“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.”
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…
My best friend Jess finally visited me this weekend! She has been an au pair in London since early September and this is definitely the longest I have gone without seeing her! We have been best friends for over ten years and are inseparable! We are practically sisters! I am so glad she could escape to Paris for a quick weekend trip 🙂
Jess arrived late Friday night and had to leave early Sunday morning, so we only had a short amount of time to explore Paris. The first night my friends Anita and Viki joined us and we just went to a casual bar to grab a drink. Jess was exhausted from the nine hour bus ride (the mega bus takes forever but it is cheap)!
I tried to show Jess as much as I could, but there is just so much to see in Paris and we only had a day. Our first stop was obviously the Eiffel Tower. We also went to the Arc De Triomphe, and Champs-Elysées 🙂
Along the way we of course were hounded by vendors trying to sell tourist items and also draw character pictures of us. Jess and I have passed these type of artists thousands of times, and we have always wanted to get it done but never have. This time we randomly decided to when one guy asked. We wish we had looked more closely at his previous work before obliging…
^ The picture looks nothing like either of us!!! Waste of money. At least we didn’t pay full price, but still! We were so mad!
After that catastrophe we conveniently stumbled upon a vendor that sold hot wine. That was just what we needed!
^ Jess is clearly extremely excited for her wine. It was perfect for such a cold day. I swear we got drunk after one drink. Probably because we only had fruit for breakfast and it was well into the afternoon by then.
By this time we were really hungry so we grabbed a bite to eat at a sushi restaurant. After that we randomly found a store that sold American food products! Saying we were happy was an understatement. Jess and I have been deprived of basic American treats for far too long!
^ We found a bag of mini Reeses! It cost 10 euros for a bag that would cost about 2 euros in the States but it was so worth it. Reeses are more valuable than diamonds over here!
Of course we binged and ate the entire bag of Reeses in one sitting. We have just been deprived for way too long. We rested for a bit and then went out to some bars/clubs. We met up with a couple other au pairs for a bit and then ventured off on our own. We met some really fun and cool people! I unfortunately do not have any good photos to post from the second night. Everywhere was just too crowded!
I wish the trip could have been longer because there is so much more I want Jess to see. I cannot wait for her to visit again over Christmas break so she can really enjoy Paris!
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 am officially going to France for eleven months to be an au pair! With this amazing opportunity I thought, why not document it all by making a blog? This way I can update my friends and family on my adventures and also keep a journal of my experiences for myself to look back on!
Okay so here is a little bit about the host family. After months of searching I finally found the perfect family. I am so happy they chose me because they were by far my favorite! The family consists of the mom, dad, and three little girls ages seven, five, and two. They are so adorable and i cannot wait to meet all of them! I would go into more detail about their names and occupations and so on but I want to respect their privacy.
I will be living in a city called Rouen in the Upper Normandy region of France. It is about a little over an hour away from Paris. It is a beautiful historic city dating back to medieval times. It is where Joan of Arc was infamously burned at the stake in the 15th century. There are so many things to see and do there from museums and galleries to shopping and sightseeing! I doubt I will ever be bored! I will also be taking french classes at the University of Rouen so I am bound to make friends fast.
My schedule is great because I get to spend quality time with the children and help the family with their daily routines, but I still have time for myself to pursue my dreams on the side. The girls go to school from September to June just like they do here in the United States. Classes are held Monday through Friday except for Wednesdays they have off. How cool is that? I would have loved to only have to go to school four days a week instead of five. So every morning during the week (except Wednesdays) I wake up at 7 am and help the girls get ready for school and have breakfast. The mom then takes them to school and the parents go to work. I am free till 4:15 when I have to pick the girls up besides on Wednesdays when I have the girls all day. I am taking french classes a couple times a week when the girls are at school. Besides that I can adventure around town. When I pick the girls up from school I help them with their homework, give them a snack, and play with them. Later in the evening before dinner, I make sure they are bathed and ready for bed. The parents come home around 8 pm and I help with dinner and then the girls go to bed. I have off on weekends which is really nice because I can spend my days off traveling! The family has an apartment in Paris I can stay in on weekends. I see myself spending almost all my weekends there exploring the wonders of this beautiful city!
Its crazy to think that this time next year I will be in France. I am leaving the last week of August so I have a lot of planning to do before then! I am so excited to learn about the French culture. It is going to be such an eye-opening experience. Not only will I vastly improve my french skills, but I will be learning new things every day! I am a current college student and a full time waitress. Every penny I earn will be saved for my year in France! I am a very ambitious person and I have so many ideas and goals I want to pursue while in Europe. By working hard now I will only get closer to accomplishing all of my dreams!