Sunday, May 12, 2013

Paris, je t'aime

Paris me manque.

Two years ago today, I left Paris.

Writing that out breaks my heart. I miss Paris so much.

I began my love affair with Paris at a young age. I have no idea what initially piqued my interest, but for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit Paris.

Le Tour Eiffel
My junior year of college, I finally fulfilled my dream and studied abroad in France. For three months, I lived in Versailles with a French family and took theatre, conversation, grammar, and culture classes with eleven fellow students from my school. Each Wednesday afternoon, we had a cultural field trip, like to the Musée d’Orsay or to Auvers-sur-Oise (where Van Gogh died). On the weekends, we had optional trips, but they were even cooler. One weekend we toured Giverny (Monet’s home and gardens), and another weekend we spent visiting Le Petit Trianon. I found out that recent French grads could teach English in France, and I vowed to return when I finished school.

The grave of Vincent Van Gogh.

After I graduated with my BA in History and in French, I worked as an au pair for ten months in Le Vésinet, the wealthiest suburb of Paris. This was one of the most challenging periods of my life. My boss (Pauline) was an Irish widow, whose late husband had been French. I took care of three kids: Orlaith (girl, 9), Léon (boy, 7), and Liam (boy, 4). Pauline had very demanding expectations, which she often didn’t voice. I only learned of my shortcomings when she would get upset with me or the kids after the fact. Luckily my mom’s cousin and his wife lived nearby, and I could always talk to them when I started feeling helpless at my job.

Even with my difficulties at work, these ten months were among the best in my life. I met three of the most amazing women who were fellow au pairs in the area: Ali, Crystal, and Jane. We were part of a larger group of friends who consisted of about 20 au pairs working in several adjacent suburbs.

At the Fête de la Musique (L to R: Crystal, Ali, me, Jane)
The four of us did everything together. Our kids overlapped at the same three schools, so we would hang out while waiting for our kids to come out, and on some days, let our kids play after school. Weekends were spent exploring Paris: the shops, the museums, the restaurants, the bars, the clubs, everything! Sometimes we just stayed in the suburbs and went to one of our favorite bars, either the British pub or the Portuguese bar.

On one of our last days together, we went into Paris to get matching tattoos. All of us now have the same tattoo on our right foot. Every time I look at my foot, I think about Ali, Crystal, and Jane, and how they changed my life for the better.

My final period in France was when I taught English in Niort for seven months. I flew into France a week early so I could spend time with Jane, who had extended her au pair contract. Ali was almost done traveling Europe, and her trip back to Paris overlapped with mine. Our reunion was brief, but joyous, and we skyped with Crystal as much as possible during those days. Then I was off to Niort, to teach high school and middle school students.

Near the center of town, less than a ten-minute walk from my apartment
I loved teaching English, and I miss my students to this day. I had some great colleagues, and I met some cool internationals who were teaching their native languages. I also met some locals via couchsurfing, and I even joined them for the first ever Thanksgiving! My trips to Paris were less frequent, but still memorable. I spent long weekends with my cousins in the suburbs, who I visited for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Easter, and a few other times just because I could. Don’t forget the guys I dated in Paris

The Champs Elysées at Christmastime

I stayed a few weeks past my contract to travel. My best friend Mark came to visit me for my last twelve days, during which we toured Paris, London, and Nice. Sharing my second home with my best friend was such a memorable experience, and I’m so honored that Mark wanted to visit me.

I still can’t believe it’s been two years since I left Paris. I spent so much time there, and in all of France. I truly left part of my heart behind. I’ve told Beau how much I want to go back, and I hope it will just be a year or two longer until I return. Paris is my favorite city in the whole world, and I just want Beau to love it as much as I do.

What do you miss? Has a city ever affected you as much as Paris impacted me?


  1. oh Belle, this makes ME miss Paris! I did my BA in history and French, too, and also did a semester there my junior year... and then stayed through the summer to nanny for a family with a crazy mom! who new we were such twins? I haven't been back since 2011, so I think we should plan a trip :)

    1. Whaaaaa? We both studied history and French?! And you were in France your junior year?! We were meant to be blogging buddies.

      Yes, let's go to Paris together! That would be 1) the best trip ever and 2) the best blog material ever! :D

  2. I've visited Paris a few times and it always has the same effect on me. It is stunning, you were so lucky to have lived in France. Rome is the city that has my heart though, so romantic.

    Enjoy the rest of your day
    Rachel x

    1. I've never been to Italy. I did a bit of travel within Europe (Madrid, Vienna, Prague, Oslo, Bergen, London), but the majority of my travel was within France just because it was so much cheaper not to leave the country. I would love to visit Rome sometime!

      Living in France was one of the best times in my life. I was truly blessed to have had multiple opportunities.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I like Paris a lot...It's not necessarily my absolute favorite, but it definitely has a uniqueness about it. I've always had great local hosts and a wonderful place to stay, which makes any place wonderful:-) but even without that, it's just got a wonderfully relaxed vibe about it.

    I've never complained about my time in Nice, either:-)

    1. I love Nice too! During my two years working in France, I managed to visit Nice four times. Each experience was different, and I only grew to love Nice more with each trip.

    2. I basically love any place with a beach, so Nice is an automatic favorite of mine.

      My little sister managed to acquire herself a French boyfriend, so I have been with her to visit him a couple of times (his family lives in Paris, but summers in's a tough life...) It's always been a lot of fun, and at some point I am going to have to angle my way into spending more than a week or so at a time!

  4. I've always daydreamed about being an au pair! I love reading about other people's experiences, I did French Immersion in jr.high and high school but I've never gone to France!

    1. Add it to your bucket list. :) I absolutely love France, and I'm dying to get back.

  5. Trondheim, Norway, where my husband is from. We met online, and he came here to visit with me, then moved to do his grad degree and give us a chance to be together full time. Then we got married. We were together for six years before I finally visited Norway. I was a little scared to fly, worried I wouldn't fit in there, but I was as excited as I was anxious. Before we got to Trondheim, we spent about a week in some other areas (Oslo, Flåm), and I loved every bit of it. I love Norway with all my heart, but the larger part of that is my love of Trondheim. It's a lovely, welcoming city, which so much history and beauty. We stayed there for almost five weeks, and I'm looking forward to returning (hopefully the end of this year). It'll be the first time I experience winter there, which should be interesting. We now talk about the very real possibility of moving there. It's already my heart's second home.

    1. Ahhhh, this is so crazy! What I didn't include in this summary post of France, since it's a summary post about FRANCE, is my trip to Norway! I'm 3/8 Norwegian on my mother's side. My great-great-grandparents emigrated to the States in the late 1800s, and we've stayed in touch with our family in Norway this entire time.

      Before my friend Mark came to visit me, I spent a week in Norway! I flew into Oslo, spent the night with cousins on my great-great-grandmother's side, and then took the train to Voss (near Bergen) where a cousin from my great-great-grandfather's side picked me up. I stayed with him and his family a few days, during which I met more cousins from both my great-great-grandmother's and my great-great-grandfather's sides of the family. I then took the train back to Oslo and stayed with more cousins for a night before flying back to Paris.

      Norway is so beautiful, and all my family was so welcoming. They all showed me pictures from nine years earlier, when my mother, grandmother, and aunt had visited, plus pictures of when my parents had visited (nine months before my twin brother and I were born... yes, this is everyone's favorite story).

      I don't know if you blog or not, because I can't click on your name, but if you do, I'd love to read more about your time in Norway!

  6. One of my biggest regrets from college is that I didn't spend a semester abroad. Although I did at least take what was called an intensive study abroad course. We lived with host families in Avignon for three weeks, and when the class ended a bunch of us spent a long weekend in Paris. So much, and such a good time to look back on, but I wish I had been there longer!

    1. I only wish I could have done a summer exchange program as well, but I had to work and earn money in the summer, not spend more of it studying abroad!

      But I dreamed about going to Oxford and earning class credit towards my history degree...


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