I’m struggling in the research process

I’m writing this to light a fire under my booty and to hold my future self accountable – there is no way I’m going to come on here in a few months and write a post about how I couldn’t finish my Master’s degree.

My research director is atypical of professors at French universities. From what I hear from friends and work and school colleagues of all nationalities, there is usually little to no guidance from one’s research director due to the large volume of students (PhD, Master’s, and License = Bachelor’s) under their direction. My directrice is constantly asking us to turn in bits of work, and she meets with us regularly to discuss our research. It’s always very helpful, but stressful since there is always a deadline. I know that I would leave most of the work until the end if she didn’t do this, but it doesn’t make it any less painful!

Reading and writing constantly in French is really difficult, but the worst part of all is every bit of progress I make, I realize how much more work I have to do. I guess that’s just how research is. I can’t believe some people do this their whole lives.

I took three lovely days off during our week of vacation last week to go to Dieppe in Normandy. I’m going to write a blog post as soon as I finish the 20 pages I need to turn in this week.

I want to go back here:


Lovely beach in Dieppe

Instead I am here:



Yay education!


Mid-Master’s – retrouve-moi au café

I’ve been insanely busy with school, my internship, and my volunteer work on the Board of my choir. Thus, not much time for blogging these days.

Recipes I’ve made lately that I might get around to posting include balsamic-roasted mushrooms with special umami salt as well as brown-butter cookies with pistachios and chocolate, although I wish I had dried cherries or candied orange rind to put in there too.

I’m in crunch mode for my mémoire so I’ve been rotating through cafes, libraries, and my bedroom.

I highly recommend Dose on the rue Mouffetard, even though it’s small. The baristas are so nice (they tutoyer-ed me!) and they have a stamp card (I’m a freak and I actually save up frequent buyer things to get my perks). And obviously good coffee.

And I love Institut Finlandais, right next to my Sorbonne classes. The baristas are very nice and I like how spacious it is. They have nice art exhibits on the giant wall and in the front you can buy cute expensive pillows and such.


Hello cappuccino.

Back to work!

Grotesque shoes

I mentioned that during the rainstorm in Barcelona, Ottilia and I stopped into a Grotesque boutique and after trying on a few pairs I fell upon these. They were instantly super comfortable and totally fit my style. We all agreed that I had to have them – they seemed to be made just for me! In short, I fell in love. 🙂 I love me some shoes.


My new booties!

I love wearing heels, but not when they hurt – who does?  I admit that comfort level and high prices are not necessarily correlated, as I’ve had some heels from Payless and Target that were super comfy.  Sometimes though, it’s worth it to splurge.  I just do that whole cost-per-wear calculation and I feel much better about spending a lot.

If a heel has a good, sturdy sole and a real leather or suede upper, it’s more likely to be comfortable and last longer. I took a gamble on this brand since I had never heard of them or owned a pair before, but after a month or so of testing, I can assure you that Grotesque shoes are worth the investment!


Shoes w/outfit

The soles are very stiff and sturdy so my feet were a little bit tender the first few times I wore them. But with the help of rough Paris streets and kilometers of metro tunnels I’ve been slowly molding them to my feet. The other slight ding I’m giving them is the suede laces – they become unlaced so easily, and it’s something I hated about my Sperry’s when I had them. Tying a knot before tying a bow has worked to keep them from coming untied, so it’s not the end of the world.

It looks like you can order online, although the prices are much higher and the options fewer than in-store in Barcelona. But, if you live in Barcelona, Munich, or Oporto, I highly recommend you pop in! Or, as it says on the website, you can write in for other “salespoints” – cute word! Happy shopping!

Grotesque Shoes
C/Elisabets 20 local 1
08001 Barcelona

La REcyclerie

Iiiiii am so happy that this unique place exists! I have some of my classes as well as my stage (=internship) at Porte de Clignancourt, a mention of which usually doesn’t elicit sighs of jealousy from my friends. Ok, so it’s not Saint Germain. However, real people live and work in this area, and there are some hidden treasures next to the Macdo, KFC and un-classy stores selling imitation shoes and suitcases – beautiful music performed by conservatory/Sorbonne students for affordable prices at one of the campuses of Paris-Sorbonne University (this is where I study and work, shameless marketing plug alert), an antique market every weekend, stores like this with cheap vintage clothes just waiting to be dug up, and now, La REcyclerie!


Upon entry of La REcyclerie

Where to begin? There are so many great things happening in this place. It is located right inside the old, abandoned train station that was part of la petite ceinture (basically the pre-Métro – great photos here). It is a restaurant, bar, cafe, event space, all with a no-waste, green ethos. And yes, I see the irony in my writing a blog post on my Macbook Air about an association whose philosophy is centered around low-tech things, but hey…the new generation gets their information online, so I’m providing it. They have frequent workshops – DIY eco-beauty products, and events where you can use their tools for free to give new life to broken furniture and things. I love the spirit behind that.


Lamb brochettes

The inside is spacious and light-filled with plenty of seating options. The canteen-style food is based on regional themes that change weekly. The week I ate there was Moroccan week, and it was good! It’s definitely the best option for lunch in the quartier – I must say that I’ve had my fill of CROUS food.

I’ve also popped in just to study and write – the espresso is good and I love that they have sirop à l’eau for just 1€. And because the space is so big, there are no glares from the servers, and did I mention there is free wifi?


La terrasse

Ok so I saved the best for last: you can also go outside to a long, narrow terrasse right next to the old tracks, which faces a community garden and is right under the chicken coop! It’s so nice to be in a space like this instead of directly on the street like most cafes.


Looking back at the cafe from the terrasse

A friend had her birthday here a few weeks ago.  Though there were many people there that night, it didn’t feel packed like every other bar here.  There is so much space for everyone to spread out!  No sweating and shouting to be heard on a Friday night?!

La REcyclerie
2 rue Belliard
75018 Paris

Chez Paul

No, I’m not talking about this place (although I’ve totally eaten there before – ça passe!) – Chez Paul is a lovely, classic French restaurant not far from my current apartment.

I was lucky enough to have a week-long visit from my parents last week. I can’t believe how many things we managed to do – Seine dinner cruise (do it), the Louvre (never again), Giverny (amazing), OpenTour bus ride (surprisingly awesome), Musée Carnavalet (my new favorite museum), plus shopping, eating, and café-ing.

Based on the décor, which looked to be 60s-era (with some fun neon tube lighting added on in the 80s), and some of the staff who joked around and seemed to know everyone, the restaurant seems to have been around forever. We ordered classic dishes (steak with sauce Béarnaise for my mom and I and poulet for my dad) and desserts (tarte tatin and fruit salad with crème anglaise), and wine of course. It was the exact type of meal we love to eat when they are in Paris. High-quality, perfectly cooked meat with my ultimate vice, fried potatoes.

Dad awaits his chicken

Dad awaits his chicken

This place is no-fuss, charming, and reasonably priced. They have tables out front and the area has tons of bars and restaurants. We profité-d by going to Atelier Charonne right down the street after dinner to hear some jazz. It was a super soirée!

Chez Paul
13 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 47 00 34 57
Métro : Ledru-Rollin (8), Bastille (1, 5, 8), Charonne (9)

Atelier Charonne
21 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 40 21 83 35
same métros as Chez Paul

Used clothing shopping

So, not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Paris is expensive. WHAT!

When I still lived in the US, I shopped at used-clothing stores all the time to save money. Living in a high-fashion, trendy place sucks when you have no cash. It’s not that Paris doesn’t have used-clothing stores, but they are more “vintage” than “thrift” and so the store owners charge unbelievably high prices. For my budget shopping here I’ve been relegated to stores that I’m getting so sick of – H&M, C&A, Tati (so classy!), stores in Belleville…

Recently my coworker mentioned Guerrisol. I’m STOKED – it’s an actual used-clothing store and it’s cheap. I now pop in every chance I get and rifle through the clothes, slinking around the store employees who are usually removing more fripes from giant plastic bags and placing them on the racks.

Last week I SCORED a silk butterfly sequin top, made in India – in great condition and only €10. I’ve had a rough month so I treated myself.

I HAD to have it

I HAD to have it

Plus, it’s definitely a wardrobe staple – every girl needs one in her closet. 😉

Front and back!

Butterflies on both sides!

Go find your treasure!

96 bd de Barbes
75018 Paris
(This location had a lot of Indian items, the one in the 13th has smaller sizes)


Sparkle motion!

2,50€ breakfast


I AM NOT LYING! Can you even believe how cheap this petit-déj is?! And wait until you hear the details…

Snuck this when the bartender went downstairs..I'm so shy about taking pics

The comptoir

My classmate Camille lives one metro stop away from me (so fun!) and once she invited me to breakfast before we had a morning work engagement. I was overjoyed once I understood what we were dealing with : fresh-squeezed orange juice (you can see the orange presser in the background of the photo above), café au choix (when I asked he said I could get a crème or anything, but on the poster it just says cafe or noisette, best to ask), and tartines, viennoiserie (even pain au chocolat!) or 4×4 (pound cake – homemade!). If you eat at the bar it’s 2,50€ and at a table it will be 3,50€. SUCH a good deal in this town of 4€ burnt expressos.

They were out of croissants so I was forced to have homemade cake boohoo

They were out of croissants so I was forced to have homemade cake

When I’ve walked by this place at night, it’s packed. So, it must be a fun bar/resto scene too!

Cool decoration

Cool decoration

Check it out!

en attendant l’or
6 rue Faidherbe
75011 Paris
Métro Faidherbe-Chaligny (Line 8)

Eglise St Eustache

At my work, we had a concert at St. Eustache in central Paris a few weeks ago. We were there all day setting up and stayed late afterwards. Even though it was chilly I loved being in such a beautiful space. Religious or not, how could you not appreciate those arches, the light, the stained glass depicting pigs and the “Société de charcuterie!” I tried in vain to get a picture but I lack the photography skills; here’s a site I found with great pictures and an explanation. Some find the acoustics difficult to perform in, but I think they’re fabulous and I want to try to get my choir to have a concert or two there.

I am such a dork in this picture, but here I am in my “workplace” for the day!



Library journey

This week, I had to go all the way across town because certain books that I need to read for my research are only accessible at a certain library. I feel annoyed that with all the technology we have, the Paris university system can’t be bothered to have more than one copy of a book in more than one location. Rar. Thus, I spent a whole afternoon going to Neuilly to read said books. At first I was super grumpy because OF COURSE the metro line I needed to take was randomly blocked off, and OF COURSE they only had signs indicating this after I’d hiked up and down stairs for 15 minutes. I normally don’t like to complain about the Paris metro, because in general it’s SO efficace and I love it, but this was just super annoying. I got even more pissed when I realized I had written down the wrong station and I could have come over on the 3 since the library was closer to Levallois than Neuilly. However, my attitude changed when I set out for my ten minute walk and saw the beautiful trees. It’s been raining a lot this spring, and it’s paid off! Say whatever you like about Neuilly being a boring rich suburb, it’s nice to walk through.



I had to take a picture of these (tiny, green, in the middle of the picture) signs – they show Boulogne-Billancourt and Levallois-Perret, which are the towns I lived and worked in when I moved here 3 years ago. In 2011, I had no idea that 3 years later I would be where I am now – so much has changed. It’s crazy! And these signs took me right back to that space. Trippy.

Nostalgic for my first days in Paris

Nostalgic for my first days in Paris

M1 update #2

Just thought it was a good time for another update on my Master’s program.

Sorbonne library

Sorbonne library

I’ve seen a huge difference between the fall and spring semesters in my ability to comprehend what’s going on. Unfortunately, it takes me awhile to settle in to something, especially when a foreign language is involved. I wish I could adapt more quickly but that’s just how I am. Anyways, it’s a huge stress relief to finally feel like I’m on top of things. The classes themselves have been lighter this semester than the first, so that might help too. We also had SO much vacation – about three weeks off total between February and May, plus we didn’t even have many classes in January.

My new study environment!

The terrasse of my apartment

As an étrangère, I did feel a little bit behind in certain areas. Now I realize that once you are enrolled, you are allowed to take classes in the L3 level (quick breakdown of French university levels – L1, 2 and 3 are 3 years of a license degree that is equivalent to our Bachelor’s degree, M1 and 2 are 2 years of a master’s degree equivalent to our master’s degree, and then you can continue on to do doctorate work). If I could start over, I would have taken some sort of writing class or something to help me get my head in the French academic space. Too late for me, but if anyone reading this is interested in a Master’s in France, I highly recommend you take as many extra classes as possible!

Clignancourt library

Clignancourt library

Knowing I wasn’t guaranteed acceptance next year gave me even more motivation to do well in the M1, but it also has been stressing me out a ton this year. Added to that stress is the knowledge that I am a less appealing candidate for other M2 programs because I haven’t completed a mémoire (thesis) in the M1. After getting to know my classmates better, I’ve made the validating discovery that most of them agree with the complaints I mentioned in the last update, but above all for the concours to enter into the M2. Our professor randomly decided (without consulting the other faculty, according to gossip) to remove our mémoire and replace it with an insultingly dull database project. He ignored our protests at the beginning of the program, so we had no choice but to complete the Master’s in the manner he set it up. Now as we get nearer to the concours date, everyone is beginning to panic that if we aren’t accepted into the M2 here, we’re screwed. I’m just going to do my best to present a compelling research proposition (the way to “win” the concours) and go from there. With fingers crossed. If I don’t get in, quelle honte (the shame)!