no sleep till paris.

My six hours in London quickly came to an end, despite my sleep deprivation, that at first had the day dragging on. My first few hours into my excursion, I was starting to doubt this decision as my exhaustion was coming in large waves, pulsing through my body. Two double lattes later and a soggy egg sandwich, I forced myself out to conquer a gorgeous day in an equally gorgeous city.

Preparing myself for the day trip, I had made prior arrangements to drop my suitcases off at our friend Julien's office off the Green Park tube stop. Julien was Aurelien's best man or as the French call them, witnesses (which is the same thing despite its sterile translation in English). He echoed the warmth he shared with us on our wedding, sending me off with maps, thumbs up, and organizing a mid-day lunch date together. Thanks to him, he was able to free up the 30 pounds that I had been carting around, allowing me to wander, explore and drink Pimms in peace. 

Afternoon Pimms.
Look at this juiciness!
I admit, I wanted more than one...

Two coffees only provided a false-sense of alertness, and had to limit myself to low-energy activities. For example, Top Shop was too exciting for me after only two hours of sleep; the pounding music, loud colors (even if it was adorable pastel mohair sweaters!), and smashing into English teenagers proved to be way too strenuous. I thought I was going to faint. So shopping was out. Way out. Who knows what I would have bought under these conditions. Booty shorts for sure.

Although this top here would have been cute, if it wasn't cropped.

After lunch with Julien at a pub (at my insistence), a walk through Camden Town, and a trip to the Amy Winehouse exhibit at the Jewish Museum, my day in London was sadly coming to an end. For what felt like an endless day ahead of me at 9 am, really slipped away without even realizing it.

Amy Winehouse exhibit
"Tears Dry On Their Own" Dress

To answer why I haven't been flitting back and forth between London and Paris with such ease these past four years -- aside from the cost, as my modest salary and pricey London isn't exactly a match made in paradise -- the real reason was the strict immigration officers I had heard rumors about. On this trip, I had the pleasure of experiencing what I had only heard about in expat tales.

In Heathrow that morning, I was asked to present my French carte de séjour, that foolishly on my part, I had left in an envelope in my checked bag. Because I had not been in the UK for over five years, he admitted me while warning me to have it prepared to present to the officers at the St. Pancras railway station later that day. Deal! Can you imagine if he sent me back to America? Oy vey.

Cutting off my Winehouse tour short, I booked it back to Julien's office to go through my suitcase in search of my French resident card. Because his small office was having a full-staff meeting I quietly slipped out, and on the sidewalk in this super chic neighborhood of Westminster planned to dig through my suitcase in search of the missing document. There on Davies Street, bent over, and much to my absolute horror, I discovered that Aurélien and I had switched suitcases at JFK. He, had my carte de séjour.

For the first time in years I have a concrete piece of documentation allowing to me reside in France; no longer an invisible tourist visa; not a flimsy student visa; but a sparkling new document that allows me to work full time and to create a life in France...and I didn't have it. It was en route to Paris.

A classic me move.

Since I had nothing to prove that I lived in Paris, with reluctance I told the French officer that I was coming to France for vacation. I so desperately wanted to explain my situation but knew that would over-complicate things, risking denial into the country. As he flipped through pages upon pages of Charles de Gaulle stamps, two expired student visas, and two expired temporary carte de sejours, understandably, as my passport looks pretty shady, he had some questions. He wanted to know where I currently reside, how long I was staying in France, why I was coming to France in the first place, and what was in my suitcase. Each answer didn't seem to satisfy him as his thumb fanned through my passport and his left eyebrow remained propped up, surely for effect.

Sneaking in a stronger American accent to sound extra "vacation-y", I answered more of his questions before he landed on my most recent student visa. He looked at it and with his fingers counted how many months it had been since it was expired to see if I was even eligible to re-enter. I was sweating at this point.

Thankfully I had made the cut-off date, he grabbed his stamp and slammed it down on my passport. I sat in the waiting lounge shaking. How could I have been so unprepared? I really don't know what the absolute worst case scenario would have been, deportation back to the States for a few months? Or would I have been allowed to stay in London, have Aurel send my resident card overnight and try again the next day? All of the options would have cost money and time, and I was truly thankful that he let me in. I will never leave the house without my resident card!

After a lovely Euro Star trip (the small upgrade to the middle class really is so worth it!), I was in Paris where I could finally sleep! I catapulted myself into bed for a 16 hour sleep, and have been suffering major jetlag. Although I am nursing a schedule of waking up at 3 pm, going to bed at 4 am, and feeling overall disoriented and foggy, I have to say, it's good to be back in Paris. Who else is ready for la rentrée?

What was going on this time last year?


  1. Eeek, nightmare return home! I did have a bit of a laugh though, as the UK generally has a pretty dim view of French customs letting any old person cross the Channel at will, obviously, only in one direction ;o)

    1. It was a little scary, but once I was on that Euro Star with my complimentary mini bottle of wine, I was made in the shade. I will NEVER make that mistake again! Lesson learned!

      UK officers are tough! Damn!

  2. It's been awhile since I've gone through French customs at a UK train station (when I did trips with the school, it was always by ferry and the driver always said everyone was French - so no customs coming back because it was clear it was a French student trip), but when I went through on the Eurostar, the guy hardly glanced at my passport. Just waved me through. I always got so many more questions going into the UK than back.

    And most recently, entering CDG with an expiring student visa (I had a recipisse in hand though), the guy looked through my passport full of expired visas, asked me how I was doing (WHAT?!), and then stamped my passport, no questions asked. This same guy had given the 3rd degree on another American student a few people before me. Surprised me.

    1. Wow, I can't believe they were so lax that last time you passed through! I have had girlfriends with unexpired tourist visas who were told to go back to Paris (when trying to get into the UK) because they feared that the French wouldn't let them back in to the country.

      The expired visa is definitely a red flag for them. I was doing the three month tourist visa thing the first year I was here back in 09 with no problem. Once I got my visa was when they started asking questions, even when it wasn't expired! Lesson to all: just have your paperwork in order, or in my case, on you at all times!

  3. Wait what??? That was a YEAR ago that you were filming for HHI (which I have still never seen--nor Aidan's either!)??? Sheesh.

    And honestly? I had to get up and get a glass of wine half way through because thought "Oh, she is cooked for sure." Whew!! I have a friend who did not have such a good experience and it was put on her file that she has to have all of the proper documentation next time or they will send her back to the States...

    1. A YEAR AGO!!! I know! We wrapped up filming today (September 2) and how I remember that is because it's my birthday and the crew bought my macarons and sang to me! How time flies, right? When I was in the US, HGTV hosted tons of HHI marathons but they never aired Aidan's (or my friend Heather in DE) episodes! I'm dying to see them!

      I. Am. So. Lucky. that enough time had passed between now and the expiration date of my visa. When I saw him counting with his fingers I was like merde, I'm going back to the States. Thanks for sharing the cautionary tale about your friend. I will never make that mistake again. I'm still shaken up!

  4. Hi! Great fan of your blog - I love that Paris tee (albeit cropped), where is it from?

    1. Hi Joyce! Thanks for commenting! The top is from Urban Outfitters. I should have included a link. Will add it if I can find it online. UO had tons of Paris-centric tops for the Francophile in all of us!

  5. Ella Coquine...I read your blog from beginning-to-end this weekend. I LOVE IT! Congratulations on your marriage, your honeymoon and finally making it back home to Paris. YIKES!

    We'll be moving to Paris late this fall. Gulp! So, of course I have been watching HHI and was so excited to read that you and Aurelian did a show. Um, amazeballs! After a little deductive investigation, I believe they are currently airing Season 43. Your episode is labeled HHINT-4810H. Here's the blurb: Young Fasionista Pursues Dedication for Parisian Lifestyle--Lisa has left her high-powered fashion career behind for the chance at love and a new beginning. Her new boyfriend Aurelian is in the states to help Lisa pack up and bid her New York life adieu. With only Aurelian's income to support them, finding a space large enough to accommodate her trove of vintage clothing and passion for fashion is a tall order. Facing one of the world's priciest cities on a single salary, the need for compromise is at a high request. Watch as Lisa and Aurelian attempt to pursue a relationship as House Hunters International travels to Paris, France.

    With that being said, does anybody know how long HHI's seasons run?!?

    1. Hi there!!

      Wow, thank you so much for this awesome comment and for taking the time to read the blog!

      I wish the HHI episode was online, so I could share it. HHI has SO many episodes that even when they do their marathons, our episode (as well as a few our friends' episodes) are never included, or if they are, it is late night. I hope you are able to catch it one of these days!

      Good luck with your exciting move to Paris and thank you so much for the comment as well as the email you sent my way!

    2. Ella, actually HHI is available on Amazon Prime. You have to pay, but I don't regret paying for your episode :) Slava

  6. Don't get me started on UK Border Agency woes...;)

    Can't wait to be heading back on the other side of the pond:) Glad you made it home in one piece, despite the upheaval in England and the major jetlag. Are you going back to work tomorrow?

    1. Oh Duchess, the jetlag this time around is epic. I pass out around 11pm but my body clock wakes me up at around 2 where I stare at the ceiling until 7 am before going back to sleep. Even if I take a sleep aid, my body clock is stronger and will wake up hours later. It's been a few days now but I am waking up an hour or so early each day. Yeah, I start work tomorrow...and you know what? I'm excited!

      But today is my birthday and once I have organized myself for tomorrow, I'm going to get a massage. :)

      I can't wait for you to be on this side of the pond!! How many days are we at? :)

    2. Only 26 to go!:)

      Happy birthday, Sweetie!:))

  7. Why did they have to ruin that tee by cropping it?! Ugh. (who am I kidding, 20 year old me would have been all over it.)
    So happy they let you back in the country :)

    1. They SO ruined it! When I saw it folded up, I was like, oh yay cute! And then I opened it and it was the size of my baby nephew's onesie, I put it down knowing that it was clearly not made for my over 30 body!

  8. P.S. Loving the Beastie Boy inspired post title :)

  9. They are SO tough at UK passport control. Last November while heading there for Thanksgiving, I went on and on to the man about how I was so excited to spend the American holiday in England where the Pilgrims who left England broke bread with the Native Americans... he was not that interested. On a side note... why are crop tops back in?

    1. Omg. Did you really regale the customs officer with American history "fun facts"? Ahahahahahaha!!!! I can imagine you were met with unamused eyes. Well I would have enjoyed your story, very cute!

      Crop tops, Doc Martins and dressing like TLC are back in and now I feel really old for remembering when it was first in fashion. Geez....

  10. Oh, Lisa, you had it quite easy through the UK immigration/customs

    Picture this... June of last year, i'm all happy to come to the UK , for my birthday, where i'll be enjoying my favourite artist in concert, shop until my feet literally cant move, and enjoy this charming city.

    Came off my BA flight at LGW, cute graphic tee, boyfriend jeans and ballet flats with hair in a bun, paired with my glasses... to sum up the description, i looked nerdy and underage.

    I wasn't upset at all waiting in the long a$$ line for non-European citizen. Got up to the immigration counter, gave them my passport, told them i was here with my fiance who is French, so he's in the other line (saying this while i point him out). There was no problem there, everything went smooth and my passport was stamped.

    All smiles as i exist to collect my baggage. Collected my baggage, and proceeded to walk out to catch a cab to Birmingham. I was in front of my fiance.

    Customs officer utters:excuse me, can you step to the side with your bags

    Me (in my mind): Oh boy what now?

    I did as i was told and stepped closer to him with with bags and my fiance later joined.

    Customs officer: Where are you coming from...

    I stated my origin.

    Customs officer :We are doing random searches of people luggage's, can you put your bag up to the counter.

    Me (in my mind): random check my a$$...

    Custom officer: Did anyone pack your bags beside yourself.

    Me (in my mind): Who the hell would be packing my bag for me? God?

    Me to the officer: No (stubbornly) i packed it myself with the help of him (pointing to my fiance)

    The officer then proceed to unzipped my cute bright pink and coral stripped suitcase and started to throw my clothing all over the little desk in had in front of him. (Mind you , this is happening where everyone is existing). That was the first time in my life i felt ashamed of my lace crotch-less thong. Talk about embarrassment x a billion.

    He then started to wipe the bottom of my suitcase with a hard white paper. He then carried this over to some machine and then walked back to where he was originally standing.

    Customs Officer: Your bag has been tested positive for cocaine.

    Me (out loud): Excusez-moi (i instantaneously adopted my future-5 year in waiting French citizenship). What CRAP are you telling me?

    I started getting furious as this officer was now accusing me of being a mule and smuggling drugs to the UK. My fiance looks on, somewhat confused and was begging me to stop answering the officer in such a harsh, don't-care tone.

    Every question the officer asked me, i turned to my fiance to answer the question , i kept a zero eye-contact with the officer. I was that PISSED off.

    Custom Officer: You know you can speak to me directly.

    Me(Out loud): No, i'm a drug smuggler , everything i say will be brought up in the court of law against me so i'm going thorough my lawyer (fiance).

    Custom Officer: It seems like you want me to do a full cavity search.

    Me: Excuse me?.. You know what, Do whatever you want mister, you wont find anything, and this would be a waste of your time and your hourly rate.

    The officer then proceeded back to the counter, returned and said it was a false positive as it changed when he did it over.

    Clearly he was looking for a candidate for Locked Up Abroad.

    That "tested positive for cocaine" trick will not work on this woman. That wont startle or shock me. It wont make me tell you where my secret invisible "cocaine" is located in my suitcase.

    Luckily the vacation time their made up for his so called misconception and "random"shortlisting of vacationers to feature on National Geo.

    I'll always make a trip to the UK went i can. I absolutely enjoy it.

  11. For your future travels, may I suggest packing your unmentionables in plastic ziploc bags so they don't get pawed directly by some customs officers (gross!):) That's the advice that was given to me and I've been doing it ever since. Makes packing even simpler:)

    1. I know right yuck!

      Thanks for the advice. Will definitely start getting those Huge zip locks bag to put my "unmentionables" haha and other stuff :) :)