Friday, October 28, 2011

Notes from les Vacances

Here's what has been happening this week:

1. As I said before, it's the "holidays," which are really just for the schoolchildren. Holidays are obviously the opposite for the parents. Anyway, it hasn't been too terrible, although yesterday both l'enfant and I were terribly whiny in the afternoon, and there was definitely a moment when I thought I was going to lose it. He definitely has some sort of OCD, which the mom readily admits is from her. Well, he hates it when his toys don't all fit on the rug in his room, and freaks out. So that's always fun. And then later we were out with his slippers on. Luckily he told us before we got on the bus. Yikes! I blamed it on lack of caffeine.

2. The weather here has gotten nicer. It's been generally 40s at night, high 50s/low 60s during the day. Pleasant, fall weather. Oddly enough, it seems as though yesterday all the leaves started changing. There's still a ton of green around, and I know the leaves don't look like they do in the states even when they do change, but it finally feels like mid-autumn.

3. I started doing "real errands" this week. I had to buy shampoo and conditioner, which was tricky, since advertising words are generally not in my everyday vocab. I did find the right stuff, but then I needed new face wash, and I definitely didn't buy what I wanted. It had the word "lait," which means milk, on the bottle and it was "bio" (organic), so I thought it was made with milk? But no, it's like...milky, so it doesn't foam or scrub the way I wanted it to. Live and learn.

4. I also just got my carte bleue from my new bank. Here the debit/credit situation is always together, so I can start spending money right away, and then it gets taken out of my account the following month. You can also have "authorized overdrafts." I just need to REALLY pay attention to this, because I am not especially good at budgeting. Taking copious notes.

5. Starting to plan out my travels. Going to visit Britain at the end of November, and also planning a trip to Brussels for a day on November 12. Brussels is only an hour and a half away, so we're going to do first train out, last train back, and save ourselves the hostel cost. Had a night this week where my host parents plied me with cheese and told me everywhere to go. Now my list includes: Bretange, Normandie (Mont-St-Michel), Rennes (in Champagne), la Cote d'Azur (which is apparently the Florida of France, to the French), Madrid, Barcelona, Roma, Florence (they think I should skip Venice this time around), Amsterdam....etc.

6. Still haven't found a cheese I dislike. On the aforementioned evening, there were 5 cheeses involved:
-Neufchâtel: completely unlike its American counterpart, Neufchâtel is made in Normandie, and it's a very old cheese (not aged, but has been around for a long time). It's shaped like a heart, and is more Brie-like in its consistency, but also very salty. Yum.
-Gouda: a 2-year-old, bright orange Gouda. It was nothing like the smoked Gouda in the States. It was very hard and dry, and the rind looked like a rock. It was more like a dry sharp cheddar, and it was baller. I preferred it without baguette.
-Brie de Melun: considered one of the best Bries, it's made in Paris and is like the "granddaddy" of all Bries. It's delicious and funky and wow.
-Comté: this is like, basic French cheese, but we got this kind that had been aged and then cut into thin thin pieces and was shaped like flowers. It was gorgeous, and delicate, and soooo delicious.
-Chevre: but it wasn't the chevre from the States, again. It was pyramid shaped, with a flat top, and it was greenish. Inside it was almost flaky and so mild. Very delicious with the bread.

7. I bought a pumpkin from the primeur, which is the fruit/veg shop that gets shipments every day from farmers. It's the best for when you can't get to a market. Anyway, it's pretty, and it was 6 euros, which is comparable to pumpkins in Brooklyn (though not in the real USA). Sunday I'm going to carve it with friends, and we're going to attempt to cook the seeds using the stove, since almost no one has a real oven. Also, I'm debating making caramel dip for apples. Party.

That's enough updates for now. I have a break because grandparents are here, and so I'm chilling. Going to go eat some lunch, and then my little apartment is messy as all get-out, due to me being lazy. It's airing right now, with the big windows open. My room gets stuffy after a day with the radiator on and me gone. Gross.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Almost November?

We're on holiday here in France. There's this random 10-day break at the end of October--Toussaints. What that really means for your average, run-of-the-mill au pair is one of a few scenarios: a.) you're on the opposite of holiday, and you're working alldayeveryday since the kids are free and wild, b.) you're on a modified schedule because the parents are taking some semblance of a break as well, and now you just don't know when exactly you'll be working until November, c.) you've been shipped off on "holiday" with your family or just the kids to a rural French location and you're hoping for cell service while wondering how to entertain 2-4 crazy and occasionally demanding children in the middle of nowhere, or d.) you hit the luck of the draw and your family went on vacay without you, giving you time to travel, sleep, eat preservatives, and spend money.

I'm on the "b" track--my family remains here, and I really don't know my hours at all. Today was 9:30-2pm, then 3:30-7. Tomorrow is looking like 9:30-2, and 5-7:30. Uh...whatever. I do think tomorrow is going to involve an aquarium though, so can I really complain? Also, I eat better when I baby-sit through lunch, no lie. There's more cheese involved.

Today I got a box from my family (my REAL family, yo) and it was sooooo lovely. Along with the things forgotten in the midst of weighing suitcases and figuring out drive-time to Pittsburgh, I also was surprised by some delicious cookies, and random food samples that are, like, exactly what I wanted to eat for no reason tonight. Example: tuna. I've seen a bunch of people eating salade nicoise recently, and that's kinda pricey in the restaurants, and all I really want is the good stuff (eggs, tuna, corn). And my mom sent me two pouches of tuna fish! The good stuff, man. Pouch #1--gone. Debated eating the other, but refrained. Also pumpkin Jell-o pudding, which I think I need to incorporate into a baked good situation while we are on holiday here (when family is home, I have access to oven and small, eager helper). Finally, my mom threw in some spices for pumpkin pie, and let's just say that my Toms might smell like cinnamon...

This weekend was incredibly busy for me, or at least it's the busiest "time off" I have had in the 2.5 weeks since I've arrived in France. After emailing/friending a ton of au pairs at my agency, I got to hang out with them, and so far I couldn't be happier. Everyone is nice, and I really hope they read this blog and make fun of it to my face, for reals. But whatever--they have been really welcoming and fun, and I think I have a lot of shenanigans and weekend trips in my future. First trip: Belgium (Brussels) on Nov. 12!

Anyway today and yesterday were beautiful clear days, and Sunday afternoon was spent mostly soaking up the sunshine in Jardins du Luxembourg. If you visited the gardens and took a picture of the senate house, I'm definitely in your photo, and there's a chance I'm doing something awkward. It was a great afternoon.

Things are catching up to normal here still--I'm about to embark on my first French laundry adventure. I am getting better about dishes. I'm more organized after a weekend jaunt to a few brocantes (flea markets, but ones that anyone can have a booth in, for just a little fee...French garage sale type stuff). I got a couple of silver trays for 2 euro to keep my stuff more organized, and I got a silk scarf for 5. Pretty snazzy.

A couple more updates of things I've learned over the weekend, brought to you in list form:
1. Scrambled eggs with French butter are way better than scrambled eggs without French butter.
2. Going out in Paris is really, really expensive.
3. Getting a taxi at 3am is just as cutthroat as New York City, and I'm not scared of skipping the taxi line.
4. The French will remix any song, and they especially love American top 40 songs that have been around a few years/decades.
5. I'm literally obsessed with baguettes.
6. Ordering three croissants in French at 9am is tough. "Trois croissants" is a tongue twister.
7. Rats hang out in playground sand pits at night.
8. There are like, 800 carousels in Paris, for seemingly no reason.
9. If you want to sit in the sun in a major Parisian park, get there before 12:30.
10. Rugby is something you can understand even if you don't know how it's played. Just keep watching.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bebe Steps

Today I met with Sylvie, the French person in charge of my agency. She gave me an amazing list of all the girls who are in Paris through the agency. C'est parfait! I have already begun to stalk my new friends, and have plans to hang out with someone on Saturday! I am so, so, so excited. I hope I don't pee my pants or something that would make our rendezvous awkward.

So anyway, how exciting, right?!?!

After I met with Sylvie today, I went for a walk around the 4th. I tried on a dress in H&M that was supposed to be perfect for Jon's wedding, but then it was ugly. And everything in Zara wasn't quite right. I found a few vintage-y stores in the Marais, but they weren't what I wanted to deal with today either. I did find one with perfect leather satchels, and I stored that in my brain for future reference. But that store was too messy to comprehend, and lunchtime is bad for shopping in Paris. Noted.

I have a little bit of a scratchy throat and drippy nose. Do you think it's because I'm ignoring the 45 degree weather and dressing like it's closer to 60? Or because I hang with bebes all the time? Or should we just chalk it up to allergies and call it a night? Anyone?

I slammed my finger in the shutters last night. Now I hate them. Also, they are very dirty. And really ugly! I ate an entire baguette today (they are smaller here, THANKS). Those two things are not related.

Tomorrow we have a test in my French class. I can't figure out why. We all have to take this class for our visas, and yeah, we all want to learn French. What is the point of the test? However, I do think this is one of those things I need to go over or I'm going to forget how to conjugate "to be" (être) and then I'm sunk.

Should be a beautiful weekend full of new friends and sunshine. Here are some photos from my walks around Paris:

 near my camper's apartment in the 7e

 Jardins de Luxembourg

l'Hôtel de Ville
en face de l'Hôtel de Ville

I send bisous to my aunt Jane, because her kitty was put down today. Runt was something like 17 years old. She had kittens when I was 10, so...she lived a good life. Bonne nuit, chère Runtsker.

And on a happier note, a very happy anniversary to my parents! Thanks for getting married and having me! 32 years is a long time. Joyeux anniversaire de mariage! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Found the Downside of Living Abroad

My brother is getting married to a sweet girl in Chattanooga, TN, on December 10. I am a very lucky sister who gets to attend that ceremony with most of my family and celebrate. I'm excited to attend a wedding (FINALLY people I know are getting married) (I know, be careful what you wish for), and I think it's going to be a ton of work, mostly fun, and might make me age a few years and/or decide to elope. Should be great, honestly.

I have my flight booked, I get into Chat-town around dinner the night before the wedding. Perfect, right?

Except, I don't have a flight booked back yet...a one-way ticket from any major airport my parents could feasibly drive me to on Monday starts about $1500. Roundtrip is not looking much less--around $900 if I book a return for February (wtf do I do with that ticket???), more like $1400 to book a return in May (for Katie(SHOUTOUT)'s wedding). I'm not sure if the airlines are aware that most people can't afford tickets that cost that much?

The sick part is that when I bought my ticket from home to Paris, and Paris to the wedding, I booked a week in advance. A week! And I bought a multi-destination, international ticket, to an obscure airport in Appalachia...for $850. Why is it that 2+ months in advance, I'm being give then run around to fly on a Monday evening in early December? That's not a big travel time, airlines. Who goes places then? Everyone is saving for the major holidays of the month, and the way you jack your prices up then.

I'm annoyed. I'm annoyed because it's not like I can't book a flight. It's not an option--I can't just not go back to France. It's like Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheap-O-Air, and Priceline all know that about me, and are taking rude advantage.

Sigh. I'm going to forget about it for awhile. I did big stuff today anyway--I put my student loan back into deferment. That usually takes about 2.5 weeks of whining, ignoring, and lollygagging. Not today. Today I have paid my dues.

In other news...

1. Today walking home from my charge's school we found a leaf that was about 14" across. It was a big maple leaf and it had fallen right onto a café table. Very cool, for almost 10 minutes.
2. I have developed a bruise/cramp in my right foot, on the outside, just below my heel. I don't know if it's my shoes, all the walking, or the cobble-y streets here, but it hurts like a biatch. Weirdly, it feels better when I wear heels, so heeled boots it is!
3. I really like how everyone in France says hello to one another. Not like, total strangers, but like the grocer, and the baker, and the people in the apartment building. My problem is I always say "bonjour," except after 5pm, I should be saying "bon soir." Most people are kind about it.
4. A sparkling wine (a cava, to be specific) that we bought a lot in NYC for $13.95 is 6.55€. (Gals, it's the one in the black bottle!)
5. I'm losing weight. It's cool. Loving it. Of course, as I write this, I'm enjoying a tall beer and some pistachios. Also, the candy corn is seeing its last few days this week. (Luckily, Mom is sending more.) So...we'll see.
6. Going to find some real bargains this weekend. I went to Les Puces (a giant fleamarket in the 18th) a few days ago and it was...not what I was looking for. Did I write about this already? Anyway, I found a more "garage-sale" kind of thing--un vide-grenier--in the 15th this Saturday that I am going to check out. I'm desperately in need to things to put things in, so my room isn't just semi-organized piles.
7. I stepped around an empty wine bottle on my floor for a day this weekend because I wanted someone else to pick it up. Seriously. Let's all just think about this for a while.
8. It's getting chillier. Today I was in denial and went out in just a tank and light cardigan, but my hands were cold. Luckily, the kid is always wearing 4 layers (undershirt, long sleeve, sweater, and coat) so his hands were awesome.
9. I started using my shutters to help me stay safe, and the block the light AMAZINGLY. Also, I feel very Parisian when I lean out in the mornings to secure them. 
10. I think I like it here (except for flight prices).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Solo Espresso

Done. Suckaaaaas.

(The man was convinced I wanted milk in mine, but I finally managed to convince him otherwise. Do I not look like a hardcore caffeine addict? C'mon.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding A Groove

Today I integrated myself into France, and really, Parisian life. Big steps today. Now I have a bank account, which means I have clout (sort of), and also a phone! So when I make friends or meet cute boys, I can speak to them again. It's miraculous. How did people make friends abroad without cell phones? Shush, I do know how.

This morning started with the realization that the consistent cloud cover in Paris is what keeps the city warm at night. Without it, temperatures drop quickly and warm slowly. Thus, despite the clear blue sky's foolish grin, when I left the house at half nine, it was 40 degrees. Yikes! Nevertheless, my host father and I had big plans today--bank account and cell phone. Woah, am I right? When was the last time you did something that big? TWO somethings?? In one day??? Right. So after un petit café, we left to kick some bureaucratic booty.

Our first stop was LCL, the bank we had chosen for my account. It costs one euro per year, since I am a student, and that's pretty good, considering HSBC wanted to charge me 4 euro a month! Well, LCL, despite being open, was not interested in our business today. Despite the obvious lack of any other customers, the two bankers there said it was impossible to do today and that I should come back on Tuesday. I was ready to be like, okay, cool, whatevs. We left and I thought it was phone time, and then we walked into Credite Societé. There were a lot more people actually working, and after just about a half hour, I got my own bank account! I pick up my card next week. The REAL perk, however, is that my HF had an account there already, so by adding me, we each got a free gift--a Longchamp bag. Uh...okay!! France is weird.

So then we went to get a the post office. Apparently France is trying to save their postal service, since they are really broke, by diversifying. La Poste is also a bank, and a mobile phone service. It was evidently the cheapest option ma famille found, and although it was a little complicated, now I have a phone!! If you want the number, message me on facebook, but I only have an hour of talk time per month. I do have unlimited SMS and internet though, which is the real key. However, it's a touch screen phone that is like, sooooo two years ago, and I have been spoiled by my poor iPhone (which has been relegated to iPod/clock since arriving in France last week), so this is HARD. Sigh. Nothing is easy in France.

Anyway, after all that, we had lunch at ma famille's house (baked ham and figs, salad with walnuts, potatoes, baguette, yogurt, chocolates....oh yeah), and then I went exploring. I felt kind of bad ducking out quickly, but their son is not a good eater, and it was turning into a battle of the wills--I'm not going to eat it - yes you are - no! - then you'll sit here until you do--and no one wants to be around for that.

Today I went to the American Library, which I have ma famille's card to, and checked out a couple books, then walked myself through the sunshine along the Seine, to les jardins des Tuileries. The sun felt amazing on my face. Everyone was out, and although it kind of felt like I was the only one alone, it didn't matter. It was breezy and a bit chilly but the sun was warm.

 some views of my walk along the Seine

At the Tuileries, everyone was basking. There are all these green chairs by the fountains, and everyone was turned to face the sun. It was funny-looking, and then I obviously needed to find myself a chair. After giving a little stink-eye the people saving chairs for other people (and the one guy with his feet up), I found the real trick: lurking like a shark by a group of people who were wiggling around. When the group stood, I waited until every had finally gathered their things before moving on, and I almost lost the chair I wanted to a quick, dive-y couple. But I got the leaning one that I wanted, and spent the next couple of hours reading in the sun, and getting paranoid that the people who approached wanted directions (in reality, I was blocking a statue). It's interesting--I didn't like doing this in New York. Reading in public, or staying put for a while, that is. I always felt like I should be walking, taking pictures, exploring. Here, even though I haven't really seen much of the city, I don't feel rushed around. I walk slower (until I get behind a smoker), and I linger more.

my view, staring straight into the sun

On my way home I intended to stop at a café, because everyone does it, and I need to start doing it...but I chickened out. It's so silly, and I get really weird about stuff like that. The problem is I haven't done it before. And I know in my heart that it's really just as simple as sitting at a table and ordering. But I hate messing up, even though I do stupid stuff all the time, like trip and say the wrong thing and not be able to find my wallet and on and on. The point is, once I do it, I'll be fine. I just have to do it.

 instead of going to a café, I took this picture...worth it?

Well, after admitting that I'm afraid to go to a café by myself on this blog, now I'm going to have to do it ASAP so my readers don't think I'm an idiot. Okay, tomorrow, after lunch with my Parisian campers, I think I'm going up to the big flea market in the 18th to see if I can score a pretty dish or two for storage in my shoebox apartment. And on the way back, I absolutely MUST stop and have coffee. At an outdoor café. Solo.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day.

Although I did have an eventful evening as well. Since I don't have friends yet, and I am obviously a huge wuss who can't get a coffee on her own, going out at night solo is not happening yet. So I bought two bottles of wine (for tonight AND THE FUTURE, sheesh), a baguette, and some cheese, and wrote this blog post.

Also, I painted my nails with polka dots.

so chic

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bisous and Make Up

France is clearly trying to make it up to me for giving me a stomach bug this week. And today was a good day.

- waking up at 9am
- SUNSHINE (it is always cloudy in Paris except for...THIS WEEKEND YAYYY!)
- new friends, or at least a semblance of new friends (German girls)
- phone numbers of people in my class to make MORE friends
- hilarious attempt at communicating with the people at HSBC
- getting a cell phone in less than 12 hours
- mon enfant and I played with trains today...I like trains
- also we watched Barbapapa which is a French kids' show from the 70s, so it's obviously great
- my host mom is giving me two tickets to a French show next weekend that might be so bad that people will walk out (they do that in France)
- two-hour wine, bread, cheese, French conversation with host parents
- walk past Eiffel Tower when it was sparkling

So, thanks France. You're forgiven.

P.S. A special "thank you" to America for candy corn. And a special "oops" to mon enfant because I ate all the candy corn I brought for you. My bad. That's America for you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Okay, France.

Tonight I have a headache because I didn't have any caffeine today because I am suffering from some awful sort of icky belly bug. Last night was writhing and moaning on my floor (literally) and skyping with my mother until 3:30am my time because that's the time I felt okay enough to fall asleep. Today has been a lot of not eating and then some eating of some ridiculously boring foods. Namely, pretzels and rice (with salt). Also gatorade, and water. It's like I'm in a country that isn't full of delicious foods I cannot identify in the grocery store.

Side note: found the real supermarket today (meaning not Monoprix, which is nice but you have to spend 4 and a half euros to get some hangers I don't even like) and I need to brush up on my food French. And by my food French, I mean my advertising French. Like, I know the words for veggies, fruit, meat, etc., but then I went down the cookie aisle, and suddenly, was I about to purchase the gross cookies? How am I to know? I don't have any French brand loyalty! Yikes.

Anyway. So now I am tucked up into bed, and my room/studio/shoebox is mostly clean after last night's charades (except for my desk, but my internet cord (it's like 2006 up in here) blocks the way and I'm taking that as a sign that I don't have to clean that part of the shoebox). I have Hocus Pocus somehow on my computer (Halloween magic, probs), and my tummy is still distended and whatnot. I'm bored and tired, but also not planning to do much tomorrow? Because of the tummy situation? And also my lack of euros? So I don't want to be super well-rested, because then I would be frustrated.

And so my days go in France. Last night I hated France to pieces and back. I wanted to be at home, with a dog for a heatpack, with my mommy fretting over me and hugs (instead of making her upset on skype because she could not help), with access to medication I can understand and also purchase at 11pm at night. And also with a bathroom that isn't shared by a lot of random ghost people.

Side note: what I mean about ghost people is that, even though evidently there are 20-ish other shoeboxes on my floor, I have yet to see another person. It's just sometimes a door is different, or a light that was on is off. One time as I was going upstairs, a girl came down, but that doesn't count. I can hear them, and I can smell their food and stuff. But no sightings. Ghost people!

So yesterday France sucked. Today is better but only because I have a potential new friend (an au pair from Georgia, the country, not the state), and also I went to an amazing apartment up the street to chill with a beautiful (like, wayyyy beautiful) family. So that was fun and made today okay.

But France, you are not the perfect dream of my dreams. So please, I would like to make some more friends, and also, maybe have a little more sunshine and less cloud action. And maybe find a very inexpensive pumpkin at the market tomorrow. And, I don't know, more things that make me happy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Could Tell You...

I could tell you that I just ate a pain au chocolat for breakfast. I could tell you that it was flaky and buttery, and how even though it shattered with each bite, somehow no crumbs fell off, like magic.

I could tell you how much I am enjoying Nescafe for breakfast, and have developed a penchant for this instant coffee over the past year or two of hanging out abroad a lot.

I could tell you about the man who chatted me up in front of the Eiffel Tower yesterday, opening with "You come here often?" in French. I could tell you that he was actually very polite, but I'm not going to call him because well...that's sketchy.

I could tell you about yesterday, when a quick morning of registering for classes turned into a 4-hour goose chase of the wrong buildings, FNAC, and many many subway trains. I could also tell you that it was exhausting but exhilarating, as I navigated the city in French.

I could tell you that last night I had my first bout of homesickness here, when I awoke from a dream of home and wrote my mom a 2am email with a few tears scattered in. I could tell you that after the email was finished, I got right into bed and fell asleep, feeling kind of drunk, but trying not to feel sorry for myself.

I could tell you how it doesn't get cold at night, and there are always clouds in Paris. I could tell you that I can't conjugate French verbs anymore and the uneven sidewalks are hurting my feet. I could tell you that I wish I had brought full-size toiletries because things are really expensive here, and I desperately want a phone with GPS capabilities, but I think I can't afford one. I could tell you that I probably can't pay my full balance on my credit card next month because I had to pay for my French classes in advance and although I will make that money back pretty quickly, it makes me worried. I could tell you that it never gets old walking past the Eiffel Tower twice a day, and that's the honest truth.

I could tell you lots of things. But I'm pretty tired this morning. And today is my first day of French class. Time to go make friends.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

French Food

Before I go to bed, and as I upload some photos from my walk today (a 3-hour walk), I have to tell you about what I had for dinner. Oh my goodness. Fantastique.

I met Michelle at Polidor, which is in the 5th, and is sort of known as delicious and reasonably priced French food. A lot of students eat there, according to my HM. So, great. Perfect.

I treated myself to the 28 euro prix fixe. HERE IS WHAT I HAD:

1. Entrée (which is actually the appetizer...which makes sense, really): Foie gras de canard--duck fois gras (liver pâté). I haven't really had foie gras as a grown-up, so I was a little bit nervous. Well, holy duck fat. This stuff is crazy. It's like cheese, sort of, in that it's funky and spreadable. However, it doesn't melt away on your tongue in the sticky, gluey way cheese does. It melts like cotton candy, except savory. It's amazing. Like...whoa.

2. Plat: Confit de Canard avec choucroute: duck confit with sauerkraut was recommended to me by my HM here. Duck confit is a leg of duck that has been cured, then roasted in it's own fat. Well, I had a lot of duck tonight and I liked ALL of it. It felt and tasted very French, and it was cooked sooooo well. There was a lot of sauerkraut to cut through the fat, and it was heavenly. I also tried a bit of Michelle's beouf bourgignon and that was amazing as well. The beef literally fell apart as I tried to stab it.

3. Dessert: La glace caramel: It was supposed to be ice cream with caramel and chantilly sauce, but they were out of caramel sauce, and the waiter said something else and I said "oui." So what I got was a heavenly little bowl of housemade caramel ice cream with whipped cream that was so thick I thought it was vanilla ice cream. I am not a fan of dulce de leche ice cream in the States, but this was brilliant. I thought I had died. And then I tasted Michelle's lemon tart and also died. I don't even really like lemon desserts and hers were killer.

Plus we were a little tipsy on a wine that had séduction in the name.

I mean, it was amazing. And we were next to some random people, and the setting was lovely. It was amazing, and I'm so happy right now. All I am saying is, if you aren't planning a visit after hearing about my food....then you are crazy. It was that good.

Also, they have hole-in-the-ground toilets. It was intense. Aiming. Etc. Great night.

As Life Continues...

I don't know exactly what to write about in here as I start doing everyday things. Life in Paris with my famille is not very different than family life in any city. Today we went to Bercy to an antiques market. Unfortunately, it was 95% mid-century design furniture, and not very exciting. Also it was raining and outdoors. So we perused for a minute, then attempted to go to the Bercy Museum. Bercy used to be a big port that received all the wine shipments into Paris (at Quai de la Râpée). But then the museum was closed except for reservations. The park was out of the question with les bébés, but we did stroll through the Bercy Village, which is a shopping area that used to be old stone houses. Very cute, but not ideal for the weather. With our plans for the day slightly ruined, we headed home. A little carsickness on the way back, but otherwise okay. We had a yummy light lunch of salad (endive, walnuts, Roquefort, and apples), quiche with broccoli and goat cheese (not chevre, but harder goat cheese), and baguette. Then espresso and fancy chocolates. C'est le déjeuner de dimanche!

We took a quick car ride, just me and HM (host mom), up to see my school. It's an easy 10 minute bus ride into the 16th. And now I am free until tomorrow morning. I showered, finally figuring out how the shower actually works--there is a hand-held shower and a regular shower head. Last time, I only used the hand-held, but this time I figured it out! Go me! Now I'm going to get dressed and have a wander and a photo session. I have errands to run and things to buy, but most shops are closed on Sundays. So I'll just hang about until le diner. Tonight I am meeting mon amie Michelle at Polidor for traditional French food.

Will say this. Restaurants in Paris are expensive. Most French eat at home most nights. Even though the stereotype is that French people are always eating out in cafés, ce n'est pas la vérité! They go to cafés a lot, but it is usually just for coffee or wine. Not meals!

Photos tomorrow of my wander.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Bad Thing

No toilet. Also no communal TP. Makes sense, I am just always forgetting to bring my roll. Yikes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Le Premier Jour

First of all, since I'm writing this, I am totally safe and alive in Paris. Not only did I travel, solo, to a country whose official language is not English, I navigated it in record time. Landed a half hour early, literally got through the passport line in less than five minutes, and even with waiting a half hour for the correct Car de Air France, I made it from tarmac to Arc de Triomphe in just over 2 hours. Impressive, n'est-ce pas?

But let's back up. Let's go to Thursday, the day I left America. Here's a fun story...

Thursday morning I'm getting ready to leave. There's a multitude of last-minute packing to do, including a lot of important stuff like nail care products and fitting shoes. Also, I left organizing my paperwork to Thursday morning. So I'm going through stuff, and I'm good to go, except the stamped copy of my OFII paperwork (aka the piece of paper that validates my visa and lets me stay in France for more than three months). Searching commences--piles on the dining room table, my dresser, by the computer. I come up empty. Though I seem to recall replacing it into the cardboard envelope it came in, Mom has since recycled said envelope, claiming emptiness.

To save you a lot of suspense, and also a lot of Natalie Hysterics, we found the paper. To be really, really specific about WHERE we recovered it, we found the paper inside the recycled envelope at the bottom of the metal bin on the recycling truck on its way out of the neighborhood right before all cardboard recyclables were crushed. Mike and Scott of Athens County Recycling are AMAZING, and don't worry, I called the plant and babbled nonsense at the lady who picked up to thank them. I mean, they were in the pile of cardboard, sifting with their hands, while my mom shouted about and dogs wrapped themselves around a tree in excitement.

So we headed to the airport with all paperwork accounted for. Pittsburgh airport was one crowded son-of-a-gun, so I enjoyed my last American beer (Sam Adams Octoberfest) and listened to childbirth stories while we waited for the lines to die down. Also we made a list of everything I forgot (6 items, if you're wondering--international driver's license, lint roller (seriously there is dog hair on everything in Paris now because I forgot this item), my Toms, my bedtime lipbalm, something else, and to call my bank and them not to freak out about charges in France).

The flight itself was unremarkable. I held back goodbye tears and got $20 out of my parents to buy a magazine that I still haven't read. I had a window seat, and the middle seat in my row was empty. The food was bad, but I got free wine and watched Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, and part of Something Borrowed. I didn't sleep at all.

And then we landed in Paris.

(FYI this Delta flight I was on did have one amazing thing--the in flight movies didn't cut out when you were landing! Nothing like a bad rom-com to distract me from descending towards the earth at 200 mph.)

It's been a long day to say the least. Although my biological clock says it's only 3-something in the afternoon, that's me being awake for around 36 hours, and the last time I slept (Wednesday night), I only got 6, at best.

My host mom, picked me up at la Place de l'Etoile. We headed to their (actually) small apartment by the Eiffel Tower, and I made a lot of funny faces at 3-month-old Lise. We had blessed coffee and talked a lot, then headed out to walk around the 'hood. Highlights:

1. We talked to a guy about a bank account. It seems easy. Gonna check two more banks before we commit. Hoping HBSC has a good student account for me.
1a. Pulled the bank door instead of pushing for like....a minute. Awkward.
2. Gorgeous architecture all around. Also birch trees line the streets. Not the prettiest leaves, but them leaves be biiiiiiig.
3. There's a Starbucks and a McDonald's very close for when I get homesick for overcaloried drinks and snacks.
4. We bought salmon, potatoes, and a goat cheese at Monoprix (Monop, if you're savvy) (Monoprix is like Target, plus prepared foods). However, Monoprix did not have plastic stroller covers. C'mon!
5. Lots of metro lines super close. Also the bus to my French classes stops across the street from my apartment.

6. I'm right by the Suiss Village, which is a plaza of 150 antique stores. (MOM)

After a rousing walk, we enjoyed our salmon/potato lunch. Unfortunately we forgot bread! So I ran out, solo, to the boulangerie, and purchased a baguette for 1.10€. And then we had bread and cheese for dessert. (RIGHT? Stop being perfect for me, Paris.)

Around 3pm I started nodding off on the sofa. Like, jerking my head forward. So terrible. We had espresso, and then walked to meet my main charge at his school. To get there, we walk here:


Anyway, it starts raining, which is fun and special. Host mom's husband meets us at the school and he and I go in to pick up main man A (Lise can't be exposed to those crazy germs yet). A begins our relationship by refusing to look me in the eye. Luckily, after approximately 5 seconds, we are best friends and he shows me his fantastic blue 'brella that is an elephant, complete with ears. On the way back to the apartment, he doesn't stop talking, except for when I'm talking, and it's a fantastic jumble of French, English, and the way preschoolers talk. And we decided that L'Ecole Militaire was going to be his castle, and La Tour Eiffel was going to be my castle, and the park in between would be our lawns and we would meet in the middle to play. Also, he is pretty good at jumping over puddles.

In all seriousness, the family seems like a great fit. The parents know what they want/need, and the kids are well-rounded and not wild. The mom speaks to the kids in English, and the dad speaks in French. The parents speak French to each other. I speak English to the kids, and French to the parents, but my daily instructions will be written in English.

I had one moment of "Why am I doing this, I'm exhausted and just want to be in my own bed with my dog and not sitting here in France where it can take months to do silly, simple things like register for daycare, a bank account, or fill out healthcare paperwork." Those moments are to be expected, especially now when everything is new, and I feel like an idiot for not being able to respond to the lady who dropped her baguette and exclaimed, "Ah! Il tombe!" Ugh. I only say a few things right now (yes, no, okay, all right, thank you).

But then guess what we had for dessert tonight? Bread and cheese. So, trade off.

Photos from Paris, so far:

 ^visa photo...looking hot

^sunrise over Charles de Gaulle

 ^wait, is this Paris or Disney World?

 ^roundabouts don't have lane

^not a job I want

^what I saw while typing this from my desk in Paris

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just Saying...

Got my visa in the mail today. And guess what? I look hot in my visa picture. It's the little things.