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!

Advertisements

You decide your own destiny

People are going to talk, no matter what you do in life so please, don’t allow comments to dictate your life. What I’ve learned is that it’s your life, not theirs. Truth be told it took my 20 years to figure this out, but I`m finally at a point where I`m confident in myself enough to trust my choices in life.

In the past I always had a figure that I followed for everything I did in life but this time was different. I needed a fresh start, a new beginning and an adventure of a lifetime.

A common response I heard from people when they heard of my decision to be an Au Pair was “You’re just going to throw away your education?” I’m not quite sure how to exactly throw away my education considering my diploma isn’t going anywhere nor is everything that I learned throughout my years in school. There’s nothing saying that I can’t go back into that career field later on in life but for now, this is what I want.

Before I moved abroad I had many people that made comments on my ability to follow through with this. Fast forward to today, those same people have approached me a second time, but instead with a more encouraging outlook as they’ve been able to see how positive this experience has been for me. For 21 years I was always given a choice but a guided one with support in how to get there. Making the decision to change my life completely like I did was all made by me. Did I know what I was doing? Nope, but that’s why I’m here to learn more about myself and what I actually do want to pursue in the future. Maybe I`ll end up wanting to be a nurse or an entrepreneur when i`m done here or maybe I still won`t have a clear idea by the end of this journey. Finally I am able to accept that it`s okay not to know exactly how my life is going to plan out tomorrow, the next day or even the next year.

You’re only young once so use the opportunity before you have reasons not to.

Wine Tasting in France – Check!

When your family offers you tickets to a wine testing expo, take them! Apparently yore suppose to just “taste” the wine than spit it out but what fun would that be? Julie and I left around 3 and were feeling a great sense of intoxication by 4:30, but thankfully there was not only free samples of alcohol but food too!

dsg

It was a little bigger than I had imagined 

So the real question did I buy anything , me being so fugal with everything?

Yep! I caved and no not because I was intoxicated either. We ended up coming across a stand that wasn’t on my list of “must taste” wine , generously given to me by my host dad. A63 was the number , and it’s probably one j won’t forget. The man selling the wine was an older gentleman but took a different approach when trying to pawn off his wine. He proactively asked us to try t for one which didn’t happen at any other places . This being said we were two young girls who many people would assume weren’t going to pay money for a good bottle of wine; we sure showed them. Anyways after we explained our life stories, or quite frankly why two Canadian and Danish girls were at a wine expo, he started pouring wine into our glasses. After a quick swish he dumped them out. Here I was thinking , what a waste but he wanted to make sure we tasted only his wine. Then he started with his cheapest wine and so forth until he got to the one named Louis.. Which we found out was named after his son. IMG_7140

oh aren’t we just the cutest!

His wine may not have been the so called “best” wine there, but the way he chose to make his sale to us was enough for me. I really don’t know how anyone can say one wine is better than another anyways considering we all have our own preferences with taste.

IMG_7146

I’m having a hard time deciding if i’m now a red wine lover, because the white there was amazing!

After we felt like we had enough wine and champagne we headed to the food area where of course there were free samples. Julie and I are pretty much champions when it comes to snagging free things or so it seems. If you liked foe gras you would have been in heaven, for us not so much.

I give Julie credit for carrying around 5 bottles of wine, when I only had 2 because they are not the lightest accessories that’s for sure. We than headed to my first Danish Christmas market and tried typical danish Christmas cookies and boy were they ever good! They reminded me of our gingerbread men that we have at home, but smaller and even spicier! 

IMG_7157

My favorite Dane 

We ended our Saturday a lot earlier than we normally were, but that being said we had a very busy day full of lots of laughs and A LOT of wine. Finally after three weeks I’ve been at the camps d’elysses at night time to see the amazing lights that everyone has been boasting about! They are AMAZING and really prove the fact that Paris is known as the city of lights. I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight. IMG_7164

The absolute best way to have a good time and meet new people

When I first arrived here in paris I was using the au pair facebook group as a way to connect to with other internationals here, but of course they were all au paris with pretty well the same story of why they were here. I’ve met a lot of amazing au pair friends but I really wanted to get out there and try and meet others who were doing different things in paris so I use the magical search engine google to see what other options were out there. In the past month that I have been here I’ve been Abel to meet so many people and have learned so much about their culture just by talking to them! Here are some of my tips to get yourself out there, and be the social butterfly you want to be!

1. Join meet up groups! I’m on dozens of Facebook groups as well as a member on meetup.com and have gone to so many event already in my month that I have been here!

2. Get a couple drinks into you; I find that alcohol brings my confidence up to a whole new level. I find I am able to speak french 100 times better when I’ve had something to drink which obviously has to do with my confidence being so low when I’m sober.

3. Take a friend along with you if you’re too scared to go alone!

4. Be a social butterfly and don’t judge a book by its cover; literally. The nicest people may be someone you would never think by just looking at them!

5. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals where the best places are! You’ll be able to practice your french and typically you’ll know exactly there the hot spots are in town!

My past two weekends have consisted of attending international parties at a youth hostel in the north end of paris. St Christopher’s inn is attached to one of our a favourite bars in the area; belushis so it’s the best of both worlds in one place! They even have beer pong on occasion which is something that I defiantly miss about being home in canada! The only negative thing I have about this place is the location from everything else in paris. It takes me a good hour to get home and that’s when they trains and metro are running. If I wait to take the night train (which is not so easy as it may sound) it takes at least 2 hours because they only come and go so often.

If you’re anything like me and enjoy a good selection of cheap happy hour drinks and love music then belushis is the place to be! So far the two times that I have gone, I’ve played beer pong, had unlimited shots, and met amazing people from all over the globe travelling in paris. The hostel also puts on international parties quite frequently for any internationals in the area plus the people staying in the hostel so it’s quite the random collection of people that you will find.

IMG_5030.JPG

IMG_5038.JPG

IMG_5027.JPG

IMG_5033.JPG

How to save for a trip abroad

For me personally I have always been a saver and not a spender. I am far from being materialistic but do enjoy my apple products that keep me connected to the outside world. I started working at the age of 14 and have been saving for “something” which just happens to be my trip to Paris. Here are some tips that I’ve been living by in order to save up as much as I can before taking my journey abroad.

1. Learn to live more frugal.

  • Don’t buy daily coffee, pack your lunch, walk to work instead of driving, watch movies at home or go on cheap night.
  • Get rid of the gym membership. Who wants to work out in a gym during a hot summer anyways?
  • Shop at farmers markets or grow your own food in a garden! I started gardening last summer and have great success with my vegetables so now I’m in love with the idea of growing my own food!
  • Start shopping at second hand stores. I find the majority of my clothes at a local second hand clothing store and it really doesn’t bother me.
  • Give homemade gifts. I actually recently started giving food gifts in mason jars for Christmas presents and now everyone looks forward to them even though they are only 5 dollars to make!

2. Sell your belongings that you don’t need anymore

  • I started selling my higher quality clothing on an online yard sale and actually both of my prom dresses that I knew I would never wear again.
  • I’m in the process of trying to sell my car now because I know in a year when I return ( if I do) then it will be another year older.

3. Work multiple jobs. It will be hell for a short period of time but just think of the payoff in the end. I currently am working 2 jobs, every single day and 50-60 hours.

  • I’ve become a workaholic and my daily schedule looks a lot like: Wake up, eat, work all day, eat, shower, sleep… And then do it all over again the following days. This may seem like complete hell but if you’re passionate about travelling then it won’t feel like work; it will be more of an investment.  
  • My second job is as a waitress for my parent’s local restaurant so I must admit the tips help A LOT. I have been putting my tips that I bring home every weekend into a little mason jar so I won’t be tempted to do anything with it and in the past 3 months I have over $2000 saved up!

4. Use travel incentive credit cards to build points while traveling!

  • I got the CIBC travel rewards card which normal has a $120 annual fee but had it waived for the year because I have so many investments with the company. I received 15 000 points just for my first transaction on the card and 1 point for every dollar I use! 
  • Rack up those Air Miles! Every little bit helps and over time you may even have enough to fly somewhere!

5. Move back in with your parents for a short time if you need to.

  • I had to do this for a few months after graduation while I worked at home for the summer months. It’s been tough coming back home but in the long run, look how much money I have been able to save without having to pay rent and for groceries.

6. Become less materialistic.

  • Do you really need those new shoes or to dye your hair? I haven’t dyed my hair in over 3 years and I don’t plan on it again. I don’t want to be worrying about doing my roots while abroad and its way too expensive and unnecessary.

7. Do your research! Don’t just settle on the first flight or accommodation that you find because if you search around there’s a good chance of finding a better hidden deal.

  • I looked at flights to Paris for approximately 3 weeks and actually found a site selling the same exact flight that another site had for $100 cheaper. Now this flight was with a company that didn’t allow for two free checked bags so I had to weigh my options.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Ask for money instead of gifts at celebrations. 

  • For every holiday that comes up when we receive gifts I always just ask for money towards a trip because for me, I would much rather spend money on experiences to create memories than materialistic products that I will end up getting rid of some time anyways.