Alice’s au pair diary – week 17
…though the host father coming home to find me emerging from underneath a table in shame was a bit embarrassing and awkward!
After having slept the night at the hotel my parents were staying in, I awoke to have the most incredible shower. I live in a chambre de bonne here in Paris folks aka little hideaways not exactly renowned for their comfort or modernity. Therefore when given the chance to cleanse in a power stream beast I snatched at the opportunity with both hands and I could almost feel the 9 months of grime and city grossness I was wrapped in just being blasted off my skin. It was a wonderful start to the day that was shortly followed by an equally pleasant bakery feast with my parents for breakfast (including an adorable little turtle brioche we simply couldn’t leave behind) All washed, fed and fuelled we were eager to trot off to our first destination, notre dame. My parents have never been in before and I was happy of course to revisit this beautiful den of architectural feats. We stumbled upon, completely coincidentally, a mass service taking place inside. My parents are Catholic and so we decided to join and I can safely say it was one of the most beautiful services I’ve ever experienced. Whilst it was completely in French it was wonderful to be immersed in the history and beauty of this place for an hour or so. Listening to French hymns as you gazed up at phenomenal stain glass windows – a feeling utterly unparalleled. Once the mass had ended the priest encouraged us all to visit the ‘Fête du pain’ that was taking place opposite the church. Not ones to refuse a good old carb scoffing session, my parents and I trotted off into this tent of freshly baked goods to pick up some scrummy baguettes and pizza: there could be worse lunches!
Given we were in the area then, we decided to take a little peak at Shakespeare and company for some new reads. My father is an English Literature teacher and thus any form of book time he can scavenge is greatly appreciated (plus who doesn’t love getting lost in the craziness and chaos of that cute little shop!?)
My mother on the other hand is a lover of cats and so our next pit stop was the infamous ‘Cafe des chats’ in Bastille. My third visit to this place and I can safely say I still adore it! My parents and I delighted and giggled endlessly at the antics of these fluffy felines! Dad was particularly amused by the brave fella who decided to mount our table to suss us out before taking a stroll across each of our laps! Pure brilliance – a certain must see for crazy cat ladies like myself!
On our stroll to Republique subsequently we bumped into the Bataclan theatre. It was a real reminder for me of how lucky I was to be stood there at that moment with my parents when so many just like me can no longer do so. I was just a fortunate young person that night.
As if to make me feel even more appreciative of my fortune and family, we ended up drinking a coffee at the newly installed Fluctuat Nec Mergitur cafe in the square of republique (a recently popped up establishment dedicated to those lost souls on that fateful night).
We had built up quite the appetite by this point despite stuffing our faces with cake at the cat cafe, and so headed towards the environs of the ol’ Eiffel for our pre-booked meal at Le Petit Cler. I simply adore this little joint for it offers delicious French food but the type that is edible and enjoyable!! A hearty steak with all of its accoutrements accompanied by baskets of baguette on refill was followed by a deliciously indulgent creme brulee all for the meagre price of around €20 each! Not too shabby if you ask me!
It is at this point I must put out a disclaimer: Parisian weather can be your worst enemy…and my goodness she was mean to us from this point on. We decided to ascend the delightful tower but just as we did, the mother of all rainstorms blasted down turning the whole experience into a rather intense endurance test! On each level we would dash around the platform to take in the foggy views of the city behind the curtains of sheeting rain before darting back into safety. It became surreally hilarious and surprisingly all visitors were in good spirits laughing and chuckling together about how crazy the experience was – thank you Paris for you excellent timing!!!!!
I unfortunately had to leave my parents early to nip off to work but during my break I re-joined them in the 1er arrondissement. They had spent the morning in the Louvre and I had been indoors and so none of us had really been too aware of the weather situation…relentless is the word. A continual stream of miserable rain showered us as we met up again but it made for some funny moments once we were indoors and appreciating the dry warmth! We nipped into a nearby cafe (after the wonderful Angelinas was jam packed) where we proceeded to scoff back chips and cappuccinos (the classic C combo!) all the while utterly unaware of the €37 bill coming our way – God bless the 1er arrondissement and its extortionately over-expensive prices. My parents, as ever, took it in their stride and, in most good spirit, made it yet another one of our jokes of their trip.
My evening shift was a pleasant one subsequently with many cuddles, hand holding and cuteness from my 9 year old. He is a funny little chap that comes out with some charming little phrases every now and again. Today for example when I told him his English accent was cool he replied “everything is cool chez moi” – kids are adorable weirdos sometimes. Once my host mother had returned and she had expressed her horror at the weather we were having for my parents visit, she set me free early to ‘profitez bien’ of them !
We dined like Italian kings in the restaurant Margherita in a cute passage in the Odeon area. Whilst the decor, food and vibe were gorgeous and pleasant, the prices weren’t so enchanting! Sky high costs but delicious grub!
I opted to join my parents before my lunch shift for a hearty bakery breakfast of pastry goods and revitalising juices. I was even given a free Tropicana orange juice from a promoter by the metro on my way home: pleasant start to the day’s proceedings = check! A routine lunch shift passed with little aggravation (though they will always be tediously tedious) before I darted out of the doors as soon as I could however in order to meet up with my parents again only this time I was accompanied by my Danish friend. It was important for me that my parents met one of my closest friends here. As both my parents and my friend play such a huge part of my life it was wonderful to have them collide. It’s always so exciting when aspects of your two parallel existences merge. We drank and snacked in Starbucks as my favourite people socialised around me. My mother even insisted my Danish pal stops over in old England with us sometime soon – oh how I look forward to that.
I had been blessed with a late start time for the evening and so I decided to bring my parents along the lovely Rue de Rivoli in order to make a pitstop at the wonderful number 59. If an artists squat that’s creativity has infected the entire building with paintings, sculptures and pictures is what you’re looking for then search no further! It was lovely to show such a thing off the beaten track to my parents. Continuing in a similar fashion I showed them the oldest library in France, la bibliotheque mazarine. Given my fathers aforementioned obsession with literature I feel this was a well-appreciated pit stop! After a brief work shift I joined my now pigalle-perusing parents for a meal up north at an Irish bar where we were even treated to some lovely live music. The band must have gotten a warning of my parents arrival as so many of their favourite songs from back in the day were played: oh Paris, you magical and tailor-made beast. A cheeky walk past the moulin rouge all glitzy was in order before my parents and I parted ways for the night. I didn’t have time to be upset as my attention was diverted on the metro to a lively accordion performance of the European classic Bailando and Nossa … it’s at times like these that I appreciate my country’s barrier to engage in European entertainment hits and crazes!!!
I awoke to meet my parents at Montemartre for a day of hilltop hilarity and fun. We popped into the sacré coeur as my parents were yet to see within the belly of this beautiful beast. Upon our exit we were drawn over to an angelic voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar over on the steps. This is what I adore about this area, the constant buzz and activity. If a rendition of REM ‘losing my religion’ didn’t lure my parents over then I don’t know what would’ve done!! It was here then that we witnessed a brilliant spectacle. The singer decided to make his show as interactive and engaging as possible by asking people where they came from then, in the most impressive of fashions, commencing to play on guitar a famous song from said country. A gang of Brazilians were called up to sing Nossa which got the crowd clapping, singing and dancing along! It wasn’t long after that then that a group of Mexican teens were being lead to the mic to sing before an American sang ‘sweet home Alabama’ which had everyone in fits of laughter. Such happiness was felt by all! That has got to be one of my favourite things about live entertainment in general, the way it can bring together complete and utter strangers into a type of community.
My parents and I then had a lovely meal at one of the restaurants up in the main square of Montemartre on the hill. I cannot explain to you how simply ‘Ratatouille’ it is to dine in one of these places – truly adorable!
After a mooch around some of the shops and the obligatory ice creams were had, it was time to collect my parents belongings and head towards Gare du Nord for their voyage homeward. Farewells are always awful, tears will always be shed and there will never be enough hugs had, but it’s important to remember that after a goodbye, the next thing will always be a joyous hello.
I received a call from my pal on the way home asking me if I wanted to join her for a little mooch around the glorious BHV before heading back chez moi for a hilarious chambre de bonne session with 3 of my pals here. We are always so weird and have such funny moments when we have these chill out times together. Pigeon noises are recreated and funny snapchat filters are whacked out – naturally!
One of my friends ended up just camping out over night at mine and we just couldn’t stop laughing at our reality as we fell asleep on two horrendously ancient mattresses in this cramped and decrepit 9 metre squared box. Our reality is hilarious sometimes but we will certainly miss it when it’s all over. I’m lucky to be blessed with such wonderful friends who are happy to stay with me and entertain me when I’m feeling down. And as for my parents, I will miss their company so very much indeed. I realise now how fortunate I am to have two such fabulous people in my life and I’m truly excited to get back to seeing them routinely.
Today was a mammoth shift. The infamous painters were back and so my day was one long house bound session. I arrived at 10 and 11 hours later I was set free! Luckily one of my good friends said she’d accompany me so the time passed quite quickly and painlessly. During my evening shift the little fella was quite amusing with his teaching me French playground hand games. It’s lovely to see that such things are universal and timeless. Myself and the two boys even managed to sneak in a classic game of hide and seek though the host father coming home to find me emerging from underneath a table in shame was a bit embarrassing and awkward!
A hearty spread was had for breakfast by myself and my pal before we headed eastward to check out the much talked about Cafe Ginger. All I can say is it helps to be passionately veggie obsessed to visit here! We took their ‘juice of the day’ that was positively overflowing with health (a smidgen too intense for us untrained folk) It made for a funny experience however as we sipped away at our think, bright orange drink in fits of laughter.
A nearby high street then caught our eye as we idled in and out of book shops, clothing stores and cute alleyways. However, our winner of the day was the concept pop corn shop we stumbled across, Crazy Pop. A wide selection of unique and funky popcorns line the shelves of this establishment whilst the lovely staff offer you sample of any you wish to taste. Once utterly rammed full of freebies we took to buying a Speculoos biscuit flavoured popcorn (What! Something had to counteract all that health we consumed earlier!)
A relatively short shift was then followed by a pre drinks house party at one of our French friends’ pals house. It was great fun as always to test our French skills in the pleasant company of these welcoming folk. We all voyaged off to Nuba afterwards where we chatted to people but also danced the night away with one another, with strangers and even just ourselves if we felt the urge! It was wonderfully fun and good moods and high spirits were all around. On our way out the friendly bouncer had a little evening natter with us which was a lovely end to a fun night.
It wasn’t long after that however that we found ourselves all snug in our night bus homeward bound yet just as we were cruising steadily down Rue de Rivoli we found our bus being pulled over and stopped by the police. It was all very intense as a few officers came on board and called a young lad from the back out of the bus to talk to them. His ‘crew’ insisted upon joining him outside also. Guess the ‘fraternité’ of the country’s motto is taken quite seriously! It wasn’t too long until we were off again and en route to our comfy beds.
The city has been well and truly drenched this week to the extent that it has made history! The waters of the seine have risen 20 ft (6 metres) above their normal height which is its highest in 34 years – a real record breaker!
We had heard along the grape vine about a little gallery tucked in the Far East of the city and we decided today we would brave the lengthy voyage from the far west (our base). Gallerie Itinerrance was a cosy yet fascinating artist space that had been taken over and transformed by ‘Maye’ and her rather steam punk industrial inspired style. It was fascinating stuff and I know I’ll certainly keep an eye open for future works at this little spot! We made a pit stop en route home at Place Louis Armstrong where we, and 24 pigeons to be precise, shared biscuits. We had commenced the session alone but were shortly swarmed by a flock of the cretins all craving any crumb they could salvage from our feast. We were initially annoyed but decided to make light of it all and even began placing crumbs on our shoes to see how close we could hack having a pigeon near us or equally chucking crumbs at the feet of one another to prompt a pigeon stampede in their direction which was also good fun! We laughed an awful lot, the way it should be.
I was summoned over for one of the shortest work shifts on record before I joined two of my pals up in my ‘house’ for our version of a meal (aka a large quantity of pasta – oh au pair life, isn’t it glamorous!)
It wasn’t long after that that we found ourselves trekking up north to the Bellevilleoise for our friends birthday celebrations. The venue was hosting a brilliant ‘music classics’ night and so we boogied into the early hours to the likes of the Jackson 5, daft punk and Bruno Mars and the such! Never have I sung so much during a night out, every tune was a goldie! It was so lovely to be there dancing around with my pals all celebrating our lovely chum’s 19th year commencing! It seemed the rest of the city had similar plans as the night bus was packed full of people beyond belief! Alas we made it home safe and sound and dozed off two consecutive nights worth of sleep deprivation!
We awoke quite late (understandably) but just in the nick of time to trot off to Rue Montmartre to join our pals for continued birthday celebrations. La Cantouche Paname was the warm host of our hearty meal even providing us with free mini croissants for the special occasion! If you’re looking for a place that evokes nostalgia with every glance you make then search no further as this place is lined from head to toe with little momentos of your infancy from toys we all had to sweets we all scoffed! It was most befitting the celebration of a birthday! We all waddled off afterwards full to the brim with our tasty grub…but naturally we needed a crepe. After a long, calorie burning stroll (that we used as evident justification to eat again) we lined up in an orderly queue outside of ‘Crepe central’ (I mean talk about ideal!) where we all armed ourselves with goods. It was over to the nearby Pompidou center then to eat our delights amongst the group’s gathered in the square to listen to a live brass band performing there! It was brilliantly fun and entertaining! That’s what I love about Paris, always something going on! We listened to about 3 different groups performing before we wandered our way over to the marais. In true Paris fashion there was a vintage market occurring in the hall des blancs manteaux which we of course had a gander in (naturally picking out the most horrific outfits we could find and suggesting them to one another)
The sun was shining (wholly not befitting of the meteorological theme of the week but alas!) and so we headed to place des Vosges to bask in the low friendly ray’s of the evening sun. We spoke of life, Paris and our future – it was most cosy and special. The nearby Amorino’s summoned us through her doors subsequently…need I say anymore!
We then decided to optimise upon the long sun-filled evening will a super lengthy stroll. We crossed the bridge onto ile Saint Louis taking in the sights of the setting sun on the elevated river (that was mere metres below our feet if even!) that even the police officers doing the rounds felt obliged to exit the car for and take a picture of! It was all good fun as they joked around with people nearby. Both of the central islands were filled with the sound of accordions and even the odd saxophone – it seems Sunday awakes the cities musical talents (which certainly suits me fine indeed!) We suddenly found ourselves strolling about in the presence of 10 pm though if asked I would’ve guessed at it being mid afternoon with the sun so shining and the amount of activity on the streets! Pure Parisian bliss! Our long walk saw us all the beside the Palais Royal at its conclusion where we stumbled into a #parisweloveyou sign that we, of course, had to take a picture with. Our American friend had issues getting into the ‘P’ (it was ambitiously high and small) but it prompted a sense of community as people helped hoist her up and people cheered and clapped as she poked her little head out successfully. It was a lovely end to a perfect Sunday and in fact a perfect week. I’m so grateful for the people in my life after this week. My family, this city and my new found friends. I will miss the latter so very dearly and as one of my pals here expressed “I dont want to have to go to uni and make new friends when I have perfectly good ones here”. Our little Parisian bubble is perfect but also temporary but I know we will all be fine once the initial period of mourning is over! I love everything about the life we’ve made ourselves over here … though I would perhaps discard of the weather we’re currently being ‘blessed’ with!