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 🙂
Over three months ago, I boarded a plane to Paris. I cannot believe how much my life has changed, and also how much I have changed. My whole perspective on how I see the world is different. There are so many opportunities out there, and I must take every chance I can to pursue the life I have always wanted. I still have many struggles to overcome, but for once the positives are starting to outweigh the negatives in my life. Everyone take a chance to see the world. Be independent, explore, and go on adventures! Who cares how outrageous it might sound. It is possible! Without ambition you have nothing in life. I took a risk and it changed my life. So what are you waiting for?
Less than two months ago I decided it would be a great idea to plan a weekend trip somewhere for the au pairs in the Paris area. My friends and I chose Brussels because of its location and affordable bus transportation. I soon made a Facebook event and any au pair interested in going could join. I assumed only a few girls would end up coming, but I was so surprised that 17 au pairs booked the trip! I was nervous at first because I was responsible for this trip, and if it went wrong then it would be all my fault!
I am SO BEYOND relieved that the trip turned out to be a success and was one of the most fun weekends I have ever had! The fact that it was my birthday this past Saturday, made it even better! It was by far the best birthday ever 🙂
^ All the au pairs and some friends before going out in Brussels for my birthday
The mega bus had two possible times to arrive in Brussels from Paris. The first bus was scheduled to arrive at 4:30 am on Saturday. The second bus was scheduled to arrive at 3 pm (15 h) Saturday afternoon. We all had hoped to take the first bus so we would have more time to spend in Brussels, but it quickly sold out so half the girls were booked on the first bus, and the other half on the second.
^ The first group of au pairs in the historic Grand Place in Brussels
I was on the first bus with seven other au pairs. We left Paris Friday night at 11:30 pm (23:30 h). We all attempted to sleep on the bus. Some of us managed to fall asleep, however I can never seem to fall asleep when traveling anywhere, whether its in a plane, car, or bus. So I ended up not sleeping at all! We arrived in Brussels at 3:30 in the morning (an hour earlier than planned). The hostel we booked did not open till 7:30 am, so we ended up doing some early sightseeing and wondering around the streets. Surprisingly a lot of people were still out and about enjoying the nightlife. We joked that we should just go into a bar and join them! Realistically we knew that would be a bad idea so we went to a Mcdonalds instead and stayed there till 5 am. Since it was impossible to fall asleep at that rate me and most of the girls decided to get coffees there. It was also good because Mcdonalds had free wifi and everyone who knows me, knows I am addicted to the internet and social media 🙂
The hostel we stayed at was Auberge de Jeunesse “Jacques Brel”. I chose this hostel for everyone to stay at because of its great reviews, good prices, and good location (having a bar was a major plus!). It was also one of the few hostels in Belgium that accepted groups and did not require a minimum stay of two nights!
^ This hostel was very nice. I would recommend it to anyone, and if I ever go to Brussels again I would definitely stay here!
^ In front of the Atonium. It is a famous monument in Brussels that was built for the World Fair in 1958. It is not really my cup of tea, but many people think it is one of the top sights worth visiting in this city!
Brussels is known for chocolate, waffles, fries, and beer. This was obviously at the top of our to do list! Once it was time for lunch, we unanimously decided on finding some waffles! We found a restaurant that served them and they were definitely the best waffles I have ever had!
^ Valerie (an au pair from Mexico) is posing for the camera with her Belgium waffle and hot chocolate.
At this point, the second group of au pairs were about to arrive and meet us back at the hostel. Before we headed back, the first group and I stopped at a bar to try some authentic Belgium Beer!
Apple, raspberry, and peach Belgium beer! We are such typical girls and got the fruit flavors 🙂
I actually hate beer with a passion, but these were so delicious! I could definitely have another one right now 🙂
I headed back to the hostel with the first group of au pairs so we could meet up with the second group. We were so tired! the fact that we didn’t sleep, made it really difficult for us to stay awake. Once the second group arrived, I helped them check in and I assigned them to their rooms. I gathered everyone together and we decided that the first group was going to go back to our rooms to rest for a few hours while the second group explored Brussels. Then we would all meet up at 9 pm to go out at night for my birthday!
I shared a room with my good friends from Rouen, Anita and Viki. They were so sweet and gave me presents! It was so thoughtful of them!
^ Opening presents… so exciting 🙂
After everyone settled in and the second group went off to go sightseeing, I was finally able to catch a few hours of MUCH NEEDED sleep!
^ Some of the girls from the second group exploring Brussels in the early evening
Before I knew it, it was time to get ready and go out on the town! We decided to go to one area near the Grand Place in Brussels where there is a series of bars all within walking distance. We met up in the hostel lobby and then headed out!
^ Some of the au pairs and I in the hostel before leaving for the bars
We started out at this one bar that was not that crowded. It was really cool because the bar was downstairs, and then there was an upstairs with some seating and a small dance area. There were only a few people upstairs at the time, so when our group of over 20 friends walked in, we quickly filled up the room and it was like our very own private party! Everyone ordered drinks and it was ridiculously fun!
After a couple hours there we decided to go to a club nearby. It was packed with such a good crowd! We met so many nice and interesting people!
^ We had a lot of tequila shots… lol
We were out all night. It was insane! Once again most of us had very little sleep. The next day we woke up, got free breakfast at the hostel, packed our things, and then explored Brussels for the last few hours we had left there. We were all EXTREMELY hungover, and were on a mission to find chocolate, and french fries!
^ some of us in the morning before we left
^ This isn’t the best picture of us, but we found a “friterie” (a place that specializes in making fries). They were hands down the best french fries I have ever had! It was also exactly what we needed for our hangovers!
^ Just me in front of a pretty cobblestone street in Brussels
Everyone had such an amazing time! I wish we could have stayed longer. I love Brussels and would love to go back again. Because this trip was so successful, I definitely am going to plan many more in the future 🙂
I arrived in France exactly two months from today. I cannot believe I have already been here this long! I have been VERY busy between work and school. I am so happy to have made many friends already 🙂 In Rouen I met two girls from the university. One is a Chinese student named Viki, and the other is an au pair and student like me. Her name is Anita and she is from Austria. We already share a close bond because we are all each other has in France! We have so much in common, and love to socialize and go out on the town on weekends. It is SO much fun. Everyone in Rouen is very welcoming. Even with the language barrier, it is easy to make friends here.
Viki, me, and Anita in Paris
Besides my friends in Rouen, I also have connected with many au pairs in the Paris area. I love meeting other au pairs because like myself, we are all so excited to meet new people and explore new places! We even have a trip to Brussels Belgium planned for my birthday weekend. It is already booked, and as of right now there are at least 14 of us going! We are staying in a really fun hostel in a great location. We are going to see all the main tourist attractions, eat Belgium waffles and chocolate of course, and then check out the night life 🙂
International au pairs! Nationalities: Mexican, Chinese, American, Austrian, British, Mexican
This photo was taken of about half of the girls that went to the meet up I scheduled in Paris. I arranged the meet up to give everyone information on the trip to Brussels, and to plan and book it. We met at a Starbucks. Once the meeting was over we decided to walk around Paris. It was a beautiful day and actually very warm!
We saw a fashion shoot taking place! The models and outfits were beautiful. It was so cool to see!
I would love to work on these type of fashion shoots!
Le Pont (bridge) de l’Archevêché
This bridge is typically referred to as “The Love Bridge” because of the tradition for couples in love to take a lock, write their names on it, attach it to the chain links, and then throw the key into the seine. This is supposed to symbolize their everlasting love. This is just another reason why Paris is known as the city of love! The au pairs and I all laughed about how we are going to come back here before the end of the year with our future French boyfriends 😉
You can never have too many pictures of the Eiffel Tower!
Me and Anita taking another cliche picture. We are such tourists 🙂
In front of the Arc De Triomphe
^ Café Gourmand… it is a very popular item served at most cafes. it includes a coffee and three mini desserts. It is just the right amount to satisfy your sweet tooth 🙂
It was Viki’s birthday this past week and we celebrated back in Rouen
Anita and I bought her the most delicious chocolate mouse cake from one of the best chocolate shops 🙂
It looked so beautiful, we did not even want to cut it because it was like ruining art… but OH MY GOD it was heaven ❤
The birthday girl cutting her cake 🙂
Au pairs Irene (Italian) and Anita (Austrian) enjoying the party food!
Viki and I on the beautiful Rue de Gros Horloge. We are walking to a local pub. we had an awesome time once again!
Well this is all I have time to write for now. It is kind of an unorganized post, but it is a much requested update! I plan on posting about Rouen and its culture and history soon 🙂
(^ Monmarte, Paris)
I love the European way of life. It is so different from the United States. As an au pair, I lucked out with a great host family. They are so nice and try to make me happy. The girls are adorable and well behaved for the most part. They can be balls of energy at times which can be exhausting, but I always take them to parks and have them do sprinting games. They love it and think it’s so fun!
(On the way to the park 🙂 )
I really do love Rouen. It is such a beautiful city, and there is so much to do here! There is great shopping, great night life, and great attractions. I go running along the seine 4-5 days a week. That is the river that leads into Paris. it is very pretty.
Communicating is quite challenging. I only have a beginner level of French, but I am getting better. Paris is practically a bilingual city so I have no problem there. Rouen is purely French! If I am going somewhere specific I will write down what I have to say and try to memorize it. Some people know English, but I rarely find someone who is fluent in Rouen. However, at some bars in town I was surprised how many people could get by in English. So that was nice. and I can do the common greetings and understand the basics.
( I attempted to read this on the train ride back from Paris… Let’s just say I did not get very far! )
I start french classes next week. I am really excited because i will meet other au pairs and students. I know a lot of au pairs in the Paris area and have already met up with some. I have yet to find any au pairs in Rouen though. The classes will definitely make it easier to have local friends because right now all my friends are about an hour away.
Hmm…. some peculiar things I noticed about the french (strictly my own observations and experiences. this is not generalizing all of France)…
They don’t work as many hours, and they take long lunch breaks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner have multiple courses. Salad is served AFTER the main course, which I find really weird. I go to the boulangerie (bakery) every day to buy fresh baguettes. When my host family wants meat they go to the boucherie (butcher shop). Everything is walking distance where I live. Everything is cobblestone. Dogs are allowed EVERYWHERE, even in some restaurants. I was in a shoe store and a huge boxer was hanging out next to me. I have to bring my dog here because she would flourish!
( Macarons are everywhere in France… Heaven in a box<3 )
Barely anything is open on sundays. There are a few restaurants, but they are typically open for shorter hours. Some morning markets can be found open as well. In general places open later and close earlier around here (Rouen). Shops typically open around 9 or 10 in the morning and close around 6 or 7 in the evening.
Kids go to school 4 days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) Wednesdays they have off. I wish it was like that in America. There are no screens on windows at all. Even in the newer apartment buildings there are no screens. They do not use napkins. I ate rabbit last week. That was interesting. I felt like I was eating someones pet. From what I have seen so far, the French pretty much do not have MILK here. they drink some sort of cream similar to milk. i cannot describe it. It is not even refrigerated when you buy it. Once you open it you put it in the fridge. My host family has it with their cereal. I do not like it so I pour the smallest amount in and then dilute it with water. It tastes more like a skim milk that way. The girls think i am weird for doing that. They don’t have peanut butter. The butter is very rich and also saltier. Supermarkets are weird. The French go there for things like pasta, cereal, cookies, eggs, milk, and like toiletries and soap. i even have a hard time finding pasta sauce. but if you want meat, fish, bread they go to the specialty shops. these things are sold at supermarkets, but it’s to a minimum. The French prefer quality over quantity.
I rarely hear french music. It is always American music playing in stores and bars. I find this strange but not surprising. I guess this might explain why so many people around the world know English. America really is huge when it comes to media and commercialism, especially in the entertainment industry. All our movies are advertised over here (in french of course), but i have yet to find many French movies or songs.
(A friendly French guy. Free Hugs? Yes!)
The French are not rude. From my experience, they seem to love Americans. They are very very helpful to strangers. They are also more stylish than Americans. You don’t see anyone walking around looking like they are on their way to Walmart.
Overall, I have to say my experience in France has been amazing so far, and hopefully it will continue to get better. This opportunity is such an eye opening experience into another culture. Every day I learn something new. I am fascinated by the French way of life, and I cannot wait to explore as much of it as I can this year 🙂
I am flying to France today! I honestly cannot believe I am leaving. The feeling is surreal. It seems like just yesterday it was February when I found out I got the job as an au pair. For those new to my blog (and my life), if you haven’t found out already, I am going to be an au pair in Rouen starting tomorrow when I arrive, and until the end of July 2013. I will be in France for almost a year. I will be looking after three little girls ages 7, 5, and 2. I am also going to be taking french classes at the Universite De Rouen. I have weekends off, and will spend most of my free time in Paris!
It is pretty crazy to think that I have never been on a vacation or traveled much at all in my life, and now here I am packing my bags and moving to a foreign country. I love spontaneity. I can’t deal with the same routine day-to-day life. I need change. Traveling is a true passion of mine and I must make every effort to see as much of the world as I can!
This past year I have been planning and saving for this adventure in my life. Though there were more than a few bumps in the road along the way, nothing is going to stop me from setting out on what I want to do. My whole life I have been so afraid of people’s judgements and expectations. The fear of failing has stopped me from attempting to pursue many of my ambitions. I have come to the realization that just because negativity surrounds myself where I am now (New Jersey), that doesn’t mean that I have to be trapped by it forever. France is my escape. It’s a positive start to a new life full of new places and new people.
I will be working most of the time and I know it’s not all fun and games. Being an au pair is not a glamorous job. I am sure I am going to break down and cry the first week! The language barrier is going to be my biggest challenge. I hope I catch on very quickly!
I tried packing as little as possible, but I somehow managed to pack four suitcases. I am moving after all!
My friends were at the beach so I decided to walk up and take one last picture in my hometown. It is so windy today! I have lived here my whole life, and it is going to be such a culture shock living abroad. I am so excited though!
I am flying out of New York City and I have a layover in Iceland. I should arrive in Paris around 1 pm 🙂
I had an appointment at the French Consulate yesterday in New York City. My best friend Jess and I took the bus from New Jersey and arrived in the city around 10 am. The consulate is conveniently located in the beautiful Upper East Side on 5th Avenue. It was directly across the street from Central Park!
Since my appointment was at 11:30, Jess and I decided to hang around Central Park to kill some time. It was beyond beautiful! I forgot how huge the park actually is. When I was walking through it, I felt like I wasn’t even in NYC because it was so peaceful. It’s crazy to have such contrasting opposites so close to one another. It really is like being in two different worlds!
After spending almost an hour in Central Park, we made our way back to the French Consulate for my appointment. Jess unfortunately wasn’t allowed to enter the building with me, and she had to wait for me to be done. I WAS SO MAD! The security guard warned us that on average it takes about an hour and a half! I felt so bad for her. If I had known it was going to take so much time and she wouldn’t be allowed to be with me, I would have had her just meet me in the city later. Luckily Jess preoccupied herself by walking about 20 blocks and going shopping. So typical of her!
Everything went smoothly at the French Consulate thank god! I totally thought I was going to forget something. I was kind of nervous talking to the workers there. They were obviously all French. The one french guy was pretty rude to everyone. One girl almost cried because she didn’t have the right paper work and he yelled at her. The other french guy was my age and really nice, but he definitely thought I was the dumbest person ever. He asked me if I could speak french and I said barely. Then he started speaking french to me and I was like uhm I got like two words out of that sentence. And they kept speaking French to each other and then English to me. They were probably calling me a stupid American girl! Oh well… at least it is over and done with!
Once the appointment was over, I walked from 5th Avenue and 74th Street to 3rd Avenue and 54th Street where Jess was shopping. Along the way I was walking down Park Avenue and then turned down this street in the picture above. The houses are so beautiful! It is my dream to live in something like this one day. I am definitely going to move to New York once I return from my au pair adventure in France!
Jess and I were starving by the time we met up so we found a sushi restaurant nearby called Haru. We each had a glass of Riesling and of course sushi. It was really good but the service was awful!
Jess is also going to be an au pair, but in London. Before we left New York we both made sure to buy souvenirs for our host families! I bought my family four mugs, three mini snow globes, three I ❤ NY bears, two magnets, two t-shirts for the eldest girls, and five postcards! I am also going to get plenty of souvenirs from my hometown. I can’t wait to give them their gifts. I hope they like it all 🙂
Everyone should live a life of adventure. Find your passion, make a plan, and then just get up and go. The worst thing you can do is sit back and wonder what could have been. Stop dreaming and start living 🙂
It’s ridiculous how soon I leave. I booked my flight with Iceland Air last week. I will be leaving from New York City on August 26th. I have a layover in Iceland and then I will be arriving in Paris on the 27th. I am so excited to meet my host family. I really hope they like me, and I do a great job! Sometimes I feel like my friends and family think I am just going on a permanent vacation, when really I am going there to work. I am not all about fashion (I just seem to have nothing to post on my blog before I leave besides the clothes I am buying lol). I really am a down to earth and outdoorsy girl who loves nature and exploring other cultures. I am an adventurer at heart. I also tend to be a perfectionist. The last thing I want to do is disappoint the family I am working for. I have this fear of never being good enough so I tend to overcompensate and be overly generous. Hopefully my eagerness to please will drive me to be the best au pair I can be!