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Posts Tagged ‘Fontainebleau’

P3 is done – we’re 3/5 of the periods through the (cheat-sheet propelled, for some) MBA and half way done with our year together. I snuck away from the Grand Cafe before the tearful good-byes because I’m not very good at those. A lot of people got last minute jobs – a lot are taking unpaid internships, hoping to make a career switch. Some are working 100 hour weeks in London. Suckers. The rest are sailing in Croatia/trekking in Kashmir/partying in Beirut/studying French in Nice, Mandarin in China, German in Munich/getting married in India and Israel.

One of my friends keeps saying that leaving the bubble for the summer will be a reality check – a real-world reminder to most of us who we are, what’s important to us, what we want to get out of the remaining year. I hope that’s true. P3 has been a blast, but I need to find some time to have a good think about what happens afterwards.

Since I’m still in visa limbo, I’ve been hanging out in Fontainebleau awaiting a verdict from the UK Border Agency. This respite from the frantic, intense, unrelenting P3 has been quite welcome, though I imagine it could get boring eventually. In the meantime I’ve been learning how to Artfully Communicate (I’m just as awkward as I suspected, now I have video footage to prove it), making a half-hearted attempt at some bouldering, picnicing by the reflecting pool of the Cheateau, wandering around sleepy French towns where in the 1800s Romantic Realists painted en plein air, seeking to capture the matte late evening light over the tranquil Loing.

At 10:45 it’s still light out – the days last forever, and on most nights I don’t even start to think of getting to bed until around 2. Not so good when you have class the next day. Perfect when you can sleep in until noon.

I’ve been cramming in q-time with my favorite(st) people before we disperse for the summer, and am thankful for the visa delays that are giving me a chance to get to know some of my classmates better. (That’s another shout out, yo.)

But being in Fonty also means that I can’t get the distance I feel I need to sum up the last 6 months in a meaningful manner.

A friend from home came to visit recently. When I say “friend” I mean it in the loosest sense of the word – someone I had classes with in undergrad, and would see about twice a year when visiting my parents who lived in the same town where he worked after graduation. He had been traveling the world for the past few months, and came to France (I suspect) because he’d have a free place to stay. Moocher. There are very few people I would feel comfortable crashing with for a few night, let alone an entire week. Someone more socially skilled and perceptive (or perhaps simply less selfish) would be self-conscious, but he has no compunction about imposing for an entire week. His world travels have produced little else other than a slew of complaints about lack of infrastructure in the developing world (umm, what did you expect?) and shallow generalizations about how the US is different from Europe because you don’t have to add tip and tax.

This guy is a complete downer, which makes me wonder what our friendship was based on some 8 years ago. Was I also like him? Did I look at the most negative aspect of every situation, complain about every trivial inconvenience? Is it just recently that I’ve changed so much?

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I have opinions about food.  They are correct.  They are expressed here.  

There is a dearth of good food in Fontaineblows.  I’m experiencing a momentary dearth of free cash flows, so I don’t eat out as much as, say… a sponsored baby from Bain might.  But the times I have eaten out, I’ve had mixed results. 

Bistrot Neuf is the most talked about among INSEAD students.  They serve organ meats.  They charge dumb prices for organ meats.  But I like organ meats.  Have the Sancerre.  It’s grassy and good.

Ko Sun, the Chinese restaurant owned by Koreans is terrible unless you have 1 of 2 Korean items on the menu.  If you have that, it should tide you over until you can make it over to Singapore.  Or New York.  

The Indian place down Rue Montebello is overpriced and bad.  But they do play Bollywood music videos the whole time, so at least you’ll have a good time as you shell out 25EUR for some French-Punjabi fusion.

Avoid Les Glaces on the main drag.  Their Tarte Aux Pomme is made with apple sauce. Ugh…  Disgraceful.

The good takeout pizza is on your LHS on Rue Aristide Briand past the BNP.  Get one with anchovies.  The bad takeout pizza is everywhere else.

Pizza Pazza – a sitdown place in the pedestrian center – gives a 10% discount to INSEAD students.  That makes it confusing when you have to calculate your share.  And it’s embarrassing when they finally bring you a calculator.  Then you have to explain that you’re brain dead from too much accounting.  And you don’t know French.  So, you really can’t explain.  Oh, forget it.  The pizza’s somewhere between okay-good.  The antipasti is too greasy.  The upstairs is totally ambiance-free.  The owner is absolutely lovely, except I wish she’d stop touching my boyfriend so much.  Yeah, I know he’s dreamy, but really, lady… I’m right THERE!

Will someone please tell me if there’s decent kebab in town?  The kebab on Aristide Briand is crap when compared to London kebab that you have at 2AM with that drunk homeless guy standing over your table drooling.  I’m secretly contemplating vegetarianism so I might not find out about the rest of the kebab in town.  Unless I’m really drunk.  And it’s really late.  

Houston Bar is such an atrocity, it deserves a rant all of its own.  17 EUR for a burrito that is wrapped like a crepe?  It’s unclear what the place really is.  Is it Mexican?  If so, what’s with the onion rings?  Or is it Spanish, because there’s pitchers of sangria along side the mojitos?  But then there’s Kir.  It’s all very confusing and positively not worth experiencing for yourself.  

To end on a positive note:  Aladin, formerly known as Carthigenois (or something like that), the Moroccon/Tunisian/Maghrebian place on Rue de France (across the street and down a block from the Aussie Bar) is incredible.  The Tagine Agneau au Citron et Olives will change your life.  

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If you have recommendations for me, and have correct opinions on food, or a name of a place to avoid, do drop me a line.

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Twingo Dreams

omg omg omg! this ad is the cutest.  Thank you to my lovely upstairs neighbor for this one!  

So, I’ve gotten absolutely obsessed with Twingos.  I see one every 10 feet on Rue de Saint Honoré and I just want to cuddle them.  Or eat them.  I’m not sure which one. 

They’re like the way more adorable French version of the VW Bug.  If the bugs were colored like JellyBelly Jelly Beans, the Twingos are colored like more subtle macarons.  

the boy points out that the obsession with Twingos is simply my building up a justification for buying one when I can probably do without a car.  He might be right, but shhh… don’t tell him.  

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I miss

I could go on and on about how much I miss my wonderful family, my friends back in the home country, the bestest cat ever that I only get to see over skype now.  But instead I’m gonna focus on the more mundane things I miss.  Here goes, in no particular order:

[un] My hand blender.  Though I can’t seem to locate tahini anywhere in Fontaineblows, which would rather diminish the joy of having a hand blender in the first place.  (Note to self: look into importing from London)

[deux] Anthropologie sales.  I must say that I’m quite unimpressed with the Soldes.  The boots I’ve had my eye on are still at 178EUR (down from 300 EUR) and that’s not exactly a bargain.  In countries where governments don’t dictate everything (I believe they use a French phrase for that:  laissez faire), stores are free to have sales whenever.

[trois] Being able to overcommunicate while buying a cup of coffee at D-Nuts.  I remember coming back from a 2 week trip to Korea where I had my friend’s family do all of the communicating for me, and finding that I was using extra words and exceptionally florid language at the JFK D-Nuts upon arrival.  The transaction could have been just as effective had I said, “medium regular, two splenda” but instead it went something like this: “Hi, how are you doing?  Good?  Yep, I’m well, thank you.  I’d like a medium coffee with cream – no, make that whole milk – and two splenda.  Splendas?  Do you say “Splendas”?  You know how when it’s some new made-up word, you never know how to make it plural?  Anyways, two of them please.”

[quatre] Splenda.  Yeah, it’s evil.  Their marketing claim of being made from sugar is total crap, though the story of its discovery is fascinating.   In another 5 years they’ll find it gives rectal cancer to laboratory animals.  But I miss those little yellow packets.

[cinq] I miss that Jamaican place that was a 10 minute walk from my place, run by the kindest, friendliest family.  I should write them a postcard – they were really excited that I was moving to France.  I probably won’t ’cause they’d probably scratch their heads trying to remember me when they got it… but I’m gonna think about it.  Maybe if I mentioned that I always came with that really tall Indian dude who was totally unfazed by their hot sauce?

[six] Speaking of…I miss hot sauce.  Old El Paso at the Champion is just not doing it for me.  Those little packets of “hot oil” they put with the pizza are a joke.  I do like the egg on the pizza though.  That’s good stuff.

[sept] Social responsibility.  I know… I just can’t let this go.  It’s gonna keep coming up in every post, so go read Vanessa Tan’s cheerier happier version of things if you don’t wanna hear this.  I’m talking about dog shit again.  In Singapore, they cane your ass for not picking up after your dog.  In the UK they fine you 80 pounds.  In the States they go for enabling positive reinforcement approach.  And they actually make leashes that have little plastic bag dispenser pouches so that you can pick up after your dog.  Fontainebleau has two (TWO!) shops that sew custom doggie outfits, but not one store that sells a leash with a baggie dispenser attached.  Actually, this evening I saw an old guy pick up his dog’s poo. i saw this happen once in Paris, on the Champs Elysee too.  The guy picked up the dog poo using a napkin, and then proceeded to throw it under a tree two feet away.  The man yesterday actually picked up the poo and took it with him in a plastic bag.  I wanted to go hug him.

[uhh… eight.  I forget how you say eight.  I could look it up I suppose] I miss being around people who don’t smoke.  In my company, we had exactly 3 people who smoked.  There were fewer smokers than presumed Republicans (that one was harder to pin down because the Republicans were all closeted).  None of my friends smoke, so I’m having some trouble relating to or understanding the INSEAD crew of these supposedly intelligent people who are not even sheepish about their addiction.  And then there’s all of France where reportedly 40% of adults smoke.  When I see a smoking woman toting a child or a pregnant woman smoking, I have to resist the urge to punch her in the face.  INSEAD does everything to facilitate smoking, with a smoking area outside of every door (one even has a heat lamp!).  While smoking is no longer allowed in cafes, bars and restaurants, they all still reek of smoke because there’s usually smokers 4-deep standing by the door.  Yes, I’m a delicate flower and the smell of smoke makes me nauseous.

[neuf] Coffee shops.  You know, the kind where you can sit for hours on a plushy couch reading a book or tapping away on your keyboard.  Where they give you latte in a giant bowl that you can cuddle.

[dix] I didn’t think I’d say this, but I miss Whole Foods.  Yeah yeah, there’s a wonderful market in Fontainebleau.  And one day I might even find time to go.  But as grocery stores go, I miss my Whole Foods.  Although a quick word must be said about Picard.  Picard, the frozen everything store, is GENIUS.  I’m really not a fan of all things packaged, pre-prepared, processed, but Picard manages to do it right.  So far I’ve only bought peas, spinach and a bag of mixed mushrooms, but the beautifully done catalogue that made for dinnertime reading last night (yes, I’m an introvert) promises sashimi grade tuna and little bite size mushroom tarts and foie gras poêlé aux fruits épicés.  Since everything in the picard is frozen, and the colorful graphics on the packages are the only means of discerning what’s inside and justifying the slightly ridiculous prices.  Whereas most frozen food, just shows a picture of the Hungry Man Microwaveable dinner in its dinner tray (I mean, why would you even waste time plating a microwave dinner?), Picard photos are professionally styled, garnished, mouthwatering.

[onze] NPR.  I miss NPR terribly.  I can podcast it, but then I think it would just make me more homesick.  And listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! via podcast is just not as good when you catch it live while driving somewhere on Saturday at 11 (or when they re-broadcast it on Saturday evening at 7).  It’s like when you know the outcome of a ball game – it’s not as fun watching it on TiVO.  Or so I’ve heard since I don’t watch sports.  Or TV for that matter. I miss those occasions when I would get to wherever I was going before the show is over, and just sit in the car, with the radio on.

[douze]  TV.  I just lied about how I don’t watch TV.  I used to not watch TV.  And now I’m back to not watching TV – namely because I haven’t figured out how to work the remote and because I don’t have enough plugs in my room to simultaneously plug in the TV and the satellite receiver AND be able to plug in the lamp and the computer.  So light and internet won.  Yeah, I could buy an extension cord, but I don’t actually want to watch TV.  So this complaint is really not earnest.  In the three months leading up to the move to INSEAD, I rediscovered how good TV is.  I caught up on Lost, watched numerous back to back episodes of House (not a good thing when you dabble in hypochondria) and waited impatiently for each new episode of 30 Rock, which is the bestest show ever.  Dad and I even got in some an episode of the Highlander which I haven’t watched since 1998.  Hulu.com knows when you try to access it from France and they’re not interested in wasting their advertising dollars since the ads for MetLife or Tropicana are no longer geared towards me.  I am now a target for racy Orangina ads.

[to be continued…]

Since I love hearing from you guys, tell me what you miss about home!  Or tell me where they sell tahini in this damn town.

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Uno de mis amigos told me about the Paris Syndrome as we made our way home down the dirty, dark rues of Fontainebleau.  The street lights in about a quarter of the town were out, making the already creepy town where every street feels like a back alley feel even creepier.  I now have an adorable bike which makes my commute much more pleasant because I no longer run the risk of stepping into dog shit and I don’t have to yield narrow sidewalks to tempestuous French people who don’t respond to words like “bonjour” or “merci” or “pardon”.  

The Paris Syndrome was first reported in 2004 among Japanese tourists who suffered psychotic episodes when their image of Paris did not jibe with the reality they encountered upon visiting Paris.  Some even had to be hospitalized as a result.  True story!

japanese

All this made me think that I might be Japanese.  

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15391010/

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I’m loving it at INSEAD, if not in living in France.  Yet.  I’m hoping that once I learn some French, the place will start to grow on me.  Like a fine cheese mold.  
 
I don’t know what to make of Fontainebleau.  I’m starting to get the sense that this town and I are going to have a love-hate relationship.  Now that the weather is letting up – just after the frozen circle jerk in the woods that helped us learn about our communication styles and got us to start talking about what we do well together and where we can grow.  I’m being facetious about it because you’re supposed to be facetious about things like ropes course team-building, but I have to admit that it was a day well-worth the frostbite.  We collectively acknowledged that our team’s quest for efficiency comes at the expense of creativity and fun.  We learned that our reluctance to disagree leads to a lack of thoroughness and thoughtfulness.  We saw how one person’s dominant personality can lead to another person’s withdrawal from an activity.  During the day I realized that I’m overcompensating for my dominant personality by being too passive.  I also learned how hard it is to re-set a course when the momentum of the group has set another course in motion.         

But back to FBL.  Let’s enumerate:

LOVE: there are 5 boulangeries and 3 fromageries on my way to school

HATE: they’re never open when I’m walking by.  I also hate that I don’t speak any French and can’t ask anything about the cheese selection.  Then again it keeps me from displaying my ignorance.  Since I passed my Spanish language exam (I’m assuming I passed since they haven’t told me that I failed… faulty logic?  Perhaps), I’m seriously considering taking French lessons to enhance my cheese selection abilities.

 

LOVE: I saw a dude on a bike with a wicker basket full of baguettes

HATE: that he was smoking.  While this absolutely fits with my stereotype of French dudes, I would rather that he have a striped shirt, or a mustache, or a beret, or bushy eyebrows.  

 

LOVE: the Mardi, Vendredi, Dimanche market on Rue Grande

HATE: that I’m always in class (or sleeping) when it’s happening

 

LOVE: the whacky trimmed willow trees all over town.

HATE: the piles of dog shit under each of them.  that’s a serious deal-breaker for me.  I had heard of this before moving to France, but I honestly didn’t believe it, and now I can’t get my head around it.  This is perhaps a topic deserving its own entry.   

http://flickr.com/photos/muddy/384806473/tree1

LOVE: the VERY French carousel in the center of town

HATE:  well… nothing…  there’s nothing to hate about that.  

 

LOVE: the yuppie kichen goods stores in the town center 

HATE: that I can’t afford that shiny Kurn Rikhon pressure cooker with digital read-out or those dreamy silicone terrine pans in pea green

 

LOVE: the “clusterfuck” of people I’m living with

HATE: our douchebag landlords who cut every corner imaginable to get the job done.  Maybe if I had been living in a 25sq m studio in Paris, I could appreciate what we have.  But I haven’t, so I don’t.

 

LOVE: anything that fits within my stereotype of French things.

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