Paris je t'aime: the summer internship edition.
February 3, 2015 12:33 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine may be spending this summer interning in Paris. I'd like some help with helping her plan the best summer internship ever. Snowflake details inside.

So- if all goes well- a dear friend of mine will be spending the summer at her dream internship in Paris. She's trying to get started planning her stay there, but most of the information she can find is geared towards tourists who plan to stay a week or thereabouts.

Pertinent facts:

- She speaks fluent French
- The internship is two months long (June/July), unpaid, but to the best of my knowledge some sort of transport arrangement (Navigo pass or similar) will be provided
- She has a budget of about 1400-1500 Euros per month, excluding the flight to Paris itself.


- The firm she's interning at is not in Paris proper but in one of the outlying areas (connected by commuter train, though.) What would be better, staying in the city and taking the train in, or finding a place close to work and taking the train to the city on the weekends?

- Thanks to the short time period, she's pretty keen on staying in a foyer. However, most foyers seem to have an age limit (25) and she's 26. Will they accept a slightly older student?

- How easy is it to be vegetarian in Paris? I had a pretty easy time of it when I was there, but since my hostel was down the road from a kosher pizzeria I don't think that really counts. She does eat eggs and dairy, fwiw, but no fish.

- Anyone got any tips on how to dress? She's going to check with other people who interned, and ask her office, but at this point she's leaning towards the slightly more formal end of business casual (pencil skirts and nice tops, dress+cardigan, nice flats.) I was a student when I went so I'm no help.

Any other information y'all can provide would be great. TIA!
posted by Tamanna to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would personally stay in Paris and commute out, I've had too many friends that have done the opposite and ended up moving.

No idea about the foyers unfortunately.

For veggie food, her easiest options are North African or Middle Eastern cuisines, these are the restaurants I choose when my veggie dad and sister come to visit.

Her clothing choices sound fine, compared to London I find Paris really dressed down.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:44 PM on February 3, 2015

It really depends on the outlying area - if it's in the west, finding a place out west would be a good idea. If it's out east, northeast, or northwest, then it reeeaally depends, and I'm saying that as someone with friends who live in all of those areas. The best RER line is the A, and any trains serviced by Gare St. Lazare are pretty reliable and well-maintained. The worst RER lines are B and C, due mainly to infrastructure problems (tunnels for B are too small to allow use of double-decker trains, for instance). If you could update with which area her offices will be in, that would really help!

Ask the foyer, since she's a stagiaire they might accept her. If not, look into short-term rentals, which here are generally found by looking for meublé, literally a furnished apartment. It's also the shorthand used for short-term rentals. In summer these are usually pretty easy to come by.

It's pretty easy to be vegetarian here. Ditto, if you can share the area it'll be easier to give recommendations. I know pretty much all the best halal (North African/Middle Eastern/Turkish) places for lunch in and around La Défense, for instance :D they're great for vegetarians. Supermarkets are well-stocked.

Regarding office wear, yeah, the more formal end of business casual is basically how I and my women colleagues dress. Nice slacks, pencil or A-line skirts (knee length is best), blouses, cardigans, blazers, nice flats, low-heel ankle boots.
posted by fraula at 1:15 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stay in Paris. Just being able to grab coffee and a pastry in Paris on her way in to work every morning, and explore her neighborhood a bit in the evenings, will make it feel like a special experience day to day, instead of just having eight short weekends to fit everything in.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2015

It all depends on where she works - I have colleagues with 3-hour daily commutes who live in Paris proper. Losing three hours a day won't leave much time or energy for exploring, especially on days when it's 5 or 6 hours due to strikes (this happened to colleagues on the RER A line last week).
posted by fraula at 1:57 PM on February 3, 2015

Response by poster: She'll be working in Domont, which is on Line H? Her commute from central Paris looks to be about an hour each way, which is better than the hour-and-a-half on three different buses she was stuck with her last time in France.
posted by Tamanna at 2:22 PM on February 3, 2015

Oh, wow, that is NOT an hour-long commute during rush hours, that's at least an hour and a half, probably more. I would definitely look for something in the 93, Saint-Denis. That way she's halfway between the office and central Paris.

If by any chance she's thinking of Montmartre or Gare du Nord-Gare de l'Est areas in Paris, they are better nowadays, but they're still among the iffiest quarters of Paris. (And I say that as someone who enjoys visiting them, heh. Awesome food there, plenty of vegetarian places what with the strong presence of Indian cuisine.) Saint-Denis and surrounds are getting to be more residential, though it can depend. Anything more targeted to short-term stays will probably be fine. It would be a pretty good compromise!

The good news is that transport is very reliable outside of rush hours, so, on evenings and weekends. Plus, the monthly Navigo is dézoné on weekends, so she'll be able to go wherever she wants in the Paris suburban zones.
posted by fraula at 2:39 PM on February 3, 2015

Response by poster: One quick thing, then I'll get off this thread: She's already been to Paris, done the touristy stuff, and is pretty museumed out. (There's apparently only so many pictures of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus a body can take.) She's fine with a slightly longer commute if it means being able to live in a safe area, since she mostly plans on exploring on the weekends anyway.
posted by Tamanna at 2:52 PM on February 3, 2015

How easy is it to be vegetarian in Paris?

Pretty dang easy! It's gotten much better over the years. I'm vegan and was there (and in Orléans) for a year in 1999 and again in 2012. I'll second previous suggestions that North African / Middle Eastern food will be an easy constant. Provided you're ok with falling back on (delicious) couscous and vegetable tagine, you'll never go hungry in Paris. I made friends with a guy who worked in the kitchen at Chez Hanna who was really helpful--his advice was to not be ashamed or afraid to ask a restaurant host if there are vegetarian meals s/he recommends, since most businesses will hear that as a request from you to help them guide you to a way to give them money and experience something they have to offer. Offer flattery, especially if it's sincere: on more than one occasion I was with a group at a very traditional spot and would ask something along the lines of, oh my, this stuffed eggplant dish my friend ordered looks absolutely incredible, would the chef be interested in letting me buy a version made without meat? Usually worked like a charm, and if your friend's French is on point it guarantees a higher chance of success.

Other advice from French friends over the years have included:
-If you inquire about options you can eat and get a very flat, "no" in response, don't interpret that as rudeness. Likewise, the host will not think you rude for responding with, "merci" and leaving to find another place to dine. French restaurants and eaters are expected to be particular and inflexible, so substitutions or omissions aren't always possible.
-Check out buddhist/religious/yoga/etc. orgs, because sometimes they have restaurants that can be amazing. (My favorite vegan meal in Paris back in 1999 was at La Victoire Suprême du Cœur, which was run by a maybe Hare Krishna outfit? Sadly they closed a few years back, as did their less-religious incarnation after just a couple years. BUT STILL, you get the idea.)

Even better, people are much more familiar with végétalien/végétarien today than they were even 15 years ago. You'll sometimes even see them combined into the very clever "végéta*ien" category, and the internet is a huge help in this regard.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:46 PM on February 3, 2015

Paris Gare du Nord to the Domont railway station is only 18-25 minutes and there's frequent service. Domont is kind of cute but there's very little there (though the Renaissance museum in nearby Écouen is worth a visit or two, it's hardly worth living there). I visited Domont a few years ago at the start of a bike ride up to Chantilly; it was nice to take the train from Paris to Domont and avoid riding through the near suburbs, but given the choice between living in Paris and living in Domont, I would hands-down choose Paris.

I'd suggest that she find a place near the Gare du Nord, so in the 9th, 10th or 11th, or possibly Montmartre, as long as her internship isn't too far from the Domont station. Unfortunately I can't help with foyers, since my years in Paris have been in rental apartments. My wife did spend a year as an undergrad at the Cité Universitaire; while that's in the 14th, far from the Gare du Nord, it's on the RER B line which goes to the Gare du Nord, so a commute from there to Domont might be feasible; the site gives a rush-hour time of 40 minutes (8:15-8:55).

Being vegetarian in Paris isn't hard but restaurants can be difficult. There's an excellent Chinese restaurant near République that is entirely vegetarian/vegan, with high-quality mock meats; I can't remember its name but if you MeMail me, I can probably dredge it up. Macéo, behind the Palais Royal in the rue des Petits-Champs, is a fine restaurant that has a vegetarian menu and an excellent wine list. A vegan friend visited me for a few weeks in spring 2012 and though we didn't go out to eat very often (apart from that Chinese restaurant and a pasta place in the 5th, Le Jardin des Pâtes, which has some vegan options), I had no problem getting ingredients at Monoprix and the street markets to cook excellent vegan food. I would suggest she stay somewhere with decent kitchen facilities, though.

If she does end up finding solo housing (e.g. through or VRBO), she might also look into meetups, if she wants to meet other people. Living alone can be isolating. She can also check out the walking tours (conférences) in L'Officiel des Spectacles, as well as free concerts, gallery openings, and other fun free/cheap stuff to do. The Wednesday and Friday evening late opening periods in the Louvre are a lot cheaper than regular admission and, since they're aimed at young people, offer the potential to meet others around the same age.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

She's fine with a slightly longer commute if it means being able to live in a safe area.

I'd definitely look at places outside Paris along the H line in that case. Montmartre/Gare du Nord/Gare de l'Est simply aren't safe for women alone at night. Lots of drug deals and prostitution. They're cool & fine during the day though! Colleagues and I often hop on a train to Saint-Lazare and then take the E to Gare du Nord to eat lunch in the area; she'll need to check out how feasible that is from Domont, but if there is indeed less traffic around lunch time, it should be feasible.

If she loves the outdoors, being in the northern suburbs is pretty nice, there are parks everywhere. She could also take trains to other cities (Lille, Strasbourg...), and there's an easy option to do the H to Gare du Nord, E to Saint-Lazare, and all the trains to Brittany from there.
posted by fraula at 1:30 AM on February 4, 2015

I think fraula is painting the 10th with too broad a brush. My wife and I spent a couple summers living in the 10th, on the boulevard de Strasbourg just north of Strasbourg-St. Denis, and she didn't feel at all unsafe walking around by herself, including well after dark. Frankly, even the most dangerous parts of Paris are still a lot safer than merely marginal parts of Chicago, New York, Philly, or Baltimore. Of course it helps to have street smarts, and to look as if you know where you are and where you're going.

The area right next to the train stations isn't that attractive. But a 5-10 minute walk away is perfectly fine. And with the Vélib' system, she could find a place that's a short bike ride from the Gare du Nord and just use the bike share bikes to commute to and from the station.

All that presumes that her internship is close to the Domont SNCF/Transilien station, though. If it's some distance away, the equation changes. In that case, if she wants my advice, MeMail me.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2015

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