Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – 20th September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

Lounging around in my bed feeling hungover and a bit sorry for myself I decided retail therapy was in order to cheer myself up so I dragged myself to Marche aux Puces; a huge flea market in North Paris, just outside the 18th Arrondissement. I took the metro to Porte de Clignancourt (end of line 4) and followed the signs to ‘Le Puces’. Soon I was deep in streets of stalls selling clothes, antiques, furniture, dodgy fake Nike trainers, African artefacts, phone cases, flags, food, books and everything in between. It’s not just your typical french market, it has every type of stall you can imagine and it’s so so so big.

Porte de Clignancourt is where the red marker is, the purple line is the metro line 4

Porte de Clignancourt is where the red marker is, the purple line is the metro line 4

After a few minutes of nothing really catching my eye I got heckled by a guy behind a stall with crazy dreads piled on his head and surrounded by Jamaican flags. ‘Hey baby, why you na stop at mih stall? Ya nah wanna talk to ya bruder?!’ – obviously I had to go and chat to this crazy Rasta. He was clearly mad but we chatted for almost half an hour; he was raised in Jamaica, had lived in Birmingham, London, a few African countries and now Paris so we actually had a lot in common. He tried to set me up with a few of his sons (he has more than 11 kids apparently. I don’t think he knows the exact number) and told me about his 3 wives. I carried on through the market, spoke to a few other stallholders and heard some amazing stories; it was as if all the interesting people in Paris had gathered to the market. Happy days.

I picked up a few bits, you can totally barter and negotiate prices so I managed to get some bargains (by Parisian terms..)

– Jamaican flag for my wall, €4

– Sunglasses, €4

– Knife pendant choker/necklace, €3 for 2 mini knives and a little elephant charm

– 4 scrunchies, €2
IMG_3650

I’m pretty happy with what I got, I could’ve bought way more if I had the money to spare. There were a few great vintage clothes stalls but I’ve recently been buying more clothes than I need (maybe fashion week this week will change my mind though!).

IMG_3651

You have to be street smart at all times in Paris but especially at this market. You can see pickpockets walking around eyeing up your bag and there are loads of men by the exit trying to flog you mobile phones and dodgy gadgets. I chose to take a clutch as there’s may less risk of someone taking stuff if it’s tucked under my arm. I also didn’t take either of my cameras which I’m gutted about as I saw so many great photo opportunities. I think now that I know my way around a little I’ll be confident enough to take some photos next time without worrying about pickpockets.

IMG_3659Here’s a little idea of what I took with me; my Navigo pass to get around the metro, a small mirror from Primark, headphones, my tablet for music and maps, a tiny purse (I purposely didn’t bring my usual purse with cards in in case I got mugged, lol), keys and my new (old) phone. Cheers Lucinda! I also got given a leaflet about exercise classes in Asnieres Sur Seine (my town) and I’m quite interested. I’m deciding between either Pilates or Zumba; any thoughts anyone??

IMG_3618So yeah that was my morning at the market. It runs every Saturday, Sunday and Monday and I totally recommend it to anyone I know living in Paris at the moment or if you’re just on holiday.

I wore my new Primark dress, €6, baaaargain, Doc Martens in Ivory (fave thing shoes atm) and Primark clutch.

(I’ll include photos from the actual market next time yayay)

Mary x

Child’s play

Au Pairing in Paris

IMG_3579

 

A sofa is a fort, a puddle is an ocean, a blanket is a cloud and your legs are a climbing frame. One of the biggest parts of my job is to play; learn to let go and have fun with the kids. Bring on another week of using my imagination and being a kid again.

Mary x

Pros to Traveling Solo

Uncategorized

This is a bit of a different post today; I’m going to be writing about my experiences traveling or living oversees alone. Part 1!

Cape Town 2014, Sea Point

Cape Town 2014, Sea Point

My first ‘travel experience’ (not family holidays or trips around the UK) was to Namibia and I was partnered up with a complete stranger, Fran, by charity Project Trust. Luckily for us we got on so well and I could not imagine a better travel buddy and friend for our year in Otjikondo. In Cape Town I knew Callum, some people at Penthouse and no one else and I pretty much didn’t know anyone when I arrived in Paris a week and a half ago.

 There’s a million reasons why it’s great to go traveling or live abroad with a buddy or a few friends but it’s not always possible and I’m sure I can convince you that going it alone can be just as fantastic.

Pros to traveling alone

Freedom! – to do what you want, when you want. Fancy getting pizza at 3am in your pyjamas? Go for it!

Money issues – there’s never the awkward moment of really wanting to do an activity or go to an event but your travel partner doesn’t have the funds. Go alone and have a wicked time without the guilt.

Accommodation – you’re more likely to find 1 bed available in a hostel thats nearly fully booked than 2. 

Safety in numbers – believe it or not, thousands have done it before you, thousands are doing it now. Probably in the places you want to go. You’re not alone; get out and meet people in the same position as you and swap stories and memories. 

Get out of your comfort zone – do things that scare you; whether that’s forcing yourself to meet people or going to something alone.

Go on a date with a hot local – if you fall in love then stay a bit longer than planned, why not?

Embarrassment free – there’s no one to remind you of that time you (insert horrendous drunken story here)… Once you humiliate yourself enough in front of one group of travellers, move on to the next bunch.

Spontaneity – Pick a place, go. No waiting around, no arguments over where to go. Don’t like a place? Move on. Fall in love with a city? Stay.

‘Find yourself’ – LOL

You’ll come out of it a thousand times more confident, open minded and eager to explore. Plus you’ll have probably made more friends than if you’d gone with someone you knew.  

If you’re at all worried about taking that first step to travelling alone, talk to people who’ve done it and take their advice. Be safe. Enjoy it 😀

Mary x

First week in Paris – 8th September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

I can’t believe I’ve only been in Paris for 8 days. I feel like I’ve settled in so quickly, met loads of lovely people and seen some cool stuff and can’t believe I’ve got pretty much a whole year to explore this amazing city.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 22.26.55

As I’ve mentioned before, Au Pairing is a completely different world and it’s been a bit strange to fit into my role but I’ve found meeting up with other Au Pairs has been really helpful. Last Sunday I went to my first ‘meet up event’ in Paris; a big picnic organised for international students and au pairs in Champ De Mars, a park directly in front of the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t know anyone there so just sat down with the first group I saw and discovered a few English girls. We all chatted for hours over baguette and some amazing (my new trademark!) Blanc Peche wine. It might be Paris’ version of Lambrini (cheap and sweet) but I don’t care as it’s so yummy. I was so happy I plucked up the courage to go as I met some awesome people who I’ve already seen a few times again since then.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 22.45.17Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 22.45.10

My actual ‘work’ has been enjoyable, I’m learning a lot about the children and they seem to be getting used to me as their new helper/playmate/friend.

Photo on 03-09-2014 at 17.47 #5

One of the biggest challenges here is managing my time and motivating myself to work. Some of you know that I’m studying a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course at the moment and I’ve completed the classroom courses so now the rest is online. It’s 120 hours split into about 7 different units; you learn each unit then have a review at the end to test your understanding. I’m in the early stages of it; it’s interesting but difficult to find the right time to do it. I’m also trying to re learn some french using the duolingo app and website, which are both fab. On top of these i’m supposed to be applying for french lessons at a language school for 1 day a week. I obviously want to learn more french whilst here but the cost of these language schools are a bit crazy so I’ll maybe do some more research before booking. So this is my ‘workload’ but there’s a ridiculous amount of other stuff I want to get done this year;

– I’d love to do some dance teaching as I hate coming completely out of the dance bubble

– I need to get my exercise on and stop being so lazy, the plan is to join a netball club

– More photography. I haven’t touched my DSLR in weeks (I always use my mini panasonic but actually setting up a photo is painful for me now) and that needs to change ASAP

– More diary writing as I love that feeling of reading back over great / average / crappy times, months or years later

– More fashion show, events, gigs, parties, meet ups etc!

– Less time worrying about not fitting it all in. And just doing it.

Mary 

x

today's view from lunch

today’s view from lunch

Playground Politics – 3rd September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

I’m now in that circle of mummies, nannies and au pairs. The playground is ‘the place to be’ and with that comes a whole set of rules, problems and politics.

The park opposite the children’s school is honestly the busiest park I have ever seen; hundreds of children are running wild and every bench or spare space is taken up by mums and older brothers and sisters. There’s climbing framey stuff, a football pitch, skate area, mini lake, carousel ride and candy floss stall. The place is hectic.

Yesterday the children’s mother left me alone with Jude as she took the girls to shop for school supplies. Left with just a plastic tricycle, Jude and I were told we’d have about 25 minutes to play before we all met up again to go home. 

25 minutes somehow became nearly 2 hours (ouch) and I witnessed how ridiculous it is to be a parent. These were my internal questions whilst at the park with Jude.

1. Why are children so loud?

2. Why does everyone come to the same park when it’s unbearably packed?

3. If I see another child fall down (in front of me) am I obliged to pick it up/ comfort it?

4. If my child loses his balloon is he allowed to pick a random one up from the floor?

5. If there’s unwanted food or toys lying around can my kid have them? please…

6. Is it an unwritten rule to just not speak to other mothers?

7. If I see another child eating dirt so I intervene?

8. How far do I let my kid venture before I panic?

9. Do I let a mini fight happen or do I separate the angry toddlers?

10. If my child pulls his pants down in the middle of the park and says he needs to pee pee do I pull the pants up and take him to the loo or just run, pants still down, to the nearest tree? (this may or may not have happened yesterday…)

I have countless more questions but I’m hoping they’ll be answered in my next few trips. The joys of being an Au Pair.

Mary xx

Bonjour new home and new job – 30th – 31st August 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

Yesterday I left Welwyn Garden City for the third time for the next venture. This time I would be staying a lot closer to home and travelling for only 2 and a half hours to Paris.

The days leading up to the big move were hectic to say the least. I’m a huge fan of leaving things until the last minute but can do 3 days of work in 1 night if I need to. So after seeing Callum and some friends in St Albans I resided to my bedroom to clear the mess, finish up on work related (boring) things and finish packing. I managed to get an hour of sleep before leaving for St Pancras on Saturday morning. I said bye to mum, dad and Peachy and Callum stayed until I checked in. I went on the Eurostar for the first time in years and was genuinely impressed at how speedy it was to check in; I literally went straight from scanning my ticket to having my passport checked to getting on the train and leaving. I slept for pretty much the whole journey and woke up very confused in Paris. My bag weighed a tonne so I struggled getting it off and dragging it to the end of the platform, I then walked around looking lost before Jerome, my host father, spotted me and introduced me to his son Jude. We drove for about 15 minutes to their house in Asnieres sur Seine and I met Guillemette, my host mother and the other 2 children, Penelope and Faustine. 

I’ve now been introduced to this new world of ‘being an Au Pair’; there are a whole set of new rules and activities which you don’t really think about before doing it. I’m excited to start properly tomorrow as the children are lovely and my host parents are really kind.

Yesterday was spent unpacking, being shown round the house and taking a walk to the park and kid’s school. I gave Faustine a bath and read a few stories to the twins (Penelope and Jude) before going to bed. I woke up this morning to the voices of irritable 3 year olds screaming ‘mummy, muuuummy. mummy!’; it will be interesting staying in the bedroom next to the twin’s…

We took a quick trip into central Paris so my host parents could show me how to use the metro and trains; it all seems quite simple and not too different from London. Sunday’s are a bit dead as ALL the shops are closed so we came back for lunch and chill time at home. I gave the kids their presents – loom bands, DVD of The Croods, a Disney princess storybook and a sticker book before they went off for a nap.

Now I’m trying to plan my evening. I just hope I can remember my way to and from the train station as I really don’t wanna be lost and alone in Paris without a phone…

Mary x

 

Extended Family

Africa

Hello!

One of my favourite things about travelling is that most places you go, someone you know will have a friend who lives there has a friend or relative that lives or is visiting nearby. When I’m at home in England I’d never think twice about popping in to see my neighbours old school teacher because they happened to be near where I was going, but once you go abroad it’s totally normal and a nice way of feeling like you’re not completely alone in a foreign place. 

Image

Reiner Stommel – Otjikondo, 2013

My first ‘overseas family’ live in Otjikondo in Namibia. The Stommels take the place of caring parents (sometimes telling me off when it’s necessary) the teachers and hostel staff act as the greatest aunties and uncles you could ask for and the school children are like my brothers, sisters, cousins and best mates. Always there to make you laugh and they give great hugs when you’re missing home.

Image

with Tuyambeka and Joyce at a party in Otjikondo – 2012

I see the penthouse guys as my next family in Africa and the most fun to be found in South Africa. I stayed in Penthouse Backpackers with my travel buddy Fran in 2012 for 4 weeks and again with my mum and Fran in 2013. I met my boyfriend there and still go to catch up with friends and meet new people at the rooftop bar (Cape Towns best kept secret for sure).

Image

Miriam and I – Penthouse, 2014

This week I hired a car to go on some adventures (I got bored of buses…) and went to see Anna (a friend from my sixth form) and her friend Emily from Essex. I braved it and picked them up from Table View and drove to Century City, Africa’s biggest shopping centre and made it there and back alive! 

I’ve used the car to travel to Parklands to see my mum’s friends cousins who were so lovely and welcoming and made me a delicious curry. They complained that I was too fussy with food, something i’m definitely working on while away!

Gilly Stommel’s daughter (also named Gilly) lives nearby so I’ve recently gone to visit her, her husband Arnold and her son Oliver in Plattekloof. I had so much fun playing with Oliver and checking out their beautiful house. 

Being away from home doesn’t mean leaving all friends and family, it just means stretching further afield than you usually would and going to the effort of meeting up with friends of friends 🙂

Mary x

Eden on the Bay Beach – Cape Town

Africa

Eden on the Bay Beach - Cape Town

Callum took me to this beach for the afternoon, it was so quiet and the few people that were there were either jogging or walking their dogs. We sat a pub to get a quick drink and watched the sunset.