Alice’s au pair diary – week 19
we spent our time there laughing at anything funny we saw amongst the art work and even playing snog, marry, avoid with the sculptures…
We arose at the crack of dawn (well, 7 am to most people) in order to get ourselves fed and watered in anticipation of our busy day. I of course had to commence work but my sister who was visiting had a lovely morning of Louvre-visiting lined up! We ‘regrouped’ at Palais de Tokyo after my lunch shift in order to sip back excellently priced drinks and chat away. I love having family visit because it’s so lovely to just sit, fleeting the time away catching up. Given we were in the environs, it felt most appropriate to stroll down to the ol’ Eiffel subsequently before marching back to our area for my evening shift was looming in the shadows of the happy vibes of the day! I had mentioned this visit to my host mother the day previous and she had been generous enough to in fact set me free early this evening to make the most of my guest! My sister is a football mad enthusiast and so I found her in the infamous Euro2016 fanzone soaking up the crazy atmosphere of an Ireland match! It is always so so much fun to be apart of a giant group of people enjoying something and this was certainly no exception! Irish fans in particular aren’t shy of vocal support for their team and so the backdrop to the game was lovely drunk chanting and merriment – a good show altogether! We decided to walk around and actually appreciate the fan zone more this time and I was amazed to see such a well-designed space full of activities and football themed fun! There were pitches set up for spontaneous matches, Fifa games rooms, copious amounts of food and drink stalls and even a Coca Cola sponsored stage that was home to live dance performances! It was altogether great fun to see! Naturally all the food consumption and excitement had triggered quite the hunger in us and so we decided to wander over to trocadero to try out the widely raved about Mokus L’ecreuil (pizza heaven indeed!!) En route we pumped into a large gathering in memory of the victims of the Orlando hate crime shootings a few days previous. Gay pride flags blew proudly in the wind as many comforted one another at this known site of protest. There was something very beautiful about this gathering that accommodated for mass grief and mourning in a united and defiant way. I will miss this about cities, the passion of taking to the streets in response to that which occurs in the news.
Having to be awake at 8 am for my building’s annual ‘cockroach prevention’ ritual, we decided to make the most out of the unpleasant hour by having a full and hearty breakfast whilst a man with a weird gun-like device stuck little blobs of brown substance all over my walls – move to Paris they said, it’ll be chic they said!!!!!. I didn’t quite understand the process nor really care! At least I should be cockroach free for the next month! I of course had my dreaded lunch shift today (as per on a Tuesday) and so we kept it nicely local and low-key. Mooching is a talent of ours! After a lengthy chat with my host mum during the shift about my future plans and my potential return to Paris during my studies I trotted off to rejoin the sis who had, in the interim, wandered off only to return with some goodies for me! She is so kind and generous, I am so very lucky. It was off to the infamous 59 rue de rivoli afterwards then to check out the funky artists squat. This is without a doubt one of my favourite places in Paris. A classic Hausseman building on the outside that has just become a cave of imagination and creativity on the interior. You feel like you’ve stepped into another world which is something very refreshing for a city of such tradition and uniformity. We took a gander over to notre dame afterwards where I left my sister then to explore as, of course, duty called. I didn’t feel too begrudged however as I knew an evening of fun and coziness with my favourite (and only) sister was awaiting me on the other side.
The glamorous gates of la defense shopping was summoning us this morning as my sister had come to Paris with the mission of finding her graduation dress. Of course in this city (the proclaimed home of fashion), we didn’t have too much trouble hunting down a gorgeous dress … as well as treating ourselves a bit too much to some additional goodies!! There was a cool jazz festival occurring at the same time so we naturally stopped for a listen. I am always in awe of this section of the city that resembles nothing like the rest of Paris. It is big and sky-scraper laden: a modicum of the overwhelming grandure you expect from a city (or at least what I, a born and raised country girl, expects!!)
Heading off into the centre weighed down by shopping bags, we were in pursuit of chatlet for some grub. We found a cute little spot near the new forum complex there where we fuelled up before heading to the next door le marais. This area of course being that of the lower classes in older Parisian times and so has an entirely different feel to the place. From the cobbled and uneven footpaths beneath your feet to the quirky and odd-shaped stone buildings that encompass you on the narrow streets, a walk in le marais transports you back in time to a more earthy and adorable Paris hidden behind the big facades of the fancy buildings of the city! A lengthy wander of course lead to a necessary sit down and the converted garage cafe of l’improbable was calling us. This cute space is vamped out with cushions, plants, comfy chairs and even an actual VW hippy van placed in the centre of the space. A must see if you are searching for some cosy time in a cute and quirky cafe. We then headed to the typically Parisian islands where we devoured a macaron (obligatory!) before heading to the oldest library in Paris: la mazarine. A secret and hidden room with book shelves lined up to the ceilings, marble busts at regular intervals and the creakiest floorboards known to mankind; so brace yourself for some classic French glares but own it as you wander around this little secret gem of history. We were in massive need of a rest then after all of our trekking and so headed to the Palais royal garden, sister garden to the massive Tuileries. I much prefer the serenity of this small and intimate place. After a reasonably long work shift we took our tired selves off to trocadero to sit with goodies and enjoy the evening sunset. The herds of cheering and chanting football fans all around too made for a funny atmosphere indeed!
I sent my sister off to the Barbie exhibition today whilst I worked as this too is a golden gem currently in Paris! Especially if you are die-hard/long-time Barbie fans such as my sister and myself! Once we were reunited we trotted off to the fan zone for the England game in the rain (as if by some sort of meteorological homage to our motherland!) The atmosphere was brilliant however despite the downpour as English fans slid and rolled around in mud and continued to chant and be wild regardless! After I had finished my second shift it was off to Montemartre for an evening stroll before stumbling upon many of the English fans who had been at the match earlier in an Irish bar next to the moulin rouge. It was utter madness as the already drunk football folk had fuelled up even more on alcohol and were chanting and singing themselves silly in the bar! It was all good fun however and certainly made us feel at home!
The infamous ‘dooms day’ of anybody’s visit to see you of course is the day they depart again. It is always bitterly sad but my sister and I tried to ignore and overpower this glumness by having a cutesy morning of chilling and pampering. It was off to gare du Nord subsequently however for that ever-dreaded farewell hug and final glance. I care not to count how many times I’ve walked downed the stairs of gare du Nord into the metro blurry eyed from welling tears and I dare not count the number of funny looks that have be cast in my direction as a result! Regardless saying goodbye will always be sad but a cheery hello is what awaits your next reunion. I took myself off to the champs Elysée afterwards to distract my blues with lively city action and buzz. This worked and I felt most calm sat eating my lunch in a small garden off to the side of this busy route. A short work shift saw me free rather early and so my friends and I all gathered at our friends empty apartment to chill and chat late (or rather early!) into the next morning! A perfect evening to remind me that being left behind in Paris with such wonderful people isn’t all too bad!
I awoke fairly late to meet my friends for a midday journey over to the canal to try out the infamous ONLY fish and chips shop in Paris. We are English and so of course we gravitate over to such a place to hover around the mushy peas and thick batter like flies (selling it to you well!?!?!!!)
We gathered another pal and then all trotted out to the musee Rodin (another freebie to us youngsters!) I cannot say that said artist’s work is really my cup of tea, nor that of my closest friend and so we spent our time there laughing at anything funny we saw amongst the art work and even playing snog, marry, avoid with the sculptures! Call us what you like but best refrain from labelling us as traditional art enthusiasts!! A final whole team night together was spent in the ‘host family free’ apartment once again to indulge in game playing (like the 5 year olds we are!!), chatting and laughing until our sides split! I’m not sure what I did to deserve such a brilliantly hilarious and wonderful group of friends by my side here in Paris but I count my lucky stars because they have made this experience incredible beyond comprehension and certainly beyond expectation!
My closest pal here was having her birthday celebrations this week (a bit in advance in order to ensure everyone could be present before we all start parting ways). After having both slept the night at our Danish friend’s we arose, all three, to sing happy birthday songs and give cards to the soon-to-be-19 year old. We then ate a lovely hearty breakfast of warm toasted bread and melted speculoos spread (heaven or heaven?!) We regrouped with some of our additional pals before all stocking up on picnic supplies (including SIX baguettes and heading to parc monceau. It was here that we (now 14 au pairs!) spent 7 hours lounging about and devouring food in the glorious sunshine – pure and utter bliss. We would pause every now and again to play games, all sing to music, be weird (naturally!) and even reminisce about elements of our childhood we all shared despite being from all over the world. Au pairing is such an incredible way to be introduced to folk across the globe and you’ll never cease to spend your time together sharing stories and facts about your homelands – it is so enriching and fascinating. Of course you all spend hours copying each other’s accents too – what else hey! We ate so much (rightfully) including a delicious homemade applied pie and then a classic Colin the caterpillar cake. The birthday gal was a Brit and I think we all can agree no party back in the day was complete until Colin was presented to the table! A little bit of home all the way out here in France! Two of my best friends here we’re seeing each other for the last time today also which naturally was so sad but as I mentioned before it is very important not to focus too hard on how sad it is to say so long but rather to look forward in excited anticipation of a reunion! Regardless we distracted our inevitable glumness by trotting off to Canal Saint Martin to meet our Austrian pal and her visiting friends for a delicious pizza session courtesy of Pink Flamingo. If you haven’t experienced this then you simply must. This company’s concept is cute and simple: order your food, grab a pink balloon and sit by the canal waiting for this food to be delivered then to you! It is so cute and equally very very delicious! There is nothing quite like just chilling sometimes and even though productively levels of today may, from the outset, seem low, it’s important in these last few weeks to just enjoy being together before we all part ways. Paris is great yes but the people I have met here are even better.