A year in Paris: what I gained and what I lost

I let go of routine, I gained flexibility

I lost self-control and I gained life.

The year started off rough I guess you could say. I had a difficult time creating a relationship with my girl who I was here to look after for the next 11 months.

There were times where I thought that I had made a huge mistake with not only choosing this particular family but coming abroad in the first place.

I had to constantly remind myself of why I had chosen this path for my life; which was to experience another culture and travel Europe before settling into a life long career. I wasn’t going to allow myself to look back on my life with regrets.

I bought a one way ticket to Paris in hopes to be immersed in a foreign culture that I had always longed of being a part of. Little did I realize how much more that would come from this year.

My first real french Macarons from Pierre Herme

Saw Notre Dame

Went on vacation with my host family to a zoo resort AND saw a real panda.

visited Sacre Coeur

Went to an au pair picnic with over 200 fellow ladies

Met my beautiful Danish best friend

Went to the Love Wall

Had Chipotle for the first time!

Had the BEST 21st Birthday I could have ever imagined

Went to DisneyLand Paris

Saw Paris at night by Boat

Met 3 amazing girls who have become my best friends

Visited Galeries Lafayette at XMAS (yes that’s an upside down massive tree!)

Learned how to play French Beer Pong

Got my make up done by this chick

Enrolled in Nutrition school which ended up changing my life

Visited Fontainebleu

and Versailles

Had my first easter hunt with real chocolate and not plastic eggs!

Helped the homeless by making sandwiches and delivering them around Paris

Celebrated Saint Patricks the right way

Took a macaron class

Learnt the real way to make Clafloutis

Put a lock on the love bridge and said our goodbyes

Said “See you Later” to my little sister

 

Said goodbye to the Eiffel Tower one last time

On top of everything I got to do in France I also traveled to 8 other countries throughout the year. Every 8 weeks in France the kids get a two week holiday which meant I had one week of freedom to do as I please. There wasn’t even a question of what I would be doing with my time; I wanted to see as much and do as many things as I could while abroad, and that’s exactly what I did.

October

Rome

Brussels

Amsterdam

November & December

New York

London

Mexico

Nova Scotia

I surprised my mother without her finding out!

 February

Barcelona

Bruges

Ghent

April

Milan

 

Florence

Venice

May

Valencia

June

Nice

 

Berlin

August: Whitehorse

Out of everything that I saw, every person I met, and every experience I had the opportunity of taking there’s one thing that I will always remember about this trip.

2015 was the year I found happiness

This was the missing piece that I had been trying to find but was never successful at finding until I let go of everything in my life that was bringing those unpleasant feelings.

When I realized that there’s so much more to life out there, everything started falling in place and most importantly my health flourished. As hard it is for me to see myself at such a low point in my life, I’m proud of how far I’ve come on my own.

Life is a journey that’s waiting to be written and this is my beginning

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Reflecting on Goals

How many people set goals or resolutions for the year and never go back to reflect on them to make sure you’re staying on track? 

Yep, I can say that typically that’s me.

BUT,

I figured there’s no better time than now to change that fact and see exactly where I am with what I plan to accomplish this year and maybe even add more onto the list! 

1. Start and finish a french novel. 

This was the first thing that I completed and surprisingly understood the basis of the story! Now I have moved onto trying to watch french tv series to keep up with the french!

2. Travel to at least 3 new cities

Done and well over 3. I ended up getting stuck in Montreal for a couple days on my way here so that was the first city I was able to see! One weekend I made the spontaneously decision to travel to Ghent, Bruges and Lille adding 3 more new places. I spent a week in Barcelona in February and just got back from Florence, Milan and Venice! 

3. Gain 10 pounds. 

How about 14! I couldn’t be more proud of myself for this accomplishment!

4. Read More.

This I actually didn’t expect to have read as much as I have but gosh, It seems like I’m flying through them lately. 

5. Pay off my student loans. 

Currently I have paid off my current school that I’m enrolled in, but those good old Canadian loans are still hanging around.

6. Take a cooking class in Paris. 

7. Enroll in the Integrative Nutrition Course. 

8. Actually start doing yoga or at least gain more knowledge on the sport. 

I was doing really good with doing yoga on a regular basis in the beginning of the year but since my knee injury I have taken a bit of time off.

9. Attend a language exchange meet up in Paris.

I only went once, but hey I still did it!

10. Go to bed before 11 every night. 

This NEEDS to become a priority. I know what I need to do, but the self control is not happening.

So after a short 4 months I must say, I’m more than impressed with what I have been able to cross off that list and makes me excited for what is yet to come!

Italy , take one : Milan 

This was my first time flying with easy jet and to be honest I didn’t even check before I bought the flight what company i would be flying with.

Note to self: don’t show up at the airport without a clue who you’re flying with.

My trip didn’t start out the best which seems to be the way the majority of my trips have been going. Upon checking in at the baggage drop I was told I didn’t have a seat on the plane even though I had booked my flight two months prior.

you must check in online in order to insure you have a seat. Oops silly me.

I was put on the stand by list and had to wait until everyone else was on board in hopes there would be someone that didn’t Tahoe up. Thankfully I was lucky and got the last seat!

I noted a couple things that were instantly different abroad this flight then the rest I was on:

  • Cabin crew didn’t check seat belts
  • Completely in English
  • The safety demonstration was only said over the announcements

Having no wifi and this being my first time at this airport I was a bit nervous on how to find the bus but it ended up being as easy as walking out the exit and finding the big sign with the “bus to Milan central station”.. And the fee of 16 euros for a return trip. This was by far the easiest transport to city I’ve ever experienced but more expensive.

When I first was looking at coming to Milan I checked hostels to see the price and availability and didn’t come a crossed a lot to be honest. Instead of paying for a very expensive and crappy hostel I  put on my big girl panties and decided to couchsurf for the first time. I found my way to my hosts house with only the directions she had given me , and no gps signal. Let’s just say I was pretty proud of myself.

I was instantly Greeted by my host along with green tea and Belgium chocolate. You can’t go wrong with that

After chatting for a bit I decided to wander around why she finished some studying.

Later when I returned she took me out for a typical a Italian aperitif with her friends.

Apertivo is probably my favorite thing about Italy. Essentially it’s a happy hour where you buy any drink at the price of 7-10 euros on average and you get an all you can eat buffet along side it. There was pasta, pizza, meats, cheese, bread, chips, chicken wings, fruit and dessert! I will say that waiting 1 1/2 hours to be seated was a bit of a pain, especially when you’re starving.

The next morning I awoke to a table full of biscuits, bread, cereal, and hot coffee waiting for me. I can’t explain how grateful I was to have come across such a great host. Her and her friend even made a list of things I needed to see before I left and showed me the exact way to get there which was much appreciated.

After saying goodbye I made my way back to the center of Milan to check out what I had missed the day before.

It wasn’t the best day weather wise and with the tendinitis in my knee acting up I made a couple coffee breaks along the way, which allowed me to rest and grab some free wifi.

I was extremely early for my train but if you know me well enough that’s typical for me, after growing up with a mother that was always, and really emphasize ALWAYS late. Now looking back, maybe it was a good thing because it’s made me more aware of my own time.

20 minutes before the train was set to leave we were told the platform number and I followed the pack to my car. I paid the extra to be business class first class to get a free coffee… What can I say, priorities.

  

 

A Different Perspective

How often we go through life and make assumptions before really taking a step back to look at the other possibilities. I can say that I see myself doing this quite frequently especially since I am experiencing so many new things. Like a lot of things in life, first impressions are important BUT not always correct.

Today I had the pleasure, and yes I really do mean pleasure to babysit for a family in the center of Paris. It may have been my day off and I may have had to get up at 6am this morning, but I figured that if nothing else it would give me a chance to see a different Parisian lifestyle.

Once again an opportunity was presented so I took it. Also I had one of those “I feel like my grandmother Cress” moments and saw a way to make a few extra dollars to be stashed away for a rainy day.

Quickly enough, I realized that I had based my outlook on Paris simply on my perception of one family’s lifestyle. Today that perception changed.

I’ve realized that,

Living “in” Paris is not the same as living 10 minutes outside the center

Not everyone gets the pleasure of enjoying their weekends off like I previously had assumed, hence the fact of why I was babysitting on a Saturday

Not all french kids are brought up spoiled and fortunate as it may have come across in the beginning. I think this has to do with the area I am currently living in as well, as it’s a wealthy community.

As much as having the ability to buy fresh produce, cheese and baguettes from the market is amazing, it actually isn’t feasible for everyone to do.

The best part of my day was by the far the least expected when I had initially made the choice to babysit.

It came when I realized how much of an impact simply making a child smile can be. When the child begs you to stay and wants you to come everyday and be their “nounou” simply because you played soccer with them and showed interest in their happiness; That’s better than any kind of money can buy.

I’ll be honest, I saw that there was a family needing a babysitter and since I was free, I figured hey! It will be a good way to get some extra cash” when the end of the day came, the money didn’t matter.

The fact that I had made a child happy was more than I could have asked for.

The Power of Friendship Abroad

The best days always end up being the times when we have no set plans, no time limit and no care in the world, am i right?

Today was one of those days.

In fact, it seems that every time I meet up with Julie (my beautiful Danish friend for all of you who aren’t aware) we end up discovering something new and exciting, or at the very least enjoy the time we spend together.

I traveled abroad alone; was I scared?

To be honest not really.. Which really assured me that I was making the right choice in making the big leap across the ocean. I mean of course the fear of jumping on a plane alone and coming to a foreign country to live with a family who I didn’t have a clue would even be at the airport to pick me up is normal…. Instead of allowing that fear to change my outlook on the adventure I chose to be optimistic and to trust that everything would work out.

and you know what, it did.  

8 months ago, after only being in Paris for a week, I wrote on the “Au pair in Paris” Facebook group looking for someone to explore the city with, so I wouldn’t be alone. I received a reply from a Danish girl, and we decided to meet up on Pont de Alexandre III, which is probably one of the prettiest in Paris I must say.

Truth be told that day must have ended pretty well because here we are 8 months later and she’s become my best friend.

Did we know what we we doing today?

Nope.

Did we have a great day?

Probably one of the best since I’ve been here.

Julie and I are the queens of wandering aimlessly around Paris and finding the most interesting things to do. We came across a chocolate museum so we paid the hefty 8.50 to get in and come to find out, even for to see how chocolate was made. Better yet, there were samples, which let’s be honest, would make any girl happy.

The beans were used as currency and 10 would buy you a rabbit!  

Mustache cup!  

Selfies were needed      

 we were in need of coffee which didn’t actually happen for another two hours after as we made our way towards the seine. Oh! We even found a street with prostitutes in broad daylight. Don’t think we’ll be going back down that street anytime soon.

We grabbed some peanut butter danish bread and coffee and made our way to the Tuileries Gardens for some much needed relaxation, sun tanning, and some much needed girl talk. I mean we’re girls would you expect anything else?

Our day ended at the very same bridge that we met for the first time 8 months ago.

Little did I know the great friendships that would come from choosing to come to Paris. Honestly I had no expectations on what this year would bring but what I’ve been able to experience and take in already has been beyond anything that money could ever buy.

One thing that I’ve realized is that when you’re more flexible and allow life to work itself out for itself, incredible things happen.

I’ve evolved.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

My smile is once again real.

What would you do with 10 euros

Upon stepping outside your house you realize that it’s a surprisingly mild day in Paris. The streets are bare for it’s Sunday morning which means a day of relaxation and family time for the local Parisians.

You stroll into an empty park and take in the beauty of the grounds and overall atmosphere surrounding you. A slight breeze stirs the leaves beneath your feet, blowing a piece of paper beneath your feet. Instantly you realize it’s not just paper but yet a bill; 10 euro to be exact.

The obvious action comes to mind and the bill slides quickly into your jacket pocket. You get a little high of having something you didn’t have 10 seconds ago and your mind starts to spin.

You could treat yourself to a warm croissant and an espresso.

Maybe you’d like a new hat or a pair of gloves.

You could have a couple glasses of wine at happy hour that evening

Your mind continues to discover the endless possibilities with what a mere ten euros could do for you.

You continue to walk through the park and into the quiet city and you’re thinking about what you’re going to do with that small bill. You pass cafes, shops and other pedestrians along the way none with a clue of what you found, just a short 10 minutes before.

Continuing on your journey, you come across a boy, and what looks to be his mother. laying on a mattress on the cold streets of Paris but you pass by like you do on any other occasion. Looking back you notice the empty starbucks cup waiting to be replenished with the days essential salary, but has yet to be filled.

Without thinking you return to that empty cup and do what your heart tells you is the right thing to do.

They didn’t beg nor did they talk but you know you changed their day with the faint smile on the young boys face. You aren’t aware of what how they will choose to spend it but you know they can use it. We all can use money no matter how much or how little we have.

You continue on your journey with the vision of that hot espresso and croissant long gone but the satisfaction of your choices elevated higher than you would have imagined.

Life goes on as if nothing had ever happened that day but inside you’ll never forget the smile on that boys face and how you changed his day.

As humans we are consumers; it’s inevitable, but the amount of our consumption is a choice.

Ten euros can’t buy a lot in today day and age but it’s still more than a lot of people can say they have in their pocket.

What would you do if you came across 10 euros laying on the ground in an abandoned park?

It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.

Every day on my way in and out of Paris I pass the many homeless people along the streets and I simply pass them by like the many others do. I bypass them all, as if they don’t exist not because they are any less important, but because I hate the realization that there are people out there living in such hard situations. The sad truth is that they’re are people in need and even if I want to pretend there isn’t, nothing will change unless I make the choice to do something about it.

I’ll admit, there’s been plenty of times when I could have given someone change and I didn’t, and I have no excuses as to why I chose not to.

Today I did something that I haven’t done in a long time; too long to be exact. I chose to make a change.

I woke up this morning without a plan for the day which is an uncommon feeling  for me as I`m a constant planner. I did my daily Facebook check and found a notification for an event that I has been invited to a month or so before, but had completely forgot about. I`m not one to make rash decisions, in fact it usually takes me a day or two to make a final choice but this was different. Within 30 minutes of waking I was on my way to the local grocery store to pick up supplies to make as many sandwiches as I could.

I got some pretty strange stares from the family because to them, the best help you can give is money. Money can do a heck of a lot don`t get me wrong but it almost seems like the easy way out.  Anyone can give a few bucks away but not everyone is willing to give time.

Not even a year ago I would have done things the easy way and donated and not thought twice about it. This is where its truly evident how much this year abroad has changed me as a person.

I showed up to the meeting place which ended up being a Swedish church in the north of Paris. I had no idea what to expect , only that I was giving my  Sunday to helping as much as I possibly could.

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I ended up chatting with a few other giilrls while creating sandwiches with baguettes and cheese. Then I heard an Americana accent so I turned around and said my go to phrase “you’re Canadian or american am I right?”

988474_10206255761856188_8985002146296347539_n Sure enough he was from Portland Oregon! We did our introductions and I found out he was on vacation for two weeks visiting the city, enjoying the couch surfing activities and apparently helping out the locals. I was shocked to say the least, that here was someone on vacation in Paris at that, and donating their free time to wander the streets of Paris for hours giving away as much as we could.

I almost felt guilty questioning why this man was spending his time doing what we all should do. Why is it that being a good citizen has become something so uncommon? I’m not going to lie, I feel amazing after once again stepping outside of my comfort zone but it’s almost pathetic that it’s taken me this long of being in Paris to volunteer my time. 10989125_10206254892794462_5182212868713125330_n (1)

This whole experience today was life changing, to be honest. It opened my eyes to a global crisis that I bypass every single day. It’s impossible to help everyone in need, but even just by donating a couple hours of your week, you can make a small change in someones life.

A quick trip to Bruges & the acceptance of living in the moment

I’m a futuristic person and am always thinking about what next. I can tell you more about what I plan on doing in the summer than in the next five minutes. Lately, my thoughts are constantly drawn to the two words: Five months. The amount of time I have left on this beautiful continent.

There’s so many places I want to see; so many things I want to do, and unfortunately only so much time to do so.

As per usual I’ve brought upon myself unneeded stress over contemplating what I want to do with my remaining time, trying to plan out the best possible path. With that being said I won’t get there if I don’t accept that no matter how much I plan or how much money I save, the future is unpredictable to a certain degree. Planning and organizing is great, I mean it’s gotten me quite far in life so far, but I feel like it’s time to let loose a little, and just live. I don’t want to look back on these next 5 months and regret that I didn’t take opportunities and enjoy my life here.

How many times have you heard your parents say “It seems like it was just yesterday that you were a baby”. 

I never understood why it was such a reoccurring statement until I grew up which what seemed like, in a blink of an eye. Life is short, theres no doubt about it, which is why I need to live for now; not yesterday, not tomorrow but where I am today.

I’m slowly starting to learn and feel comfortable with living in the moment, but I must admit it’s taken longer than I thought. When most people may find things such as TV, sports or video games to fill their free time … I think; often over think.

Last Thursday I saw an event for a trip to Bruges for the low price of 80 euros. At first I bypassed it and kept scrolling down my page. I knew that that 80 euros I could save and use for my summer trip I’ve been planning which seemed quite logical. Then I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I take an opportunity that’s put in front of me? I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and would have sat home and complained of boredom. Secondly I knew I had the funds to do so and the desire.

I proceeded to message Courtney to see if she’d be up for the trip, which honestly I already knew the answer to. 20 minutes later Courtney and I were booked for a weekend trip to Bruges alongside a group of other youth in Paris.

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After our bus trip to Amsterdam we had said that we would never take a bus again but when opportunities present themselves, you take them. The bus was small and cramped but for the price we couldn’t go wrong.

We stopped in Lille for a few hours which didn’t seem to have much to see or really do, but it gave us a chance to stretch our feet. Oh, and to warm up… the heat on the bus seemed to be nonexistent.

The next stop was Ghent which was gorgeous! I can only imagine what it would be like in summer with the canals and cobblestone streets. We met a Irish lad on the bus who ended up spending the rest of the trip with us. I’m not sure if it’s just the Irish people that I have met or not, but they have all been beyond friendly. I can see why my aunt fell in love with one.

We ended our trip in the quant city of Bruges. I had read that it was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and truth be told it didn’t disappoint. Yes, it was ridiculously cold, but the architecture was gorgeous!

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As far as trying to live in the moment, this life change has been by far what I needed. The past no longer is a worry and I’ve finally accepted that what’s in the past, is just that, in the past and can’t be changed. Slowly I’m seeing that by living in the moment, I’m living life to the fullest. My view on the future is simply an illusion as life hardly ever goes as planned. Of course I have dreams and goals that I wish to attain but I won’t get there unless I live for now and allow life to create it’s own path.

Reasons I love being an au pair; take three

There’s definitely days when i just want to get up and leave, like any job. Last week, it seemed like every struggling day would drag onto the next day and so on. Fortunately yesterday——>

out came the sun, and dried up all the rain

and the itsy bitsy au pair found the end of the pain

I’m lame I know, but honestly it was like I woke up in a new world this morning. The sun was shining, the mother was smiling, the kid wasn’t crying… it seemed almost too good to be true. OH! and it was Wednesday, and if you don’t already know, in France the kids either have half days or no school, which makes it by far the most dreaded day by au pairs everywhere.

I’m going to give credit to the big sun in the sky for making this day a heck of a lot better. It’s crazy what a little vitamin D can do for people.

As many of you know something else that makes me happier than the birds is cooking so I whipped up this yummy breakfast pizza before starting my day.

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Upon picking P up from school yesterday I was instantly shocked by how talkative she was. Once again, BLESS YOU SUNSHINE.

This girl is smart let me tell you. She can whip out facts about literally anything, that will blow your mind. Today I was told that women will live longer than men because apparently they are healthier. This somehow leaded to her correcting my pronunciation of words that I consistently have trouble with. I was becoming frustrated, as always, because at 21 years old I have trouble communicating with a 6 year old. Unlike how she normally reacts when I’m wrong by saying “I don’t understand” or completely ignoring me, she corrected my sentence. I must admit it felt a little odd but I enjoyed her being my little teacher.

There was something that she said that really stuck with me at the end of our conversation; a life lesson in fact. “You know you don’t have to be perfect at something the first time, and it’s okay to admit that you are having trouble. You just have to keep trying and you’ll succeed”. Following this I got a hug but it didn’t feel like any forced hug that I had received in the past weeks. It was a genuine sisterly hug which I graciously returned back with a bisous of course.

Oh and might I point out how obsessed I am with this families toilet paper. It truly is the little things in life that bring us joy.
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The power of friendship & a trip to Versailles

I’m going to be honest and admit that these past couple of months abroad have been tough. The cold temperatures make it hard to find the motivation to even just step outside, let alone do anything. When you’re an Au pair your “free” time consists of during the day when your child is in school and then at night when the parents arrive home from work. Let’s just say there hasn’t been a night during the week I have left since before Christmas. I swear it must be the cold that makes me just want to relax every night with a hot tea and a good book.

Flashback to September and I was finding any excuse possible to leave the house. Having a schedule where your free time is limited to a block of hours a day has been extremely tough to find time to see my friends. We’re all in different french classes, love in towns on the complete opposite side of Paris and end up babysitting on different nights. Of course with technology in today’s age we’re constantly communicating but it’s still not the same as physically being together and spending time together.

This past Sunday all of  my three best friends here in Paris finally found a day where we all were free. It only took a month but better late than never! We all were coming from different directions so we decided on meeting at the entrance but I got lucky and found Katie on my walk from the train to the castle of Versailles!

Katie and I started our tour around the castle with our free audio guides might I add. Thank goodness for them because I learned A LOT, and I mean a lot. When it comes to learning about history typically the information goes over my head but this was short, sweet and fairly interesting.

Courtney and Julie met us in the hall of mirrors until deciding that we all really just wanted food; priorities. 

The day started off beautiful only to turn to rain at the exact time we were heading out to the gardens. Just our luck, but it didn’t stop us from attempting to see as much as we could.

We ended the tour with a trip the gift shop for the essential postcards! I’ve sent one home from each new city that I have gone to so far so i’ll be able to see what I’ve seen and done when I get home. Versailles is new city number 3 of the year I’d like to point out, which means another goal crossed off the list for this year! I’m also 1/3 through my first french novel which is another thing I want to accomplish before the year is up!