“Who even are we and what on earth are we doing here?!”
After what can only be described as a fabulous week of holidaying in Madrid, reality (of course) has to reappear and make its presence well and truly known. This came in the format of an eight o’clock start today; not a wholly unreasonable start time I will give you that unless you were up until three AM the night previous having a chatty catch up with your friends! Karma certainly showed me by slapping a seven hour tennis tournament across my face most ferociously (of which I was assigned spectator and enthusiastic supporter duty). This marathon was broken up ever so slightly by short pauses to play a game or two of ‘baby-foot’ with my host child (table tennis to you and me!) My services were only required luckily for this portion of the day and, after a successful series of wins for my little Andy Murrays, we headed back home before I was free to flee the scene. A long day finished up in true style with a curry and cards night with my pals. What I love about the holidays is that we get a small glimpse into the exclusive life of the Parisian elite as many au pairs find themselves with a free apartment for the week! So there we were, three teens from differing countries, brought together by some fate, stood (bellies full of hearty curry) on a penthouse apartment terrace watching the Eiffel tower sparkling away into the night. My Danish friend summarised the evening and this year in general in a perfect single phrase: “Who even are we and what on earth are we doing here?!”
A successful session of tennis began the day whereby my host child (in his own words) “absolutely thrashed” his opponent! After such a strenuous morning he was in need of a grand and hearty French lunch…and I wasn’t going to exactly oppose either even if I had had a slightly less fatiguing few hours! My host mother was working part time this week and so put on a daily spread for lunch that put a smile on our face (and our bellies)! I was lucky to be given a few hours of freedom subsequently and so I waddled out and headed in the direction of the Canal Saint Martin to enjoy an afternoon coffee with some friends chez ‘Ten Belles’: an adorable little establishment with colourful chairs and crunchy cookies!
When I arrived back for the evening shift, I found my services were required solely to play some FIFA on the Xbox with my host child (not a bad work session!) This was most fun but also rather humiliating as my skillset unfortunately hasn’t extended as far as the realms of gaming! It was most funny for my youngest fella anyway laughing himself into oblivion as my players would tackle thin air, kick anything other than the ball or even drop to the ground spontaneously! The sixteen year old in the family joined us at one point also and brought her music with her to add some background atmosphere to the game! It was most adorable to see them all so relaxed and happy during their holidays (as I’m sure we all know French schooling tends to put some stress and strain on its children!)
A lovely day was topped off with a sleepover session with my pals where we were even treated to a delicious homemade cake by our Danish friend (of which the three of us ate the entirety).
To celebrate the fact I didn’t have an early start to the day, my friend and I indulged our appetites with a giant brunch of homemade buns, eggs, yoghurts, coffee etc etc (you name it, we probably consumed it!)
Alas my duties were eventually required to accompany the youngest child to a tennis tournament…shock. It was quite sweet however as he excitedly asked me if I was going to watch him play: an offer I couldn’t refuse! It was fun to cheer him on and marvel in his successes and equally motivate him in his losses. I felt like a proud soccer-mother or something when he would applaud his opponent for marking an impressive point against himself – good sportsmanship indeed which I rewarded with a kinder bueno from the sweetie shack at the tennis club.
We returned quite late to be treated to a warm meal before myself and the two young lads dismantled almost the entirety of their rooms in order to prepare for the upcoming visit from the painters. Never have you seen two chaps more excited about the imminent arrival of the colour blue on their walls! I even managed to squeeze in a nice chat with the host daughter about music and the West Coast of America (aka her self-proclaimed motherland) before I signed off for the evening.
Being set free quite late as a result of the busy day, a relaxing movie night with a fellow Brit nearby was in order. We settled down with some snacks in front of the emotional Toy Story 3 whose poignancy and relevance to our lives inspired a waterfall of tears to stream down our faces! This cry-fest naturally needed to be followed by a mood-lifting encounter with ‘Hercules’.
I started relatively early today but worked only a short few hours of which comprised mostly of mattress battles with my host children (who now were residents of the hallway given their rooms were currently filled with blue paint fumes!) Yet another hearty lunch fuelled me up for the rest of the day that comprised of a visit to Carreau de Temple (to see an exhibition of painted Parisian maps) and a coffee session at ‘The Broken Arm’ (treat yourself to their cronut and you won’t be disappointed!) My friends and I then trotted off to the Jardin des Plantes which was beautifully in bloom and sun soaked. This beauty however was starkly juxtaposed just outside the gardens gates as a large scale protest was occurring simultaneously. It was the funniest thing to see experience such opposites existing at the same time!
Once things had simmered down considerably and the wardens were actually letting people out of the park (!!) we headed back home to one of the free apartments and made a huge and delicious homely meal. This feast comprised of sweet potato wedges, pasta with fried vegetables and a cake (courtesy of Marks and Spencers this time). The four of us gobbled away and played a lively game of cards as the day drew to a close.
I was lucky enough not to be working at all today and so after a feed of homemade buns, a friend and I trotted off far (far) easterly to visit the Chateau de Vincennes. A line 1 terminus, this stop is not often frequented by many though it really should be! We were shocked to stumble across a REAL castle that is free to visit (provided you’re between 18-26 and an EU resident of course!!) A fascinating place and labyrinth of rooms simply bursting at the seams with rich history that you can’t help but be utterly absorbed in! On our way out we even bumped into the ‘Parc Floral de Paris’ that is signposted by some giant letters spelling out its name. You cannot resist the mandatory photo with the giant word ‘Paris’ positioning yourself in some way on one of its oversized letters.
We headed back into the centre of the city subsequently to le Marais where we treated ourselves to a five euro customised Magnum ice cream at the pop-up shop there (justified only of course by the fact this shop will only be here for… six months).
We later came home to whip up a meal of homemade pizza and chips in order to truly maximise the limited time we would have access to the oven! A few more lovely au pairs then joined the scene for a pre-drinks and prep session before we headed to Chatlet to dance into the early hours (finding a free twix in a metro vending machine on the way home!)
Rising from the grave very late in the day indeed we healed our fatigued bodies with a delicious (and plentiful) brunch spread before trotting off to a fashion flea market near Temple. For only three euro entry we found ourselves amidst a sea of second hand clothing, accessories, shoes and jewellery as a frenzy of flustered Parisian women and girls scurried about busily scouting for goods. It was fun to experience and was made all the more better by the free bag we got on the way out!
The first day of May brought with her glorious sunshine and sky-high temperatures and so my best friend and I voyaged off up north to Montemartre (one of the best places to appreciate the sun-drenched city looking beautiful). On the way we were treated to the weirdest and most unique metro performance we’ve ever seen of a man doing a puppet show behind a large black screen he’d set up! It was so amusing for everyone on the carriage and it is probably the only time I have ever seen almost everybody present give money to a performer!
Once we had arrived at our destination we whiled away the hours sprawled out on the green grass outside the Sacre Coeur picnicking, sunbathing and people watching – not a shabby Sunday at all! The heat was at one point so intense that we physically had to move ourselves and wander in order to experience some sort of breeze! We stumbled into around three music performers and the infamous football man of Montematre entertaining the flood of summer-happy Parisians and tourists.
We perused the cobbled streets passing by artists and terraces before finally reaching our destination of the ice cream parlour Tutti Sensi! A luxurious shop that you simply must visit purely to see their decadent display (that will, without a doubt, leave you drooling!)
It was so lovely to spend a whole day up on this hill enjoying the first proper day of summer with all of the other cheerful folk out and about. We finished the day sat on the steps there listening to a man giving an acoustic performance of classics such as ‘With or without you’ and ‘Purple Rain’. When weeks feel long and shifts endure tediously, it’s moments such as these that remind us all why we chose to do au pairing. Without it we wouldn’t have access to these special Parisian moments.