Paris: Love, friends, food, history lesson and bikes

Where to start? We spent 10 days in Paris, stayed with 3 different friends in three different arrondissements (districts), and had a blast!

The city of love did not disappoint. The week started off cloudy with some rainy days [as you can tell from our pics] but halfway through our stay, the sun came out to shine over the beautiful city. Paris is a city that regardless the climate, your eyes are mesmerized. I tried counting the number of times Sara or I said “Wow” during our stay in Paris but I lost count!

Paris really is an outdoor museum everywhere you turn. From the Place de la Concorde, to tiny allies in the middle of the neighborhood of Levallois you encounter beautiful fountains, statues, architecture, etc. Sara and I primarily walked and biked all over Paris. Our wonderful hosts Caleb and Kyla let us borrow their Velib cards. Paris has a service similar to Barcelona called Velib (http://velib.fr). Velib has around 40,000 bikes all over the city at different spots. As a user, you get to use a bike for 30 minutes each time and you can return it anywhere you like. For Sara it was a learning experience, she had never ridden a bike in an urban city before. Initially, she scared the hell out of Kyla and I the first day as she was all wobbly and running into things but as days progressed she got a lot better and was able to bike down Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe.

**SIDE NOTE: I need to start writing everyday, I am missing many details I’d like to share … I’m on my way from München to Interlaken [8 days since I left Paris].**

Our stay in Paris was great in so many levels. Like in Barcelona, we were fortunate to have friends to visit and hang out with! One of Sara’s best friends (Caleb) lives in Paris with his girlfriend Kyla. My French ping-pong, tennis, chess, and study partners during my graduate studies, Adrien and Julien, also live in Paris with their girlfriends Charlene and Anne-Caroline respectively. In addition, my cousin Monchis came to join us from Zarautz for my birthday. With our friends we got to crash Anne-Caroline’s 30th birthday party [that party deserves it’s own post!], visited Wine bars, ate fondue, visited many typical French food restaurants, had home cooked dinners and got to celebrate my 31st birthday with them!

What I love about staying with locals is you get to learn a little about the difference of life-style from San Francisco. For example, in Paris, the majority of the kitchens and refrigerators are so small (damn, I forgot to take a pic) that the majority of the people buy food daily instead of buying for the full week. In addition, some don’t go directly to a big supermarket; instead they visit the meat guy, bread guy, vegetables and fruits guy, etc. To many this is not an inconvenience but instead an opportunity to buy the freshest produce. The beauty is that we got to eat a plethora of amazing home cooked food with friends! We even got inspired to cook one night and made xxxx, cusus and mozzarella bruchettas. A dish I really liked that is so simple to make is a salmon-avocado salad. You grab a glass, put arugula at the bottom followed by chunks of avocado and tomatoes, toped with thin slices of smoked salmon and olive oil [thanks to Charlene for the idea].

In addition to food habits, I re-learned that French companies (and European in general) promote a healthy life-style between work and personal time. Adrien for example gets 10 weeks of vacation a year! In addition, if he works over-time, he gets to claim the time as vacation in the future. So if he works 40 hours a week [which is already overtime!], he gets paid for the 5 extra hours we worked and gets 5 extra hours of vacation in addition to his 10 weeks. Another perk is that mothers, after birth get a plethora of months compared to 2 weeks in the USA. Fathers also receive paid paternity leave! There are so many other perks as well that I just can’t remember or don’t want to share so that you people in the USA don’t get pissed. I can appreciate the great life-style and I probably would prefer it to the USA system, but I also realize that in this system, entrepreneurs have a very difficult time growing a business. Also, not every person is lucky enough to get these types of benefits. Some can’t event find a job. In Spain, there is a term called: “mil euristas”: a person making 1k euros/month. These are people with degrees working in an entry-level position with minimal benefits.

It was interesting to me that both French couples want to leave France and move to San Francisco or anywhere else. This reminds me of the saying: “grass is always greener in the other side”. I want to move to Paris, they want to live in SF. Switch! 😉

Besides food, friends, and sightseeing, Paris was really a history lesson for Sara and I. On my part, I admit, I was ignorant to France and Europe’s history. I got a B in World History freshman year but could I have told you why Napoleon is an idol in Paris? Or that France has had 5 different republics? Or why WWI and WWII happened? Now I do! After a lot of visiting sites and Wikipedia, we learned tons of information on Louis XIV, Napoleon I and III, French Revolution, and WW I & II. Did you know that Hitler had ordered Paris to be destroyed if Germany lost the war? Luckily the person that was in charge to carry out that mission decided against it, but unfortunately they killed him for disobeying.

Paris: sights visited

–       Louvre

–       Eiffel Tower

–       Arc de Triumph

–       Discover walks with Caroline

–       Seine

–       Pont Neuf – oldest bridge in Paris

–       Notre Dame

–       Place de la concorde

–       Latin Quarter

–       St. Germain

–       Pantheon

–       Hotel de Les Invalides

–       Hotel de Ville

–       Opera

–       Sacré Coeur

–       Versaille

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