“I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. Not the artful postures of love, but love that overthrows life. Unbidable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love as there has never been in a play. I will have love.”
– Shakespeare in Love
^ 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.
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.
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.
Outside the Joan of Arc Tower
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.
We found a church that was converted into an iron museum! It was very cool inside!
Felt like a queen sitting on this medieval chair haha 🙂
Jewelry and hairpieces dating back hundreds of years! I wish I could have tried them on!
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…
Our final stop was at an art museum in Rouen
All in all, it was a great day! I hope the au pairs enjoyed themselves as much as I did showing them around 🙂
“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.”
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
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 most cliche London picture you can take!
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!
A horrid photo of me standing in front of my future residence
St. James Park with the London Eye in the background
Tower of London
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 🙂
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.
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!
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!
Tree at one of the entrances to Printemps
View from the top of the roof at Printemps! Amazing right?
Jesca on the Printemps roof. Galleries Lafayette allows you on the roof as well I believe.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Jess managed to sneak one photo of the inside of the church. She’s such a rebel.
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.
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.
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.
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…