Paris for Students – Where to eat (for cheap)

Cheap eats in Paris

A typical meal out at a nice French restaurant will cost around 15€. This is pretty steep. But if you really want that typical French restaurant experience..

1. I recommend eating lunch out and staying in for dinner – lunch menus are generally cheaper than dinner. Plus it is usually less crowded!

2. Eating in the restaurant will cost more than getting things to go, too – unlike in North America, Parisian restaurants charge a premium for people to eat in, even in places like MacDonald’s. I think it makes sense, since there is limited space in the city but this is a good-to-know fact so you don’t get mad when you see the price difference.

FYI

Vous allez…(Are you going to)
Manger sur place – Eat here?
Prendre à porter – Take it to go?

3. My friend took me to the Vietnamese district around Place d’Italie (Metro stop: Place d’Italie, Line 5,6 and 7), on Avenue d’Ivry, which you get to after walking down Avenue de Choisy and passing the Parc de Choisy. If you are looking for an amazing pho place, I highly recommend Le Lotus on Avenue d’Ivry. A bowl of pho will be around 8€. And in case you were looking for some hard-to-find ingredients there are also a lot of Asian grocery stores in the the area.

Yummy beef noodle soup!

4. I’ve heard 13e arrondissement is China Town, but I never got around to exploring the neighbourhood. It’s the area around Place d’Italie, but it seemed more like a mini-Vietnam than a Chinatown.

Bonus Tangent!

French people don’t seem to know the difference between types of Asian people yet, so you see a lot of ‘Asian’ restaurants which are, upon closer inspection, not Chinese but Vietnamese. I’m not complaining because I love Vietnamese food, but after growing up in Vancouver, a very Asian influenced city, I know and appreciate the difference between Asian foods and don’t like to see them grouped together: Sushi ≠ Korean BBQ ≠ Pho ≠ Pad Thai ≠ Chow Mein, and should therefore NOT be generalized.

6. And if you’re starving near the Louvre, get some ramen at the mini-mini Japanese district on Rue Sainte-Anne (Metro stop: Pyramides, Line 7 and 14). I went to Sapporo Ramen, and it wasn’t too bad but it definitely wasn’t as good as anything I could get in Vancouver. Not bad for around 9€ though.

There’s usually a line going around the corner, but it goes fast!

7. If Asian food’s not your thing, shawarma/donair and crepe places are almost everywhere.

Oh crepe nutella, how I miss you so.

8. And finally, if you want French baked goods on the go, the popular bakery franchises that sell baguette sandwiches are Paul, Brioche d’Oree, and Pomme de Pain and they are always decently priced – around 4€ for a baguette sandwich. If you wanna be spectacularly French, eat that baguette while on the Metro gawking at gorgeous Parisians – t’es trop cool.

Went to this one at Charles de Gaulle everytime I got back from a weekend trip. Good sandwiches. Good times.

 

Bonus tangent: A little known fact: All European students can get into most museums in France for free! It worked with a one year international HEC Paris student card, anyway 🙂 You’ll read all over the internet that all the museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, but they will also be VERY crowded – and with a student discount, museums are usually between 5-15 euros. So skip the crowds and enjoy them properly!

Happy eating!

Shiv 🙂

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Day 100: 2 girls in Morocco!

Morocco has been at the top of my ‘List of places to see before I die’ basically since I was born, and then raised by a Moroccan nanny for the first 4 years of my life. I’ve also visited Dubai when I was young, and my family used to live in the Middle East before I was born so I had dirhams, lamps and small tea sets from these places to play with as a child. All this meant that I’m a bit more familiar with Arab culture than the average Indo-Canadian girl.

3 words: It is magical.

To DIE for food, colours, jewelry, history, architecture and acrobats all in the sun soaked, windswept country of the Sahara.

The red, sandy city of Marrakech!

Nommeh cous cous.

We landed at 10pm in Marrakech and after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we took a taxi to Djema el Fna (the main square) right away to see it during its best: night time. It never dies down! When we got there around midnight, the souks (small, somewhat covered marketplace that sell almost everything) were lively, there were food stalls everywhere, and for some strange reason a Bollywood film was being projected on a building (?).

So much buzz in the souks at midnight!

Get a good picture of the Said tombs for 10 dirham entry fee, then move on pretty quick. It's not the most interesting tourist attraction.

**From experience: Everyone we talked to about going to Morocco just being two 20-something girl travellers told us that there was nothing to worry about, that we would be perfectly safe as long as we weren’t stupid. And we were, but my friends left out a very important caveat: Girls get a lot of unwanted attention from men if they are not with a guy, and foreign girls get attention anyway.

It gets a bit tiresome, but sometimes it was amusing. Some of the outrageous things said to us included:

Note: We never replied to any of these. These are one-way conversations.

  1. Where are you from? Brazil? Spain? England? China? Japan? Pakistan? India? Norway? America? France? Thailand? Singapore? Hungary?
  2. Hi, hello, where are you from? You are so beautiful, so sexy. Do you want a Moroccan husband?
  3. Be my wife? Yes?
  4. Hi girls, how are you? Why don’t you respond? That’s not nice. Oh, you’re crossing the street? That’s ok, I’m going that way too.

Yeah. You get the picture.

Anyway, be warned that if you are a girl, save yourself a little bit from a bit of the hassle you’re going to get just because you are foreign and bring a man with you.

On a lighter note…

This is something no one will tell you before you go to Morocco: There are a lot of cats. Some are cute (like this one)..others are pretty mangy.

What you MUST do in Morocco!

1. Go to a hammam!

A hammam is like a Moroccan sauna/bath house, and it’s an ancient tradition. Back then, it would be a place for people to socialize, relax and get clean. Nowadays, they are similar to a spa in that there are various things an attendant will do in order to get you squeaky clean and refreshed: the black sponge and soap is a really good exfoliating treatment, and go for anything that says Argan Oil. Argan trees only grow in Morocco, and they are kind of like olive trees except SO MUCH COOLER.

2. Buy some oranges!

We went to Morocco in December so maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but oranges were EVERYWHERE. And they were all really delicious, too! If you have the balls, jump into an orange grove and eat the oranges off the trees, like my friend and I did 🙂

The Badi Palace: My fave tourist attraction. It's the ruins of a big palace, but soooo cool! And they have this great orange grove.

3. Go to Essaouira and take a zillion pictures.

It is such a cool, photogenic sea-side town.

Typical Moroccan spices and herbs! It's always fun talking to the shopkeepers of these places, they lather you up with oils & creams and have you smell soaps & tea powders 🙂

 

From the lookout at Essaouira!

4. Drint mint tea everywhere.

It’s good for you, staves off indigestion and best of all, is SUPER delicious.

I miss you, my delicious friend.

5. Give Marrakech a half day.

The only thing really worth seeing in Marrakech, according to me, is Djema el Fnaa at night. Other than that, it seemed like another aggressive city and will not give you an authentic Moroccan experience.

Fes, on the other hand, is absolutely amazing. I was blown away by the nearly perfect preservation of the medieval medina (maze-like marketplace) and the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. Plus, way fewer tourists and it is relatively cheaper.

One of the few places where the sun breaks into the old medina in Fes

Insanely gorgeous views.

And definitely check out the tanneries in Fes!

The tanneries are actually very cool in Fes, and they don't smell as bad as everyone says. A must-see!

Sleeping tannery worker in Fes.

Travellingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Bonus Tangent: My wishlist for my next time in Morocco

  1. Summit Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa and part of the Northern Atlas mountain range. It only takes 2 days, the guys from the best TV show ever, departures, did it and they had never summitted anything in their life before. Neither have I! So I think it would be a good starting place.
  2. Visit the fish market at Essaouira – it’s supposed to be so cool, but when my friend and I tried to find it, we got lost in a very sketchy part of the city. Next time, we find a guide!
  3. Travel with a guy. Already mentioned why.
  4. It’s such a shame that mosques are only open to Muslims…then again, how difficult is it to appear Muslim? And how morally wrong would it be if I just want to see how amazing a mosque is? That’s something to try next time I’m there, too.
  5. Spend a couple days and nights in the Sahara. I don’t know what it is about the desert, but there is something about the massive expanse of sand that makes it seem like magic is real.

Day 85: AmsterDAMAGE!

Organizing 10 people to go on a weekend trip to Amsterdam is not an easy feat, but I’m so glad my friends and I were able to navigate through the logistical nightmare (albeit with a couple more bodies in a hotel bed than is comfortable) and go!

So, what do college students do in Amsterdam other than pot and sex shows? Well, since I’m not really into either, I had fun….

  • Vintage shopping in the 9 streets region of Amsterdam
  • Strolling around the gorgeous canals

  • Having tea and beer in the omnipresent cafes
  • Breakfast at Bagels and Beans (Such a good breakfast place! And it had amazing teas, too. The site’s in Dutch, but have a look anyway: http://www.bagelsbeans.nl/home.asp)
  • Wishing I rented a bike so I could zip around the city like a local – it’s a main form of transportation, which partly explains why everyone is so fit!

    One of the main streets near Dam Square. Chances are if you're a tourist, you'll be there a lot 🙂

And what I thought was the highlight of my trip —

  • Stumbling into what my friends and I call a ‘Cajh R’ (slang for casual racism) holiday – Sint in Amsterdam!

Santa's elves are white people painted black with curly hair? Only in Amsterdam...

Brief description of the Sint in Amsterdam parade as told to a foreigner (me) by a local (Mom of dressed up kids who kindly gave us some flags and biscuits) :

On the 13th of November, Sinterklaas, who we know as Santa Claus, visits Amsterdam with his workers (these elves) and gives people ginger biscuits (pepernoten). His helpers, these dudes in suits, toss them into the crowd and the spectators have upside down umbrellas to capture the biscuits. The kids and some of the more enthusiastic parents dress up like the elves or Sinterklaas, and similar to the Christmas I know, good children get candy and sweets, whereas naughty kids get coal.

Over here, skinny Dutch Santa!

 Reason #486 why I love to travel: The awkward, absurd and random moments that keep life interesting and stretch your mind open a bit more.

Yay for Sinterklaas!

What really shocked me about Amsterdam is the easy access to marijuana! I didn’t think it would shock me since I’m from Vancouver, one of the pot capitals of the world, but Amsterdam really takes it to a new level: marijuana lollipops, teas, ice cream, soda pops, etc. The abundance of coffee shops of the smoky variety was also fascinating!  They all looked pretty cool, had full menus of what types of pot they had that included menus with flavours and the types of high you get from it. They sold shisha, drinks and decent coffee too! Needless to say, I was very impressed.

**Tip: If you are afraid of getting a ‘Coffee Shop’ and an actual coffee shop mixed up, real coffee shops that specialize in coffee are called something like koffiehaus. A cannabis cafe is called a coffeehouse.

Flag of Amsterdam. The official city motto is ...

Gotta love Amsterdam's flag!

As for the consumption of pot, I don’t think there’s a better substance to give the typical rowdy tourists looking to go wild in Amsterdam. Pot shuts them up, calms them down and makes them hungry and sleepy. I can’t really say I disapprove of making the tourist experience more enjoyable for us all 😀

I am-sterdammingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Day 110: What I actually learned on exchange

Yes, it’s a big jump from Day 54 and I have more posts on what happened in between, but I’m almost done exchange! And between day trips to Paris, travelling on weekends and going to classes (and parties) on weekdays, I’m still wondering where  the last 3 months went.

Um, what just happened?

There is still so much I want to do here in Paris and more generally, in Europe. And God, how sad is it to think that the friends you’ve been living with, going to classes with and travelling with for the past 3 months will disappear from your life for years after next week.

But in the wise words of my eternal inspiration (the best TV show ever created: departures) <3:

Andre, Scott and Justin: You guys have no idea how much I love you.

The reality of always being on the road is that you are always saying goodbye. And for the first time of my life I finally grasp the meaning behind those words. Speaking of things I have grasped….

What I have (actually) learned on exchange in France:

1. Almost every stereotype I knew about French people has been proven while I’m on exchange. Not often enough to generalize them to every single French person, but yeah, it’s true: Parisians are super chic, smoke a lot, and they take it pretty easy.

But they don't wear berets...

2. Exchange students are the best people on earth.We’re open to new experiences, make the best of our time because we literally do not have much of it, and love starting our own parties. I wish I were on exchange forever

3. More about myself? This is so cliche, I know. But by entering a country and a campus where no one knows you and you have no family, you learn a lot about your ability to cope with loneliness, sketchy situations and balancing friends, classes and travel. I wouldn’t say I know 100% of myself, but I have a clearer picture on who I want to be in a couple years thanks to exchange.

4. A new appreciation of home. I would be the last person to say I get homesick, but it happened for the first time in my life. When things just get worse and worse, you crave nothing more than a hug and a good meal from your Mom. I bet this feeling will never go away until the day I die.

5. About a million other things that will benefit me in life. I learned how the French education system works, what the German model of a corporation is, what languages are spoken in Belgium, who founded the Impressionist movement, how to sing “Au bord de la riviere, Margot, Margot…” and a bunch of other things you could put in the category ‘General Knowledge’. You know, things people talk about and when you say you don’t know what they are talking about, they give you that “Are you serious?!” face? Yeah, that. I learned some more of that.

6. I don’t think there’s any better way to learn about the world other than travelling.

And this is why I travel.

Yours,

Shiv 🙂

Day 54: Nice is nice, but…

So my train journey around the French Riviera continues! I was excited to go to the famous Nice, where the rich and privileged go for their vacations. And it’s gorgeous – the Cote d’Azur has this colour of water that’s unbelievable.

So tempting.

But other than the rocky beach, the flower market….

Wake up early to see the flowers in the flower market at their freshest!

And the old town…

Gorgeous buildings in the old part of town, Vieux Nice

There isn’t a lot to see in Nice. It sort of reminded me of a French version of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: pretty, sunny, popular with old people, very small and not a lot to do. So what do you do when you’re bored of a place?

LEAVE!

Nice is really well connected to smaller towns around it – Antibes, the well known Cannes, Eze, Grasse, and Monaco. I went to Cannes and Antibes in a day and had a great time.

The lazy beaches of Cannes. Much better than Nice.

And I especially liked doing this in late October.

Lying on a beach in the French Riviera, reading 100 years of solitude and loving life.

But again….Cannes was very small,  even smaller than Nice! It wouldn’t take more than a half day to do, so I also went to the lesser known town of Antibes, on the way back to Nice. I was really pleasantly surprised, too. It’s a small town on these rocky cliffs, with cute stores, an outdoor market, and a breathtaking walk along the cliff.

I don’t regret going. I had a lot of fun, and I was travelling with a great group of girls, but I think 3 days was just a little too long.

Forward-lookingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Day 50: Marseille vs. Paris

The reason I fell in love with France was because I did a two week exchange to a town about an hour away from MarseilleOrange, France. And ever since I glimpsed at the French lifestyle, I vowed I’d come back and stay longer.

Et voila! I’m studying and living in France for 4 months. Sure, it took 6 years to get here, but I’m finally here!

And I wouldn’t be this close to Paris if it weren’t for that town near Marseille. So I wanted to give my respects to the city (and my good friend) who did me such a big favour of showing me how awesome the French life is!

HOWEVER….when I asked my French friends what Marseille is like, they pulled the typical exasperated faces and told me it’s just like a petite Algerie, and that it’s dangerous and ugly. That’s a bit of a downer to hear just after you book train tickets.

Parc Borely at sunset. Marseille is ugly? Are you sure?

So when I got there and spent 4 glorious days with my Marseillaise friend, I asked her if it was true: Is Marseille ugly? And she said – “Well, yeah. But Paris just hates Marseille, and Marseille hates Paris too.” Like Toronto vs. Vancouver! Gotcha.

And with those oh-so-encouraging words, I set out on a mission to prove that Marseille is NOT ugly. Here’s what I found.

The beautiful docks with some funny graffiti!

Palais Longchamp! No tourists, you get the whole place - including pretty fields - to yourself and the Musee des Beaux Arts is right there.

Andale andale! From the top of Palais Longchamp.

Le Panier, a super old district of Marseille. Gorgeous. And it looks kind of like Greece...

Still think Marseille is ugly? I thought it was beautiful – a sun drenched, wind blown French Mediterranean city with a fun and safe atmosphere. If you still aren’t sure, wait until you see Notre Dame de la Garde, the cathedral on the hill overlooking the town. If the cathedral isn’t enough for you (and it is, because the inside is something I’ve never seen before in France – so colourful and gold!), the views will take your breath away. Have a look!

Love the inside, and it was hard to capture on my camera. Red, blue and gold inside a white building!

Gasp!

Still not convinced? Tough crowd, but I have one more argument in my arsenal.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Marseillaise fine dining.

Aioli sauce, prawn, sea snails, some delicious salty white fish, and other goodies. I miss this.

And the Paris vs. Marseille is a battle that continues on. I love both cities dearly, and I have memories in both that won’t allow me to be objective enough to decide which is better. But MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Marseille is not ugly!!

Marseillaisely yours,

Shiv 🙂

Day 60: A love note to my favourite class: Social Entrepreneurship

I cannot express how much I enjoy going to my social entrepreneurship class.

We study all the great companies around the world who are improving the lives of people, while being profitable enough to ensure the company’s survival and growth.

Win win business! I want to take part in them, too!

I especially enjoy how India is by far leading in number of examples of social entrepreneurship activities in a country. Say hello to my new favourite company: http://www.ashoka.org/

We do case studies every class too, which are also amazing. Here’s a quote from this week’s case study that I really loved:

“My professors and fellow students were comfortable speaking about power and money. Love and dignity, on the other hand, were words people were often embarrassed to say out loud, or so it felt. There had to be a way to combine power, rigor, and discipline of the marketplace with the compassion I’d seen in so many of the programs aimed at the very poor. Capitalism’s future, it seemed to me then – and much more so now – rests on how much creativity and room for inclusion it can tolerate.”

Jacqueline Novogratz, author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World.

Already pumped for next class!

Socially and enterprisingly yours,

Shiv 🙂