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 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.