Friday, 27 September 2013

Living Alone

It’s nearly been a month since I moved to Paris and on my way home on Monday night as I was dancing down my road to Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out I had a little think about the advantages of living on my own. I’ve compiled my top four points.

1.       You can listen to whatever music you want to whenever you want to. I don’t know many people who would be ok with you dancing around your shared flat in your underwear to Marvin Gaye swiftly followed by doing a very good rap along to 99 Problems. All of this I have done and I can assure you all that it was very enjoyable.

2.       You don’t have to ask your flatmates permission to have people over. I like having the freedom to be able to just invite someone over. I do have to warn them about the stairs and the fact the light on the fifth floor doesn’t work but apart from that most people say yes!

3.       You get to know Youtube a little too well without a TV. Talking to Pip on Skype earlier highlighted this to me as I realised I could tell her exactly which episodes of Poirot and Dylan Moran shows were on there.

4.       You can eat when you’re hungry. This is probably a negative but I quiet like being able to sit down to Bolognese with macaroni cheese at 21h30 because I hadn’t realised how long it would take to make. If I lived with other people I would stress about not having a meal on the extending dining table for a certain time and me stressed is not a pretty sight!

I apologise for the brevity of this post but hangover free time has been scarce this week due to Freshers Week. But never fear there will be a post detailing all of the alcohol fuelled antics when I start to remember what happened….

Saturday, 21 September 2013

What I've Learnt So Far

I’ve been in Paris for three weeks now which in the grand scheme of things isn’t that long when you consider I’m here for three years but I feel like there are certain things that I have definitely learnt since being here. They are as follows

1.       There is no road system. Well not one which makes sense anyway. As I have to walk J home from school twice a week I have to think a little bit about road safety. It seems to me that whenever the man turns green so does the light for the traffic and you just have to hope that they stop for you. Wearing a leopard print mac definitely has its advantages in these kinds of circumstances I find.

2.       The French LOVE M&S. I shouldn’t need to explain the reasons why anyone should love M&S. I feel that they are a given. I had a full in-depth conversation with my boss and L about what my favourite things to get from Marks and Spencers were. We all concluded that the best things to get are biscuits and Percy Pigs because despite the presence of BNs in France sometimes one needs a more robust biscuit i.e. the digestive.

3.       French men can be creepy. I also found this out wearing my leopard print coat. I was walking along my road minding my own business when one of the road cleaners growled at me. Some might say that I was asking for it but it did rather put me off my stride somewhat.

4.       People will always try and speak to you if you’re English. There is this bar near mine that some friends and I went to after a little gathering at mine which without fail someone will have done an Erasmus year in the UK and will practice talking to you. I’m sure this will get annoying at some point but right now I find it quite funny and always results in an eventful night out!

5.       7 flights of stairs don’t get easier. Despite doing them every day I still feel like I’m going to die when I get to the top and feel surprised when I finally manage to open my door before falling in a heap.

For only three week here I already feel like I know the place quite well but I’m sure there is plenty more I need to find out. The next thing I think is the best hangover cure in Paris considering that it is Freshers on Monday!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ice Lollies and Scooters

So I’m sat here eating Jelly Babies (Thanks Gran and Grandpa) and I thought to myself I haven’t written a blog post in a while. The main reason for this is because I now have friends who live near me so I’ve actually been out of the Flat for a longer journey than to Monoprix.

The other weekend I was booked in to go and look after the kids on a Saturday afternoon, no English lesson just something fun. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but they’re cute girls so I decided it would be alright. I’m going to call them L and J and they are 12 and 7 respectively.

I arrived at the designated hour and was greeted by L who exclaimed “Great, you’re here I’ll get the scooters”. A note before I continue. I can’t ride a bike and I am pretty poor on the scooter my balance is awful. I’m trying to get better when I go climbing with Dad but I still need to do some work on it. At the moment I just fall over if I try anything too risky. I was hoping that the scooters would just be for them but alas there was one being retrieved from the loo aka the garage for me.

So off we went the three of us on the scooters going to Monoprix to pick up a lab coat for L. This was obviously the place to go I mean what supermarket doesn’t have lab coats? Well this one did to my surprise. We also had to pick up some stationary for her. She asked me what that tongue thing on the ring binder was to which my reply was “It’s the logo for the Rolling Stones they’re a band” turns out she thought they were just a tongue thing.

After trying to navigate out of a very busy supermarket with three scooters and a 7 year old who kept walking off L decided that we needed ice lollies. We were walking to the bakery where they sold them and I was chatting to her. She was telling me how she didn’t like boys because she wasn’t a baby like her sister. I simply replied “Don’t worry you will when you’re my age”.

We had a really lovely sit down in the park eating our lollies but J ended up dropping hers on her legs and got them sticky so we had to return to wash her. When we were back we ended up playing Happy Families which mostly consisted of them screaming at each other and trying to get each other’s cards….sisterly love.

They also decided to watch videos on Youtube. It turns out that both of them know all of the words to the Abba songs featured in the hit musical Mamma Mia which I must admit was a surprise to say the least.

So that’s my job. I get to basically muck around with two hilarious kids speaking to them in English. Not bad really.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cooking in Paris

My alternative title for this was going to be “Grating Tomatoes is harder than you think” but I decided that that might put people off and give them the impression that I’m some kind of crazy mentaler.

The story behind the grating of the tomatoes isn’t a particularly funny one it was basically me trying to grate a tomato so that I could put it in some Bolognese. After a good ten minutes of trying to do this I gave up and just chopped it up and put it in. Incidentally the Bolognese was surprisingly good even despite the eon it took to prepare it.

But cooking in Paris has been fun on the whole as I’m a student there has been a fair bit of pasta and I had super noodles  for breakfast once but I had run out of cereal so it wasn’t so bad…. I have however been going to the markets to get random things like peaches and fougasse (like focaccia but French so ten times better) which has been really great. There is something lovely buying food from the market it feels really natural. I have also found that Monoprix sell bacon which has taken so much stress out of my life it is untrue. I was worried that I would have to trek to M&S to find some.

I did burn my finger though. As I have already described I have a little toaster oven which when I opened it up yesterday I caught my finger on the hot section of the door. I then proceeded to run around shouting before putting it under the tap and getting my burn cream out. I have to say a little thank you to my Mum here who put together a little first aid kit for my relating to all of my previous injuries so I have lots of stuff for burns and make up remover. Cheers Mum.

I’m no Rachael Khoo in the kitchen but I think I’m eating quite well although saying that I think I’m going out for Pizza Hut with a friend today but sometimes you just need carbs and cheese.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Becoming a Native

I went around to see the family that I’m working for the other to organise what days I was working and it turned out that the whole family was there. The Grandmother was asking me about where I came from and all of that stuff. She said to me that “soon I would be a Parisian”. Now this sounded odd at first because how can someone who isn’t français de souche be Parisian? Well it turns out that you can feel like you belong in this great city even if you aren’t French. I know that I’ve only been here little under two weeks but I already feel like I’m a local for      main reasons.

1.       When I went to the Louvre with Pip we were stood in the queue just having a chat and this girl turned around to us asking if we were from round here. My initial reaction was “Yeah I live here!” and proceeded to ask us why the Carrousel de Louvre looked like the Brandenburg Gate to which I had no answer. Pip was laughing her head off at my response. But it’s true! I do live in Paris!

2.       I went to go and meet up with the person who did the job I’m doing before me (who is absolutely lovely). I was waiting by the Pompidou Centre for her when this American came up to me to ask if I could take a picture of him with it in the background. He passed me his iPad which incidentally made me feel a bit soft using as I don’t see the point of using something so big when a camera is much easier. But the simple task of taking a photo for a tourist made me feel like I was becoming a local/native which was really quite comforting.

3.       This third point might seem a little bit bizarre but that’s me so here goes nothing….I can now read while getting the metro. I find that when I’m on my own trying to get somewhere that I tend to look at my phone quite a lot despite the fact that no-one ever texts me. But now because I need to try and keep my phone bill down I can’t text anyone that much so I’ve taken to reading whilst I move around. Trying to get off the carriage whilst still reading and walking from one end of Chatelet Les Halles to the other is an acquired skill I can tell you!

I know that I’m not quite a proper Parisian yet I mean I can’t roller skate yet and I don’t have one of those old lady trolleys for going to the market with but I am definitely getting there. Who knows maybe by next week I will be wearing black all of the time, drinking espressos and looking really chic smoking cigarettes? But I probably won’t!

The Flat

You’ve now heard about most elements of my moving to Paris so far but there leaves one thing that I must describe before I tell you about my adventures. That, my friends, is The Flat.

I’ve been describing my current living situation to people as a Downton Abbey –style set up. As with most Parisian apartment buildings there is a little service entrance which used to be for the servants who lived upstairs with a staircase that has a door into each of the main apartments’ kitchen. I have the maid’s room or chambre de bonne .

I’m at the top of 7 flights of stairs which is certainly testing my thigh muscles and I’m very glad I went up Snowdon with Dad as preparation! Carrying shopping up is interesting when you don’t have a lift especially when you want to make the most of the cheap alcohol. There are about 16 flats/rooms up here but I haven’t seen anyone else here yet. It is really quiet. Mostly because I’m so high up I can’t hear any road noise but also because it feels like I’m the only one up here! The only noise I can hear is birds having fights on top of my skylights which is mildly irritating.

My flat is a bit of a weird shape and not what you would expect, at least not for Paris! I have a little hallway with some shelves on one side and a mirrored wardrobe on the other. I wasn’t expecting as much storage as I’ve got as I saw some on the internet which didn’t seem to have even a chest of drawers! After the hallway you get to my extending dining table. Pip and I extended one side of it but couldn’t put it back so I think it will probably stay this size until I can work out how to put it back. When I say it has been extended that doesn’t mean that it is big, because it isn’t. I can fit the two delightful orange chairs on either side but that is about it!

Straight ahead is my little kitchen with a little two ring hob, fridge-freezer and sink. I have a little toaster oven as well which is proving to be quite a good source of heat as well as being really quick to cook things. Overall the kitchen is pretty awesome, definitely bigger than Rachael Khoo’s but not quite as chic.

It shouldn’t take too long to talk about the bathroom. I don’t know how anyone taller than me could cope with the shower. Their head might pop over the top! The toilet is electric. Now this sounded odd to me at first but apparently it is a thing. It makes an almighty gurgling sound every time you flush it which goes on for a good couple of minutes which isn’t so great in the middle of the night…

Surprisingly as you go around the corner there is a double bed. Something odd for Paris in a studio but definitely appreciated even despite the slightly loose headboard…. So that is chez moi, my humble abode, Hobbit Hole whatever you want to call it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Arrival

I was initially only going to do one post encompassing the Journey and the Arrival but there was just too much general bizarreness to put in one so here goes the second….

Getting a taxi to the flat was the best idea we ever had because the taxi driver helped us with our bags. I don’t think I could have carried them up any more flights of stairs. We couldn’t fit them all in the lift up to the family’s flat so we took it in turns to take them up. Pip was accompanied in the lift by the father of the family who let us into their flat.

We get into their flat and it is as beautiful as I remember except a little messier than last time I had visited! It is classically Haussmann and the addition of the harp in the corner makes it even better. I must add before I go on that the area I’m living in is the Parisian equivalent of Mayfair which sounds amazing but when you consider I’m living in the old servants’ quarters on a student budget it’s not quite the chic lifestyle it sounds!

I was finally introduced to the girls which was lovely but I think they were a little freaked out that I had Pip with me as well. I think for the younger one at least the only thing worse than having an English au pair is having two if only for a week! We had a long in depth conversation about whether we were identical or not and whether it was one egg or two which was a little surreal for my first encounter with them but nevertheless entertaining. After a little bit of faffing we went up to my flat which is unfortunately on the seventh floor with no lift. Walking up the stairs every day is making me surprisingly fit even after only a week here.

The mother of the family is a real darling she gave us a little settling in bag of goodies. It was quite an eclectic mix but quite useful as it turned out. The list is as follows

·         One jar of apricot jam with my name written on the top made by the youngest (super cute)

·         One cucumber (what the hell?!)

·         A Camembert (which Pip hates and stank the fridge out)

·         Some butter (useful)

·         A baguette (but of course!)

So after the kids had helped us with the bags and we’d had a well-deserved sit down we headed out to find something to eat as we hadn’t had anything since the KitKat on the Eurostar. The first obstacle that we hit was the lack of light in the corridor. We spent a while fumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch to no avail so decided to just risk it and trudged down the stairs in darkness….

Luckily I knew a really good tapas bar nearby so we weren’t left hungry for too long and when we returned to the flat the light had been switched on but not for the top two floors. It turns out that it had been broken for a while but has been fixed now which is a relief as I didn’t fancy returning from Freshers to a very dark staircase. I am a generally paranoid person who thinks that crazy axe murderers are following me most days so I’m glad I now have light! So that my friends was my Arrival in Paris.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Journey

I’ve done most of these posts out of order because that is the kind of maverick I am. This one as you might have guessed is about the long awaited journey à Paris.

After watching a good hour of Storage Hunters on Dave to take our minds off the obvious we departed for sunny Liverpool to get the train down to London for the first leg of our journey. A quick dash around M&S quickly ensued and with Moroccan wraps in hand we headed to the platform with what felt like enough luggage to last me an eternity.  We surprisingly managed to find some luggage racks which had space for all of my worldly possessions, took our seats and said goodbye to Mum. Public expression of emotion quickly followed and Pip provided the ever useful Kleenex.

As the train set off we cracked open the butties and decided to watch some Black Books to raise morale. We must have looked rather bizarre to the other passengers, crying incessantly one minute and shrieking with hysterical laughter the next.

Wheeling our stuff from Euston to St Pancras was mildly back breaking but in the end uneventful. Getting the bags onto the X-ray scanners in Customs was interesting to say the least. I’m not the strongest person in the world so I had to use momentum to lift the gargantuan bags up which thankfully didn’t backfire and cause me to join them on the conveyer belt.

Waiting in the Eurostar lounge for the train to arrive I was already picking out the people I didn’t want to be stuck in a carriage with or heaven forbid sat next to. Three Americans were the first people I’d spotted who were on my list of “Worst People To Be Sat Next To”. From previous experience Americans on the Eurostar seem to cluster and talk very loudly to each other about how fabulous Europe is while the rest of the carriage is trying to block out the voice in their head saying “EUROPE ISN’T JUST ONE PLACE IT’S ALL VERY DIFFERENT YOU IMBECILES” or maybe that’s just me. My guardian angel must have been looking down on me though as they were nowhere to be seen as we got into the carriage. The woman sat next to Pip just plugged her iPod in and went to sleep. I however was not so lucky. The guy next to me kept wriggling about in his seat. Pip thought he wanted to start a conversation with me so I turned the other way and fell asleep.

There was a delay. Obviously. Only one of the tunnels had electricity so we had a 45 minute wait to be allowed through which was a blessing in disguise really because it meant I could have a bit longer using the internet on my phone before I was painfully separated from the wonder that is the World Wide Web and weird fish photos (a recent obsession). I resolved that I needed a coffee. As a French student it is in my genetic make-up to have a caffeine addiction so I journeyed to the restaurant car which was further away than I would have liked. What felt like everyone else on the train had had the same idea as me. Including the Americans who had found another kinsman to converse with. After hearing for the millionth time how they thought Britain was quaint I got to the front of the queue speaking in French so that I wasn’t associated with the Americans. It is safe to say that I made a swift exit and took Pip back a KitKat which was the best chocolate item that I could find.

The taxi to the flat was very uneventful and cheaper than I had expected which was a pleasant surprise. Now that brings me to the next instalment…the Arrival.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First Week in Paris

Argh! So I’m nearly halfway through my first week in Gay Paris and I’m all over the shop. While I’m missing family and friends badly I’m also having a really good time just doing my own thing (or at least what my sister agrees to do with me!). So far we have done one random shop in Franprix spending  30 Euros on I’m not really sure what, two trips to the market, a free trip around the Louvre mostly consisting of getting lost and trying to guess how many pictures of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus there were in La Grande Galerie. I’ve also “done” my first babysitting which involved playing a game where you sniffed different plastic containers and tried to guess what the smell was. Pip thought everything was strawberry and I was looking at the answers on the bottom of the boxes so it was a definite success. Following that the girls thought it would be funny to take some daft pictures on iBooth and make them into a film. They had no idea how many stupid faces I have pulled in my life so they found the first few hysterical rather than hideous as most people do. Turned out the film we made with them was a horror film… Despite a minor temper tantrum from the youngest I managed to get her too bed and reading the Gruffalo’s Child but I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most me or her! I still haven’t got my internet sorted as the person I’m meant to be sharing with is on holiday so I have been using the Wifi in Starbucks quite a lot. It is impressive the amount of time I can nurse an Americano for!