Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reverse weather shock and other fun things about returning to America

Ok, I suppose I owe y'all an update, as well as inform my temporary Parisien(ne) readers what they have forward to when they get back to the States (or "Burgerland," as a certain French musician quite accurately called it).  I am home safely, I did not crash in the middle of the Atlantic on the flight home, although after spending a full 24.5 hours travelling part of me wished I had...Tip #1: do not book with American Airlines.  They couldn't leave on time if they tried (and they don't).

Tip #2: it's a lot hotter in Florida than in Paris, and a lot more humid.  Remember that tres Parisienne habit I developed of putting on jeans and sweaters every day, even in the summer?  I regretted that as soon as I left the airport.  Don't bother trying to revive your running habit for a few days, either.  All that humidity and sweat that drips off your face and every other imaginable body location within 5 minutes of starting your workout that I used to think was just the universal result of outdoor exhertion?  It's not.  However, diving into a swimming pool fully clothed to avoid heatstroke immediately after a run is something I did miss while in unfortunately-swimming-pool-less Paris.  It's the little things you miss.

Other than that, I'm not as "culture shocked" as I expected to be.  American money looks and feels a bit strange at first (it's all the same size...and the same color...and why can't I find any 20 cents coins??) and I'm a much more cautious driver after a year-long hiatus.  But mostly I'm bored.  Working on getting a job and taking my calculus class and re-entering the real world is not nearly as picturesque as spending afternoons picnicing by the Eiffel Tower or walking past Notre Dame on my way out for the night.  And speaking of picturesque, my project 365 has ground to a dead halt.  Not only can I not afford camera batteries with no job, but nothing really seems photo-worthy anymore.  Oh yeah, and I miss having friends (but who really needs a social life when you sweat through everything you own in 15 minutes anyway?)  Loneliness...it's totally underrated.

All in all, I'm missing Paris and the people there more than I thought I would.  Is it too early to start apartment hunting for my 6th arrondisement vacation home/rental investment?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Italy and packing

So, Italy was amazing.  We lost a bit of money on changing plane tickets and had to skip Venice, but I got to see a good friend who is studying in Florence, saw the major sites of Rome, and hiked the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre.  And, surprisingly, Etienne and I didn't hate each other by the end of it.  I haven't put pictures on my computer yet but I will soon and upload a few here.

Otherwise, since we've been back, I've been hanging out a bit more with Etienne before he left for another trip in Normandy.  We said goodbye yesterday, the first of what will be several goodbyes in the next 3 days.  Yep, that's right, 3 more days in Paris then I hop on a flight and get on home for good.  Still mixed feelings.  I've never been much good at goodbyes.

So my time as an American Au Pair in Paris is coming to an end.  Off to the WOS to say au revoir to some of my favorite people in Paris.  Not looking forward to all this packing and cleaning...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The day I should have spent in Venice

Wake up at 4 am
Catch bus at 5 am to Gare de Nord
Catch 5:30 RER to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle to catch 6:50 plane to Milan and begin my week vacation in Italy.

At least, that was the plan.

Instead, however, we printed out the wrong "boarding pass" and had to check in even though we were told we wouldn't, missed check in, and therefore missed our flight.  So, a 60 euro change flight fee later and we have a booking for tomorrow at 1:40.  And Venice has been scratched off the itinerary.

I'd just like to say that I didn't print the faux boarding passes, my travel companion did.  And as soon as I saw them I said "I don't think these are right..." but he insisted we were fine.  I've been doing a good job of resisting my natural inclination to take charge and risk eye-rolling and bitchy/bossy under-the-breath accusations to make sure that things are planned correctly.  But I did, and look what happens.  If I had been there during printing, I would have known they weren't the right ones (I've printed Easyjet passes before) and we would be in Venice right now.  But pointing fingers now won't do us any good.  Lesson: if you want something done right, don't leave it up to a man.

Oh well.  At least now we had an extra day to sleep a bit and be well rested when we finally do make it.  But I'm still disappointed that we won't get to see Venice, ride a bus-boat, and see the Murano glass factory.  And I'm out the 80 euros we spent on the hotel.

We're still gonna make it, we'll just to straight to Florence from Milan and continue our trip as usual, just a day late.  So I can't complain too much.  But I hope I never have to deal with the stress of missing a flight again.  And this is gonna be a pretty frugal trip.  But at least we're being cheap skates together.

Next post better be post-Italy, and not just post-airport fiasco.  Cross your fingers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last"

So my last day of working with French children.  Ever.  I even stuck around for an extra couple hours to help fix dinner (hey, it was one last free meal).  And the girl whined and didn't want to eat.  And I smiled to myself and thought, "well, there's one more thing I won't miss."

Although there were more smiles than tears at our last goodbye (on both ends, I think), it was a little sad.  I shouldn't say sad, maybe I was mildly bummed.  Very mildly.  Not because I'm particularly going to miss these people, but because this is it.  The beginning of the end.

From here on out there are less than 3 weeks before I leave.  3 weeks to hang out with friends, to make the bar rounds, to picnic by the Eiffel Tower or jog by the Seine, to do all the Parisy things that maybe I've been putting off or neglecting because I kept telling myself that I have plenty of time.  And now I don't.

I'm really not terribly sad about leaving, I feel like I'm ready, I just have some mixed feelings.  Mostly I know that when I get back I'll be back to school, back to working, back to grad school apps, back to all the normal life things, back to everything that is NOT living in Paris.  This may be the most exciting and adventuresome year of my life and it's almost over.  Is it bad that there's a tiny part of me that's glad it's over?  I do miss doing things for a purpose...taking classes to get a degree, to get into grad school, working to make money for school, interning, etc. etc.  Now I'm in Paris...just to be in Paris.  It was a nice break, but I have other more important things I need to get to.

Still, I can't help feel like, no matter how many walks or deep breaths or pictures I'll take in these last few weeks, I still won't appreciate it like I should, like I'll wish that I had when I get back to the states.  How does it feel to "fully appreciate" something, to take advantage of each moment?  I don't know if I'd even recognize that feeling if I felt it.  Right now I just feel like I'm not taking advantage of my last opportunities to eat croissants and eclairs and pain au chocolat...but that will come.  Oh yes, that will come.  I guess I need to make one last "bucket list" and cross something off each day.  Any suggestions from readers would be helpful.

On another note though, 4th of July is coming up and I realllllyyyyy really really want to make this cake.  It's amazing.  It's beautiful.  And it's not even all that difficult.  Diet be damned, I might just do it.  I just need to round up cake mix, food coloring, a couple 8 inch baking pans, and a 4 inch cookie cutter...oh, and an oven...

Oh well, at least I'm free.  This weekend will be celebrating freedom from a tyrannous King over 200 years ago, and celebrating freedom from a tyrannous French family 2 hours ago.  Independence Day has a double meaning this year.

EDIT: I also just realized this is my 100th blog post.  I know a lot of people do "100 things about me" or something for this occasion, but 1) I forgot, and 2) I don't know if I'm that interesting and if people will sit through 100 things about me.  But maybe tomorrow I'll come up with "101 things about me" just to keep the blog juju going.  Maybe it'll even relate to being and American Au Pair in Paris.  Bonus.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Eclair

Today was day 4.  I ate eggs for breakfast, chicken with asparagus and a plum tomato for lunch, olives for a snack, and sneakily managed to "forgot" the pie crust while making quiche for dinner and turned it into an egg casserole type thing with tomato sauce on top.  I even passed on the pasta.  And then came The Eclair that the mom pulled out of the fridge that she had bought for me for my last night and everything went down the drain.

I couldn't not eat it.  It was perfectly-bronzed pastry filled with coffee-flavored custard and a coffee-flavored creme strip on top.  It was beautiful.  And she had bought it just for me.  It was one last kind gesture of a woman who knew all too well what it was like to be at her wit's end with her children, so much so that she hired someone else to take care of them.  A last parting gift, a "sorry for my brats, I hate them too" bonding moment.  Well, at least that's what I thought in my head.  So I couldn't just not eat it.

I got away with splitting it with her and only ate half instead of the whole thing.  But it was a delicious half.

And I don't regret it.  If I had to cheat with something, that was a delicious something to cheat with.  I'll make up for it the next few days, run a little extra and go vegetarian for a day or something like that.  I already know I'll be cheating with wine and fondue this weekend so hey, why not start with a bang?

I've also learned that I hate Les Soldes, the twice a year government-regulated sales in almost every store.  I'd rather pay full price and have a full selection that hasn't been picked through by the swarming hoards of tourists that descend on Parisian shops each summer.  Winter soldes were better, I think there was less competition.  Of course everything I wanted to buy is sold out, everywhere, and the stores are such a wreck it's hard to find a replacement.  Oh well, I don't need to spend money anyway (even though the skirt I wanted was marked down to 7 euros and they only have the ugly color left....errrg).  They last for a month so maybe something will pop up.  We shall see.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A carbivore goes low carb, day 3

So I don't know if any of this is working.  It's day 3.  I have no scale or measuring tape so I really don't have any way to know other than how I feel.  But they say that's healthy, no?

I discovered a few things this morning.

1. Not all artificial sweeteners are equal (pun intended).  I usually hate all artificial sweeteners but I gotta do something, they eat plain yogurt like it's water here.  Apparently maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.  It is not recommended by the South Beach book, but I don't have that in front of me now, do I?  Maybe the big container of maltodextrin they bought for The Boy's diet is the reason he still looks the same as when I got here, that and a complete lack of enforcement by his parents, but that's another story.  So I'll either have to find another temporary solution or do without.

2. Carrots are not allowed.  But it's a vegetable!  I don't think I've eaten many carrots yet but I had a small amount at dinner last night and bought a few to snack on.  Maybe I'll let that rule slide.

3. Cold cuts have sugar in them.  Who knew?  It's listed as "dextrose" which is another name for glucose, which I'm fairly sure I learned in some metabolism or nutrition class back in college but conveniently forgot.  Sneaky meat manufacturers.  Regardless, it's the last ingredient listed so it can't be that significant, and the South Beach guy says cold cuts are kosher, so I might just keep them around, at least in small quantities.  I'm not trying for a total overhaul here.  I figure just getting rid of the rice/pasta/bread/potatoes stuff will help a lot, since it's normally about 99% of my diet.  Hey, Paris is expensive and pasta's cheap.  Don't judge.

So those have been my mistakes, or would-be mistakes if I was really taking this all that seriously.  Maybe that's why I feel like nothing's changed.  Oh, and last night I popped a few reject pieces of peach in my mouth while preparing a fruit salad before I realized it.  It's really cruel to have to prepare pastas and potato salads and fruit salads and all this stuff when I can't eat it.  Then again, peach is a relatively low-sugar fruit, I think, so I'm not gonna worry too much.  I won't be one of those obnoxious obsessed dieters who can't have any fun.  At least I hope not, because on Monday we're going to Refuge des Fondues for Kristin's last night and you better believe there will be bread-dipped-in-cheese and wine-out-of-baby-bottles mayhem.

This is, however, the most successful "diet" I've ever been on, even if I don't lose any weight, I've actually stuck pretty close to it for 3 days now.  It think that's a new record for me.

About to go for a run, I wonder if it'll be harder with this lack of carb intake.  Let's go find out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Heat wave

Yesterday I was celebrating the return of the sun into Parisian skies.  Now I want it to chill the eff out.  Apparently it has returned with a vengeance and it was 95 degrees all day and these crazy Parisians are still convinced that they don't need air conditioning or fans or anything of the sort.  I even saw a few people in jeans and/or cardigans.  But of course, they were French so they weren't sweating.  So I have taken 4 cold showers today, my only way to cool down.  Thank goodness I had the motivation to get up and run at 9 am instead of waiting til the middle of the day like I was tempted to.

Speaking of running, I have successfully completed day one of low/no-carb crash diet.  To help I spent 24 euros on chicken and various veggies.  I was so hungry by the time I got to the family's house that I went all Atkins on 3 pieces of sausage, 1 of which was legit sausage left over from a few nights ago with red beans when I was alone and no one was looking, but 2 of which were pretty much hot dogs.  I don't know how they act all pretentious about American food when they literally boiled some hot dogs/"sausages", dropped them on the plate and called it dinner.  But whatever, it's not carbs, and I pretty much ate 2 eggs and 2 chicken cold cuts the whole day before that so I deserved it.

Of course, The Girl was allowed to bring her toys and play at the dinner table, and then The Mom said "eat first, play after you eat" and actually expected it to work.  Like, hello lady, have you met your child?  Or heard me saying the exact same thing to her so often she doesn't even hear it anymore?  Or have you just zoned out of your life completely?  Not that I blame her.  I was a little more irritable than normal over dinner tonight.  Maybe it's the low-carb effect on my brain levels of serotonin.  Or maybe it was getting Littlest Pet Shop toys all up in my salad and listening to her whining when her mom got annoyed and having to pass over the potato salad with corn in it that smelled SO good.  But I did.  Props to me.  And the boy wasn't there at all.  So all in all, not a bad day.  

Contemplating another cold shower.  In fact I'm contemplating just sleeping in the shower while the water runs over me all night.  Sounds heavenly.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


The sun has decided to come back into my life.  I almost forgot what sunshine was like.  Back in Florida I always took sunny days for granted, but the last two weeks in Paris have made me realize how valuable it really is.  Kristin, Josie, and I took a walk along the promenade plantée, which is a park created on an old above-ground train trestle.  Unfortunately, I am out of batteries for my camera and I can't afford to buy more until I get paid later this week so no pretty pictures but don't worry, they'll come back soon.

Kat has been staying with me since Tuesday morning and I like having people here because it lets me be a tourist for a little while.  We went to the catacombs and to Sacre Coeur/Montmartre and just did general touristy things.  I took pictures with her camera but forgot to load them to my computer so maybe they're lost forever, who knows.  Oh well.

Someone on my floor is cooking a delicious meal and it reminds me that I have 10 days until I leave for Italy and will be expected to wear a swimsuit at some point, so 10 days to put together and execute some form of crash diet so I can take fabulous pictures in said swimsuit.  I'm thinking low/no carb but I am a carbivore and that is always quite difficult so we'll see.  I never really follow through with crash diets anyway, I think about them for a few days but then forget or stop caring.  Probably more healthy that way.  But this is Italy we're talking about, I need to get serious [cue Serious Face].  If my next several posts contain more whining and complaining than normal, you'll know why.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crazy Au Pair

I have officially become Crazy Au Pair.  But it's not my fault.  They drove me to this point.
Me: the crazy, child-hating Wicked Witch Au Pair; or,
what I'd like to do with these bratty children.

Yesterday I arrived at 2 pm at The Grandmother's house to take him home and do more homework with the boy.  We needed to read 6 chapters.  But of course, he couldn't be bothered to get his lazy butt off the sofa and stop watching TV so I just went to his apartment to clean the kitchen, and do my #1 activity as an au pair:  wasting time.

He finally showed up about 20 minutes later and started reading (after asking if I would read to him again and I said no, he's 13, not 3, and he is perfectly capable of reading a book by himself, and if he's not then this would be good practice for him).  Then a while later he took a 20 minute bathroom break.  Then he read some...then another 20 minute bathroom break...then some more reading...then getting a snack...then some more reading...then a 30 minute conversation with The Girl's tutor...so when I left him at around 6 to go to the store and fix dinner, he was only a few pages into his 3rd chapter of the day.  I asked him to finish it and write his summary, then we could take a break and eat dinner, then finish the other 3.  Hour later: I come in to see where he's at and he is watching a movie.  I ask about his summary: didn't do it.  It was everything I could do not to flip and somehow convinced him to scratch up a hack job summary that probably sucks (but what to I care, I hope he fails the damn thing) just to get me off his back and back to his movie.

Dinner time came, he gave an attitude and never came down.  And hour later I went upstairs and said dinner time was over, he had a break, it was time to keep working.  And of course, more attitude.  I told him I wasn't staying all night, I had plans, we needed to get this done now, etc etc.  More attitude.  And then I snapped.

I told him he had had all morning and half the afternoon to sit on his lazy butt and watch TV and was acting like a jackass (hey, if he's old enough to read the word in To Kill A Mockingbird, he's old enough to be called it) and I was sick of his attitude and just because he didn't have any friends to hang out with doesn't mean I don't either and that I couldn't wait til next Thursday when he gets on a plane and I never have to see him again and him and his homework are no longer my problem.  Slammed the door. Banged pots around in the kitchen.  Broke a glass.  Mumbled about how much I hate my f-ing job and babysitting an f-ing 13-year old who was too pathetic to read a damn book by himself, loud enough, intentionally, so that he could probably hear through the open windows.  When his movie was done he came downstairs and just sat in the living room.  I said: "If your going to sit on your lazy butt all night could you at least do it with a book in front of your face or would that just be too much to ask?"  Of course, it was.

So I texted The Mom and told her I was wasting my time with her son and when would she be home because I had someplace to be.  She texted me back and said I could leave if I wanted to.  I wanted to.  Haven't heard from her since, I'm assuming I'm supposed to go in sometime today but I sure don't know when.

Maybe I was too harsh.  He'll survive.  Hope I haven't been fired.  But good riddance.  I guess the homestretch is the hardest, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


...in my left hand.  Because someone decided that metal pots with metal handles would make a great invention.  And then some other equally brilliant French woman decided they'd make a great addition to her kitchen.  And then her effing genius of an au pair got second degree burns on her left hand because she forgot to get a towel before picking up the pot by its metal handle.  Why should I have to get a towel before using a handle that by name is designed to be touched with your hand?  WHY IN GOD'S NAME would someone make, or buy, pots with metal handles?  Probably because, let's be real, it's not like she ever uses them anyway.  Let the hired help burn themselves; at least her pots look nice.

Like my childhood friend Alexander, I am in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mood.  There is exactly 1 month before I hop on a plane and traverse the Atlantic back to my home turf, and I think this is a sign.  I had to settle for a quicker-than-usual 2 mile run because The Mom wanted me to come in early to help the boy with his summer reading homework.  Of course, coming in early didn't mean leaving early, it meant staying 7 and a half hours.  Oh, and did we mention that by "help him with his homework" she meant "read the book to her 13-almost-14 year old son because he's too lazy/retarded to do it himself"?  I guess we just did.  So I read, out loud, 3 chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird to this spoiled pampered overweight brat of an adolescent so the poor dear wouldn't risk straining his eyes or getting papercuts or something ridiculous like that, because he claimed he understood it better orally.  Of course, when we got to the actual assignment of summarizing the setting, characters, and plot of the chapter it was made fairly clear that he didn't remember anything of any sort of importance so he had to read it again, himself this time (oh heaven forbid he do something himself) while I sat there babysitting him, because reading and summarizing is just too gosh darn complicated to do on his own.  Is this not embarrassing to him?  Or better yet, to his mother who allows him to go through life like this?  Because it's really pathetic to me.  I really don't know how these people survive in the world.  According to the whole survival of the fittest thing, shouldn't somebody have shot them by now?

I doubt it's a coincidence that on the 1 month mark I once again start fantasizing about the things I'd like to say to these useless excuses for people when I say goodbye for the last time.  If they ask me any more of these stupid questions like "so did this year make you really want to have kids?" or "will you come visit us when you come back to Paris?" or "will you miss us?"  I guarantee there will be no more side-stepping and sugar coating, but instead a cold, flat "hell no" with a smile and a wave.  Or at least a "good riddance" murmured under my breath.  No, maybe I take that back.  The Mom really is quite nice.  It's just the bratty children she's raised horribly that I can't stand.  And my useless, blistered left hand is not helping their case in my book.

Rant over.  I also don't think it's a coincidence they haven't put next year's au pair in touch with me.  I think they know.

On the bright side, I have finally finished the Oreos.  I'm really much better off without them, they are bad for me and my milk doesn't last long enough when they are here.  So a big thank you to myself for taking one for the team and eating them all, otherwise they'd still be sitting on my shelf tempting me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Love Burger (but not with BBQ sauce, please)

No, that isn't just me deciding to use caveman-style grammar to express my love of a juicy mid-rare chunk of ground beef.  That is actually the name of this burger place I found on Rue des Boulangers in the 5th (yes, it's called "I Love Burger"...what was your first hint that it's run by French people?)

But really, it's not bad.  It's actually really good.  And it's hella cheaper than Breakfast In America.

They got burgers that start at €5 including fries.  They got tacos that start at €3 for 2. They got bagels.  They got quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas (but watch out, when they say "enchiladas" they seem to actually mean "nachos"). They even have gourmet mini-burgers with bun-stuffings such as foie gras and little poppy seeds on top (I guess that's the French influence, like, "alright guys, I know we're running a burger joint, but we gotta throw foie gras on something"). They have milkshakes and Ben & Jerry's and muffins and, for some reason, those little hamburger gummy candies for like €0.50.  And, if you live close enough, they deliver.

My only real complaint is the ketchup bottle.  No, I'm not ridiculously picky, but last time we went one of the ketchup bottles had at some point been filled with BBQ sauce (good BBQ sauce, at least) and then they continued to top it off with ketchup because it was, after all, a ketchup bottle.  So we used it once and it was ketchup, but then soon after BBQ sauce started coming out and we were a little confused.  But we figured they'd get the hint at some point and didn't say anything.  However, we went today (a week later) and the same ketchup bottle on the same table still had BBQ sauce hiding under the ketchup.  Which really makes me wonder how long that BBQ sauce has been there..... I told the server who apologized but didn't seem to believe me and put it back on the table.  I guess I'll try it a third time and if there's still BBQ sauce in it I'll probably say something again (maybe I'll come with a French person so they can explain fully in case it's still there).  Because I like ketchup, and if I have to eat another set of french fries with BBQ sauce out of a ketchup bottle I will be très énervée.

Oh, and they apparently charge €0.50 for eating in the restaurant, which is bizarre, but whatever, it's still cheap.

Regardless of the ketchup/BBQ debacle, what they don't have that Breakfast In America provides and provides quite well, is breakfast (as it's name would suggest).  While I Heart Burger does have a brunch (and it's decently-sized, at €10.50), the people next to us today ordered it and it just doesn't hold a candle to a good ole BIA breakfast platter.  The juice isn't even fresh.  But if a classic American burger served à point or some tex-mex burritos or enchiladas/nachos are what you're craving, skip the high prices and long lines at BIA and head over to I Love Burger and give it a try.

But now, without further ado, I must go to bed and try to be Responsible and Productive tomorrow, and get up early to go for a run, because apparently my dad has started giving this blog to his running friends and now I feel like I need to impress them with my sportiness and not let them know that I'm currently sitting in bed in my underwear eating Oreos.

...oh well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2 things

1. I have not slept enough this weekend.  Last night was a toga party at WOS and today I went to a concert in a park with Kristin and Josie so now I'm recovering in bed, waiting for ibuprofen to kick in and knock out these cramps.  Now that I've run out of my birth control prescription I have 6 and a half years' worth of Mother Nature's pent-up rage taking it's vengeance on my uterus.  Note to future au pairs: don't let this happen to you.  Do whatever you gotta do to stock up before you leave.

2. I have some things to add to my "list of things I dislike"

     5. Rat dogs
     6. Men who own/publicly walk rat dogs (like, seriously. Have some dignity.)

3. I know I said 2 but I lied. You now get 3 thoughts when you only expected 2.  What a deal.  Etienne is out of town but I need him to come back so we can book hostels/hotels for Italy because I am afraid space will run out and we will be homeless.  Which, really, could be an adventure of it's own, but not how I'm imagining my vacation.

I cannot wait for this.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things I've Learned That I Dislike In Paris

1. Children (rather unfortunate due to my job, but hey, it's not like y'all didn't see this one coming)
2. Children of stay-at-home moms (at all ages, including adulthood)
3. Stay at home moms
4. Parents of overweight children

Sorry if I offended anyone, but I guess that's kind of what I do.

If you fall into these categories and we are still friends then you are obviously an exception to these.  Call me out at will.

I know that's negative; if you want a more positive list, here's some things I've learned that I like in Paris:

1. Oxfords (the shoes)
2. chinos and boy-fit jeans
3. blazers
4. skinny jeans (or at least straight jeans)
5. high-waisted jeans (or at least not low-rise jeans)
6. pain au chocolate

So, in summary, I've learned I dislike people but I like clothes and food.  C'est très typique de Paris, non?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Random fashion rant

Ok, now those of you who know me well know that I consider myself to be about as unfashionable and un-trend-conscious as they get. Like, I'm just now realizing that crop tops are back (not for me, they're not...)

So take anything I say with a grain of salt.  I remember last summer hearing something about socks with sandals and brushing it off as nonsense...but I just saw this on Topshop's website and it made me cringe:

Yes, that does say "I love these wooden sandals, and they look great with a pair of cute socks..." which immediately sent me into a flustered fit of "NO NO NO NO NO" that somewhat reminded me of my mom driving in an unfamiliar city.  IT'S BACK.  One summer wasn't enough. Apparently even Burberry has put socks on its sandaled models.  Listen, people, I think we've all learned that what works (or doesn't) on a runway does not necessarily translate to what works on you.

So after a quick google search to confirm whether this really is an up-and-coming trend I'll be seeing much more of, I found this in a Huffington Post article:

You're probably like, yeah, so? Socks with sandals, isn't that the point?  Except it was accompanied by this phrase written by Lindsay Mannering (whoever she is, just trying to not get sued here):
"Dare I say the sock and shoe combo adds a sexy, boyish charm to the outfit?"
Sure, Lindsay, I suppose you could dare to say such a thing, but you'd be dead wrong.  There is nothing "sexy" about this look, from the center-parted hair, the deer-in-the-headlights facial expression, the bunched-up, volume-adding skirt, and yes, even the white athletic-looking socks with otherwise quite nice pink sandals that are giving me PTSD flashbacks of bad elementary school fashion when I was just discovering how to dress myself, or at the very least the embarrassingly un-French way The Mom dresses The Girl each day (as if the multi-layers of red on pink and the too-short pants wasn't enough...socks with sandals hasn't been attempted yet, but it has been mentioned...)  The only "charm" that this outfit emanates  is the kind that makes people smile knowingly and say, "Hello, little girl, did you dress yourself today?" which is actually something I've said before and was a bit embarrassed when she said "no" in front of the mother who DID dress her.  Oh well, maybe they got the hint.

I can condone tights with sandals, but socks is just a bit much.  It adds volume to your feet, it cuts your legs off with the horizontal line, which, as a proud owner of a pair of rather short legs I'm a bit conscious of, and makes you look like a camp counselor from a bad 90s movie.

PLEASE, for the love of anything good and beautiful in this world, let's keep this one contained.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So you wanna be an au pair in Paris?? part 3

OK OK OK.  I'm finally doing it.  Sorry I've been a Lame Blogger lately, I guess  I just had my doubts that anyone would actually still want to be an au pair after coming across my blog.  I mean, y'all realize it involves CHILDREN, right?

But I digress.

SO. HOW MUCH IS THIS REALLY GONNA COST YOU? It seems like any other job, right?  You go through the interview, do the paperwork, and start getting paid?  Wrong.  The dark side of being an au pair - the part they don't tell you - is that you're going to rack up some expenses of your own.  And you thought the "dark side" was the kids..... Let's take a look at these, shall we?

1. Au pair paperwork.  The French government will want a copy of your most recent diploma (probably high school, even if you have your college diploma already) and a "letter of motivation," i.e., why you want to be an au pair.  But despite the fact that almost everyone in France speaks English, an English copy of these documents won't suffice.  Oh no.  You much have a translation of these documents.  And not just any Google Translate hack job will work either.  It must be done by a "certified translator."  Cost for my HS diploma: $75.  And I thought this was expensive until I called around and other translators wanted to charge as much as $200 for this. I went with $75 and called it a day.  As for my letter of motivation, I don't believe this needs to be "certified."  I plugged it into Google Translate (hint: this will become your best friend) and figured the bad translation would prove to them how much I really really needed to study and improve my French.  Try to scan and email these documents to your host family to avoid international postage fees.

Cost: AT LEAST $75.

2. Visa.  A long stay visa costs $141 according to the Miami consulate website.  I have been told that since what you end up getting is a student visa, some consulates will charge you $71 instead.  Mine didn't.  Have $141 set aside just in case.

Cost: $141

3.  Place tickets, both ways.  If you are arriving in August, expect to spend at least $800 on a plane ticket.  Yes, that's one-way.  In September they will get lower, I was able to find a ticket for $500 at studentuniverse.com.  The same rule applies for coming home; July and August will be the most expensive times to return because these are France's vacation months.  I would budget between $1600-$2000 to pay for both flights, but this will vary depending on where you are coming from and if you find better deals than me.  Book your return flight early, they only go up.  If you have leftover money, then you'll have extra money to spend in Paris, or on a flight home for Christmas (I was able to find a ROUND TRIP for around $700 since winter flights are cheaper).  Worst case scenario, fly to Paris then tell your parents if they ever want to see you again they'll have to pay for your ticket home because you are now a broke au pair with no money.  It worked for me.
TIPS: It will probably be cheaper to fly into/out of NYC, or a major city, than other places, but consider the extra cost of baggage on domestic flights that you don't have on international flights before booking 2 separate trips.  Also, many people find cheaper tickets to London then take the Eurostar to Paris.  If you do this book early, the Eurostar is notorious for raising ticket prices at the last minute.

Cost: Let's say $1600.  May be more, may be less.

4. French classes.  Some families pay for these, but most don't because they are told by au pair websites that they don't have to.  They are expensive, especially in the city of Paris.  They can be cheaper elsewhere.  You theoretically have to sign up for a whole year, but most language schools don't even let you sign up for a year at a time.  Mine, Campus Langues in the 19th arrondissement, has an au pair program which cos€455 for 10 hours a week, for 12 weeks.  If you want to reenroll at the end of these 12 weeks (which you are supposed to do), double this.  If you only enroll for 8 hours a week for one 12 week session and stop taking classes after that, it's only 395.  No one from immigration will hunt you down if you do this, but it will probably be difficult to renew your visa if you want to stay a second year.

Cost:  if you do what you're supposed to: €455 x 2 =  910 =  $1,333.42 at the current exchange rate.
          if you're cheap like me: 395 = $578.79
         cost of textbooks: €25 = $36.63.  You may need to buy another one of these later in your course as your French gets better.

NOTE: you will have to pay a pre-enrollment fee which will be taken out of the total cost.  Your family will probably pay this for you since you won't be there to do it, but they might ask you to pay them back afterwards by taking it out of your pay (like mine).  Just saying, be aware.

Grand total: $2431,42 (if you evade immigration law and skimp on the classes), or $3059.05 (if you take a whole year of 10 hours a week like you're supposed to).

Yeah, it's kind of a lot.

Some other things you may or may not have to pay for:

6.  Phone and phone credit.  You will want to get a cell phone as soon as you get here.  It was the first place my au pair mom took me.  The cheapest phone at Orange was around €30, and you'll need to pay for mobicarte credit as well.  If you have Verizon in America, your cell phone will be useless over here.  If you have another provider, you may or may not be able to use your own phone with a French SIM card.  Talk to your cell phone people.  DO get a French number/SIM card, no matter what phone you use.  DON'T keep your foreign number and rack up hundreds of dollars in roaming fees.  DON'T get a "France plan" with your American company because although it may be cheap for you none of your new French friends will want to pay international fees to text or call your American number.  Just get a damn French number, alright?

5. OFII taxes.  Once you're here you'll have to go to about 7 different places/appointments with various paperwork and pay a tax and get your medical exam (read: topless x-ray.  Yes, it's awkward).  My tax was €55.  I'm not going to include this in the total because you don't have to do this immediately, by the time you work through the bureaucracy and get to the medical exam (where you pay), you'll probably have gotten paid, so you can use this money if you need to.

6. Spending money for your first month.  Most families don't pay you til the end of the month.  Unless you want to starve (if you live separately) or be anti-social for the first month until you get paid, bring at least a few hundred euros in pocket money to last you til then.  And don't forget your PIN and let your debit card get eaten by the ATM unless you're sure you know how to ask the bank in French to give it back.

So moral of the story is, start saving kids, maybe you can get a family who pays for some of these things to lower the costs, or maybe your parents will pitch in as a graduation present, but if you're footing the bill yourself I'd suggest getting a second job or two.

You'll also want money to spend on clothes, fun, and travel, so save up enough to pay these costs and THEN SOME because your au pair monthly pay does not usually go very far.  My biggest limit to travel has been money.

Oh, and as for the clothes, don't buy clothes in the states thinking they'll be "European" style, because they're probably not. Save that money and buy clothes here.  You'll thank me for that later.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exercise motivation

So I'm sitting in my room not going out because I've spent too much money this weekend and need to be nice and frugal all this week if I want to have any fun next weekend.  And I know I'm just being lazy and really need to get out for a good run so I don't get into that habit I always do of running for 3 or 4 weeks then not for 2 or 3 weeks and then just cycling through the whole thing over and over.  But I am so unmotivated.  1. it's hot. 2. I'm hungry. 3. My bed is comfortable and lounging around in my underwear is more fun than getting hot and sweaty in front of judgmental French people who don't sweat when they run (I don't get it, really).

So to find a cure for my running funk, I googled "motivation to exercise" and came up with your typical stuff that I already know but obviously isn't working right now.  Like, "envision your goals" or "keep an exercise journal."  I've never been big on goal-setting, and all I'm envisioning is me being sweaty and having to walk back up my 5 flights of stairs, and come on, I'm too lazy right now to even run in the first place, why would writing it down, essentially adding ANOTHER task to something that is already more than I want to do, going to help?  If anything it'll just give me something else to feel bad about when I forget to write it down. Silly exercise hippies.

So then I decided to take the classic anorexic route of looking up "thinspiration," the ridiculous pictures on those pro-anorexia websites of really in-shape celebrities and even some scary skinny skeleton women (I didn't look those up), when, let's be real, those in-shape celebrity women spend hours with personal trainers, they do not look like that from starving themselves, but you can't reason with someone who is publicly defending an eating disorder, can you?  I pretty much found a lot of scary Halloween haunted house girls (they should seriously consider that as a seasonal job) and some underwear models that are just making me hungrier thinking of all the things they probably DON'T eat.  Motivation fail.

                               EAT A CHEESEBURGER ----------->

So, third times a charm, since the skinny models just make me want to vomit (and not in the get-skinny kind of way) I decided to go for the Fear Factor approach.  Fear is a powerful motivator, right?  So I found these:
And, quite possibly the best motivator ever: this guy.  WARNING: not for weak stomachs. It's in French, you don't really need to read it to get the point, but the title is "Thinspiration Man: he lost 186 kg (410 lbs)"

Got my shoes on and I'm out the door.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yes, I am eating Nutella out of the jar.

No, I don't see the problem with that.

That's all.

Wait, no it's not.

Yes, this is really what Paris is like.

Wait, not it's not...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Just a blurb

I was reading Tabitha's blog (because her's is so much more entertaining than mine) and she talked about the Marche des Salopes in Paris which I really really really wanted to go to but forgot thanks to a night of binge drinking, but apparently it wasn't all that great.  Read here.  Marche des Salopes is a French version of the "Slutwalk" started in Toronto and spread worldwide after a police officer made a comment talking about how girls shouldn't dress like sluts if they don't want to get raped.  Oh yeah, I guess while they were there they forgot to tell men NOT TO RAPE PEOPLE.  But that would just be too easy, wouldn't it?  Regardless, I apparently didn't miss out on much by skipping a march to celebrate my right to dress like a slut and not get raped  (should I choose to dress like a slut in the first place, which is the big condition in that statement).  Better that way, I suppose

Oh, and on a completely different note, to the au pairs who went to WOS and told Matty they came after reading about it in my blog, thank you, I feel so famous.  Matty offered a free drink to thank me for the business, so thank you for that as well.  I couldn't have done it without you...whoever you are.  Really, though, I'm just surprised flattered that people actually read this....

Oh yeah, and coming back to edit this: I finally got my strawberry shortcake.  Christine made a cake and we had strawberries and she even bought Chantilly, which is whipped cream in French.  It was perfect, two nights in a row because the cake lasted that long without the boy there to eat half of it himself.  Third time's a charm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So since it's almost 3 am and I should be sleeping but I'm not because the weekend has thrown off my sleep schedule comme d'habitude, I thought it may be worth noting that I had my first French-language dream the other night.  Not the kind where your mind makes up some fake language that you are convinced is French and therefore understand it perfectly because it's your own fake language.  I was actually speaking real French with someone who was speaking real French back.  I can't remember it all now but when I first woke up I could remember what was said and what the conversation was about and I thought, "wow, that was actually right."  I'm sure it was a pretty basic conversation, and I don't think it lasted that long, but I guess dreaming in another language is a good sign, right?  Not that I'm anywhere near fluent and have any hope of becoming fluent in the next several years if ever, but I mean, at least it's in my head.

I'm also thinking that when I get home and have to take calculus for grad school I might also try to sign up for a French class. Or maybe just go to a French class without signing up for it.  I wonder how many people are in a French class at the university near my house.  Maybe they'll never notice.  I'd probably speak French there more than I do here in Paris.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yeah Yeah, I know...

...it's been a while.  Truth is my life has been a bit bland lately, as I have been avoiding anything that involves spending money so that I would have enough money left to go out the remaining weekends before payday, and I've been doing a good job of it, but that doesn't make for very good story telling, does it?  On the  plus side, though, this saves me from having to sneak food from the family's fridge when no one's around (which I usually do anyway, but to lesser degrees) because I can't afford my own, and taking pieces of bread home in my purse to eat the next day for lunch.  The most exciting thing in my life (and in a bad way, not a fun way ) has been my repeated attempts at making strawberry shortcake for the family.  I swear they are thwarting me on purpose.  For the last 2 months strawberries have been widely available and all I've wanted is some strawberry shortcake.  Attempt 1: made the strawberries (though I didn't have time to let them sit overnight, so they weren't the best) and made a cake.  Left the kitchen to get the Girl.  Come back to see the mom scooping cantelope into my strawberries.  Don't get me wrong, I like cantelope too...but those are my strawberries!  I sighed and just picked around them while the family ate cantelope/strawberry shortcake with no whipped cream because the boy is on a diet (sometimes).  Attempt 2: made strawberries the night before so they could sit overnight and get juicy.  Made cake night before so it would be ready and I wouldn't be thwarted by a lack of prep time.  Came the next day to find that the mom had given my cake to the dad because he was going to the country.  SHE GAVE MY CAKE AWAY.  What is wrong with these people?  Why can't they respect a good thing when they see it?  I'm giving up the dream. Guess I'll just have to get my Strawberry Festival on next year when I'm back in Florida.

Other than that I had a lovely Saturday with the money I haven't been spending all week, at Tribal Cafe with Kristin and then at the WOS bar beach party, where I finally got to wear the new H&M swimsuit I bought but immediately realized I have no use for in Paris.  Wearing a bikini top to a bar has it's perks, I think I only spent about 10 or 11 euros all night, including my 2 beers at Tribal Cafe before hand.  I should do that more often.  I followed that with a picnic on the river by Notre Dame with Kristin and her friend Josie, making a lovely Parisian weekend that is only reminding me of how much I'm going to miss this when I get home.

Speaking of home, save the date:  July 20th I will be arriving back in Amurica to finish doing Amurican things with my life that don't involve moving to Paris and being a waste of space and money for a year but that do include living with my parents and waiting tables like a useless bum of a college graduate.  I'm having mixed feelings about this.

Unfortunately in my posting hiatus I have accumulated a bunch of P365 photos that aren't of any particular interest but would only make this post obnoxiously long so I'm not going to post them for now, they are on facebook if anyone cares.

A tout a l'heure, pay day in just over a week, thank goodness for fun times to come back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My last night with a roommate

for a while anyway.  My Parisian hotel/air mattress is finally closing it's doors for a much-needed hiatus, after an ex-study-abroad refugee, a family of 3 who had a penchant for fist fights, and a backpacker waiting to ship out, as of tomorrow at 8 pm I will finally have my apartment to myself once more.  Oh solitude, how I've missed you.

Day 82: 5-6-11 - Really, who comes up with these movie titles?  They couldn't come up with anything better? If you're going to change the name, at least change it to something French.

Day 83: 5-7-11 - Kristin and a new friend at Canal St. Martin on a Saturday night.  My new favorite broke nightspot.

Day 84: 5-8-11 - Fountains in the gardens at Versailles, which we apparently need to pay to get into during the summer (lame).  Had a nice picnic with Alex and some random FSU kids we saw on the Champs Elysees that Alex knew from the VIC. 

Day 85: 5-9-11 - Amurica OFY.  Magazine ad in the metro.

Day 86: 5-10-11 - Napoleon's tomb at the church at the Invalides.  It's really quite big, I don't know where they get the whole short thing from. I'd definitely fit in there with some room to spare.

That's all for now.  Gotta get to bed and get back on a normal sleep schedule after "accidentally" missing the metro Sunday night to go to the VD (yes it's really called that) and play darts til 5 am.  Winning.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New batteries!

Ok so I went a week without batteries for my camera but I bought more on Saturday, the day Savannah and her family came to visit, so commence P365!

Day 76, 4-30-11:  Savannah and her sister and mother arrived Saturday morning, we explored Paris then went back to Refuge des Fondues for meat and cheese and baby bottles.  How could you not love it?  Finished the night at WOS for the Disney party.

Day 77, 5-1-11:  went to Sacre Coeur for a picnic, then wandered around Montmartre, saw the Moulin Rouge and went to the sex museum in Pigalle (it was...interesting).  Went to find some Scottish boyfriends at the Thistle, then went to the highlander with a group of hockey players.  A bit of drama, but a good night.

Day 78, 5-2-11: I had to work, the girls went shopping, then they put a lock on the bridge at Post des Arts and we went back to the Highlander where Abby met William and Jude Law (his name was really Hubert but I like Jude Law better)

Day 79: 5-3-11: Savannah and Co left, Rachel and Courtney's sister come to live with me, and I finally buy the blush I've been putting off for months!  I missed you, NARS, though you are ridiculously expensive.

Day 80: 5-4-11: French people eat hamburgers with forks and knives.  I have proof.

Day 81:  10 euro swimsuit from H&M.  Now all I need is a beach somewhere nearby...oh wait...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm running a hotel.

Savannah came back to Paris and stayed with me again...this time with her sister and her mom in tow.  I have had 4 people in my studio for the last 3 days, and I have 2 more tonight now that they're gone (Rachel and her friend who are homeless), Rachel will be staying til the 7th, then I'm housing Alex til the 11th.  I should start charging.  I need my space and I won't be getting it.  Pray for me.

Not a whole lot happened, just showed Savannah and Co. around all weekend.  I'll post P365 pics later.

To the person who searched for "is it legal for au pairs to work more than 30 hours in France," the answer is no. Does anyone regulate this?  No.  Do many au pairs work more?  Yes.  Will you get paid more?  Cross your fingers.

To the person who searched for "24 hour McDonalds in Paris,"  they don't exist.  Trust me, if 24 hour eating establishments existed here, I'd know about it by now.  This is why they're so skinny I think, they can't binge on drunk food on the way home from the bar.

Friday, April 29, 2011

So you wanna be an au pair in Paris?? part 2

You still want to?  Really?  You're sure?  Ok.

So after my last installment, you've found your family.  Now what?

1. Start saving.  Seriously.  Get a second job or something.  The girl before me came with about $3,000 saved up.  I came with next to none.  She did a lot more travelling than I did.  Paris is not a cheap place to live and you won't get paid a lot.  Bring as much as you can.  While you're at it, look into a credit union, or a bank with international partnerships.  For instance, Bank of America partners with BNP Paribas here, and allows you to withdraw money with lower international fees than some other banks.

2. Get your visa. They say not to get your plane ticket first, because your visa may be delayed, and you can't enter the country without your passport.  However, you can't get your visa more than 3 months before your arrival in France. So I'll leave that decision up to you.

Please note that all of these are based on my experiences in the summer of 2010, and your consulate may have different requirements or they might have changed.  Please check with your consulate for confirmation.

First, locate the French Consulate that serves your area.  For my consulate, in Miami, there was not a lot of information about au pair visas specifically - just work visas and student visas.  As an au pair you will get a student visa so follow the instructions under this heading if no au pair information is found. I needed several documents, including the long-stay visa application (available online), my au pair contract from the family, approved by the French labor department (they should do this), a certified copy of my high school diploma (this will cost you, be prepared), a letter (in French, make friends with Google translate) explaining why I wanted to come and study in France, an ID photo (get several, you need them for a lot of things in France), my passport, and a self-addressed envelope.  You will NOT need to register with campusfrance since you're not a "real" student, if you will.  Your au pair contract should act as your proof of accomodations and finances so you will not need these either.

Second, you will have to make an appointment, probably online, and probably well in advance, to come in person to your consulate to turn these pages in.  So you live in Tallahassee, which is a 10 hour drive from Miami?  Tough.  Make it a family vacation and bring the whole clan.  You will probably need to print out the confirmation of your appointment; even if they tell you you don't need this, print it and bring it anyway.  They can be picky.

Bring photocopies of everything.

According to this, the processing fee for a long-stay visa (what you want) is $143.  I have heard that some prospective au pairs were only charged the student fee of $72 at their consulate.  I was not.  Have $143 ready just in case.

3. Got your visa paperwork turned in?  Book your flight.  You're probably going to be arriving in Paris for the beginning of the school year, meaning late August or early September. July and August are the two vacation months in Paris and therefore the most expensive times to fly.  If possible, shoot for early September; flights drop by a couple hundred dollars between August and September.  Try studentuniverse.com, a site that gives discounts on some flights for students and those of us under 26; you'll just have to fax in proof of enrollment or age and once they confirm they will book your flight.  I found my flight in September for $500 on this site; the cheapest I found in late August was $800.  Also, you probably won't be able to book a return flight yet but do that as soon as possible too, because summer flight prices will start high and only go up.

4. Packing.  Pack a few days or maybe a week or two in advance; you'll probably have to eliminate things to get it down to your desired number of suitcases.  Use space bags, they are a lifesaver.

Things Parisians wear:

  • Black pea coat.  Fitted.  Don't try to buy it one size up to "accommodate for layers."  You will just look like a bag lady compared to all the svelte French women who have obviously experienced more winters than this Floridian.  One that covers your butt is nice too, nothing's more miserable than your butt being cold.
  • Black anything, for that matter.
  • Down jackets (I call them puffers but apparently no one else does).  They smell funny but they look warm.  Only in very cold weather though, may not be worth the extra space they take up.  I survived without one.
  • Blazers.  Black or navy.  Rolled at the wrist, over anything.
  • Boots.  Any style, size, color.  They love boots and will wear them from October through April regardless of what the temperature is actually like You can even wear brown boots with that black pea coat, colors don't seem to be as big a deal as Americans make them.
  • Scarves.  There is a difference between light summer scarves worn for appearances (foulards) and the warm winter scarves (echarps).  They wear them both.  You will begin to wonder how you ever survived without a scarf.
  • Converse All-Star sneakers.  In grey or dark blue, not black.  Almost always high tops, but with jeans, who can tell the difference?
  • Skinny jeans.  Dark wash.  Even on people who aren't terribly skinny.  If you think you can't wear them, spend some time in Paris.  You will likely change your mind.
  • Pants that aren't jeans.  Weird, I know.  Like these strange sort of pleated, kind of baggy, ankle length trousers.  Wait til you get here to get a sense of that one because many Americans seem to have trouble with this.  I'm still not sure how they do it.
  • Oxfords.  You know, those menswear-looking flat lace-up shoes that no one in America really knows how to wear?  They rock them.
  • Ballet flats, in spring.
  • Layers.  Think a jacket over a sweater over a dress over leggings with a scarf thrown over it.  Topped with a hat.  I'm still working on this one.
Things Parisians don't wear:
  • Sweatshirts. (Not entirely true, I did see a woman wearing a grey zip-up hoodie, under a black blazer with dark wash jeans and black high heeled boots.  Nothing sloppy about it.)
  • Sweatpants.
  • Athletic shoes (unless running)
  • Shorts (without leggings underneath, anyway...I still plan on wearing mine when it gets warm, Parisians be damned)
  • Flip flops.
Things you also might want to bring:
  • Laptop equipped with Skype.  You will likely use it often.
  • Dental floss and Listerine.  It's expensive here, IF you can find it.  Stock up
  • Adapters.  They are fairly affordable.  You probably won't need a transformer for your computer or camera charger.  Mine didn't work anyway.  If you rely on a hair straightener, plan to buy on in France.  No one I know has had success with American appliances.
Wear your heaviest stuff on the plane.  I wore 2 sweaters, all my jewelry, and my Uggs, even though it was 90 degrees outside when I left.  Once on the plane I took it all off and switched to flip flops.  And if you get to baggage check in and it's a few pounds too heavy (a few, not 10), a little panicked "but I'm moving to Paris" may garner some sympathy from well-meaning airport employees and they may let you slide.  But be prepared.

Alright, I have a rule that when attempting to manipulate airline employees comes into the picture, it's time to wrap it up.  On the bright side, I will continue this in a third and final discussion on costs ( I will, I promise!), and I have also purchased new batteries for my camera so P365 can continue yet again.

Au revoir for now amigos.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Week Ever part 2

Part two of my vacation week.  As promised. Would I lie to you?

Wednesday (4-20-11):  Back in Paris! (for me and Caitlin, first time for Kyle).  We walked from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees, bought sandwiches at Monoprix and had a picnic lunch in the Tuileries, then went to see the Louvre (we didn't go in) and Notre Dame (we did go in ...it's free).  Caitlin and I went for a short run at Bois de Boulogne and then we got ready to go to dinner, in the new dress I bought while in Amsterdam (it's really cute, you'd like it mom).  I finally made it to Refuge des Fondues, the restaurant that serves bread-and-cheese fondue with wine in (rather large) baby bottles, supposedly designed at one point to avoid the tax on anything served in a stemmed glass.  We met another American couple there who had just finished as we arrived, and all in all it was quite an experience...definitely something I'll do again (after I get paid, as I have spent pretty much all my money on this past week.  Not that I regret it, of course.)

Thursday (4-21-11): Breakfast in America for a breakfast burrito (me) and hamburgers (Kyle and Caitlin - it was actually around lunch time once we got there).  Did some shopping for Caitlin so she can get some non-Africa clothes while Kyle explored the Pompidou modern art museum.  Met Etienne then went back to my apartment where Caitlin made a delicious sausage and pasta dish for dinner, and after eating we went to the Eiffel Tower where we sat and watched it light up a few times and listened to music on Kyle's iPod speakers. I'm cheating a little, I didn't take a picture of this (I forgot...I know) so I'm using an old picture from October or November, but it still gives you the same idea.  Actually I'll be cheating for the next few days because I forgot to take pictures for a while (well, one day there really just wasn't anything worth taking pictures of.)  But don't worry, it still gets the same point across.

Friday (4-22-11):  Woke up and went to Sacre Coeur, both mine and Caitlin's favorite place in Paris. Although I've been there plenty of times, I haven't ever been there during the day, and I hadn't climbed up to the dome.  Turns out not many people know about the dome, the entrance is a bit hidden and it's not very advertised, and though there was a huge Good Friday crowd waiting to get into the church itself, there were only about 3 or 4 people in line for the Dome.  So up we climbed, really not to bad thanks to climbing the stairs to my apartment (one of the benefits, I've found) and we got an even higher view than the one from the steps of the church (one of the highest in Paris, actually, second only to the top of the Eiffel Tower).  It also helped that it was a beautiful day outside and the weather was clear and you could see a good distance.  I'm cheating with the picture again, I found this on google, but I really did see this so I could have taken it.  Please don't sue me.  Afterwards Caitlin and Kyle shipped out for London and I took a nap, attempted a run that my knees just weren't feeling, and spent the rest of the evening at Le Cavern, a nifty little cave bar in the 6th.  Good night.

Saturday (4-23-11): catching up on sleep and relaxing and enjoying having my apartment back to myself.  I really am a green, I need my sponge-squeezing time.  I spent the day being lazy and watching my only DVD, 500 Days of Summer, which I have watched countless times, in English and in French.  I'm pretty sure the only time I left my apartment today was to go to the grocery store.  Winning.
My favorite scene: "Darling, I don't know how to tell you this, but there's a Chinese family in our bathroom."

Sunday (4-24-11): Easter!  Had an Easter picnic with Claudia and Kristin in Bois de Vincennes, and there was a fair there with rides!  We need to look it up and find out how much it is because I definitely want to go before it disappears.  We picnicked by the lake then walked around for a while (read: got lost) but the weather was great so I can't really complain.  They even have little rowboats you can rent out on the lake, like at Bois de Boulogne.  They really put a lot of effort into making these parks picturesque.  (I actually did take this picture this time).  Afterwards Claudia and I ended at WOS (big surprise) and watched the Miami Heat game and listened to live music and bonded over beers.  Typical night, but I still love it.

And now today is Monday, and as much as I would like to post a picture 1) I haven't left my apartment yet, and 2) the batteries in my camera are dead and I need new ones.  I'll hit up the grocery store ASAP (they might not be open, apparently today is a holiday).  So maybe I'll end up cheating again, or maybe I'll be able to squeeze one more photo out of my AAs.  Back to work tomorrow....such is life.

Best Week Ever part 1

This has probably been my favorite vacation week ever.  Fitting, too, since this is my last vacation until I'm done and starting tomorrow I will be working for another 2 months and then flying back home to America forever.  That sounds weird, but not all that bad.  Anyway, here's an update:

From where I left off, last Friday (4-15-11), I spent 2 days pretty much hanging out with Etienne (who also has found himself with a lot of extra free time since quitting his job) and being lazy and enjoying the good weather.  Saturday, even though I was still a little sick, we went to the Jardin du Luxembourg to sit around in the sun and explore a bit (since I'd never been there).  It's really quite a bit bigger than I expected.  This picture is one part of it, with some sort of political building off to the side.
Saturday (4-16-11) we went to Beaubourg again (he as a musician and I as moral support because he was shy to play alone), and after getting told to stop by the police, we sat and enjoyed some performers in the square outside the Pompidou.  This guy was really hilarious and had quite a large audience, very impressive (and highly energetic, he did this show about 3 times while we were there).  The picture is not actually crooked (even though most of mine are ever-so-slightly slanted despite my best efforts, especially on this camera I'm using now), the square is sloped downward towards the Pompidou building (on the left).

Sunday (4-17-11): Amsterdam with Caitlin and Kyle!! My train left at 6 am so I had to take a taxi to Gare de Nord but I got there with plenty of time to spare.  I arrived in Amsterdam at 11 am, went to the hostel to deposit my backpack, and we spent the day essentially exploring the city, walking along the many canals (pictured) and enjoying it's many coffeeshops (for the sake of my parents and my future employment, we'll leave it at that).  We wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum but we thought the line was too long (of course, it was twice as long the next day so we never did go), discovered a stirfry restaurant that was amazing (or maybe we just thought it was), and after a short nap we embarked on our own mini pubcrawl around the city, which included shoarmas and which started and ended at the bar below the hostel where we got 10% off (not a bad deal).

Monday (4-18-11):  More Amsterdam, including climbing in the I am amsterdam sign by the museum, a little shopping for Caitlin, seeing (but not entering) the wax museum and the giant statue that is supposedly devoted to "war and peace" but looks like a flaunting of phallic masculinity to me, and otherwise wandering around.  Around 6 pm I had to catch my train and in order to arrive in Brussels at the same time Kyle and Caitlin left closer to 5 (they were on a slower regional train instead of Thalys) so I read a bit and lounged.  Upon arriving in Brussels to stay with Caitlin's Uncle John and Aunt Irene (who I have met before in Maine a long time ago, which I didn't realize) we found a nice little Italian restaurant, had pizza and calzones and a few glasses of wine, and fell asleep pretty quickly.

Tuesday (4-19-11): Brussels, for a day.  There really isn't a whole lot in Brussels; we took a nice walk down a very prominent shopping road and through a few gardens, chocolate shops, and one church to the Grand Place, which is essentially a large square with cafes and restaurants surrounding it.  After some Godiva chocolate covered strawberries (I couldn't help myself) we picked a cafe and had a few beers (which is really what Belgium is about, no?), including the one pictured on the left, a special at many cafes called KWAK (yeah, we made fun of that for a while) which requires it's own stand.  We had a few people come and ask to take pictures of it while we sat there.  We also found the Little Delirium cafe (a smaller branch of the famous one) and tried the Delirium beer before leaving to eat and catch our 9 pm train to Paris.

I'll save Paris for later, I feel like this is quickly turning into the longest post ever.  Part 2 to come soon (sooner than my last part 2 promise, don't worry.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More P365 pictures

Part 2 of au pair info to come soon...posts like that take a bit more time than simply uploading photos.  Oh, and I received my first spam comment today...does that make me a legit blogger now?  Righteous.

 Day 62: 4-11-11 - Naked mannequins being covered with brown paper in a window display at ProMod.  Really?  Is this a French requirement or just this one store?  Either way it's a bit silly...we wouldn't want our children being corrupted by seeing naked plastic people (because they've never undressed their Barbie's before, I'm sure)

 Day 63: 4-12-11 - rowboats on the lake at Bois de Boulogne, taken after a run.  When the weather warms up I want to rent one.  Maybe I'll find a nice French man to row it for me..."You! Come row my boat!"  How romantic.  With my luck that phrase is really a slang term for some exotic sexual act and said French man will speak only enough English to understand that I just asked him to do something indecent in public.

Day 64: 4-13-11 - Easter package from the family, including Easter Grass (a build-your-own basket, I'm assuming?), egg dying kit, peeps, jelly beans, and of course, Easter just isn't Easter with Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Also a fleur-de-lis shirt from Amy.  Times like these I can't wait to get home.

Day 65: 4-14-11 - A bit sick.  Took some sudafed and then took a sandwich and a coke to Bois de Boulogne (quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Paris) to eat and get some fresh air.  These ducks didn't seem to mind me sitting only a few feet from them.  They were probably hoping for some sandwich scraps.

Bear with me as I get back into the hang of this whole photo-taking thing, and as I adjust to the new/old camera I'm using.  I'm still not in love with it, but hey, it gets the job done so I really can't complain.  Skype date with Caitlin soon, we'll see if our Amsterdam plans are still green-lighted in spite of her malaria...