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What is an Au Pair/How to be an Au Pair

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After answering endless questions about my au pair experience, I decided it would be a good idea to write a blog post about what exactly is an au pair and how to become one. This is kind of my lazy way of informing everyone because I can simply give whomever is interested the web link 🙂
 
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WHAT IS AN AU PAIR?
An au pair is a nanny that lives with a host family in a foreign country. Their responsibilities are primarily to look after the children and help the family in every day life. This can include light housekeeping, tutoring (homework help), and running errands. Au pairs are not maids. Au pairs should not work more than thirty hours per week. Au pairs ALWAYS have their own bedroom, and often luck out with a private bathroom as well. Au pair contracts can range from one month to two years or more. The average au pair stay is around 6 months to a year. Every family’s needs are different so if you are thinking about being an au pair, you can easily find a family who’s needs meet your needs.
Many girls considering being an au pair have this idea in their head that they will live this extravagant life with a wealthy family where they will be on an endless vacation. Unsurprisingly some au pairs are shocked to learn that their “vacation” abroad is in fact a JOB. The family HIRED you after all. This is a serious commitment, and you must take the time to really think about making such a decision. This decision does not only affect your life, but also that of the host family’s. You will want to make sure you are a good fit for the host family. It is a job you should take pride in and try to excel at. The bond you will form with your host children is the most rewarding experience of all. They really will feel like family by the end of your stay. I can guarantee you will be teary eyed when saying your goodbyes!
PROS
FREE ROOM AND BOARD: The host family is required to provide you with your own bedroom. They are also responsible for your meals. You are always welcome to eat with the family. In the kitchen, what’s theirs is yours. This is great financially because there is no rent to pay and it’s free food. You cannot complain about that!
CULTURAL EXPERIENCE: Do you love traveling and learning about other countries? Do you love discovering new and exciting places? Are you a fan of history? Do you have a passion for adventure? Then being an au pair might just be the opportunity you are looking for. By living with a host family, you are truly able to immerse yourself into their culture. No amount of studying the language, watching documentaries, or reading history books can give you a true understanding of the people in a different country. By living with them you uncover first hand their lifestyle. It can be quite the culture shock!
LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE: Being fluent in more than one language is a great asset to have in this day and age. Not only does it give you an advantage career-wise, but it also enhances your communication skills. You never know when you might need to use that language. I definitely advise potential au pairs to pick a country that speaks a foreign language. My sister was an au pair in Ireland this past summer and she regrets not choosing Spain because her Spanish would have improved tremendously. I was very tempted to be an au pair in England, but I realized the importance of learning another language so I chose to go to France instead. Plus in order to obtain your au pair visa, taking a language course is often required in most countries. This is a great way to meet friends!
NEW FRIENDS: I have made so many friends while being an au pair. Many of them I will stay in touch with for life. The great thing about being an au pair is that you meet other au pairs, students, and travelers from all over the world. Two of my best friends in France were from Austria and China. Not only did I get to learn about the French culture, but I had a little insight into my friends’ cultures as well.
TRAVELING: You are in a different country and now is your chance to explore as much of your surroundings as possible! Au pairs almost always have weekends off so spend that time by going on weekend getaways. Even if you are limited to only one day, that doesn’t mean your options for fun are limited! Do your research and find what appeals to you. I was never bored on weekends, and I doubt you will be either.
LOOKS GREAT ON RESUMES: Being an au pair looks great when applying for jobs. Not everyone knows exactly what an au pair is, or if they have heard of it, they usually are not well informed. This creates curiosity and leads the employer to wanting to get to know more about you. It also shows your independence and leadership qualities.
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CONS
WAGE: The trade off for free room and board, is the low wage given to au pairs. On average au pairs are only paid 400-500 American dollars a month. With proper budgeting you can get by, however I suggest saving at least an additional $500 a month before departing for every month you plan on staying as an au pair. This way you can see and do more things. Also keep in mind that you are responsible for paying for your flight.
AWKWARDNESS: This pertains to the relationship with the au pair and the host family. The host family wants to treat you as part of the family, but at the end of the day you are not. You are an employee. So it can be difficult to find an even balance between the two.
KIDS CAN BE DIFFICULT: For those who have no experience with children, let me warn you that childcare is a full time job. I give credit to stay at home moms for what they have to put up with. It is hard work. Honestly being a (good) stay at home mom is a harder job than most jobs out there. Kids view au pairs as friends that they can play with 24/7. This is great of course when you are not already physically exhausted with a bad headache. Even if you are in the worst of moods you have to put on that smile and act super excited to play candy land for the 10th time in a row. Never show the kid that you are not having fun. So besides having to pretend to be just as energetic as the kiddies, you also have to stop them from fighting and getting into trouble. This is hard when you want to be their best friend because the last thing you want to do is yell at them. Be prepared to deal with temper tantrums, messes, puke, and poop. Address bad behavior immediately and ALWAYS reward good behavior. I’m surprised how many people are quick to punish, yet they forget how crucial it is to compliment children when they do something right. With children, try to turn everything into a game. If they are laughing and having a good time, then your lack of energy is worth it.
HOMESICKNESS: Personally I have never been one to succumb to homesickness, but I know many, many, MANY au pairs who wanted nothing more than to go home because they missed it so much. This is normal. There are good days and bad days. Some days you think to yourself, “this is amazing! I am having the time of my life”, and then other days you break down and cry and wish you could be sleeping in your own bed. Be prepared to feel depressed for days at a time. Being away from home can be really difficult, especially for people who have never been away from home before. When feeling down, don’t binge on sweets and lie in bed all day (that will lead to more self-loathing). Every morning is a fresh start. Wake up, get out of bed, eat a healthy breakfast, and go for a run. The endorphins will leave you feeling great for the rest of the day 🙂
COMMUNICATION/CULTURAL BARRIER: The biggest problem au pairs will face is communication with their host family. Sometimes the expectations of what you are supposed to do are not clear. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone messes up. If you get yelled at for something you did or didn’t do, do not take it personally. There have been many occasions where I got yelled at for something I felt was unnecessary. Of course, being extremely sensitive I would go to my room and cry. But then I would realize that it really was not a big deal and that the parent’s might have been having a really stressful day and took out their frustration on me. Also, living in a different country means certain behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable. What might be considered rude in your home country, may be okay in your new country and vice versa.
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ESSENTIAL QUALITIES THAT MAKES A GOOD AU PAIR
(If you are considering being an au pair and lack the majority of these, then I suggest finding another option)
LIKE KIDS. (If you hate kids, why would you want to work with them?)
BE RESPONSIBLE AND RELIABLE (Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. Pretty simple isn’t it?)
BE MATURE (You are an adult. The family does not want to hire a child to watch a child. Just because you are 18 years old does not always mean that you have the mentality or capability to be in the real world just yet. You can’t run to mommy and daddy for every problem when you are in a foreign country unfortunately)
BE FINANCIALLY SECURE (Save and budget yourself. TRUST ME the last thing you want, is to be bankrupt thousands of miles away from home)
– BE ACCEPTING/UNDERSTANDING OF CULTURAL VIEWS (Do not judge people who are different from you. Chances are you are going to meet people with conflicting opinions and lifestyles. You may not always agree with them, but at least attempt to understand them…. Oh and try to avoid discussing politics…)
POSITIVITY (A positive attitude keeps you sane)
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HOW TO BE AN AU PAIR
1) If you believe becoming an au pair is right for you, then the first step is to choose the country you would like to live.
2)  After selecting the country, then make sure you can obtain an au pair or basic work visa. Every country has different rules. Depending on your nationality you might or might not be able to get the proper visa. If you are American you cannot be an au pair in the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales). They feel that the main purpose of being an au pair is to learn a foreign language, and because Americans are native English speakers they will not accept au pairs from the US. However, they will accept au pairs from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand because they are under the commonwealth. These nations can be granted two year work visas. Americans can stay in the UK for up to six months with their passport but are not allowed to work. If Americans wish to stay longer than they need to be a student or professional so they can apply for a student or work visa. A mexican friend of mine first wished to au pair in Italy but found out Mexicans could not get the proper visa so she chose to go to France instead where Mexicans were allowed to be au pairs. So before talking to potential host families, make sure you can work in that country legally!
3) Search the internet for LEGITIMATE online au pair agencies and websites. Some websites have au pair placement options in numerous countries while others can be exclusively one country, region, or city. I chose an independent website called http://www.aupairworld.net for its great reputation and access to a variety of families.
4) Once registered for whatever agency you choose, you will begin interacting with potential families. PLEASE do your research, and make sure you choose a good host family. ALWAYS request to speak with their current or previous au pair. This is the best way to get an honest idea of the life you could eventually be living. You will usually be communicating with numerous families, exchanging emails and doing Skype interviews.
5) Keep your safety and wellbeing in mind. While I had a great au pair experience, and the majority of au pairs do, I have also heard horror stories of bad families. One girl arrived in Paris to find out she was living in a crime ridden and violent neighborhood. She could hear gunshots in the street and the family was horrible. She ESCAPED days later by running to her home country’s embassy in Paris. Another girl I spoke with left after only one week because her bedroom smelt like urine, and her host family refused to let her eat meals with them. Instead she had to serve them as if she was a waitress. These situations could have been prevented if these two au pairs had learned more about the host families before making any decisions.
6) Finding a great host family is the most important, and the second most important by far is LOCATION. Location is key. I cannot emphasize this enough. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the countryside with nothing to do (unless of course you love the country and rare human interaction). If the public transportation isn’t that great, then you probably do not want to be in a suburb either. Look for host families that live in areas where you can easily meet other people your age, and also where you can have a great time. I lived in the historic center of a city during my stay as an au pair. It was ideal because the action was right outside my door. I didn’t have to rely on transportation to meet up with friends or go to the stores. Everything I needed was right there.
7) The host family chooses you and you have the decision to accept or decline. Always go with your intuition. You might not find the right fit immediately, and that is ok. Take the time to make the best decision for yourself.
8) Once you have a host family, get whatever travel documentation you need (passports, visa, ect…), book your flight, and continuously communicate with your new host family as much as possible before your departure.
9) Do not overpack. Bring the essentials but leave room in your suitcase for all the things you will buy while abroad. Also buy some gifts for your new host family that represent your home town/city/country. They do not have to be expensive. I live in a very touristy area at the Jersey Shore, and I also live near New York City so I bought the girls souvenirs, and I bought the host parents NYC mugs for their morning coffee.
10) If your destination speaks a different language, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE before you depart!
11) Board your flight and start your new adventure!
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This experience truly opens your eyes to the world. You will get to see and do things that most people never have the chance to do in their lifetime. I can honestly say that I feel like a new person after returning home two months ago. I have always known what I wanted in life, and going abroad is something I felt was impossible and out of reach. I made this happen and it has lead me to realize that I may be surrounded by doubters, but I no longer doubt myself. The impossible is possible! If you feel unsure about what you want to do in life, or you feel you cannot do what you love, the best thing to do is to escape the negativity that surrounds you and take a risk. Many Europeans take a gap year before starting college so they can travel and discover their passions. Maybe more Americans should take note and do what they love to do instead of doing what society says they should do. Education comes in many forms, and I have learned more from my au pair experience than from years of college. I am not condoning college in the slightest, but simply making a point that sometimes the most valuable education does not come from sitting in a classroom and reading books. Sometimes it comes from the adventures we choose to take.

À toute à l’heure France

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^ Last picture of me in France

There comes a point in one’s life when a person must awake from the dream and face the reality of the situation. As much as I have loved my time in France, and have waited for this moment my whole life, I have also had the misfortune of becoming ill very shortly after arriving. I stayed optimistic and had the hope of a full recovery in Europe, but as time progressed, I came to terms with the fact that this would not happen. After months and months of sleepless nights, I made the difficult decision to go home to get better. I am heartbroken and devastated, but since having surgery this morning I am positive for the future. I have worked hard for years, and will continue to do so until I succeed. I have a plan for my life and no matter how many hurdles get in my way, nothing is going to stop me. I will return to Europe again one day, but for now there is only one place I need to go. New York City.

Again the sun will shine upon my face

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Why can’t the sun always be shining
I feel as though it is dying
There’s clouds in the sky
And I wonder why
Why there is no happiness

It’s always gray every day
Wishing this overcast would go away
Then I look in the mirror and the reflection I see
Is a change that is needed desperately in me
The sun may be gone
But I have to move on
Again the sun will shine upon my face

*There has been some confusion about whether this is an already existing song or poem. I wrote this. It is not written by anyone else.

Au Pair Day Trip: Rouen

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In-between planning overnight trips for au pairs in the Paris area, I decided to plan simple day trips to surrounding cities and attractions. Since I live in Rouen, I thought it would be a great idea to show the girls where I spend most of my time in France!

Rouen is the historic capital of Upper Normandy France and is about an hour and a half away from Paris by train. It is a beautiful medieval city with classic old timber buildings, and also the sight of where Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne D’Arc) was infamously burned at the stake in 1431. Taking a walk down one of the many cobblestone streets in Rouen will easily make you feel as if you are living in the past. It reminds me of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast! There are many attractions to see here. Museums, churches, great shopping, and markets can be found around every corner!

I made an event page on Facebook and sixteen au pairs came to Rouen this past Saturday. I was excited and relieved that there was such a great turn out because it had been snowing the day before and it was FREEZING! It was a great group of girls from all different nationalities. American, Canadian, British, Chinese, Spanish, Norwegian, Austrian, German, Brazilian, and Estonian are the ones that I can remember. I know I am forgetting one or two.

We met at the train station in Rouen at noon, and then ventured off into the cold to begin our tour.

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Outside the Joan of Arc Tower

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 The picture above is the exact location where Joan of arc was burned to death in 1431 because she refused to say her visions from god  were a lie. She is considered a true heroin in France for her devotion to the fight against the English who were trying to maintain control of Rouen and the rest of Normandy. She died at only 19 years old. Years later she was canonized as a Saint.

24442_10151354553481077_1367056333_nThe famous Rue du Gros Horloge

156330_10151354549171077_269502338_nIn front of Rouen Cathedral

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We found a church that was converted into an iron museum! It was very cool inside!

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Felt like a queen sitting on this medieval chair haha 🙂

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Jewelry and hairpieces dating back hundreds of years! I wish I could have tried them on!

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These METAL corsets were so tiny, they looked like it would fit a five year old, but it was meant for grown adults. Doesn’t look very comfortable now does it…

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376406_10151354571481077_1353197116_nAu Pairs learning about the museum 🙂

553660_10151354545466077_545732178_nMore sightseeing in the snow 🙂

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550396_10151354546296077_1202384379_nTook a picture in front of a cafe, and a man behind us is waving to the camera haha!

230772_10151354557301077_68138924_nStopped at a cafe for lunch 🙂

75017_10151354555786077_1462848382_nThis au pair is hesitant to try escargot (snails) for the first time

734099_10151354555281077_190204527_nUnlike everyone that ordered normal meals, I had ice cream for lunch like always 🙂

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Our final stop was at an art museum in Rouen

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263997_10151354581711077_17724469_nImpressionist paintings of Rouen

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578436_10151354583386077_1562612372_n^ Claude Monet paintings. Claude Monet frequented Rouen and painted many of its famous landmarks including Rouen Cathedral, which he painted five or six times!

554268_10151354579261077_751532760_nI was tempted to play the piano lol

397494_10151354579571077_979389702_n… and the harp 🙂

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All in all, it was a great day! I hope the au pairs enjoyed themselves as much as I did showing them around 🙂

Une histoire d’une fille

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“This is a story about a girl who escaped her past to start her future. She had longed for adventure, love, and happiness. A constant day dreamer, her thoughts were always in the clouds; a visionary by day, and star-gazer by night. For if it wasn’t for her dreams, then she would have no hope. Without hope, there would be no chance at life. So this unhappy and unloved girl worked hard and saved every penny to escape her miserable home. Where will she go? What will she do? She will go to Paris of course, the city of love! So full of excitement and beauty. There she will finally live a life worth living. She dared to take a chance. She dared to be independent. She dared to take what the world had to offer her. She arrived in Paris alone, but did not feel alone. This girl had accomplished the impossible. She escaped the torment she had endured for so long. She was finally free. A new start. No more judgement. No more sadness. Or so she wished to believe. She soon fell in love, and the girl thought to herself, so this is what true happiness feels like? But it was not to last long. The girl then became ill. Realizing she was incurable, her memories from long ago began to resurface. As she lay dying with tears streaming down her face, she could not help but smile. She had discovered true adventure, love, and happiness, even if only for a brief moment in her young life.”

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New Years in London

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After spending Christmas in Paris, I went back to London with my best friend to celebrate New Years! I was so excited to finally be there. Out of all the places in the world, London was the one place I have always wanted to visit, even more so than Paris! I remember being eight years old and watching The Parent Trap (the one with Lindsay Lohan) for the first time. The movie is about twin girls who never met because their parents’ divorced and the father took Hallie to live with him in California, and the mother took Annie to live with her in London. Then the twins meet by chance at the same summer camp years later, and then switch places. After watching this, I just knew instantly that I belonged in London. I loved everything about it in that movie. Since I am a twin, I would joke with my sister Rachel saying that she is the California twin, and I am the London twin because Rachel has always longed to live in sunny California, while I on the other hand prefer to live a life of luxury in a big exciting European city! Like in the movie, Rachel and I went to summer camp when we were eleven and attempted to pretend that we did not know each other. I of course tried to pull off a horrible British accent that I had been practicing for years. Let’s just say we were not that convincing, and the truth soon emerged.

Jess and I took the bus from Paris to London, the Friday after Christmas. We were hungover and sleep deprived from the night before, and to make matters worse, it was a nine hour bus ride. The bus had assigned seating, and Jess had the window seat, and I was seated in-between her and the isle. On the left side of the isle, there were two more seats. A young guy   was sitting across from me, and the seat next to him had yet to be occupied. The bus was starting to fill up, and this girl made an extravagant entrance onto the bus. Dressed in a fur coat, oversized sunglasses, jewelry, and huge bag, she was definitely a distraction. Ironically, her seat was in our row, and she quickly struck up a conversation with the young guy sitting next to her. She was very loud, overbearing, and pretty obnoxious. Me and Jess gave each other “the look”. (you know that look that good friends give each other, that needs no words or explaining, because we already know what we are thinking?). We pretty much hated her instantly. I could tell by her accent that she was American, so I asked her. She said “yea well kind of. I mean I live in Paris, but I am moving to London. I am from Los Angeles, but I was in Philly for a while… blah blah blah blah blah”. The young guy then said he was from Italy. Jessa (her name) then shouted “OH MY GOD I AM ITALIAN”. She goes on and on about her italian heritage. Literally no one else on the bus is talking, and all you hear is Jessa talk about her outlandish stories. The Italian guy “Andrea” (on-drey-uh) was forced to endure this for the remainder of the bus ride. This girl was telling stories of how she is a free lance tattoo artist and almost tattooed Kate Moss. Then she goes on to say how she moved to Paris for her ex-boyfriend, and has been unemployed since February. We find out that her father is Irish and she has Irish citizenship and an Irish passport (…but I thought she was Italian right?) She talked about her days as a drug addict. And do not even get me started on how she mentioned she got so drunk on a plane once that she started making out with the stranger next to her. Jess and I couldn’t help but overhear. It was actually starting to get really entertaining. I wasn’t sure if I loved her or hated her at this point. Jessa talked to Jess and I on occasion, but her full attention was on Andrea, who mentioned more than once, that he did in fact have a girlfriend. This did not stop Jessa in the slightest from turning him into her next victim. As hours passed by, she started to get cozier with Andrea. He brought his laptop with him, and was watching movies. Since she was sitting right next to him, she watched as well. Jess suddenly nudges me and tells me to look at them. Jessa has her legs literally on his lap. Then she tells Andrea that she is tired, and asks if its ok for her to lean her head on his shoulders so she can sleep. I found this really odd, considering the fact that first of all, she just met him, secondly he is not single, and above all she had a window seat! So it didn’t even make sense because she could have simply rested on the window. Andrea obliged to her request, and Jessa soon fell asleep, but not for long. At this point we are almost in London. Jess and I never slept because how could we, when we appeared to be right in the middle of some bad soap opera. Right before we get off the bus, we look over at Jessa and Andrea, and they are full on making out! We could not believe it! Jessa and Andrea then exchanged numbers and added each other on facebook. I am sure Andrea’s girlfriend will be so pleased with this. We arrived at Victoria Coach Station, hopped off the bus, and I tried to say goodbye to these two “love birds”, but they were so into each other, they did not even notice me or Jess. We could have cared less at that point. We were just trying to be polite. That whole ordeal was definitely an interesting start to my week in London!

We got back to Jess’s host family’s house late, and fell asleep. After the week we had in France, rest was the only thing on our minds. We decided to take it easy till New Years Eve. We went to house parties in London, and of course got pretty drunk. However, Jess took it to a whole new level. I warned her, and told her not to buy that apple vodka, but she insisted! Jess pretty much doesn’t remember anything from that night, and I think she is better off not knowing! Looking back, it was hilarious. At the time, not so much. But I won’t go into detail, so I can save her the embarressment 🙂

New Years Photos

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Our coats were stolen that night 😦 second coat i lost in less than 6 weeks. First in Brussels, and now in London! ImageImageImageImageImage

I always save the best for last! Here is Jess with face paint all over her. She woke up the next morning, and did not even know she had it on her face until she looked in the mirror!

The rest of the week, we just did typical touristy sightseeing. I pretty much just have pictures of myself in front of landmarks. yawn. boring. sorry 🙂  

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The most cliche London picture you can take!

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Me: Do you like your job? Guard: No… not really… no.  Image

I was attempting to take a picture of Jess, and this kid jumps into the photo, overhears us talking, and then screams “YOU’RE AMERICAN?! I FUCKING LOVE YOU!”. And then he ran off with his friends. It was so funny!

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A horrid photo of me standing in front of my future residence

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Annoying the guardsImage

St. James Park with the London Eye in the background

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Tower of London

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Tower Bridge!

I love London. Paris may be more beautiful, but I love the British people. They are so kind, and fun. Their posh British accents are definitely a major plus ;). I absolutely plan on coming back one day soon, because there is so much to see and do there, and one week is just way too short! I would really love to live in London permanently. Maybe years from now that will become a reality 🙂

Christmas in Paris

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Looking back, I would have never guessed that I would have spent the holidays in two amazing cities! What a difference this year was from last year! Last Christmas was utter chaos that I will not even begin to talk about, and instead of celebrating 2012 in typical American fashion, last year my best friend Jess and I closed the restaurant we worked at.

Since we are both in Europe this year, our initial plan was to head to Italy for our vacation, but of course a series of unfortunate events prohibited us financially from making this a reality. So we decided that on our meager au pair budget, Jess would first visit me in Paris during Christmas, and then I would go back with her to London the following week for New Years.

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Another Eiffel Tower picture, but this one is at night! In the evening at every hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes. It was very beautiful to see in life.

Jess arrived in Paris late Sunday night before Christmas. We spent three nights in Paris and two nights in Rouen. The first night she arrived, we were both exhausted so we went to a really good Japanese restaurant on my street for sushi. As tempting as it seemed at the time, we resisted the urge to drink so we could wake up early the following day and have the energy to do some sightseeing!

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First stop Monday morning was the Christmas Markets on the Champs-Elysees! Feeling a little tired on the metro, we grabbed some coffee, but soon afterward we came across a vendor selling hot wine. Obviously we had to get it! It is such a festive drink and perfect for a cold winter day in Europe. It is seriously delicious and cheap! Which makes it even better. I wish it was sold year round.

Monday was our shopping day. I took Jess to the stores on the Champs-Elysees first. I really am not that fond of this street. Actually I kind of despise it. It is like Times Square in New York. Crowded, Overrated, and full of obnoxious tourists. I prefer shopping on Rue Rivoli. We went there next because Jess was in search of a New Years dress. Afterwards we went to the famous department stores, Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. Jess was totally tempted to buy this pair of really cute cat eye Chloe sunglasses at Printemps. She almost did, but at almost 300 euros she realized that it was probably a bad investment for some plastic!

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Tree at one of the entrances to Printemps

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View from the top of the roof at Printemps! Amazing right?

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Jesca on the Printemps roof. Galleries Lafayette allows you on the roof as well I believe.

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Huge Christmas Tree inside Galleries Lafayette 🙂

After a day of stressful shopping, we went back to the flat and rested for a bit before getting ready to go out for Christmas Eve. Our plan was to meet up with two of our au pair friends and find any bar that was open. Not that difficult right? WRONG! Seriously more places are closed on Christmas Eve than Christmas day in Paris, which I found rather strange.

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Jesca and moi in the metro on Christmas Eve

So my friend Val finds a bar on the internet that is allegedly open. Jess and I decided to venture out on our own to find this Irish pub, but for some reason could not find it even though we had pretty good directions. Almost everything was closed apart from some restaurants serving dinner (The French eat dinner after 8 pm and anyone who has been to a classic French dinner knows that it is at least a 2 hour ordeal). We asked some Parisians where this bar was, and they all kept saying it was nearby. We looked like two dumb American girls walking around in circles!

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While lost, we ended up on Rue Princesse. Obviously I had to take a photo with the street sign since im a princess 🙂

After this photo was taken, these guys approached us and just started a conversation. They couldn’t speak any English, and I speak very bad French. What they were saying was surprisingly basic enough for me to understand. They were also in search of a bar that was open and said they are sure they can find one. So Jess and I followed them because we just love setting ourselves up to get TAKEN (ever see that movie with Liam Neeson?… ha). The guys kept telling us that the bar was straight ahead and we would be there soon. Meanwhile they kept trying to talk to Jess in French who only knows about two words (bonjour and merci). We were walking for about a good 15-20 minutes and there was still no open bar in sight. I saw the metro in the distance, and as we approached it I told the guys that we were leaving. Typical of the male species, they tried to convince us not to go, and told us they would buy bottles of wine and that Jess and I could drink back at their place. I was like uhm no? And then we ran down the metro stairs and shouted Au Revoir!

Once in the metro station, I started to get hungry. I needed chocolate! So I went to get a snickers bar out of the vending machine, and when I reached in to grab it, I pretty much decapitated my finger somehow! My middle finger was gushing blood. I thought I was going to die from blood loss. It was serious. Well not really. I was fine, but it was just rather unattractive and inconvenient. Neither Jess nor I had any type of band aid or tissue so I had to resort to wrapping the snickers wrapper around my finger! Talk about embarrassing!

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Jesca looking beautious on the metro!

So we get on the metro finally and it is pretty empty. The few people there were dressed up really nice. I noticed a friendly looking family sitting near us and I thought I would ask if they knew any bars that were open tonight. I politely said something along the lines of “excusez-moi, savez-vous si les bars sont ouverts maintenant?” I am not sure how accurate this is but I am pretty positive I wasn’t far off from asking the right thing. The family burst out in laughter and said no! I wasn’t sure if they were laughing at my horrible American accent or if they were laughing because they were on their way to Midnight mass like good christians, and here we were in search of getting drunk. I guess I will never know.

Anyways, our stop came up, and Jess and I hopped off the metro, followed by three French guys. They overheard my horrible French on the metro, and told us they were also looking for a bar to go to. One of them saw my finger still wrapped in the snickers wrapper and kindly offered me a tissue. We agreed to search together for any bars.

Our options were limited, but we did find places that were actually open in this section of Paris! We settled for a casual bar. I am not a club person and I do prefer bars, but this bar was too casual. Not many people were there, and it was more of a sit-down-type of bar than a be-social-and-meet-new-people kind of place. I get bored quite easily in these type of settings but the guys we met were pretty funny and entertaining so it wasn’t bad at all.

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My au pair friend Val from Mexico arrived shortly after with another Mexican au pair named Karime. I had a couple glasses of wine, and then the French guys as well as us, unanimously agreed to find a better place!

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Au Pairs in front of the Arc De Triomphe

The guys recommended we find a club on the Champs-Elysees. This is so not my scene but desperate times call for desperate measures. We finally found a club that unfortunately had a 20 euro entrance fee. At this rate, I didn’t even care because I just wanted to seek shelter. It was cold and at least 1 am at this point. We walked in, and hip hop and r&b from the early 2000s was playing. It was dark with red furniture, and extremely crowded with mutants. It was like a freak show. It didn’t help that the floor was sticky from spilled drinks, and for some odd reason jolly ranchers were on the floor and kept getting stuck to my shoes. We all just thought to ourselves, it is Christmas in Paris… might as well drink!

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Me and Val at the club… pretty self explanatory.

All seven of us partied till the club closed at a little past 5 am. We said goodbye to the French guys and us girls waited for the metro to reopen. Jess and I passed out as soon as we got back to the flat.

It was early afternoon of Christmas Day. Our hangovers were so horrific that Jess and I felt like we got hit by a bus. It was already getting late and we didn’t want to waste our day away hugging a toilet bowl. So we showered, put on our Christmas dresses and headed to Montmarte! It is the 18th arrondissement in Paris and one of my favorite areas.

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We made it to Montmartre a little past 4 pm as the sun was setting. It is very hilly, and full of cobblestone streets lined with cafes and cute shops.

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Sacre Coeur Eglise! This church has been in a number of films including the French film “Amelie”. We went inside, but we were not allowed to take photos. Such a pity because it was absolutely beautiful!

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Jess managed to sneak one photo of the inside of the church. She’s such a rebel.

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The church was surrounded by another Christmas market. Vendors were lined up one after the other selling food, sweets, jewelry, clothes, and of course hot wine! Round two? Yes please!

It was now getting late so Jess and I went to a nearby restaurant. I decided to be a little brave and order a “traditional” french meal. Along with the coq au vin I ordered ESCARGOT as an appetizer.

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Snails do not look too appetizing do they? To be honest, they were so drenched in butter and garlic, that’s all I could taste. Jess was too afraid to even attempt to eat one!

After dinner, Jess really wanted to see the Moulin Rouge. It was walking distance so I was like sure, why not. We have to get a picture in front of the windmill! So we are walking, and like usual I am being a speed walker, and am way in front of Jess leaving her to fend for herself in a foreign country that doesn’t speak English. I am just such a bad friend sometimes… oops. It was only around 9 pm, but I guess that wasn’t too early for the creeps to start lurking around the sex district. So this sketch car pulled up to Jess and started saying things to her in French. She yelled for me, I told the guys to leave us alone, and then we decided to cut our trip short and just hop on the metro back to the flat. So we never got to see the Moulin Rouge, but I think we are better off going during the day.

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Last day in Paris at the Notre Dame!

The day after Christmas we did some more sightseeing and the both of us stupidly forgot to charge our cameras so we took barely any photos. We took the train back to Rouen that afternoon.

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Jesca in front of Le Gros Horloge in Rouen

I was so glad Jess was able to spend a couple days in Rouen to see where I live most of the time in France. It is a really fun city! We went out Thursday night and had a blast! I always end up having more fun in Rouen than Paris. The people here are really friendly. We woke up extremely early that Friday, packed our things, and dashed off to London! I will make a separate post about London because I am out of time, and am speed writing to the point where I am no longer making sense. So expect an update soon! To be continued…