Alice’s au pair diary – week 18
It became an actual moshpit of pushing, hugging, jumping, beer showers, kissing, shouting and singing…
After what can only be described as weeks of excessive indulging in French ‘cuisine’ (if croissants and crepes can really be labelled as such!?) I decided to get the fitness juices flowing and kickstart the day with a run. I think it’s important to remember that, when living in Paris for a year, you have to just accept weight gain – nobody is immune from bakery calories! But as one of my close friends here said: “would you rather look back, at the end of your year, and say ‘wasn’t it fun that time I lived in Paris and didn’t eat any of the delicious French treats all around me’ or would you rather say ‘wasn’t it fun that I lived in Paris and ate baguettes up to my eyeballs’!” This obviously comes with some aesthetic consequence/sacrifices but it’ll all be temporary m’dears!
It was onwards then to my lunch shift where I was welcomed in the door by the 19 year old in my hose family who proceeded to show me eagerly a video he’d found on the internet of some police men falling into flood waters after their rickety makeshift boat (of which they accessorised with digging spades as ores!) capsized! It was a funny video but lead to us discussing in depth how utterly crazy this year has been for Paris. From terror attacks to floods, from mass protests to the euros2016 – Paris certainly has had a mad one!
Despite this aforementioned biblical flood weather we seemed to be basking in here in Paris, today was season-appropriately warm! Therefore, naturally this HAD to be the day we were running late for the orthadontist and so the youngest of the host children and I ran the streets of the 16th arrondissement disrupting wholly the chic and calm vibe of the place! Needless to say disapproving glares and tuts were hurled our way as he darted in and out of the clusters of Paris’ well-to-dos!
To make the most of the heat (and to reward myself with a most deserved rest) a friend and I met up to go and chill at the Eiffel Tower. If ever a sequence of two consecutive sentences had been made to summarise perfectly this gap year it was these two utterances that followed one another during our walk: “I hate the Eiffel Tower” “I kinda want snacks”.
“I hate the Eiffel Tower”. We processed to burst out laughing at this spontaneous yet wonderfully typical exchange.
Once we were sat down with a lovely view of the giant beast herself, we took to a friendly game of cards before watching the sun set down peacefully on the ol’ Eiffel. Goodness aren’t we lucky.
A tedious Tuesday was made more enjoyable by an impromptu picnic in the local park with my Danish chum. As au pairs we all have certain days of the week that make us want to rip our own hair out. For me this is Tuesday and so I can only advise that you try and fluff up your routine day of ‘misery’ with something spontaneous to stop the dreariness dragging you down too much.
I was very lucky today however to be blessed with an easy shift that came bearing gifts of a 2 hour break in the middle – I was most surprised let me tell you! I proceeded of course to flee to my room and momentarily pass out of course for the duration of this little gap! When I returned I was welcomed with the very simple task of whipping a fun galettes for din dins! As it was only us children eating the daughter in the family proceeded to blast out the theme tune for the Euro2016 on the speakers and I rolled with it: whilst the cat’s away the mice will play!
A routine coffee and catch up session with my best friend from home (a fellow au pair) was on the cards as always today however this time we opted for to become the opitamy of a Parisian and sit ‘en terrace’. It was all good fun and we felt most chic nattering away about nonsense as the sun trickled down onto our faces.
Once back in the old concrete jungle I arranged to meet another pal for yet ANOTHER chill and catchup! I tell you, au pairing should really add ‘skills in chatting relentlessly – obligatory’ to the job role! It was lovely however to be sat in Tuileries garden on the classic green chairs laughing and gossiping away like we had all the time in the world! I love that most about this year out, just having time. As if Tuileries wasn’t a crowd pleaser enough, upon exit we were also handed free ‘pompotes’ (a classic French children’s staple of purée fruit in a little squeezy drink pouch!) After we of course necked this sugary delights back we remembered that we had jobs to do (oops! Nearly forgot!) and with that we headed back westward to pick up the first infant of the clan! I was yet to meet my friends host children but today I was lucky enough to accompany her to the nursery to collect one of the little rascals! It’s always lovely when you see your au pair friends with their children and visa versa as it reminds you that you are all ploughing away at this job together! It is also very amusing to see each other lugging around infants like middle aged mothers when in reality we’re all young lasses with zero interest in settling down! It was a rib-tickling sight to see my friend pushing a pram along the streets of Paris! We then joined another pal (equally armed with host children) in the park for a brief afternoon play! We found her swarmed by children (the majority of which weren’t even her own) and once we had approached close enough we too found ourselves being jumped upon and babbled at by excitable French kiddos – good to see that’s a universal thing!!
I was back in my host family’s apartment not long after that for my evening shift. It was a super chill affair in comparison to the chaotic ordeal of the children’s park! We played funny monkey board games altogether and a difficult game of ‘a conversation where yes/no is banned’ (in French which certainly scrambled my brain!) It is so lovely when the little fella is all chilled out as he is super cuddly and very sweet. He loves to hold hands and be adorable. There are definitely two types of au pairing, the type where you are a part of the family and will revisit for sure, or the type where you are staff. There is however only one type of ‘child’ and that is affectionate and caring when they are close to you. I appreciate that my set-up is very much so a staff situation and that I probably won’t see these children again. I am okay with this as I think it is good for them to close the chapter on each old au pair and start afresh with the new (given I am number 11 after all!) but I will certainly cherish the little moments of sweetness I experience with these nice kiddos.
I met up with my pals subsequently to go for a sunshine stroll around the bustling streets of the lovely Latin quarter. I simply adore this part of Paris for its chilled out and youthful vibes. We settled down on an outside table amongst the lively crowd sipping their beverages and laughing away around us. We were happy to contribute to this scene of merriment (especially as they gave free bowls of caramelised peanuts!!) I even tested out my friends skills with a round of the same yes/no game I had played earlier with my host child (this time in English so I could actually stand a chance at winning!)
After the lovely evening of relaxing and enjoying each other’s company we plodded off back home only to find a peculiar man ripping the giant metro adverts in the tunnel en route to the train’s platform – the things you see in a city hey!
My Danish pal and I fancied a lovely picnic once again for lunch and so headed to a different nearby park not far from the Eiffel Tower. Amidst all this gloomy flooding it was wonderful to be able to lie on the green grass in summer dresses gazing up at the blue sky and white clouds – I wonder just how long that’ll last!
Thursday are never known for their length … today however was an exception. My host mother hadn’t realised her older children wouldn’t be home that evening and so a routine shift turned into a full on babysitting until midnight. It was quite soul destroying and tiring as it was so unexpected but I guess you have to be ready for little spontaneous niggles like that as an au pair as family life isn’t always routine. There isn’t the same level of pattern as much as say a 9-5 job. The children were sweet however which made it all the more bearable.
I had a lovely big breakfast with my pal comprising of all forms of French delights before we headed off into the east to the tucked away parc floral de Paris. This sweet garden is a sight for sore eyes with its beautiful trees, flora and even peacocks (all span out looking most regal!) We had a fabulous time wandering around soaking it all in and even having a go on the children’s see-saw and zip wire in the park there. It was wonderful to just be away momentarily from the chaos, smells and sounds of the city. Instead our noses were flooded with the sweet scent of the season’s bloom as chirpy little birds gossiped away to one another in the trees. We met another of our pals there before we all camped down for some lunch. The stage in the centre of the park was being sound tested for an upcoming event and so we were treated to some music over the speakers: all adding to the lovely atmosphere!…this was until a swarm of geese decided then wanted to chomp away at the grass we had plonked ourselves down upon and so we were quite abruptly shunted out of there as the fleet approached in full angry quacking chorus!!
It was back home then for a quick work shift of board games and dinner before the evening of sporting madness commenced. As most of you know I’m sure, the football tournament Euro2016 is taking place and this year France is the host! Part of their programming is to have giant ‘fanzones’ set up across the country in cities where games are taking place in order to create a greater sense of inclusivity amongst the public with the tournament. There is a giant one of these zones right next to the Eiffel Tower which comes equipped with many large screens fit for showing the games to the crowd capacity of 80,000!
This of course is an opportunity not to be missed and, of course, France were to play the first game. We clad ourselves in French flags and bought face paint from the local supermarket and dashed down to the site, marching amongst the many many passionate French folk heading there also.
After what can only be described as military security checks of pat downs and multiple bag checks, we found ourselves piling into the fanzone with masses of others. Once we had found our ideal spot we waited for the chaos to commence. I had brought my face paint to the site and whilst I was covering my friends face with French flags many people around us started asking to be painted. Before I knew it, I was the designated flag painter! People approached me asking to be tricoloured up whilst people passing by would tap their cheek pleadingly in the hopes a French flag would be slapped up onto their skin before proceeding to thank me with hugs and even some kisses on the cheek! It was very funny and I think I have the group of young French men next to us to ‘thank’ for spreading the word of my supplies!!
The French were so passionate throughout the game belting out their anthem and proceeding to go utterly mental when they scored. Beer was thrown everywhere as fans embraced one another and jumped up and down in delight. The noise level was crazy as flares were lit up painting the scene in a red celebratory fog against the night sky. A mosh pit of happiness as French flags were swirled around and launched into the air. It was truly amazing to be a part of such an atmosphere: something I know we sure won’t forget in a hurry. It was so nice to have the Eiffel Tower just behind the large screen watching down in delight, celebrating herself with the odd sparkle throughout!
I even managed to find some English folk around me that of course we simply had to chat to! Spirits were high and everyone was just so happy and friendly around us – we had just the most brilliant of times. As we galloped home giddily we swirled our French flags around and delighted in our adopted nations merriment.
Today we arose early to voyage off southward to arguably paris’ collect hidden treasure: Les Grands Voisins. This place is so wonderful. An old hospital has become a converted space for providing refuge to homeless and downtrodden folk. Not only that but it is also a cultural centre for arts workshops as well as a restaurant and cafe where all proceeds go to the project. It is also just generally very cool and chilled. My friend and I decided we are for sure going to volunteer here at some point.
After that we met another of our pals and the three of us headed up north to Belleville to check out the little hidden ‘village’ of Butte bergeyre. The views of the city were phenomenal from this little labyrinth of cute houses and cobbled streets.
After all this roaming we had built up quite the hunger and so organised to meet a group of our friends over in Bastille for a tasty bite to eat at ‘The Grilled Cheese Factory’. If you’re looking for somewhere to offer you heaven on a plate in the form of a macaroni and cheese filled delight than look no further, these guys got you covered. Bellies full to the brim, we all waddled off to the nearby Place de Vosges to digest and temporarily die. We encountered a cosplay convention and were even given free samples of perfume at this park … naturally!
Off to work it was for me then though I was blessed with a very short shift. This meant I was good to go for a round two in the fan zone! Tonight was a big one…my motherland was playing. Myself and three of my friends hurried down to the site with English flags on our faces and three lions on our shirts ready to show our support. If I had thought last night was crazy then this was utterly something else! Complete madness! So many English and Irish folk piled into the fanzone and in order for us to even remotely see the screen we had to barge our way to near the front…aka the danger zone! A sea of red and white and beer is all I will say! It was amazing to be surrounded by our people all smiling and all talking to each other. The chants were sang in full voice throughout the entire match and when we scored … my goodness! It became an actual moshpit of pushing, hugging, jumping, beer showers, kissing, shouting and singing. Beer cups, shoes and footballs were flung back and forth as flares swirled around everywhere you looked. It was utterly incredible and just so overwhelmingly fantastic.
My English pal and I were full of passion and pride and were just delighted to share it with our new friends here and all the English folk out here for the match. We spoke to so many Brits and it was lovely to have an evening of home.
Today was an exciting one for me. My lovely sister was arriving in Paris.
I darted off to Gare du Nord nice and early to go and collect my favourite (and only) sibling! I had gotten very distracted by something whilst I waited at the gate for her train to pull up, so much so that before I knew it she was right in front of my face waving to get my attention! I of course proceeded to jump on her in happiness after having not seen her in four months. We voyaged back to mine to drop off her luggage and to chomp on some food to refuel. We even exchanged a few prezzies with one another because we do love a good spoil of each other!
Once we were fed, watered and rearing to go we headed off to the Pantheon and the Irish Cultural centre (niche I know but our parents are Irish!!!) in order to tick off the obligatory ‘culture’ box of any Parisian trip before we made our way to the Quai de la Villette to visit the infamously adorable Pavillion des canaux. We love a good visit to the quirky house cafe. Each room is styled like a room in a house (to the extent you can even sip your coffee from the comfortable set up of a bath tub!) The cafe was even Alice in Wonderland themed at the moment meaning cute tea parties got thematically even cuter and more appropriate!
After a cosy session we headed outside only to be greeted by the most horrendous thunderstorm you could imagine! We assumed the role of drowned rats as we scurried across the quai in the sheeting rain to the nearby Point Ephimere. This conveniently close by social space was not only shelter from the storm but also a good spot to chill out and watch the football match on the TV in the warm and dry! We managed to bag ourselves some sun lounger chairs in a desperate attempt to imagine we were anywhere even remotely warmer than Paris!
We were now positively famished and so needed immediate feeding! I had visited a place called ‘Margherita’ before with my parents and so knew it would be my sisters cup of tea entirely. We trotted off to the Odeon area and down a cute alleyway to this haven of Italian cuisine. Two hearty margherita’s later and we waddled out of the establishment with pretty sizeable dents in our pockets (thank you Paris prices). As if by some miracle the rain and misery had somehow subsided and so we decided to make the most of this unexpected pleasant weather and stroll! We undertook a mammoth walk ending up somewhere near palais Royal even managing to see the lovely sunsetting upon the city from a spot on a bridge. The Seine has never looked so lovely in such light and I have never been so happy and content as I was with that moment; my sister and I chilling carelessly on a Sunday in Paris.