Saturday, May 28, 2011

Carte de Sejour Day!!!

My visa and Carte de Sejour live happily
next to one another in my passport.

Salutations my most excellent friends!

This week is EXTRA special in that I received my Carte de Sejour, which is effectively my residency permit.  With this card (in the form of a sticker in my passport rather than a laminated card), I need not apply for more visas and can henceforth live in France so long as I have an address and some income.  Oh the Kafkaesque stack of papers I’ve been carrying around may soon be a relic of my past.
The following is the list of steps it took to acquire this handy little addition to my passport.  It was surprisingly simple when compared with the acquisition of a visa:

  1. You have 2 months to acquire your Carte de Sejour after arriving in France.  If you do not, then you will have to leave the country at the end of your visa and re-apply for another visa if you wish to stay past one year.  Do NOT let these 2 months slip by.  I let 6 weeks pass and in hindsight, should not have.  I even retained a lawyer who advised me at 4 weeks to get the heck on top of this.  Had there been a problem, I would have been doomed.

  2. At first, I tried calling the OFII office (immigration office) in Paris ( to set up an appointment.  This was a dead end since there is an answering machine that rambles in French at an unintelligibly fast pace.  Then I tried to email them, I felt good about myself for having been proactive.  They did not answer the email.

  3. Then I went to the OFII office in Bastille.  I found it right away, since one of my favourite restaurants is very close.  I had every paper I’ve ever collected with my name on it over the past year in a huge envelope.  The reception desk was crowded with people of almost every nationality you can imagine.  Alas, the receptionist only spoke a few words of English.  They asked me if I understood French… in French.  I said that I did not, but perhaps a little, because I understood the question.

  4. They took my passport, and this official looking piece of paper that I was given with my visa.  The asked that I fill out my current address, phone number and other sundry information.  After about 2-3 minutes, the explained that I’d receive something in the mail for my appointment.  They didn’t ask for any papers.  I was free to go.  It was that easy.

  5. About 4-5 days later, I received about 5 pages of unintelligible instructions in French with the OFII office labelled all over the top.  In the center, there was the office’s address, something about radiology, something else about 340 Euros and a date and time.

  6. On the date, which was 2 days after receiving the letter, I arrived at the office.  Almost everything was conducted in French.  I only had the papers they sent on hand, having left my Kafka-pile at home.  They directed me to the doctor who asked me a few things in French, tested my eyes, blood pressure, and then sent me for an x-ray.  The x-ray came back while I waited and another doctor explained that I had no infections in my lungs and that I should get a tetanus shot.  Oh, I got to keep the chest x-ray!

  7. When I was done with the doctor, I was directed to the reception desk where they had my Carte de Sejour sticker.  The receptionist asked for papers and 340 Euros in “stamp” form.  WTF?  She said that I can get the stamps at the tobacconist across the street and that I’d need my Kafka pile of papers… or at least my water bill (if you've been following my blog, you know how important a water bill can be here).

  8. On the same day, I fetched my Kafka-pile and before returning, went to the tobacconist and asked for 340 Euros in… and I didn’t know the French word for stamps… or even what kind of stamps that they were.  I showed the cashier my letter.  She nodded in understanding.  Before I knew it I had a stack of stamps in convenient 15 euro and 55 Euro denominations totalling 340 Euros.

  9. I returned to the office, presented my Kafka pile, of which she only took my lease agreement (and kept it), licked the many stamps and stuck them to my application, and she stuck the Carte de Sejour in my passport.

  10. Lastly, I went for a glass (several glasses) of champagne.

Thanks for looking in on my story.  I hope that for a few of you, this will come in handy.

Your Friend,

P.S. If you have a few extra mouse clicks for your humble friend and Paris blogger… please “follow” my blog, or “like” it, or “tweet” it, or “share” it or whatever you young kids do on the Internets these days. Many thanks in advance.

P.P.S.  For Clarification:  Once you have a Carte de Sejour you can stay in the country indefinitely.  You must get it "renewed" each year before it expires by going to the local police station and letting them know your proof of address and I've heard, though not confirmed, your financials... basically... bring your Kafka-pile.

Specifically for the Carte de Sejour, for the visitor's visa, I needed my proof of address, one passport picture, photocopies of my passport and visa, my passport and visa and that was it.  I had all of my other papers handy, however, just in case.

If you can survive the visa process, you will have many many papers.  You will have no troubles with the Carte de Sejour, and unlike the visa process, you can go back again and again if you make a mistake.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Settling into Paris in mid-May

This is a statue at the Place de la République
in Paris' 10th district, a district known to me
as the place where the landlords won't ever
ever return my calls.
Many greetings my excellent friends!

Congratulations on surviving the Rapture in America.  I’m sorry that so few people were raptured, but maybe the next one will be more spectacular.  Here in Paris there was little talk of Rapture but rather of DSK, the IMF politician who was charged with rape in New York.  The French generally believe that he was set up for this charge, save a few. 

The difference between those who think he was set up and those who don’t, seems to have more to do with how they feel about President Sarkozy than anything else.  I’m still blythly unaware of how the politics work here, so I’ll just go ahead and assume he’s guilty until proven innocent… no wait, I’m not the mainstream media… OK I’ll assume he’s innocent until proven guilty.

Fashion:  I’ve found what I suppose I would call the “fashion district” of the city for regular people in the 11th district or the Bastille as it is better known.  There are rows upon rows of shops that specialize in perhaps only a few varieties of outfits, but have many each type in stock.  Unlike the haute couture places that I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, the prices in these shops seem to have price points that a normal budget can manage.

Shopping:  I’ve often said that to know if you will like a place takes a few weeks.  You have to run out of your essentials like toothpaste and underarm deodorant and see if you can live with the local brands.  So far I’ve given up Crest for Signal toothpaste, which seems superior to my surprise.  Also paid 9 Euros for a crappy little stick of Old Spice underarm deodorant.  9 Euros to smell like a goddam vampire!  I’ll have to find something better than this soon.

Vampires:  Vampires don’t seem to be anywhere this spring.  They were lurking around everywhere when I first got here and now, they seem to be missing.  I haven’t seen Malcovich either (coincidence?), though I did bump into George Clooney a few weeks back.

Sci-fi uniforms!  I want, I want!!!
Fashion:  Apart from ordinary fashions, I’ve spotted a couple of really cool uniform shops where a restaurant or hotel could go to outfit its staff in the latest kitchen and wait-staff fashions.   Some of the uniforms are so cool that I thought they might even be good outfits for a low budget science fiction movie.  Hell, I might even make one.  I’ll keep you posted.

City Life: It wasn’t obvious, but I discovered the mystery of Paris’ clean streets.  Over the past few hundred years, it appears that the city engineers have sorted out the rise and run of nearly every street in the city and they have installed water spigots that aid in street cleaning.   They simply turn on a spigot and then sweep the street debris into the stream that runs the length of the street where it all gets collected in the sewer (presumably for water treatment).

Paperwork: This was a banner week in that I applied for my Carte de Sejour, or residency card this week.  To stay in Paris longer than one year, this card must be applied for within the first two months of residency. Armed with every paper known to man, I went to the office and applied.  Surprisingly, they only needed one paper, which I received from the Vancouver consulate along with my passport and visa.  No one spoke English at the OFII (immigration) office where I applied, but I understood enough of the French to know that I’d done all I needed and was soon on my way.  I was in and out of the office a total of two minutes. 

Culture: If you are an old fashioned sort and still like to borrow books from a library, but your French is not quite to where you can read much more than a pamphlet without needing a rest…  I recommend the American Library in Paris.  If you don’t like books, the place is crawling with clever Anglophones and they have free Wi-Fi!!!  Check it out at .

Movies: A new movie came out last week in Paris called “Midnight in Paris”.  I’m not sure why, but the tickets for the film on Sunday night were 4 Euros each.  It may be the first time I’ve ever gone to a theatre and been astonished by how LOW the ticket price was.  If you see this movie anywhere in the world other than Paris however, it is going to cost you several thousand dollars and perhaps change your life.  You simply won’t want to be anywhere else in the world other than Paris by the time the film has ended.  Even though I saw the movie in Paris, I was thinking about how I wanted to get out of the theatre to be in the city.

City Life: I didn’t see this so much in the fall, but spring has heralded the return of picnickers.  On my dear little Isle Saint Louis, it is possible to go down a set of stone steps to the river bank and spread out a blanket next to the path.  Wine, cheese and bread are all that you need to enjoy the Seine from that moment on.  I’ve noticed that on the weekends, these picnics extend into the evening and turn into parties.

Architecture: A few of the city’s landmarks such as the Orsay Museum and the Louvre are undergoing some exterior refurbishments.  Looking to take advantage of the situation, large companies have paid for gigantic advertising murals to cover the ugly scaffoldings.  Whether advertisements are uglier than scaffoldings is a matter for the eye of the beholder.

The husk of an old appliance in a
rental apartment in Le Marais.
City Life: Apartment hunting in Paris should probably be a televised competitive sport.  It has heartache, anguish, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; basically it has everything.  The only thing is hasn’t yielded is a new apartment for me.  French residents are generally required to have a guarantor or co-signer for any lease agreement.  A foreigner sans-guarantor may be asked for several thousand Euros in a security deposit… if they are not entirely overlooked by the landlord in favour of a French applicant.

Language: My French has improved, and yet I find myself speaking more and more English.  Perhaps it’s just that I am speaking more and more.  I’m having more conversations where my French friends speak French and I speak English and I really don’t care what the waiters or waitresses speak.  They  can have at it in Russian so long as I get my champagne.  :)

Work:  I have not sought after any new contracts in Paris, however I am inclined to think that I will wait a while before I consider it.  I have work from Canada and the US, but I’m finding that doing this work is a lot like taking a schoolboy to Disneyland… and forcing him to do his homework there.

Live long and prosper, my friends;

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Settling into the City

Ahhh, Nespresso by the Seine.
Bonjour and welcome my friends,

The past two weeks have been as interesting as any others.  As my time here in Paris rolls on, I am getting closer and closer to citizenship… using my loose definition of citizenship.  I have a working bank card, a telephone contract, and other such things as one needs to function as a permanent resident of a place.  I have a few pieces of paperwork to go, and the quest to complete those things will make up my next instalment.

In the mean time, please enjoy this recent set of Parisian observations:

  1. Paris has more than its share of great painters, particularly in the last couple of centuries.  Now, I think that I understand why.  Apart from the gajillion things to paint here, there is a sense that painting is as important a past time as cooking or exercising.  There are certainly more painting supply stores than there are gyms in Paris.  A recent sale at BHV (one of Paris’ leading department stores) features everything that a person needs to paint… save talent.  I’m very tempted to take up a brush, just to see what happens.

  2. Across the bridge (ou pont) from me is this very famous restaurant called the Tour d’Argent (, where I hope to dine one day soon.  The restaurant was founded in 1582, and was frequented by Henri IV.  It was also the inspiration for the restaurant “Gusteau's” featured in the movie “Ratatouille”, which is reason enough for a person to pay it a visit.  Dinner and drinks will set diners back about 200+ Euros per person, so I don’t expect to be eating there every day; however this exceptional price has not discouraged me from giving it a try.

  3. As if to mock my crappy Canon party camera (which I thought was a pretty good camera *before* I got to Paris), I see a great many people on the streets with expensive Canon SLR cameras.  They may in fact be the official camera of Paris.  Canon owners all have Canon camera straps and often other Canon accessories and they always appear to be doing a photo essay on one subject or another.  Until my budget frees up enough money for the best possible Canon of my own, jealousy dictates that I officially despise them.

  4. My trusty Kindle loaded with French classics.
  5. It is particularly enjoyable to read French literature while in Paris (except for maybe Proust), because you can actually go and see many of the places that the authors are writing about.  I’ve been reading Camus, Balzac, Zola, de Maupassant, Flaubert and even Proust.  My French friends tell me that they were forced to read these authors as kids, a time where I grew up on English and Canadian literature.  Now that I am an adult, however, I find these authors to be quite enjoyable (except for Proust).
  6. Paris is a big city and like any big city there are things here that you don’t want to see.  Street people reduced to begging because of their addictions are unpleasant to encounter.  They simultaneously confront us with a range of emotions from ambivalence to compassion to disgust and back again.  Surely, when all you want to do is get some milk and a fresh baguette, you might not want to think about all of these things.
    Now I’m speaking only of addicts and not of the more dignified of Paris’ homeless, some of whom might very well be Canadians saving up for a security deposit on an apartment.  The difference between Paris’ addict-class of homeless and the North American variety is that they still seem to have alcoholics here.  The abundance of inexpensive and delicious wine must be more appealing to the Parisian addict than the meth or crack used by their North American counterparts.

  7. Apartment hunting in Paris is like… nothing I have ever experienced.  Paris does not have the strict tenant protections that most North American renters enjoy and landlords can change the rent they are asking or the security deposit at a whim, depending on what they think of you… personally… as a renter.  This week’s search for a permanent apartment failed when at signing the landlord asked for an additional 2 months security deposit and that this be paid at signing.  The deal ended since, for whatever reason, I didn’t have an additional 6,000 Euros in my pocket at the time.

  8. In the past two weeks I haven’t spotted a single vampire.  Is there a convention somewhere?  If anyone knows anything, please leave a comment.  I’m concerned that there is something evil afoot.

  9. I don’t know if this is a true, but I have heard that the French use less soap per capita than any other industrialized nation.  While I don’t believe that I’ve encountered more body odour here than anywhere else, I believe this may be a fact.  Soap is expensive here!  Gone are the Costco-sized quantities of body soap that used to fill the cupboard under my sink.  Now I use each precious dollop of soap like it’s my last.

  10. I have finally managed to get to the Orsay museum ( ).  For something to be incredible is one thing, but for it to be incredible when it is within walking distance of the Louvre is quite another.   Monet, Manet, Degas, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Seurat, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Renoir were all there, to name a few.  But all in one day?  It was really too much.  In contrast with the Louvre, the Orsay tends to light its paintings more subtly, making close inspection more achievable.  One can not only better enjoy a painting this way, but actually observe how it might have been painted (note observation #1).

    The Musee d'Orsay as seen from the Louvre.

  11. I don’t know if this is a word, but I have been a victim of shirtrition.  This is where one’s shirts simply give up the ghost and either the collar or the sleeve at the armpit unexpectedly tears and renders the garment into rags.  The upside of shirtrition is that I’ve been buying replacement shirts in Paris, and oooooooh!  There are vendors called chemiserie’s who sell nothing but shirts.  They are the cure for shirtrition and some of these replacement shirts I’ve picked up are truly brilliant!

Thank you for reading, my most excellent friends and take care until next time!


P.S. If you have a few extra mouse clicks for your humble friend and Paris blogger… please “follow” my blog, or “like” it, or “tweet” it, or “share” it or whatever you young kids do on the Internets these days. Many thanks in advance.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My First Month as a Citizen

Huge queues await delicious Berthillion ice cream!
My friends et mes amis!

I have been in Paris a month now and I’m slowly but surely starting to become a citizen.  Back in Aristotle’s day a citizen was defined as a person who was allowed to vote, but as an ex-pat I sort of rather think of a citizen as being anyone that contributes toward a place in a positive way.  I think that since 20% of every dollar I spend here goes toward taxes… I believe that I’m well on my way toward citizenry.  And now without further ado, my most recent observations of springtime in Paris.

  1. I’ve come to discover that one’s water bill is the most compelling piece of identification that a person can possess.  Despite the fact that a water bill is frightfully easy to forge, provided that one owns a “colour printer”, you will find them requested by banks, visa official, and cell phone companies alike.  So far I’ve been honest in my dealings with most agencies and have explained that my water is included in my rent and offer a rental agreement instead.  They shun these formal agreements, but may relent.  In the future I may just bring in a fake water bill, if I am otherwise unable to pay the water company directly for such necessary identification.

  2. I don’t have a foot fetish or really any kind of fetish that I know of but I find myself staring at women’s feet more and more often.  I think that I might be developing a shoe fetish.  In Canada and the US it is normal to see most women wearing running shoes more often than not.  Here, the cornucopia of ballet slippers, pumps, stilettos, sandals, etc., combined with an endless assortment of nylons and stockings to accessorize… well it is far too much for my simple brain to inventory and I find myself staring, perhaps to find a spot in my brain to store these new and unexpected images.

    A video about Louboutin shoes that everyone should enjoy.

  3. It is one thing to enter into a cell phone contract in a language that you understand fully.  It is quite another to enter into such a contract with no idea whatsoever.  While the French language is a mystery that is slowly unravelling for me, French contract language may be a sealed vault.  After a tense negotiation, I managed to secure a new contract, however I have no idea about the details.  I have a vision of burly men coming to take my belongings from me for some monstrous unpaid phone bill of epic proportions.

  4. I tend not to string my observations together, but since I do have a new phone, it will take time to get in contact with my many friends around the world and even the ones in Paris.  I worry when the ones in Paris don’t call me back right away, for fear that perhaps they have been compromised by a vampire.  Please, my Parisian friends.  Don’t leave me to suffer with worry.  Call me back right away!

  5. Vista print is this interesting service where one can print business cards or other various things with your company or personal information on them.  They offer the service in many countries including France.  Like so many websites, the French version is only offered in the French language.  Now that I have a phone contract, I thought it might be time to get business cards.  I managed to hobble through the selections on the website, design my card, choose my options and get to the checkout.  From there I was presented with two pages of untranslatable French contract language.  Damn!  I will try again under the influence of champagne… since most things go better with champagne.

    OK I'm bound to figure out this French legalese eventually, right?
  6. There are three sizes of champagne emergencies and as such there are three common sizes of champagne bottles.  The ½ bottle or piche serves for single serving emergencies, the full bottle for regular emergencies and the magnum for more serious entertainment emergencies.  A favourite brand here in Paris is Deutz (which I had never tasted in the US or Canada) and is now installed in my apartment for all three sizes of champagne emergency.

  7. Yesterday for breakfast, I had Berthillion ice cream.  Most of the flavours are quite sumptuous, however if you ever get a chance to try the white chocolate (chocolat blanc), then be prepared for a possible public orgasm.  The line from “When Harry Met Sally” comes to mind… “I’ll have what she’s having.”  Berthillion sells their ice cream in bulk at their main store and every flavour sounds good.  For your voyeuristic pleasure I’ve attached a list:
    Oh if only I didn't have to wait!  I would go back every 20 minutes.

  8. I returned to France heavier than when I left.  I’m not normally obsessed about diet, but I am obsessed about wearing French fashions and anyone sporting a pot-belly can’t wear them properly.  Since arriving in Paris I’ve lost weight on a diet consisting of foods baked in butter, cheese, pate, bread, and a lot more cheese.  And meat.  And cheese… with more cheese.  And ice cream.  And pastries.  I nearly forgot about the pastries.  At present, I have no theory about how this is possible.

  9. Language continues to be my greatest barrier to entry in terms of becoming a citizen of Paris.  I’ve purchased a number of children’s books to assist in my ongoing language training.  While the “fog” of being immersed in a foreign language is lifting, one word or phrase at a time, I still feel quite mute.  As a consummate storyteller, I certainly don’t like to be mute if I don’t have to.

    My first of what may be 100 Roger Hargreaves books translated
    dutifully into French.  I believe that the theme for each book is
    really contributing to my learning.  History shall judge.  :)
  10. There are countless international groups in Paris that meet regularly, though generally over cocktails.  The groups seem to be largely fuelled by their ability to fill a bar, restaurant or nightclub, but they do provide a rather interesting perspective of Paris.   The Franca lingua here seems to be English.  From what I’ve observed, a Chinese person speaking to an Italian, for example, will start with English and then switch to French if that fails.  I’ve joined two expat groups including InterNations (.com) and A Small World (  I’ve also attended gatherings with and  Given enough time and the ability to drink more… I could attend 15 gatherings a week from these groups alone.

  11. On the Rue de Faubourg Saint-Antoine near the Bastille, there are several furniture stores of which a few I am certain will soon be in possession of most of my money.  I’m sure it won’t be long before I find a permanent apartment and while I dream about that, I dream about the furniture it will possess.  Perhaps it’s not a shoe fetish that I’ve developed, but rather a design fetish.  Stay tuned for more furniture related entries in the near future.
This video is from Ligne Roset, a favourite
furniture store of mine in the Bastile.

Thank you all for reading and take care my friends.

P.S. If you have a few extra mouse clicks for your humble friend and Paris blogger… please “follow” my blog, or “like” it, or “tweet” it, or “share” it or whatever you young kids do on the Internets these days. Many thanks in advance.