Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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The Endorsement: Citymapper app for New York

citymapper wins logoThe situation: You are in New York City. You want to go places but like to take the fastest/cheapest/greenest/most efficient route because you don’t have time to lose.

The solution: The Citymapper NY app. Earlier this year, it won the MTA’s own App Quest competition for being the app that best integrates most of the city’s transit possibilities into one spot. (That’s subway, bus, Citi-bike, rail, walking, taxi and a surprise mode of transit.)

It’s a pretty perfect app for locals who already have a sense of where they are and where they’re going, but for tourists or visitors, it has only the info you need and not a bunch of other stuff. The biggest innovation is that Citymapper integrates real-time updates to the system so that you don’t need to keep track of when a line or station is being serviced, or if there’s work on the tracks. The app does it all for you.

citymapper-new-york 2Additional advantages: Once you’ve installed it, you can add a bunch of addresses to the very clean map within the app and then plot your routes to and from any location. You can then *save* these routes for offline use which is a *key* feature if you don’t have a data plan. And the map will still zoom in and out, even if you’re offline which seems like a simple thing until you use every other app and realize that it’s not a standard feature.

Only complaint: they haven’t made a version for Paris yet, but London (that dump!) is available and presumably equally awesome.

The knowledge (yes, that’s a London joke): Download the free app for iPhone and Android here.

Another tip for visitors

If you’re a world traveler, I’m assuming you have an unlocked phone so I’m working from there. If you go to the US, find a local T-Mobile store and buy an American SIM card ($10) and get a pre-paid credit on it. There are several different rates available but I’m partial to the month-long one (which is usually $30) as I’m never in country that long and it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll use all the text- and talk-time in a couple weeks.

"Diane -- my life would be improved if you provided me with this app. Get on it!"

“Diane — my life would be improved if you provided me with this app. Get on it!”

I recommend T-Mobile over other carriers for a few reasons: the company isn’t horrible like AT&T; it doesn’t have shitty customer service like Sprint; and they don’t require a local address or proof of residence to register the number (you do have to provide ID). They make buying a SIM super easy and the other big companies have historically given me a hard time, trying to sell me a disposable phone or up-selling a bunch of crap I don’t need. T-Mobile recognizes that a customer may come back if they don’t hassle you. (They may also suspect you’re a spy or criminal and want to claim plausible deniability after you’re arrested, but that still works in your favor.)

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Quartino: great pizza in Paris (4è)

The Pizza Cognition Theory, posited by Sam Sifton, former New York Times restaurant critic, states that

The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes … becomes, for him, pizza.

I don’t necessarily agree with the theory, but I like it none the less. Maybe my problem is that I think there are different kinds of good pizza, depending on the situation.

Quartino street

On Rue Rambuteau, between Rue du Temple and Rue Renard/Beaubourg (if that means anything to you)

If I want pepperoni, the only way I’m getting that in Europe is by eating American pizza (Dominos, Pizza Hut) which is fine as the whole experience is nostalgic. If I want my pizza to be a meal, I’ll go to a more traditional Italian pizzeria or restaurant and get something wood-fired with some cheese, tomato, green stuff and a protein on top.

But if I’m just hungry or want plain good pizza, I head to Roman-style pizzerias and Quartino, located in the 4è near the Centre Pompidou (map), is the best I’ve come across in town. Quartino is an al taglio Roman place meaning that the pizza has a very thin crust and is cut to order from a big rectangular pie.

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The place itself is compact but comfortable. Upon entering, you see all the pizzas currently available under a glass case on the left and if you can’t tell what something is, you have to ask because the pizzas are so fresh and go so fast that they don’t bother putting name markers on them.

After ordering at the counter and paying, your pizza is put into an oven and made piping hot. The person working the counter cuts each slice with scissors into smaller, manageable bites and then serves them table-side on a wooden board. And they always give you napkins, something that I really appreciate.

There are a few family style tables with high chairs opposite the pizza case and some traditional two-tops in the back near the open kitchen. There has been an Italian guy in there making pies every time I’ve been which just makes me feel like I’m in good hands.

Mmmm, that's good.

Mmmm, that’s good.

Perfect for: a quick bite or some pizza to go.

Not ideal for: a place to hang out and have long conversations.

Rating: HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Great pizza, clean place, reasonably priced. Quartino gets the Special Agent Dale Cooper Approval Award, this site’s highest honor.

Just the fax, ma’am

  • Quartino Pizza
  • 19-20 rue Rambuteau
  • Paris 75004
  • tel: 01 44 78 10 24
  • Monday-Sunday, 11h-22h