19 August 2009

Reflections on a year in France

So this week brings me to the end of my adventures in France. I head back to Los Angeles on Thursday. I guess I feel like I need to do some sort of closing blog to finish out my year. I don’t know exactly what direction I want it to go in, but I’m thinking that a few things I have learned, some of my favorite memories, things I will miss the most, and some final pictures. This will probably be my last blog, unless I decide to keep writing about random things. But who knows. Here goes nothing.

I guess first off, I just want to say that it has been an absolute incredible year in France. I have had experiences that some people can only dream of, I have made friends from all over the world, I have learned a new language and culture, and I have grown as a person. In all honesty, I am not at all ready to leave. I’m actually having a really hard time accepting the fact that I’m going back and I have been avoiding it for awhile now. I am trying to make each moment last because I really don’t want Thursday to come. There are parts of me that want to go back to the states, but most of me just wants to stay here. I have grown accustomed to my life here and my friends here.

I have developed a new way of eating that I don’t even know if it is possible to continue in the states. The food here is so fresh and healthy. It’s so easy to eat crap in the US, and here it takes extra effort. Not just the specific foods, but the way we eat here. A meal in France is so much more than just putting food in your mouth. It’s an event, a chance to reflect and connect with people around us. An average meal lasts about 2 ½ hours, oftentimes even longer. I love the way we start a meal with an aperitif and snacks in the living room. Then we move to the dining room or outside if it’s nice. We have the regular meal with wine. Then after everyone is done with that, we eat cheese, then dessert, then coffee, and all the while chatting and laughing and just enjoying the company of each other. I feel like this is a lost art in the US and that makes me really sad.

Another aspect of my life that has changed is the amount of walking I do. There is rarely a reason to take the car because of how close stuff is. And the public transportation is good too so even if something is far, you still don’t need the car. I am afraid that I will too easily fall back into driving everywhere when I return. I feel so much healthier after being here. I do know that my new apartment isn’t far from a lot of stuff, so I’m hoping to do some walking that way. There are tons of shops and restaurants in an area called old town Pasadena and if I can walk whenever I go there I should be okay.

I really don’t want to leave my friends. I know I have friends back in the states, and I cannot wait to see all of them. But to think right now about the possibility of never seeing some of these people again really kills me. I thank God everyday for the people he has put in my life this past year. At first, I made only au pair friends. That was cool, but I had a huge desire to have French friends. I prayed that God would give me some good French friends. He did just that. First he led me to an incredible church in Paris that accepted me with open arms. Through this church I began making amazing friends and it is these that I do not want to leave. Tatiana, Sylvain, Jean-David, Gaelle, Isabelle, and soooo many more. We have so many fun experiences together and I am truly going to miss each of them. I have been so blessed to have been so accepted by these people. A big thanks to each of you. I will never ever forget you and I pray that we will meet again in the future. At least I know that Tatiana will be coming to visit in November. And actually Sylvain and Jean-David are probably coming as well. I really hope so, as we are a really close foursome that has had the best moments together. Just this past weekend we went down to Orleans (hour south of paris) and hung out at the 2 guys parents house (they are brothers). We love to do spur of the moment things and just have fun.

Well I started writing this a few days ago and haven’t had a chance to finish it. So I’m just going to cut it off there and try to finish when I get back to the states. Ill put up pictures and all sorts of stuff. So everything I said about this being my last post…I take it back. So check back!

I’m currently repacking all my bags trying to somehow make it not be overweight. Ugh. Pray for me guys! I have a stressful 36 hours ahead of me….AHHHHHHHHHHH

13 July 2009

sorry, it's been awhile

Hi all my committed readers. I have heard from several of you that you are waiting my next post. I'm sorry I haven't posted in a long time. I have no good reason. I guess for today, i'll just update you all on what i've been up to the past couple months and what is to come in the near future.

I have been working as normal, making food, walking kids to school, driving to gymnastics and tennis and all sort of other stuff. The kids were pretty stressed out there for awhile because both Pauline and Julien had big exams at the end of the year. But now they are all done with school and it is finally summer vacation. Julien just left on Sunday to go to New York for 2 weeks to practice his english. Pauline left as well, but went to Ireland. and Manon leaves this week for horse camp or something. That means all the kids are going to be out of the house for a week and a half. Technically, i am done with my contract with the family. My last day was actually just this past Friday. I am going to stick around and help out when the 2 girls get back, but other than that i am finished. It feels weird. It's crazy that a year has already gone by. But anyways, what else have I been up to lately? Oh, I just had 2 friends come to visit. Rikki and Kyna, 2 of my best friends from high school days. They came just last week and were here for about a week. We took a weekend trip down to Corsica and had an amazing time. Here are some pictures at the end. We took a train down to nice, then hung out in Nice for the day and took a Ferry that night over to Corsica. We hung out for a couple days then flew back into paris. It was absolutely beautiful, with water so clear and blue. It wasn't too crowded either. We bought cheap rafts and floated in the water every day. it was a much needed vacation. It was really great to have my 2 friends here. We had a lot of laughs and funny experiences and made great memories. Thank you girls for coming to visit me!

Friends in Paris!!!!!!!!!

We stumbled onto the Tour de France in Monaco- it was pretty cool!

Our "ferry" which was definitely more like a cruiseliner.

On the ferry heading down to Corsica:

watching the sunrise on the beach...

corsica shot from a train:

Beautiful picture taken by Kyna:

The first area we were in, Ile Rousse:

The water was so clear and pretty-perfect for relaxing on the beach:

So yeah, thats what has been going on. You may be wondering, "okay, joelle, so you are finished with work, when are you coming back to the states?" Well, i'm glad you asked. even though i am done now, I will be sticking around for a few more weeks. My flight back is set for August 20. I have been invited to go along as a nanny on vacation with another family that i babysit for. They are american and are going to the south of france for 5 days or so. They are taking me along to give the adults some time away from the kids. I'm really excited about it That will be in the end of July through the 2nd of August. AFter that, I'm just sticking around for kicks. Actually my reasoning is that when i was looking for tickets, the prices dropped drastically on the 20th and i couldn't afford to buy the expensive ones. So i'm going to stick around and do some babysitting and hang out with friends. My host family will be leaving on vacation the 31st of July so that means i have to leave the house too. I am going to be living with another American family that I babysit for for 2 weeks and then after that I'm going to stay with my french friend tatiana for the last week. Here is a picture of tatiana:

I guess I probably haven't told you guys about her yet either. She is someone I met at my church in Paris. She has become my best friend here and it has been such a blessing having her around. She has helped me so much with my french, but besides that she has just been a great friend. She has introduced me to a ton of other people, which has been great because I was having such a hard time making French friends. I feel so connected now and know that my experience would not have been as positive had I not met her. Thanks tati! She is actually going to be coming to the United States to visit me for awhile and is even going to come to my mom's house with me for thanksgiving! We are both really excited, but especially her because it will be her first thanksgiving. Ideally she would like to come live in the states for a year and work so that she can improve her english. She wants to start a wedding planning business in France and would like to come work for one in the states to learn about the business. I have been trying to help her find an internship or something, but we aren't having much luck. But anyways, she has been wonderful and I am so grateful to have her as a part of my life.

So yeah, I guess that covers enough for now. I can't say i'll write more soon, because we know how bad I am at this blogging thing. Oh well. I will try to write again before I head home. Thank you everyone for your emails, your prayers, your comments, everything. I'm more likely to write when I know people are reading this. Hope everyone is doing well. Feel free to post questions or things you would like me to address for another post. Much love from Paris, on Bastille day! (oh yeah, i'm having a grand bastille day celebration tomorrow, so i'll post pictures and write about it!)

09 May 2009

Open Air Markets

So every saturday my host dad goes into the city center to do grocery shopping for the upcoming week. There is an open air market where he buys all the fresh stuff like veggies, fruits, cheese, meat, bread, etc... well, this weekend my host family is out of town and they left me money to go do the shopping. I had never been to these markets before and was a bit nervous. However, i got there and walked around to familiarize myself. I had made a list of what we needed and I just dove in and started telling the people what I needed. There were so many people there, yet the workers had it down to a science! they were so efficient and quick, yet personable and patient. I didnt feel rushed or stupid or anything! I bought fresh strawberries, apples, bananas, brocolli, carrots, chicken, and duck! It was such a fun experience and I think Im going to start giving up sleeping in on Saturdays to start going with my host dad to the market!

08 April 2009

Another Weekend Getaway

I think my recent trip to Greece was exactly what I needed to get my mind into the "let's see the world while we can" mindset. I have been wanting to do all this traveling, and after I saw how easy and fun it was with Greece, I just decided to keep it up.

This past week, Chandra told me that she had the upcoming weekend free. I looked at her and said "alright, where we going?" We got online that day and found some really cheap overnight train tickets to the south of France. We booked them the next day and 2 days after that we were on our way! We weren't really sure where we were going but had chosen a city that looked cute from pictures online. The train left at 10:30 friday night and we got into St Jean de Luz at 6am Saturday morning.

It was literally still dark outside and when we walked out of the train had to make a decision as to which way to turn (right or left, and having no clue what was in either direction). We chose left and then just started following signs for "La Plage" (the beach). So here we are in a tiny tourist town in March at 6 in the morning. It was beyond dead. Nothing was open, there were no cars, no people, NOTHING. We walked for quite awhile and found a little shop where we could buy a map. Eventually finding our way to the beach, we parked out on a park bench for a while and ate what food we had left from our train trip. When the sun finally decided to start lighting up the world, we started walking along the beach and looking for a hotel. We found several but nobody was working yet. We took the time to walk around and take lots of pictures. Finally, once it was after 8 and places started opening, we went in to gas stations, hotels, cafes, etc trying to figure out what we could do. We knew one thing: we wanted to rent motos. After lots of different answers, we eventually decided that this town wasn't going to be too successful. We found a cafe, ordered a hot chocolate, and figured out what to do next.

While we were on the train, we noticed that almost everyone had gotten off at the stop just before ours, a town called Biarritz. We asked our waiter if there was a bus to Biarritz and he gave us directions to the stop. We got there and had to wait an hour and a half for the next one, so we found another cafe to sit in while we waited.

By 10:30 we were on the bus and heading towards Biarritz, still having no idea what we would find when we got there. We got off at an area that seemed "hopping" and just started walking around looking for a hotel. We were so sick of carrying our bags around that all we wanted was to find somewhere to leave them and not have to worry about them. We found several right in one area and just picked the cheapest one. We got an adorable tiny room for 40 euros. We had to share a shower room, but it was just with 2 other girls (that we never even saw). We asked the lady at the desk about renting motos and she gave us a flier for a place down the street. We found it without any problems and within 20 minutes were on our way. We rode along the coast, stopping every 5 seconds to take pictures. The town was soooo cute. Big houses, cliffs, rock formations, a lighthouse, bridges, tucked away beaches, sidewalk cafes, and just enough people to feel comfortable.

Our plan was to just stay along the coast, but we soon came across a problem. All the streets became one way and not the way we wanted to go. We kept turning around and backtracking, having no idea what to do. We pulled over and were laughing about how we were already lost when 2 guys on feet started laughing at us too. Assuming they didn't speak english we were being maybe a little rude. We left them and kept riding and 15 seconds later we passed them again. This time they spoke english to us and asked if we needed help. Turns out they were from Australia and were in the area for work. They suggested a direction to us to get us on the main road. We were looking for a pizza place. Somehow we all ended up eating together and hanging out for the day.

They were really cool and showed us around. We followed them in their car and us on our bikes and went to the next town over and walked along the river, watched all sorts of crazy people (there was a big rugby match that night and everyone was pretty excited about it). After all that Chandra and I moto'd back to our hotel.

The next day, one of the guys (dave) had invited us to go to spain with him. After much debate, we decided to do it because we wouldn't have another opportunity like it. Spain was about an hour away and we ended up in the town of St Sebastian or something.
It was so cute, a little fishing village where the river meets the ocean. We walked all around the town,, ate lunch at a cafe, did a little shopping (i didn't buy anything this time!!!), and found the beach where we stuck our feet in the water. We took so many pictures and had such a fun relaxing day. We headed back to France where chandra and I did some more moto-ing and photo shoots. :) Since it was sunday, we had to take the motos back by 6 and our train didn't leave until almost 11 that night. Since the train stopped in Biarritz and St Jean de Luz, we assumed we would be able to get on at either spot. We decided not to risk it and asked at the train station. go figure, that only the French would say you had to get on where your ticket said. So that meant we had to find our way back to st jean de luz by bus or taxi, on a sunday, during the off season. We spent like 2 hours trying to find the right bus stop and when we finally did we still had like 2 hours to kill. We ended up back in St Jean de Luz by 8:30 and found a cafe where we sat until 10:30. We got on the train and headed back to Paris. It was funny because all the same people were on the train that we had seen on Friday. I guess it's a common thing to do. We got back to paris at 6am and got to our houses by 7, and ready to start work by 8! longest day of my life...

And now, here are some pictures:

25 March 2009


This past weekend was my first real vacation since arriving in France. I know that many people think that I have just been living in a vacation over here, but thats just not the case. It is stressful, exhausting, and not always fun. When I came over, I assumed I would be traveling all the time and getting to see all of Europe. Well, that hasn't happened. I did get to go to London with my host family, but it was not a vacation. So anyways, my dad came to visit me and we decided to take a quick weekend vacation to Greece. Neither of us had ever been there, but we both really wanted to go. He even asked my host family if I could have Monday off and they agreed! So we booked our tickets on Tuesday and our flight left Saturday morning at 7.

We arrived at about 1:30 saturday afternoon to a cold, windy, rainy city. I had done enough research to know that the metro ran from the airport straight to the heart of the city. Well, go figure, the metro just happened to be closed from the airport to the next stop so we had to figure out another way. We asked someone and they told us to take a bus. They pointed at which one adn told us to get on. We did so and had no idea where we were headed. It seemed that nobody really knew. But eventually we figured that it was going to an area close to where we wanted to be. We stayed on til the end and when we got off, the rain had stopped. I had already picked out a few hotels that I thought would be good choices, and we figured out where we were and headed towards the closest one. We found it without a problem and I think we were the only people there. It was really nice, in a great location, at a super cheap price, and included breakfast. The guy showed us a few rooms and let us choose what we wanted. We chose one with 2 balconies, with a partial view of the acropolis, and lots of space. here are some pictures of the room and the views from it:

The rest of the day Saturday we spent walking around the city, seeing the big sights. We saw the acropolis and the parthenon. It was so cool being there in March, because it really felt like we had the city to ourselves. Okay, not really, but we definitely didn't feel overwhelmed by other tourists. Even at the acropolis, we only saw a few other people. It was nice.

We also did some shopping. Our hotel was in an area called Plaka and there are lots of shops and cafes to see and walk around. As many of you know, i love to shop, especially for shoes. Well, the greeks make some pretty great shoes and I happened to stumble into a few shops. I made a friend with the shopowner who happened to be a very convincing salesman. These two things are not a good combination, as I ended up buying 5 pairs of shoes!!!!! Luckily I live in southern california where I can wear flip flops year round. But hey, he threw in a free t-shirt since I bought so many shoes!

On Sunday, we planned to go take a ferry over to one of the closer islands. I had done my research and decided that Hydra would be our best choice in terms of things to do, distance from Athens, etc. So we left our hotel at 8 and headed to the metro which runs all the way down to the port where we can catch a ferry. Well, for one day only, the metro line we needed wasn't running. GO FIGURE!!! it took us awhile to figure it out, and once we did, we had to start asking people what to do. They told us to take a bus but we never found the one we were looking for. As we were standing there looking lost another man came up and helped us. He walked us to the bus and said, "get on this one and get off at __________." neither of us understood, but he was already leaving and the bus was pulling away. So once again we found ourselves on a bus without a clue where we were heading. After half an hour of so, we came over the top of this hill and out of nowhere, saw the port filled with ships! we got off the bus and managed to find the boats we wanted. the one going to hydra had just left a few minutes earlier and the next one didn't leave for several hours. we asked for advice and the ticket lady said we could go to a different island, Aegina. The boat was leaving in 15 minutes, only took 40 minutes to get there, and said there was some neat stuff to see. We went ahead and did it, having no idea what to expect.

So we arrived 40 minutes later and got off the boat with no clue what to do or where to go. We found a little kiosk and bought a map of the island and then just started walking down a street. Some man stopped us and asked if we wanted to rent a bike or moped or jeep or anything. We stopped and talked to him and found out it would only be 10 euros a day to rent the moped things. We decided to do that and before we knew it we were off to some unknown destination. We headed out along the coast and just followed the road. Oh it was soooo beautiful. seriously, it was incredible. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling, and it was just so unbelievable. We rode for awhile until we hit the other side of the island and found this adorable little beach town that must be a huge hit during the summer. we were the only ones there at the time, but still managed to find a restaurant right on the beach overlooking the water, with a great view of mountains. it was amazing.

After having lunch, we headed back the way we came. We returned our mopeds and hung out on the main strip of shops and restaurants while we waited for the next boat to come so we could head back to athens. Had we been able to go to Hydra, we were going to stay the night on the island and go back to Athens the following day, but since we went to Aegina, there really wasnt enough to do, so we both agreed that it would be better to head back to Athens. So thats what we did and had a lovely Greek dinner. Monday morning, we got up and did some more shopping and roaming around new parts of the city. We had lunch at a cafe and then headed towards the airport. It was a short trip, but a much needed vacation.

Nothing like a beautiful rainbow to signal the end of a beautiful vacation!