Seeking new arrangements 

Au Pairing in Paris

Plans don’t always go as expected but that’s not to say you can’t still enjoy your night. We headed to champ de mars last night for wine and I did no less than 7 hair braids (a new record for little old me). It was nice to see some au pairs I haven’t seen since September(!?)    

Now I’m on the 8 hour coach from Paris to London to see mum, dad and auntie Marcia before my grandmas 80th birthday party tomorrow in Birmingham. Then I’ll be back on Monday after and have less than 5 full days in Paris before I leave! 

Reflective moment – So proud of my friends here who can adapt if plans change beyond their control! They’re 100 times more ambitious and creative than I could ever hope to be and now this is just an excuse to make the next event bigger and better than before. Woo girl powaaaaa 

 

Mary x

 

 

Mary’s Project – 2014

Africa, Au Pairing in Paris, Europe, TBT

Hey did you hear the news?! Its a whole new year! In no way is this post a brag or ‘oooh look how exciting my life is’ because that’s lame. I’ve posted quite a lot this year but there lots I’ve missed out. I love the idea of looking back on my blog when I’m old and boring and cringing at what I used to get up to. So here’s my (some of what was missed on the blog) year review. Happy new year to everyone 🙂 10 gold stars to you if you read the whole post…

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2014 was welcomed with my sister and her/our friends (yes we share friends cos we’re totes mature) in a crowded club in London, a group of creepy looking men told us the drinks were on them so we proceeded to the dancefloor, drinks in hand. Next thing we knew the bartender is snatching them off us and we’re laughing uncontrollably and not embarrassed like we should be. Don’t remember how I got home but I woke up on Zoe’s sofa feeling great. I went to Cambridge for Sara’s 21st birthday and had such a good time, apart from the vomit bit (not mine). The following days were spent cramming driving lessons with my instructor Geoff and practices with dad. Mum told me that if I didn’t pass my test I wasn’t allowed to go to Cape Town (already booked). So 5 days before I flew to SA I passed first time.

I packed a huge suitcase, left Mum, dad, G and Peachy and flew to Dubai then Cape Town all alone. Callum and I hadn’t actually arranged where we meeting at the airport but luckily he got there as I arrived. Dirk and his girlfriend Danielle drove us to Edgemead, our home for the next 4ish days. There was a swimming pool so I was happy. Our next home was Bothasig, like the ghetto version of Edgemead. I ate dairy milk top deck, fudge and fanta pineapple almost everyday and worked hard on my tan. I saw old friends at penthouse and generally had an amazing time. The hottest day of the year was spent at the reggae jam in Langa, 42 degrees C. I met Thami and Nomveliso and fell in love with the township. We saw Jeremy Loops and loads of reggae bands. I went back to volunteer at the kindergarten for a little bit, conditions were a lot different to what I had seen before but I loved teaching the little ones dances, nursery rhymes, colours and numbers. I got 2 jobs in the space of a week and worked in a photography studio and kept myself  busy as an entertainer at kids parties. Callum and I made the most of the self timer on my camera and saw the most beautiful beaches, parks and ice skated with the professionals…

I took a week out to see everyone at Otjikondo and it felt like I’d never left. But it was extremely strange not to have Fran by my side. After the few days I stopped in Windhoek, I drank cocktails on a roof bar and took a 24 hour coach back to Cape Town, sitting next to the same girl, Nina, I had sat with on my way. Back in the motherland Nina hired a car and we created new dramas everyday; locking the keys inside, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and getting stuck on the steepest hill in the world. I imagined that would be the place we’d die! We made friends with beach dogs and checked out surfers all day long. A trip to Cape Point was beautiful.

I was the next one to hire a car. I don’t know how to sum up the stresses we had, but we survived and had some wicked days covered in monkeys and beaching it. I saw friends of friends and navigated my way through the madness of the city with no map, no GPS and very little experience and maybe a bit too much ambition. I had dinner with Gilly, Arnold and Oliver and was so happy to see part of my Otjikondo family so close to this new home in South Africa. I drove to the airport and Callum and I met his mum and step dad Bill. More beach days, numerous pizzas and countless tap waters with ice, a straw and no lemon. We showed mum and Bill around and they provided hours upon hours of laughter. We all went to improv classes with some great people and saw a few shows. I went to a helicopter session and enjoyed it more than I expected. Driving to Addo Elephant Park was so memorable; we stopped off at Knysna and saw wild dolphins just as we were standing on the beach. At the elephant park there were all the safari animals and every time we saw an elephant we were speechless. Reversing from a herd wasn’t the best idea (in hindsight) but thrilling in the moment. We made light photos by our little cabins and Callum fell sick and was unintentionally hilarious. Trish and I got hair braids; hers stayed in for a week or two, mine is still in my hair almost 8 months later. We bid mum and Bill farewell as they continued on to Asia.

I went to study a short course at Cape Town School of Photography. It reconfirmed a lot of what I already knew but I got my passion for photography back and met some lovely guys and gals. We spent our last day at the waterfront snapping away. On my way home from class one evening I tried on some outfits in the boutique near penthouse, the shop owners asked me to photograph their new line in exchange for some clothes, an offer I unfortunately never got to carry out. I was also invited to a fashion show at the Grand Daddy Hotel to photograph and chat to the models and designers. Although its not that big of a deal to most people I was pretty proud of myself; I went alone without knowing anyone and was shooting a new style. I spent 1 last night at penthouse and boarded another 24 hour coach to Namibia. The journey was disrupted and I had to make the decision to head to Europe. I had one of the worst days of my life in Windhoek, tirelessly googling solutions and making my way to a few high commissions and embassies.

The weekend before I flew was spent at Otjikondo again and I finally met Chelcie (and Ottilie for the second time). Goodbyes were hard but it was nice to have some proper closure. I met 2 swedish guys in Windhoek who were on the same flight as me, we were a bit slow to get to the airport and managed to be the last ones to board the plane, after our final Windhoek lager. As we flew over Nigeria I saw a  lightning storm and wanted to wake everyone up to show them. It is without a doubt one of the best sites I’ve ever witnessed.

I landed in Frankfurt to a heavy case of culture shock. I spent the next 2 days sulking and hungry because I couldn’t justify €10 for a Mcdonalds… The cheapest thing to keep me entertained was hair dye so I spent my last evening in Frankfurt going blonde. I chatted to Nina and thought the best decision was to go and see her in Berlin. I was the last one on the coach (bit of a ritual now) and didn’t even realise where Berlin was in relation to Frankfurt. Berlin was so cool and I was pretty happy to see nina so spontaneously. I then saw Georgie in South-ish France, I worked harder on my tan, played water volleyball, rescued a baby bird and cycled to the beach. I said bye to her tiny cabin house and got the train to Paris to see Callum. I can clearly remember this as another one of the worst days of my life. It was Sunday and the hotel Callum had booked was no where near paris. I had no phone or internet and everywhere was deserted and there were train strikes. After hours of sitting on the side of the road waiting for non existent buses I finally reached Chilly Mazarin, where we were staying for 1 night. We went out for mussels. The next day I was covered in huge red itchy lumps. I’d had an allergic reaction that got more itchy the hotter I was, unluckily it was one of the hottest weekends of the year. We went from chilly Mazarin to Noisy Le Sec, into a crazy open house that was run by a psycho Chinese guy who couldn’t speak English or french and had anger issues. His wife shouted at us down the phone before we gave up trying to be nice and fled the scene. The weekend was great, despite my constant need to stop and scratch and Callum had made me a video montage with goodbyes from everyone in South Africa which may have made me shed a tear or two..

A cramped coach journey home welcomed us to Victoria station where dad greeted me with open arms and questions over my bright blonde hair. Welwyn Garden City hadn’t changed and summer just seemed to resume as if I’d never been away. I found it hard to have proper conversations with random girls and guys at parties that started with ‘omg you went to Africa, was there monkeys everywhere?’.

I desperately wanted to get back on the road, just like everyone feels after travelling.

It was pretty cool to be reunited with my friends again though. I still managed to really enjoy my summer; working, catching up with everyone I’d missed and enjoying the fact that my sisters wardrobe was now technically mine. Fran surprised me by coming down from Leeds. That was so so so good and sneaky of her and my mum! We saw a bloodied goat at the farm with Mollie and were temporarily traumatised. I took Fran into London where we shopped and went to a mini festival in Camden. I turned 20 and saw almost all of my favourite people and went out in London to celebrate. Camping, more birthdays, weddings, BBQs, seeing Laura Mvula at the BBC proms and a trip to Birmingham completed the summer.

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By August I’d got a job in Paris! Travel bug fed and working with kids, tick tick. I left Hertfordshire once again for a suburb just north of Paris, a new home, family and job. Au pairing was difficult at first, I don’t blame the kids for not warming to me straight away but I couldn’t really complain as my host family were so welcoming and made me feel at home pretty quickly. Gradually the kids have become a lot more cooperative and very friendly despite the occasional drama!  Everyone back home fretted that I’d have no friends and be mega lonely but it was the same situation to starting university (or what I imagine it to be). All au pairs, expats and erasmus students were in the same position. The first few weeks were so sociable and I must’ve met hundreds of girls and guys working, studying or just visiting Paris. I then got into a routine, something I hadn’t really had since Otjikondo. Tefl, work, drinks in central paris, picnics every weekend (always with peach wine), dinner parties and movie nights.

A weekend in Milan, 4 days in Zurich, a weekend home and a day in Brighton, a few days in Ireland and another weekend home including a quick trip to Nottingham all before Christmas holidays meant I wasn’t sat still for too long. I surprised Rhiana for her 21st birthday and it was the best thing ever to see her reaction to me turning up in Boots. I returned home very hungover and saw Charlie and her bump for her baby shower. We played pin the sperm on the egg and decorated baby grows, we’re all a little bit too excited for the little boy to arrive and to be aunties! And I’m so excited to see Charlie be a mummy.

Paris was lively before Christmas and there was lots to be done; a meeting for a zine project, visitors, lots of running, Christmas shopping and seeing a circus musical with Lucie the evening before I took the train to Vienna to see my family for Christmas. I then interailed and couchsurfed in Budapest, Bratislava and Amsterdam. The plan was to also go to Prague but time wasn’t on my side. I honestly had an unforgettable 2 weeks and would do it over and over if I could.

The year was mad and its flown by (doesn’t everyone say this every year? Where are we getting our concept of time from?!) and there was barely a boring day. There have been some major lows in the past 12 months; times when I’ve just wanted to click my fingers and land back in my own bed in welwyn and watch crap tv but when I put things into perspective I’ve been very lucky and the majority of it has been more than awesome. I’ve been in 11 different countries (12 if you include England) and spent hours upon hours in train stations and airports but I’m happy to be traveling as much as possible at the moment. Who has time to sit still!?Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 01.02.01

If you’ve been in my life at any point in the past year then thank you! I’ve met a lot of cool guys and gals and very few idiots (yay!). And my year would’ve been poop without you.

big uuuup, 2015

Mary x

Arrivederci Milano

Europe

3 days in Milan was very much needed. My first 5ish weeks in Paris had been amazing but I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit trapped; Paris is a bit of bubble, like every city I’ve been to, and I just needed to spread my wings (cringe) and experience something and somewhere new.

We stayed in a cute little apartment in the north of Milan (my sister Georgie, our friend Jenny and me) and did the usual touristy stuff. I loved seeing the Duomo – the outside, inside and roof were all incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a cathedral that impressive before – and I’ve been to A LOT of cathedrals.

I also really enjoyed hiring bikes and exploring the city; in Milan they have ‘BikeMi’ which is just like Barclay bikes in London or ‘Velib’ in Paris. The handlebars are super low and my saddle was wobbly but overall it was very cool. Over the 3 days we ate too much pizza and ice cream and despite my illnesses (I swear I get sick every time I go away, anywhere) I had a lovely little trip with the girlies. Finally, the weather was perfect for the whole weekend. And I love Italy.

G and Jenny left on Monday evening and my coach to Zurich wasn’t until Tuesday morning so I walked for almost an hour to get to my hostel which was a but nearer the Lampagnuno bus station. I stayed in Lumiere Hostel and it was so much nicer than I expected considering it was the cheapest I could find in Milan. I had my last true Italian pizza for dinner and went to bed. I walked for about 40 minutes the next morning, ready to board my coach. The coach was nowhere to be seen until 10:05 (it should’ve been there at 9:30). I took my customary back seats and fell asleep. I woke up twice; firstly when we drove through lake Como. It was so so beautiful, even though it was cloudy and grey outside. Secondly, to go through border control and have some very scary looking police check my passport.

Next stop, Zurich!

Mary, bacio

‘But what does it represent?!’ – La Nuit Blanche – 4th October 2014

Au Pairing in Paris, Europe

I’d promised myself that I would save money in October, meaning no clothes shopping, no online shopping and no McDonalds. Hey guess what? I was 4 days into the month and caved. I’d left the house to run errands (so grown up) and needed WiFi to find out who and where I was meeting people that night so thought I’d blag some internet and lunch at the same time. My tablet wouldn’t connect so that kinda defeated the point :/

I met Yasmin and Judit by Parc de Luxembourg and we had a little picnic by a statue of a naked child(?!) and were joined by Bethany and Aina. We saw too much PDA, too many awkward selfies and then we all kissed a girl witha drawn on beard who was on her hen do.  Yeah i don’t know what that was about either…Our plan was to go to La Nuit Blanche but like everyone else I’d spoken to, we had no idea where to go. We got some drinks and sat by the Seine (classic Parisian ‘no sure what we’re doing so let’s sit here’ thing to do) before heading to Montparnasse to meet the YEP group. As we got there it started to rain, it was super windy and we had no idea where we were meeting the group. Bethany and I stayed out in the rain with her ironic Little Miss Sunshine umbrella as the others waited inside. There were hundreds of people around, apparently La Nuit Blanche is a big deal in Paris?!

La Nuit Blanche – described by Time Out Paris

‘A free annual dusk ‘til dawn arts festival that holds the entire city in its thrall’

Basically it’s a 12 hour event where loads of museums and galleries are open all night and street performers make the most of all the generous tourists and the locals use it as a great excuse to get drunk.

We finally met up with about 25 other people from YEP and got the metro to Hotel De Ville, I watched hundreds of massive helium balloons being lit up and wave around. Matita met us and we watched the balloons, not really knowing what that was about…

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We abandoned a queue for some exhibition and wandered over to the Notre Dame. We came across a group of street performers/dancers that we’d seen twice before in Paris. They may or may not have a beautiful dancer from America in the group and someone in our group may or may not have asked if he had a girlfriend. It turns out he does soooooo that’s his loss I guess! We didn’t really know what art to go and see so we ended up in a bar in the Latin Quarter called The Latin Corner (ooop I see what you did there bar) on Rue De La Huchette. Read the reviews, they are hilarious. We saw more skin than we were expecting and saw some very awkward ‘performances’ from the bar staff.

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The girls headed home and Matita and I were the last ones standing; we met Matita’s friend Amrita and chose to see 1 more ‘arty thing’ before leaving. There was this big wooden structure thing by Pantheon; it wasn’t too exciting but hundreds of people were crowded around looking interested. It was cold and rainy but we decided to brave a queue to go into the Sainte-Geneviève library. Inside the beautiful building a huge pile of crumpled paper and crowds of people folding and screwing up big pieces of paper and adding to this weird pile thing going on. We joined in and heard a security man tell a couple that ‘this wasn’t a place to spend ages folding and to just throw the paper on the pile and leave’ – lol what, it was meant to be an evening to appreciate art, not just hurry along. We didn’t know what this installation was about but I read up on it and found this written by the artist, Iran Qureshi, “I was marked by suicide bombings in my country, says the artist, I wanted to show that we could all together, build something with the flowers of blood, which is also the symbol of life , hope, beauty are there anyway.” – which is fab but there was nothing around at the actual place telling you what it was about!

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My journey home was a bit unexpected; we’d checked that my metro was still running and it said that I’d be fine even after 2am. When I changed lines I found out my line was in fact not running 😦 I managed to get to St Lazare and thought I could always walk from there if there were no more trains running. As I walked through the station I saw a girl unconscious on the floor surrounded by confused looking train staff 😦 Luckily an ambulance arrived as I was leaving the station. I couldn’t find a train going my way so had a nosy at the bus stop. All buses had been replaced with coaches and I managed to be the last person to get on the only one at the station and it was going to my town, oh yeeeah! I got the last seat and got home in like 15 minutes (definitely beats walking for 45mins in the rain). Loving living in a place where you can get home at 2am with no need for taxis.

Not sure what I made of La Nuit Blanche; it was different and free so I guess I can’t really complain!

Mary

(bisous)

p.s. sorry for how poop my photos are, it was cold, wet and I didn’t have my DSLR on me

Markets, Cake & making my way to Paris – 14th – 16th June 2014

Europe

On Saturday I barely left my bed as I felt so ill, I think my travelling was starting to catch up on me. I did eventually manage to leave at 4 in the afternoon to go to some cafes and let Nina get on with her work. That night we went into town and found a great bar to people watch from, the next bar was our chosen spot to watch the England/Italy match. Somehow we were in the perfect spot to see the game with a full room of enthusiastic men behind us and there was a table of English girls in front who needed to go out and smoke every 5 minutes because the game was ‘so stressful’. I decided England aren’t too great at football and they just want to constantly chase the ball; I can confidently say most of the boys at Otjikondo play better than them!

On Sunday I booked my travel to France(!!!) and then went to a vintage market in Mauer Park. I didn’t know the way when leaving the metro station so just followed the hipsters to wherever they went; like magic, 10 minutes later I was there. This place is a huge market; some stalls were just selling second hand clothes and unwanted things from home and others were selling handmade jewellery, badges, sunglasses, dog clothes and lots more. I could’ve walked around for hours as there was so much to hunt through but I knew I couldn’t spend too much money so I went to listen to some of the singers on the grass area next to the market. One singer told the audience how she lives in Cape Town for 4 months of each year and how much she misses it, basically, everyone loves Cape Town.
Next I went into town to catch a bus to see some of the more classic tourist sites. As I’ve been to Berlin before I wasn’t too fussed by the big buildings so just observed from the top deck of the bus… I wrote some postcards and bought a little sew on german flag which I did originally want to put on my jacket but I think I’ll get mum to put it on my camera strap and I’ll add flags from the other countries I’ve been travelling in. In the afternoon I arrived home to a hungry Nina so she took me to her favourite cake shop, Bravko, just down the road. I had a lemon pie whilst Nina had some fruity, crumble thing. We left, I packed and I said my goodbyes. It’s been awesome staying with Nina; we’ve got to know each other so much better, she has the cutest flat, she knows all the best places in Berlin, she prepares the best breakfasts every morning (fruit salad, german bread, smoothies woo) and is generally a fab host. So thank you Nina!
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I rushed to the coach station, arriving there at 6:45, really smug that I managed to get there 15 minutes before the coach was due to leave. I was then informed that I had to stand in a long queue in order to get my boarding pass. As soon as the guy at the counter filled it out (he tod me to CALM DOWN) I grabbed it and ran to my stop. I jumped on the bus with 30 seconds to spare. Luckily I hadn’t started thinking about what I’d of done if I’d missed it.
As I write this I’m sitting at the back of a coach that’s travelled from Berlin, through Belgium and we’re due to arrive in Paris any minute 😀 I have a few hours before I’ll then catch the train to Saintes. I’ll be staying with my sister, Georgie who’s living and working in Royan at the moment. I know she’ll rub it in my face that she’s more tanned than and she’ll probably complain that I haven’t bought her any presents but I’m still excited to see her after nearly 5 months apart!
Mary x