Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Christmassy feel

For me this weekend was the first weekend where I've begun to feel all cosy and wintery which inevitably makes me think of Christmas. On Saturday Lydia and I went to the Centre Pompidou which has the largest modern art gallery inside. I'm not much of an art appreciator as I think I said in an early post but I really didn't get most of the things that were in here. The section we saw seemed to be feminist artwork where some complained about how women could only get into an art gallery if they were a naked subject for a piece, but then a lot of these feminist artists use naked women themselves. And then there was a weird film where some men chopped off the head of a chicken and then a naked woman stood against a wall holding the flailing headless chicken upside down. Hmm, bizarre. After that we had a decadent afternoon tea in a cafe opposite with hot chocolate which was so thick you ate it with a spoon. I had orange and cinnamon flavour with an amaretto ice cream. One of the best things I've ever tasted. This was the start of the Christmassy feeling as a huge storm was developing overhead too and hoards of pigeons were swooping around the Centre. It was very exciting.

In the evening we went to a club called Djoon which was playing Motown music. It was cool, it was really busy and it was so much fun to have a dance as I haven't been out in so so long. It ended up being a late one though- we didn't get back to Lydia's room until about 6. Oh la la.

After a late start the next day and being treated to croissants in bed, Lydia and I eventually made it out for a wander around the Grands Boulevards and Passages. They're such pretty old shopping arcades. The first one we went into was the more upmarket side of it with lots of expensive clothes shops and book shops and the like. The next ones we found were a bit more higgledy piggledy, there was one shop which seemed to be selling old toys and bits and bobs from decades ago but which weren't manufactured anyway. Weird. We then stopped for for a lovely cup of tea and a biscuit in a lovely French patisserie. Oo j'adore les gateaux français.

Imagine if this was the steps up to your apartment. Ah je souhaite.

This was the gallery vivienne, super joli and tres chic.

It's now the half term holidays so I've got a week of looking after the girls. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A mixture of events

Last weekend was quite a quiet one for me. I had a relaxing saturday and then in the evening went out for Sushi with some other au pairs. My first sushi experience and I've got to say I liked it. I remember it alway being a massive deal that it was RAW fish. But in fact it's quite normal for people to eat raw fish anyway, even in the western world. Alors, je l'aime. We then had a little walk to la Tour Eiffel to see it all lit up and sparkling but we didn't end up staying long as it was FREEZING and we were being harassed by a group of youths.

Sunday was a lovely crisp autumn day and I went out for my first bike ride down the Seine along a path where many of the Impressionist painters did their paintings. It was a beautiful ride and there were lots of people, families and other cyclists and runners out. Having not been on a bike for a while it made me remember how much I love cycling. The problem is I get too nervous cycling on roads, especially when I forget to cycle on the right and go round roundabouts the wrong way... I'm trying to see if there's a cycle club nearby. At least it would be harder to make serious road errors if I've got other people to follow.

Only a short post today, like I said it was a quiet weekend. Until next time.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

An Indian Summer

I don't know what's going on back in the Uk, but over here it has been beautiful weather for the past few days and is set to continue for the rest of the week. Fingers crossed. So my weekend has been a thoroughly excellent one as I've been able to make the most of the warm weather. Yesterday morning, we had a nice lie in after watching 'The Single Man' the night before (with Colin Firth. It was excellent, a really beautiful and interesting film) and woke up to a proper French breakfast with plenty of croissants. I then went with the family to a local farm, Ferme de Gally. It's quite a small farm, but has some goats, cows, horses, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs and a donkey. The goats are some of the most beautiful goats I've ever seen. Really glossy and beautifully coloured, as well as being extremely friendly and docile.

The farm is well known for its produce and is apparently the stockist for French 'Masterchef'. Oh la la! There are various workshops available to do and the girls got to do a bread-making class. They enjoyed it but they are the cleanest little girls I have ever met. Saskia had a fit once she started to mix the dough with her hands and it stuck to her hands so she was no longer clean! They are like it at dinner time too, as soon as the slightest bit of food touches their hands it's 'Eleanor, Eleanor, I need a cloth!' Or if a bit of milk gets spilt on their place mat; 'Oh nooooo! Eleanor look!'. Weird huh?

In the evening I met a couple of other girls and we had a late night picnic by the Seine. C'etait tres French, nous avons mangé, le baguette avec fromage et tomates and bien sur, du vin. I didn't even need a coat, that's how warm it was! I stayed the night in Lydia's room but although having been warned that it was very small, I wasn't prepared for quite how small. She lives in a room which is 6m squared. That includes a shower, a sink and a mini kitchen. There is a serious space problem in Paris but I didn't realise until last night quite how serious it is! But I suppose really it's just part of having the authentic 'Paris experience'. Ce n'est pas grave.

Today Lydia and I went to have a wander round Montmatre in the sun and it turned out there was some food and wine festival going on as well as lots of live music and performers. It was a wonderful atmosphere and totally French.

Lots of people joined in to dance to this African band. Proper hips shaking and skirts flailing type stuff. I'm practising and perfecting the moves in my bedroom but just can't compete with these ladies.

This lady was great, singing along to a music box and handing out sweeties to children.

This was one of my favourites. A German couple just started waltzing to a man playing the accordion. C'etait genial!

After the festival we went to Montmatre cemetery and saw a cat sleeping on one of the graves. When we got up closer we saw a tear in its eye and it skulked off to hide behind the headstone once we appeared, but as soon as we left its spot it resumed its position. I think it was the pet of the person and had come to mourn its owner. How sad.

All in all, it was a thoroughly good weekend.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Museums and another brocante

Yesterday I went to the Musee du Moyen Age with Lydia, which is a museum with all sorts of artefacts from the medieval times. The medieval period is not something I've ever been particularly interested in as a historian, but this museum was really fascinating. It is most famous for a series of tapestries called 'The Lady and the Unicorn' which depicts all the 5 senses and then a final one which is titled 'My soul desire' whose meaning remains ambiguous but is commonly thought to be about love and understanding. They're impressive works, not least because they take years and years to make! The rest of the museum has got some great pieces in it, such detailed, ornate works that it's hard to believe they were made so long ago! After the museum, Lydia and I just had time for a quick afternoon cocktail in St Germain de Pres before I had to get back for babysitting!

This one was my favourite tapestry- La Vue (sight)

Today we had a brocante at L'Etang la Ville. Kirsten and Romain had their own stall in the front garden, as we live right by the market place where the brocante takes place and had some friends round so we had a full day of it. Although the brocante wasn't quite so good as the one Bailly, I still managed to get some good pieces from Kirsten and her friend who gave me a heap of stuff. The one thing I did buy was a lovely coat from my new favourite brand Comptoir des Cotonniers for €30 when it was brand new and had cost €165. A bargain I think, and tres chic. And its back to school tomorrow for more French classes. Today I think I cracked how to use the future tense so I am feeling very pleased. A bientot!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Reading for pleasure?

During my month here, one of the things I've enjoyed is the amount of time I have where I am able to read! I never had enough time to read for pleasure when I was at university as whenever I was reading I always felt guilty if it wasn't a history book. Now though, I have a 35 minute train ride into Paris which is the perfect time to do some quality reading.

For those readers out there I thought i would give you some tips on what I've enjoyed recently. I've just finished 'If on a winter's night a traveller' by Italo Calvino. It's the story of a man who is trying to read 'If on a winter's night a traveller' but after realising it is misprinted he tries to find the rest of the book. What follows is his search for the rest of the book but instead he keeps finding new chapters of different books. It therefore is a collection of short stories with one story of the original reader continuing all the way through. I thought it was an interesting idea but also found it a little tiresome because I just wanted one single story but instead had to keep on jumping between new ones.

Before that however I read a brilliant book which I thoroughly recommend to everyone called 'The Secert History' by Donna Tart. It's a brilliant story about a group of American university students who study classics. They are a small very close-knit mysterious group and you are always wondering what's going on beneath the surface. You find out straight away (so don't worry I'm not spoiling anything!) that they kill their friend and from that moment you are gripped! It's superb! Go and read it!

And of course I've been reading some old favourites; 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit', 'Angelina Ballerina' and 'Winnie the Witch'. Saskia is besotted with Peter Rabbit at the moment and we have been reading it at least once every day! My favourite Beatrix Potter story was always the 'Tailor of Gloucester'. I used to love watching the television series of her stories. However I've now moved back onto the grown-ups books and have just started 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' by Stieg Larsson. I know I'm a bit behind the trend but better late than never 'ey.