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.


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 🙂


Paris for Students – Best places to people watch

One of my favourite things to do in any city is people watch. I don’t find many places to do this peacefully in Vancouver – usually I’m getting the death stare from the waitresses for sitting for hours with a coffee, or it’s too cold and wet to sit on the grass and watch people jog by with their dogs.

But Paris is the perfect city for sitting and watching people! It’s not only acceptable, but it’s a part of parisien culture: just sit, relax and watch the world. You will have the best time, if you let yourself. Oh, but a little warning – don’t gawk at the gorgeous people and outfits walking by, and at least wipe the drool from your mouth once in a while. Parisiens are hot. You have been warned.

I had a couple of favourite haunts in Paris that were great for people watching. Maybe you like them too 🙂 So, in no particular order…

**Warning: Almost all of them involve food because food always makes the experience better – no exceptions.

Buy some wine, cheese, a baguette and grapes to have a picnic on the grassy part below the Sacre CoeurYou will be looking at the best view of Paris.

paris views people watch students

The view from the Sacre Coeur. Sometimes, you'll be serenaded by French artists here too!

Bring blankets and a couple beers to enjoy on the lawns of the Champs de Mars, near the Eiffel TowerWatch the hordes of tourists go buy and watch the lights of the beautiful metal symbol of Paris 🙂

paris for students champs de mars

The grassy parts you're allowed to sit on...and stare at the glorious metal tower 🙂

Sit on the sloped cement area near the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges PompidouYou’re in the heart of Chatelet Les Halles (my favourite area of Paris, great for shopping and loitering around pop art stores). And you can watch the people walk around the crazy museum tubes.

centre georges pompidou people watching paris

Join the pigeons. They know what's up.

Drink a coffee or a glass of wine in any cafe on the street. Is there any way to do soak in the culture than a good book, a glass of something delicious,  fresh air, a good street view and your own thoughts? No. There isn’t.

paris street cafe people watching

Aren't you jealous? Yeah, me too.

So to get you even more immersed in the street life of Paris…Here is an introduction to what you will hear on the streets! Enjoy!

Happy creeping,

Shiv 🙂

Paris for Students – Where to windowshop like a champ

Paris is by no means a cheap city, but that doesn’t mean that students on a budget should miss out on the best the city has to offer.

Best places to window shop

1. Le Marais (Metro stop: Saint Paul, Line 1)

It’s classified as the Jewish/Gay/Hipster part of Paris, but I didn’t really see how it was Jewish or Gay. It just seemed exceedingly cool. Lots of vintage shops selling real fur coats for 1000s of euros, as well as super cute trinket stores, designer jewelery, and unique restaurants. All at almost affordable prices (if you are patient enough to hunt for hours).

2. Saint Germain des Pres (Metro stop: Saint Germain des Pres, Line 4)

This is one of the most expensive places to be in Paris. You’ll find designer stores mixed with some cool boutiques, and it’s about a 10 minute walk from Napoleon’s tomb (very worth seeing, god that guy was an egomaniac) and the Invalides.

3. 1er arrondissement – Around le Teatre du Palais Royal (Metro stop: Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre, Line 1 & 7)

The best lesson my French teacher ever taught was how to walk around le Teatre du Palais Royal (The Theatre of the Royal Palace). You get out from the metro at Rue de Richelieu and walk up it, away from Rue de Rivoli and towards the Jardin du Palais Royal. The garden is lined with the most expensive stores I may have seen in my life, but the window displays are breathtaking. A promenade around the garden, and if you exit from the top (near Rue de la Feuillade), you will find very cool restaurants completely out of price range, mixed with charming toy stores, bookshops and beautiful jewelry & craft stores.

Happy windowshopping!

Shiv 🙂

Paris for Students – A Guide to (Cheap) Barhopping

In Paris, you are never too far from a bar. And every time of the day is the right time to enjoy a glass of wine, or as they say, prendre un verre.

But be warned: drinking in bars is not cheap. To give you a general idea about the price of drinks…

  • Glass of wine: around 4€
  • Drinks during happy hour (between 6-9pm): 6-8€
  • Drinks at normal price: 9-13€
A couple cool bar districts I would recommend are:

The area around the metro stop Place Monge (Metro stop: Place Monge, Line 7 and 10). Very underrated, and packed with French people. Yay locals!

The bars in the red light district in Montmartre (Metro stop: Blanche, Line 2) but be careful at night because it can get pretty seedy. Typically full of tourists too, and the Sandeman pub crawls circulate around here.
The Bastille area is also really popular with French youth (Metro stop: Bastille, Line 5,1, and 8). Another place that gets pretty sketchy late at night, but soooo many bars to choose from.
The Latin Quarter has some pretty cool watering holes that are normally priced. You will most likely find fellow foreigners too, and a million shwarma shops to feed you late at night. Yum! (Metro stop: Saint Michel-Notre Dame, Line 4 or RER B on the suburban trains)
A note on going clubbing

Paris nightclubs are pretty damn good, and can be open as late as 6am. But beware: the metro stops running at 2AM, and opens at 5AM so if you’re going to go out, plan to head home early or stay out all night because taxis are hard to come by and aren’t cheap.

Paris is beautiful at night, and nothing should stop you from enjoying it!

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.


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!


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 6: Speed dating and other things that make me uncomfortable

There are many things that make moving to another country scary, uncomfortable and ultimately exciting. For instance:

1. Going to an all French class, with French people. My french is pretty good, but I’m definitely not as fluent as, oh, my very French professor and my French classmates. I’m very lucky I kept up my French after high school through movies and music, because the speed they speak is FAST, YO. I walked out of that lesson with fresh determination to find real French people to help me out.

2. Sharing a bathroom with guys and girls. Everywhere I go in this city, the guys and girls bathroom are so open you can basically see guys peeing. And now, I found out there are 2 guys on a floor of 10 girls and they have 2 urinals beside the stalls. I am now afraid of going to the bathroom. But on the other hand, being so ‘c’est pas grave’ or ‘it’s not a big deal’ about different genders’ bodily functions is quite progressive – a body needs to do what it needs to do, right? It is only natural.

3. Speed dating. This is a pretty good story, actually. I have never speed dated before and I definitely didn’t go into it too seriously – I just thought it was another weird event the International Student society at HEC Paris set up for us to meet people. But it was actually really…awkward. Maybe if  I didn’t already meet all the guys at  the rest of the parties this week it wouldn’t have been, but I knew all of them from before so it was like hanging out with friends in a romantic setting but with the added bonus of ranking them and being ranked on date-ability. *Shudder.

But this week has been really exciting so far. I’m trying to arrange a massive wine-tasting party/picnic in my dormitory by getting everyone to buy a really cheap liquor and having everyone have a taste. The objective is to find the best tasting cheap thing to make the official drink of my dorm 🙂 Who needs to take expensive wine tasting courses when you can do it at home with a bunch of amazing people for around 2 euros?

Gros bisous!

Shiv 🙂