Monday, December 28, 2009

My First French Noel

Here is just a quick update on my first Christmas in France. It really was nice. Thanks to my up-and-coming trip to the French Riviera, I was in very good spirits. We left for the country on Christmas Eve in the afternoon. I do not remember the name of the small town, but the house was charming and cozy...a typical French country home. Our hostess, Michelle, the friend of the grandmother, was very kind. To describe this Christmas in just a few words I would use the following: food, sleep, champagne. How could it not be a good Christmas? To make things even better, the kids were good almost the entire weekend!

Christmas Eve night, or Reveillon, everyone got all dressed up and partied. We drank champagne, danced, and finished off the night with a huge, fancy dinner. I must admit that I was a little sad early-on, being that I missed being home with my family. Babou, the gradmother that never ceased to top off my champagne glass, saw that I was a little sad, and right away, led me downstairs to the game room with champagne. "Champagne will help," she said, and it did. Haha. She is great. This is Hannah and me early in the night. 

And of course, me with all three kids. I must admit that I find them absolutely adorable. 

I just had to get a picture of Babou and Sophie. 

Here is the beginning of dinner. This is a huge, styrofoam boat of seafood. I can't even remember it all...oysters, shrimp, something like snails, crab... And I tried it all. It wasn't so bad after all. I even like oysters (well, with a little balsamic vinaigrette)! This was only the beginning...not even the main course! 

I even got to skype my family after dinner (at 3 am!). I went to bed around 4 am and slept until around, I did not get up to see what Santa brought the kids. I know, I'm horrible. I was just too tired. Sophie took pictures anyway.

Christmas day was a little more relaxed. Everyone wore normal clothes and several of us took afternoon naps. It is a good thing I did because it was another late night of eating good food and drinking good wine. We spent one more night there and the next day and then drove back to Paris. All in all, I'd say it was a definite success. Tomorrow morning I am leaving for Antibes (where Olivier is form on the French Riviera). My flight arrives in Nice at noon. I cannot wait! New Years in Italy and almost a week with Olivier and his family. Should be fun. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things just got a whole lot more Jolly!

Sunday night I went to bed in hopes of fast-forwarding through the next two weeks. My agenda was this: full days with the kids (aka Black Wednesday every single day), Christmas with the family (about the only highlight), weekends wandering Paris alone, and another week with the kids. I was honestly not looking forward to this holiday season at all, which is sad...I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Things changed Monday night. After a full day of very naughty children (they're lucky Santa isn't real, because a few of them would be on the naughty list), I received some news that instantly put me right back into the holiday spirit. I am free the entire week after Christmas, which means I can get the heck outta town and spend the rest of the holiday on the French Riviera with Olivier and his family! And, I think, New Years Eve in Italy. That's more like it. Honestly, I didn't really care if the plane ticket was expensive, and of course, being peak travel time, it was. Such is life. Nothing can discourage me. I just bought my ticket and did not buy travel insurance, which means this is official. :) Let me describe how happy I am. Yesterday, yet another full day of children, little Nathan was sick. He puked all over himself, his stuffed animal, his bed, and my leg. Being puked on didn't even make me gag. I MUST be in the holiday spirit. Bring on the Christmas music. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Moon

Tonight I was on an Ile de France train (just a train that connects Paris to some of the suburbs) with some friends, and I saw the moon. I do not notice the moon a lot here, but when I do, it makes it even more special. The sky was not too dark, a deep blue color, and the sliver of the moon shone brightly in contrast to the deep, cloudless sky. I thought of my grandmother and my mother. The moon no longer reminds me of just my grandmother like it used to. For me it now reminds me of my mom just as it does my grandmother. It is my mom's birthday today and I long to wish her a happy birthday in person. A conversation via Skype will have to suffice this year. 

Some of you know the story of the moon. Others do not, so here it is. I was very close to my grandmother when she was alive. I think this has to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa and Grandma Porter since they lived across the street when I was very little and I stayed at their house when my parents worked nights. My grandma and I always sang the moon songs together and when I was sad to leave, she reminded me that all I needed to do was look at the sky and see the moon to be close to her. She promised she would do the same. And so, throughout my life, this is what I do. Because of her, I love the moon. It makes me feel close to her. I think she would really like to see that I am living in Paris right now, following my dreams. The night of my grandmother's death there was a huge snowstorm. My mom and her amazing driving abilities somehow made it from our home near Caberfae Peaks Ski Resort into Cadillac to be with my grandmother, grandfather, and her siblings. I stayed home, knowing that it was grandma's last night, looking out my window at the blinding snow. Later that night, the storm calmed and the sky opened slightly for just a few minutes and I saw the moon. At that moment, I knew she had died, but I also knew that she was at peace and would always be a part of me. I look down at my ring right now and know that she is with me. It was her mother's ring. 

I think of her more at Christmastime than I do throughout the rest of the year. She loved this time of year. I loved Christmas caroling with her, my grandfather, other family members, and members of the church. Christmas Eve at my grandparent's house was my favorite day of the year, filled with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and lots of good food and Christmas cookies. It was magical for me. Then in the evening we went to church for the Christmas Eve service. We sang Christmas songs and towards the end of the service, the church went dark and one-by-one, everyone's mini candles were lit for the singing of Silent Night. Silent Night is my favorite Christmas song and I think this is why. 

So now, here I am in Paris for Christmas. Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful here and I am so happy to be able to experience the Christmas season in Paris, but it is hard to be so far away. I wish I could be with my family for Christmas, and I'm sure there will be many tears this week. Except for right after I arrived, I have not had much trouble with feeling homesick. Knowing that I will be here for Christmas instead of with family makes me homesick. However, I will be ok. I have the moon. And that means I have my grandma. I haven't felt this close to her in years. On Christmas Eve night, when I am somewhere with the family celebrating the holiday, I will step outside and hopefully see the moon. And I know it will help me feel a little better. This is why I love the moon. It warms my heart and keeps me close to two of the most wonderful people in my life, my grandmother and my mother. Happy Birthday Mom. I love you. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Start of the Christmas Season

Christmas is in full bloom in Paris right now. Everything is lit up and decorated. I love when I turn a corner and see yet another street draped in lights. For example, here is a street right by my home, rue du Commerce.

Crystal and I checked out the decor right away. We were especially excited to see Champs Elysees all lit up. It definitely is beautiful. Seeing Champs Elysees lit up for Christmas was one of the reasons I wanted to see Paris in the fall/winter. 

Crystal and I were excited to see Christmas trees lining the Champs. She called this one her "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree." It turns out that most of the trees here are like this, or not quite as nice. I guess I'm used to a Michigan Christmas (this tree was about our height and somewhat sparse, but it is hard to tell in this picture). 

This is just one of the many decorated stores/restaurants in Paris...a pizza place on the Champs Elysees. 

You can count on Paris to have a Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde for the season. I am lucky and got to go on it (thanks to a sweet boyfriend). Each little compartment is even heated. Classy. 

Here is a view of Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees from the top.

The large department stores are very decked out for the holidays. If it were not for the decorations, I wouldn't venture near them...they are FULL of people. 

Here is the gigantic Christmas tree inside Galeries Lafayette. 

Each store window has a different Christmas/holiday scene. 

And of course Notre Dame has a Christmas Tree. 

The last picture is just for fun...Olivier and me having a lot of fun with friends on a Friday night. I realize my smile is very over-the-top. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Boy

Some of you already know that I have a new boyfriend. I have not had a boyfriend in years, so it is very different for me. It is still pretty new, only about a month and a half, but it is really fun. We met at Chez George, one of my favorite bars in Paris. Sine then we have been hanging out a few times a week and having a great time. We speak in French together as I have insisted. He speaks English very well and I am the one who needs the practice. Every once in a while when I am really lost in translation I ask him to please explain/translate in English (en anglais, s'il te plait!). 

His name is Olivier and he lives in Paris. He is from a town called Antibes between Cannes and Nice on the French looks gorgeous! I'll spare you all the details, but here's a picture. I happen to think he is gorgeous, by the way...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving with the French

It is not often that Thanksgiving and the French cross paths. After all, to my knowledge, this scrumptious holiday is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. However, when Thanksgiving was mentioned around my wonderful friends several weeks ago, it was quickly decided that it would be celebrated this year. After all, I guess if I were French, I would be a little curious about this holiday and the different food. I was very excited because I was able to share a little U.S. culture with my friends, but I was also a little nervous about preparing the meal. Most of you know that I really do not cook. I guess when I try things tend to turn out, but in general, it's just not something that I do. 

The only real problem we had was the turkey. Where would we find one? Not the easiest thing to do in Paris, believe it or not. I'm sure it can be done, but I had no idea how. Since we didn't even meet until 4 pm, I told them that it was WAY too late for a turkey anyway...chickens would have to suffice. And they did.

I arrived at my friend's apartment at 4pm. He and I went through the recipes that I had copied down from my mother and made shopping for Monoprix, the grocery store, and one for Thanksgiving, the American specialty food store. If it wasn't for the Thanksgiving store, I'm pretty sure Thanksgiving here would have been nearly impossible for me to pull off. Where else would I find the Pepperidge Farm bag of dressing ingredients, the Oceanspray cranberries, or the can of Libby's pumpkin pie mix? When a few others arrived we headed to the stores. 

The shopping trip was pretty fun. I was consulted as the expert in many circumstances, and often answered with the classic answer of "Je ne sais pas, mais peut-etre..." (I don't know, but perhaps....etc). After the stores we bought some bread (which we were too stuffed to eat) from a boulangerie, some chickens from a boucherie, and some wine from Nicolas, the wine store, because well, I believe a French Thanksgiving (French anything, really) must include wine. We went back to the apartment and started cooking. Lots of peeling, boiling, mixing, etc. took place and it actually started to come together. It was probably 9:30 or 10 pm by the time we actually started eating, but I guess that is the French way of doing things. It was great. I think they enjoyed it. There were some definite about putting cranberry sauce on meat, and the dressing, but it definitely worked out. The only thing that didn't really work out well was the pumpkin pie...there was just something about it that didn't taste right. 
Also I didn't have Coolwhip, just some whipped stuff that had more of a sweet cream-cheesy taste.

Here is the evidence:

Sylvain stuffing the chickens...

Group shots...

This year I am thankful for friends, family, and the opportunity to live abroad, experience new things, meet new people, and live life to the fullest. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Freaked Out

It happened Tuesday...

For a few minutes I was really freaked out. And it wasn't just me. The possibility of losing a child has always scared me, and I experienced it first-hand a few days ago. OK, So I didn't lose a child...she just decided to take off.

I went to the school at 16h25 (aka 4:25 pm) to pick up the kids. I always pick up the two younger kids first and then head next door to the other school to pick up the oldest. Children are supposed to wait with the headmistress or whatever until they see their parent/guardian/au pair. I went with the little ones to wait for Hannah (the 6-year-old), and after waiting several minutes, I started to get a little worried. I usually don't wait for her for more than a few minutes. I took the little ones and went back to their school to see if maybe she decided to wait for us there. sign of her. So I went back to her school to ask about her. Once again, nothing. This all happened within probably 1 to 2 minutes. Then I had nothing to do but call Sophie, her mother. This is a call that every parent fears, and I knew it, but I had to do it asap. 

Sophie told me that it was "impossible" ...that there was no way she could have just left on her own. I, on the other hand was thinking the following: she could have easily left here alone, this place is the definition of chaotic, and she would definitely try to pull something like this. In a panicked state, I stayed there as instructed, and paced from one school entrance to the other, not knowing what to do other than wait. Probably 5 minutes later, which seemed like 30 at the time, the grandmother called me to inform me that she had just arrived at the house and Hannah was there as well. Huh. I could breathe again. I about burst into tears, but kept it together for the little ones. I told them the good news (I knew they were worried too), called Sophie, and headed home, all the while trying to calm down.

When I got to the apartment, there was the grandmother and Hannah waiting for me to let them in. Hannah looked at me with eyes that said oh crap, please have mercy on me. I asked her why she left the school without me. She answered that she wanted to walk home all by herself. She knew that that was completely against the rules, but I'm pretty sure she wanted to see if she could get away with it because this is just the type of thing she would pull. Anyway, she talked to her dad via cellphone and of course sobbed after, knowing that her immediate future was not going to be fun. I talked with her for a while, explaining how worried I was and how she can't do what she did, etc. 

My anxiety level probably did not go down until four hours later, but at least I could breathe. Looking back, I am amazed at how clearly one thinks in a crisis. I know nothing serious happened to her, but it could have and I knew it, and I kept it together. She, of course, changed her story in an attempt to avoid serious punishment, trying to blame her leaving on the fact that she didn't see me. if she didn't know that she was supposed to wait. Well, she did get a punishment and now waits inside, right to the side of the headmistress person until I inform her that I am there. 

I still can't believe that a 6-year-old decided to walk home all by herself. This is maybe a 10-15 minute walk involving street crossings, etc. in Paris. I am just so happy that she is safe and will probably never pull that particular stunt again. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What we did during the school holiday...

I know, I know...I haven't blogged in a very long time. I don't know where the time goes. Well, the kids went back to school after a 1.5 week vacation. Luckily, I had almost all of last week free... thank you, Grandma! 

Crystal's kids were away in London with their grandparents all of last week, so we had a lot of time on our hands. We did some errands for the mother of her family that filled some of our time... they were adventures, to say the least. We went to the animal shelter to find her family a dog and found two adorable dogs, brother and sister. Nothing has yet come of that. Also, we ventured outside of the city to make a trip to Ikea. Ikea is another world in itself. Crystal and I looked like fools, I'm sure, taking the bus and train back into Paris with huge blue Ikea bags during rush hour. What else could we do but laugh? We did something educational... we went to a Teotihuacan exhibit in Paris's Quai Branly Museum. 

Think early Latin American civilizations...City of the Gods...Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent god). I love this stuff. Crystal and I had Latin American History together a few years ago, and this stuff fascinates me. Here we have the Disc of Death! Creepy...

We wandered a lot last weekend. We love an area called Le Marais (the gay and Jewish area... lots of character). We stumbled upon Thanksgiving, the store. We were like kids in a candy store. It was full of American food... simple stuff that you would never think you would miss, like pumpkin pie puree, root beer, Butterfinger, Hamburger Helper (ok, so I don't miss that), Betty Crocker cake mix, pancake mix, Reese Cups, Mexican food, etc. We each splurged on an item of our choosing and continued with our wandering. Sometimes a taste of home is just so good!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fondue is French for Amazing

I officially love fondue. Last Saturday evening, my dear friend Jerome had a fondue dinner at his home and I was lucky enough to be invited to this gathering. 

7:30- I arrived on time...however I forgot that the French tend to run about 15 minutes behind schedule, so in fact, I was early. I met Jerome's lovely wife, Laure, and beautiful 3-year-old daughter. I was given a kir, one of my favorite drinks over here, and we chatted while we waited for the other guests to arrive and while Jerome and Laure finished getting things ready. Next came Basile and Fabien, and then Anne arrived a few minutes later. 
Jerome had a delicious plate of cheeses that he started cutting up and putting in the pot for fondue. Then bread was cut... And then we started eating. It was wonderful/amazing/delicious/delectable/scrumptious/warm/yummy/and just plain cheesy (but the good French cheese...not velveeta or kraft singles type cheese). While eating, we, of course, had to continue drinking wine. I was told that I had to keep drinking the wine or...well...the cheese would have an impact on my digestive tract...I think you all know what I mean. So I did. We ate it all rather quickly and then had some salad. Another friend of Jerome arrived and we all agreed that a second helping of fondue was a great idea. So basically, everything I just said happened again. YUM. I knew I liked cheese. Now I know I LOVE cheese. Welcome to France!

After the food and a fruit/coconut balls dessert, we were sitting around talking and decided to play a game. The always-fun/brilliant Anne came up with a few. She must have been thinking about her old middle school years. Truth or Dare, the classic favorite among younger teens, was quickly agreed upon. This could get interesting... In french, it is even more fun to say. 

Action ou vérité

It was fun (no details allowed) and we all learned a little more about each other. The night ended in laughs and I went home completely thrilled. This was one experience that I will always remember. Good times with great people. 

Oh, there is one thing I forgot to mention about the evening. Somehow Thanksgiving came up in the conversation. I started talking about pumpkin pie I think, and then it was decided that we are going to have our own Thanksgiving over here. I will get the recipes since I'm the American, and we will spend all day preparing and then eating Thanksgiving Dinner. It will be held the Saturday after Thanksgiving since we will all be working on the Thursday. There is an American store where we will buy supplies, which just so happens to be called Thanksgiving. This will definitely be a Thanksgiving to remember...maybe I'll even throw in that sweet story about the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Haha. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I still have a Paris buzz

This Paris buzz has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol, however I fell the word "buzz" fits well in describing the way I feel about my current home.

Paris-lovers know what I am referring to when I talk about being captivated/obsessed/enchanted by Paris. For me, this intoxication with Paris has made itself known every time I have visited. Of course, over time, this high diminishes a bit, but it has yet to be least for me. It never left when I lived here last summer (obviously...I'm back), and I still experience it daily....even when I have the kids ALL DAY tomorrow (another Black Wednesday). It is not about seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Opera or any other great is in the every-day-life stuff that I experience this magic. It is in speaking French, understanding French, smelling a boulangerie (bread shop), eating a warm, fresh, crispy baguette, feeling the cool, fresh air as I leave the apartment, and then experiencing the welcoming warmth of the Metro heaters, looking up and seeing the remarkable architecture on a random building (who am I kidding...on every building), a greeting and goodbye in every store, the extremely thankful people who truly appreciate even the smallest of deeds...the list could go on for days. I have yet to tire of this place. I wonder if I ever will. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I have FABULOUS new friends

It is true. I have new friends and they are fabulous! It is funny how quickly one's phone can fill with new numbers. 

Last night I went to Rosa Bonheur, one of my favorite bars in Paris, like I do most Friday nights. Sylvain and his friends introduced me to this place and it is always fun. It was my first time going to Rosa without Sylvain, which I was a little nervous about since I have always been Sylvain's friend. Last night ended up being very fun. There was just a small group of us, but the group consisted of most of the people that I know the best: Anne, Jerome, Fabien, and Basile. They are great. I felt like one of the group. We had so much fun. I love talking in French and feeling like I actually know what I'm doing. They say I am speaking French beautifully, but I know that they are just being nice since I am currently still slaughtering the language when I speak. 

We drank plenty of delicious wine and ate an array of French stuff...I don't know what I ate, but there was a layout of French pate-type stuff...I think the one I ate the most of was a type of vegetable. After that we danced and met new people. The night was, to say the least, a fun night. Here is a picture of me, Basile, and Fabien...

...And another of Anne and Jerome. 

Anne may even meet up with me and some au pair friends tonight. 

Tonight I am getting together with some girls from my class and Crystal. They are also au pairs and seem very nice. I have already hung out a few times with Catarina, a girl from Sweden, and shared a Metro ride with Eva, a girl from Germany. I am so excited to be making friends with people from all over Europe! Well, gotta go meet Crystal at Hotel de Ville! 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It WAS a Good Day :)

Today I spent most of my day cleaning, figuring out student loan crap, taking care of kids, and skyping.  Yeah, sounds fantastic.... Well it was.  After a short trip to the grocery store, I started trying to figure out my mess of student loans...they are coming due very soon.  Luckily, so far, things are going well.  This is good because I don't want to deal with too much mess over here without a printer, fax machine, etc. 

Then I called my dad.  Today is his 50th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Dad!!!  I can't believe he's fifty.  Now I feel really grown an adult.  Woah, I guess I am, however I still qualify as a "youth" on Europe's trains.  I don't feel like I am already 25.  I feel like 23 maybe.  Anyway, I talked to my dad, mom, and brother for several minutes.  They are driving out to Colorado right now.  I talked to them again tonight and was able to skype and see them all.  That is the first time I have seen my parents faces in about a month and a half.  Technology is AMAZING. 

While I was doing all kinds of student loan business, Emmanuel walked into my room to give me my first piece of mail since I arrived!!!  And as soon as I saw who it was from I started crying.  Lina, Sanna, and Lucas, the kids I have been babysitting for the last 8 years, sent me a package with all kinds of things they made for me...some pictures they colored, a necklace, a keychain, a ring, and even something Lina wrote last summer about summers on Lake Cadillac.  It is difficult to be away from those kids.  I love them so much.  I got to skype with them tonight as well.  Basically, those little sweethearts made my week.

The mind is a funny thing.  When I wrote that I was going to have a good day, I had no idea I would receive a package of love from those kids...I could just feel that I was going to have a good day.  Foresight is a funny thing. 

Today's Gonna be a Good Day

I can feel it.  Today's gonna be a good day.  It's Thursday morning and it's not yet 9 am.  You may ask, "Betsy, don't you adore sleeping in?"  Yes, I truly love a good sleep-in day, however, as part of my job, I have to get up and help the kiddos get ready at 7 am.  While I do like sleeping in on the weekends, I like the fact that I am already up because it means that I have several hours to do whatever I want (after I clean the house, of course...). 

Now, why is it going to be a great day?  Well, I am just banking on it.  My mood is good, I had my coffee and toast with Nutella, and the best news of all...the weekend is in sight!  Thursday always means that my Black Wednesday is over and tomorrow is Friday.  I barely feel like I work on Friday because the grandmother comes and I just pick up the kids from school with her, walk home, and help out here and there. Plus, she always tells me I can leave whenever I want.  

I want to take a minute to comment on this grandmother character.  Her name is Babou, and I don't even know how to spell it.  Well, so I think it's probably some nickname for "grandmother," but I'm not sure. If anyone knows, please fill me in.  Anyway, this lady is something else, but I really like her.  She always brings good food, for example, she brought Nutella last week, and every Friday, she brings champagne.  She's laid back and supports me with the kids.  And of course, she always lets me know I can leave whenever I want because "I should be out with my friends on Friday nights." :)

I don't know what I will do today.  I'm sure I will meet up with Crystal at some point.  It is getting colder and I am actually looking forward to bundling up in my wool cozy.  Maybe I'll go for a long walk.  

Oh before I forget, I want to share a French food experience.  Last Friday I ate fois gras.  I didn't go out with friends until later on Friday night, so I had dinner with Babou and the parents.  We had champagne, bien sur.  Emmanuel got out the fois gras...the real stuff...not the pate.  It was even homemade by his aunt (I think).  By the way, foie gras is duck liver.  Anyone that knows my eating habits well knows that this is HUGE for me.  I was not too far from a vegetarian before I came here.  I actually liked it.  I had to cut it and put it on bread, but it was good.  Sophie said normally you eat a chunk of fois gras and then bread, but she ate it on bread, and so did I...after all, it was my first time and eating it alone was a little much for me. 

Here's what it looked like...

I never thought I would be the type to eat it, but here I am, drinking champagne and eating foie gras.  Ah, j'adore la France!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall is Here! An Evening Walk in Paris

Things have been going very well here.  It is going better with the kids...most days, and I am feeling much more comfortable in my living situation.  I even get a 5-day-weekend coming up.  The kids will be on a school holiday and their grandmother is taking them for the first three days of the week.  I would like to go somewhere for a visit, but I have to figure it all out. 

Crystal and I went for a walk last night...big surprise.  It was the perfect way to spend our Saturday night.  We had nothing to do and we didn't want to stay in all night.

Last night it was finally starting to feel like fall over here.  It has been unusually warm (so I hear), but it was definitely cool last night.  I wore leggings, a dress, and a long sweater and was warm enough, but I almost needed something more to keep me warm.  We took the metro to the Louvre and began our walk there.  We love walking at night from the Louvre to Champs Elysees because it is absolutely beautiful. Everything is lit up.  I think I like seeing monuments better at night.  Somehow they just look grander.  Anyway, we got off the metro and walked through the Louvre where we came out at the pyramids and fountains.  I should have taken a picture, but I'll throw in an older one just to give you an idea.

We then headed toward the Seine.  Walking along the Seine at night is phenomenal.  There are so many monuments lit up with their reflections shimmering on the surface of the water. 

As Crystal and I discussed our future travel plans, we passed several things.  I love Place de la Concorde at night, with the Obelisk, fountains, and view of Arc de Triomphe down the busy Champs Elysees. 

By the way, the Eiffel Tower is currently white and red.  This is in honor of Turkey.  They are trying to enter the European Union.  Crystal and I wanted to check it out the other night.  There must have been a big celebration going on when we walked there because there were tons of people under the Eiffel Tower shouting and running around with Turkish Flags.  We honestly think it looks a little ridiculous right now, being that it is simply half red and half white.

Anyway, back to last night's walk.  We went to Pont Alexander III (a beautiful bridge), for some pictures and then headed in the direction of Champs Elysees. 

Champs Elysees is actually getting a little tiring.  There are so many tourists all over the place, and of course we cannot afford anything other than McDo ice cream cones, which happen to only be 1 euro.  We parted ways after we walked to the George V metro and headed home.  We both needed sleep.  

Today we are going to a little performance thing.  We are going with Crystal's family (not her real family...the family she is an au pair for).  The security guards of Karen, the mother, are doing something near Invalides and we are going to watch.  We saw a poster for it last night, but I really have no idea what it is all about. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm Running in the Rain, Just Running in the Rain

I have finally started to actually work out over here.  I tend to always put this type of thing off.  Procrastinating is what I do well.  I kept telling myself that all of the walking I do over was good enough, but I also tend to treat myself to many sweets and baguettes.  Anyway, I started running last weekend and found it wonderful.  I guess I just need to have the right frame-of-mind when I decide to workout.  I have always disliked running for the most part, but I guess running around Paris is a little more interesting than what I am used to.

Yesterday I was all pumped up to go for a little run and when I looked outside it was raining... a lot.  Well, I decided that I was going to get all sweaty anyway, so I might as well face the rain.  It was great.  I ran toward the river and then took a right toward the Eiffel Tower.  I figured I would just turn around when I started to get tired.  To my surprise I made it to the tower and was still doing great.  This is just one thing that I LOVE about living in Paris.  I can go for a run... to the Eiffel Tower!!!  By the time I made it back I was completely drenched.  Luckily it was not very cold outside.  A hot shower finished it all off perfectly.  Ah, I love it here!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Love School

I started my French class yesterday and I am very excited about it.  I was getting anxious to be a student again and study French.  My class meets for two hours, two times a week, Tuesday and Friday.  It is located near Opera, right in the heart of the city.  My Metro stop for class is Opera, so on my way to class I will see the gorgeous Opera Garnier when I climb up the Metro steps! 

There are maybe 13 or 14 girls in my class from all over Europe.  They come from Germany, England, Switzerland, Russia, Spain...and I can't remember where else.  Anyway, I am the only American...actually, the only person from my half of the world.  This is kinda cool.  Last year my class consisted of people from all over the world, but there were several Americans in the mix.  My teacher is fabulous.  Her name is Isabelle and she is very kind and funny.  I felt very comfortable talking in class, which is not normal for me, so that is a good sign.  I am really looking forward to going to class again on Friday.  My teacher suggested that we all read a novel in French.  She said it's best if we read one we've already read in our first language.  I saw The Da Vinci Code on the shelf in the living room, so I think I might try reading it.  I have always wanted to read it while in Paris since so much of it takes place running around this city.  Maybe I'll give myself my very own Da Vinci Code tour of Paris!

I have to talk for ten minutes in French to my class sometime soon.  I can talk about basically anything.  Any ideas?  

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend Adventures

It is now Monday and for some reason (I think it has something to do with a Jewish holiday) I have the day off!  A three-day weekend.  How I love the little things in life.  Since I have been slacking, I figured it would be the perfect time to write a blog about the weekend.  After all, weekends are usually my only source of inspiration. I guess my weekend started Friday afternoon.  I stayed home all Friday with a sick 2-year-old.  However the grandmother arrived around 4:00, and after I went to pick the girls up from school, I was finished.  I got all ready to go out and joined friends for another fabulous time at Rosa Bonheur, my usual Friday night hangout.  Unfortunately Crystal had to work until 9:30, so she could not come.  I had fun anyway.  It was Sylvain's little send-off since he left for New York City today.  He will be doing research there for the next three months.  

Saturday was a very fun day.  Crystal and I met for lunch with no plans for the day.  This is normal for us.  After all, we do tend to just be wanderers.  After we finally found an open boulangerie for a baguette, we ate lunch on the steps of Musee d'Orsay.  This happens to be probably my favorite museum in Paris with all of its fabulous Monets and VanGoghs.  We decided to spend the afternoon in Bois de Boulogne, a park with lakes and paths right outside of the city.  To our surprise, there was a carnival set up and we couldn't help ourselves...we had to partake in the fun, especially after we saw this...

We only went on the swings.  After all, these rides were sort of expensive!

Then we went to the Bois de Boulogne.  It was a perfect day filled with sunshine, warm weather, and families in canoes. 

Sunday was also very fun and started with no plans.  We started the afternoon with bread from our new favorite Boulangerie.  It was the best bread I have ever had and the name of the place is Eric Kayser.  We looked it up and found out there is one right by my Metro stop!  We ate our lunch on the terrace while we enjoyed the perfect view of Paris.  

We then decided to go to Jardin des Plantes, which is a huge garden with lots of plants, flowers, and museums. We decided to check out the inside of Saint-Etienne du Mont on the way since it was open.  Beautiful!

I will bring my mom to Jardin des Plantes because I know she will love it.  Walking around looking at all of the different kinds of flowers reminded me of my grandmother because I remember walking through her garden and in the woods with her and learning the names of the flowers.  She would have loved it.  I wonder if she went there when she visited Paris years ago.  

Later we decided to relax on the lawns at the Louvre, where we met some nice French guys who wanted to take our picture.  It was pretty funny.  Now they are our facebook friends.  Overall, I would say we had a very nice weekend.  It was just what I needed after a stressful week. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009


First of all, sorry for not blogging all week long.  It has been sort of a stressful week.  Thank goodness it is officially the weekend.  

I had some issues I needed to bring up with the parents having to do with my hours, etc.  I was very nervous about bringing up the topic with them, but I know I had to because it was eating away at me.  Already it feels better even though there are still some things that urk me.  At least they are aware that I was working a lot more than I should have been and have been making a conscious effort to keep my hours to those specified in the contract.  I had to stay home all day yesterday with a sick child and they told me that they would pay me extra.  I am not sure that would have happened if I would not have talked to them about it. 

The oldest child is still giving me a lot of trouble.  I still deal with a temper tantrum everyday, but my tactic of ignoring her seems to be working and really makes her mad.  Hopefully things will start improving soon. If they don't, I don't know what I'm going to do...probably go insane.  Crystal was able to witness one of these fits on Wednesday and could not believe how horrible she was.  Crystal says she has never in her life seen a child behave like that.  At least she is very sweet when she is not being horrible.  

As for my Paris adventures, I was not able to do a lot because I was sort of glued to the house 2 of the 5 days.  Crystal and I did participate in our normal wanderings.  On Tuesday we went to Place des Vosges, where Victor Hugo once lived. 

On Thursday we went to Monoprix to buy stuff for sandwiches and ate it on a nice lawn near Invalides.  It was the perfect spot.  We could see Invalides of course,  Pont Alexander III (a beautiful bridge), the Eiffel Tower, and Grand Palais.  Then we went for a walk around Champs Elysees before heading back to my area to pick up our kids.  After the long week, I did have a very nice, relaxing weekend, which I will talk about later.

Crystal has hopefully found a wonderful family to work for.  She has been staying at the foyer where I first stayed for the last week.  The family is actually an American family.  The kids are very sweet and the parents are kind.  Crystal knew this family must be "important" when she received contact information on U.S. Senate stationary.  Apparently the mother was an advisor to Obama.  I'm not really sure, but we're hoping to be around when he stops in for a visit someday.  That would be so cool!  Hopefully she will move in on Wednesday once her background check goes through.  We ran into the family on Sunday while walking so I got to meet them...and their security guards.  Crazy.  Anyway, that's all for now. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Did a Lot of Nothing This Weekend

The big question running through my mind right now is, "What can I blog about?"  The truth is that I really have nothing too exciting to describe.  Crystal and I didn't really do anything this weekend, except for our usual wandering.  However, we are in Paris, so our "nothing" is probably more than whatever we would be doing if we were home. 

First amazing news of the weekend: The family was gone all weekend and I got to have some peace and quiet!  Yes!  They wonder why I would rather stay in Paris than go with them to a nice house in the country.  Hello... I need a break!  I had a wonderful time being without children this weekend. 

Second amazing news of the weekend: I was finished early this Friday because the family had to leave, and therefore was able to get to Rosa Bonheur on time.  I know nobody reading this (other than perhaps Sylvain or Crystal) has any idea what Rosa Bonheur is.  It is a very fun bar in a park in Paris.  It consists of good times and LOTS of dancing, but it closes at midnight and is very popular, so it is important to get there around 7 or 7:30.  Last week I was very bummed because I did not leave the apartment until around 9 and on my way Sylvain called to say that they were not letting anyone else in.  My whole Friday night was ruined.  Totally not cool when you have little time to do whatever you want.  

Third amazing news of the weekend: I am a total rebel.  I am not supposed to eat in my room.  Nothing...not even crackers.  However, I LOVE to snack all by myself so I have decided that civil disobedience is the way to go.  I'm not giving up my comfort because someone has a crazy OCD about cleanliness.  After all, I have to vacuum my room everyday anyway.  That's another story...

Friday night, J'adore!  Ah yes, I live for Friday nights at Rosa Bonheur.  I have many new friends because of these nights.  When I say "many," I mean about 4.  Trust me, that is a lot when you know nobody other than Crystal and Sylvain.  Actually they are Sylvain's friends who I hope have adopted me.  I think I burn off all of my snacking calories from the week at Rosa Bonheur because of all the dancing.  I also have a few foot bruises from Friday night...I guess it was worth it.  Here is a picture of me and some of my new friends.  Yes, we are very sweaty.  

Saturday: A day of wandering...big surprise. (I must mention this right now before I forget. As I type this, I keep thinking of words in French and it is kinda throwing me off my game. I am thinking in French!  Well, sometimes.  Today, as I was writing an e-mail, I could not figure out why a word was mispelled, and then I realized I had spelled it in French! So exciting for me!) Anyway... Crystal and I slept in on Saturday and then met up in the Latin Quarter.  Right away we went to the nearest Monoprix to buy some lunch meat, fruit, and a baguette for lunch.  The next monument for lunch happened to be the Sorbonne.  We both attended the Sorbonne for  a few weeks last summer. It is the University of Paris and is way older than the US.  It consists of several building, but we ate right in front of the main one on some fountains at Place de la Sorbonne.

After lunch, we walked down to Luxembourg Gardens just in time for the start of the Techno Parade.  I have no idea why there is a techno parade, but it was nuts.  Well, it was not as crazy as the gay pride parade, but it was definitely something to see...very European.  It consisted of extremely loud music, lots of dancing, crazy costumes, and who knows what else.  Luckily we are open-minded and always up for an adventure.  

That night, after watching the Eiffel Tower from Crystal's terrace, we went to a grocery store to get some beer before going to a bar.  What can I say, we are on a budget.. We never even went to a bar, but we did end up back at Place de la Sorbonne with our giant Heineken's to finish the evening.  And yes, this is totally legal here. 

Sunday: Absolutely nothing happened today...seriously.  We met up at Place de la Concorde (I love how we meet up at monuments full of history. This happens to be the former home of a guillotine that chopped a few royal heads from their bodies, including none other than the heads of Marie Antoinette and her hubby, Louis XVI.). We wandered in search of food.  However, Sundays kinda suck around here when you are in search of inexpensive food because everything is closed, other than restaurants.  Well, we found  McDonald's, aka McDo, and then we headed back to Crystal's place to relax and eat.  Later that day we decided to walk to a Roman amphitheater, Arenes de Lutece.  We decided we should do something productive with our day, and well, being history people, we thought we should see some ruins.  They were pretty small compared to other ruins we have seen.  It was pretty cool that they were in the middle of Paris and happen to be one of the oldest monuments here... actually, they might be the oldest.  Arenes de Lutece once held gladiator games and you can even see where they kept the animals!  

That is about it for our weekend.  It was fun while it lasted.  I just have five days of kids and then I can have another weekend.  It gives me something to look forward to.  My mantra keeps me going. "I live in Paris."