Monday, February 21, 2011

Some much needed thérapie américaine

I'm about to get some much needed American therapy in the form of my best friend, Michelle, who is coming out to visit me.  And she arrives tomorrow morning!  She had been talking about coming to visit again (she's already come out twice) for awhile, but about a month ago she bought her ticket and now she is almost here!

It will be so nice to see her since it's been 6 months since I was in the US.  I'm also hoping that her visit will work as a bit of therapy to help me get over the Parisian winter blues that I'm in, again, this year.  I'm looking forward to seeing Michelle, who is like a sister to me (we've been friends since we were 4 years old), to chatting and having fun, to traveling a bit, to her seeing our 'new' apartment and meeting the cat and I'm also looking forward to the desperately needed change in my routine!

This weekend we are off to Croatia and Slovenia for a 5 day weekend.  We are flying into Zagreb, Croatia, renting a car, driving out to the Croatian coast and visiting a few towns and then heading up to Ljubljana, Slovenia for a day and a half before flying back to Paris.  Hopefully all goes well and it should be a lot of fun!

Michelle is staying for 2 weeks, so I might not be posting too much during that time.  Then, shortly after she leaves, my friend Russ is coming out to visit during his spring break.  Looks like the end of February and the month of March should be great for me!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Le petit monster

So, quite a few people have been wondering why we named this little guy Rasteau:

Well, here's the reason:

He's named after a wine area we really enjoy...hey it's France, they love wine, so do we, it works!  Where do your pets' names come from?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Le Saint Valentin

After a very miserable Valentine's Day last year, when Lionel did absolutely flowers, no restaurant, didn't even remember...I was pleasantly surprised this year when he actually planned something.  Sure, I had reminded him 10 days before, and mentioned it again a couple of times after that, but I still didn't really expect anything.  Not even when he mentioned taking me out to dinner a week ago.

Nonetheless, I still decided to get a little dressed up, do my hair and makeup and put on some nice jewelery, to be ready for the time he comes home from work.  I did this fully expecting him to have forgotten Valentine's Day again this year, and was hoping more to make him feel REALLY guilty so perhaps next year he would actually plan something, but it turned out that I was the one who was surprised!  Not only did he come home with flowers, but he also made reservations at the Mexican restaurant I love (and have been wanting to go back to for months) at Place d'Italie.

So, we had a glass of bubbly we had sitting around the house, and then we headed out for our 9:00 reservations.  We had a great meal and great conversation, then headed home where he actually cuddled with me on the couch for the rest of the night (if you knew my husband and his addiction to xbox and the internet, you would understand how truly monumental this was)!  All in all it was a great Valentine's Day, and while it may seem simple, I couldn't be happier!

And what did you do for Valentine's Day?  Hope it was a great one!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chipotle à Paris

Paris finally has Chipotle...or almost!  It's not called Chipotle, and it's not exactly the same, but for a fresh Mexican fast food in Paris, it is quite delicious and it's very, very similar to the popular American chain..  And it's pretty clear that whoever opened the place had visited Chipotle in the US before.

 It's called Boca Mexa (127 rue Mouffetard) and I recently went to check it out with a friend..  I had actually first noticed it in the fall, but I just finally went to try it out and I am VERY excited about this place!

The set up is very similar to pick what form you want (burrito, taco, quesadilla), the meat you want (beef, chorizo, chicken or vegetarian) and what other items you want (rice, beans, type of salsa, cheese, etc).  For 8.50 euros you get your choice of main dish with a side dish (chips with a choice of guacamole or salsa, Mexican soup, etc) and a drink.  Not too bad and definitely plenty filling!

inside the restaurant

Even the serving style is very similar to Chipotle.  Burritos wrapped up Chipotle-style in aluminum, sides of chips served in brown paper bags, etc.  The similarities are unbelievable.  And I must say, even the taste is very close to Chipotle.  Not exactly the same, but not too far off and definitely close enough to fulfill any Chipotle craving I may have while living abroad.

When you go, be sure to ask for a carte de fidelité which they will stamp each time and after a certain number of meals you get some free stuff.

Also interesting for us expats craving Mexican foods is the fact that they sell some Mexican products in the store including a variety of hot sauces.

the wall of hot sauces

Definitely worth it to check this place out for the food and the Mexican products!

Friday, February 11, 2011

La Poste and "customer service"

My hatred of La Poste has reached a new level. I didn’t think it was even possible to hate them even more than I did when they royally screwed up opening my bank account this fall. But I do. I hate them SO MUCH MORE!  I truly believe they should all be fired and replaced by people who 1. have a brain 2. know how to do the job and 3. might actually want to work.

I’ve already alluded to my current post office problems once on this blog, but I was hoping to never get to the point of actually breaking and writing about this f****d up dilemma. However, thanks to the post office, I have reached that point today and my anger is overwhelming me. I feel an uncontrollable rage and an unbelievable desire to scream and shout at a postal worker and then to punch one (or five) in the face. Instead, to try to avoid going to jail, I am hoping to release my anger here. However, if this doesn’t satisfy my desire to bitch and moan about those idiots, don’t be surprised if you hear a story in the news about a crazy American who goes postal on La Poste.

***Warning: This will be long, and possibly full of expletives, as well as a lot of other angry language. Proceed with caution.

Back in December (yes…2 MONTHS ago…Dec. 16 to be exact) my friend in the US sent me a Christmas package. I was very excited at the prospect of getting a Christmas package and I waited anxiously for it to arrive. However, knowing La Poste and with all the snow and bad weather in both the US and Europe, I expected it to arrive late and therefore was not surprised when it didn’t arrive before Christmas.

January comes around and still no package. M friend messages me on Facebook to ask if I got it, and I responded that I hadn’t and I wanted to know the tracking number so we could look it up and see where it was. For some reason, Facebook didn’t feel like functioning and she never got my response. So, about a week later she messaged me again, and this time it worked, and that is when all the problems began.

She sent me the tracking number, and upon investigation using the USPS tracking service I discovered that the package had supposedly been delivered to my apartment on Dec. 27, Dec. 28 and Jan. 13. Hmmm…I thought. That’s odd. La Poste tried to deliver 3 times!?!

So I figured I should get my butt on in to the KB post office to find out what was up and to pick up my package. On Jan. 22 I went in armed with a printed copy of the USPS tracking information, hoping for the best, but with a very bad feeling in my stomach. The first guy I talked to wasn’t very helpful and just said the package had never been at this post office and passed it off to another colleague, who was surprisingly very nice. However, niceness (the first time I’ve ever experienced it at La Poste) didn’t pay off, and after trying to search for the package using the US number in their computer system, asking his boss, and physically searching for the package all he could tell me was that he didn’t know, he couldn’t get any information without having the French number for the package, he didn’t know why the USPS had so much information when the French had none and that he didn’t remember seeing a package with my name on it in the post office. He also added that I would have to call the number for le service international to see if I could get the French number and find out where the package was.

Of course, I went in on a Saturday, and the phone number is only open during the week, so I had to wait till Monday to call. Once I reached them, they were able to give me the French number, using the US number, in less than a minute (why couldn’t my post office do that???) and they informed me that the package was still at the KB poste.

So on Wednesday, when I had time, I went back, armed with the US number and the French number. The mean guy who I had talked to first on Saturday was unfortunately working and he recognized me immediately. Our conversation went something like this:

Mean Postal Worker: You spoke to my colleague the other day.
Me: Yes, I did and he told me to call a number, which I did, and they insisted that the package is, in fact, here.
MPW: Well, we’ve never seen your package here.
Me: Well, they say it’s here.
MPW: I can’t do anything for you with the US number.
Me: Well, I happen to have the French number right here.
MPW: Oh. Let me look. (types away at the keyboard) Oh, here it is. (prints out the tracking info from the French system) Look, it was here but it isn’t anymore. They tried to deliver it on Dec. 27 and then they brought it here. You never came to pick it up, so on Jan. 13 it was returned to the sender. Look, on Jan. 13 it was at Moissy Cramayel, which is 20 kilometers from here.
Me: Yes, well, I never came to pick it up because I didn’t know it was here because I never received the delivery slip.
MPW: (famous Gallic shrug that makes you want to kill them all)
Me: Well, who is going to pay for this package to return to France once it arrives in the US?
MPW: I dunno.
Me: Because clearly it should be La Poste since you failed to do your job.
MPW: (handing me a paper) You can fill out this form and mail it in to file a complaint. (he turns away)
Me: (storm out of the post office loudly muttering about the stupid f***ing idiotic postal workers)

After my miserable second encounter with the post office I returned home and called the international services number again to complain and find out where my package was, if it was still in France and if it could be returned to my address. After a lot of anger on my part they explained that they couldn’t do anything else because coliposte is in charge of international package deliveries and I would have to fill out a complaint form on their website. However, since I was not the one who paid to send the package, they told me I could only complain about not receiving the delivery slip and that my friend would have to go into her post office in the US to make a complaint that the US would then send on to France to be treated (genius considering the fact that the US did their part of the job and France is the one who failed). They could not tell me if the package was still in France, but that it was very likely that it was (why can’t their tracking system tell me where the package is!?!?!).

And now, the misery of trying to make a complaint. I went to the website to fill in the complaint form on Thursday. After spending about an hour writing a nicely worded and just rude enough complaint I pushed the send button and, surprise, surprise, the service wasn’t working. Since it was late, I decided to retry on Friday. Friday comes and I push the send button again and surprise, surprise this time the service is working, but the message that you include can be no more than 600 characters (really, 600 characters to state your case, explain the problem and make your complaint when you have no number to call???). Nice of them to say that on the form…my amazing message was 1,600 characters. So, I had to reword and edit without losing the meaning of the message and without cutting out any of the most vital points, while still including some of the nastier comments to keep them on their toes. About an hour later I push send again, and of course, the service isn’t working. Finally, after about 15 minutes of pushing the send button, it finally went through and I received a speedy confirmation that they had received my complaint and they would treat it quickly and get back to me. This was Jan. 28.

On my friend’s side, she went to her post office the following Monday, and after a few phone calls and transfers she was able to request an inquiry into the package’s whereabouts. However, the USPS informed her it would take La Poste about 17 days to conduct the inquiry and if she hadn’t heard anything in 24 days, to call back.

Fast forward to today. I arrive home and check my mailbox. I have a strange looking letter from La Poste. I tear it open and it is a letter asking me to fill out a form and send it back, pertaining to my friend’s request for an inquiry. Ok, great. A little strange that they want me to confirm by mail that I never received the package, but whatever. Then I turn on my computer and check my email. My long awaited response from coliposte has finally arrived! I click on it with excitement only to find a worthless form letter that doesn’t respond at all to my complaint, to any of the questions that I asked, or even to the box that I checked on the form to indicate the reason for my complaint. I mean, does "Les recherches effectuées par nos services indiquent que votre colis a été mis à disposition durant 15 jours consécutifs dans votre bureau de poste habituel. Au-delà de ce délai, comme précisé dans nos conditions générales de vente, tout colis non réceptionné par son destinataire, est retourné à l’expéditeur" (basically, your package was waiting for you at your post office for 15 days, as required by our rules, and was then returned to the sender) really respond to a complaint marked "absence d’avis de mise en instance"? No, it doesn’t! Sounds to me like they are trying to throw the blame on me because I never thought to go in to get the package that I didn’t even know was there! Also sounds like they didn’t even bother to read my complaint…And really, the fact that they said that if I didn’t find this response satisfactory, I could send in another complaint using the online form just makes me even more furious. Why the hell can’t I just call someone!?!?!

So, in a fit of rage I started writing this now extremely long post and then stopped mid-post to send in two more online forms complaining about the online form itself and the quality of their “relation client”. Maybe in 2 weeks I’ll have form letter responses to those too…

And so now I hate La Poste with a burning passion and all I freaking want is to call up a damn number and to scream at some idiot until they tell me where my package is, or at least call this distribution center at Moissy Cramayel to see if it is still there (because there is no public phone number for me to call, apparently, though I might try the regular post office there tomorrow) because I don’t really believe that it has left French soil since it was supposedly returned to the sender on Jan. 13 and last I checked it didn’t take a month to send a package to the US!

In all reality I’m starting to think I will never see the package and I’m really starting to believe that some evil French postal worker saw the contents and took it home and that they have eaten all of the wonderful American goodies that were meant for my stomach and now all I want is to make La Poste suffer. I might just send in a complaint every day until they finally do something to make up for their stupidity and inability to function.

***if you read all of this, I thank and applaud you.  It made me feel a little better to get all that out, but I won't feel 100% better until I'm munching on my American goodies!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Encounter with une française

The other day I was on the bus with my American friend, Amy, and we had a very strange encounter with an older French woman (read: nasty old française).

As we were getting on the bus we noticed that she was glaring at us and seemed offended by the fact that we were speaking (in English?).  So we moved out of her line of sight and continued speaking in lower voices.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me:  Oh, look at that sign on the bus (pointing at a sign telling people to give their seats to the elderly, the handicapped and to pregnant women and showing a young man with a bunch of plants sitting in one seat and using another seat for his plants while and elderly man with a cane and a pregnant women are standing next to him), it's so true!

Amy:  Yes it is!  People never give up their seats to those who need them!  Instead they try to act like they didn't even notice that the person was there!

Me:  Yep!  I'm always shocked when I actually see someone give up their seat.  It's a miracle! 

A little bit about how we need to go see the show "How to Become Parisian in One Hour?"  Then:

Me:  And look at that sign outside the bus (pointing at a sign in the window of a shop saying "-50% soldes exceptionnels").  Why do they say soldes exceptionnels?  It's not very exceptional since it happens twice a year, every year, once in the winter, once in the summer.

Amy:  I don't know.  But it's true, exceptional isn't the best word to describe it.

Old French Woman (OFW):  blah blah blah critique blah blah blah vomir blah.  Si vous avez besoin de vomir allez ailleurs, loin de moi pour vomir.

Me and Amy:  We just stare in shock and surprise with our mouths wide, not fully understanding because we didn't expect her to speak to us and at first didn't realize she was until she fully turned around.  And at first I was trying to understand the vomir comment until I figured out that it must be referring to spewing nasty comments, not actually vomitting.  But the old woman turns back around before we can say anything and we decide to avoid a fight on the bus and just return to our comversation.

Amy:  So, speaking of soldes, I went with a friend to the outlet mall on Thursday and I found a Versace dress on sale for 85 euros.  I just had to buy it because you don't normally see a designer dress, originally price over 500 euros for only 85 euros.  Plus I can wear it on my dinner date this week!

Me:  Wow!  Not bad!  I need to do some more shopping before the soldes end too.  I want to find another pair of boots, and I need to take Lionel shopping to buy another suit for his new job.

OFW:  (turns back around to stare at us) C'est de l'antisémitisme!!! (turns back around)

Me and Amy:  Just stare at each other perplexed while half the bus stares at us and the woman.  We have no idea what to say to this very strange comment.

Luckily we were almost to our stop, but as soon as we got off the bus we starting laughing and then tried to figure out what we had said that could possibly be understood as anti-semitic...

Or perhaps the woman just didn't understand English?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enfin the 21st century comes to France!

Obviously, from my lack of posting, not much has been going on in my life recently (other than a very long, drawn out and complicated battle with La Poste which I don't even want to go into at the moment because it gives me such a headache just thinking about it).

However, last night on the news I discovered that France is finally entering the 21st century with new drivers licenses!  Apparently it's actually an EU directive that is forcing member states to update their licenses to new card-sized electronic licenses that contain a chip with all of your information and your photo on it as well as this info being on the license.  And France won't start introducing the new license until 2013 and will not finish updating their licenses until 2033 (really...20 YEARS to change 40 million licenses!?!?!).  Even though it's going to take ages, it's definitely a step in the right direction and a vast improvement over the huge old paper book licenses that you can't even put in a wallet.