Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Burger King de retour en France?

...nope!  But it's a hop, skip and a jump London.
The other day I was taking the metro home, and as I passed thru Chatelet, I looked up to see how many people were getting on, only to see a wall of posters with the Burger King logo and a hamburger.  I immediately got excited at the idea of Burger King returning to France...Burger King à deux pas d'ici!  Yes! I thought, and then I noticed at the bottom of the posters, (because seriously, there are like 5 alone at Chatelet on the line 7) London in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
I immediately thought this was some kind of cruel joke seeing as many French people are upset that Burger King ever even left France.  But no, Eurostar is actually advertising Burger King in London to try to attract people who miss the fast food restaurant and are willing to travel to another country to get it. Apparently the French blogosphere and Twitter community have been going crazy about Burger King coming back and the French seem to have been very excited about the possible return of Burger King...but oh, joke's on us cause they aren't coming back!  This just seems mean to me!

Honestly, I'm not even that big of a Burger King fan, but I do prefer it to most other fast food hamburger restaurants and I would be happy to be able to go from time to time if it were back in France...but I'm certainly not taking the Eurostar to London just to get Burger King!  Who had the idea for this advertisement because it's just ridiculous!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Continuing battle with La Poste

Well, my battle with the evil Poste continues, and unfortunately with no end in sight.  A week and a half ago (after one of the banker strikes ended) Lionel went to the post office to bring them the pay stub they needed in order to FINALLY open my account.  When I had spoken to my banker on the phone, he assured me that once they had that precious pay stub, my account would be open in 2-3 days.  

Well, guess what!  It's still not open (big shocker there)!  Since I had no time around lessons to call today, my husband spent his morning before work, as well as some of his time at work, trying to call these morons and get some information.  At the centre financier they were only able to tell him that the account was still not open (of course they didn't know why) and apparently the people Lionel spoke to were so stupid they didn't really understand anything when he asked them about my check from my old job and the transfer from my new job.

He then tried to call our banker, who of course didn't answer (let me guess...he's on strike???).  So, Lionel is going to go there tomorrow morning (since I don't have any time to do any of this before Monday) and have a "nice chat" with the idiot to find out what is going on.

At the moment, as far as we can tell, despite the stupidity of the people at the financial center, they still have my check somewhere but my September pay is still missing in action.  My boss still has received it back in her account - it was debited at the beginning of the month - and no one seems to know where it is.

Hopefully we will have some more info (and some good news) tomorrow when Lionel goes in and raises hell.  I have a lot of money in jeopardy, and it is really starting to stress me out and affect my sleeping!  If we don't know anything by Monday, these morons are seriously going to regret their absolute stupidity when a VERY angry American comes in screaming!

I mean really...individual bank accounts are the most basic service they offer, and if they can't even do that, then what are they doing?  How do you trust a bank that hasn't even mastered the most simple aspect of its industry???

And once again...I highly recommend that you never bank with La Banque Postale...I certainly don't think I am going to after all this!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Musée des Egouts de Paris

This weekend I finally went to the Musée des Egouts de Paris (Paris Sewers Museum), which I  have been wanting to do for years, especially after having read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, and just haven't gotten around to until now.

display on sewer inhabitants...

The museum is located in the sewers and is actually pretty interesting.  At the beginning there is a somewhat boring display on water in Paris - how it circulates, how it gets to our apartments, how it is cleaned, etc - but then there is a large and interesting display on the history of the sewage system in Paris, starting in the Gallo-Roman period and continuing to present day.

a main sewer tunnel

access tunnel

Since the museum is located in a section of the actual sewer system you also get to see the different kinds of sewage tunnels and you get to have an idea of how the system actually works.  The only problem is the somewhat unpleasant smell, but it's not too bad.

smaller sewer tunnel

All in all, an interesting and different museum which is definitely worth a visit!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sécu miracles do happen

After my long lasting battle with the Sécu and my small success back in May, I am happy to report that I am FINALLY the proud (and ecstatic) owner of my very own carte vitale!!!

I found out while I was on vacation in the US that I finally had a social security number for France, instead of the numéro provisoire that I've had since somewhere between December and May, and now I actually have the card to go with the number!  I think, however, that the only reason I got a number so quickly (can we call 3 years quickly?) is because upon hiring me, my new job put in a request for a social security number for me since they thought it was ridiculous I had been waiting so long for one.  It must have really made the difference, seeing an additional request for my number, because not even 2 weeks later, I got an email from my new boss telling me that I had my number.

Upon returning from vacation I found a letter from the Sécu requesting a photograph and I immediately sent it in and crossed my fingers that I would have a card by the end of 2010.  However, imagine my shock and surprise this evening when I pulled our mail out of our mail box, glanced down at it in the dark parking lot and thought "assurance maladie, it's certainly for Lionel," without even looking at the name on the envelope, and then when I entered the apartment and could see better, noticed my name.  I stood there for a moment while comprehension set in and then I screamed.  Lionel looked up from cooking (yes, he actually cooks!) and stared at me like I was crazy as I screamed and ripped open the envelope only to see my brand new carte vitale with my name and photo and scream even louder.

Anyway, long story short, after 3 years of waiting, I am overwhelmingly happy to have this carte vitale that has caused me such a headache and cost me so much time.  Looks like I'm going to start scheduling some appointments with doctors since I haven't been to any sort of doctor in 4-5 years (since I had insurance in the US).

And thus the end (I hope) of the carte vitale story!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekend in Angers

This past weekend I visited my friend Julie in Angers in the Anjou region (or Maine-et-Loire department).  I arrived Friday night on an extremely expensive TGV and left Sunday afternoon on another, equally expensive TGV. 

city of Angers

I was shocked to discover how beautiful Angers is.  The city is located on the Maine River and boasts a medieval chateau, an interesting cathedral and lots of old, small streets and half-timbered houses.

Angers and the cathedral from the banks of the Maine River

On Friday night, Julie took me out to her favorite bar and we spent hours catching up.  On Saturday, we mostly stayed near her place, a bit outside of the center of the city and we spent the afternoon walking around and relaxing...just enjoying spending some time together.  On Sunday we headed into the center and walked around and she showed me the cathedral and the chateau before we had to head to the train station so I could go back to Paris.

Julie and I

chateau d'Angers

street in Angers

cathedrale d'Angers

Overall the weekend was relaxing and amazing and I had a great time with Julie and discovering her city.

Julie and I visiting Angers

Friday, October 8, 2010

A wunderbar weekend at Oktoberfest

Last week some friends and I decided to make VERY last minute plans to go to Oktoberfest in Munich.  We had been wanting to go for years and we had just never been able to make it work out...until now!  So last week we talked about it, decided to rent a big, comfortable car for the weekend and drive there (and by WE driving, I really mean ME driving)!  And we ended up being quite an interesting group...2 Americans, 2 Canadians (1 Quebecoise) and 1 Moroccan.

in the car

We left after work on Friday night and drove all night, stopping only for coffee and a short nap at a rest area in Germany.  Though mappy told us it would only take 7.5 hours to drive from Paris to Munich, it took us about 12 hours. We arrived in Munich early Saturday morning, and since we didn't have a place to stay, we drove around for a while looking for a place to park the car (or portable hotel), and then headed to Oktoberfest!

finally, Oktoberfest!

We arrived at Oktoberfest around 11:00 am and, since it was the last weekend, there were already tons of people there.  We walked around for a bit, then got in line to get into a beer tent.  Once we got in we realised we would never be able to get a seat so we headed back out to enjoy some delicious German food, then got in line for a beer garden.  The line was long, and the security people weren't letting anyone in, so when the scary security lady where we were waiting turned to take off her jacket, we snuck past her along with some other people, and we quickly split up so she couldn't find us since she kicked the other group back out.  We miraculously managed to find a table right away and ordered some liter steins of delicious, golden Oktoberfest beer.  Though we were all exhausted from barely sleeping the night before (I only slept about 1 hour, but drove about 12 hours), the beers woke us up, and we ended up staying at that same beer garden from 1 pm to 10 pm, right before the tents closed.

the first liters

the first liters


making friends

our server carrying 12 liter steins!

he taught me how to hold six

enjoying Oktoberfest

We had a lot of fun, drank far too many liters of beer and met tons of fun and interesting people from all over the world (England, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil...I don't even know!)  It was a lot of fun and an experience I will never forget and hope to repeat next year!

the beer garden we spent the day at

hofbrau beer tent...I really wanted to go but the line was waaaay too long

paulaner and lowenbrau beer tents

the Bavaria statue


view of Oktoberfest

I was also VERY proud of myself as I drove for the first time ever in Paris (and survived!) and drove for the first time ever in Europe being the principal (and only) driver!  Usually when I drive, I'm with my husband and we just pull over and let me drive for a while on the highway...but this was all me, in Paris, in Munich, and everywhere in between!  And we made it, with no accidents and only a near heart attack on my part when I had to drive in Paris (and by near heart attack I mean freaking out, nearly crying, screaming a lot and, well, we will just say I'm ashamed of the number of curse words that came out of my mouth in a mere 30 mins...I think I broke a record!).

After we left Oktoberfest, we headed back to the car for some sleep (along with a million other people who slept in their cars in the same field as us) and woke up early Sunday morning (miraculously hangover free) to start the looong drive back to Paris, stopping only for food and coffee.  We got back to Paris in the evening and all headed home, exhausted (I think I slept 4 hours the entire weekend and drove 24 hours!) but very happy with our fun and adventurous weekend and our first Oktoberfest experience!

*I am not an alcoholic...I just really love German beer!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why La Poste is evil

Well, I had hoped my first post after the weekend would have been about my wonderful weekend, but that will have to wait for later since la Poste has done such a good job at pissing me off lately!

On September 2, Lionel and I had a meeting at the Poste to open a joint account and for me to open a new checking account and a savings account with them (so I can eventually close out my Societe Generale account and we will have all our accounts in one bank).  It went well and we opened the accounts, or so we thought.  And thought.  And thought.  Until I spoke to my banker yesterday (he had been trying to call me for a week, but we were playing phone tag).  My checking account is not open.

So, my checking account is not open, and the incompetent idiots at the Poste waited 3 weeks to inform me of this, after I had already sent in my last paycheck from my old job (August pay AND vacation pay!) and after I had giving my RIB to my new job and they transfered my September pay into my not-open bank account!!!!

Why isn't it open, you might ask?  Well, because when we met with Mr. I'm-an-idiot Banker, we had to delcare how much we make a month and all this stupid shit so they could get an idea of our expenses and our overall financial situation (this is France, they ask the stupidest things in order to open an account...).  And since this is France, I also had to give them one of my pay stubs.  Knowing how France LOVES the most recently printed documents, and nothing over 3 months old, ever, not even birth certificates (cause that makes sense since I was born 27 years ago......but more on that later), I brought in my most recent pay stub from July.  Unfortunately, I didn't really think about how my average monthly earnings and my July pay stub don't really match up since I earn my money per hour and in July a lot of my students were on vacation so I didn't make a lot.  But I had explained to him my situation and that the amount I told him was an average of all of my months.  Unfortunately, that seems to have gone in one year and out the other because even though he promised me that my account would be open 5-7 days after our September 2 meeting, it is not open for the very reason that he sent our papers into the financial center and they refused to open my account until I provided them with a pay stub showing the EXACT amount that I had verbally declared.  Great.

So, Lionel and I have been making a million calls and basically I have to find a pay stub with that amount on it and get it to them, and then my account will be open in 2-3 days.  I was assured that it would be ok, even if the pay stubs were old since the last time I made that exact amount was in January (well beyond France's beloved 3-month deadline).  We have also been assured by the financial center that the received my check from my old job and it is being held until my account is open.  However, what worries me the most is that they do not see anything about a transfer from my new job, though they transferred my pay on Saturday, and they have not received the money back in their bank account since my account wasn't open to receive the money.  So, for the moment my September pay is lost and I'm not at all happy about it.  And trust me, the Poste will be paying it back to me if it is never found because this is entirely their fault and what the hell kind of bank tells you your account will be open in 5-7 days and then doesn't open it!?!?!?!

What really pisses me off is the fact that the stupid banker didn't mention it to me when we were meeting with him and I could have run home to dig out a different pay stub for him.  And it also pisses me off that they waited 3 WEEKS to inform me that my account didn't exist yet, as if I wouldn't have had any transactions to make in those 3 weeks.  And, the one that makes me the most angry...why the hell do they care how much money I make per month and how my husband and I spend and budget our money!?!?!?!  They are a bank!!!!!  They should just be happy that we have chosen to put our hard earned money in their care!  Of course, now I am SERIOUSLY doubting that decision, and I'm very tempted to just keep my account at Societe Generale and transfer all my money back there and close my account with the Poste.  Why would I want to trust my money to people who are so stupid they can't even manage to open a damn account???

Ok, I'm better now.  Sorry for the rant, but I am EXTREMELY frustrated and stressed by this right now and I just had to get it out!  My recommendation...NEVER bank with La Poste!