Paris Thanksgiving Events for Americans

Written by admin on January 28, 2012 – 11:36 am -

Vintage Thanksgiving postcard. Public domain image.In the USA, most Americans are preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, a time to give thanks and catch up with relatives over a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. Under the best of circumstances, Americans travel from different parts of the country for multigenerational gatherings because the days of the nuclear family are pretty much a thing of the past.

No matter what’s happening in these uncertain economic times, many Americans consider Thanksgiving a time to reflect and give thanks. Invariably, less fortunate families are remembered by those who can donate cash, food and/or service at shelters and soup kitchens. Perhaps, because Thanksgiving is a holiday with a muted religious significance, it isn’t loaded with do’s and don’ts. And it is a day to pay homage to Native Americans who taught the pilgrims and new settlers how to survive.

Thanksgiving in Paris

Expats may leave their home countries, but they take their traditions with them, which often become more meaningful when living abroad. Groups such as the American Club, the American Church in Paris and other expat groups sponsor holiday events for the local expat community.

For Americans living abroad, Thanksgiving may still be “your” holiday, but it’s not recognized in France. On the other hand, you will get time off for French holidays, such as religious holiday La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) where people honor the dead. It’s not just an excuse for a Halloween party and trick-or-treating. Some children who attend American schools abroad will be on school vacation, but their parents probably won’t be. Some expat families band together and celebrate the holiday in traditional American style because, if they plan to return home, it’s usually during the Christmas break when everyone is on vacation.

Traveling Americans in the mood to mingle with expats over an American-style Thanksgiving dinner may wish to contact those entities or check the many hotels that cater to Americans who walk in without reservations. If you look in the English-language newspaper (or call the American Church), you’ll find numerous choices. But don’t wait for your invite from the American ambassador to France—the Rivkin family is undoubtedly busy.

Preparing your own Thanksgiving meal in France

Travelers and expats in France can prepare a traditional turkey dinner with the help of American specialty groceries like The Real McCoy (no website) and Thanksgiving. Some larger Monoprix stores have a small selection of imported foods. You can find canned cranberry sauce or jelly, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, and marshmallows to bake on top on the sweet potatoes. They can even buy cans of puréed pumpkin so they can whip up pies in ready-made pie crusts. Don’t tell your French friends.

Stop by your local butcher ASAP to see if you can order a Thanksgiving turkey, which will be small, very fresh and very expensive compared to U.S. standards. Larger French groceries sell larger turkeys, but they’re frozen and, again, expensive.

Thanksgiving has always been meaningful to me. I’ll never forget when my mother came to visit the first year I lived in Paris (we’re talking 20-some years ago). Her luggage included cans of Ocean Spray’s finest tucked into shoes, and unpacking her suitcases was a treasure hunt. That was before the French discovered and started marketing turkey as the “white meat.” The largest turkey anyone could buy was a bird only marginally larger than a chicken. A few butchers in the 6ème7ème, and 16ème arrondissements (where most Americans tended to live) were willing to order large turkeys for their clients. But everything had its time… and that time was Christmas.

Being resourceful and unaware of French agricultural regulations, my mother imported a real honest-to-goodness Butterball in a Styrofoam container. Gee, it had to defrost anyway, and what was wrong with doing it in transit across the Atlantic? When the customs inspectors asked what the trunk contained, my mother, who spoke little French but had a dazzling smile, explained it was for her daughter and Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey and she were waved through security and, yes, it was a memorable dinner.

We invited all of our American friends, who were amazed by the Butterball caper. We also included French friends and professional colleagues who weren’t overwhelmingly impressed by the caliber of the food. Who could blame them? Thanksgiving meals simply aren’t haute cuisine. It goes without saying they were incredibly polite and saved the evening by bringing chilled champagne. We were all feeling less pain by the time dinner was on the table.

I’ve come to relish Thanksgiving dinner with family, American and French friends. The evening usually doesn’t begin until 8:00 pm, and we have a wonderful times bonding over food and American traditions. And lots of wine. Isn’t that what life is about? And something to be thankful for?

Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris:

Check business-hotel chains that cater to North Americans, such as the le Meridien and Westin hotels in the Starwood Resorts group, Marriott, larger Holiday Inns, and Pullman hotels.

American Church in Paris

  • Thursday, Nov. 24 12:15pm service
  • Saturday, Nov. 26 7:30pm Thanksgiving dinner

Breakfast in America

  • their Thanksgiving dinners are fully booked, but you can always try in case of no-shows…

Joe Allen’s

  • Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Nov. 24

Le Ralph’s (Ralph Lauren’s Paris restaurant)

  • Thanksgiving dinner, Thursday, Nov. 24  2 seatings: 6:30 and 9:30pm (reserve now)

Le Saint-Martin Bistrot

  • Thanksgiving dinner for dine-in or take-away, Thursday, Nov. 24 through Saturday, Nov. 26 (Premium Subscribers, see Margaret Kemp’s BUZZ article for full details.)

The Real McCoy and McCoy Café (no website)

  • 2 small grocery shops, Paris 7th: The Real McCoy at 49, avenue Bosquet and McCoy Café at 194, rue de Grenelle

Thanksgiving, the store, Paris 4th

  • grocery specializes in American packaged foods & special-order turkeys

PHOTO CREDIT: Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1900. Public domain image.

Posted in Paris |

France Flu Season and Medical Help for Sick Travelers

Written by admin on January 28, 2012 – 11:35 am -

Dial 15 for SAMU in Paris. Photo: collardgreensI live here and Paris is Paris and it’s my city. But, when I’m sick, my mindset becomes more akin to that of a visiting tourist with only a finite period of time and the desire to do and see everything rather than being sequestered in a hotel room or a vacation rental apartment.

At first I wasn’t concerned with what started as a cold because I had received a flu shot when in the U.S. But the French flu could be a different strain that knocked me down and out for nearly ten days (I lost precise count). Some days were totally lost and there was no way to do more than than sleep, drink LOTS of water and take care of bare necessities between alternating bouts of chills and sweats.

I trudged up to the local pharmacie and described my symptoms, coughing discreetly while covering my mouth. M. Littre listened and headed to the shelves for over-the-counter medications to relieve my aches, pains and runny nose. To be on the safe side, I bought a box of Oscillococcinum homeopathic flu treatment which so many people swear by, figuring it couldn’t hurt and might even help.

My doctor would have seen me but by then I didn’t want to infect waiting room patients. Besides, after a spiking fever set in, physically getting there felt like too much.

After the initial crise passes, flu patients tend to think they’ve recovered and I tried to keep certain appointments. More than once I got up, dressed and found the effort so exhausting that I undressed and returned to bed with a heating pad or a cold pack for my forehead. Boxes of tissues were used with such rapidity that a neighbor brought me six more.

It took time and urging by concerned friends to prompt my call to SOS Médecins, a group of licensed physicians who treat patients in their homes rather than in offices or hospitals. In Paris, they number 185 and work different times of the day and the week. One of the doctors who came to treat me said that he preferred to work hours that met his needs and those of his children. He said being an SOS doctor was more interesting to him than working in a more traditional doctor’s office.

He explained some neighborhoods were safer than others, but there is no discrimination according to arrondissement or building appearance. To protect the physicians (who carry drugs), SOS Médecins dispatchers try to discern which calls are genuine and which could be potential set-ups. If there is any suspicion, a police officer is called to stand by or escort the doctor to the patient’s residence. There are some in France who use the service for their primary care. That’s not the intent of the program, but it’s been known to happen. For people who have trouble leaving the office, it can be an economic savings.

Pack your medical history

No matter where you travel, carrying a brief summary of your medical history makes sense. If it’s a life or death situation (and clearly the flu rarely is), your treating doctor or nurse will need to know your blood type, pre-existing conditions, allergies and medications you’re taking. Ask your doctor at home to give you prescriptions for the pills you’re taking in the event you run out or they’re lost in transit. Every traveler should tuck a laminated card with the name and telephone number of your primary emergency contact into your shoe, which is where emergency responders will look if your wallet or handbag is gone and you’re unconscious in an emergency. If you are traveling with a companion, put their name on the card and include your Paris address, whether hotel or apartment. It would be smart to include your landlord’s contact information, too. Yes, it can all fit on a business-size laminated card.

Advice for foreign travelers sick in France: start at the pharmacy

If your situation is an emergency, dial 15 for SAMU (ambulance) or 18 for the fire paramedics trained to manage emergencies.

If you’re staying in a hotel, the front desk clerk or concierge is sure to have a list of doctors in the notebook that contains names of restaurants and deep, dark secrets, including how to call a cab. Get directions to the nearest pharmacy that’s open when you need it, no matter the time of day.

Paris has several pharmacies required to be on-call or open very late or even 24 hours a day. Here’s a list of Pharmacies de Garde in France.

If you’re staying in an apartment, see if the landlord’s renter’s guide notes the nearest pharmacy and/or an emergency contact number you can call for guidance.

Pharmacists in France have more leeway to dispense medical advice and opinions than their U.S. counterparts, where medical personnel tend to be lawsuit phobic. If you’re visiting Paris and don’t have local connections, start with a visit to the pharmacist at your local pharmacy. They can recommend a nearby doctor, whom they may call to discuss your condition.

Paris pharmacie. Photo: Nick_FisherDon’t worry if you don’t speak French, but it helps to know the name of drugs you’re allergic to or those that you’ve used with success in the past if this is a recurring problem. If you travel with a smartphone, download a French-English medical translator or travel with an English-French Medical Dictionary and Phrase Book. If you feel up to it and your hotel or apartment has Wi-Fi, do a quick search to pick up the words you need to describe your ailment.

If you have a chronic medical condition, have your records translated into French—it’s prudent, saves time and minimizes confusion when minutes matter.

Summon medical help

In Paris (for that matter, in all of France) there are on-call emergency medical services of all types available each and every day. You’ll pay a premium, but who cares when there’s a crisis. Roving doctors arrive generally within an hour and are truly dedicated. SOS Médecins operates throughout the country. After two visits from SOS Médecins physicians, I was on the mend and I once again blessed the French health care system.

Insurance for travelers

SOS Medecins vehicle.

People covered by French insurance find the majority of the cost (or all) is covered. Travelers who need a doctor should dial 3624. You’ll be asked to provide your name, address, and phone number plus a description of your symptoms. If the person who answers the phone doesn’t speak English, ask to speak to someone who does. You can request a doctor who speaks English; the majority of them do.

The severity of your illness will dictate which doctor arrives and with what equipment. It’s no problem if you need a shot because traveling doctors are equipped and able to perform an EKG, blood tests, administer oxygen and more. The doctor may say you should be hospitalized, in which case they’ll complete a dossier to facilitate admission.

Before leaving on your trip, check with your medical insurance company to see if your existing insurance plan covers you when traveling abroad. If not, consider investing in travel insurance. Short-term policies start under $100, which is cheap compared to racking up hospital fees.

Many companies take out policies on their employees who travel for business. If you don’t have it, you can buy travel insurance with your ticket (read the small print please) or through Travel Guard.

If you’re American, please invest in a policy from MedjetAssist. As a member of MedjetAssist, if you become hospitalized as an inpatient more than 150 miles from home, you will be transported at your discretion to the hospital of your choice from virtually anywhere in the world at no additional cost. Having had personal experience with this company, it has my seal of approval.

Paying for medical treatment

If you’re uninsured in France, the price of a house call starts at 70 euros and increases depending upon what’s needed, the day and time. The visit costs more at night and during weekends.

If you’re traveling here and have a medical condition, the French flu or some other urgent medical issue, it’s good to know there’s medical backup if you become ill.

No one wants to be sick when they’re traveling or even at home. But if it happens, it’s so much better to be prepared. If you’re France bound, it’s a relief to know you’re going to receive some of the best medical care in the world. Curl up with your Kindle or a good book, keep the water and tissues near, and make the best of it; after all, you’ll be in Paris.

© Paris New Media, LLC

PHOTO CREDIT: Paris pharmacie ©Nick_Fisher; SAMU ©CollardGreens; Pompiers van ©PrimeJunta

Posted in Paris |