Happy Friday everyone! So now that I’ve shown you what I do on a day-to-day basis, I want to show you what I do on my day off.
On my days off I can generally be found wandering Paris in the rain.
Paris in the rain – yes, an undoubtedly cliché photo subject, but certainly a charming one. And let me say, it rains a lot in Paris. Whenever I see the sun I throw on my riding boots and run outside – it’s not a common occurrence in these parts!
Note to other photographers – when I lower the shutter speed enough for the subject to be blurry like the man on the bicycle, it way over-exposes the entire image. How do you avoid that?
Anyway, if you are ever in Paris, make sure to wander the city by yourself. Whether you spot the yamaka-wearing children getting out of school at the Le Marais synagogue or the tourists toting their bright umbrellas there’s always something interesting around the corner in Paris.
Have you ever wandered Paris in the rain?
And if you aren’t sick of me yet then check out my Atlas Sliced interview with Alexa Hart! In the video I talk a lot about how to become an au pair while swishing my hair like Justin Bieber and giggling.
Note: After writing this post I realized that my entire day revolves around food. And to that statement I have no defense; it’s completely true.
Today I want to give my readers a glimpse into my very glamorous life here in France. So, ready to find out what the life of an au pair is really like?
7:45 I wake up to the sounds of the family having breakfast and getting ready for school. I groggily roll back over because I stayed up too late reading.
8:20 I drag myself out of bed to prendre le petit déj (have breakfast). I pop two slices of pain de campagne in the toaster while I swirl raspberry jam into creamy Fjord yogurt. When the toast is ready I slather it with tangy goat cheese.
9:00 Catherine, the lady I work for, comes back from dropping the girls off at school. Before she leaves again for work she asks me if I can make boeuf bourguignon for dinner and shows me the recipe. I nod and fake a smile. I can make boeuf bourguignon, right? Gulp.
On her way to work Catherine drops me off in town which is awesome because I don’t have to walk 30 minutes to get to the center. I head to bookstore and buy two French grammar books for my language school, for which I begrudgingly cough up 40 euros.
9:50 Today, Tuesday, is one of the three days a week when the market is in the town plaza. I photograph the market and chat with the vendors – all of whom are more than happy to have their pictures taken, to my surprise.
Downside – most of the vendors call me madame and I begin considering preventative botox.
11:30 I realize that I’m famished so I stop at a small café for an early lunch.
I order an espresso with cream (café creme) and it tastes watered down and bitter, as it usually does in France. I sigh and fantasize about journeying to the nearby coffee kingdom of Italy for some real espresso.
While their coffee is downright terrible, the French have mastered the art of salad creation. The shallot vinaigrette on the salade parisienne I order is perfection.
Upside – the waiter repeatedly calls me mademoiselle and I feel my youth flowering again. No botox today.
12:00 I walk home listening to Mika on my ipod, excited to edit the photos I have just taken.
12:35 After a long walk home I run to my computer to begin some photo editing. And to check my Google Reader, of course.
1:00 Reading time. Orwell today.
3:00 I decide it’s time to get domestic, so I clean the kitchen and start preparing the boeuf bourguignon. Note – this is not Julia Child’s boeuf bourgignon. The ingredients are as follows – beef, tons of carrots, two onions, bay leaves and thyme. I don’t even have any wine to use!
You dirty, dirty carrots.
5:00 Zoe, the 12-year old girl I take care of, comes home from school and we rush to take the bus to her dance class.
6:00 I wander aimlessly around town for an hour and mosey over to the bakery to buy a treat for Catherine. Because I’m nice like that.
7:30 After we get home, I set the table in preparation for my favorite part of the day, dinner with the family.
8:00 I finish cooking the boeuf bourguignon, and cross my fingers that it works out. I manage to find a water bottle full of white wine so I throw some in and hope for the best.
8:30 Dinner is served. The boeuf bourguignon miraculously turns out, even though it’s the first time I’ve made it.
The boeuf is Zoe-approved. I can sleep soundly.
9:00 After the main course Olivier, the dad, brings out the cheese platter. There are the usual suspects like chèvre and camembert, but one cheese that truly stands out; a Saint-Felicien with black truffles on the inside. It turns out that truffles taste like a combination of mushrooms, the forest floor, crack and every savory flavor you’ve ever tasted times ten.
9:20 For dessert we have the little coffee-flavored religieuse pastry that I picked up for Catherine at the bakery today. Religieuese in France means nun, which is apparently because the pastry looks like a nun wearing a habit. I can’t really see that, but I try the nun and she tastes just like an eclair.
10:30 Bed-time. Before I go to sleep, I pray my culinary good luck will see me through another day.
Have you ever worked as an au pair? Would you want to?
Life update! Remember the European to-travel list I shared with you guys a few weeks ago? Well I bought a ticket to Istanbul to visit my cousin who is living there! If anyone has recommendations for what to see/do in Istanbul I would love to hear them.
So this week during my copious free time, I decided to explore the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to be known henceforth as my local castle. Fun fact – château is the French word for castle. Is it terrible I just learned that?
The castle was originally built in 1122, but was rebuilt and added onto in later years. (Wikipedia tells me the Black Prince burned it down in 1346, which intrigues me.) The only part of the castle that remains from medieval times is the cathedral, which was built in the French Gothic style. I’m no architecture whiz, but I’m pretty sure “Gothic” means lots of exterior buttresses and scary-looking gargoyles.
And the château history just gets more interesting from there; in 1638, Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was born at the castle, and during the German Occupation of France the castle served as the headquarters of the German Army.
What attracted most to the church was the chapel. I particularly loved the unusual green color of the stained glass windows.
And while I’m not religious, I love the feeling of being inside of a church. The cool stones underneath your feet. The silence and the echos.
After a few minutes of sitting and staring up at the ceiling, I realized I was completely alone.
This allowed for some actual reflection. Am I living my life well? Am I trying my best to make the most of the time I have?
In medieval times you couldn’t be arrested in a church, so thieves would sometimes hide out in them. I still feel that sense of safety and peace.
And then I did something arguably sacrilegious (please skip this paragraph devoutly Catholic readers!) – I lay flat on my back to take a photo of the ceiling. Okay, okay, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but good luck doing that in the Sistine Chapel.
And speaking of Catholics; I’ve been helping the kids with their homework and thus have been learning a lot about Elizabethan England (is it wrong I enjoy that?)
And while I had always thought Catholics and Protestants were basically the same thing, they definitely didn’t use to be. It seems that the Catholics were much more strict in their form of worship; they wanted the priests to be celibate and the mass to be in Latin (not English), for example.
Okay sorry, back to the castle.
Equally impressive are the castle’s grounds. The gardens were designed to feature panoramic view of Paris, as well as opulent Italian-style gardens.
So um… I know that you are probably dying to seeing this wonderful castle now, but please try to be discreet – some of us need to be able to partake in some unconventional cathedral photography there, you know?
Have you ever visited in the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chateau?
This week found me wandering around Paris as usual, but this time in my favorite neighborhood ever, Le Marais. I also made some time to check out my town’s local castle, which was built in 1122.
Being my typical indecisive self, I couldn’t pick the my favorite Saturday Snapshot; so readers, will you help a girl out? (more…)
I know that the Seven Super Shots were like, so 10 months ago, but I am an official travel blogger now (kind of) so here are mine. It seems I really enjoy contributing to internet memes in a belated fashion, like when I did my ABCs of Travel this September. Without further ado, my seven super shots!
1. A photo that takes my breath away.
There was something about standing over the green, wild and windblown cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula that (literally) blew me away. While in my case Rick Steves’ recommendations generally don’t work out (I will never forget that horrible fado bar in Lisbon… ever), Dingle was one place I would recommend to anyone; the people, live Irish music, Guinness and nature fit so well together.
2. A photo that makes me laugh.
I bet you weren’t expecting a photo of me in here, right?
I think if this photo had a title, it would be, “What happens when you spend too much time with a 12-year old.” My preteen sister styled this photo, and when I huffed something about how I have some dignity I need to maintain, she retorted, “Um, Ashley, I have an Instagram account I need to maintain.”
3. A photo that makes me dream.
I took this shot while gazing out the window of an antique wooden train on the Spanish island of Mallorca. I couldn’t stop snapping photos of the dreamy, uniquely Spanish scenery… until my camera died midway through the trip, of course!
4. A photo that makes me think.
While Chile is by far the most industrialized South American country I have been to, there is a rampant problem with stray dogs in Santiago and beyond. It always broke my heart to see visibly miserable dogs following people around for a scrap of food.
5. A photo that makes my mouth water.
This may come as a huge surprise to you, but I really love food. Especially French food. I struggled with choosing a photo for this category – only one picture?
Well it turns out that the food is just as good north of the border; this hot-off-the-griddle, smothered-in-whipped-cream Belgian waffle was the first thing I tasted in Brussels and it was delicious.
6. A photo that tells a story.
This is a shot of my dad driving our family’s 1957 Chris Craft on Lake Huron, where we have our family cottage. The boat has been in the family for generations and is named “Sweet William” in honor of my grandpa Bill. It’s a very special heirloom to all of us; I hope it stays in the family for many generations to come.
7. The photo that I am most proud of ( my National Geographic photo.
I worked really hard to get this shot, after hiking (or should I say crawling?) to the top of the gorse-covered Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland. I honestly have no idea how the photo came out like this, with the mountain bathed in sunlight and the background black and white – I swear I didn’t edit it to look like that! It amazed me to find a park like this in the middle of a big city; the Edinburghians are a lucky bunch.
Which one is your favorite?