Alice’s au pair diary – week 3
A lively and packed boat of several dance floors, a cute terrace, bar and food stall, mixed together to create a truly fabulous evening…
An au pair in Paris’ latest blog entry
For all of us currently in Paris you will be fully aware of the apocalyptic style weather we are experiencing at the moment. Like the majority of Western Europe, there appears to be a bipolar storm descended upon us that switches hour by hour, to two fairly opposite extremes. One minute I find myself shielding away from the intense rays of sunshine beaming down through my window and the next I could easily be pressed against said glass in attempt to stop it from being blown in by the gale force winds that batter and attack. As often in miserable weather, you can either view yourself as housebound and, if so, fall quickly victim to the ol’ cabin fever; or, you can chose to make the most of this down time and be grateful that you’re looking at the torrent of raindrops from the warm, dry and toasty side of the window!
I for one have loved the excuse to laze about a bit in between my shifts. I believe the motto “time flies when you’re having fun” certainly applies here as we busy ourselves about seeing as much as we can in any spare hours we can salvage in and around our school runs and lunch shifts. It has, therefore, been lovely to breathe and relax for a little bit – a temporary ‘time out’ shall we say. Today I trotted off (in the precious and momentary gap between torrential downpours) to a friend’s house nearby for a natter accompanied by some cosy tea and biscuits: not a shabby or laborious task at all!
Not forgetting also that today is Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday as it’s otherwise known) and so the evening shift was closed by a whopping crepe session courtesy of my host mother. If today was going to be the last day she whipped up these wonderful delights until Easter, let me tell you she did NOT hold back. It was hard to see everyone around the table as Nutella jars, jams and pancakes were passed about, around and across the table in a twenty minute fiesta of food – truly splendid and delicious!
As I waddled up to my room after this endurance test I crossed paths with a lovely girl who lives on my floor. We chatted for a good while before agreeing to exchange numbers as she had suggested we go for a walk sometime to allow me to practice my French and for her to practice her English. That’s the lovely thing about living in one of these tiny little top floor rooms – there are so many others floating about that there’s a little sense of community up there (well, given we all have to climb eight flights of stairs daily to reach our little homes there’s certainly a sense of solidarity at least!!!)
After a fabulous morning spent in Maisons Laffitte with my best friend, I trotted back towards the bright lights of the city en route to my next engagement. It’s lovely to fill my Wednesday’s with activity – a nice midweek pause and reminder (amidst the monotony of work) of why I’m here in Paris. Today’s agenda was a catch-up coffee date with a lovely lady I met at the very start of my year here. A fellow Brit on her second year of au pairing who was able to offer me insight, advice and a little sense of homeliness at a time that we all need it most (the post-Christmas/mid-winter period of misery!) It was truly wonderful to hear a ‘professional’ of the Parisian scene sharing her experiences and thoughts that were so similar to that of my own – I guess us au pairs really are all in the same boat (how sickeningly cliché but alas, most true!)
Feeling both content and inspired by the little meeting I stuck my headphones in and indulged in my favourite activity of course – wandering! Never would I find myself roaming the streets of the Bourse area by specific desire but in doing so by chance today I stumbled across wonderful hidden gems such as the Palais Brongniart, Place des Victoires and even an impromptu jazz soloist mid-performance totally lost in his own little musical world much like myself – what a lovely little bubble to be in.
A truly splendid day was concluded in a cinema visit on the Champs Elysee after getting let off work earlier than expected! What I love about film showings in cities is that they happen so frequently and in so many different locations that the session you go to is always bound to be pretty empty – this was the case again and I loved it! My friend and I decided to spread ourselves out in different seats in the room because why not – the space was there and so we optimised!! The brilliant two hours of riveting and gripping entertainment came to an end and alas it was time to exit back out into reality; however, strolling out of the complex’s door onto the street only to look left and see the Arc de Triomphe stood prominently and proudly against the night sky isn’t exactly the worst reality to face! We are oh so lucky.
Thursday is always a bit no-mans-land-esque floating in between my nice Wednesdays and the start of the weekend. Despite this I try to fill it with nice little activities whether that be a spot of running, an impromptu French revision session or even a little food shop (exciting stuff I know…) However today called for an emergency tea session at a (very flu-ridden) friend’s house. Hot beverages and cosy chats are a necessary form of medication if you ask me – tried, tested and 100% efficacy approved. Duty shortly called however and I trotted off to buy the daily “baguette et demi” for my little infants. I’m always amazed at how true the stereotype of French people roaming the streets with these baton bread sticks really is (I’m still awaiting the stripy jumpers and berets but perhaps they’ll emerge with time!)
After a fairly long and tiring shift of the ritual board games, piggy back rides and indoor football tournaments it was really lovely to end my night with a lengthy and deep phone conversation with my mother. We chatted for such a long time about nothing and everything – it’s so wonderful to be allowed this level of closeness through technology despite being oh so far away in physical distance.
What better way to start your Friday than by spending an hour and a half waiting in the queue for the infamous Pompidou centre in the pouring rain and cold!! Despite this, a friend and I were determined to finally cross this Parisian beast off the list and hack the painful wait out. This endurance test lead to some rather high levels of delirium resulting in a great deal of pun-making (the best of which being without a doubt ‘Pompa-doodle-doo’…) It was worth it however, as who doesn’t love a good modern art session where you get to pretend to be super pretentious and interpretative (but mostly for the jokes and giggles!). In attempt to defrost and refuel my body I met a friend at the wonderful anti-café in Beaubourg – pay a meagre 5 euros for access to an unlimited breakfast buffet, a barista making hot drinks of your choice, free wifi AND comfy sofas – ugh yes please! The perfect little pick me up before a lengthy Friday shift!
An action packed day called for a slightly more chilled evening of live acoustic music at an Irish pub in Saint Michel whilst sipping on some British cider; not technically and authentic French night out, but a blinking enjoyable one if you ask me!
In order to make the most of the precious weekend, my friend and I were up at the crack of dawn and were trotting off to Le Marais to try out a rather unique bakery. Run by two brothers, ‘Legay choc’ is a colourful and crazy little establishment offering some rather cheeky shaped breakfast goods that you couldn’t help but be amazed at the handcraft of! All giggled up and now well fed we commenced upon our long voyage out to a Parisian suburb to visit one of only three Primarks in the region. Foolish and inconveniently far-out in the eyes of some, we simply couldn’t help ourselves from gravitating eventually to this familiar holy-land of discounted clothing and essentials. Having grown up clad mainly in such clothing we were truly experiencing withdrawal symptoms from this popular chain (plus when you earn a meager 80 euros a week, you will do anything for a discount or bargain).
It seemed as though the majority of Paris had also shared our viewpoint and decided to flood the floors of the shop creating a rather intense and ferocious shopping experience! Saturday retail scenes are often chaotic at the best of times, let alone during the sales period! Well and truly exhausted by the endurance test we had just encountered we rolled back onto the metro and headed wearily (though most contented) back to my room for a cosy film session before my babysitting shift began.
Though said shifts can feel like a dagger through the heart upon mention of them from your host parents as you moodily mourn the death of your weekend fun, unless they plan to rock clubbing hours themselves you can often find yourself (or at least I do) set free around eleven or midnight at the latest! As I’m sure we are all aware, a Parisian night out has merely begun (if even!) at this hour! With this in mind I headed off to a boat party upon the conclusion of the work shift (though watching the French version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here with your host child for two hours probably doesn’t qualify as ‘work’ as such). What a party it turned out to be!
A lively and packed boat of several dance floors, a cute terrace, bar and food stall, mixed together to create a truly fabulous evening. It was brilliant fun hopping from the packed and fun danced floors to chilled conversations with new acquaintances on the upper deck all the whilst catching an occasional glimpse of the twinkling Seine beside you or the equally twinkling Eiffel Tower rearing her very pretty head against the night sky. There’s nothing better in my opinion than dancing the night away with friends and even strangers in one of the many random dance off circles that you seem to always find yourself a part of on nights out in Paris! As was said in a group chat had on the terrace that night, it’s such a wonderful little bubble to be in when in Paris so just enjoy yourself and the experience – no matter how surreal and magical it all seems, it’s happening and fleeting so make the most of it!
Having only returned home at the fragile hour of five AM, a lie in until midday was truly needed and so much appreciated! After this long rest we hauled our refreshed bodies out of bed and quickly got ready to dash off to the cultural Chinatown in the 13eme arrondissment for the New Year Parade. A sea of bright colours, bells, drums, swirling dragons, geishas and dancers spiralled down the parade pathway lined with decorations, lanterns and cheering and jubilant people completely transfixing you. I have personally grown to love these sorts of events where you and so many strangers all come together to celebrate something and it was truly lovely to have shared this special festival and tradition with the Chinese community here in Paris – they certainly know how to put on a show! A large group of us then met up in order to indulge in the Chinese theme of the day and treat ourselves to a hefty 20 euro buffet at one of the many (and I mean many) authentic restaurants there; and let me tell you, we got our money’s worth!
Plates upon plates of noodles and its accouterments were devoured before the unlimited desserts table was conquered and all was washed back with various concoctions of teas and juices at our disposal. A near to three-hour session of good food, great company, conversation and giggles was the perfect way to close off the New Year celebrations of the day and the wonderful weekend on a whole. It’s moments like this that remind you of how incredibly worth it this experience is (bumps in the road and all!)
By Alice Warde