mentally. I love living abroad. I write about that all the time. It doesn't mean however that I want to spend all of my time here, especially at Christmas. It's hard coping with anxiety at this time of year. You are meant to be happy and jolly and relaxed. On the inside I can feel the complete opposite. So I'm glad that I can spend time with my family and not alone sat in my flat. I'm proud of how far I have come since this time last year and I hope that I can say the same thing next year.
Today was perfect. Mike surprised me at the airport last night so we were able to celebrate Christmas Eve together with my family. A lovely meal out with everyone earlier made it even better. It is amazing home much more relaxed I am when I am in the UK. Not having to translate everything in my head or trying to comprehend different ways of life means that I don't panic as much. I love learning new things as a part of my life in Paris but I do need a little break every now and then! 

Finally all I have to say is thank you dear readers. Every time I see another page view it makes me so happy that people seem to be liking what I write. A very Merry Christmas to you all and be ready next week for the posts heralding in the New Year! 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Conversations in the Staff Room

Remember those fake debates you were made to practice in school? The ones where you had no real opinion mostly because you were 14 and had never come across GM crops in your day to day life but also because you were more interested in whatever it was so-and-so had said the such-and-such at lunch. Now that I spend most of my time in a mostly French office I have reason to recall these lessons. It turns out that quite a lot of the time people like to have deep discussions at over their soup and sandwiches. The other day, we discussed how we should tackle the problems that the agricultural industry is facing. Recently it was about the French presidential elections. I don't tend to participate unless I feel strongly enough to summon up the courage to construct a sentence in French. However, it does mean that I am learning not just about the world, but new vocab as well. My degree taught me how to talk about complex historical or literary concepts. My internship is teaching me how to swear like a Parisian and different words for cigarettes. I'd say to anyone wanting to learn a language that you should go and work in that language. Studying it helps and gives you an idea of the history and ideologies of a place but the way to become a native-esque speaker is to speak to the people who live there about things that interest not only them but you as well. 
There was a weird Franglais that we spoke at ULIP. Weird, french words would drop in every now and again when we were speaking English. The reverse is true at work. Speaking French I have to drop occasionally British phrases in. Sometimes it is because I don't know the vocab and other times I simply can't translate "have a gander" into French! My language skills are improving so much. My fluency took a knock at the start of this year for obvious reasons so it has taken me time to build my confidence back up. There isn't much better way to do that than to sit and talk about your favourite cakes now is there?  

Monday, 19 December 2016

What Did You Expect?

Is Paris all I thought it would be? Good question. I was reading through lots of other Parisian blogs and it made me think about what I thought my life would be like here. Is this how I thought my life would turn out? Not at all. Has Paris lived up to my expectations? Somewhat.
It is hard to analyse whether it has met my expectations as I didn't really have any. More than 3 years here and I'm still constantly learning. Ok so I thought by now I would be fluent in French, dating a Frenchman and be working as a professional writer. This hasn't exactly all happened. Firstly, my language skills are much better however I'm learning new words every single day. Fluency is really hard to achieve and it's something I think people just expect of you when you say you speak another language. I can't speak like a native as my idiom can be very British. My creativity is better meaning that I don't just trot out stock phrases but I don't use that much slang and my grammar can be all over the place at times. Evidently I'm not dating a Frenchman, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Finally I am working as a writer but not in the way I imagined. For some bizarre reason I thought that moving to Paris would mean that I could become an amazing creator of fiction. That hasn't happened. Instead my blogging has got better and I'm learning how to write advertising. It's all equally creative just not in the way I thought it would be! 
Everyone thinks about Paris in different ways. Most people envisage this romantic destination full of people holding hands and swooning at the sight of the Eiffel Tower. I never really had that idea. Sure I love the Tour Eiffel when it sparkles, but I also adore watching old women talking to the vendors at the market. My preconceptions of France were more that I would spend my life drinking black coffee, eating foie gras and listening to old records. I drink a lot of black coffee, but hey that's office life!
We all arrive here expecting different things. Envisaging different lifestyles. But there is something we all have in common. We are slowly but surely becoming more native than the natives. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

An Ultimate Guide: The Only Bars You Need to Know

In an effort to improve my blog and to give the readers what they want I looked at which posts seem to do the best. I have deduced that you prefer it when I tell you what's what in Paris. It's understandable. Why else would you read a blog called More Native Than The Natives if it doesn't tell you how to live like a native?! So that's what this is. I'm going to create a few ultimate guides to help you if you ever end up at a loose end in the City of Light. 
I'm going to try and give you a few different kinds of places to try but in all honesty I tend to frequent establishments that are laid-back with buckets of atmosphere. I don't always care about price or quality of drink however some of the drinking holes I will describe to you certainly deliver on both! 
Ok. So this is my favourite bar. In the world. It's mad, bad and truly dangerous to know. The last time I was there was way back in August for my birthday. If you like weird beer served to your in animal horns, leopard print walls, pub carpet and teddy bears in every nook and cranny then this is the place for you. It isn't the cheapest but it makes up for that with the crazy atmosphere and delicious beers they have on tap. Any night spent here ends up in frivolity and usually some kind of takeaway.
Hotel de JoBo
This one is a bit out there for me. I don't usually find myself in hotel bars for JoBo I make an exception. I may have mentioned it once or twice before on here but it does need mentioning again if not just for some variety in this post. I don't want you all thinking I only go to weird hang-out spots with craft beer and odd décor. Sip a gin and tonic on the astro-turfed courtyard at JoBo for a touch of luxury after a hard day's shopping. 
Potato Bar
Disclaimer: Not the real name of the bar. If a bar is a bit dirty with rude staff would you still go for the cheap beer and free garlicky potatoes? It is a sacrifice I am personally willing to make. The real name of this place is L'Attirail I think but I'm not 100% sure all I know is there are 3€ pints of Stella and it is always packed so you have to get there early. Oh, Mike also took my sister Pip there while I was at work once and they proceeded to sink a few beers as my ears burnt...
It may be a little cliché to go to secret bars now. The joke has worn off slightly for me but this place still manages to live up to expectations. You walk through a fridge in a pizza restaurant to a proper Art Deco speakeasy. There are men in flat caps, gold everywhere and funky wallpaper. They do fab cocktails that change regularly and the glassware is to die for! I might only be able to afford one drink there but sure is damn good.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Working With Anxiety

Working anywhere can be difficult. There are so many different problems that you can come across. Think about it. You're thrown together with people you don't know and told to work together, sometimes having to rely on and trust them when you haven't known them very long. These are all things that I'm learning how to cope with at the moment. In all of my jobs before I've usually been working alone, you don't exactly have colleagues when you're a babysitter! 
I've already talked a bit about my life here in the office but I thought it was important to discuss the mental difficulties. A full-time job has certainly helped my mood. When you choose when you work it is easier to cave in and say "No, not this week" But when you have to be there 9am sharp and you fear letting people down then, for me at least, it helps get me out of bed in the morning. I would put a disclaimer out and say this doesn't help everyone. Certainly I do sometimes need some time to myself where I recharge and figure out what is going on in my head but the routine helps me to regulate myself plus my insomnia is slowly disappearing. But now I have to tackle issues head on instead of hiding from them. I get to practice my coping mechanisms and I can congratulate myself on all the little victories throughout the day. For example, today I asked for the Wifi password without having a panic attack. It may seem like this is a really tiny thing to get anxious about but this is the kind of thing that causes me day to day problems. I think it is hard for people to get their heads around why I have such problems with really small stuff like this and honestly I don't completely understand myself. If I join in with a conversation in French at lunch that is a major thing for me because it is so intimidating and trying to follow everything as well as thinking of something interesting to say! Some days it feels like it is all getting too much to handle but I get the opportunity to witness my progress a lot more frequently now I have bigger problems to overcome. Each small issue builds my confidence until hopefully soon I can function more normally. 
My medication is helping a lot. It prevents me from getting over-whelmed by the big things so I can focus on dealing with the smaller things. If this clears up some misconceptions of what anxiety is in everyday life then I will be immensely pleased but it just helps to express what all these thoughts that are in my head. As my job requires lots of writing and being creative linguistically I'm finding in therapeutic to throw myself into that, just ask Mike I've become a massive watch nerd! 
Before I ramble anymore I'm going to leave it here. Living and working in Paris is wonderful, but not without its difficulties. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Top Tourist Tips

The question I get asked more than any other is "Kate, can you recommend some bars/restaurants/things to do in Paris? I'm visiting with friends!" To this I try to give a fairly comprehensive answer but sometimes it is difficult to be the world's best tour guide at a moments notice. So I have decided to pen my ideal day for any tourist in Paris. Imagine you only have 24 hours to get the most in. This plan won't fail you. 

Let us assume that if you are visiting Paris you will be trying to stay as close to me as possible. The effortlessly cool, hipster persona I exude will help you to blend it... I jest but seriously staying either with me or near me is your best bet for a great time. My area has lots of restaurants, bars and is excellently placed for you to get nearly everywhere in the city! 
9am: You knock on my door suggesting breakfast, which of course I accept so I take you to Maison Privat around the corner from me. We order an oranais (pastry with apricot halves, crème pat and sugar crystals) and a coffee which we then proceed to eat outside in the sunshine watching the people walking by. 
9:30am: Now that some caffeine has entered my system I can now be the best tour guide possible. I take you to the market on Avenue de Saxe where I used to live so that you can sample some everyday French life and maybe some more food. From here we make our way to the Eiffel Tower because why not? Everyone needs it on their Instagram to prove they've been to Paris. 
10:30am: We have a wander around Musée Rodin. Simply because it is magical. Also if we are lucky enough we get to see Dior setting up for a show there. 
12:15pm: By this time, I'm probably hungry again. I take you to Da Rocco where we have the best Italian meal you can get this side of the Alps, with some very good red wine. We can also reminisce about my university days because I used to grab a panini from here nearly every day as a little pick me up in between lessons. 
2pm: Having let our lunch settle we wander along the Boulevard Saint Germain and peer in the pretty shops, maybe even stopping for a coffee and cake in Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots. We arrived leisurely at Saint Michel where we pick up some books from Shakespeare and Co or Gibert Jeune. We take them to the Ile Saint Louis after pausing to marvel at Notre Dame and for me to show you my old apartment. 
4pm: After a read and a nap I suggest we make our way to BHV for some light shopping which is a hop, skip and a jump over the river. It has everything from DIY stuff to high-end clothes and everything in between. The art section is particularly good, if you were ever in need! 
6pm: The alcohol from lunch is starting to wear off so we nip into Hotel de JoBo in the Marais for a cocktail. It is a hotel themed around Josephine Bonaparte so expect crazy décor and sumptuous drinks!
8pm: We decide that it is about time for some more food. This means I take you up to Aux Refuges des Fondues which is so French it hurts. While drinking wine in baby bottles you sample the meat or cheese fondue after clambering over the table to get to your seat. This leads us perfectly into a post-dinner jaunt to Sacré Coeur to look out over the Parisian skyline. 

If at the end of all of this you still want to do more then we can head back across the river a bit closer to chez moi and dance the night away in Place Monge, but personally I'll be ready for bed!