Author Archives: patricklow

Flat Finding Flashbacks Part 2: Fall


I thought finding an apartment in Paris in January was one of the most nerve wracking, time consuming, soul draining experiences ever. Nothing trumps this fall though, searching for a flat for was a trip down Flat Finding Flashbacks memory lane amped up on humid Paris weather and a flurry of back to school students. At least I didn’t have to spend another 20 Days in a hotel.

This month’s rundown:

205+ emails

170+ calls

15 viewings

8 viewings on “Superday”

4 day of cancellations

3 offers made

2 times being beat out just as papers were going to be handed in

1 new flat

Another 4 months in Paris

Finding a flat in the fall is tough, especially if you consider these circumstances:

  • Can hold 2 people, not a couple
  • Only a 4 month lease – competing against back to school students who want 10 – 12 month leases
  • Don’t speak French (well) Parlez-Vous Anglais?
  • Don’t have guarantors (French citizen who’ll “guarantee” your rent payments if you can’t pay)

All I can say is good luck! Not much to add here that I haven’t already mentioned except start early, always call and be ready to make an offer on the spot.



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Sundays in Paris: Le Marais, Musées and Marchés

Paris, like most of Europe on Sundays, takes its foot off the gas. Time slows and the blistering (kidding) pace of Paris screeches to a halt. Artisans and shopkeepers close their doors to catch up on some much deserved R&R. Which is cool, but what’s open on Sundays?

How is the falafel shop across from L’as du Falafel still in business?

Le Marais: Spanning the 3rd and 4th districts of the right bank, 80%+ of the shops are open for business on Sundays. The trendy Marais brims with an eclectic mix of stylish shops, opticians, chocolatiers and restaurants. Some of my favourite menswear shops and L’as du Falafel are here.

Museums on the first Sunday

Musées: In addition to being open Sundays, every museum is free the first Sunday of month, which means madness. Avoid the “Big 3” – Louvre, d’Orsay, d l’Orangerie and opt for many of the smaller museums or else risk being herd like cattle. All museums have free or discounted tickets if you’re under 26 and/or a student, so no rush.

Porte de Vanves

Marchés: Some of Europe’s largest flea and farmers markets are scattered throughout the city and périphérique. Treasure hunters can go crazy at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen and bulldoze through troves of antiquities and heirlooms. I’m a big fan of the farmers market on Richard Lenoir at Bastille for fresh produce, poultry, seafood and vegetables.

Other things open:

Parks – When are they not open? With many green spaces throughout the city, park life is a Paris staple. Parisiens are also masters of making public spaces their second home.

Chinatown – While most of the city is closed, the streets of Belleville Chinatown are bustling. Even more shocking is that box stores Monoprix and Franprix hold normal shopping hours. Un-French, but also quite awesome, especially when you run out of food.

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Filed under Cheap, Lifestyle, Shopping

Les Soldes – Semi Annual Sale Season in France

Les Soldes. BHV.

From June 22 – July 26, France is on sale. Twice a year French retailers are given the green light from the state to have Les Soldes, or sale season. With the Euro and most items at a whopping 30% off, shoppers can look forward to paying what is retail in other parts of the world.

Nonetheless, it’s serious business. It’s madness. Parisiennes flock in droves. Printemps is a zoo.

Commoners peruse a few days prior, screening styles, mapping routes, and nailing down sizing to streamline d-day. VIP’s fly in, are whisked between stores by drivers, get their Louis Vuitton on and collect fat VAT refunds before leaving the country.

Like boxing day or Black Friday, discounts range from 30% – 60% off, with large retailers holding extended shopping hours the first few days (the only time I can shop in Paris after 8pm). Most everything but staples are marked down, although screaming bargains are few and far between. The best deals are on clearance racks; the last pair of shoes in an odd size in an interesting colour that have been slashed 70%.

Unlike boxing day or Black Friday, you won’t see shops with loss leading door-crashers for the first few people in queue. Or people camped out in sleeping bags.

When the dust settles in 2 or 3 weeks, another round of markdowns comes for items left behind. For savvy shoppers, this is when the real bargains can be had.

To restore harmony in the retail world, next year’s Mens summer collection is being shown at Paris Fashion Week, which runs parallel with the start of Les Soldes. A curious bunch of stylites and fashionistas are in town getting the lowdown on S/S 12. The Sartorialist is here. Fashion bloggers unite.

It’s Christmas in June.

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Bike Sharing in Paris – Vélib Life

Vélib Life

You can’t help but feel slightly awesome when hopping on the Vélib. Vélib is Paris’ bike sharing system, and like many other bike sharing programs in cities across Europe, you pick up a bike and drop it off at any of stations scattered throughout the city for free within 30 (or 45) minutes. It’s perfect for leisurely rides, trekking home after the metro closes, exploring new areas and escaping the sauna-esque metro in the summer.

I was a bit hesitant the first time I got on the Vélib, given the erratic nature of the French drivers. Not to mention the jaw dropping 6 lane roundabouts at République or Arc de Triomphe. But this was quickly subsided with the numerous semi-designated bike lanes, paths and lack of cars (there really aren’t that many cars on the road).

The best part is it only costs 29€ for a year’s subscription, making it a no-brainer if you’re in Paris for any extended period of time.

However, the bikes only have 3 speeds, which has stopped me from reaching Lance Armstrong speeds and bombing down the Champs-Élysées. And if you’re smaller, the bikes can be a bit heavy and seating is somewhat awkward.

Vélib recently launched a straightforward online registration process and if you’re between 14 – 26, you get an extra 15 minutes free, increasing the total free time to 45 minutes. Sweet!

For tourists and shorter jaunts, daily or weekly passes can be purchased at any Vélib station. Warning: these stations only accept credit cards with chip + pin.

Don’t think you’re going to see many people with aerodynamic neon coloured spandex and Oakleys though:

Leave the spandex at home

Maybe something like this:

Place Vendôme

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Travel Essentials: Packing like a Pro

One skill I’ve picked up by flying with RyanAir and traveling by TGV is packing carry-on luggage efficiently. For weekend getaways or week long excursions, there really is no need to use anything larger than a carry-on. Plus, not getting nickel and dimed by Ryanair €15 feels awesome.

Even on my transatlantic voyage, I realized I was wasting tons of space packing the “traditional” way. Using the method in the video, I ended up being so space efficient I nearly tipped the scales at the check-in counter since I had so much extra space.

For every business traveler, packing a suit jacket:

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Semester Wrap Up

What a whirlwind 4 months it’s been. I still vividly recall the days spent holed up in Hotel Armstrong in the 20th (which has the best dining room music and punch-card room keys).

Now classes have ended, a farewall cocktail is planned and the inevitable goodbyes loom in the horizon.

Given the end of classes, I figure it’s the best time to reflect on my courseload. I chose classes that were interesting and unique to ESCP, which means they probably won’t transfer back neatly.

My Courseload

Strategic Marketing – One of the most practical courses I’ve ever taken. We used Markstrat, a marketing simulation where teams selling Sonite and Vodite products compete for global domination over 9 periods. I’m a bit of an analytics junky, but being overloaded with information challenged me to analyze only the most information to refine our strategy and tactics.

Positional Bargaining: Negotiation Workshop – Definitely recommended. While we started off with cases that had a few points to mull over, we eventually moved onto the final behemoth of a case which had 10+ points to negotiate, leading to a very dynamic discussion. The class is completely student driven so what you give is what you get. Being the one of the lead negotiators for 3/3 cases meant a lot of preparation before the hard fought international battles to reach a collective win-win outcome for both parties. Nothing like celebrating over a beer with your arch rivals in the ESCP courtyard after class.

Business Law – An informative look at the American and British business environment and its relationship with the law. It’s definitely advantageous to be exposed to the different legal systems and business implications given the global nature of ESCP.

Buying Your Own Business – While I wanted to love the course, I felt it was to short to deep dive into any topic. As a 5 week “sampler” course, the professor scratched the surface on many topics but didn’t go in depth in any. My key takeaway was a better understanding of the sale process in small/midsize business and the buyer/seller emotions. You really need to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur!

European Integration & Management – A crash course seminar giving insight into the political, social and economic forces that’s shaped Paris (and Europe). This is mandatory for everyone that studies at ESCP and it was very interesting to see alternative management philosophies and cultural differences between Vancouver/Canada and Paris/France.

International Consulting – A short but succinct course giving an overview of international consulting and some consulting methodologies. While there were some interesting sessions by former consultants, what I really enjoyed was working on an optional consulting project. Being paired up with 3 other ESCP students and 4 MBA students from the Technion university in Israel to research and analyze innovative Greentech for use in Paris and Tel-Aviv/Haifa has been very interesting.

Sleeper Courses

The Big Management Fads: Tools and Lessons – Despite the slightly ridiculous name, one of the professors for this class only teaches the EMBA program and is an former management consultant. From what I’ve heard, it’s actually a very interesting course.

Should We Manage Young People And Seniors With The Same Approach? An Insight For Managing People And Understanding Consumers – Yes, you read it correctly. Imagine this gem on your CV. Instahire.

The Best Class I Never Took

Stratégie et Marketing des Industries du Luxe

Stratégie et Marketing des Industries du Luxe – Taught by Christian Blanckaert. Need I say more? I heard that he would be critiquing shops inside Printemps so I dropped by to see what the fuss was about. The man commands such a presence while effortlessly deconstructing a shop’s customer experience, all from a mere glance. While the course is taught exclusively in French, I’m confident this course, moreso Christian Blanckaert, will at least peak anyone’s interest in luxury marketing.

What I love about the course system at ESCP is the flexibility. Some courses run until the first half of the semester and others start midway during the semester. On the other hand, course registration is not done online, but manually. While you choose courses on the intranet, somebody manually registers you into these courses depending on space, prerequisites etc. This means not knowing what your courses you’re in until the very beginning of the semester.

Sidenote: My post on Why I Chose ESCP Europe has been featured on ESCP Europe. While completely unexpected, I have to admire ESCP’s brand management.

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Why I Chose ESCP Europe

Being 1 of the 4 students chosen to study at ESCP Europe this spring (1 of 2 this semester, 1 of 4 the entire year) has made me appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given even more.

Formerly ESCP-EAP, now ESCP Europe

When I chose where I wanted to go on exchange I considered things like the city, school reputation, coursework, night life, cultural experience, cost of living etc.

But for me, the choice was easy. In fact, ESCP Europe was the only school I applied to for exchange. I chose it for these 3 reasons: Professional Development, Academic Development and Personal Development.

Professional Development
When I applied for exchange (January 2010), ESCP Europe was ranked #3 in the world for its Masters in Management program by Financial Times. When I arrived (January 2011), it was ranked #1. It was important to me to be in an institution with high caliber, like-minded individuals. In addition, the amount of networking and on-campus recruiting events have been plentiful. ESCP Europe is unique because its a dedicated graduate business school, which means the school is 100% focused on business.

Academic Development
ESCP has boatloads of options. Courses like “Investment Banking and Financial Engineering” to “Positional Bargaining: Negotiation Workshop” were interesting courses I could only dream of taking back home. Not only this, but many of the professors have impressive industry backgrounds to. For example, the professor for “Strategy and Marketing the Luxury Industry” (albeit in French) was the former Chairman and CEO of Hermès Sellier.

What amazes me the most is the amount of classroom diversity. With ESCP’s 5 campuses in Paris, London, Madrid, Turin and Berlin, its easy for students to cycle between campus’. Its quite interesting to have a group project in “Buying your own Business” when three of your teammates have already worked in M&A, all in different countries. This kind of academic collaboration has been eye-opening for me and helped develop my global perspective.

Personal Development
Coming from Vancouver, I wanted to experience life in a metropolitan city. ESCP Europe is directly in the city of Paris. Paris is gorgeous. While I’m starting to feel settled in, I feel like I could spend years here and still have nooks to discover. The sheer volume and depth of arts and culture, history, monuments and museums is mighty impressive. Not to mention cities like Nice, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble all a short train ride away, its hard to complain.

Things like finding an apartment, living in a city where English isn’t the primary language and taking masters levels classes has moved me beyond my comfort zone. It definitely isn’t for everyone.

To me, ESCP Europe is the triple threat. I highly encourage anyone with the possibility to apply to ESCP Europe (Paris) to do so. Its been one of the best decisions I’ve made my entire life bar-none. Perhaps my only regret is not coming here sooner and staying for 2 semesters instead of 1. A semester here is definitely to short!

There’s no question that I’ll return to Paris sometime. Maybe for work, maybe for fun, but I’ll definitely be back.


Filed under Career, Courses, Food, Lifestyle, Pre-Departure