8 Great Vegetarian restaurants in Paris

This is another one of those lists that got stuck in my inbox for a while.

When we were living in Paris, we had a disproportionately large number of Vegetarians visit. We were always happy to see our friends, but it was sometimes a little tricky for them to find good eats. The French are not known to have a strong culture of vegetarianism (some of the things I’ve seen them do to vegetables has been downright shocking).

If you’re pescatarian, or at least ovo-lacto, you’ll always be able to find an option. If you find your diet a little more restrictive, then perhaps some of these options might help.

  • Crepes and Falafal were a staple for our veg friends. For Falafal, either L’as du falafal (a tourist staple) in the Marais, or Maoz (our preference) near St Germain. Crepes are pretty common everywhere, but my favourite place is a street facing vendor near Opera Bastille, on the corner of Rue de la Roquette called Le Bastille.
  • Krishna Bhavan in the 10th is a good bet for Indian food.
  • For Chinese, I’d recommend Tien Hiang. I think that it’s a Buddhist restaurant; they do tasty faux-meat if you’re traveling with a carnivore. There are two locations — the one at 14 Rue Bichat, 75010 is a tad sketchy. I’d go to the one at 170 Rue Du Faubourg, Saint Denis instead.
  • I’ve heard great things about Le Grenier de Notre Dame from a few different folk. They were one of the earliest Vegetarian / Macrobiotic restaurants in Paris, and have a good range of food.
  • There’s an organic pizza place on at #8 Rue Cadet, called Green Pizz, that has really good pizza, and plenty of veg options.
  • La Paradise du Fruit is a chain that should be pretty easy to find. They are a themed restaurant, and everything must contain a fruit of some kind. This lends itself well to vegetarian offerings. In addition to the tasty food, they have killer ice cream sundaes. Feel free to bring your carnivores; this is the only place on the list that has hunk-of-meat options.
  • And finally, the best way to eat Vegetarian in Paris: The markets! We spent a lot of nights enjoying delicious produce from the local markets. There’s never a shortage of tasty cheese, baguette, fruit, pistachios and wine.

There are more options on Happy Cow. These are just the ones that I can personally recommend.

27 days and counting.

This week marks two important milestones.

This past Saturday, the clock rolled over on our last month in France.

On Thursday, we will hit our Parisian three year anniversary, and potentially my last day at the office, depending upon what the prefecture has for me.

As of today, my countdown is set to 27 days in France, 19 days left at the office, and 55 days until I start work in Australia. And there is so much to do!!

Médecine du travail

Yesterday I went to my second, biennial visit to the “Médecine du travail”, or Occupational Health Specialist.

My first appointment wasn’t so great. I didn’t really speak french, so the dialog between me and the doctor was very difficult. I understood the basic questions: Does your head hurt? Does your neck hurt? Do your wrists hurt? etc. But when it came to the phrase “Please remove your pants* and stand in the corner.” I was sure that I’d misheard her. The rest of that interaction was a little bit awkward.

This year I was ready. I even considered ironing my boxers for the presentation, but thought that it might lead to a psychological assessment post evaluation. The appointment went smoothly, and at the end she smiled, handed me a piece of paper ranking my state of health, and said “Pour un developer, vous etes sante.”

“For a developer, you are healthy.”

Thanks, I guess. I don’t know how much lower that bar is, but I managed to scrape over it with nothing more than an ‘Ooh la la’ when I told her how much coffee I drink. In any case, I took my certificate of underachievement back to the office, and I’m able to continue my work for the next two years with the assurance that I am, in fact, “Apt”.

This whole ritual seemed totally bizarre, and exceptionally French, when I first went through it two years earlier. Why should I have to prove that I’m healthy? Shouldn’t I be able to work regardless of my ability? After some time to better understand the way of thinking over here, I’m actually really happy to see this kind of system in place.

The real focus of the Médecine du travail is to evaluate the occupational health and well being of an employee, and the relative working conditions that the employer provides. The benefits to all parties actually seem pretty great when I think about them.

For the state, it’s much more economically efficient to invest in preventative maintenance and early detection than to have to pay out higher benefits – either through the medical or the welfare system – only after something goes wrong.

For the employer, it’s nice to have access to state funded occupational safety experts who can provide consulting services on how to better layout your workplace. I imagine that regular check-ups also serve to reduce the number of work related health and safety lawsuits that a company has to deal with.

For the employee, regular checkups help to detect gradual deterioration problems that they might not be aware of. It also provides a way for an employee to privately raise an health issue to someone that has the authority to mandate a change in the workplace. One of my colleagues once told me the story of when he first told his Médecine du travail that he suffered from pain in his neck. Within a week, the employer had purchased, and reconfigured, a new workstation for him to help avoid worsening the problem. He was also prescribed phyisotherapy to help treat the problem before it became debilitating.

After some reflection, I think that my original ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality that I developed in North America has changed slightly. The let’s-make-sure-it-doesn’t-break idea seems like it would work just as effectively, if not more so. Also, speaking as a resource, I prefer the idea that I am considered as something to be maintained and repaired instead of worn out and replaced.


* Note: I have since told this story to many people, several of whom are British by birth. After getting a lot of strange looks, I discovered a small British-ism that I was previously unaware of. Apparently the word pants in North America, and in France, means the “long pieces of cloth that cover your legs”. The British call these things trousers, and reserve the use of the word pants for when they are talking about underwear.

Normandy (Part 2)

We spent this weekend in north-eastern Normandy. We took a bus there and back, which was a nice way to see the countryside. We also got to experience long-weekend traffic madness, and truck stop coffee. Both are largely unchanged from back home.

This area reminds me a lot of Southern Ontario in the autumn, with huge expanses of leafy trees, all painted different shades of green, gold, purple and red. There are more cows here though, and decidedly less snow.

So much of France seems to be geographically similar to the eastern side of the Canadian shield. It’s not quite as flat as Saskatchewan, but close. The scenery goes on, and on, only broken up by deciduous trees, farmland or giant metal towers, depending upon what parts of the country you are in. The flatness of the countryside extends all the way into the ocean at Houlgate. In the morning when the tide is low, you can walk straight out into the ocean for about a kilometer, along seashell covered sandy beaches. There’s almost no slope to the land at all, so when the tide rises, it doesn’t come in high, like it does back home, it comes in long.

This shows the tide about halfway in. Two hours earlier, the land went for twice as long, and by dusk there wouldn’t be much left here but the cold, cold water of the Atlantic.

It was a quick trip out an back, and we didn’t get an opportunity to see much war history. We found out after we got here that the storming happened a little further west of where we were. Houlgate isn’t much of a historical center at all actually. Since the railway came in 1860, it’s role has been pretty much restricted to cottage country. Nearly every house you see in the village can be described as a cottage (or villa) by the sea.

We are pretty sure that this is the most perfect house for haunting that we’ve ever seen. Perfect for Salty Jean-Claude, the ghost of a lonely fisherman.

The one tourist attraction we did find was a Minigolf course in the city center. Everything here was the same as back home, except for hole 9. This is the hole
I always wanted when I was ten. Basically, there is a step on one end, a batting cage at the other, and nothing in between but grass. You just have to wind up and hit the ball as hard as you can towards the other side. Sarah nailed the opening in her first try.

With our shoes full of sand, and our bellies full of cider, we are heading back to Paris again to meet up with Nick. His ship will be pulling into “Paris” tomorrow, which will be a great opportunity to show him the sites. You can tell he comes from the same genetic stock as his sister. When we asked him what Parisian thing he’d most like to do: drink champagne under the eiffel tower, see the art at the louvre, or eat snails and ground beef, he opted instead for the most magical kingdom of all: Eurodisney.

Normandy (Part 1)

This weekend is the first of two long weekends in November. We will be spending tonight, Saturday and Sunday on the Normandy coast in the city of Houlgate.

I’m not sure how wise it is to go to the beach in November, but between the history, and the cider, I should be able to keep my mind off of the seaside chill.

Pictures to follow, hopefully tomorrow if I have Internet.

The French lessons are paying off; belatedly.

Sarah and I have been taking French lessons through the City’s Continuing Studies program for the last few months. The progress is slow, but I’m definitely starting to pick up some of the finer details that help to turn a conversation from ‘Quoi?’ to some basic level of understanding.

The details in some cases are truly subtle though – at least, for me – and often come a little too late.

Take this example, Sarah spent a good portion of Friday with a bad bout of dizziness. After I got home, I popped over to the Pharmacy and said:

Ma femme a des vertige. Avez-vous medicaments pour les vertige?

Whatever I had said was clearly wrong. Yesterday our class focussed on medical ailments, and I learned that the correct form is actually:

Ma femme a les vertige. Avez-vous medicaments contre les vertige?

Apparently, instead of asking for pills to prevent dizziness, the small change in words actually meant:

My wife has a fear of heights. Do you have any pills to make her dizzy?

Now, knowing why I got that particularly strange ‘I will not be an accomplice’ look from the clerk, I think I should be better able to avoid the mistake in the future.

Next step: Pronunciation. I really need to get to the point where I no longer walk into a bar and ask for a pint of butter.

November 11 in France

November 11th is a National Holiday in France, but it’s not quite the same as it is back home.

In Canada (and other commonwealth countries), we set aside one day of the year to remember those who have lost due to the tragedy of War. In the US, this same idea is captured by Memorial Day, in May.

Here, they have two days in the year that they remember war, but for them, the days are tied to specific events. In France, November 11th is set aside to honor Armistice Day, or the cessation of World War 1.  In May, they set aside time to remember World War 2.

Consequently the ceremonies around the city of Paris were much smaller than I had expected. At 10:45 yesterday I walked down a very empty Champs Elysees to Etoille to watch the ceremony taking place at the Arc de Triumph. At around 11 am, a motorcade drove slowly down the boulevard and stopped at the base of the Arch. Out stepped President Sarkozy, and the German Chancellor Merkel. After a quick promenade around the Arc they jointly carried a wreath to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, listened for the Army chorus to sing their respective National Anthems, stepped back into their vehicles and left. While the ceremony carried almost as much somberness of the one I’m used to watching in Victory Square, it lasted only about 15 minutes from start to finish.

I think the most striking thing of the whole event was watching the crowd that turned out. While it was small, the crowd represented many nations. I heard voices speaking in French, British, North American (USA and Canada, I assume), German, and other dialects. No one nationality dominated the event — this was really a world wide ceremony. And when the last post was played, each person there stopped, waited, listened, and remembered. Together.

Visiting Vichy

This past weekend we went on our first intra-france adventure. For the nine months we’ve been here, we’ve both left the city only once, and always for other countries, so when a friend of ours invited us to stay for a weekend at her parent’s place in Vichy, we couldn’t say no.

Vichy is in the middle of France, about 400 km from Paris. Despite having a long history of being a spa town for the rich and famous, it does not have such luxuries as an airport, or even a TGV line (the super fast trains), so the 400 KM ends up being three hours from town by the ‘slow’ train. Although that seems optimistic in retrospect.

At some point along the trip we noticed that the train had slowed to a stop. Not a scheduled stop, more the sort of stop where you see official looking men with clipboards and funny hats wandering up and down the tracks with confused looks on their faces. In fact, this is the sort where you run for the beer car in hopes that you can beat the rest of the crowd before they realize what’s going on. Thirty minutes, and a lager later, the loudspeaker let us know that the train had hit a tree, and that we might be there for a ‘while’.

So, this brings the following thoughts.

  1. First – Cool! We hit a tree, that’s a pretty interesting reason to be stopped.
  2. Second, how did a tree manage to grow through the middle of the tracks without causing a problem before now?
  3. Third, how did it take half an hour to realize that the train had hit a tree large enough to stop a train. One would hope that this would have been noticed pre-collision, or at the very least would have been obvious within a few moments of inspection.

Perhaps it was invisible…

In any case, this ended up being a 7 hour train ride to Vichy, but we managed to while the time away pretty successfully. Once it became obvious that we were going to be there for an indeterminate amount of time, people popped outside the train to smoke, and started socializing with the other passengers. Our party ended up tossing disc for a while in a farmer’s field by the light of the passenger cars. All around, not so bad a way to spend an evening (but it’s worth noting that the food car had run out of beer by this point).

Fortunately, this didn’t throw off or plans in any meaningful way. The nicest part of the weekend is that we really didn’t have much to do at all. Emeline’s main mission on this trip was to visit with her folks, and go to a bar-b-q Saturday evening. All around, it was pretty chill.

Saturday morning we slept in until quite late, and grabbed breakfast before heading into town for a tour and a haircut (I got a decent haircut! For those that have not heard the hair cutting horrors of Paris, this is big news.) As we drove through the center of town, Myron pointed out a building and remarked “That’s the building with all the dancing old people.”  This of course, piqued my interest, and was our first, and only real, tourist stop that we made within the city.

The building we found was not, in fact, the Geriatric dance party advertised. In reality, it was basically just a really fancy water fountain, surrounded by a decorative building. Vichy is home to several hot springs, and the water here is supposed to have curative powers. Apparently, the elderly come around in the evenings to sip the mineral rich bubbly water, and then cha-cha the night away having been cured of all that ails them.

That evening, we went to a double-birthday-bar-b-q for two of Emeline’s friends. The ladies integrated well into the French conversation, but the three English speaking guys got to play the part of the weird foreign people at the end of the table. Highlights included disagreeing with someone’s name (In French: <>; Me: “No, thank you.”) and confusing the phrase “You must be hot” with “I’m hot for you.”

Sunday we decided to tone it down even further. We started the morning with a 2 hour walk of the village near where we were staying and met some of the local delicacies.

Afterwords, we went back to the house for a traditional 8 course lunch…

  1. Aperitif [Cocktails]
  2. Appetizer [Honeydew Melons]
  3. Main Course [A T-Bone steak the size of a poodle, sliced like a roast of beef]
  4. Salad
  5. Cheese [6 of them]
  6. Coffee
  7. Dessert [Superb!! Basically a Strawberry Tiramisu]
  8. Digestif [Brandy]

This is the kind of meal that really makes me appreciate living in France. It’s not often that you get to eat all of these courses – to be honest, I didn’t know you could even go past 7 without being celebrating Chinese New Year. But the real benefit is the leisurely pace of the meal. We managed to spread this out over more than three hours while we drank wine and shot the breeze in our best attempts at speaking a language that by no means could be called French.

The one thing that we missed that I’d like to go back for is a closer look at the volcano that fuels the hot springs within this region. It’s been dormant for over a hundred years now, and is apparently the third most popular tourist site in France, after the Eiffel Tower, and Saint Chapelle church in Paris.

We’ve been told that there will be a next time, so this adventure will have to wait until then.

Retiring in Europe

We were talking about retirement today at lunch.

Retirement benefits in France are calculated on a point system.

For each year that you work you earn a ‘point’, with your total number of points maxing out at 40. For each point you have, you get better benefits upon retirement. If you max out, you will earn in retirement some percentage of your best annual Salary (people debated as to whether the number was 40%, 50% or 80%).

Points are earnable any where in the EU, and a certain number of points are transferable from other Countries including America (I’m not sure about Canada). Additionally, you can spend your points in any other country in the EU. This means that it’s possible that you could work in Germany your whole life, where wages are quite high, and then retire in France, where wages are low but retirement and medical benefits are high.

An interesting fact that I learned today: You get 3 points for each child that you bear. So, normally a woman can retire with full benefits after 40 years of work. However, if she has three kids, she can retire 9 years early!

Swine Flu returns from Vacation

So it seems that concerns about Swine Flu has breached the Atlantic.
When I looked on Sunday, there was a reported case in the South-West region, near Bordeaux, but nothing confirmed nearby. But it seems like that could be changing.

Yesterday, a lady in my office came back from a canceled appointment with her Dr. As it turns out, her Dr was under quarantine for possible infection. Earlier that week, a patient had come into the office that had previously been traveling in Mexico on Vacation. He was feeling under the weather, so he did his due diligence by getting checked out. His Dr did her work, and called it into the larger medical body in France (whatever the French CDC would be) resulting in both Dr and Patient being put in quarantine for 15 days!

There’s still no word on whether either of these people (or that person in Bordeaux) actually have anything wrong with them, but it’s interesting to note how seriously it’s being taken here.