Thursday, 28 April 2011


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.