Greetings from suburbia

Nogent-sur-Marne

You can take a girl out of the suburb, but you can’t take the suburb out of a girl. Let’s face it, I have never been a city girl or a country girl, after all I do come from Espoo. It’s just very convenient to live a short commuting distance from a city, but in a greener neighborhood where life is calmer and you have more space. Once you get bored with the suburban life, the city is waiting for you just a short bus or train ride away. We have recently moved from Paris to Nogent-sur-Marne and it feels like home already, in a different way than Paris was. We ended up in Nogent by a chance, or actually due to a clever algorithm in rentals website that suggested me our current apartment even if Nogent was not in our original search scope.

Grand Rue Charles de Gaulle Nogent-sur-Marne

In Paris we lived in the South side of the city in a calm neighborhood, but still it’s Paris. More noisy and hectic, I won’t miss the corner pizza delivery place’ scooters driving back and forth in the night. Who orders pizza in a week night anyway?? We had a park close to our place as well as part of the Petite Ceinture, which is great by Paris standards, but not enough greenness for me. Even when you sit by the Seine in the center of Paris, it feels like you are in an outdoor museum. It is ridiculously pretty and impressive, but it’s hard to feel like home.

River Marne Nogent-sur-Marne

Bois de Vincennes Lac de Minimes

I’m pretty excited about our new home town, it is only 4 RER train stops from Paris center and we have the Marne river and Vincennes forest (which is more like a big central park) close by. There is a cute shopping street with palm trees and Christmas lights where most of the stores close at lunch time and on Mondays. And a port de plaisance with cute river boats! We have sushi restaurants but they don’t give you chop sticks unless you ask, you see, we are not in the city. There is also quite an ugly concrete sports complex by the river, where they have a 50 meter outdoor swimming pool that is open all year round, yay! Nothing better than to swim outside in slight November rain (yes, we Finnish people are a bit crazy. Pool is heated though, I’m not that crazy). The complex also has bowling and snooker, somehow fits to the picture… In the town there is an old movie theater and one restaurant and bar frequented by young people (in France the lycéens, high school kids, apparently still smoke, how old school. In Nordics they seem to be only eating healthy and training).

Bowling Nogent-sur-Marne

Actually Nogent has gotten as the only town in Val-de-Marne department a status of a ville touristique. I wouldn’t go as far as recommending this place for tourism, as there as are a few other spots in France that might be slightly more interesting, but this is certainly a cute place to live. Let’s see how the city will treat us, it’s only the beginning here.

Port de Plaisance Nogent-sur-Marne

Advertisements

Notions of a baby life in Paris

Strolling in Champs de Mars

It has been now three months and two weeks of a hectic baby life in Paris. Time for a recap.

  • It is easy to lose those few pregnancy kilos as you live in the fifth floor without an elevator. Just try to climb five floors with a baby, a stroller carry cot and the groceries.
  • You are likely to be a relaxed mom, once the baby drops his pacifier on the floor in the hall on your way out, you certainly don’t climb back to the 5th to wash it. (Note to self: Carry a bottle of water with you)
  • Parisian grannies love babies, they might even attack the stroller or the baby carrier, so be aware (I have heard this applies to some Asian tourists too). My favorite was the granny who told me to enjoy my time with the baby since when he grows up “il va te faire chier“, he will piss you off. Thanks for the tip, lady.
  • All french women seem to have the same manner and tone while talking to babies, it’s kind of cute. Ça va mon coeur / Au revoir petit crapaud… tui tui tui
  • Instead of believing in all things baby led (sleeping, eating), the French believe in all things parent led. If parents are happy, then baby is too. I try to tell this to my three month old, but he has hard time understanding it.
  • Literally everyone, including a guy at the Orly airport passport control desk, are asking if the baby “fait ses nuits“, sleeps through the night. They are obsessed about this. Well he did sleep through quite a few nights before the three months’ growth spurt, sleep regression and whatsoever. They should see the dark circles around my eyes and know better not to ask.
  • When out and about with the baby, and also while pregnant, you are prioritaire. This means that you can basically skip most of the queues and avoid waiting for your turn in line. This comes in very handy in Primark on a Saturday afternoon or in the airport taxi stop late at night. Muahahahaha, some compensation for those sleepless nights.
  • People treat you as a champion and congratulate you when you are still breastfeeding your three month old. It’s nice to be good at something!
  • French social security pays most part of your pelvic floor and abdominal reeducation sessions. Luckily I had my baby before Macron gets to cancel this policy.
  • If the baby refuses to take a nap at home, he is likely to fall asleep quickly in Paris metro, that strange little creature.
  • If you have a horrible day and the baby is only taking 20 minute naps, you can always use half of those 20 minutes to take a petit verre de rouge in a local brasserie on your way home from park. This naturally only when chocolate does not help.

All in all, baby life in Paris is not too bad at all, but the next chapter will take place in banlieu.

Normandie <3

Dieppe Normandie

A long weekend in Normandie is enough to restore your faith in the humanity (or at least in French people). Therefore we end up going there time and time again. There is also something quite nordic about Normandie, rough wind, unruly sea… not to mention the red nosed wannabe sailors. Maybe that’s why I always feel like home there.

Distance by train from Paris is reasonable, most destinations are not more than 2-3 hours train ride away from the center of Paris. But be aware, we are not talking about comfortable TGV high speed trains but the infamous Intercité or TER connections… This means no marked seats, no extra place for luggage.. so avoid going back to Paris when everyone else does if you can. Yesterday afternoon our train Rouen – Paris was so full that one grandma actually fainted.

Dieppe Normandie

This Easter we discovered Dieppe, a recommendation from a friend who used to live in Rouen. The city didn’t instantly charm us, but the people did. The first time we stopped and hesitated which way to go to our Airbnb, a lady approached us asking if we need help, and proposed to give us a ride our accommodation as she lived close by. When we ventured out from our place to lovely Esplanade du Château, people greeted us with “Bonjour” whenever we passed them. Also our B&B hosts were just lovely. After Paris, such kindness almost brings tears to my eyes. While in Paris people try so hard to not to see other people that they almost walk over them and often lack the most basic manners, it feels good that people acknowledge your existance. We had a smile on our faces for three days in a row and again sweared that we will move outside of Paris or at least get a summer house in Normandy (we say this everytime and everywhere when we go outside of Paris).

Dieppe Normandie

If you are after the sea, delicious sea food, relaxing walks and avoiding Parisians as we did, Dieppe is a perfect destination for you. The falaises surrounding the city are grand and the beach is quite impressive. In cute port de plaisance, the harbour area, you will find plenty of relaxed restaurants serving fresh fish. But don’t expect anything lively, we were the last couple in a restaurant when it was closing, around 10 pm… I can recommend “Les bains de Dieppe”, they have heated outdoor pools and spa sections with a few different pools, sauna and hammam. They propose different treatments too, but you better book well in advance. With unexpected sunshine on Sunday, Dieppe was for us exactly what doctor ordered, a very positive experience. The city may not be the most pittoresque destination in Normandy region, but it is a sympathetic one.

Dieppe Normandie

Dieppe Château Musée

If you are looking for a more animated destinations you better choose something like the twin cities Trouville and Deauville. If you are after great views over the falaises, try hiking around 20 km over the cliffs between Fécamp – Etretat. And a wild card, that is technically not even in Normandie but in Picardie (who knows the difference) is lovely Somme region, last year we spent Vappu (1st of May) weekend in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, it was just perfect. So cute village and you might see some seals if you are lucky! We have tested and highly approved all the mentioned destinations and would be glad to go back anytime.

Dieppe beach

Next up in my plans is Bretagne, we never set a foot in there yet…

Good things lately

Spring

Meanwhile Spring has arrived to Paris and we’ve had +17 degrees and sun this weekend, yay! Warm enough to take the winter jacket off when you find a non-windy spot in the sun. We tested this weekend the mazy garden between Louvre and Tuileries, worked perfectly. After a long grey winter, here are some good things of the moment:

  • Spring spring spring! Some trees are already blooming (don’t ask me what are those) and the magnolias will be blooming in a couple of days.
  • First ice creams of the year eaten outside. McFlurry and Amorino are always safe choices. Amorino is the best though.
  • Park lunch to assure the daily sun intake, food always tastes better outside.
  • Tulips from Lidl for 1,99 euros in all colors. I buy them every week.
  • Listening to Gangsta rap in the metro. Nothing cheers you up in morning metro like N.W.A. Ok there is a reason to this, I’ve been of course following the Norwegian teenager TV series SKAM (like everyone else it seems) and then downloaded the series’playlist on my Spotify. Slightly embarrassing, I admit.
  • Following malamutes on instagram (they are like huskies but cuter). Try @lifewithmalamutes. In this era of too many depressing news, some malamutes make my day. Yet I think I will go to malamute rehab now, too much cuteness.
  • Did I not mention our weekend trip to Venice already? Oh Italy. I just realized this was the 4th time we went to Italy in 3 years time. There is a reason, food and the dolce vita in general. In Venice I loved not having cars around, but I could not spend too many days there as there is no greenery, at least in Paris we have trees! Of course the city is ridiculously pretty and romantic, just perfect for a weekend getaway.

Venezia

That’s pretty much what’s up here, long walks in the city are my favorite Spring activity, with ice cream stops of course. I should take my camera with me more often, I am a bad aspiring blogger. Oh well. Next time.

Have a lovely week everybody!

Tropical air in Paris

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil Paris

Yesterday we enjoyed the springy weather and headed to the 16th arrondissement of Paris to visit Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, one of Paris’ botanical gardens. I’ve had this visit planned for a long time now and finally had a good opportunity. I’m not a big fan of the 16th district as it can be a little dull, but since we took the bus to Eglise d’Auteuil and walked towards the garden through Rue d’Auteuil, I was positively surprised. The street is very cute, like walking in a little village. Closest metro is Porte d’Auteuil, only a few hundred meters away from the garden.

Jardin des serres consists of several greenhouses that present different climates and flora from all around the world, you can take a walk in New Caledonia or in Sahel. The best thing was the main greenhouse with tropical temperature. The humidity and warmth was so good for my flu that has bothered me the whole week. Finally I found a place in Paris where you can breath easily! If my husband wasn’t sweating too much inside I would have stayed there for hours… There are also fish in pools and tropical birds whose singing adds to the jungle like atmosphere, very pleasant, even if it always makes me sad to see birds in captivity.

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil Paris

They have also the cutest flower distributor… Not sure if it really worked though.

Flower distributor Jardin des Serres Paris

We were smart to buy lunch baguettes on the way and ate them in the garden outside enjoying the sun. We were not the only ones, it was a perfect spot for the first picnic lunch of the season. The garden is situated close to the périphérique, the Paris ring road, and the surroundings are unfortunately a bit noisy. But inside of the serres it is heavenly peaceful and even the small yard in the middle of the greenhouses is quite calm.

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

I definitely recommend to visit this place, perfect to take in some tropical air in the midst of February!

Brunching in Barbes

Brasserie Barbes Paris

It’s been a while since I wrote something on the blog, it’s been hard to find motivation lately. It’s been still cold and grey in Paris, so basically I have been spending most of the time indoors. If I have dared to venture outside, it’s straight from place A to place B. Meanwhile we have also celebrated a wedding in Tunisia and for work I have traveled to Alger, the rest of the time I’ve been pretty much curled up on the couch. Needless to say I have a lot of Netflix recommendations, currently I’m hooked on the American Crime Story. That O.J Simpson case is fascinating. To my defense, I’ve also managed to almost complete a course in Coursera, after all you can do this also from your couch, not disturbing the hibernation.

Yesterday we ventured bravely out and headed to Barbes, a previously threaded neighborhood in Paris were you can easily buy illegally imported cigarettes or even drugs (they say, I’m not buying of course). I needed to fix my Samsung’s screen that went black and my trusted (ok the cheapest), phone repair shop is in Barbes. In one hour they fix everything and you end up paying way less than in official repair (in your face corporate giants who always find a reason why your guarantee does not apply). Already last time while visiting the area I noticed that bobo Parisians have adopted Barbes, the eventual destiny of all formerly shady neighborhoods, and a new brasserie has opened in the corner just outside the metro station. As we had one hour to wait for my phone to be fixed, we went to test it.

Brasserie Barbes

Brasserie Barbes was a nice experience all in all, service was very friendly and the brunch formula, 18 euros for a few salty pieces that was sufficient for lunch and dessert pancake, was not too bad at all. Food was not exceptional but correct, we both enjoyed the meal. Other than brunch they have a traditional bistro menu with sandwiches, salads, burgers and a few other dishes. Best thing was nice decoration and cozy atmosphere, there is even a fireplace, you’re lucky to get a table in front of it on a cold winter day.

Brasserie Barbes Paris

Since we were already in the North of Paris far from our hoods, we went to check Pavillon des Canaux as I had red about an exhibition “Gueules de Parisiens” that was going on in there. The exhibition itself turned out to be pretty small, but the place was the cutest! The pavillon has two floors and several rooms that are decorated in different random styles, you can even enjoy your coffee or beer in a bath tub in a decorated bathroom. I will definitely come back to sit on a terrace when the weather gets better, they also do brunch in the weekend.

Pavillons des Canaux Paris

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gueules de Parisiens

To end the city day well, we headed to movies to see the Moonlight in MK2 in Stalingrad. The movie theater is actually in two buildings on the opposite sides of the canal and there is a small ferry ride between them. No need to say I’m always excited to take this ferry to the movies! Moonlight was worth watching, after napping a bit in the beginning of the movie (oops) the rest was captivating.

MK2 in Stalingrad

The weather is supposed to get better next week, I’m looking forward to end the winter hibernation period and discover more things in Paris! Have a nice Sunday you all xx

January blues

Winter in Paris

January is my most dreaded month in Paris. There is only one word to describe it: grey. Until the new year life goes on in Paris as usual, the city is charming in all its Christmas decoration, people are merry and you can keep yourself warm by sipping the famous vin chaud. Usually in December the temperature is still decent. Suddenly after new year’s it seems like the whole city has woken up with a collective hangover and is brooding. Or at least dieting. The weather is cold and grey, the city seems hostile, you just don’t want to put your nose outside of the door. What makes it worse this year, it has been extremely cold since the new year’s weekend, we’ve had a few minus degrees every night. The city hall in our district needed to put on signs to a nearby park to alert people from approaching the fountain that has perhaps 1 mm thin layer of ice on it. Hilarious. Mostly it has just been cold and foggy, or cold, foggy and rainy.

Then, because you come from Finland, every other person is telling you how much you must feel like home now when it’s cold. At first I tried explaining to them about the dry cold we have up North, about double windows, central heating and so on, but then I just gave up and started nodding and smiling with them. They wouldn’t understand why I feel uncomfortable wearing two pairs of woolen socks at night, putting a cloth under the front door because the cold air is coming in straight from the stair case or being cold in my kitchen in the morning as the electric heating doesn’t quite reach there. As I cannot be cold since I come from Finland! Truth is that the only time I’ve been more cold is while I was living in Tunis one winter, there was no heating at all in my flat so it was +13 degrees inside too. After sleeping for a week with most of my clothes on I finally went to Carrefour to by a heater. What a luxury. If people only knew how comfortable it is in a Finnish house even when it’s -20 degrees outside.

So what can you do in Paris in January? You can go discover cozy new cafés. But don’t take it for granted that you will be warm in a café or in a restaurant, at least if you are sitting by the window. Yesterday I found some new places by Canal Saint Martin, cute vegetarian café / restaurant called IMA and Pouya, French-Iranian cultural center, such a pearl. Cozy atmosphere and you will get delicious dates (by date I mean the fruit, not a date date, even if that might be possible too) with your hot drink. Food smelled pretty good too. You can also finally visit museums, perfect time to catch up with all those exhibitions you didn’t have time to see before.

Otherwise you can just console yourself that the winter here is soon over. In February you already have glimpses of sunlight and promise of the Spring and in March, if you are lucky, you can be sipping rosé by the Seine in your T-shirt with your sunglasses and a big smile on your face (ok you will risk being sick the next day but it is worth it), making your friends up North jealous. I’m waiting for this moment to take my revenge for all beautiful snowy landscape and skiing pictures that Finns have been posting for the past few days. Snow of course fell in Helsinki only after we were back in Paris from Christmas hols.

So good luck with January and have a happy new year you all! ❤

Getting into Christmas mood (à l’alsacien)

Strasbourg

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s time to relax, look back on the past year and anticipate what the next year might bring. I’m not a total Christmas nut, for me Christmas spirit comes from putting on the Christmas lights in the window and burning a lot of candles and listening to Christmas music – preferably Sinatra. I’ve been sick with a flu lately so I had a good reason to be buried on my couch with a hot drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching the 6th season of Downton Abbey. This must be one of the best Christmas series ever. I have to also confess that we started watching the new Netflix series The Crown, and it is as good as I was expecting, I strongly recommend.

Luckily last weekend I was still up on my two feet as we headed to Strasbourg, the ultimate Christmas capital, for a weekend. The city was crowded as you can imagine, but it is definitely worth going to see the charming old city  and the amazing Christmas decorations. The Christmas market itself was a little bit of a disappointment or maybe I just had bad luck, but after waiting for my galettes de pomme de terre for more than 20 minutes, having them served cold, then asking to reheat them just to find out that they are not fresh at all, I was pretty bummed. Luckily vin chaud can never disappoint you, so stick to that! More positive experience was the Portuguese market and the OFF market, they seemed to have more fresh stuff. If you decide to go, do make a reservation for a restaurant in the evening, especially if you want to eat something local around 7 – 9 pm all the places are full. We ended up eating pizza in an Italian restaurant, luckily it was delicious, but not very alsacien… In the evening we also did a little cruise on the river, it was very nice actually as you get to hear about the history of the city and see the main places along the river.

You can pretty much see Strasbourg in one day, so on Sunday we continued our road trip to Baden Baden in Germany to visit the Caracalla baths and spent 3 hours in different pools and saunas. Wonderful experience with both outdoor and indoor pools and saunas, all this for 19 euros, totally worth a little detour on the way back to city. Driving back to Paris is a bit long (big thanks to our chauffeur!) but it is worth it.

Strasbourg, I will definitely come back. Maybe in the summer for some wine tasting… But next destination will be Finland, Yay! Can’t wait to breath some fresh air after all the pollution in Paris in the past days and weeks. I keep my fingers crossed to see some snow up North.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Things I miss from Finland

Sunset in Ruka Finland in early December

I have always been adapting easily to any environment and I do take pride in not being the home sick type. I was 18 years old when I left to work in France in a hotel in Roissy near Charles de Gaulle airport for 6 months. I was young and clueless, but even then it was easier for me to move to France than to come back home. After having spent one semester as an exchange student in Montréal and having a lot of fun I remember feeling a bit blue the whole summer when it was over. Not to mention leaving Tunisia after more than a year, having the time of my life and then settling back to Finland, leaving also the love of my life there.

However after 3 year and a 3 months exactly in France, there are plenty of things that I miss from Finland. I adapted to Paris quite easily but at times I do get home sick. Everyday life here can be quite frustrating at times (as in any big city ?) and more and more I do see the good side of good old Finland. I of course miss the family and friends the most, but besides of that, there are plenty of other things I long for…

Food and drinks. I guess you always miss the food from home. Finland is not very known for its cuisine, but after overdosing the first years in France on baguettes, cheese and red wine, I’m done. I miss the Finnish selection of different rye and wholegrain breads and of course the famous Karelian pies . Actually nowadays a baguette makes me see red. I miss the Edam cheese from Arla (Finns, you know what I mean). Sometimes I even dream of Prisma hypermarket. And I definitely miss Alko. The wines are delicious and mostly cheap in France, but I miss the selection of world wines. Ok ok, actually I just miss the tags with description of the wine and recommendations for food to accompany it, so easy! Have you ever opened a bottle of white wine after a hard day at work and had to spit it out as it was a sweet wine? Well I have and that is utterly disappointing. It will never happen if you buy wine from Alko. From non-alcoholic drinks I do miss normal fat-free milk. A cold glass of milk after a workout, with a meal, or even when you are hangover. Won’t happen in France with that UHT milk. Damn you.

Nature. While I was living in Espoo 20 minutes bus ride away from Helsinki city center, I went to cross country skiing in the winter time straight from my front door on the best days. In worst case I walked 300 metres with the skis on my shoulder and then I was in the forest, famous Espoo central park. Such a joy. One winter I skied until early April as it was so cold (what happened ever since – climate change?). But what I miss the most is definitely the sea. Baltic sea may not be the friendliest of the seas, but it is awesome to live by it. Nothing but a fresh sea breeze to make you feel better. And if the “city” life is too much, you just escape to family cottage by the lake which is literally in the Middle of Nowhere. Oh yes, we like nature and we don’t like neighbors.

Organization and honesty. In Finland you can pretty much rely on what people say. In France you need to be ready to fight for everything. People will tell you with a straight face that something is your fault, when it isn’t. Of course there are difficult people also in Finland, but at least you can trust authorities. If you go to a public office, you can pretty much get the things done without a hassle, your papers won’t get lost (oopsie!). Before I moved to France I had never sent a registered letter, as we trust people in public offices. Actually I didn’t even send letters since you can do everything online or over the phone. In Finland you get pretty much through any major changes in your life (changing a flat, a job, being sick), without having to print a wheelbarrow full of papers, having a check book, sending a lettre recommendée

These are the first things that come in my mind when I think what I miss from Finland. And these are things I certainly took for granted when living in Finland. Of course we have also one of the best education and healthcare system in the world, but enough bragging for now. Maybe, probably, all of this will be boringly safe and dull if I move back one day, but now let me light two candles for the Finnish Independence Day and feel le mal du pays. 

Parisian Winter Day

View from Montmartre

Lately it has truly felt like winter in Paris, we’ve had sunny and cold days, even a few minus degrees during the night and early morning. This is the Parisian winter I like! Today we wondered to Montmartre for an afternoon stroll, it is  one of my favorite places in Paris before Christmas to have a cup of vin chaud or hot chocolate. Despite all the tourists it is worth it, just to see the amazing view over the city. There is also a Christmas market close to Sacre Coeur church that has an oyster and wine bar. Classy eats for charity! We didn’t have oysters this time (well I never eat them actually, I can’t stand the idea of something living in my throat), but instead we opted for hot chocolate in lively Rue Abbesses. If you want to combine strolling with shopping, the shops are open on Sundays in this area.

AbbessesStreet in MontmartreTourist stuff in MontmartreSacre CoeurView over ParisPlace de TertreHot chocolate

Too bad that next week it’s getting warm again.. I prefer this kind of wintery days!