Bring on the next few months of work. . . and exploration
As always with au pairing, you switch seamlessly through moments of complete contentment, satisfaction and feeling as though you’ve got your act together, to moments of a sedentary and unproductive lifestyle. What with having been ‘back home’ to England and then the subsequent week of work with weird hours (as the infamous school holidays descended upon us), I have felt somewhat disorientated and as though I was achieving very little in a great deal of time. In reality I know this isn’t true, yet I felt inspired to make some sort of routine of action for myself. And so, this was today’s antics, a lot of sitting around and organising.
My strenuous (if such a word can be used here) day was rewarded with a hearty French dinner of fish tarts and creamy pasta. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was eating (as is oft the case) but that’s one of the great things about being part of a family’s life – you have to be open to experimentation and be willing to try new things, especially in the food department. You might even surprise yourself! I for one came to France detesting fish, tea and coffee: three things I now consider staples that I couldn’t live without!
A pleasant start to the week culminated in a cosy tea and catch-up session in my chambre de service with one of my closest pals here. A fellow Brit, she and I treated ourselves to an evening of indulging in the English language and thrusting aside our French reality for a few moments (as we all know it can be quite draining sometimes). In true ‘treat yo self’ style, I think it’s important not to bombard yourself too much with a new language exclusively as you will burn out quick quickly – it’s all about pacing!
Tuesday was spent classically in the company of a gal pal after my lunch shift (2 out of 3 down woohoo) for a spot of afternoon merriment comprising of eating a delightful assortment of nuts and drinking a fine range of fancy teas (courtesy of our wealthy host families!) I was even taught how to play chess today; we’ve got to act the part given we live in the infamously upper class 16th arrondissement!
Naturally you will encounter little niggles with your host families during this process whether this be in the form of difficulties with your children or the parents. It is important to pause and view it as a job and not be too affected by it. As my mother says “familiarity breeds contempt” and unfortunately, the more used to your company they are, the more you become a family member and the more likely they are to openly confront the differences and ‘issues’ they have with you. You also can never fully know what’s going on ‘behind doors’, so to say, in their world of work or wider circle; we’re all inclined in times of stress to flare up at the littlest of things. My advice, don’t take it personally and crack on.
After the disruptive two week break, I unfortunately didn’t get to see my best friend from home (a fellow au pair) throughout the duration. This endured most horrifically as we are practically like a limb for one another! Today however was our reunion and I was most excited. I don’t think RER A has ever seen a more enthusiastic commuter bounding through its doors before but I truly was just so itching to see my pal! It was so lovely to spend a few hours nattering and laughing away with this crazy one and an overwhelming sense of excitement for the upcoming summer season together in this fabulous city was present.
Once back in the centre, a friend and I decided to check out the infamously cute café ‘Ob-la-di’ (any establishment with the same name as a Beatles song is already a winner in my eyes). We were however greeted by a tsunami of people outside the Republique metro station. Swarms upon swarms of passionate protesters inundated the main square and the surrounding streets. It was impossible not to be swept into the middle of the action (of which we had no idea the cause) as your adrenalin flares and you feel the true ‘power of people’.
Turns out said demonstration was in protest of new labour reforms by some very angered unions and young people. It was amazing to see anyway just a sea of flags, banners and protestors mounted upon anything they could find (lampposts and all!) After the excitement, our latte chez ob-la-di couldn’t have been more needed and we nattered the afternoon away in this very chic, quaint and friendly little joint.
Today was one of those ‘hell yeah’ kind of days where you know, if it was both humanly possible and socially acceptable, that you’d high five yourself. I felt a bit grouchy when I woke up and so combatted this with a cheery run session to get the ol’ endorphins a-flowing! It certainly worked as the rest of the day was just a sequence of little pleasantries ranging from a lovely and successful English ‘lesson’ with my youngest child to then being serenaded by my host family with their very French and wholly unseasonable rendition of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’. I even won my first match of ‘baby foot’ which (believe me if you could see my standard of play) was a shock for us all! It’s the little things really but they are memorable and should be appreciated no less.
The universe seemed to be aware of the weekend memo and showered the city in beautiful sunshine today! So as not to waste this precious and rare supply of vitamin D, a friend and I flocked fiercely quickly out into the city. We commenced the day at the lovely gardens of the Palais Royal. A quirky mixture of modern art (in the form of a sea of striped pillars) is neighbour to a typically beautiful and oh-so-Parisian garden of fountains and blossoming trees. I had forgotten how with the slightest glimpse of sunshine, the people of this city quite literally seem to drop everything and collapse themselves into the sun loungers of whatever park is closest and so, wanting to blend in, we followed suit. The delightful Café Kitsune was conveniently on hand to offer a crisp coffee accompaniment to our session of sunshine and ‘attempting’ to converse in French.
It turns out the surrounding area of the Palais Royal is beautiful and riddled with hidden alleyways and streets of quaint shops and cafes (when is this not the case in Paris!) My wandering feet carried me over to Rue Montmartre and Rue Motorgeuil in particular; two streets that are hives of activity in the form of multiple market stalls and bustling bistros. You almost feel as though you are walking amidst the centre of a theatrical performance with the amount of movement, noise and excitement occurring around you – truly lovely indeed. I picked up a bean salad box (costing a mere 3 euro!) before turning off onto one of the quieter cobbled streets that stemmed out from this web of cute boulevards. The sun shone down on me and my favourite music blasted away in my headphones as I devoured my grub – if this is Parisian summertime, sign me up.
We awoke quite early with not a sore head in sight; despite the previous night comprising of a little pre-party gathering before ending up in an Irish bar in Chatlet where we sang our way into the early hours as a live band performed the likes of Bowie and the Beatles. Yet another sunny day had reared its weary head and so we dashed up north to the lovely Montmartre – a must-do in such weather. We checked out the vast and beautifully calm cemetery there before indulging in a day of pure tourism (beginning with a cheeky macaron before moving up to the lovely Sacre Coeur steps to be serenaded by two ladies (one armed with an accordion) singing La Vie en Rose whilst we looked over the sun-flooded city and ate our baguette lunch – how cliché! We were even treated to a performance by the infamous footballer there who astounded us with his keepie-uppies hanging from a lamppost, casually. Utterly exhausted just watching him, we decided to leisurely stroll down the hill towards the hidden away Marche St Pierre. A relatively ugly building on the exterior, this five story building holds an interior of endless fabrics and textile essentials endlessly stretched out as far as the eye can see. Regardless of whether this is ‘your cup of tea’ it’s definitely a must-see.
Parting from my pal, I continued my day up north with a visit to La Chapelle – or as it’s otherwise known, ‘Little Sri Lanka’. This contained region of Paris is so wonderfully diverse as you are transformed suddenly into a world of colourful sari shops, eclectic Indian supermarkets and tasty-smelling restaurants. I even stumbled into the temple here that is so unsurprising that if it wasn’t for the sea of shoes outside the door you might miss it. That being said, upon walking past the open front of the temple I, even with my headphones in, was blasted by a wall of sounds comprising of chanting and singing as men performed prayer rituals towards a statue in the centre of the room. It was a brief and fascinating moment that felt one million miles removed from the stereotypical Paris but is so nice to have living in tandem with it.
The day proceeded then with an afternoon/evening session in the expatriates pub the ‘Auld Alliance’ just next to Saint Paul metro. The Six Nations rugby competition is happening currently and so where better to watch England vs Wales than at a pub full of your fellow people! The lively and packed pub was host to a crowd of patriotic Brits bellowing out chants and songs full of national pride as they simultaneously cheered on their team and threw jeers and jabs at anyone dressed in an opposition shirt. It was so lovely to be surrounded with a bit of home for a few hours as we all drank, sang, laughed and mingled the evening away. We even managed to bag ourselves some free chips!
The final day of the weekend was yet another lovely one spent in great company. Meeting my friends at Hotel de Ville, upon exiting the metro I emerged into a scene of bubbles being blow everywhere as a musician sang sweetly away somewhere in the distance. I knew it was going to be a good ‘un today.
Our rumbling bellies lead us to the infamous L’as du Falafel for an indulgent mountain of chick pea goodness. Place de Vosges naturally was the perfect choice of dining location and so we, weighed down by our mammoth lunch, strolled there passing by the quirky Marais Man on his bizarre bicycle and various music performances by live bands – nothing more buzzing than a Marais Sunday. The excitement (and feast of food) partnered with the sunshine and clear blue skies prompted us to park up on the green expanse of this beautiful park for a good few hours just chatting and laughing away. It seems the rest of Paris too had this idea as men, women, children and old people lay stretched out all lazily soaking up the rays.
It was so blissfully chilled! We, like sheep, followed the lead of almost everyone around us and treated ourselves to an Amorino ice cream (because this is naturally what is needed after a falafel feast…!) Positively fit to burst, but equally so satisfied, we meandered our way through the winding streets towards the riverside where we stumbled into even more lazing Parisians outstretched along the river banks for as far as the eye could see. Alas, naturally we had to join in and contribute to this ‘artist’s dream of a Parisian scene’ image. It’s such a wonderful place to sit and ramble on about nonsense with good company and jolly vibes, and so we did just that.
As the sun started to slow herself down and retire for the day we wandered over to the Notre Dame to watch her final rays stroke gently the magnificent walls of this now-glowing beast! It was so beautiful and a real ‘is this actually happening’ moment! We finished our city centre session with a trip into the ever-lovely Shakespeare and Co for some quality cuteness time in this ever-so quirky yet fabulous bookshop.
I then parted ways with my company in order to get myself up to the north east for an evening session with some friends at Pont Ephimere. A converted factory turned bar, venue, burger shop and art gallery was the perfect place to conclude the wonderful weekend of activity as we sipped down a martini (true bond style).
Is that a sniff of summer happiness and merriment I detect folks? I think so! Bring on the next few months of work and exploration (all about that balance hey!)