Verdict: Doing a ‘No Added Sugar’ Month in Paris in November

Photo of a glass of champagne with a slice of cake through it.

All throughout the month of November, I decided to do a ‘No Added Sugar’ month here in Paris. This means, no gâteau, no pâtisseries, no sugars in coffee, no artificial sugars, no fruit juices and so on. This also extends out to not eating foods high in sugars in the carbohydrates dietary information that is available in foods, which these days could be anything.

After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I really thought that I’d have a hard time doing this say within the four day and 15 day mark. I thought that I would lack energy, that I would be irritable, that I would constantly complain and so on. But take note, these videos were coming from people either used to consuming mass-produced types of foods all the time.

How my body dealt with it

However, it turns out that my body did quiet well. In fact, I had very little complaints or issues taking out refined sugars and artificial sugars from my diet.  I don’t have this problem in the first place anyway, having completely changed my diet in the past several months. In fact the diet changes I did (intermittent fasting, LCHF type, ketogenic recipes) were far more challenging to go through.

Sugar-free was good for the budget

I went to the gym about 3-4 times a week, which meant that I went through a very busy entertainment precinct in Paris. Doing this sugar-free month actually helped with dealing with the cravings of getting ‘something’ to eat on the way to and from the gym.

It also made purchasing decisions much easier since I defaulted to bananas, clementines, freshly squeezed orange juice (not the ready made stuff), 99-100% cacao (with 1g or 0g sugars for the whole block) and lots of tea to snack on.

There was very little effect with social events

In social events, I usually just have something to eat before going and then have a glass of water.  There was a tart involved which I declined in one of the events. There was also a lunch where I opted instead for coffee. Otherwise, there were little negative effects when it comes to social events and minuscule, compared to if you were vegan.

Expat How To: Take Yoga Classes in Paris

I just started a subscription at a yoga studio here in Paris since early last month. Ever since I moved here late July, I’ve been looking at what my fitness options there. There is actually a range of options – from aquacycling, to the free ‘fitness machines’ available on the streets, large parks where you can even meet with a group and exercise together, as well as a number of gym offerings and other sports centres. They are not usually in large ‘warehouse style’ buildings like you’d expect in North America or Australia, usually quiet smaller buildings just off the street or tucked away in a private driveway.

Whenever I looked for options, I usually considered the following (and is applicable beyond studios):

  • How close is it to me? Can I walk? Or take a bike? I want an option that does not take long for me to get to, especially during the colder winter months.
  • What are the subscription options? For one month? 6 months? It’s really unfortunate, but I have noticed that many gyms will offer low subscription options but they tack on high fees to join, to be able to leave flexibly, to use the lockers and so on.
  • What is the facility like? I’ve seen gyms that look quiet upbeat, and others that are more depressing such as actual doors that had been broken into and dark rooms.
  • What are the people like? If you are about to spend an hour or so in a centre, you might as well also gauge the community vibes.
  • What is the area like? Paris is a very built up city, with many different personalities. It is an extra plus if the area that you go to happens to have a lot of activities or things to do before our after your practice, or if it’s a central transport hub.

Late in September, I was browsing along and noticed an ad that a yoga studio near me is offering yoga in English classes. Not only that, but the classes were free. There was no option to sign up, so I had all the dates in my calendar and I ended up attending to quiet a few free yoga classes in English.

If you are new to the activity and don’t know the language – starting in English is recommended

This is the case in yoga, but can be applicable elsewhere. The reason why is that you are doing a new intensive physical activity. If you are new, then you are not only unaware of the posture names being used, but also what the possible alignment is.

Instructors should be there to make sure that you are not overly straining your arms, legs, back and so on. Doing so can lead to some injuries or at least some discomfort after the practice.

If English is not available, learn the poses first (such as on YouTube) and learn the French language names of the poses.

There are some key terms and phrases that you need to know to get a grasp. Hopefully after taking a few lessons in French, you get an idea of the instructor as well as the French language!

The public parks and gardens of Paris in summer

Paris may be busy in the summer period, but it is definitely a great place to be to capture the floral and greenery of the major parks here. From the large Jardin du Luxembourg right through to the smaller pockets of greenery, these parks offer a respite from the crowds.

A thing I like to do is to grab some fruit, a bottle of water, and a salad from Monoprix or from any of the groceries, sit in the park and eat lunch. It’s a cheaper way to refuel compared to going to sitting in a cafe (which is also nice!).

There was one such time near the Picasso Museum where I overheard a group of three women talking about perfume scents (I think their job involved coming up with ideas to talk about perfumes), not to mention watching the families and tourists alike mill around.

I highly recommend milling around Jardin de l’Ecole Botanique and so on and taking a look at the descriptions (if you can read the French).


Notes on applying for the French Working Holiday Visa


The following were notes of my experiences in April 2018 of applying for the French Working Holiday Visa as an Australian citizen.  Even if you are not Australia, some of the points here may be relevant for you. Enjoy!

Do I really have to go to Sydney to apply in-person?

Yes, yes you do. I’ve called and email many times and you really do need to go to Sydney.  If you are actually residing in a country (as in, registered resident, not travelling) then you may be able to apply for the French Consulate in that country. But keep in mind – in Europe, WHVs for France in a European country is not really that much of a norm considering free movement for EU citizens/residents.  You may also run into an issue where the Consulate may not speak your country language that well. You may also find that the paperwork being provided is provided in the recognized official languages – and by that, where English is not the official language you’ll have a hard time deciphering the paperwork yourself.

And there is also additional staff and security requirements needed to be there in-person where you speak to staff processing your visa, or where you need to provide bio-identification such as fingerprints.

Collate the official resources

Go to the official pages (ie linked to from the Consulate) and collate all the resources that you need for the application.

Look for a type of document that acts as a paperwork checklist that you need to apply. Keep in mind that these checklists are different to a requirements list.  For example, a requirements list may tell you important information like “You need to be x age” but a paperwork checklist document is what you give to the Consulate when you actually apply. They will go through the checklist and tick off the paperwork that you provide.

One of the issues that I had is that I may come across official information that lists out one thing, and in another document, will list out the same information + some new detail. It’s better to be more prepared and accommodate all details.

Keep to the letter of what documents and other requirements are needed

A common question people have is if they can replace one rule with another. A common one is around the issue with return tickets, which for Australians, can be easily upward of $2000 or more. “Do I really need to buy a return ticket? Why don’t I just buy a ticket out of France, like Germany? Or can I just show the amount equivalent of a return ticket?”.

This is not acceptable and you do have to show a return ticket. Even if you tell the Consulate that you intend to apply for another visa, or intend to continue travelling, promising this is not going to work.  So, if it says on the document that you need a return ticket then you need to go ahead and buy one.

The same applies for everything else.  If there is a note about the type of coverage that is required for insurance, thinking “I will be covered anyway by my existing insurer” may not be accepted. It’s your responsibility to ensure that any services you have is acceptable.

What health insurance provider can I go with?

Please note, this is NOT an advertisement. If you are already happy with your insurer, skip this part.  If you are open to new options, continue to read on.

For many years since 2012, I’ve gone with World Nomads as my insurer.  There has only been one time where I’ve made a claim and it was given to me without any fuss. So, I was happy with the service.

When it was time to look for my health insurance, I decided to take a look around. World Nomads had increased their premium by $120 even though my length of travel, regions to cover, and age still remain the same.

I decided then to use the time to look for a new insurance provider.

The requirement was that the insurance must cover any costs of repatriation for medical reasons and any medical emergency treatment with a validity for France and for one year once you enter France.

After some research, I decided to change to another travel insurance provider (which had been accepted) and was about $170 cheaper than my World Nomads quote including their discount of 5%.  When I looked at the paperwork for the repatriation and medical emergency treatments, it was actually similar wording.

How far in advance can I apply?

Once you receive your visa, you have up to 12 months to enter France. Now a lot of people see this part and think “So I’ll just get my visa first and then decide when to go between now and 12 months”.

While you do have some flexibility, this is only on the event of any unplanned events to happen. Meaning, if you have an emergency before leaving, then you may want to put off travel plans. This flexibility is not really aimed at people who want flexible travel plans because they want to leave whenever they feel like it. This is because a) you need to have an insurance start date, since you need to provide proof of insurance anyway, and b) you need to have actually bought a return ticket.

When I arranged for my appointment, it turns out that you can only apply at the maximum of three months before your departure date OR three months before your start of insurance date.  The reason why I say OR is because when I applied for my visa, I only had my insurance with me and no tickets.  When they looked at my insurance start date they mentioned that they will only start processing it a few days after my appointment which would have been 3 months before my proposed visa start date.

How long did it take to process the visa?

Some people have reported four weeks, other two weeks. My visa would have been processed within 4 business days (!!) including the fact that I provided a self-addressed Express Mail post to receive my passport in the mail.  I was really surprised by how quickly this was processed since I also expected four weeks.  It could have also been due to other factors involved, or that there were less paperwork to process on that day.

What happens if I find out that I am missing paperwork and that I have a visa appointment the following day?

This happened to me, so I decided to cancel my flights (since I had to fly to Sydney) and hotel stay. It turned out that you can still go to the appointment and that you can also have other documents mailed to the Consulate.

But keep in mind that this advice was given to me by the Consulate….one day after cancelling.

Also I was missing another piece of paperwork (a return ticket) and it also turned out that you can send it to the Consulate and they will start processing it after they receive it. But, this was after I paid for the visa fee so I don’t know if they’ll have a different response if they realized this before the application.  There was another person at the appointment and it also turned out that she had missing/incorrect paperwork and they asked her to actually make another appointment and return.

This entry is not meant to provide some ‘insight’ into how Consulates work by the way. This is the reason my top advice is to look at the official requirements and to be prepared with your requirements.

Other tips for the Consulate appointment

  • Arrive on time.
  • This is easy to overlook but you need to also provide photocopies of all your documentation.  Even all my passport pages with stamps needed to be photocopied.
  • You cannot arrange your appointment more than three months before your proposed arrival date.
  • A detailed itinerary of what you are doing in France is not required.
  • Evidence of French languages learning courses is not required (although, you definitely would want to learn the French language to make your life better/easier…topic for another post).
  • If you have no other options, you can book a hostel for the week (with free cancellation) and then add that address as the initial address of your stay.

If you are looking for advice relevant to your nationality, please consult your Consulate/Embassy pages.

Paris 2017 after four years!

It has been four years since I last visited Paris in 2013.  It was a cool April where I was still wearing a winter coat.  Back then, I was a lot more spontaneous and unplanned with my travels.  I booked one of those ‘secret hotel’ deals only to be pleasantly happy that I was staying just minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower.  I was there for Art Paris Art Fair and PAD Fair, and simply referred to a map for the big tourist destinations.  I remember wandering around Montmarte shops and cafes (though at the time, I didn’t realize it was the area), Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre.  I was only there for a very short amount of time, before going back to London.

This time, my stay was a lot longer.  I was staying in a lovely apartment in Montmartre furnished with art deco furniture and a number of paintings.  I could tell the occupant was into the arts with numerous books lined up the bookshelves and original works of art everywhere.  I actually had a daily itinerary this time around to help plan the trip.

Paris was a lovely, beautiful city filled with so much history, culture and the arts.  However, it was a reminder as to why I probably would rather be a visitor rather than as a resident. As much as it is a lovely city, I missed going back to Germany after my trip!

A few other (food-related) snaps from the trip…

France 2017 – Exploring Provins, a UNESCO world heritage medieval village in the Île-de-France region

Having been to UNESCO heritage villages before, I really wanted to see what Provins was like.

Getting there

I bought a return ticket from Gare d’Est station and waited almost an hour for the train to arrive.  The trip in itself will stop at a few villages before arriving at Provins.

Walking to the village centre

Outside the station, you’ll be on the edge of the village which is both retail and residential.  Cross a small brook and walk along its narrow streets and you’ll eventually make your way to the village centre.

There is an option to take a taxi or to catch a small tourist bus.  But I think that this ruins the experience of walking through the small town.

I didn’t have a chance to walk around the village that much.  But, there is an amazing French patisserie place that’s opposite the city hall.  They have this amazing chocolate dessert that had chocolate ‘pop rocks’, and inside some chewy caramel bits and just full-on chocolate.

Getting your bearings

Eventually, you’ll notice the towering cathedral and keep.  There is also a bell tower near the village centre which I used as a visual guide to get my bearings.

Making your way to the medieval church and keep

Eventually, you will see some signs alluding to this area.  Just follow them.  There is a steep uphill walk though.  When it’s time to walk down, it’s worth walking downhill from the road that runs around the church (not the road leading out from the keep).  In this way, you will see some wonderful sights above the village.

Medieval church and keep

The church is free to enter, but the keep has an entrance fee. After some exploring, there is a small business from one of the side streets between the keep and the church.  It’s catered to tourists, but has the best local Provins rose jam!

France 2017 – Exploring Versailles and Château de Fontainebleau


Make sure to go antiques shopping in the village of Versailles

Before going to the palace, make sure to have a walk through the city first. There are some wonderful antiques stores in Versailles, as shown in the photos below:

Visiting the Palace of Versailles

When we arrived at 11am, we were greeted by a very long line.

We decided to head out to the Gardens of Versailles first, which ended up being a good idea as during this time it was fairly sparse and you could enjoy the Gardens with very little people about. We went down the Gardens from the right hand-side, walked to the Grand and Petit Palace, then walked back up to the Palace through the Gardens on the left-hand side (by then, it was busy).

By the time we finished the tour of the Gardens and the surrounding areas, it was around 2pm and there was virtually no line into the Palace. We head out for lunch nearby then went back in again to explore the Palace of Versailles, with no line and less people about, until it was closing time.

Château de Fontainebleau

I’ve been watching all two seasons of Reign which is a Netflix show around Mary, Queen of Scots. I was really excited to visit the Château as it was featured in the show. It also contained a lot of French history and does not have the same number of visitors and hype as Versailles.

The palace was originally a 12th century medieval palace, and later turned castle for the likes of Louis VII, Napoleon III, Henry II, Henry IV, Catherine de Medici and more.

Many of the rooms inside were probably more luxurious than inside the rooms of Versailles. My favourite area was Gallery of Francis I, originally constructed in 1528, containing woodwork and paintings.

There is also a garden with a small lake that visitors can hire a boat in outdoors.