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.

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Vaux-le-Vicomte: The Model for Versailles

You’ve all probably heard of the Palace of Versailles, built by Louis XIV, used by Marie Antoinette and her husband Louis XVI until their arrest (and eventual beheading) and also occupied by Napoleon I. Well anyway, the gorgeous and elaborate palace was inspired by a much smaller one – Vaux-le-Vicomte, which I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend.

It was a train and bus ride away and quite far away from the actual city but no matter. Whenever a castle is around, Gemma, Aimi and I are sure to be found there.

Upon arrival there is a horse and stable museum that we explored first. It was quite small but full of wax characters and posing horses. I made a joke to the girls that all of the wax people probably come to life at night; it’s probably true. They were so lifelike. 

 But anyway, our walk through the museum led us out onto the palace grounds and behold! There it was: a mini Versailles!

When we got inside I stopped mid-step in a flurry of excitement at the sign on the front desk.. YOU COULD RENT 17th CENTURY PRINCESS COSTUMES! So immediately I blurted out to the desk lady that I needed a costume and she took me to the back closet to pick out a princess dress. First one I saw I knew I needed it – it was a beige color with purple and pink (what I thought were) flowers. I grabbed it and had her button me up. Gemma and Aimi immediately laughed at me and teased me pointing out that they weren’t in fact flowers, they were roosters. Ugh.. Oh well, I was too thrilled at the fact that I WAS ABOUT TO DANCE THROUGH A CASTLE IN A PRINCESS DRESS. 

         So, that’s what I did, I danced through a castle in a princess dress. Gem and Aimes were such good sports, they took photos of me everywhere and even held my train while I walked up the stairs. They completely indulged me in my princess adventure.

Then came the time for me to take it off. I didn’t like that part. But I had to. So, slowly.. reluctantly.. and wearing an upside down smile.. I did.

After that, the girls and I toured the gardens on.. get this.. a golf cart! So fun! We just rented a golf cart and drove it around for an hour looking at the pretty waterfalls and lovely greenery. 

           It was just overall a spectacular time.. BECAUSE I RAN AROUND A CASTLE IN A REAL PRINCESS DRESS. 

 

Christmas Break in a Nutshell

So, it has come to my attention that I should probably update some of you on my Parisian shenanigans since we last spoke. The following is my attempt to sum up all the craziness I’ve encountered lately.

Here it goes.

Over Christmas break, one of my best friends, Caitie, came to visit me. We had such a blast and I don’t think I would have been able to get through Christmas in Paris without her. She was a blessing.. So thank you Cait! During the second week that she was here, we went on a backpacking trip from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam to Berlin to Zweibrücken back to Paris. It was a crazy eight days, to say the least. No matter what, Caitie and I always seem to find ourselves in weird travel situations wherever we go. For instance, during a road trip back from New York City to watch the ball drop on NYE three years ago, we blew a tire and got stranded on the Ohio turnpike and had to drive back to Chicago (about six more hours) on a donut. Another time we went to Vegas for NYE (last year) and ended up all having to take different flights home due to weather. This trip was no exception. I’ll start from the beginning.

We decided to just spend one day in Brussels because we’d been told that’s all we needed. So we arrived at noon and then had reservations for a bus at 4am the following morning. We didn’t get a hostel because, “What’s the big deal? We’re young, we can stay up till four and bar hop!” ..We were tired by 3pm and ended up seeing a movie to just chill out. We’re older than we thought..

Well, 1am rolls around and we decide to go back to the train station, get our bags out of the lockers and just sit and maybe nap till our 4am bus. As soon as we sit down, our stuff in hand, a security guard comes around to tell us that the station is now closed and we need to get out. UM OKAY SIR, WE’LL GO WANDER THE STREETS OF BRUSSELS FOR THE NEXT THREE HOURS UNTIL OUR BUS ARRIVES. So rude. I mean, who closes a train station!? I bet his name was Stove.. “Stove.. Whatakinda name is that?” ..Anyway, we start walking around the city with all of our bags and see this guy wandering around aimlessly as well and it was obvious the he was in the same situation as us and decide to follow him without him knowing. After about five minutes, Caitie runs up to him, “Tu parles français?” “No.” “English?” “Yes.” “YAY!”

Turns out he was, in fact, kicked out of the station too and had nowhere to go either. I announced to him that we’d be sticking with him now and hoped he didn’t mind.. He didn’t. Good thing too, because I would have continued to follow him anyway. So we all start walking around and stumble upon an open Quick (kind of a European McDonald’s) that was staying open until 6am. We happily stroll inside and buy some fries and get settled. We were going to be there for the next three hours, after all. Anyway, Caitie goes to the bathroom and Richie (that’s our new friend’s name) and I move tables to a more comfortable area. Right as I’m about to turn around to grab the fries, the last thing left on the table to transfer, a man comes up to the table, inspects the fries and then grabs an entire handful and walks out. I MEAN WHY DOES THIS STUFF HAPPEN TO US? But oh well, I’m assuming he needed them more than us.

We all settle into our little booth and start a game of 20 questions to get better acquainted for the three hours we have together and before we know it, our peace has been disturbed. A little woman comes in with a young couple and starts throwing french fries and sauce packets at everyone in the restaurant and ends up in a fist fight with just about everyone there, including the innocent Christmas tree in the restaurant window. I mean, the tree didn’t even do anything to her. It was just an innocent bystander in this tiny woman’s he-man strength psychotic break. She ends up being escorted out by police and we’re left sitting in awe at what just happened. Again, I’m telling ya, this kind of stuff happens on every trip we have, no lie.IMG_6159

After the Christmas tree fiasco, we find ourselves realizing it’s almost time for our bus and we start to head back to the bus stop. Richie walked us safely there (even carrying my bag for me, such a gentleman) and we parted ways to head to Amsterdam where even more turmoil was awaiting us, we just didn’t know it yet. But that’s a story I’m not quite willing to tell yet..

Cait and I spent NYE in Berlin at Brandenburger T’or and had a crazy, wild night filled with music, fireworks and champagne. We had a wonderful, yet somewhat crazy time, as usual, throughout the whole trip.IMG_6284

After Berlin, we found ourselves riding the train to Zweibrücken, where Cait’s wonderful family was awaiting our arrival to show us all around the southern region of Germany and spoil us like crazy for three days. We had such a fantastic time getting to know all about Germany’s history, eating hearty German food and drinking dark German beer. We can’t thank the Kerfins enough for all that they did for us those few days – they were wonderful and so amazing to us.IMG_6362

And to finish off our time together, we came back to Paris where we slept like babies for the night until Cait had to be at the airport the next morning to return to the good ole’ US of A. I had an unforgettable time with her and am so thankful she took the time and money it cost to see me for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up our next trip and can’t wait to see where we go next!

Since then, I’ve been kinda chillin’ out in Paris just hanging out with my favorite ladies, doing quiz night at The Highlander, you know.. the usual. I had a great trip but I also realized how much of my home Paris has become.

I’m happy to be back in my little shoebox of an apartment. I’m happy to be able to waste time at my favorite bar (The Highlander, in case you guys didn’t already catch that) again. I’m happy to spend time with my girls before some of them leave soon. I’m happy to be home.

I Amsterdam

image1This past weekend, I was able to cross one item off of my Europe Bucket List. I traveled to Amsterdam and had the time of my life.

This beautiful Dutch city took my breath away and impressed me in so many ways that I never could have imagined. From the gorgeous canals to the wonderful history, I was taken aback. The entire experience exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.

Tessa and I traveled on the Megabus from Paris to Amsterdam, which was a 7 hour drive. It actually wasn’t too bad! We took the night bus and were able to catch a few ZZ’s before arriving at our destination. Once there, we checked into our hostel, which was pretty darn cool – it was a boat! We stayed on a “bostel” called Christina and it was super duper cool.

We spent our time eating pancakes and drinking beer in between numerous museums. My favorite being the Anne Frank House. Touring this historic monument was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. I feel so blessed to have been able to see such a huge part of history. And now after going, I am going to start reading The Diary of Anne Frank and cannot wait.

Overall, this experience was a dream and I cannot wait to return soon.

I left yet another piece of my heart in another place in the world and I couldn’t be happier.10659260_10153232791638465_80058978577315592_n

Spring Break – Alternative Style

10150592_2565730701303_84968902_nToday marks the beginning of my last spring break in life and I couldn’t be more excited. Instead of going to a beach somewhere, I chose to spend my break volunteering somewhere in the country to better the lives of those in need. The past few months have been spent preparing and planning for this day and I’m so happy that it’s finally here. In a few hours I’ll be heading off to Fort Campbell, KY to participate in an art program for little kiddos on the military base. I love kids and can’t wait to meet them and spend the week having awesome Dr. Seuss-ian fun!

My wonderful group that I’ll be going with decided on the theme of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” for the week and each day will be a different destination for the kids to have fun with. For instance, Dino Day is on Tuesday so we’ll be traveling back to the prehistoric times with T-Rex tag and archaeological digs. The entire week will be filled with this kind of awesome fun.

I’m so thrilled to have an entire week to spend getting to know some spectacular, selfless humans who will be on this trip with me. It’s people like them who the world needs more of. I don’t know everyone very well yet but can already tell that they’ll become my best friends by the time this trip is over.

So, here’s to a week full of laughter, games and love!