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. 

 

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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.

Fête de la Musique 2015

Every year on June 21, France has a party. And I mean a big party. A music party. The entire country explodes in harmony all afternoon and evening and the experience is magnificent.

Basically, there’s a band playing on every corner of every city and you just walk around indulging in the melodies. It’s insanely fun. Free music, good friends and tons of fun define this day. And yesterday was Fête de la Musique.

I spent my afternoon and evening wandering through the streets of Paris and indulging in all that the music had to offer. Just sitting on a hill and getting lost in it all was perfection. 

 I experienced Fête de la Musique two years ago in Cannes too, and it was splendid. The whole day everywhere is a music lover’s dream.

Anyway, I just wanted to recall how amazing my day was yesterday and how much I’m going to miss this wondrous country when I move back home soon. 

Escaping City Life: A Day Trip to Normandy’s Capital

It’s always so nice to get out of the city and explore more of what France has to offer. Coming from a small town, sometimes living in such a huge city is a bit overwhelming for me. So, whenever I have a chance to get away for a bit, I take full advantage.

Yesterday, I went to Normandy’s capital, Rouen, and spent the day walking around and eating delicious food. 

 Rouen has so much more to offer than I would have thought. We saw about three gorgeous gothic cathedrals and the Joan of Arc church as well. The Joan of Arc one was a bit odd – weirdly shaped and huge – it juts out of the city like a black sheep. But I found it intriguing nonetheless. 

           All of the buildings throughout the entirety of the small town were all Hansel and Gretel themed and just like out of a Disney movie. The girls and I took a walk down the river as well and just enjoyed being in a peaceful area surrounded by small town mentality. 

        Man, do I love an escape from the hustle and bustle.

Tackling (Most of) My Paris Bucket List in One Week

Since moving to Paris almost a year ago, I’ve had a bucket list to complete that I’ve slowly been adding to throughout my time here. And last week, I was able to cross off four more things. So, I’m almost done with my list! Just a few more things left.. But for now, I’ll tell you all about the ones I just crossed off.

  First, there’s Giverny. You’ve heard of Monet, right? Those beautiful water lily paintings? Yeah, I went to his house last weekend and it’s just as gorgeous as you’d imagine it to be. Overflowing with thousands of flowers outside the front and the hidden pond off to the side.. It was all so surreal and magnificent. I couldn’t help but just stare and stare and stare. The girls and I decided to go exploring throughout the town after his house too and found ourselves on a little adventure throughout the hills. We climbed a trail that led to the top of a steep hill and at the top you could see the wonders of nature for miles and miles and miles. It was just such a peaceful and relaxing day full of flowers and sun. 

                   

  Next, I climbed to the top of Notre Dame. Kissing a gargoyle up there has been one of the top things on my list all year and I finally did it! Obsessed with gargoyles.. Anyway, the view was glorious and breathtaking but mostly I’m just happy I kissed a real gargoyle. Even looked for Quasimodo but couldn’t find him anywhere. 

     
  Then, I climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Gotta say, this view is my favorite in all of Paris thus far. You could literally see the whole city and it started with the length of the Champs Elysées. Really just a spectacular place to go and get lost in thought within the beauty of this city. 

        
  Finally, I sang karaoke at my pub. Yeah, it might be a weird thing to have on a bucket list but it makes sense to me. The Highlander is the place where I literally spend most of my time in Paris and every Thursday night they have karaoke. Usually, I just laugh when everyone else makes a fool of themselves for everyone else’s pleasure but this time I decided to be the fool. I told Declan, the best bartender in the world, that I was going to do karaoke tonight so that I wouldn’t be able to bail. Once I told him, I was stuck. Later in the night he called me up to sing and even though I pleaded for a good 30 seconds for him to not make me actually do it, he announced to the whole pub that this was something that I had to do and that I needed to knock it off my bucket list. Thanks, Dec. Anyway, I sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and I even did the Steven Tyler squeal with my voice after every line. It was pretty fun since I committed to it and sang my heart out – none of that shy, quiet I-don’t-really-wanna-do-this kinda stuff – no, I full on went for it. I feel sorry for everyone’s ears but I don’t really care, I had a blast being an idiot. And now it’s been crossed off my list.

So, there you have it. I completed four new items on my Paris Bucket List within a week and I only have about three more things left before I leave in two weeks. Here’s to its completion!

Père Lachaise: A Guide to Paris’ Most Famous Cemetery 

Have you ever had the urge to just grab a horror novel and leisurely stroll through a cemetery? Perusing the graves, book in hand, admiring the beauty of each grave? No? Just me then? Well okay.. Let’s go ahead and change that right now.

I’m about to walk you through the most famous Parisian cemetery and you can decide for yourself at the end whether or not you’d actually fancy the idea of a good scary read in the middle of a beautiful cemetery lined with graves.

Here we go.

Père Lachaise cemetery opened in 1804 in Paris and is located in the East of Paris in the 20th arrondissement. It holds over 1 million graves and inside there is located a crematorium and columbarium. In addition to many famous names buried inside, the cemetery also contains multiple World War I memorials.

Last weekend I spent an afternoon perusing through the numerous graves, finding famous souls of the past and viewing the monuments and buildings it has to offer. 

 As you can imagine, this is a vastly large cemetery and if you’re planning to visit to see one of the famous names buried there, I highly recommend grabbing a map at the entrance. The plots of well-known names and figures from history are listed alphabetically and can easily be found if you just follow the map.

I say easily.. but..

I started out searching for Chopin. He was the closest to the entrance and I thought he’d be easily found. After many hills of exploration and about twenty minutes of blind plot searching, I decided he couldn’t be found. I can only chalk this up to the fact that he’s just not there (it certainly wasn’t due to my poor navigation skills).

After failing to find Chopin, I decide Jim Morrison is up next. I’d already previously found his grave on a different date but went back again anyway because I was with friends who hadn’t yet seen it. This time I easily found my way to his blocked off grave, cluttered with gags of people around hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous rocker and member of the 27 club. His grave, notably one of the most visited in the cemetery, is buried beneath arrangements of flowers, lipstick kisses and street graffiti. All expressions of undying love for The Doors’ frontman. It’s oddly beautiful for an immense target of vandalism. You know that even though the grave is decorated with spray paint and lipstick, every single line and letter is love and admiration personified in colorful streaks. 

 

Next up, Oscar Wilde. I’d heard his grave was of extravagant nature but I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams just how extravagant. The tomb was designed by sculptor Jacob Epstein and his focus for the tomb is derived from Indian and Egyptian art for their nature of primal sexuality. The tomb is a sort of angel bird hybrid that was originally completed with full male genitalia – this bit has since been vandalized and the whereabouts are now unknown. Again, littered with flowers and lipstick prints of affection, it’s a spectacle of odd beauty. The epitaph on the back reads,

“And alien tears will fill for him

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.”

This is a verse from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a poem by Wilde. Stunning don’t you think? 

   

Finally we come to my lady Edith Piaf. In an entirely different realm design-wise, her grave was simple and elegant. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t even know it was her. Just a normal grave, save for the vase situated on top with the initials “E.P.,” she’s buried with her daughter, father and second husband. I took a short moment here to pay my respects to my dear beloved lady, and what a lady she was. 

   

Among the other graves discovered were Honoré de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright, and Gilbert Morard, father of the modern French metro. Morard’s grave was incredibly interesting – it was buried beneath hundreds of used metro tickets. A spectacle, definitely. 

   

I also walked past the crematorium and columbarium, each grand and magnificent. 

   

So, there you have it. If I haven’t convinced you that cemeteries are beautiful and wondrous and the best place to curl up with a horror novel within this post, then I’m afraid there’s truly no hope for you.