Looks like our weekly updates are going to be more like monthly updates! Here is what’s been going on lately…
As I had anticipated, having a routine again has been SO nice. The third or fourth day of my French classes (which are every day from 9am-1pm), I realized that the last time I had to somewhere at the same time EVERY day – that started with or without me – was high school!!
In grad school and college, I had a different schedule every day, and I normally stayed away from morning classes. At my previous job, I was responsible for getting to work on time, but once I was there I usually spent a few minutes putting away my coat, filling my water bottle, etc.
Having to show up at exactly the same time every day so that I don’t miss anything is not my forte! Now that it’s been a few weeks, I’m starting to get used to the schedule. I no longer come home every day and think, “I have to go back again TOMORROW??” Ha! It has been a really nice adjustment to having a routine again (as opposed to if I had started working full-time), in that it’s only half-days, so I still have the rest of the day to spend as I’d like (which works really well for my personality).
Also, I was able to land a nice nannying job as I had hoped. It came together really quickly, and is with an interesting French family who spent several years in Australia and India. The three children are adorable, but a bit strong-willed. They live in Montmartre, and their apartment features STUNNING views of the city. I am also getting started with tutoring – I don’t have any regular clients yet, but as it is an online format based in the US (that I can schedule when I like), it’s a really good system for earning some extra money while I’m in school.
Now on to some fun things…
The day after Valentine’s Day, several visitors arrived from the US for a Vision Trip, to learn about Whit’s team and the work they do, so that they can recruit others to come here next year. It was a mish-mashed group with people from several campuses, but we all got along well and it ended up being a really fun time meeting new people and showing them our city.
We gave them a whirlwind tour of Paris, seeing the Arc de Triomphe, browsing the Pierre Herme and L’Occitane on the Champs-Elysees, visiting the Eiffel Tower, checking out the Louvre pyramid, feasting at our favorite French restaurant, and checking out Notre Dame.
Whit and I snagged a rental car the following weekend and headed north to Normandie to spend a couple nights away for our anniversary. We stayed in the small fishing village of Trouville-Sur-Mer located on the English Channel. Our hotel was squeezed right in the middle of town, which made it perfectly situated for exploring (less so for navigating narrow streets to find parking!).
While we did wander the streets to check out the market and find lunch on Sunday, the main purpose for our trip was to view the cliffs of Etretat. On Saturday we drove the meandering country roads to Etretat, passing umpteen tiny French villages on the way.
This was my first time driving in France (nay – in a country other than the US!), and it was fairly straightforward due to the traffic being on the right side of the road, and having an automatic car. We got stuck in rush hour traffic in the city on Friday night, which was miserable, but the freeways were easy, albeit FULL of tolls! However, the scenery could not have been more picturesque!
I expected that SOMEWHERE along the way we would start to see American-style houses, apartments, or buildings. Nope! Besides the few Burger Kings, every building was made in the modern European style (straight angles, modern color palette) or was a traditional village-style house.
As we drove Friday evening, we were freaking out because the sun took FOR-EVER to set! It was a giant, full orange orb (and the colors in the sky were magnificent). We stared right at it as it set over a village on a hill… and then as we crowned the hill, there it was over an expanse of field…. and then again behind a group of trees. It seemed to us like the sun was going to stay in the sky all night! It was the same way the following night. We figured that it’s because of how far north we are? I’m not sure, but it was mind-blowing for someone used to American and tropical sunsets that only last a couple of minutes!
Our weekend away was so refreshing – spending intentional time together after months of being separated or disconnected, and getting out of the city into nature.
Eating and Drinking Out
Let’s see… what else? We got out for drinks or dinner a few times, which always feels like a huge accomplishment to me. There are SO (so so so so so) many fun/cute/adorable/delicious-looking places here, and I know we could never go to them all if we lived here for two more lifetimes. Every time we check a new place off the list, I feel like we’re making a tiny (microscopic-sized!) dent in the vast list of Parisian dining options.
Rachelle’s birthday was in December, but we finally celebrated in the beginning of March. We grabbed pre-dinner drinks at Candelaria, our favorite Mexican restaurant, had THE BEST burgers (and shakes!!) at Hamler’s Burgery, and finished the night at a hopping pub (right next to the stairs from Midnight in Paris!).
It’s snowed several times between February and March, but we’ve had a couple of warm days too. On one of them, Whit and I FINALLY hit up a brasserie (bar/café) near us. We sat on the patio outside and people-watched as we enjoyed our happy hour-priced mixed drinks – which are hard to come by in France! I didn’t realize until later that I had intended to go to the bar on the next corner, but I’m so glad we ended up at Le Grand Cerf because the drinks were SO good. (I had a Mai-Tai and genuinely felt transported to a beach somewhere.)
This past weekend, most of the team was traveling for work, leaving just me, Sandra, and Brianna. Each of us has a different dietary restriction (gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free), so I thought it would be fun for us to try some of the specialty places in the city!
It was raining so hard, but that didn’t deter Sandra from trying an iced coffee at Honor (an adorable outdoor café which would be SO fun in warm weather!). Though I didn’t get any coffee, I enjoyed walking down Rue Saint Honore for the first time and glimpsing the window displays from Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Hermes, and the other luxury shops.
Next we spoiled our lunch with treats from all-gluten-free bakery Helmut Newcake. Every time we go into a cafe, I stare at the cafe eclairs longingly. I finally got to try one, and it was incredible!! So soft and creamy! I also found – believe it or not – the FIRST gluten-free baguette made fresh at a bakery in France. I know – why aren’t there more??
Just to clarify, I have had a baguette since I’ve been in France, just not one made fresh in a bakery. To be honest, the one from Helmut Newcake was pretty disappointing. It didn’t have the signature crispy baguette texture at all. It was really just a thin loaf of bread. It was still fun to try, though!
Finally, we finished with pizza from Hank Pizza. All of their pizza is vegan, which is perfect for Sandra and Brianna. They have gluten-free options too, and the crust was fantastic. While we were sitting and chatting in the upstairs of the restaurant, we noticed that the rain had slowed down — snow?? As we moved from Hank to my apartment, the slush turned into small icy particles and then huge snowflakes! What a fun surprise to get more snow, which is pretty rare in Paris.
I realized that I was really missing the two or three big(ish) snowfalls every year that I’m used to having in Virginia, plus the many days of snow flurries in Blacksburg, and watching a huge storm roll in on the East Coast had made me jealous. I was so happy to see more snow that I spent the rest of the afternoon in my apartment reading and watching the snow fall.
Other Fun Social Events!
A couple of other highlights of the past month were attending (our first!) Oscar Party at our friends’ house. They had planned so well, and had several games for us to play as we watched, including BINGO and of course guessing the winners of each category.
I also got to visit with a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in 5 or so years! She and her family live in this part of the world, and just happened to be visiting with family outside of Paris. I took the train and a bus over to their hotel apartment near Disneyland (remind me to stay there, please! It was tres adorable!) and we caught up for several hours while the snow was falling (again, I know!).
Even though it sounds like a busy month, I think this was the most structure and routine I’ve seen since at least last June! Wow! I’m so happy that things are settling down. Definitely not settlED down, but it’s progress. I wouldn’t mind an even slower pace, but I’m happy with the rhythm and balance we’ve struck for the time being.
How have you been?? Have you tried any new restaurants lately?