Thursday, 19 December 2013

First Term Reflections

So I leave Paris on Saturday to go home for Christmas. I was sat looking out across the city on the first level of the Eiffel Tower pondering life in a typically French and philosophical way. I’ve always known since the first day I decided to move to Paris that I was lucky for the experience but it’s only really hit me properly this week. Maybe this has something to do with leaving for three weeks this weekend but either way I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

Walking to my exam on Monday the sun was glistening on the top of Invalides. A sight I know I will never tire of. Yesterday walking around Musee d’Orsay was just as fabulous. To have so many great paintings on my doorstep is truly magical. Then sat gazing out across the city I thought of all of the friends I’ve made so far. From university and just random people in bars alike. Although I don’t get so much banter from the random bar friends!

I never wanted to get too deep on this blog, it isn’t very me. But after 4 months of being here I’ve really started to appreciate the important things. Mostly the people around you. So this is a shout-out to them. I didn’t think I’d get emotional saying bye to everyone going home but I did.

So guys, party at mine when we all return?!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bat Mitzvah

So the day that had been so long in the planning was finally upon us. The Bat Mitzvah. Or should I say Boat Mitzvah due to the unique venue for the party? But I’m jumping the gun a little here. There is so much more to tell before we get to the venue!

The BM has been a topic of conversation at work for weeks, from the planning what food to have to L’s diet to get into her dress. I’ve had my boss detailing all the different kinds of canapés she’s eaten at parties and what was wrong with them and how the BM was going to have much better food!

I had been told to go down to the flat for 4 so that they could give me a lift to the party. I rang on the doorbell presents for the girls in hand. L opens the door looking divine. I had heard so much about the dress and the diet and the hair and the jewellery so it was lovely to see how great she looked in all of it. I gave her the hardback copy of Alice in Wonderland I had bought for her which has gold edging to the pages, suitably bling for a sassy 12 year old. Thankfully she loved it, as did her dad who was made up that it was in English! J was super happy with her Where’s Wally book and it was quite a job to part her from it so we could go!

Trying to leave wasn’t without problem though. L had decided her shoes were slightly too big so that took some time to sort but eventually we were out the door and in the car.

I was apprehensive about the boat. For two main reasons, one being that I’m not a big fan of boats and it takes quite a lot for me to get onto one out of my own free will. The second reason was because of the fourth series of Spiral I think where this Parisian gang ran a nightclub on a boat, but that’s by the by. The boat it turned out was fantastic! I completely forgot that we were on the river until the traditional dancing started and it started to rock! Oh and when we were watching ducks swimming past the windows!

The first job I was put to was to wrap bracelets around each napkin on the kids’ tables. After we had finished the girls then proceeded to try and put as many bracelets on my wrist as possible. I managed to get away with only having two on my wrist. By this time it was time for guests to start arriving but not before one assumed I was one of their cousins! The two girls in the cloakroom with me were hilarious and didn’t realise I was British until I had to make them repeat some basic request! I suppose it shows how Parisian I am getting!!

I then got literally dragged by the girls’ grandmother to go and get some of the canapés which were TO DIE FOR. There was no cuisine missed out in the exotic array on offer. From sushi to foie gras they had it all. And so did I. Now to break from normal I was going to stay off the booze due to the exam the next day but their grandmother forced me to drink champagne, something I never thought I’d hear myself say.

Then it was time for the party to really begin. It all started off with L playing traditional Jewish pieces on her harp. For someone so young to play something so beautiful it nearly brought a tear to my eye, especially when J joined in on one of them with her glockenspiel. After a bit of dancing and some music it was then time for the meal. Duck a l’orange with potato puree. I was sat at the small children’s table which had some positive aspects and some negative ones. Good because I didn’t have to make awkward conversation with people, bad because I had to mop up when this little 5 year old lad spilt water all over himself. I also had J on my knee for some of it because she was crying due to the loud music. I’ve never felt so maternal in my life until she threw her arms around me.

I wasn’t in the company of them for too long though because a random cousin of my boss came over with a bottle of wine to chat. I had a good chance to practice a bit of French on him because for the first time ever a French person didn’t try to practice their English on me. He also got me up dancing which was quite good fun even though he was a little odd.

Then it was the family’s turn to get up and do something. All the women had written a song about L which was perhaps one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen. Then her dad got up and sang “For me Formidable” which made my heart melt a little bit. L and her friends then did a dance they had choreographed themselves. A typical routine from a teenager’s bedroom, so cute just for sheer nostalgia.

Because the BM is all about becoming an adult they had got together a bag of essentials for her life as an adult woman. The list included

·         Red lipstick- because what woman doesn’t need a bit of that in her life from time to time?

·         Black high heels – ever practical and always chic

·         A pair of Uggs- for when she didn’t want to wear heels

·         A makeup bag of essentials- for on the go

·         A copy of GQ- to find out what men really think

Swiftly following the thank yous a croquembouche of macaroons was brought out. Now I thought this was dessert so after I had my fill I had a cheeky trip to the loo to reapply lippy. To my horror when I got back everyone was tucking into the actual dessert! There was no plate at my place! I asked J was it was she was eating to which she walked off (I was a little bemused I must admit) but returned from the kitchen for a plate for me (definitely my favourite child).

I then returned to the cloakroom which the cousin previously mentioned followed me to in order to get my number. This caused much hilarity to the other two girls who proceeded to tease me about it mercifully! But 1am it was time to leave not before J started dressing me up in the hats that had been distributed around the dancefloor and my boss had offloaded the left over chocolates they had been giving out to guests to me.

Overall it was one of my top 10 nights in Paris so far. I received a text from my boss saying “Kate, a big thank you for your valuable help at the Bat Mitzvah. You were beautiful. I hope that you profited from it. Thank you for spoiling the girls. The Alice in Wonderland is a pure marvel. Goodnight kisses”.

I feel quite sad that I won’t see them for three weeks over Christmas but it does make it all worth the hard work during the week with the girls when they don’t want me to be there making them speaking English!

Monday, 16 December 2013

15 Reasons to Live in the 15th

Some may call it the boring arrondissement but one that I believe is truly underrated. An arrondissement that I will try to persuade you dear readers to consider as not merely a wasteland south of the Seine but as an exciting part of Paris that you probably haven’t contemplated exploring.

1.       Easy to find home on a night out – all you have to do is find the Eiffel Tower, which let’s face it you can’t flaming miss, and you just keep walking south. What could be much easier? If I can manage not to get horrifically lost on my way there then it must be a piece of gateaux for the rest of you.

2.       You get to see 50 year old Parisian women on kids’ scooters- there is nothing more entertaining than seeing a middle aged woman with her Louis Vuitton bag scooting along the road but still managing to pull off the chic thing. This is definitely a big fat positive of being in a mostly residential area!

3.       William in Monoprix at La Motte-Piquet Grenelle

4.       Beaugrenelle- which is quite possibly my favourite shopping centre in the world. Maybe I only think this because I have been deprived for so long from a good old splurge on the sales due to my distinct lack of funds. Perhaps it has something to do with the big shiny M&S which is now only three metro stops away from me, which I must say helps when despairing over essays!

5.       According to the ever reliable source Wikipedia it is the most populated arrondissement, so surely with statistics like that I can find myself a tall, dark and handsome Frenchie to sweep me off my feet?

6.       15th arrondissement Come Dine With Me/Ready Steady Cook – so three of us live on our own quite close together and because if we didn’t actually get out of our flats we wouldn’t see the light of day half the time we cook for each other. There is nothing as hilarious as working out what you’re going to cook with lychees and bacon! (DISCLAIMER- sorry to those who live in the 15th and we haven’t invited, I could say it’s because I only have three chairs but it’s because you’re tacky and we hate you…)

7.       Not to sound too self-important or anything but I do live there so God knows why you’d want to live anywhere else….!

So that’s my definitive list of reasons to live in the best arrondissement. Is that you saying but hang on a second Kate, there are only 7 reasons here! Surely you can count? All I can say is thank goodness I’m doing a French degree and not a Maths one!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Loving My Job

Sometimes looking after L and J is the last thing that I want to do. There are only so many temper tantrums one person can deal with especially when they aren’t your own kids. There’s also only so many times you can play happy families a week before going slightly more insane than you already are, but the past two weeks two things have happened that made me really love my job.

The first was walking into their flat and being greeted with the biggest beat hug from J. It was ridiculously sweet and despite me not being the most touchy-feely person I was really touched by it. It took me back to the first time I babysat her and she hid from me. It certainly feels quite strange that that was almost 4 months ago. She also opened the door to me the day after the hug holding out a piece of peel from an orange which had tiny little crabs balanced on it, trying to make me eat one. This 8-year-old might be angelic to look at but her sense of humour is beyond her years and truly evil!

The second thing was picking J up the other day and her showing off her new leather jacket. It looked identical to mine which L had tried on a couple of weeks previous. It transpired that they had both been bought them because they liked mine so much! Style Icon In The Making here!!

So now that I have just over a week left in Paris until I return to sunny Angleterre for the festive season, I’m feeling quite sad to be leaving them. I didn’t think I would form such a close attachment to the kids but despite their spectacular tempers they are quite endearing. This may have all changed by Monday. It’s time for the Bat Mitzvah on Sunday so who knows what drama may happen. All I can say is expect another post in the not so distant future……

Friday, 29 November 2013

Being Chatted Up

Now most of you will be massively surprised that I haven’t really been chatted up before coming to Paris, (detect some sarcasm?!). But it’s true! There is something that is quite different about French men to any other kind.

I’d say my experiences in this area first started in Cannes (not Paris I know but trust me it’s a funny story). Amelia and I had been sitting along La Croisette when these two guys came over and started chatting to us. They were tiny! Well smaller than both of us but turned out they were from Paris (see Parisian link!) and were actually really nice! Well a lot nicer than they guy who accused me of being a racist the other day because I didn’t want to tell him my first name. He wouldn’t leave me alone for a good 5 minutes. It wasn’t the best experience of my life, I wasn’t massively scared but I was very relieved when he finally decided to leave me alone! This was after another guy had come up to me, mumbled at me to which I replied “Quoi?” and then said I was pretty. I subsequently told him to go away.

I did go on a date with a French guy the other day. That was pretty sweet and made me feel like I was going a little “more native than the natives” in the style of Sally Jay Gorce. We went to a typically Parisian bar for a glass of wine and just had a chat which was cute. It was nice to meet someone new but he wasn’t the most interesting person in the world. Something to tick off the bucket list though!

All of this is still better than the street cleaner who growled at me in my leopard print mac. Nothing can beat that for weird.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Not Missing Home

I’m just going to put a disclaimer out there first. I do miss my family! Well most of you….. but there are some things I prefer about Paris and after going home during Reading Week I realised how used to Paris I had got!

First of all there’s so much more to do! Going to the theatre with James and Cobain last week was lovely but there is something quite nice about an impromptu trip to an art gallery or popping to the cinema to see a French film. I think it’s easier to get away with doing the touristy things as a Brit in Paris, doing all the sightseeing in London just doesn’t feel the same somehow. I still get a really lovely feeling every time I walk past the dome of Invalides glistening in the sun as I walk to uni (sun being something completely foreign to the UK).

The public transport is so much faster. Now Merseyrail and I don’t get on at the best of times, especially the drunks trying to ask your sister about her hat on the way back from the beach. It isn’t often you hear the phrase “It’s a lovely hat, wouldn’t wear it meself like” on the metro. I found myself getting really impatient at 10 minute waits for trains which probably seems really bad but when 4 minutes is a long time to wait for the metro 10 seems like eons.

Now I have a steady supply of rice pudding and bacon from the M&S which has opened up three stops away from me there really is no need for me to venture back to the UK. This also handily gets me out of having to share the plane back to Liverpool with the Disneyland crowd who make me want to tear my hair out. There should be a law against over-tired toddlers on flights after 7pm.

All I need to do now is to get the dog over here so we can go and sit in cafés, her looking cute and me drinking espresso looking chic.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Weirdest Day

I know I don’t normally write about specific days, especially ones during the week as I tend to just be in lectures or realising all the grammar I had ever learnt is much more complicated than I first though. But yesterday is going to break that.

It started off like a normal day i.e. me rushing into uni thinking I was going to be late. This would have been fine if it hadn’t have been for my grammar teacher being 40 minutes late. Normally this would be annoying but you can’t hate a woman who does fantastic ferret impressions!

We thought we were going to have to catch up the time we missed after our lecture which comes straight after the grammar class (this got me worried as I would only have 30 minutes to walk home and eat before I went to work – definitely not possible to do both). The lecture was pretty uneventful so I won’t detail Napoleon’s system of government just now….

I managed to get home at a decent time, had some food then went down to the family’s door. After ringing the doorbell for a good 15 minutes I gave up and went back up to my flat. I sent them a text to say I’d been ringing the doorbell but to no avail. It turns out that J had been invited to the theatre (SHE’S 7 AND HAS MORE EXCITING PLANS THAN ME!) and that they’d be back in the next 40 minutes.

L came up and knocked on my door when they’d got back and before the normal “Hello, how are you?” she said “Have you got the EDF thing?”. Now having no clue what she was talking about we just went down to their flat. It turns out that they wanted to put my name on the electricity which resulted in me having to go back upstairs to fetch my bank details. After half an hour on hold as well as the whole family debating what L could do to change to the self-portrait she’d drawn for her Bat Mitzvah invitations. I’m not sure which was more painful the argument about the proportions of her face or the hold music.

After my boss having an argument with the woman from EDF about how sending letters rather than emails would be damaging to the environment and isn’t it the big companies who tell us to be more environmentally friendly we finally put my name on the account.

My boss then decided that L and I could sit and have a chat in English, whilst separating the stamps for her invitations in the big sheets of stamps you can get. She’s having 200 people to her Bat Mitzvah. That’s 200 stamps. It turns out as well that I will be the cloakroom attendant for said event, which is on a boat. I hate boats. I do get a free meal though so it isn’t all bad. After doing that joyous menial task her mother decided that we should all go to the new M&S together. By this stage it’s 6 o’clock and I was meant to be at Katharine’s for 7. I’m thinking still got plenty of time how wrong I was.

We got there after some crazy driving from my boss. It was the first time I had been in a car for two months so sitting where I usually think the driver should sit and fearing for my life at the Parisian driving style was a baptism of fire to say the least.

Going food shopping with a 12 year old is not something I recommend if you want to keep what little sanity you have left. We finally met up with her mother who thought it would be a good idea to let L try and find where we had parked the car. L had now clue where it was, she was too busy texting as per usual. We’re driving the way back but then my boss stops and parks the car saying “You two walk back” so I have to drop L back at theirs and rush to Katharine’s.

The only saving grace was the lovely meal Katharine made for us. This post is now almost as long as my Candide essay and was almost as traumatic to write.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


In a vain attempt to fulfil the claim I make with my surname I have vowed to be healthier now I’m in Paris. It mostly involves eating fruit as well as biscuits and walking a bit further to the metro rather than round the corner. But last week I went to Yoga. I mostly went because a) it was free and b) all my mates were going.

After getting the metro in my trackies (a look I will try not to repeat) and subsequently a lot of weird looks I got to the place we were meeting. It turns out that the place we do it in is actually a club, which explains the bar in the corner of the room. I thought that it was just because you need a stiff drink afterwards, but apparently not!

We managed to get spaces at the back, behind the woman with the dog (more about them later). The back turned out to be quite a good place to be. I couldn’t understand what the teacher was saying anyway so it didn’t really matter if I could hear her or not! You could view as either really fortunate or massively unfortunate that the girl next to me was AMAZING. I could attempt to copy what she was doing but my distinct lack of ability meant I couldn’t in fact do so.

The one thing most people know about yoga (and I included myself in this category) is the downward facing dog position, which I must concede is especially funny when you see and actual dog licking its owner’s face as she’s doing the move!

I have to admit I do enjoy it, which is a new sensation for me regarding sport but I do get annoyed when she comes over and moves me into the right position. I understand it’s to help me but that kind of invasion of personal space really gets my goat.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to go this weekend as I’m going home (finally) for Reading Week so I’ll have to find something to replace it but knowing me I probably won’t!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Monoprix a.k.a the Queen of Supermarkets

Now, I’m starting to feel a whole lot more like a native as of last week. This revolves around my absolute favourite supermarket, Monoprix. I finally signed up for a carte de fidelité. I don’t even have a Tesco Clubcard! This prompted me to think about all of my favourite things about the one and only Monoprix which some people say is the equivalent to Waitrose but I beg to differ. It is so much more.  

1.       The own brand range is actually really good and well-priced. My Monoprix own brand Nesquick alike was the same price as the normal stuff for twice as much! They also put little jokes at the bottom of all the labels. Most of which I can’t actually understand and don’t really work as well when you translate them but hey it’s the thought that counts! You don’t get that in Asda!

2.       They have a bakery section which sells all of the proper French patisserie. It isn’t as good as the bakery across the road from me but I never can say no to a bit of cake every now and then.

3.       William the super-hot guy who works in the closest store to me.

4.       You get a mini-card to put on your keys when you sign up for the card which absolutely blew my mind I got so excited.

Unfortunately the biggest disappointment is that the tonic water is disgusting so I have to go to Carrefour for that because I can’t ruin a good G&T with inferior T. That would be sacrilege.

Monday, 14 October 2013


You realise your job is quite good when you’re sitting on a really comfy sofa on a Sunday night eating Percy Pigs reading the Hobbit listening to someone play the harp. This pretty much sums up my night last night, well after having to get J to do her homework and eat her tea which took more effort than I was prepared to give!

When you meet someone new here and find out that they’re also a nanny the first question is “How old are your kids?” This might seem strange to those who don’t look after kids especially when you hear us saying “Mine are 7 and 12” or “The father of my children is lovely!” The latter often comes with very strange looks.

It’s pretty good fun when the kids want to be with you. If they’re having tantrums then it can get quite repetitive and they don’t really respect my authority. Especially L as she is only 6 years younger than me so the only time she actually wants to talk to me is when she’s complaining about not being allowed to watch television.

It was really sweet the other day. I was sat around the table with L, J and their mother and we were all painting each other’s nails. It made me feel like a real part of the family and a whole lot less lonely!

I am now very good at translating the Gruffalo into French as that is all we seem to read but that isn’t all so bad. Also watching Desperate Housewives with L was pretty funny. We said it was “English revision”. It would be good if I got paid to sit there and read story books and mess around on iMovie but I get reduced rent in return for English lessons which I suppose is pretty good, oh and however much tea/coffee I can drink as well as potential for biscuits from M&S.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Things I Miss

I’ve almost been here six weeks and as I was curled up in bed feeling sorry for myself with my cold and insects bites on my face I started thinking about the things from home that would make it better.

1.       Orange squash – the sirop d’orange you get here just isn’t the same. It had a thicker texture and I sometimes have to stir it so I don’t have a massive sugar rush when I get to the bottom of the glass. Obviously I could just be content with drinking water but that’s just plain boring!

2.       TV- this probably seems a little Neanderthal as living in one of the world’s best cities for culture surely I could find something to exercise the little grey cells but there is something quite nice about curling up on the sofa to watch the Great British Bake Off with the dog sat on my lap, which brings me to me next two items….

3.       The Sofa – lying in bed for most of the day might seem like heaven but it can get quite boring and also uncomfortable especially as I haven’t furnished my flat with cushion that are actually comfortable and aren’t just flat squares which have had their stuffing squashed out of them.

4.       The Dog – I think I would be a lot less lonely in the evenings if I had the Dog to sit with. Not that she pays me any attention at home, oh no quite the contrary most of the time she goes out of her way to ignore me especially when I try to speak to her in French…..

Obviously I miss family and friends etc but I think if I had these four things chez moi then I wouldn’t feel like such a mad woman who dances around to Ella Fitzgerald drinking Nesquick at 1 in the morning.

Monday, 7 October 2013

La Nuit Blanche

Paris had this big cultural event thing on Saturday night called La Nuit Blanche which basically meant that everyone went out and got drunk, went to art galleries in the middle of the night and could still get the Metro home.

After waiting in my flat all afternoon watching Poirot on Youtube for my boss to text me the time she wanted me to go round and give L an English lesson I gave up and decided to go and meet up with everyone and start the night’s activites….

We walked from my friends’ flat by the Louvre already a little bit inebriated down to Hotel de Ville via the random pick and mix and chicken baguette stands taking pictures of stuff as we walked along. I think it’s been the only time we could take pictures of Paris without looking like tourists. As we got to Hotel de Ville there was a huge queue by a London Bus for what looked like goody bags. A queue and a British icon in one place, how could us ex-pats refuse this taste of home? It turned out that we had to enter our email addresses and all we got was the bag but then again a canvas bag is always useful!

I managed to join in two different dance offs. The first was outside Hotel de Ville where Katharine and I joined in with loads of other people dancing to the band that was playing. The second was in Fontaine de Saint-Michel where these guys were doing street dance so Lizzie and I decided to hop in with them. Safe to say I was the worst dancer in both as per my usual standard but my dancing certainly wasn’t the weirdest part of the night…..

After picking up a broken chair from outside the Highlander, who very kindly let us in to go to the loo even though they were closed. I think they might have been a little disturbed by me knocking on the door saying “La toilette s’il vous plait!” We trundled along to this building which had some people going in. We weren’t really sure what it was but I don’t think we really cared. They security guards wouldn’t let us take the chair in but looked after it for us until we came out. It turned out that they were showing a video of a string quartet playing in helicopters flying over Paris which was surreal to say the least!

But the culture didn’t stop there as tried in vain to find a McDonalds open at 3am to no avail which was probably for the best in the long run. I obviously danced all the way home as I had been very badly singing A View to A Kill – Duran Duran in my head for most of the night.

Overall a pretty cultural night, well for me that is!


Friday, 4 October 2013


Alcohol, walking from one side of Paris to the other and forgetting everyone’s names (sorry!). These three things pretty much sum up my last week, or at least what I can remember from it!

I’ll first start with the alcohol. Freshers Week saw me pull my first pint on the Bar Crawl which I must admit wasn’t half bad even if I do say so myself. The offer of work was tempting but I think nannying is more my kind of thing and the hours aren’t as late. I also prefer reading the Gruffalo to speaking to drunk people any day! In terms of alcohol the free bar was also interesting. I never liked Magners before Saturday night and I definitely don’t like it now. Incidentally after drinking a few too many of anything the 7 flights of stairs don’t seem so bad and I tend to run up them. One of the things I definitely regret in the morning.

I find walking from one side of Paris to another after a night out certainly helps to clear your head after a night on a free bar although some walks home were longer than anticipated. Never again will I think it’s a good idea to walk from Le Marais to Invalides again, all I can say is thank God for taxis.  One thing that I definitely don’t like about Paris is the creepy guys coming up to you asking where to find prostitutes. I have taken to shouting at them in quite drunken poor French much to the amusement of my friends.

I think the general consensus was that you could go up to anyone if you were drunk or sober and introduce yourself. Now it feels a little bit weird as I have forgotten most people’s names but don’t feel I can re-introduce myself. I think that’s something you can only do in Freshers week!

All in all I think Freshers was my best week yet in Paris. Even despite the velib handlebar shaped bruise on my thigh, I think this came from Bar Crawl when we tried to see how many people we could get on one as I can’t ride a bike so if it had come from another night I would be seriously worried! Now is the time for the work…..well nine hours actually in Uni with Wednesdays and Fridays off but you know what I mean.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Living Alone

It’s nearly been a month since I moved to Paris and on my way home on Monday night as I was dancing down my road to Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out I had a little think about the advantages of living on my own. I’ve compiled my top four points.

1.       You can listen to whatever music you want to whenever you want to. I don’t know many people who would be ok with you dancing around your shared flat in your underwear to Marvin Gaye swiftly followed by doing a very good rap along to 99 Problems. All of this I have done and I can assure you all that it was very enjoyable.

2.       You don’t have to ask your flatmates permission to have people over. I like having the freedom to be able to just invite someone over. I do have to warn them about the stairs and the fact the light on the fifth floor doesn’t work but apart from that most people say yes!

3.       You get to know Youtube a little too well without a TV. Talking to Pip on Skype earlier highlighted this to me as I realised I could tell her exactly which episodes of Poirot and Dylan Moran shows were on there.

4.       You can eat when you’re hungry. This is probably a negative but I quiet like being able to sit down to Bolognese with macaroni cheese at 21h30 because I hadn’t realised how long it would take to make. If I lived with other people I would stress about not having a meal on the extending dining table for a certain time and me stressed is not a pretty sight!

I apologise for the brevity of this post but hangover free time has been scarce this week due to Freshers Week. But never fear there will be a post detailing all of the alcohol fuelled antics when I start to remember what happened….

Saturday, 21 September 2013

What I've Learnt So Far

I’ve been in Paris for three weeks now which in the grand scheme of things isn’t that long when you consider I’m here for three years but I feel like there are certain things that I have definitely learnt since being here. They are as follows

1.       There is no road system. Well not one which makes sense anyway. As I have to walk J home from school twice a week I have to think a little bit about road safety. It seems to me that whenever the man turns green so does the light for the traffic and you just have to hope that they stop for you. Wearing a leopard print mac definitely has its advantages in these kinds of circumstances I find.

2.       The French LOVE M&S. I shouldn’t need to explain the reasons why anyone should love M&S. I feel that they are a given. I had a full in-depth conversation with my boss and L about what my favourite things to get from Marks and Spencers were. We all concluded that the best things to get are biscuits and Percy Pigs because despite the presence of BNs in France sometimes one needs a more robust biscuit i.e. the digestive.

3.       French men can be creepy. I also found this out wearing my leopard print coat. I was walking along my road minding my own business when one of the road cleaners growled at me. Some might say that I was asking for it but it did rather put me off my stride somewhat.

4.       People will always try and speak to you if you’re English. There is this bar near mine that some friends and I went to after a little gathering at mine which without fail someone will have done an Erasmus year in the UK and will practice talking to you. I’m sure this will get annoying at some point but right now I find it quite funny and always results in an eventful night out!

5.       7 flights of stairs don’t get easier. Despite doing them every day I still feel like I’m going to die when I get to the top and feel surprised when I finally manage to open my door before falling in a heap.

For only three week here I already feel like I know the place quite well but I’m sure there is plenty more I need to find out. The next thing I think is the best hangover cure in Paris considering that it is Freshers on Monday!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ice Lollies and Scooters

So I’m sat here eating Jelly Babies (Thanks Gran and Grandpa) and I thought to myself I haven’t written a blog post in a while. The main reason for this is because I now have friends who live near me so I’ve actually been out of the Flat for a longer journey than to Monoprix.

The other weekend I was booked in to go and look after the kids on a Saturday afternoon, no English lesson just something fun. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but they’re cute girls so I decided it would be alright. I’m going to call them L and J and they are 12 and 7 respectively.

I arrived at the designated hour and was greeted by L who exclaimed “Great, you’re here I’ll get the scooters”. A note before I continue. I can’t ride a bike and I am pretty poor on the scooter my balance is awful. I’m trying to get better when I go climbing with Dad but I still need to do some work on it. At the moment I just fall over if I try anything too risky. I was hoping that the scooters would just be for them but alas there was one being retrieved from the loo aka the garage for me.

So off we went the three of us on the scooters going to Monoprix to pick up a lab coat for L. This was obviously the place to go I mean what supermarket doesn’t have lab coats? Well this one did to my surprise. We also had to pick up some stationary for her. She asked me what that tongue thing on the ring binder was to which my reply was “It’s the logo for the Rolling Stones they’re a band” turns out she thought they were just a tongue thing.

After trying to navigate out of a very busy supermarket with three scooters and a 7 year old who kept walking off L decided that we needed ice lollies. We were walking to the bakery where they sold them and I was chatting to her. She was telling me how she didn’t like boys because she wasn’t a baby like her sister. I simply replied “Don’t worry you will when you’re my age”.

We had a really lovely sit down in the park eating our lollies but J ended up dropping hers on her legs and got them sticky so we had to return to wash her. When we were back we ended up playing Happy Families which mostly consisted of them screaming at each other and trying to get each other’s cards….sisterly love.

They also decided to watch videos on Youtube. It turns out that both of them know all of the words to the Abba songs featured in the hit musical Mamma Mia which I must admit was a surprise to say the least.

So that’s my job. I get to basically muck around with two hilarious kids speaking to them in English. Not bad really.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cooking in Paris

My alternative title for this was going to be “Grating Tomatoes is harder than you think” but I decided that that might put people off and give them the impression that I’m some kind of crazy mentaler.

The story behind the grating of the tomatoes isn’t a particularly funny one it was basically me trying to grate a tomato so that I could put it in some Bolognese. After a good ten minutes of trying to do this I gave up and just chopped it up and put it in. Incidentally the Bolognese was surprisingly good even despite the eon it took to prepare it.

But cooking in Paris has been fun on the whole as I’m a student there has been a fair bit of pasta and I had super noodles  for breakfast once but I had run out of cereal so it wasn’t so bad…. I have however been going to the markets to get random things like peaches and fougasse (like focaccia but French so ten times better) which has been really great. There is something lovely buying food from the market it feels really natural. I have also found that Monoprix sell bacon which has taken so much stress out of my life it is untrue. I was worried that I would have to trek to M&S to find some.

I did burn my finger though. As I have already described I have a little toaster oven which when I opened it up yesterday I caught my finger on the hot section of the door. I then proceeded to run around shouting before putting it under the tap and getting my burn cream out. I have to say a little thank you to my Mum here who put together a little first aid kit for my relating to all of my previous injuries so I have lots of stuff for burns and make up remover. Cheers Mum.

I’m no Rachael Khoo in the kitchen but I think I’m eating quite well although saying that I think I’m going out for Pizza Hut with a friend today but sometimes you just need carbs and cheese.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Becoming a Native

I went around to see the family that I’m working for the other to organise what days I was working and it turned out that the whole family was there. The Grandmother was asking me about where I came from and all of that stuff. She said to me that “soon I would be a Parisian”. Now this sounded odd at first because how can someone who isn’t français de souche be Parisian? Well it turns out that you can feel like you belong in this great city even if you aren’t French. I know that I’ve only been here little under two weeks but I already feel like I’m a local for      main reasons.

1.       When I went to the Louvre with Pip we were stood in the queue just having a chat and this girl turned around to us asking if we were from round here. My initial reaction was “Yeah I live here!” and proceeded to ask us why the Carrousel de Louvre looked like the Brandenburg Gate to which I had no answer. Pip was laughing her head off at my response. But it’s true! I do live in Paris!

2.       I went to go and meet up with the person who did the job I’m doing before me (who is absolutely lovely). I was waiting by the Pompidou Centre for her when this American came up to me to ask if I could take a picture of him with it in the background. He passed me his iPad which incidentally made me feel a bit soft using as I don’t see the point of using something so big when a camera is much easier. But the simple task of taking a photo for a tourist made me feel like I was becoming a local/native which was really quite comforting.

3.       This third point might seem a little bit bizarre but that’s me so here goes nothing….I can now read while getting the metro. I find that when I’m on my own trying to get somewhere that I tend to look at my phone quite a lot despite the fact that no-one ever texts me. But now because I need to try and keep my phone bill down I can’t text anyone that much so I’ve taken to reading whilst I move around. Trying to get off the carriage whilst still reading and walking from one end of Chatelet Les Halles to the other is an acquired skill I can tell you!

I know that I’m not quite a proper Parisian yet I mean I can’t roller skate yet and I don’t have one of those old lady trolleys for going to the market with but I am definitely getting there. Who knows maybe by next week I will be wearing black all of the time, drinking espressos and looking really chic smoking cigarettes? But I probably won’t!

The Flat

You’ve now heard about most elements of my moving to Paris so far but there leaves one thing that I must describe before I tell you about my adventures. That, my friends, is The Flat.

I’ve been describing my current living situation to people as a Downton Abbey –style set up. As with most Parisian apartment buildings there is a little service entrance which used to be for the servants who lived upstairs with a staircase that has a door into each of the main apartments’ kitchen. I have the maid’s room or chambre de bonne .

I’m at the top of 7 flights of stairs which is certainly testing my thigh muscles and I’m very glad I went up Snowdon with Dad as preparation! Carrying shopping up is interesting when you don’t have a lift especially when you want to make the most of the cheap alcohol. There are about 16 flats/rooms up here but I haven’t seen anyone else here yet. It is really quiet. Mostly because I’m so high up I can’t hear any road noise but also because it feels like I’m the only one up here! The only noise I can hear is birds having fights on top of my skylights which is mildly irritating.

My flat is a bit of a weird shape and not what you would expect, at least not for Paris! I have a little hallway with some shelves on one side and a mirrored wardrobe on the other. I wasn’t expecting as much storage as I’ve got as I saw some on the internet which didn’t seem to have even a chest of drawers! After the hallway you get to my extending dining table. Pip and I extended one side of it but couldn’t put it back so I think it will probably stay this size until I can work out how to put it back. When I say it has been extended that doesn’t mean that it is big, because it isn’t. I can fit the two delightful orange chairs on either side but that is about it!

Straight ahead is my little kitchen with a little two ring hob, fridge-freezer and sink. I have a little toaster oven as well which is proving to be quite a good source of heat as well as being really quick to cook things. Overall the kitchen is pretty awesome, definitely bigger than Rachael Khoo’s but not quite as chic.

It shouldn’t take too long to talk about the bathroom. I don’t know how anyone taller than me could cope with the shower. Their head might pop over the top! The toilet is electric. Now this sounded odd to me at first but apparently it is a thing. It makes an almighty gurgling sound every time you flush it which goes on for a good couple of minutes which isn’t so great in the middle of the night…

Surprisingly as you go around the corner there is a double bed. Something odd for Paris in a studio but definitely appreciated even despite the slightly loose headboard…. So that is chez moi, my humble abode, Hobbit Hole whatever you want to call it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Arrival

I was initially only going to do one post encompassing the Journey and the Arrival but there was just too much general bizarreness to put in one so here goes the second….

Getting a taxi to the flat was the best idea we ever had because the taxi driver helped us with our bags. I don’t think I could have carried them up any more flights of stairs. We couldn’t fit them all in the lift up to the family’s flat so we took it in turns to take them up. Pip was accompanied in the lift by the father of the family who let us into their flat.

We get into their flat and it is as beautiful as I remember except a little messier than last time I had visited! It is classically Haussmann and the addition of the harp in the corner makes it even better. I must add before I go on that the area I’m living in is the Parisian equivalent of Mayfair which sounds amazing but when you consider I’m living in the old servants’ quarters on a student budget it’s not quite the chic lifestyle it sounds!

I was finally introduced to the girls which was lovely but I think they were a little freaked out that I had Pip with me as well. I think for the younger one at least the only thing worse than having an English au pair is having two if only for a week! We had a long in depth conversation about whether we were identical or not and whether it was one egg or two which was a little surreal for my first encounter with them but nevertheless entertaining. After a little bit of faffing we went up to my flat which is unfortunately on the seventh floor with no lift. Walking up the stairs every day is making me surprisingly fit even after only a week here.

The mother of the family is a real darling she gave us a little settling in bag of goodies. It was quite an eclectic mix but quite useful as it turned out. The list is as follows

·         One jar of apricot jam with my name written on the top made by the youngest (super cute)

·         One cucumber (what the hell?!)

·         A Camembert (which Pip hates and stank the fridge out)

·         Some butter (useful)

·         A baguette (but of course!)

So after the kids had helped us with the bags and we’d had a well-deserved sit down we headed out to find something to eat as we hadn’t had anything since the KitKat on the Eurostar. The first obstacle that we hit was the lack of light in the corridor. We spent a while fumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch to no avail so decided to just risk it and trudged down the stairs in darkness….

Luckily I knew a really good tapas bar nearby so we weren’t left hungry for too long and when we returned to the flat the light had been switched on but not for the top two floors. It turns out that it had been broken for a while but has been fixed now which is a relief as I didn’t fancy returning from Freshers to a very dark staircase. I am a generally paranoid person who thinks that crazy axe murderers are following me most days so I’m glad I now have light! So that my friends was my Arrival in Paris.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Journey

I’ve done most of these posts out of order because that is the kind of maverick I am. This one as you might have guessed is about the long awaited journey à Paris.

After watching a good hour of Storage Hunters on Dave to take our minds off the obvious we departed for sunny Liverpool to get the train down to London for the first leg of our journey. A quick dash around M&S quickly ensued and with Moroccan wraps in hand we headed to the platform with what felt like enough luggage to last me an eternity.  We surprisingly managed to find some luggage racks which had space for all of my worldly possessions, took our seats and said goodbye to Mum. Public expression of emotion quickly followed and Pip provided the ever useful Kleenex.

As the train set off we cracked open the butties and decided to watch some Black Books to raise morale. We must have looked rather bizarre to the other passengers, crying incessantly one minute and shrieking with hysterical laughter the next.

Wheeling our stuff from Euston to St Pancras was mildly back breaking but in the end uneventful. Getting the bags onto the X-ray scanners in Customs was interesting to say the least. I’m not the strongest person in the world so I had to use momentum to lift the gargantuan bags up which thankfully didn’t backfire and cause me to join them on the conveyer belt.

Waiting in the Eurostar lounge for the train to arrive I was already picking out the people I didn’t want to be stuck in a carriage with or heaven forbid sat next to. Three Americans were the first people I’d spotted who were on my list of “Worst People To Be Sat Next To”. From previous experience Americans on the Eurostar seem to cluster and talk very loudly to each other about how fabulous Europe is while the rest of the carriage is trying to block out the voice in their head saying “EUROPE ISN’T JUST ONE PLACE IT’S ALL VERY DIFFERENT YOU IMBECILES” or maybe that’s just me. My guardian angel must have been looking down on me though as they were nowhere to be seen as we got into the carriage. The woman sat next to Pip just plugged her iPod in and went to sleep. I however was not so lucky. The guy next to me kept wriggling about in his seat. Pip thought he wanted to start a conversation with me so I turned the other way and fell asleep.

There was a delay. Obviously. Only one of the tunnels had electricity so we had a 45 minute wait to be allowed through which was a blessing in disguise really because it meant I could have a bit longer using the internet on my phone before I was painfully separated from the wonder that is the World Wide Web and weird fish photos (a recent obsession). I resolved that I needed a coffee. As a French student it is in my genetic make-up to have a caffeine addiction so I journeyed to the restaurant car which was further away than I would have liked. What felt like everyone else on the train had had the same idea as me. Including the Americans who had found another kinsman to converse with. After hearing for the millionth time how they thought Britain was quaint I got to the front of the queue speaking in French so that I wasn’t associated with the Americans. It is safe to say that I made a swift exit and took Pip back a KitKat which was the best chocolate item that I could find.

The taxi to the flat was very uneventful and cheaper than I had expected which was a pleasant surprise. Now that brings me to the next instalment…the Arrival.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First Week in Paris

Argh! So I’m nearly halfway through my first week in Gay Paris and I’m all over the shop. While I’m missing family and friends badly I’m also having a really good time just doing my own thing (or at least what my sister agrees to do with me!). So far we have done one random shop in Franprix spending  30 Euros on I’m not really sure what, two trips to the market, a free trip around the Louvre mostly consisting of getting lost and trying to guess how many pictures of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus there were in La Grande Galerie. I’ve also “done” my first babysitting which involved playing a game where you sniffed different plastic containers and tried to guess what the smell was. Pip thought everything was strawberry and I was looking at the answers on the bottom of the boxes so it was a definite success. Following that the girls thought it would be funny to take some daft pictures on iBooth and make them into a film. They had no idea how many stupid faces I have pulled in my life so they found the first few hysterical rather than hideous as most people do. Turned out the film we made with them was a horror film… Despite a minor temper tantrum from the youngest I managed to get her too bed and reading the Gruffalo’s Child but I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most me or her! I still haven’t got my internet sorted as the person I’m meant to be sharing with is on holiday so I have been using the Wifi in Starbucks quite a lot. It is impressive the amount of time I can nurse an Americano for!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Moving To Paris

I'm sick of being what people expect me to be so I've cut my hair shorter than I've had it in years (for practicality as well as being the new me) and I am moving to Paris on Friday to become an au pair and start university. I'm starting this blog to document my journey through the good and the bad, the drunk and the sober, the funny and the sad. I want to spend my three years in Paris in the style of my favourite book character (outside of James Bond obviously) Sally Jay Gorce in The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy and “go more native than the natives”, not caring what people think, showing the world my new self and if none of that goes to plan having some humorous anecdotes.