Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Return to England

So that was the end of a fantastic year. And now I am back in the UK. I have spent the last 3 weeks doing a publishing internship in Bristol which was great, very interesting, very useful. But I have at the same time been applying for jobs and beginning to stress about the imminent future and possible unemployment. Luckily all has turned out well and last week I was offered a job with a 100% renewable energy supplier. And I can't wait to start. It sounds like a great company and obviously doing something very important. I can't wait to be a part of it.
Which means I think, that this is the end of this blog. Thank you for reading. I'm sure most of you readers I will be seeing soon as I am now back in the country. But until then, au revoir and on to the next adventure.

This is the end (Part 2)

Sunday. The penultimate day. And what a day. The sun was shining, the Tour de France was coming into Paris and the family were coming back to L'Etang.
We started the day in the Marais where I had to take Alice, not so much for the beautiful cobbled streets, the boutique shops and the chic cafes, but for the falafels. We joined the queue for L'As du Falafel, soon joined by Flo who was in Paris for the weekend and ordered our feast of falafels and tons of veg in a pitta (Alice was so taken with this that she recreated it for us back home in England).
We then decided to go to the Paris Mosque before going to the Champs Elysses to see the cyclists come in, but as we arrived at Gare d'Austerlitz we saw that the Tour cars were beginning to come in and there was not much of a crowd. We reasoned we would have a much better view of the Tour here so decided to stay as they were meant to be arriving in the next 40 mins. So we got our spot and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour and a half later we finally got what we wanted. A helicopter flew overhead and all of a sudden there was a big WHOOSH and the pelaton whizzed past us. It was an impressive sight, even if we did wait a bit long...

We then pottered over to the mosque, through the Jardin des Plantes (Paris' botanical gardens) and took our mint tea in the courtyard garden. By this time, it was getting late and we needed to get back to have dinner and rejoin the family. So we took one last stroll through the Latin Quarter, through the old greek arena, past rue des Descartes, to the Pantheon and saw one of my favourite views of the Eiffel Tower, and into the Luxembourg gardens where there was a free Chopin concert being performed.
Capital cities are amazing. We saw some of the most wonderful sights and we had barely even covered one quartier of Paris. I hope I won't get bored not living there.

We arrived back at the house to have the apertitif with the family and some friends and talk about our respective weekends. We had champagne in the garden followed by a dance show from the girls. I wish I'd filmed it, it was too cute. And then to bed for the final time in Paris...

Monday was spent doing last minute packing and playing with the girls. Alice had brought over the game Tummyache, which was one of our favourite childhood games, as a present for the girls, so we spent lots of time playing with that. Alice fast became the girls new favourite playmate so I was left feeling a bit redundant. How fickle children are. But when we got into the car as they took me to the station, Saskia cried and said 'I don't want Eleanor to go.' Yes! I am still the favourite!

It was very sad to say goodbye and there were tears, hugs and promises to be back as soon as possible. And then we went. The end of a fabulous year. What more could you ask for. A great family, great friends and great memories. Thank you Paris. Thank you Kirsten and Romain. I will miss you.

Monday, 15 August 2011

This is the end (Part 1)

And so the end finally arrived. I knew it would end eventually and I suppose it's best to end while the going is good but it doesn't stop it from being terribly sad.

My last day with the girls was lots of fun. We went with Ludo and Fantiq to Acrochat which is like Junglemania or whatever your childhood children's indoor play centre was called. It was so much fun running up and down and around and around and going down slides. Even the girls had a good time! Loll!!!11! That evening the family went off for a weekend away while I stayed at home to pack and meet my big sister who was coming for the final weekend. After I had waved them off I went back into the house and after only a few minutes the phone rang and I heard this little voice at the other end saying 'Hello, hello?' It was Saskia.
'Hello Saskia, are you ok?'
'Eleanor, I'm a bit sad.'
"Oh dear, why are you a bit sad Saskia?'
'Because you're not coming with us.'
What a tug at the heart strings. What a wonderful girl. Why am I leaving?

The next day I finally got to go the Orangerie which is an exhibition space by Concorde where you can see Monet's big waterlily paintings. It's a great space, very impressive, very beautiful. And below the rooms with the Monet painting was a series of more impressionist works. I went with Mairi so as an art student she was able to tell me a little bit about some of the artists, her favorite paintings. It makes it so much more fascinating. That is something I am so grateful for this year, that I have had the chance to learn about art. And what a place to learn. What a cliché but hey nevermind.

Alice arrived the next morning and our first port of call was the catacombs. When I went before I walked straight in, no queue. This time we got out of the metro and saw huge mass of people and I thought this can't possibly be for the catacombs. Well it was. We were going to attempt the queue but then a man came round and said the queue was about 2 hours long and not all of the catacombs were open. So that put an end to that. Just another excuse for Alice to go back another time. Instead we went to Musée Rodin and Hotel des Invalides as we were kind of nearby. We then strolleda round St Germain des Près and I showed Alice all the rich and bourgeois Parisians. We walked past the Christian Louboutin shop, Balenciaga, Dior, they're all there, the big names. And then I though ha, I know where we can go. Now I'm reluctant to tell you really because it's such a great surprise. I was taken to this place as a surprise and was gobsmacked when I walked in. But I suppose I won't be having any more guests to Paris now so I will tell you. It's a shop called Deyrolles. On the ground floor it looks like a gardening shop. Then you walk upstairs and you realise it's actually a taxidermy shop. Suddenly you're surrounded by wild animals, lion, polar bear, brown bear, giraffe, tiger. And everything is for sale. Now I wouldn't want any of that in my house but as a kind of natural history museum, it's amazing. And it had the desired effect on Alice. You must visit.

We also came across a protest whilst we walking through St Germain and just as we were wondering what it was for a lady came up to us and asked us the same question, with a microphone in hand. She was a reporter for radio France bleu and she wanted to ask us a few questions about what we thought about the situation for homeless people in Paris, as that was what it was about. So I managed to stumble my way through a response about how there is a very evident disparity between the rich and the poor in Paris and how it is much more hidden/not such a big problem in the UK. The lady even praised my French! What a compliment.

We ended the evening with a feast from La Grande Epicerie, eaten back home, before settling in for an early night to profit from the following day - the Tour de France...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Bastille Day and the Bourgone

My penultimate weekend in France was yet another 5 day weekend thanks to the jour ferié that is Bastille Day. The 14th July, for those who don't know, is a celebration of the storming of Bastille prison in 1789 which started the French Revolution. The day is a public holiday so no school for the girls, no work for the parents and therefore no work for me. So after a lazy day I went out in the evening to see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. We went to Pont des Arts to watch them thinking that would be a great viewpoint. The bridge was packed with people who obviously thought the same. We were all wrong. Although we could see more than half of the Eiffel Tower, most of the fireworks barely came above the half way point which meant we spent half the time kind of unimpressed. Aren't fireworks meant to go super high in to the air? It was a nice atmosphere however, if what some what tame. Hey, it is Paris. The evening was also my last evening with some of the girls and I had to bid farewell to a few of them, not knowing when I'll see them again. I suppose it's a good excuse for a reunion in Paris..
The next day the family and I set off for Burgundy to stay with some of their friends. It was not the wine area of Burgundy like we went to before and it was amazing what a difference in landscape it was. It was stunning greenery all around, forests, mountains, lakes. It was incredible. We attempted to go wild mushroom hunting again but unfortunately this time we weren't lucky. Too early in the season or maybe there hadn't been enough rain but whatever reason there were none. One afternoon we spent playing pétanque or French boules. And Romain and I won! Yes, first time lucky I think. It's pretty addictive, I see why old men get so into it.

This was to be my last weekend with the family and it was such a lovely way to spend it. It was totally relaxing and I had loads of fun with the girls. Just one more week to go...

Monday, 11 July 2011


The party was a great success. We spent all day preparing for it, making cakes, putting up decorations, cutting vegetables. The house looked amazing. There was a climbing wall, a unicycle, a tightrope, so many different sports to try. And everybody dressed up brilliantly. I even managed to borrow a unisuit from someone so costume disaster was averted. Unfortunately in the small hours of the morning I managed to have a bit of an accident. We were having a fire in the garden in a contained metal container (actually the inside of an old washing machine) and I stupidly misjudged my distance as I walked past and burnt the back of my leg on the metal. Stupid huh? Luckily I wasn't in too much pain, I had a champagne jacket on but I went to bed soon after. When I woke up in the morning and went outside where everyone was, I was immediately surrounded and told to hurry up and go to hospital. So Kirsten took me and the people there obviously thought I was stupid too. I have ended up having to pay €200 for this stupidity. Not sure if I get any of it back. At least I have an impressive bandage to show off.

Friday, 8 July 2011

A Strange Man

A little update on what I have been up to:
Last week I had friends galore in Paris. On the Thursday Joe and Laura arrived for a Paris break so after dropping off the girls at school I headed into Paris. Because they still hadn't arrived at their apartment I went and sat by the Canal St Martin to wait for them. To kill some time I began writing a letter to a friend. While I was writing a man (I'd say late 50's) asked if it was OK to sit on the bench by me and I said of course. After quelques minutes of silence he asked if I was a writer. I had to let him down and say no I was just writing a letter to a friend. Which led on to a conversation about my accent, where I was from, what I was doing in Paris etc. A nice chat and then I went back to writing. And then inevitably; 'Have you got a boyfriend in France?' Seriously, every conversation with men in France turns to that at some point. When I said no but I have one in England he replied
'Yes yes but you need one in France so you can learn the language properly.'
'Well I have other people here that I talk to in French...'
'But it's not the same, you need a boyfriend. I bet your boyfriend has someone else back in England.'
I had to force the point that that's not normally how a relationship works and it wasn't particularly nice to say that. He laughed. We stopped talking. A few minutes later he offered me some whisky. I said no thank you. Then he offered me a nectarine. I said no thank you. He began to talk about how he had woken up that day and decided to talk to strangers and break out of his shell. And then he started talking about how he was putting on some bets on the horses that day too. I soon made my excuses and wished him a bonne journée. I don't think he was trying to hit on me himself, just give me some 'friendly' advice. But I've had that sort of conversation a few too many times here, I'm not really sure why. Well, a lot of French men I've met (not all) certainly live up to the stereotype of being womanisers. Just look in the news at the moment too with DSK.
Anyway when I eventually managed to meet up with Joe and Laura, I took them on a whistle stop tour of the Marais including a falafel lunch and then on the the river and Notre Dame. Notre Dame never fails to impress me with its magnificent architecture.
I will continue this in another post, I need a break.

Party time

Tomorrow is Romain's 40th birthday party and we are having a MASSIVE party. We have spent the day getting the house ready. It is a sports themed party so we have got drugs testing, energy drinks and protein snacks. I am pushing for there to be games during the evening, like a 3-legged race and an egg and spoon race, though I'm not sure anyone is keen for it. Hopefully I'll be able to get some like minded people together. Although I have a big problem. My costume hasn't arrived. I was planning on being a weightlifter and now I have no idea what to do. Anyone got any last minute ideas for something I can knock up?
The girls have been dancing all evening in their new leotards. Super cute. A couple of weeks ago Mila had her big dance show so she has been repeating her dance from that as well as doing new dances to Bjork 'It's oh so quiet' and Ray Charles 'Hit the Road Jack'. They are such good movers. Look out for them in 20 years time.
I have just over two weeks left. Time flies. What will life be like when I have a proper job and no 3 day weekends and free day times? It doesn't bear thinking about. I am going to miss my life and the family here.