Merci Paris et mes cheries!
Today began in the sunniest of matters and I felt super energised and eager to go and exercise this expanding body a smidge! Just as I commenced my run however my phone began to ring and, upon seeing it was my mother, I felt obliged to answer it. My mother started to inform me of the Belgian bombings that had just happened that morning; a double incident occurring in both an airport and a metro station leaving over twenty people dead and many injured. Pangs of unwelcome yet familiar feelings slowly crept over me as I started thinking back to the recent attacks we experienced here in Paris. I felt empathy for the millions of Belgian people whose daily lives will now be thrown into temporary disarray and sorrow as a cloud of fear descends upon them: a fear that we have only just overcome ourselves yet remember so very clearly. The fragility of life is just reiterated at times like these. We begin to remember once again the only things that matter; family, friends and experiences. It is terrifying, as I’m sure all we au pairs know, to be so far away from these loved ones at times of terror but we know that being here is what we all want and so we must continue; in the words of the Parisian motto, ‘Fluctuat Nec Mergitur’: ‘Though she is tossed by the waves she will not sink’, let us carry on and hold the Belgians close to our hearts and in our thoughts, the way the world did for Paris a matter of mere months previous.
We have a sense of obligation to look after each other whilst here, specifically at times like these and so I spent my afternoon in the cosy company of my friend down the road, sipping on tea, nibbling biscuits, chatting about life and playing with her host families cat: a sense of comfort in unsettling times.
After the evening shift, a group of us au pairs who live in the area decided to take a stroll to see the Eiffel Tower, who was to be illuminated in the Belgian tricolour tonight. What with being a ten minute walk away, we felt it was the least we could do to commemorate these innocent victims who, just like our fallen French brothers and sisters a few months prior, had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the walk to meet my friends I went past the local ‘nightlife hotspot’ (aka a café that always has a small atmosphere of folk sipping back wines and coffees into the early hours). Only tonight, said café was overflowing with atmosphere; people laughing, drinking, socialising and spilling out onto the terrasse – more than I have ever seen before. Given it was a standard Monday night, I attributed the increase of people to the natural French reaction of defiance. As with the attacks before Christmas, this nation retaliated with fervent engagement in their activities and openly displaying their solidarity and boldness: I love the French sometimes.
When we reached the Eiffel tower she was so beautifully yet mournfully lit up and, as with the café, the surrounding areas were just inundated with folk taking pictures, talking, engaging with one another, sat in groups looking pensive. We, ourselves, sat down and had a discussion about the day’s events and our lives here in Paris. We really do act as each other’s families whilst here on this year abroad and it’s so important to experience things (good and bad) together.
This one’s for you Belgium…
A pleasant morning was spent sipping down coffee in the cheerful company of my best friend in her cosy suburban town as usual before heading back into the city for my afternoon activity of choice! Today called for a long (long, long) overdue session of French revision. After having finishing my A levels I have ‘tried and tested’ methods for revision and I knew all too well that lingering around in my room in the hope of cracking on would end badly and so I went on the search of a makeshift ‘office’. This city seems to be utterly riddled with these infamous shared work-spaces and today I wanted to try out ‘Coutume Institutti’; a sister coffee shop of Coutume located inside the Finnish Institute building. Though not a blindingly obvious or commonly raved about coffee shop this little place gets fabulous praise from me! A layout of long benches and stools, you find yourself thoroughly swarmed and surrounded by apple macs, notepads, coffee (a lovely blend it must be said) and a real sense of hard work and enthusiasm – which naturally inspires you. I chugged away for a few hours achieving a great deal and feeling fabulous about it afterwards!
I felt thoroughly fatigued after this session which was subsequently followed by quite a lengthy work shift and so a gaggle of us decided a much needed glass of wine and a natter were on the cards for the evening. Living in the Parisian neighbourhood of the 16th (otherwise known as the Chelsea of Paris – just for a spot of perspective) we aren’t exactly deprived of obnoxiously fancy wine bars (with sky-high tariffs too!) Alas we were able to locate a lovely and reasonably priced place namely ‘Quarante et un’ which was just down the road from us all! We spent the night chatting and laughing en terrasse, as they say (if we’re being pretentious about it).
One more day before bank holiday merriment arrives (or as my host mother calls it, “Cool Weekend”)
We trotted off rather early this morning (walking past a most unintentional yet poignantly deep pavement painting saying ‘Where is Alice?’ < good question, half the time I really have no clue here!) Eventually arriving at our destination of ‘Folks and Sparrows’ café we relaxed and chatted whilst discreetly scoffing some yummy chocolate Easter eggs we bought from the infamous ‘Hema’ whenever the baristas weren’t looking. Such a cool establishment if you ever get the chance to pop in! Think Mumford and Sons meets Scandinavian design and you’ll be just about right!
I decided to be a true Parisian stereotype after this little morning date and balance my coffee with some culture in the form of a visit to Victor Hugo’s house. As a devoted fan of all things Les Miserables I really enjoyed learning more about the man behind one of the greatest Revolution stories of all time. With free admission also, you can’t really complain!
The sunshine decided to rear it’s head just in time for the end of my visit and so I perused the hidden streets of Le Marais with my headphones in simply enjoying Paris – something I sometimes neglect doing. I strolled along the riverside, taking in the lovely sights around me of sun rays bouncing playfully upon the water like excited and joyous children whilst a man, featuring his accordion of course, serenaded us passers-by with a rendition of ‘La Vie en Rose’. If you were awarding the trophy of ‘most sickeningly cliché and French-movie-esque scene’ then this little charade I was amidst would certainly reign supreme! And I love that.
I stumbled onto the islands of the city; first visiting the Holocaust victims memorial garden located there before wandering off up to the Notre Dame gardens where people had flung themselves gracefully onto the grass, benches etc (basically anywhere where they could sit back and enjoy the sunshine that shone down) Birds were chirping away and little infants played and I truly felt so very content. Oh Paris, you adorable little thing and a half.
As we all know the bank holiday weekend commences the second you step out of the doors from work. Therefore as soon as I had clocked off today I darted out of the building and over to my friend’s house who, very luckily, had been blessed with an empty apartment for the three days off. I was laden down with a recent delivery of approximately 1 tonne (well not quite) of English Easter chocolate treats my lovely mumma had sent me and so we gals spent the night drinking and scoffing mini eggs until the early hours. We even managed to sneak in a cheeky trip to Grands Boulevards to burn off our new overdose of energy (thanks to the sugar rush) with some dancing before later returning to cook up some 3am pasta and pesto, naturally.
We commenced our day with a big team breakfast of homemade waffles, baguette, yoghurt, fruit, tea, coffee, orange juice etc etc etc (you name it, we devoured it) before commencing our journey up north-eastward for the day. We met with another friend and our cheerful group of five trotted off to ‘Bob’s Bake Shop’. Just one word: Bagels. If you are a fan of these circular delights then you simply have to pay a visit to this their sacred land. We chomped upon hefty yet healthy bagels whilst sipping down fresh juices. Good food and great company to kick start the special weekend.
Naturally, in Paris, one can never be satisfied with a mere savoury item. You just HAVE to balance it out with something sweet. We had all heard of a little place named ‘Scoop me a cookie’ and we were eager to sample these renowned treats. The smell of this little hidden shop hits you from around the corner and lures you safely to its doors like a comforting mother rallying her children back home. Big chunky cookies lay before you lined up with military precision and decorated in anything from kinder bars to caramelised almonds (and they sure tasted as good as they sound!)
I had to nip off for a couple of hours work after this but the lovely day ended with a cosy sleepover style evening at the ‘host-family-free’ apartment we had adopted for the weekend. We played Cluedo, ate chocolate and had a really lovely DMC about everything: a real bonding session.
Up at the crack of dawn of course so as to make the most of the weekend, we gals tackled round two of ‘the hearty breakfast challenge’. This meant we were nicely fuelled up for our voyage north-east again but only this time to pay a visit to the quirky café ‘Pavilion des Canaux’. We were a smidgen early and so the four of us gravitated towards a children’s park in the interim to get in touch with our inner infancy under the lovely embrace of the summer sun. When our extra three pals arrived we made our way over to the cafe known for being decorated in the style of a house: we all piled onto the cute bed to drink our teas for example! So quirky yet so cool!
We were fully aware of the sunshine that awaited us outside and so we, after finishing up our drinks, headed for the nearby Parc des Buttes Chaumont (aka the most beautiful park in Paris). Due to its northern location in the city, the view from this area is second to none. We even (like a large number of people) snuck behind a gate to gain access to an area with undoubtedly the best view (well worth the label of trespasser for the sight we saw). It really reminded us of how lucky we are to all be here in Paris together.
At this point we had built up quite the hunger and so decided to take a short stroll into Belleville, fully aware we would find some well-priced authentic cuisine and we were so right! A hefty plate of freshly-made noodles with stir-fry veggies was all ours for a mere five euros eighty! We were made to feel so welcome by the funny and friendly staff at this Chinese restaurant who we exchanged a few laughs and jokes with during our meal there.
We were nicely fuelled up at this point and were ready to meander the streets of this eclectic neighbourhood and so headed towards Parc de Belleville. As we arrived we bumped into a Brazilian musical session where a large gathering of very enthusiastic Brazilians banged upon drums, sang passionately and danced oh so stylishly! It was a super cool thing to have spontaneously been a part of! Made even cooler by the fact the lovely summer sun was setting behind us upon the view of the city of Paris. We were ready for a final drink and chat to round the day off nicely. The infamous ‘Aux Follies’ was our port of call. Located next to the coolest street of graffiti you’ll ever see is this little gem of a bar. Once host to the legendary singer Edith Piaf, this establishment is now the hangout of the cities hipsters who flood the quirky interior and spill out onto the sea of chairs and tables en terrasse. With four euro pints and three euro wine you can see why this place is so popular and needless to say we had a wonderful time concluding our fabulous day in chic, Parisian style.
Before we parted ways we even had time to nip into a cheap supermarket where all seven of us purchased some very discounted Milka! When in France hey!
The final day of the glorious weekend has descended upon us and began, of course, with a final mammoth breakfast. We have felt so classy and chic fleeting our free time away in this stylish Parisian apartment. It has honestly been like being on holiday (only a holiday we could never afford in reality!) And so we felt obliged to pause for a few hours and make the most of this rare opportunity. We lazed about for a while and often lent out over the balcony taking in the view of the nearby Eiffel Tower and sunny blue skies – pure bliss.
We had, shockingly, built up quite the hunger by this point despite our hefty morning meal and so headed off out into the centre of the city to find somewhere open on this bank holiday Monday. ‘Blend Burger’ lured us in with its supposedly scrumptious meat and deliciously silky sweet potato fries and I think from my overuse of adjectives here we can gather I was a fan! We then popped off to see the cute street of ‘Rue Cremieux’ that’s row of colourful houses and cobbled pavestones hide themselves away behind some tall office like buildings. You must pop over and check it out if you get the chance, it is so adorably cute!
It was time to call it all a day by this point. Early nights were needed in expectation of work the next day and our fatigued little bones were all due a good long rest after the excitement and action of the best Parisian weekend one could imagine. I am so grateful for the people I have in my life over here and the wonderful adventures we have.
Merci Paris et mes cheries!