. . .the personal highlight being my little nine year old rocking a fabulous pair of his mother’s high heeled boots and strutting about the house.
As I’m sure we all know, this job is one riddled with its intense ups and downs ranging from turbulent toddler tantrums to disheartening differences with our host parents. Today, I was having an infamous ‘one of those days’ whereby a series of small instances piled up and overwhelmed me. Individually these things were harmless but when experienced all together within the space of a four-hour work shift they can be toxic for the serotonin levels, leaving you feeling very low indeed.
Despite this, the day was not all doom and gloom (the personal highlight being my little nine year old rocking a fabulous pair of his mother’s high heeled boots and strutting about the house) and we have to try and focus upon these small moments when we feel down. I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that the beginning of the week is routinely difficult as it comes around like a sharp and painful paper cut, taking us by surprise and stinging a little after fabulous and romantically Parisian weekends…so Monday merriment is never going to be the order of the day! I know I have to learn to embrace these little bumps in the road as a part of life as an au pair and in life in general; no job is perfect, no family is perfect and nobody is immune from little periods of sorrow – the important part is to pick yourself back up with some snuggly pyjamas, a cheery film and a warm and cosy cup of tea (sorry, I’m English – tea is always the cure!)
One word folks … crepes. After the stinker of a day yesterday I had high hopes for Tuesday, and let me tell you she did NOT disappoint! When my host mother arrived home she informed me that tonight’s ‘formule’ was galettes followed by crepes for some religious reason I didn’t fully appreciate (the foreign language comprehension part of my brain tends to zone out a little at the mention of any indulgent French cuisine, understandably).
I’m sure these two batter-filled delights need neither explanation nor definition for the majority of us, yet if you are unfortunate enough to have somehow passed your time here without encountering these beasts then I feel for you truly! I have, myself, become a bit of an addict; so, when offered a cheesy and crispy galette followed by four homemade crepes slathered in various concoctions of Nutella, Ovo and jam, I simply couldn’t refuse…I question if my waste-line will thank me in the long run but for now my taste-buds will be dancing happily all night long whilst they bask in the memory of the goods just consumed.
But alas, the night won’t end here (though given the amount I’ve just eaten I should probably have a recuperative nap!) It’s off now to spend some quality time with my favourite bookshop ‘Shakespeare and Co.’ with one of my best friends here, a fellow bookworm! Where better to get in touch with the creative greats of the literature world passed (many of whom roamed these very streets we tread foot upon) than at this cosy and adorable little gem tucked away in the Notre Dame area. And anyhow, Paris is always better at night – she’s the city of lights is she not!?
Today commenced with the routine coffee and catch up session with a lovely pal. Those fifteen minutes of RER time spent voyaging out to her town in the suburbs are arguably fifteen of my favourite of the week; A period of calmness and serenity as I sit listening to music, musing upon my thoughts all whilst taking in the vast expanse of land out of the window that seems to travel on for infinity. It is so important to take time out to just be still and pensive when you are absorbed in a chaotic frenzy of a country’s capital for the majority of the week (especially when you’re a country gal like myself!). Don’t get me wrong I truly love the hustle, bustle and excitement that Paris has to offer but I can also appreciate nicely a little time of juxtaposition elsewhere.
This lovely and calm morning was followed by a lively afternoon in my favourite corner of the city – the rustic Marais. What better way than to treat yourself to a rummage around the vintage shops (being amazed at how you can discover a REAL Burberry trench coat costing a mere 35 euros)? This of course naturally has to be followed by an (overly) indulgent yet (overly) delicious falafel lunch from the renowned ‘L’as du falafel’ before ending the day sipping down a macchiato watching the chic bobo crowd strut along the streets from behind the window of one of the area’s many quirky yet cosy cafes. I personally can think of no afternoon of activity than can rival that of one spent in this chilled and fascinating little patch of perfection.
As the drudgery of work approached, we headed gloomily back to the metro station only to be serenaded by a busker giving a most angelic and beautiful performance of the classic ‘Hallelujah’. What a nice little pick me up indeed.
No coats needed – I repeat: NO COATS NEEDED!!! After the slightly Narnia-esque winter we have had in this city the past few months, it seems as though Paris has finally received the spring memo and is slowly shifting herself (albeit lazily) into longer, warmer and less cold days! It seems that gloomy shades are the protocol for winter clothing in a city (to reflect the mood I’m sure) but I’m greatly excited by the occasional glimpses of colour I catch out of the corner of my eye as I stroll along the streets. And let me tell you I was most excited to be able to thrust aside my depressing winter shell today.
A standard day of working later culminated in a nice little evening surprise. You know you have made good friends here when they decide to secretly climb the 8 flights of stairs to your room (I live in one of the infamous rooftop box chambres) with a bag of goodies from Monoprix in order to have a cosy film session. Of course the fabulous Disney classic Ratatouille was our film of choice (the sole culprit to be blamed for our love affair and lust for the city of Paris).
What a wonderful period of limbo we are living in on this gap year – I struggle to imagine when it will ever be again accepted to while away your Thursday nights engrossed in the tale of the culinary pursuit of a fictional rat whilst Kinder Bueno bar wrappers begin to pile up in mounds around you all. It’s a wonderful and stress-free reality that I know we will all look back fondly upon. As the Mary Oliver quote goes: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Well I plan to live in the little moments of bliss such as these.
A busy and exhausting week of work calls for one thing and for one thing only … a civilised cocktail at a swanky jazz bar followed by a lively night at Café Oz to dance your troubles away to a fine selection of the cheesiest pop music Europe can throw in your direction.
Wanting a slightly slower start to the day after the late night previous, I spent the morning organising my memory scrap book: a colourful collection of knick-knacks I’ve saved so far ranging from café cards to museum maps. I think mementos are so important; a physical reminder of what you did before you leave the city and it all becomes a bit distant and dream like.
A little gaggle of us then decided to take full advantage of the beautiful summer sun that chose to rear its head today, and stroll about the city. I’m a firm believer that the best activity here is to simply roam the network of intertwining and quaint streets. Of course stopping for a café break is obligatory is this capital and so ‘Blackburn Coffee’ was our choice of the day, only this time (ironically) switching our usual mugs of warmed up, coffee-bean-goodness to a cool and refreshing fruit smoothie: summer is a-coming folks!
We then took our feet off to wander around the Canal Saint-Martin area walking through a lively park full of a range of people, old and young, enjoying the few rays floating about the skies. I truly cannot wait for the warm season to commence and sunny strolls to be the only weekend agenda. Though duty shortly called after that and I had to grumpily make my way back home for the dreaded babysitting shift. My cold frosty mood was momentarily lightened however by the sight of an old man making a small baby giggle ever so sweetly on the metro: I think the warm weather has truly brought out the joy and friendliness in us all.
Despite Sunday being historically known as a day of misery spent mourning the weekend with Monday lingering just around the corner, Paris life seems to obliterate said sorrow. This Sunday in particular was wonderfully lively as it was the ‘Carnival de Paris’ – a procession from Place de Gambetta concluding in a party at Place de la Republique via the multicultural bubble of Belleville. Imagine roughly a seven kilometre long tsunami of colourful costumes accompanied by a crescendo of salsa-style drums and whistles all whilst being sprinkled in confetti and you would be close to picturing the sights seen today!
The vibrancy of the parade definitely radiated into the atmosphere, prompting all spectators lining the roadsides to dance, smile and laugh under the gaze of the summer sun. It was a five hour fiesta of merriment that made my Sunday truly unforgettable. I knew, whilst absorbing the scene around me, that there is no other place I would rather be than Paris; this wonderfully weird yet constantly bustling little place.
By Alice Warde