Eating Paris: Mondol Kiri

Last night, my friends and I went to a wonderful Cambodian restaurant in Paris’ very own Chinatown.  AND IT WAS DELICIOUS!  At this point in my abroad time, I welcome the opportunity to not eat baguettes and cheese every single day, so Cambodian seemed like a perfect switch up.

As much as I love, LOVE Asian food in general, this was the first time I ever tried Cambodian food!  It reminded me of Thai food because of the many curry-based dishes, but I also found some hints of Vietnamese with the use of basil.

The restaurant is called Mondol Kiri and is located on the main street in Chinatown called Avenue de Choisy.  (Close to many Metro stops: Tolbiac, Port de Choisy, Perte d’Italie). It is a tiny place but the food is larger than life.  (See what I did there?).  There are two options on the menu, 1. to order individual dishes or 2. to do a fixed menu meal.  There were a few fixed menu options, with various types of dishes, prices and even share friendly menus.

We all ended up getting fixed menus because they came with an appetizer, entree, and dessert.  Lena and I got the fish/shrimp menu which started with these fish and shrimp fried balls, and the entree was a shrimp and coconut milk curry.  (So yummy!) Our other friend got the chicken/beef menu and she started with chicken and beef skewers with a peanut sauce and for her entree, she had a beef and basil saute. All of our main dishes came with this amazing wild, sticky rice that was unlike your average white rice side.  The dessert was a little odd but still delicious.  It was this pudding/flan situation that had a base of potatoes and was covered in sweet coconut sauce.  We also all had some wonderful and light Cambodian beer to go with our meals.

 

 

Overall it was an amazing and delicious meal AND it wasn’t even that expensive for all of the food we got!  I highly recommend it!

 

Week 4: Adventures in Belgium- Beer, Chocolate, & Too Many Frites

Last weekend Lena and I went to Belgium- and by Belgium I mean Brussels and Brugge, specifically.  We spent Friday evening and all day Saturday exploring Brussels and then on Sunday morning we checked our bags into a locker at Brussels Midi Station and jumped on a train to Brugge.
The first thing we did after arriving in Brussels, after our 4 hour bus ride, was to go to our Airbnb.  We actually opted for rented a bedroom in someone’s apartment versus an entire apartment.  Friday night we had one goal, and one goal only… Mussels and Frites (French Fries) for dinner.  With a suggestion from a friend, we set out for Chez Leon for dinner. It was delicious!!
After dinner, we walked around the city center and then went to a huge bar called Delirium and drank more beer!
Saturday morning we set off for the Grand Place, which we saw the night before, but we wanted to see it in the daylight.  We obviously had to have coffee and waffles for breakfast so we stopped at a really cute cafe right off the main square. After checking out the Grand Place we went to find the very strange, yet famous, Mannequin de Pis- which is basically a tiny statue of a little boy that pees into a fountain.  This pissing child is a huge tourist “thing” in Brussels- chocolate shops sell chocolate replicas, it is on every post card, and in the Museum of the History of Brussels there is a whole exhibit dedicated to this pissing boy in various outfits.  (It was just as weird as you think).

 

 

 

 

Later that day, we wanted to go see the Atomium, which is located a bit outside of the city, so we jumped on a metro and ventured out there.  When we got there, it was pretty cool but we didn’t really get it- most things built for the World Fair are sort of odd.  We decided not to pay the money to go inside, but we did have a nice walk around the park and then got back on the metro to head back to the city center.

 

When we were back in central Brussels we searched for lunch… and found a magical place called Fritland.  Can you guess what they serve?  FRITES.  But not just frite sandwiches.  Lena and I both got ( getting two was a huge mistake, we definitely could have split one) these frite sandwiches were made with a baguette, a little bit of lettuce, to “hamburger” patties (but they were more like breakfast sausages), about a pound of french fries on top of that, and finally, topped with this spicy cheese and or mayo sauce.  IT WAS SO GOOD and I got full just by looking at it.  After lunch, we walked around for a bit more then eventually made out way back to the apartment.
Before dinner, we went back to the Grand Place to buy tickets for this awesome event called “Museum Night Fever” which is basically where you paya flat fee and got access/free shuttles to all of the museums in Brussels after hours.  Then we had Thai food for dinner and went off to explore the museums.  We went to the Brussels history museum, the manuscript museum and then the opera house which had this whole light and sound show going on.  The manuscript museum was actually my favorite, although I had no idea what to expect.  It was basically a museum of letters, to and from all of these famous/historical figures.  There were letters from Napoleon, Louis XVI, Victor Hugo, Claud Monet, Picasso, Voltaire.. basically everyone you can think of that was significant in your European History class.  It was amazing.
Sunday we woke up, packed, and went to Brussels Midi Station to check out bags into a locker, and then jumped on a train to Brugge, which is north west of Brussels.  After having a bit of trouble navigating the train station-  we went to about 4 ticket offices and all of them redirected us- we were on the train to Brugge.  Once we arrived in Brugge we basically just wandered the streets trying to find cafes and looked at all the Finish Medieval architecture.  Unfortunately, most of the city was closed, because it was Sunday, but we still had a great time wandering around the city.

 

 

 

 

Here comes the fun part: We got on the train back to Brussels from Brugge, knowing we would get in with about 30 min to get on our bus back to Paris.  Unfortunately when we arrived at the station, we realized that we had no idea where to get on the bus, and we soon found out that no one else working in or around the station did either.  So we missed our bus backed to Paris.  We called the bus company to see if we could get put on another bus, however the only next option was at 4 am and that wasn’t about to happen, so we had to suck it up and buy 100 euro Eurorail tickets back to Paris.  The funny thing about this whole ordeal is that the train we ended up taking got us to Paris in an hour so we arrived in Paris basically 3 hours before we would have if we had taken the bus…

About Studying Abroad in PARIS

Since I have been here for a few weeks now, I am basically an expert on studying abroad in Paris so I thought I would write a post answering a few common questions I get:

Q: Do you need to know French to study in Paris?

A: This really depends on the program you are applying to.  On my program there was no language requirement HOWEVER I do think you would have a better time if you knew French/ had studied it at some point in your life.  I came here knowing no French at all and honestly, it has been pretty difficult.  Most people do speak English but it’s not something you should just expect people to know while living abroad.  I wish I knew how to have a basic conversation.  (I am slowly learning!) I do feel like my time here would be way more productive/ meaningful, if I was able to practice the language on a daily basis.

Q:  Is Paris really as expensive as they say it is?

A: Yes and no.  Yes, it is expensive if you do Paris the seen-in-movies-fancy way.  To go out to trendy bars and restaurants or to go shopping in all the hottest stores, that is pretty pricey.  No, because there are ways to get around all of that.  It is easy to get into museums and other monumental things with a student ID card for free and to pick up a 2 Euro espresso every day.  The plentiful boulangeries have a variety of cheap food items- small quiches, sandwiches, other sweet things- that you can buy to eat for under 7 Euros.  There are ways to do Paris on a budget!  (I swear!). If you are wise about your money, you can easily do Paris cheaply, even though it is a pricey city.

Q: Is it easy to travel around Europe and France from Paris?

A: Yes but it is way more expensive than I expected.  Somehow it is less expensive and less time consuming to fly places instead of taking trains or buses… which would be more fun and allow you to see more of the country or region.  Always look at budget airline sites or try to book as much as your traveling in advance.

Q:  Is the public transportation in Paris good and easy?

A: Yes to both!  The Paris metro is super easy and fast, however, it is pretty grimy and gross down there so wash your hands… NAVIGO passes are super great to have however they refill it per month for 67 Euros.  (Then after you pay your monthly fee you get unlimited access to buses and metro).  So definitely add that into your budget!

Q:  What is life like in Paris?

A:  Paris is a city… super urban and city-like.  Don’t expect anything else!  Sometimes cities can be stuffy and overwhelming, especially if you are not used to them.

Week 3: Cheeky Trip to London & Seeing Lizzie in Nottingham

Last weekend I took my first trip whilst being abroad.  For our first trip we, Lena and I, traveled to THE UK.  If you know me at all, you know that I am the UK’s biggest fan.  We did one night in London and then took a train up to the University of Nottingham (in the city of Nottingham) to visit my dear friend Lizzie.

Our weekend vaguely looked like this:

Friday afternoon Lena and I met up for sandwiches (woo) and then got on the metro to the RER that took us to CDG airport.  We then landed in London and took the Paddington Expressway to our hostel which was conveniently located across the street from Paddington Station.  We stayed at a hostel called Pride of Paddington which was actually a cool/ groovy (I cannot believe I used the word groovy) spot.  There is a pub downstairs that serves everything…. cider, beer, hard alcohol, coffee and then every typical English grub you can possibly think of.. .bangera and mash, fish and chips, full English breakfast, etc…  We stayed in a shared dorm, which wasn’t awful except for the fact that the room was about 1,000 degrees and the mattresses were rock hard.  (Oh, and tat our roomies came in at 4:30 am super drunk and turned on the lights).  But other than that, the hostel was great for the price of about 15 pounds for the night.

AND TO MAKE IT EVEN BETTER we (each) got breakfast in the morning for free… and normal sized lattes, which is a rarity in Paris.  I mean, for hostel food, this is unreal.

 

On Friday, we treated ourselves to ciders, and then met our friends (who were studying abroad in London) at the Wagamama near the Embankment tube stop from some Asian food.
Saturday, we did the  most condensed version of London sightseeing you have ever seen….after our breakfasts, of course.  We took the bus by Buckingham Palace to Trafalger Square, then walked to the Embankment to get the view to Big Ben, Parliament and the London Eye.  Then we walked to Westminster Abbey and then got on the tube to cross the rive to the London Bridge stop.  Then we walked down the Thames to see the Tower of London and all that fun stuff and then we eventually ended up at Borough Market for lunch.  (That wasn’t a coincidence.)
At Borough, Lena and I got fish and chips, and our friends got a duck confit sandwich and a chorizo sandwich.  Then we jetted out to the train station to catch a train to Nottingham, England to see/ spend the night at Lizzie’s “uni” house.
We got into Nottingham at about 6:00 PM and we went right to Lizzie’s house to be greeted by her lovely housemates.  We all had dinner together and then relaxed for a bit before going out.  We went to a few bars- one was an old Gothic church turned into a really cool bar (a little sac religious but it was pretty)!
Sunday morning we woke up, and made breakfast all together (we had crumpets, yum) and then headed out to see the university campus and then to see the Batman house, aka Wollaton Hall/park.  After that we jumped on a bus and headed back to London to catch our flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeks 1.5 & 2: More Wandering Paris & a Short Trip to Chartres

Week two consisted of a lot of figuring things out.  It is still pretty early on in our school process so we are still feeling out our classes and how long it takes to get places and what every day is going to look like.  During the week, I explored the neighborhood where I live and where ACCENT is and found a wonderful (and cheap) soup bar for lunch (Le Bar a Soupes)!!

Since we had no class Friday, Lena and I were planning on taking a trip to Fontainebleu, however it is expensive to take the train out of Paris on weekdays, SO we decided to wait for a weekend—- because it’s free.  Instead, we went to a beautiful park in Paris’ 8th, that has a lot of random things in it.  The park had some Greek/Roman looking things, a pyramid, one of the bridges that Monet painted, and even huge iron gates that sort of looking like Buckingham Palace.  We bought some ham and cheese sandwiches and ate in the park.  Unfortunately it was super cold and windy, but we were troopers and stuck with it.

After the park, we ventured to a few churches!  We went to Saint Augustine church as well as Saint Sulpice and Sainte-Chapelle cathedral.  All three were absolutely beautiful.  Saint Sulpice is super interesting because its where old scholars used to the Prime Meridian was so there is a brass line in the church, where the believed it was.  (Later, the Prime Meridian was moved to the UK).  And Sainte- Chapelle was definitely a highlight.  The stained glass was absolutely magnificent!

We took our time walking from the Cite area (where Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame are) all the way back to the Marais and eventually to the Bastille.  At the Bastille, we found an “America” bar/restaurant to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies.  It was a struggle to find a place to watch the opening ceremonies because apparently the French do not care about watching the Oympics.

Saturday, ACCENT took us on a trip to a small town outside of Paris called Chartres.  As far as I am concerned it sounds like “sharts” but apparently its a bit more elegant than that.  Chartres is your typical Medieval town.  It is built on a hill, with the huge, gothic Cathedral on top, the town wraps around the cathedral ridden hill and farm land surrounds the outside of the town.

I must say, the cathedral was stunning and our tour guide, Malcom Miller, was amazing and so so knowledgeable. We spent about 45 minutes dissecting just ONE stained glass window.  (I am actually not kidding).  Besides the cathedral, Chartres is eh.  It’s cute and probably way cuter when its not freezing and incredibly windy.  BUT we did have some yummy onion soup, crepes and quiche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeks 1: Wandering around Paris

My first week here in Paris was filled with SO MUCH WALKING.  And no I am not just complaining for the sake of complaining, but if my legs could talk they would probably tell me they wanted to detach from my body and find someone else.  With that being said, it has only been a week and I have already seen so much!!!
Here’s a list of things I have done so far:

1. Walked through the Louvre for the sole purpose of seeing the Mona Lisa.  Saw a painting of the American homie, George Washington, while I was there.

 

 

2.  Saw Notre Dame at night, then went back in the morning and actually went inside.  On the way back, I got to see the Locket bridge, which, by the way, is now apparently a thing on all bridges in Paris. 

 

 

 

3. Walked down the Champs Elysees from the Lourve, through the Tulleries, right by the big Ferris Wheel all the way to the Arc de Triomphe.  Then climbed to the very top of the Arc de Triumph for a beautiful view… aka why my legs hate me.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Went to Chinatown and had Pho.  Because, hello, just because I am in Paris now, doesn’t mean I can’t have my pho-fix.
5. Saw the original Sorbonne University building.  Unfortunately, my French classes are not in that building but on another campus location.
6. Saw the Bastille land mark- which now, looking back on this point is a bit of a cop-out because I live right by the Bastille.
7.  Walked down Rue Mouffetard and ate amazing Greek Crepes! (Important)

(Eggplant and feta and crepes… oh my!)
8.  Took a boat tour down the Seine and saw a bunch of things along the way.

 

 

 

Besides all of the sight seeing,  I have started my ACCENT classes– aka my two classes taught in English, at my program’s center.  I am taking Paris Civilization and Culture as well as Islam in France.  My Sorbonne french lessons don’t start for a little while.  (French grammar starts February 12, and my Phonetics class starts February 20th).
I have also gotten to know my neighborhood better and have been finding a bunch of cute and yummy boulangeries (bakeries).  I also went to to the Marché (market) with my host madame on Sunday morning which was lovely. I have a super soft spot for farmers markets because they remind me of home.  (shout out to my dad, Bruce).  Obviously the cheese station was my favorite and my madame bought a bunch of cheese for me to try- Leonie’s favorite from Lyon and her favorite cheese is the cheese infused with truffles.  She (my madame) also picked up a plethora of green beans and some lamb chops for lunch, which was incredibly fresh and delicious.
On Sunday I was invited to join Leonie and my madame (her name is Laurence, for the record) at their grandmother’s house for a meal featuring only crepes. Boy, was that a treat.  We had savory crepes to start, filled with eggs, cheese, ham, andouille, and creme fresh and sweet crepes with powered sugar and homemade pear marmalade for dessert– and don’t forget the champagne!
Anyways, that’s all for now— OH WAIT. I have officially booked my first abroad trip to London!!!!!  I am the UK’s biggest fan so I am so excited to go back.  Plus I get to see some of my favorite person, Lizzie!!