Cats, chats, cuddles and cafes!
La vie d’une jeune fille can be a hectic one when laden down with the daily tasks and time-keepings of childcare but it must be said that there is sufficient free time to allow for some wonderful and truly special moments to happen. As always, yet another week has passed by with a colourful concoction of ups and downs but alas has been memorable.
Today was a very special one for me as I was turning the big 19. A birthday away from home (with all the comforts of family and friends that can be found there) was always going to be a strange one as I was experiencing a juxtaposition of the standard birthday merriment combined with emptiness and a fervent longing for what I was lacking. Despite this, I had my brilliant friends to make my day; I live in the 16eme (the infamous au pair central) and I have been so fortunate in finding myself a little trio of lovely ladies whom I regard as my family here in France. They filled my day with a surprise breakfast of French patisserie’s finest, a hearty lunch at the wonderful ‘Cojean’ followed by cookies, cards and crepes at our favourite local café after work. I must say though that their rendition of ‘Joyeux Anniversaire’ as they approached me with little candles whilst sporting sassy party hats as I turned the corner of my apartment block was a wonderfully makeshift surprise that brought a beaming smile to my face. It’s not the elaborate things that make memories here special (as au pairs with little l’argent to our names!) but rather the small gestures of kindness shared amongst new, but oh so close, friends. After all, “we’ll always have Paris” – our unique, petite, bubble-like experience together.
I’ve also been so very fortunate to be facing this year alongside my best friend from my home in England. A familiar face has always been next to me throughout the varying periods of highs and lows and when the nauseating waves of nostalgia have reared their ugly heads. I feel all au pairs know it is important to talk and share our thoughts and feelings to others in the same position in order to stay sane, and this is what my lovely friend and I do – every Wednesday, without fail! I have been fortunate enough not to be burdened with the dreaded ‘Wednesday shift’ that we all know about and so I get to make this a day of socialising and exploration. Today I visited the beautiful lake of the Bois du Bologne – a quiet spot of utter serenity that brings much by way of comfort and calmness. I recommend sincerely that it is paid a visit, for where better to muse upon your thoughts than when looking at gentle ripples roll over a vast expanse of water?
Today my host family surprised me with a little birthday celebration of a homemade British apple crumble for dessert whilst they sang Happy Birthday to me in English – a lovely gesture of kindness and warmth that reminded me that, even though you do experience moments of lowness in regards to your work (naturally – name somebody who doesn’t!), it could be an awful lot worse! It seems a little cosy ‘cake and candles’ is obligatory on a birthday regardless of location, culture and company!
My weekly routine oft sees Friday as yet another day of exploration (you cannot help yourself in a city such as this – you constantly feel an urge to be out roaming the many hidden and adorable nooks and crannies that Paris of which the city is comprised). This in mind, our wanderlust feet took a friend and I to the very undisturbed and beautiful area of Buttes aux Cailles. A haven of quaint streets lined with endless walls of unique and quirky street art that fascinates and absorbs you fully, as your imagination leads you to feel as though you are a part of a whacky and weird life-size colouring book! This morning of adventure and exploration naturally has to be followed by a café date (this is Paris after all!) After being turned away from the knitting café in the area (YES – a café where you sip on cups of coffee whilst knit-one-pearl-one-ing, we trotted off to the Scandinavian inspired Paperboy Café in the Oberkampf area. A cheeky chai tea was most needed in warming up the old bones after a morning embracing the cold bite of the current Parisian January.
Saturday and Sunday:
The weekend has a habit of being a long way away throughout the week and then, when it finally graces us with its presence, flies by at rocket speed towards Monday! Alas, as usual a jolly time was had truly. A gathering of us decided to quench our thirst for with something of which we have been thoroughly dehydrated … animal loving time. We found ourselves on route to the glorious Café des Chats in Bastille to bask in some well-earned cat cuddles! Let me tell you this café does NOT disappoint – you can sip of hot chocolate whilst you take in the scene around you of a tsunami of cats lying upon sofas, tables and even scaling the very walls of the establishment (I kid you not!) Contented and sufficiently covered in cat hair, we made our way to the metro where a group of people were giving out free hugs! Today was truly a day of cosiness and loving – what a wonderful city!
A weekend would not be complete without a night out, of course, and so Saturday night saw a trip to the wonderfully young people appropriate 11eme. Beginning in Oberkampf but eventually ending up in Bastille, we had to make the walk along the road of the Bataclan theatre to voyage between the two locations. This eerie area silenced us all as we recalled the on goings of that fateful night and became aware that we were just like those who met their untimely ends – enjoying an evening with friends. We really felt reminded of the preciousness of life and how very important it is to live our limited and uncertain time to the maximum – and so we danced and drank the whole night long and raised a glass to our fellow fallen lovers of joy and youthful happiness.
By Alice Warde
Alice is a talented new writer at Ultimate Au Pair and will be posting her weekly diary every Monday. Come back next week to see more!