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...

video

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

Stupidity

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.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Swimming with Frogs

So yet another long weekend in France. And this time we took the opportunity to go to the wine region of Bourgogne. We set off on Friday night straight after work with a full car of 7 people, 3 bikes on the back and a roof box. Well prepared indeed. We were booked into stay in a lovely looking gite near Beaune which said it was a big country house with a big garden and swimming pool. So when we pulled into a normal looking house in a residential street we were a bit surprised. Just as we were about to barge on into the house K looked again at the address and realised we were in the wrong village - the GPS had in fact taken us to the wrong place. This is one of the reasons I will always use a normal map - so much more reliable. We all clambered back into the car and had to drive another 12km to find our house but it was so worth it. Even at night time it was an impressive entrance. Big gates led into an impressive driveway with a big plant covered house on one side and barns on the other. Walking into the house it only got better. Huge rooms with enormous fireplaces, beautiful artwork and mis-matched furniture - it certainly had a WOW factor.



In the morning we got to see the gardens which had 3 cherry trees, a raspberry plant, a herb garden, an apple tree and probably more undiscovered fruit plants. And then the swimming pool. Not just any old swimming pool but a NATURAL swimming pool. Not quite sure how it works but it looks like a pond and there is no chlorine in it. It was so nice. 

I had a little swim in it after lunch - it was pretty cold but too hard to resist. Especially as there were fish and frogs in the pool. Now isn't that what you've always wanted - never mind dolphins - swimming with frogs is the new black.

We spent the morning wandering around the market in Beaune which was fantastic. I love French markets - the produce is always beautiful to look at and seems so authentic. We stocked up on plenty of fruit and veg and tons of meat.  That is the problem with this year - every weekend there is something special going on so it's another excuse to eat plenty of delicious food, or over-indulging. And this goes for alcohol too. I have had a very good education in wine this year and this was topped off this weekend by visiting 2 of the wine chateaux of the region. Have you ever visited one before? You get to wander around the wine cellars and see thousands of old, dusty bottles. Then you come to the end and you have a degustation or a wine tasting. We tried €50 bottles of wine. And they give you nearly half a glass full of up to 7 different wines. Not bad huh.

Sunday morning I went in a HELICOPTER!! The 2 girls and I had an 8 minute tour round Beaune from the air. A special treat paid for by Kirsten's parents. We even had to wear the big headphones and spoke to each other through the little microphone. I felt like a journalist or Blue Peter presenter. 



Aren't I spoiled?

Also, 6music has just introduced me to Hollie Cook, such good summer music. Have a listen:
http://www.holliecook.com/#b42/soundcloud

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lads on Tour

The weekend before I had Hatz and Jenny to visit which was truly fabulous. They arrived on the Thursday and in the evening we went to a night out called the Secret Garden Party at Parc Buttes Chaumont. I was expecting it to be a kind of rave thing in the whole park but in fact it was in the pavilion by the lake and very civilised. While we were queuing up we could see inside and there was a strip tease going on to an Edith Piaf song. It seemed like it was going to be a cool night. The crowd was young, hip and trendy - we fitted right in... Ha. It turned out to be one of the best nights out I've had in Paris. The music was good and we spent most of the time dancing and not getting grinded against and chatted up by strange persistent men. Genial. However it was a Thursday night and I had work in the morning so after being persuaded to at least stay in Paris and not get the last train home, I said we should get the last metro as otherwise it would be un cauchemar to get back (remember previous post about horrendous Paris taxis?) We got to the metro in plenty of time, went through the barriers, in front of the men working in the booth, to be told that the metro had stopped running. Thanks for telling us before we had put our tickets through the machine. This was 1am and not central Paris. Uh oh. Taxi problem. I suggested hiring out the velibs but that idea was poopooed pretty promptly so we started walking and hoped for the best. After about 10 mins we had a stroke of luck and a taxi stopped by us and a person got out meaning FREE TAXI! We ran to get it, shouting to the other people who were trying to get it that is was ours. We were seriously lucky, I was getting worried it was going to be a long walk home. Paris taxi drivers - you will not lose money if there are a few more taxis on the road, there is plenty of demand for you all and it would make everyone's life so much easier.

I ended up getting about 4 hours sleep before I had to head back to take the girls to school. They seemed to be in a particularly loud and playful mood that morning. Exactly what I was hoping for. After I'd dropped them off I got the train back into Paris to meet H+J and we did the proper tourist route - Arc de Triomph, Champs Elysses, Louvre. And Hatz insisted we did a leaping photo in front of all the hotspots.  I don't think I've ever done that before in my life but I'm now a convert. Even if you do get a lot of strange looks doing it. In the evening we went to Rue Oberkampf for dinner and drinks. That is my top tip for going out in Paris. There are so many good bars in that area, you are bound to have a good night. We went to a bar that Frances has taken me to before, I think it's called the International, where they often have free live music. There was a band playing called Hyphen Hyphen. They dont come across so well online, but live they were brilliant, loads of energy and really fun. We left after they finished to find another bar and drank wine and smoked Vogue cigarettes to look cool. Then after we'd finished being so cool and Parisian we were careful to leave and get the last metro home. 

Saturday was a day of more sightseeing and walking and sitting in cafes. And posing as the hunchback of Notre Dame, in front of the Notre Dame. I'm not sure anybody else found it amusing. For supper we took some bread and cheese up to the Sacre Coeur and watched the sunset. Sounds romantic doesn't it. Well it was, but there was also a terrible puppet show about the Bible going on and a German couple sitting next to us who wouldn't stop staring at us. Slightly disconcerting. Anyway it was a great weekend, I had the best time.

Clare's just put up pictures of Giverny. Really upset now. Plus Federer lost the tennis.

French Holidays

In France there seems to always be jour feriés, know to us as bank holidays. This week there was yet another one on Thursday which meant everyone thought they might as well take Friday off as well making ti a 4 day weekend. Schools were closed, businesses were closed and I get 5 days off. What a life. There's another one next Monday as well which means we're taking a trip to Beaune for the weekend. But this week I've had a nice time relaxing around Paris. I've done lots of wandering, mainly around places I already know but seeing them in a more relaxed manner. Clare and the girls also took me to an amazing little takeaway pizza place by Gare de Lyon. It's just one man working all himself and he makes them fresh there and then, nothing pre-made. You pay €5 for a pizza or €6 for a big one to share and they are incredible. I'd say as good as if not better than Firenze ones (the Italian restaurant where I used to work. Sorry Bruno). Clare and I shared one with creme fraiche and smoked salmon on. Definitely my new favourite pizza. We sat up on the viaduct eating them in the evening light and afterwards Emma took us to her flat where her housemate breeds pedigree cats. One of the mummies had recently had a litter of kittens - all tiny and white and we got to hold them!! Ee they were so cute and they fitted in the palm of our hands. I love kittens so much. I can't decide between having a cat or a ferret when I have my own house. Ideally a ferret but a cat is probably more practical. And maybe less smelly.

Then yesterday I met up with my old housemate Jo who is visiting for the weekend with her friend. We did a big walking tour of Paris through the Marais to Notre Dame through St Germain des Pres, lunched in the Jardin de Luxembourg and then went to Musée d'Orsay before ending up in the Latin Quarter for dinner. All in the stifling heat. I think it's just under 30 degrees here and it has been for a while now. It's ridiculous - the temperatures are those of high summer and yet it's the beginning of June. It's beautiful but all I want to do is be by the beach or in a pool and I unfortunately have neither of those near by.

A Failed Outing

I woke up this morning very early (6:45) because I had planned to go to Giverny where Monet's gardens are. However when I arrived at the gare it turned out I'd made a mistake and the train I was going to catch doesn't actually run on Sundays. Which meant I would then miss the connecting train from St Lazare. Tant pis pour moi. And the next train apparently wasn't until 12:20 ( I have since found out this isn't true but I'll brush over that because it makes me cross). I walked back home to find the rest of the family awake and about to get ready to go to a brocante at Chavenay so I decided to go with them as at least like that it wouldn't be a waste of my day and my early start. It is meant to be one of the best brocantes and in a very beautiful village. It was very charmant and it was pretty enormous. I managed to find a couple of things - there was a stall devoted to brand new Kookai clothes at cheap prices. The girls were the real winners though, they came back with a mini telescope, a few toys and a microphone which they've been singing into in the garden and making an terrible racket. How can children continue doing the same thing and making the same annoying noise for 15 minutes and not get annoyed themselves. This microphone has got a horrible reverb thing going on and I think we are going to sorely regret this purchase.

This afternoon it's the final of Roland Garros between Federer and Nadal which I think we might watch here on the big screen. I'm rooting for Federer as it's about time he won this competition and he's probably one of the nicest men in sport. But I don't mind if it's Nadal, he's a god. Plus he's only 2 years older than me which I find très impressionant.

I haven't written this for a while, I've been doing lots of things and keep forgetting to update so I might try and do a backdate of what I've been up to. Seeing as I haven't gone to Giverny today : ( I suppose I've got some free time to let you know what else I've been up to. Here goes.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Loire Valley

This weekend I went to the Loire valley for a family wedding. We arrived late evening to a campsite just past Tours where we were greeted by R's family ready with wine and digestifs. After a warm welcome and a catch up we went to bed in the small hours ready for the big day.
The wedding was in a beautiful village on the Loire river where cars weren't allowed to drive into the centre. So we walked tranquilly into the village to the church. It was an impressive church very grand but not too ornate and you had to walk up the steps to its majestic entrance - a beautiful setting for a wedding. We were amongst the first to get there and so we got to see all the guests arriving and oh my they were a beautiful bunch. Fashionable and alluring young things turned up in incredible hats and effortless chic, and the older guests wore similarly stylish outfits, all immaculately turned out but with a bit of originality and character. The French really do now how to dress well. No canary yellow dresses here. It was a Russian Orthodox wedding which meant it was very different to any wedding I've been to before. The entire service was sung and they also had some tradition of wearing a crown (I couldn't see very well, we were right at the back). It was a beautiful service but, very, very long. Nearly 2 hours and we had to stand for most of it. It also felt quite exclusive and formal and not very welcoming. Children had to be quiet or else leave.

There was a break between the service and the reception so went back to the campsite to drop off the children and me as I was on babysitting duty that evening while the adults went to party at the reception (with lots of Vodka I am told). On the way back we stopped of at a chateau en route. Being in the Loire valley we were surrounded by all the chateaux so R wanted to profit from what we could. This one was the Chateau d'Ussé which was the inspiration behind Charles Perrault's 'Sleeping Beauty'. You can see why; it's magnificent, especially with all those turrets. You can just imagine Aurora going up one of the winding staircases to find the fateful spinning wheel.



The next morning, most of the family were up by 9 and were straight into normal mode despite the heavy night before. We had a typical French breakfast, full of croissants and bread and jam and instead of talking about insignificant things like the weather or what plans we had for the coming weeks, they moved straight into the important conversations - the recent assassination of Bin Laden and whether it was justifiable, the pros and cons of the French education system and the merits of other cultures. Not your standard Sunday morning conversations least of all on a hangover. Then that's the advantage of being French, you're taught to think about and argue ideas and take a interest in politics and the news. Say what you want about the French being arrogant, a lot of the time they're rightly so. It was a very interesting morning.

After these Big Discussions we pottered off to another chateau, Chateau Azay-le-Rideau which was a really splendid one although quite small. It's grounds were beautiful and great for the children, they played hide and seek everywhere and there were some brilliant climbing trees. It took my right back to my tree climbing days in the Oxford University Parks. 



Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Wedding (inevitably)

I know it has been covered to death but I'm going to add my piece. I have been brought up a staunch anti-royalist and therefore didn't give two hoots about the wedding. Since the announcement of their engagement I've been asked so many times in France, 'Are you excited about the wedding?' 'How do you feel about the wedding?' I find this slightly bizarre as the French got rid of their monarchy over 200 years ago but they are fascinated by ours. The amount of coverage there has been here is mad. It's been in all the papers, magazines, television programmes for months. However my view changed and all thanks to Clare. About a month ago she announced her intention to hold a wedding party and though initially sceptical I gradually began to look forward to it more and more. I found knitting patterns for corgi's, all manner of union jack and Kate and William tack, started following the rumours about who was going to be designing the dress. And when it came to the big day, all I wanted to do was make sure I could watch it somewhere. So I met Clare and some other girls in an English pub to watch it. And got thoroughly into it. Although we were actually the only English people in there and they were showing it in French. Bof. Anyway, didn't she look beautiful, I mean absolutely stunning. What a lucky Prince William. Princess Beatrice let me down though, from this day forth I won't accept any comparisons between her and myself, she looked atrocious. Sorry Bea.
When the girls got home from school I showed them some highlights of the wedding, as they are obsessed with the idea of princesses, and they were both suitably wowed.
The party in the evening was a great success. Clare and her friend had made an amazing feast for us and luckily the rain held off so we managed to sit in the courtyard with bunting, a union jack table cloth and a life size cardboard cut-out of Kate and Will looking over us. A mini-Britain in Paris. Congratulations and thank you Clare for a wonderful night and bringing out the (little) royalist in me.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Pacques

At the end of my second week of holidays with the children we set off for Brittany to celebrate Easter or as the French call it Pacques. In France the chocolate eggs aren't given out by a magical bunny but instead by bells who drop the eggs from the sky. You decide which is the more ridiculous. After a 7 hour car journey stuck in traffic in the heat in the middle of two young children we eventually got there. And were greeted by Romain's wonderful family for a lovely dinner at Grandmamie's house.
We spent a lovely Saturday day by the sea and it wasn't too cold to go for a little paddle. The girls and their cousins spent the whole time scurrying about in rock pools and I managed to relax and read a book sans enfants.
Sunday was obviously the big day and my goodness I've never known an Easter like it. Romain and his dad had prepared the most complex Easter egg hunt I've ever been on. Bearing in mind it was a for a group of young children, two 7 year olds, two 5 year olds and a 3 and a 2 year old, they had to follow a list of instructions (which the bells had left for them) in order to find their eggs. So the 7 year old French boy read out these instructions. For a start, a 7 year old reading fluently is quite something I think. Then you listen to the instructions. They included mathematical problems, riddles, logic and finally a treasure map. Really it was quite something. It shows the difference between the mindset of the French and the British - we just send them on their way into the garden to run around looking for eggs, whereas the French children are put to the test from an early age and taught to think things from intelligently. Vraiment incroyable. The children loved it and were very excited when they discovered their big chocolate eggs at the end.



As for the adults, we spent most of the day at the table. Little by little food was brought out, an aperitif, an entree, then the main meal but in lots of different parts, followed by pudding, chocolate and tea and coffee. Plus this was all sitting out in a beautiful French garden in the sunshine. And as always, although I can't contribute very well to a French family gathering, I was made to feel welcome and a real part of the family. I am lucky.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Liv Tyler

Franny's second day here we decided to go and see the Basilique at Saint Denis because it has some beautiful stained glass windows which F is looking at for her dissertation. Kirsten was shocked when I said I was taking F there, subtly trying to suggest something else; 'Uhh, there's much nicer places to go, it's not worth going there, how about...' She thought I was taking her there for the evening which is a big NO NO. It's in the banlieues, not technically in Paris and therefore chaud, i.e. dangerous. But as it was during the day it was ok. Although when we arrived you can see the difference instantly. It doesn't feel like Paris. It was predominantly black for a start, the buildings weren't all beautiful and immaculate and there was a cheap market outside the metro. But it was cool. It was cool to be in a vibrant, not bourgeoisie quartier of Paris, and we enjoyed going round the market and picked up some cheap make up. The Basilique itself is beautiful. It's covered in stained glass windows from all different periods. Dazzling on a sunny day.


We then hopped on the metro and went to the flea markets at St Ouen which I've been wanting to go to for a long time. And now to get on to the title of this post (did it grab your attention?) Franny had been saying only the day before how she hoped she would see somebody famous whilst in Paris. And lo and behold who should walk past us in the markets but Liv Tyler with her child. Well. We're going to say that it was. Because actually I'm not convinced it was. I looked at her and thought, 'That looks like Liv  Tyler but it's not', and Fran looked at her and thought 'Oh My God that's the lady from um um Lord of the Rings'. She was beautiful whoever she was so she deserves a mention whether it was her or not. If anybody has any information on Liv's whereabouts on the 17th April please let me know.




The markets are brilliant to wander around, there have lots of different markets, the outskirts which sell the knock-offs and stolen goods, the classy ones which sell antique furniture, the top end one (where Liz was going) which sold crystal and chandeliers, and then your run of the mill interesting vintagey type places. We found some wonderful things in particular this old bike which is unusable but looks great all the same. We also really fancied a crepe so we tried to find a nice creperie. We didn't have much luck. The only place we found was overpriced, didn't know what a cappuccino was, thought Earl Grey tea was the same as normal tea even though they advertised them as different, and the crepes, well, not a patch on a Now 'n' Zen one to be perfectly honest. This was our waiter, who although very nice, was utterly confused and didn't know what he was doing.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Dangerous Cycling

Franny's weekend in Paris was all we could have hoped for and more. After dazzling the family it was decided that she will be the au pair here next year. Good luck darling!
On Saturday we joined the family in Versailles and because the weather was so beautiful Franny and I decided to cycle there as it's not too far from here. So after getting out the bikes form the sous-sol which were covered in dust after an age of un-use we set off. Romain had warned us that his bike might be a bit wobbly but fortunately it was F who had to deal with it, I got the nice small lady bike. With a bar of barely used bikes we set off on the grand adventure. Nearly straight away we encountered a hill, a big hill which I at any rate was not prepared to tackle and we got off the bikes and walked through the park alongside. Which is actually not just any old park but the park at Marly-le-Roi which used to be the grounds for another royal palace like Versailles. So it wasn't a bad walk really, and in keeping with the day. When we got back on our bikes again we cycled along happily until suddenly we noticed there seemed to be rather a lot of cars. And up ahead there was a big sign pointing us on to the motorway! PANIC! I was shouting to Franny to change lanes but there were too many cars, plus it was the fast lane we would be going in to. I had no idea where we were going to end up. So we just carried on. Then it turned out there was another lane coming in which I think was the motorway one so at one point we were cycling in the middle of lots of lanes. Heavens above. Anyway something turned out OK and we didn't get on the motorway and everything turned quiet instead and a nice cycle lane appeared. I have no idea what happened but at least we didn't get knocked down by some angry French drivers.

The last part of the ride was lovely and it led us straight into the grounds of Versailles which are beautiful and actually best discovered on a bike because they are enormous. We met up with the family for a picnic lunch which was a wonderful French affair with du pain, du vin et du Boursin. Yum. For the return we managed to find a much safer and nicer route home which luckily avoided any kind or motorway or motorway junctions and instead took us down the most amazing winding, downhill road through the forest. We held up the cars behind us but who cares when you feel so liberated whizzing downhill in such splendour. Quel chance.



In the evening I took F to the wonderful falafel place in the Marais, a must go to for any visitor, and we sat eating our falafels in a little park cooing over an extremely cute French girl with beautiful parents. We then met some friends in La Perle bar which you might have heard of in the recent 'John Galliano Scandal'. It was where he was filmed saying remarks about Hitler. Anyway it's a super trendy bar, where the arty and chic of Paris' young things go to drink. We arrived and the whole of the terrace was covered in people wearing black. I honestly thought we were entering somebody's wake it was bizarre. But that's France, black is THE colour. The actual bar is not particularly beautiful or interesting but if you want to be in the 'in' place then that's where you need to head. 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Holiday Season

Well, what a great three weeks I had. I wish I could be on permanent holiday. I don't think I would get bored, especially if I lived in Paris. The first week here with my family was great. We were so so lucky with the weather. It suddenly turned beautiful they day they arrived and stayed clear and sunny until we left. What a wonderful way to explore Paris. Then with two weeks spent back in the UK seeing friends and family I felt (almost) ready to come back. The big news really from the 2 weeks is that I got myself a 4 week internship with a publishing company in Bristol. Tellement contente. It will hopefully put me on the road to bigger and better things!

I arrived back in time for the start of the school holidays. Yes the girls have got 5 weeks holiday, lucky things. Because I don't work Mondays I spent the afternoon relaxing in Parc Buttes Chaumont with Anna. It is the best park I've been to so far with a temple on top of a mount in the middle of the lake. Beautiful. As it was 25 degrees I thought it was hot enough to wear shorts, a strappy top and a cardigan (note the cardigan) but as I got onto the Metro at Opera, a young lady said to me 'Oh, c'est très extreme mademoiselle!' What! In the UK no matter what temperature it is if there's a little bit of sunshine, suddenly the flip flops and bikinis are out. I didn't think it was too extreme considering what I have seen some people in the UK wear. Anyway I then noticed that lots of people were wearing jeans with a shirt , jumper and a big coat. Apparently there is a saying in France en avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil which means don't go out without a jumper in April as the sun can be deceptive (that's not a literal translation). So I guess they stick to this very strictly and include a big thick coat too. Even if it is 25 degrees. Oh well, I'm a Brit. But I was till wearing a cardigan.

After the park Anna took me back to see her new house which she said was amazing. It was. It was a beautiful, arty type building with a terrace in the sun and tons of space. But it was in one of the dodgiest areas I've ever been to. Just outside the periphery of Paris it's just before the banlieue (remember from La Haine?) On the walk to her house form the metro we past numerous cafes which were full of men. Just men. Men only clubs. Then in the park there were more men. Just men. Sitting on benches looking for their prey. Us. Girls. Seriously, their eyes followed us everywhere, they looked ready to pounce. So you know, pros and cons.

Looking after the girls has been fun, we've spent the days with their bestest ever friend and her dad which has made it a lot easier and a lot more fun. We've been to an adventure centre in the trees, cycled round a lake, seen a big brown bear (real), and been on lots of merry-go-rounds. One more day then first week of the holidays down. Plus Franny is coming to stay this weekend which I know will be a delight. What a nice way to break up the 2 weeks.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

En Vacances

Yesterday evening marked the beginning of three weeks holiday for me. The family have gone to New Zealand for the marriage of Kirsten's brother while I get to have a holiday of my own. I think everybody needs it. K & R have both been quite stressed at work recently and the girls and I have had enough of each other. The girls have been so excited all week, each day asking if it was the day they were going. And yesterday was finally the day. It was pretty easy getting them to school in the morning and from that point onwards I felt like I was on holiday. Frances came round for a decadent lunch of salmon blinis, cake from the bakery and wine. And of course, plenty of discutent. Discuter is one of my favourite French verbs. It just means to discuss and debate but it has slightly different connotations to English. When I have been out for dinner or drinks, Romain often asks 'tu as bien discuter?' which really means 'did you have a good discussion?' Debating about recent topics and news is such an important part of French culture, it's a main feature of any gathering so it's only natural that he would ask me that. So Frances and I did some discussing (doesn't sound so good in English). We also had a little walk round the village before I had to head to pick up the girls and take them in to Paris to meet K & R. Saskia was adorable. She ran out of the classroom with the biggest smile on her face and began to run around in circles rolling her head in excitement. Then squeezed my legs as we walked to get Mila before insisting on me picking her up and hugging me so tightly. Aahhh. So we all took the train into Paris where we met the parents and they got on the bus to the airport. Bonne voyage!

Today I've had such a lazy day. I managed to have an actual lie-in with no children waking up early and making lots of noise. Luxury. And I've spent the day getting the house ready because...my family are coming here for a holiday tomorrow for a week! I am very excited. I've been looking over my blog to remind myself of my favourite places so I know where to take them and I've drawn up a list. Although actually I think my dad is most excited about going cycling round the country here. Not that he doesn't do enough cycling in Herefordshire! Im sure us girls will be painting the town red while he goes off cycling. Although I shouldn't mock him too much, it is a lovely area here. I've just got back from a walk around the villages and it's so tranquil and pretty. It's easy to believe your right in the heart of the countryside, not just on the outskirts of a big city when you're walking in the forest, down little roads or feeding the ducks. Here's a few pictures of the area so you get a taste of the kind of place I live:







Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Glorious Paris

The weather is getting nicer and nicer here, It feels like Spring has finally arrived! Today was apparently 20C! Wowee. The weekend before last was my weekend in Bristol which was wonderful, as expected. Tom took me to the theatre, we watched some locals play American folk songs in a cafe, had a dinner party and caught up with a lots of friends. Made me remember how much I love Bristol. I have got myself an interview for an internship for a publishing company in Bristol which I am so so excited about. I know it's only an interview but if I get it then I'm finally on my way to having real work experience and starting real life. Not just pretend life being a student and an au pair. Wish me luck!

But back to Paris. I felt a little sad coming back, it's always nice going home where everyone understands me, all my friends are around and I don't have to travel an hour to see anyone. But then this weekend reminded why I love it here.

Friday daytime I met Frances and her friend from home in Jardins des Plantes, which is Paris' botanical garden. We didn't stay very long but apparently there is a menagerie there (a little zoo) so I will have to go back. The reason for this was that we were hurrying to get to the Paris Mosque to have mint tea in the garden. It is the largest Mosque in France and it is beautiful. We didn't enter the actual mosque (you're not allowed unless you are a muslim) but the cafe is in a courtyard at the back covered in trees and birds and the waiters bring you mint tea. There is also a counter full of yummy treats, including baklava, my favourite! So we spent some time there en discutant about interesting historical topics and racism in the USA. Quelle Vie!


For those who've seen Paris, Je t'aime, this is the mosque in it! Jolie, non?

On Saturday Vanja and I went to the Musée Arts Decoratifs which is a part of the Louvre and looks at design through the ages. Although a separate museum in itself, it is still pretty big and we didn't see it all as we focused on the temporary collections. One was particularly interesting, looking at fashion designers in the 1990's. Some of the clothes were so funny. Partly because catwalk fashion is funny, but also 90's fashion just isn't chic. There was a hideous dress that looked like it was just a faded blue towel, some cotton wool padding, and a lot of clothes with holes in. Then we had lunch in the Tuileries which is always pleasant. I always come back from outings with Vanja feeling more confident in French as it's one of the opportunities I have to put what I've learnt into practice. Her French is better than mine so she helps me out too.

In the evening I went to Clare's for supper as she has just moved into her new apartment, before going out to join her friends for a birthday celebration. Unfortunately the bar we went to wasn't great (it was called Bar des Sports, says it all really) but the company was great and I had fun quand meme. We went to a cool place afterwards called 'Le Blue Note' which was playing good Brazilian music with a live band and we all danced lots. But getting home was a nightmare. You'd think being in Paris on a Saturday night you wouldn't have any trouble finding a taxi. Well you'd be wrong. It's nigh on impossible. Seriously. Baring this in mind, Clare and I jumped on the first bus we saw which said Champs Elyses on thinking this would get us near our destination. It did but it took an hour in the process as it did a whole tour of Paris. Then when we finally arrived at the CE, Paris' premier spot for tourists, we didn't manage to get a taxi for over half an hour. Honestly the French do have some strange habits.

After a few hours sleep I stumbled over to Frances to have Sunday lunch, a lovely affair of roast chicken and onion bhaji type things. And then a quick tour of the vide grenier (a flea market) next to their flat which was full of some great things. If I had my own place I think I would quickly fill it with a lots of junk and useless objects just because they were a bit pretty and a bit 'kooky'. I can't wait for that.

On another note, I was doing my washing today, and while I was picking up my clothes off the floor this foul smell suddenly wafted my way and I noticed something tucked away to the side of my wardrobe. The cat had only gone and done a poo in my room! Yuck! It stunk something awful. I think it must have been there for about 3 days because I had noticed a strange smell in my room but couldn't find the cause of it - my clothes had been covering it! She may be cute but Dr S is one naughty kitten. When she first arrived she kept pooing on everyone's beds (not mine thankfully) but she hasn't done that for months. So I hope this isn't something that's going to start up again. Ewwww.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Holidays in Brittany

I got back on Sunday from a weeks holiday in Brittany. Well half holiday, I was looking after the girls too but it didn't really feel like work. We were staying in Romain's grandmother's house in a hamlet near Vannes where his parents are also living at the moment. And it was with his parents and grandmother that I spent most of the week, along with the girls, as K&R had to return to Paris to work. It was lovely to be in the countryside, it felt like being back in Herefordshire. We spent lots of time by the sea too. The girls had a great time picking up lots of different shells, playing with kite (cerf-volonte) and building sandcastles, despite the cold.


The Brittany coastline is apparently famous for its wild, rough seas and we saw some pretty spectacular waves on the Bay of Biscay.



Although  the waves we saw were nothing compared to this picture I saw a few days later of the waves crashing over a lighthouse! Incredible.

We visited the towns and villages nearby including Saint Anne d'Auray, which is a place of pilgrimage and has a beautiful church and basilica. And Saint Goustan which has a very pretty port which you can see from the photo below. There is also the best chocolate shop which also sells an incredible thing called Kouing-Aman, a Breton pastry speciality with a caramelised top. Absolutely delicious. Plus a place called Trinitaine sur Mer which is famous for its biscuits. I can't describe how well I ate last week, Mamie is a brilliant cook and loves cooking desserts so I was munching away all week, so happily.



It was also of course a whole week of FRENCH!! Speaking and hearing French constantly (apart from with the girls). I feel like my level shot right up. They were so brilliant with me; patient and clear but also talking about interesting things, not just superficial conversations. That's something I've noticed here is how much everyone talks about real issues, the news, culture, history. The concept of small talk doesn't really exist with French people, or so my experience has been. Not that all my conversations in England are small talk, I think I have a good balance between the two but here it is constant - what do you think of the current situation in Libya? Who is your favourite historical figure and why? Let me tell you about the intricacies of painting. And so on and so on. All very interesting stuff, but when it's in French too, it's quite tiring (in a physical sense, not a boring sense).
It was a great week and this weekend I'm going back to Bristol which I equally can't wait for. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Child's Play

It’s funny the things children pick up on. Mila notices everything and anything about me that is slightly unusual she comments on. And doesn’t let it drop. At the moment it’s my teeth. I have a gap between my top and bottom teeth so my top teeth stick out a bit. She’s been commenting on this for a while. It was something that I used to be paranoid about but have forgotten about it for a long time. Well now it’s back on my mind. I am constantly reminded about it. ‘You look like a rabbit.’ ‘Why do you stick your teeth out like that?’ Thank you Mila. Now I want braces. I wish I had had braces when it was acceptable. Now I’m just going to have to make do with looking like a rabbit. Before my teeth, it was my hair.  For a start it’s ‘orange’ and by no means is it red like Ariel’s. Well I know that, but when you’re a teenager with the stigma of ‘being a ginger’, pretending it’s red like Ariel’s hair is a nice comfort. But now I’m not allowed to think that. Oh and plus, my hair is too long. I need to get it cut apparently. And before that it was my mole on my forehead. ‘What’s that thing on your head?’ ‘Ahaha, it’s really funny!’ And they just point at it sometimes. Aren’t children wonderful?
But aside from that I’ve been having a wonderful time with the girls recently. Ever since I got back after Christmas something seems to have clicked and I feel a real part of the family. They always want to play with me, they draw me pictures at school, they always associate me with ‘mummy and daddy’. It’s so nice, but it makes me feel a bit sad that I will be leaving in 6 months time and they will have someone else in my place. That’s sad for them to become attached to someone then for them to just leave when they’re so young. I don’t like that one bit.
But a nice story: I was playing with the girls and we each had a little figurine to play with each and I said we all had to chose a magic power for our toy. I had a tiny tiny little red bird and I chose that it could make itself invisible. So after a few minutes of playing I hid it in my hand and when they weren’t looking put it into my pocket. They then asked where it had gone and when I said she was invisible they didn’t believe and said ‘No, make it appear, where is it?’ I said I couldn’t, it wasn’t me who decided. And just at the moment, a bird started tweeting outside! I asked them if they heard it and they said yes and then it started tweeting again! And then they ran to the window, faces pressed against the glass looking for it. At this point I surreptitiously placed the bird on the drawers in front of the window and edged away. I asked them if they could see the bird. And when they saw the bird had reappeared right in front of them, as if out of nowhere, well, you should have seen their faces! Elles m’ont regardé avec les yeux touts ronds et etonés. C’était chouette!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Books round 2

Last time I wrote about what books I've been reading I think I said I was going to read the Millenium trilogy, which I did. I enjoyed the first one (The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo), it was an easy read, engaging, interesting story but nothing mind-blowing. The second and third ones I found tedious, the dragged the story on too long with the plots getting more and more ridiculous. Call me literal minded (as many of you do) but for me books have to be believable, or else a complete fantasy and clearly not resembling real life. So I'm sorry but they didn't really do it for me.
But here's some books I have read, really enjoyed and recommend:
'The Girl at the Lion D'or' by Sebastian Faulkes. About a girl who moves from Paris to a smaller town Janvilliers as a waitress and there meets a married man who she falls in love with. There's more to it than that but that is the basic premise and it has really interesting, beautiful character interactions. A really simple but interesting and beautifully written story.
'Fred and Edie' by Jill Dawson. Based on a true story about a woman and her lover who killed her husband in the 1920's. Told through her letters to him while she is in prison, it builds up a wonderful idea of her character- vain, conceited and self-absorbed. It was even better when I found out it was true. Apparently there was a big media furore around the story at the time. The historian in me wants to research more into the documents surrounding the trial!
'Perfume' by Patrick Suskind. This is the story of a man who has an unbelievable sense of smell, he can smell the difference between milk which was made on a sunny day or on a rainy day for example. And it's the story of his search for the best scent in the world. I've never read anything like it before, it's such an interesting premise for a book. Suskind's descriptions are brilliant. I began to think about smell in an entirely different way and how much it effects an atmosphere. Brilliant.
'The Swan Thieves' by Elizabeth Kostova. This was the last book I read. I knew I would like because I loved her first book 'The Historian'. A psychologist receives a new patient- an artist who has attacked a painting and tries to discover what made him do it. It's a mix of faux-history, mystery and love. So good. I couldn't put it down and now I don't know what to read.
If anyone has any suggestions for what I can read next, please help!

Cabaret des filles de joie

Yesterday was so so cool. Frances took me to a cabaret in eastern Paris. It started at 5pm and there was a brocante there as well (a very expensive one though, not like the ones near me) and families were invited too. I was expecting it to be a family friendly affair, a bit of music, a bit of dancing, a bit of 50's style fun. But it was so much more than that. It was a proper burlesque cabaret. There were 3 different parts to the show. It started with the spectacle and there were about 5 different 'stories'/dances each one ending up with the girl in pants suspenders and nipple tassels. The next part was live music with a rock 'n' roll band and during some of the songs, one of the girls would get up and do a dance. Ending up semi-naked again. Frances and I spent some time deliberating the feminist issues behind burlesque dancing. I know it inevitably is derived from an old subjugation of women, but they all looked like they were having the best time I'm not sure I mind. I wish I had the guts to get up on stage like they do. Any thoughts? You weren't allowed to take pictures so I've tried to find some from the internet:



The lady in the first picture was the MC and she presented the show brilliantly, she was like all these girl's mother, but one sexy mother. She was super cool. Frances and I danced lots to the music too which was really good rock 'n' roll, and just next to us some obvious professionals were dancing who were amazing. I would love to be able to dance proper rock 'n' roll, it's so fast and quick but looks effortless, almost lazy because you have to be all loose while you're dancing. Brilliant. I wish you could capture dancing in a photograph but it's too difficult, especially on my rubbish little camera, so this will have to suffice.


Then last but not least there was a dance competition, some good couples, some not so good, and some plain hilarious. Every round they were given a new brief, and for one for them they were told to dance sensuously with a bit of humour. One couple were so over the top and seductive it was so gross it was funny.

I started a new class today, I've gone up to the next level which was really good. I hope I'll progress more in it, everybody talks in it as they're just that slightly more advanced. So much better. Here's hoping it will motivate me more.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Jazz and poker

The weather's getting cold again. I hope it doesn't start snowing again, I've had enough of snow. Apparently it snowed in Paris for 10 mins yesterday. So with slightly gloomier weather, ive had a slightly more gloomy (well not gloomy, just lazy) weekend. Friday night Anna and I went to a jazz bar by St Michel. Apparently the oldest in Paris - Caveau de la Huchette. You walk into the bar first, which was very empty and we felt a little put out having just paid €14 but downstairs is where the action is in a cave like space. There was a good jazz band playing, everyone sits around the edges of the room waiting to be asked to dance on the dance floor. Mainly middle-aged/older folks who all know how to dance properly. There was one elderly gentlemen, he looked the same age as my grandpa - late 80's - in a yellow and black checked shirt and a black neckerchief who was dancing with such vigour and enthusiasm. It was great. Anna and I tried to join in but neither of us being able to do ballroom dancing, we looked a bit out of place. But we tried. At one point walking through the bar, we walked past an old, very French looking man, who stopped in his tracks to look at us, exclaiming 'Wow wow wow, my god, ahhhhh'! It was so obvious and unashamed, so funny.

Today's been a quiet day, I got up late, found a new route to go running and finished my book, The Swan Thieves. Actually I haven't written a post about books I've read in a while. I'll do that next.
But yesterday evening was great fun. Louise was here as well as Luc, so we had a grand soirée and I cooked. I cooked two of my favourite dishes - chorizo and pumpkin risotto followed by lemon pudding, both recipes courtesy of my mum. And they seemed to be a success so I was happy. Then we played poker. I love poker, I'm a gambler at heart and get so easily caught up in a game, betting more and more. I lost €6 tonight. Pas beaucoup and what's a little money for a little fun 'ey. One drink in Paris costs more than that. Tout la monde etait fatiquée, Romain and Luc had been djing in Belgium the night before and didn't get to bed til gone 5am. They showed us a video of their night - it was good, I hope they play in Paris soon so I can go and see them!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Galette des Rois and the start of a New Year

So I got back to Paris last Sunday, luckily no problems with the Eurostar this time, all was back to normal. And when I got back to the house I was greeted by a beautiful kitten! A beautiful grey kitten with amber eyes called Dr Sanchez. Haha. She is the most cuddliest cat, so soft and friendly. And the girls adore her and she seems to like them, unusual for kittens! At the end of Christmas, for Epiphany, in France they have a Galette des Rois which is a cake with a frangipani filling encased in puff pastry. So tasty. And inside is a little fève, a lucky charm, and the person who gets it becomes king or queen for the day. And I got it in my first one! I was so happy. You even get a little crown. We have something very similar in England, although it's not such a big thing.

Alors, so my first weekend back in Paris and rather than having a ‘wild one’ it’s been a more civilised welcome back. Lydia and I watched Paris je t’aime on the first evening. Quite a strange film with lots of short stories, some good some not so good. But it made me think about how wonderful Paris is as well as look forward to doing some more exploring!
On Saturday we took the opportunity to go to Saint Chapelle and the Concierge which are inside the Palais de Justice on Ile de la Cité. Saint Chapelle was breathtakingly beautiful. It was built in the 13th century to house relics, including the Christ's crown of thorns. It is a room surrounded by stained glass windows up to 15m high telling the story of the Bible. I wasn’t expecting it, and to walk in to the room and be confronted by this glow of colour was spectacular. It’s meant to be especially spectacular when it’s really sunny. For anyone with a penchant for stained glass windows it’s a must-see. Just up from the Chapelle is La Concierge which used to be a prison. During the French Revolution hundreds of prisoners were sent here before being executed, including Marie Antoinette. After that we just ambled around the Ile’s, enjoying being back in Paris, and seeing the hundreds of creperies there are everywhere. Seriously every other shop is a creperie.



Today I spent toute seul and I went to the Musée Rodin which I’ve been meaning to go to for ages as I’ve been told how beautiful it is. And it is. It’s in a beautiful 18th century mansion with a charming garden where you can sit amongst The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. I actually found it better here to be alone as I could see the museum at my own pace, admiring all the sculptures. I even ate my lunch alone, which I think is the first time I’ve ever eaten out alone. But in France it’s very acceptable to do such a thing, it gives you an air of independence. Maybe I’m finally growing up. 






























After Musée Rodin I took a stroll around Hotel des Invalides which was built as a home for wounded soldiers in the seventeenth century. It’s an impressive building, especially on a beautiful day, like it was. It’s home to the National War Museum and probably most importantly, Napolean’s tomb. Which is huge. It’s underneath the big golden dome in a crypt surrounded by big tableaux and quotations of his. It’s very impressive. Plus all of this is free for EU citizens under 26. So if you want to go to Paris, now’s the time to do it folks, nearly every museum/gallery I’ve been to is free. All these wonderful attractions you can go to again and again and again (I think Musée Rodin might become another Musée D’Orsay for me in this respect).