Newspaper Features & Adventure Preludes

As of tomorrow I’ll be spending *almost* a week in Pennsylvania traveling with some best friends and will therefore be posting a ton, obviously.. That is of course unless I’m arrested for stalking the Always Sunny cast..

But before all of that happens, I think it’s fitting to post a link to an article I wrote for my city newspaper on my time abroad in Paris that was just published today. Funny how timing sometimes works out perfectly, huh?

Anyway, the piece is a reflection on my feelings toward my time away, how travel changed me and all that gushy nonsense I feel for adventure.. Hope you enjoy!

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Friends to Last a Lifetime

Okay, so I have kind of a gushy post for everyone right now.. I’ve said before how I have the workd’s best friends ever and that will never change. Last year, my best girlfriends sent me a care package in Paris from the States to cure my homesickness and tell me how much they missed and loved me. It was absolutely wonderful and uplifting and I couldn’t believe they did something like that for little ole’ me. They’re truly the best.

And now anyone who knows me, knows that I love my birthday. Like love love love it. I typically tend to celebrate my birthday for at least half of October with my various groups of loved ones in my life.. Yes, I’m that girl. It’s not like I shove it in people’s faces, I just love my birthday and love spending it with the people I care about. And this year was wonderful hanging out with my family all weekend – especially with being away from them for it last year while in Paris.

So, remember how I said I have the best of friends? Well, they’re from all around the world and my best friends from Paris just sent me birthday presents from abroad!

   

Seriously, I love these girls so much.. I’m so shocked that they thought to do something like this for me and I couldn’t be happier that God blessed my life with such beautiful souls.

When I say I have the world’s best friends, I truly mean it. 

   

5 Things You Learn When You Explore the Entirety of Paris’ Louvre Museum

After being home from Paris for a little over a month, I’ve obviously been thinking about that marvelous city for a majority of my free time. I’m missing it more and more each day so I’ve decided that it’s finally time to now start posting my tips, useful facts and just favorite things about the city for others who might be traveling there soon, who might want to go one day or those who might just have a general inkling to know more about my time over there.

While living there, I compiled a list of tips and useful things I feel that people will be able benefit from that are drawn from my own experiences and adventures over there. One of my tip lists I want to share with the world is what happens when you take five days of your life to explore every inch and secret room within Paris’ famed Louvre museum. Exploring the whole Louvre was one of my top Paris Bucket List items and I accomplished it the week before leaving the city. I hope that my experience within the museum can help out anyone else wanting to explore it.. So without further ado, here we go!

1. No matter what you’ve heard about the gigantic size of the Louvre, it’s bigger than you ever could have imagined.

Standing outside the enormous palace, the size is intimidating. You’re thinking to yourself, “There’s no way I’ll ever actually see this whole thing.” You’re scared to even walk in, knowing how overwhelmed you’ll become within seconds. Yet, knowing all of this, you slowly descend the steps into the “secret” entrance of the Louvre. Immediately, the crowds overcome you and you’re lost within a sea of tourists, unable to even move. As they all shuffle through the short line into the underground entrance, you push past and finally break free of the camera flashes and jumbled combination of four different languages being screeched around you. You’re finally in. You’ve come through the carousel entrance, you’ve shoved past the crowds and you’ve finally made it inside the Louvre. You stand gazing at the three different museum entrance choices before you: Richelieu, Denon and Sully. Without thinking, you choose one and venture up the escalator inside. Map in hand, you clutch it tighter than your purse, knowing that this little paper map is your lifeline to the fantastical history that lies in waiting for you to discover. Slowly, you calm down knowing that you’ve made it inside and that you’re now exploring one of the largest collections of history in the world. You ease into yourself and get lost within the beauty that is the Louvre. Though it’s massive, each room is full of something new and the little map you’re clutching saves you from terror. After about two hours of exploring, you’ve finally conquered the first of three sections in the museum. You feel accomplished and ready to do anything. You know you’re a master Louvre patron already. One section down, two more to go! ..four days later, you’ve done it all. You’ve seen all three sections. You’ve battled thousands of tourists. You’ve won. You’ve seen the entire Louvre after five days of exploration. And it was glorious. The size was no match for your passion of art and you leave for the last time feeling a lightness and renewed passion for life. You have seen the entirety of Paris’ Louvre museum.

This is what I went through each day I dared to go back and see more. It took me five days, but by jove, I did it! 

   
2. Napoleon was a bigger jerk than the world leads you to believe.

You all know Napoleon, right? The guy who tried to conquer the world and actually did conquer many parts of Europe? Well anyway, at one point in history, Napoleon lived within the Louvre and his apartments within the palace are still present and perfectly preserved today. You can explore the entirety of them within the Richelieu section of the Louvre and they’re magnificent. Plush oversized furniture covers the floor below an enormous, elaborate diamond chandelier that hovers above the main living room; extravagant bedrooms flowing with diamonds and decorated with uncomfortable, yet gorgeous furniture. I’m telling you, this part of the Louvre will blow your mind. It’s phenomenally overdone and elaborate in ways that I never could have imagined possible in real life. It was extraordinary. But obviously, Napoleon was more full of himself than anyone could have imagined.. Or at least than I could have imagined. 

 3. The Egyptian section is one of immense magnitude and indescribable history.

Oh, the Egyptian section! Gah, it was marvelous. I’m so excited right now even just thinking about it again and writing about it. Okay, so I have to start off with telling you that all my life, I’ve wanted to visit Egypt. When I was in 6th grade, I did a school project on Nefertiti.. I regularly watched The Mummy movies.. To say I was obsessed with Egyptian culture and history is probably an understatement. So, getting to see a full collection of Egypt’s ancient history was of great excitement for me. This section houses many, many sarcophagus’ and ancient tablets depicting everything from royal day-to-day activities to farm life. The Louvre even holds the sarcophagus of Rameses III, pharaoh of Egypt from 1186 – 1155 BC.  The inscriptions on each tablet were mesmerizing and the sarcophagus’ were marvelous.. But none of it compared to the fact that I saw a real life mummy. WHAT! Yes, a real life mummy in a glass case on display for everyone to see. It was indisputably the most amazing thing in the Louvre for me. Complete with jars on the sides full of the organs from the deceased (just like I learned about from the Mummy movies!), the mummy was truly humbling for me. 

I can’t quite describe why I have such a fascination with ancient Egypt (it could have something to do with adventure – because I’d go ahead and be so bold as to say that I have a bit of a passion for it) but I can tell you that 6th-grade-Nefertiti-project-wielding Megan would have cried her eyes out and fainted at knowing that present day Megan had the privilege of viewing a real life actual ancient mummy in Paris. Man, sometimes I just have to re-read sentences like that that I type out and breathe, still unable to comprehend some of the things I’ve been blessed to do in my life. 6th grade Megan certainly never would have guessed I’d do most of the things I’ve been able to do thus far in my life.

4. “Dead ends” due to construction or other mishaps are not definite; there’s always a secret way to get to the section you need to see.

During the five days it took me to explore the Louvre, I was turned away from multiple sections due to construction closings on staircases and hallways, yet wasn’t deterred. I was on a mission that I needed to accomplish and I wasn’t going to let a little hallway construction stop me from doing what I needed to do. Again, handy little paper map in hand, I studied the layout of the museum multiple times and always found smaller, hidden staircases or passageways still accessible to get me where I needed to go. So, if you are turned away for these reasons, fret not! If you’re determined enough and sneaky enough to search out these smaller, lesser known entryways, you can see everything you need to see. However, that being said, if there are certain entire sections closed off for things like this or art restoration, there is actually no way around it. This was something I encountered on the 2nd floor of the Denon section. The entire top level of this section was closed off for restoration and I’m sorry to say that that is final. Though you can find ways around closed off staircases and such, you certainly can’t sneak into places and do anything illegal. So, don’t take this advice as me telling you to pull off some sort of National Treasure stunt! Nic Cage won’t help you out if you decide to break laws.

5. The provided maps are actual lifesavers and your connection to the museum world.

As I’ve mentioned in almost the entirety of this post, the Louvre provides handy dandy paper maps in every language for you to use to your advantage while exploring the Louvre. The maps contain a floor plan of the museum complete with color coded sections and suggestions on what is most famous in that section and on that floor. They seriously are so helpful if you’re wanting to find a way to conquer the Louvre like I did or if you’re just wanting to find the Mona Lisa. Make sure to grab one as you pass by the information center, I promise you won’t regret it.

*Bonus* There is a “secret” entrance as mentioned above that allows you to skip the crowds and get inside within seconds.

This little tidbit of information that I possessed as a Parisian is probably the thing that my Dad was most thankful for when he and my Mom came to visit. As you can imagine, the Louvre is almost always stuffed full of humans and if you can believe it, my Dad is not a big crowd person. I know I love new things and meeting gaggles of new people, but I certainly didn’t get that from my Dad because he’s the exact opposite.  If he could avoid all human contact outside of those he loves, I think he’d live his happiest life. So, for him, coming to Paris was a definite culture shock in the way of people. He previously thought that a crowd was the ironic wave of people leaving a Royals game early during the 8th inning to avoid everyone else, all the while ensuring their inevitable encounter with all other patrons from the game. Paris is definitely not the ironic wave of people from a Royals game. I’m pretty sure my poor Dad was in a state of shock and anxiety the whole time we were in the city and the Louvre was no exception. Though I couldn’t disperse the crowds within the museum for him, I could ensure that Dad didn’t have a heart attack while just entering it. The “secret” entrance is called the carousel and is a side staircase behind the pyramid that leads to the shopping center and also the entrance to the museum itself. It’s highly less frequented than the main entrance and a nice welcome for the father of a daughter who loves the city but appreciates her dad’s hatred of people.. Love you, Dad!

So, there you have it! Just a few tidbits and facts that I can provide for you beautiful readers and fellow adventurers who hope to some day visit the Louvre for the first time or maybe return for another visit. I hope I was helpful! There’s certainly so much more to learn about this fantastical place though, so if you have any questions or comments for me, don’t hesitate to ask! As you can tell, I obviously miss Paris with a burning passion and would love to talk about it even more.

The Completion of My Paris Bucket List

I did it! I finished ALL of my Paris Bucket List! ..except for three items I couldn’t afford as a poor nanny. 

    
 The last few items on my list were not easy in the slightest. The first, and one I’m most excited about, is seeing the entirety of the Louvre. I did that. I saw it all. And you know what? It’s massive. Unbelievably massive. It took me five trips and that’s even after I’d been multiple times previously. There are so many hidden rooms and staircases that it’s ridiculous. Part of it was closed off but no matter, I found a way around all of the construction through hidden passages and just kept on going right through (around the construction, of course). The Egyptian section is mesmerizing. I’ve always had a love for ancient Egypt and so getting to see so many real sarcophagus’ and AN ACTUAL REAL LIFE MUMMY, pretty much made my whole life. While going through, I marked everything off on a map from the information desk and said map is now a tattered mess, yet still in tact for my offspring to be proud of one day. 

    
   
The second thing I’m most proud of is getting up at 4am to go watch the sunrise at Montmartre. It was glorious and everything anyone could hope for in Paris. Sitting on the steps of Sacre Cœur with Aimi and Gemma on our last full day in the city, breathing in the morning air.. Yes, I cried. It was a magnificent morning. 

 The last thing on my list that I completed, was actually completed at the beginning of my year. Let me explain. One thing on the list was “hipster theatre.” I wanted to go see an obscure show at a hole in the wall basically. But with time and how slowly I realized I was quickly leaving, it just wasn’t possible. Then, it hit me. I used to regularly go to Open Mic night at the Highlander when I first came to Paris. It was a small show with local artists put on in the basement of a Scottish pub – what more could I ask for in the hipster theatre respect? So there you have it, done.

COMPLETE.

SUCCESS.

All done.

..except seeing a show at Moulin Rouge, having afternoon tea at Ladurée and velibing (biking) around Paris because I just did not have the money for them. And that’s okay because everyone knows I’ll be back.

One day.

How Paris Changed My Life

I remember the first time I thought about it.

I remember thinking, “This is crazy.. I’d never actually do it..”

And then I remember realizing that actually nothing made more sense to me than moving to Paris.

After just one year, my time in Paris has changed me. I’ve grown into a completely different being. I’m more me than I’ve ever been and I’ve never felt such an intense longing to stay put somewhere.

After this short year away, Paris has become my home. She’s a constant in my life that I’ve never known before. She’s the love I’ve never had before. She’s the embodiment of who I am as a person now.

After all of the tears, laughs, picnics, strolls, complaints and wine glasses I’ve gone through this year, I can confidently say that it’s been the best of my life. Paris has opened up my horizons and filled my heart. She made me realize more than ever before that travel is in my soul; it’s the essence of my spirit. I’ll never stop until I’ve seen all that’s humanly possible on this magnificent earth that God created for us. It’s within me now, as is Paris.

Though I adore this city and have seriously contemplated staying, there were times when I wanted nothing more than to go home and be in the presence of my family again. In this year I’ve never felt so completely whole and so entirely split in two before. And as I sit here in my room for the last night, I don’t have a choice than to return to the wondrous love of the family I have waiting back home.

Yes, Paris is a part of who I am today. I’ve changed in ways I’d never anticipated before and have grown into a different woman because of her.. But for now it’s time to say goodbye.

To say goodbye to the family of friends I’ve created for myself here. 

    
    
   
To say goodbye to the city that drastically changed my life.

To say goodbye to my home. 

 

Goodbyes Are the Hardest Part..

I knew when I moved to Paris, that I would get attached and it’d be hard to move away.

I knew that after spending a year of my life with a family separate from my own and caring for children who weren’t mine, I’d find it difficult to leave.

I knew that I’d fall more in love with Paris than I’d ever been before.

But nothing prepared me for how I truly felt today after my last day with my kiddo.

Let me start by chronicling the past week because it was full of adventures.

I spent my last few days with my family in their apartment instead of mine due to the immense heat wave that has enveloped Paris and the lack of air conditioning anywhere in France. Living under a metal roof on the top floor of your building can be difficult at times – I found that out this week especially. However, I loved sleeping at the flat with my family and waking up to have breakfast with them in the mornings; it’s something I hadn’t done at all this year. Even though the unbearable temperature has been miserable, it was well worth it to spend my last few days so close to them.

One of the things that A and I did for our last few days was go to the carnival that just opened up this week. I was so glad he wanted to go because I’d been dying to since I first saw the colorful equipment going up. Taking care of kids it’s only fitting that I’m still a kid at heart myself, right? We rode rides and had a grand ole’ time all afternoon but I gotta say, the best part was the first thing we did. The Donkey Kong ride. A runs over to the line and starts jumping up and down excitedly and grabbing my arm and screaming. He kept repeating how he’d never ridden this ride before but he’d been wanting to for over a year. He kept screaming all the way through the line, while we climbed into the boat seats, as we were slowly being pulled up the big slide and as we swiftly dropped to the bottom of it. He screamed with glee the whole time and I’d never seen him so happy. The rest of the day didn’t even matter because I’d made my little guy ecstatic by riding along with him. 

 The next day we went to the movies and saw a surprisingly hilarious franglais kiddie film. Half of the movie was franglais and English and the other half was French.. Jokes like, “(In a thick French accent) I am so happy to be your new French tee shirt,” had me in hysterics the whole time.

Along with the wonderful time at the carnival and movies, this week my host mom and A took me to a nice sushi dinner and guess what.. I found out I like sushi! I hated it two years ago when I tried it for the first and only time but this go I loved every bite. 

 We laughed and talked and drank over dinner and I could feel myself becoming more and more aware that I’m leaving in just a few days..

As the final day approached, I didn’t allow myself to think about how this was the last time I’d walk my kiddo to school. Or the last time I’d pick him up. Or the last time we’d play Connect 4. I couldn’t bring myself to face the fact that tonight I was going to say goodbye to my reason for coming to France and the reason for my happiness in Paris.

A and I spent our last night together playing Connect 4 and listening to minions songs. When my host mom came home and it was time to say goodbye, A hugged me for a long time and wouldn’t let go. As he and his mom walked out the door to catch their train, he kept looking back every two seconds to wave again. When he finally got through the door, he turned around again to blow me a kiss goodbye.

The Beginning of Goodbyes: An Au Pair’s Last Two Weeks at the Job

This week was a spectacular one.

My host parents were out of town for the second half of the week so I spent 72 straight hours with my kiddos. And on top of that, my oldest kid S got out of school last week so she was completely free all day every day. Most au pairs would shudder at the thought but I actually had a blast. So, let’s start off with our first day together.

Wednesday, A and his best friend and I went to the Lego expo, which I’d been wanting to go to for weeks. We get there and the boys run in and start running around looking for the “kid” stuff. I say this because the entire expo was artwork formed out of Legos – pretty intense and beautiful stuff but the boys were not having any of it. They wanted to just play with the Legos. They had no idea that it was just artwork. Running through everything to the gift shop at the end, they were finally happy. They spent 15 minutes perusing all that the gift shop had to offer and decided on a Lego shaped box full of Legos to take home. I pay and we leave. Then, we get outside and open the box.. Turns out it’s just a box for the Legos you already have at home! The boys were so bummed. I personally thought it was quite funny.. 

    Later that night I made some homemade chorizo pizza and A loved it. He ate half of the whole thing and then was upset when he couldn’t eat anymore. Absolutely made my day hearing him so excited about my food. I love to cook.

Then Thursday, S and I went to the Paris Aquarium and I got to see the sharks again! They were just as cool the second time around. Then, A had a school concert at night for all the parents and I got to go. All the kids sang their hearts out and had such a blast doing it, I loved it. After, there was candy and cotton candy and drinks and all other kinds of goodies that the kids went crazy on – A shared his cotton candy with me and S because he’s such a sweet little kid. 

   I then made the mistake of Americanizing my meal Thursday night and in addition to pizza, I made pizza breadsticks. The kids barely touched them. So guess what I had for breakfast the next day? Yup, pizza breadsticks. So good cold. 

    And finally yesterday we went to the cat and dog expo. It was actually quite entertaining and I learned lots. There were dog/cat games of Guess Who? and a quiz to play with friends on a big screen and a Where’s Waldo? and all other kinds of fun informative things to do. It was better than I expected. 

 After returning home and eating dinner, the kids and I snuggled up on the couch and watched The Lord of the Rings together until my host parents came home. We then had a couple of drinks with the movie on and I tried my best to stall because I knew that once I left, I’d never see S again. Since she’s out of school, she’s going to her grandma’s this weekend and not coming back until after I leave Paris. So I was trying my hardest to stay longer until A announced that he was going to bed and I realized that I should probably skidaddle. I got up and hugged S for a long time and neither of us could let go. My host parents told me how much fun she had with me this year and I hugged her one more time and walked out the door. Overcome with sadness, I realized just how quickly this year has truly gone by and how soon I’m leaving..

But I refuse to think more on the subject right now because I still have 9 days left in Paris. So, I’ll just leave this here where it is.