How to Become an Au Pair in France

How to Become an Au Pair in France

One of the biggest reasons people visit my blog is to find out how to become an au pair in France. So today we are hearing from Marianne, an American au pair who is currently working in Brittany, France.

Here she walks us through every single step of the au pair application and tells us about her living situation in Brittany.

As many of you may know, I was an au pair in Paris, France back in 2012-13, so this is a post I’m super excited to share with you. Take it away, Marianne!

How to Become an Au Pair in France

When I started researching how to become an au pair I found that there were few resources on the internet, other than a couple blogs (some good posts I found were on Ashley Abroad, iminparisgonoles and relokate) that had really helpful pages on how to become an au pair in France.

So now that I’ve actually successfully completed the process, I thought I’d explain the process for those who’d like to do it as well. In this post I will address exactly what was needed from me, as an American, to become an au pair in France.

Just so we’re all clear, an au pair is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family’s childcare and housework in exchange for free room and board as well as a small amount of spending money.

1. Set up an account on an au pair website

First, set up an account on an au pair website – there are many of these sites that pair au pairs with families but the most popular is Au Pair World. It’s kind of like a free OkCupid for au pairs and families.

You can go with an agency where they’ll do all the work for you and match you up with a family themselves, but this is rather expensive.

I decided to make an account on Au Pair World. You can add photos, description, specifications, age, etc. Fill this out thoroughly because the more information you put, the better.

You can also search through families’ photos and bios as well as contact them directly. My family contacted me directly but this will vary case to case.

2. Find a family

My advice as far as picking a family: get to know them. Send emails back and forth, Skype with them, seriously think whether you could live with this family for a whole year.

How well do you feel like you can talk to them? Are they in a location that you like? This is your time to be picky because you don’t want to get there and find out that you’re unhappy in the situation.

In my case I almost agreed to be an au pair to one family merely because they were the first family to express interest in me. But when I skyped for the first time with my current family, I knew they were the ones. Even though we spoke to each other through garbled English and broken French, we could relate to each other and we found a way to communicate.

How to Become an Au Pair in France

3. Figure Out Which Visa You Need Based on your Nationality

If you are a citizen of the EU/EFTA (this link will tell you whether or not you are one) then follow these instructions. However if you’re not a citizen of the EU (like myself, if you’re from the United States) then continue with my steps.

4. Apply for Your Passport

This is kind of a given, but make sure you have a passport otherwise you won’t get very far. You can get the form online and apply for the passport in most post offices. They’ll even take your picture there!

5. Translate Your Diplomas

You’ll need to get copies of your diplomas (a good idea is to include both high school and college if you went to both) translated into French. I used OneHourTranslation because it was the cheapest translation service I could find ($.072 c. per word!) and they have it translated in under an hour.

Other services are much more expensive. I’ve heard that some people have just plugged the diplomas into Google Translate and they were fine, but this wasn’t something I wanted to bet on so I went with onehourtranslation. I ended up spending something like $10 to translate both my High School and College Diplomas.

[Editor’s note- I used Google Translate and it was totally fine. But of course I understand if you’d rather use a more reliable service.]

6. Make an Appointment With A Doctor

You will need to get a signed medical certificate that states that you are in good health. You can get a copy of the health certificate on the AuPairWorld website here.

Call your doctor and ask for a general physical, then bring the certificate you downloaded and printed out and have them sign it. If you don’t have a doctor – you can get a physical at most Planned Parenthood centers.

The only thing is this is a bit tricky – you can’t have the signed date be any more than three months away from the date you’ll be arriving in France.

How to Become an Au Pair in France

7. Ask Host Family To Register You In A French Language Course

To receive an au pair visa in France means the visa you will apply for will be a long-stay student visa. In order to receive a student visa you must be enrolled in a French language course. These are fairly easy courses of all levels, designed for people who are learning French as a foreign language.

Make sure that your family signs you up for a class otherwise you won’t be able to get your visa. 

8. Sign the Au Pair Contract and Send the Documents

Once you have found a family, they will send you over the au pair contract to sign. Scanning and emailing will work just fine, no need to actually post documents overseas.

Make sure you are very detailed in the description of your duties in the au pair contract. You want to make sure that you won’t end up being a maid for the family, or doing things that you may not have agreed to.

Be very clear and ask your questions now. Then when you’re done, scan and email the documents back to the family. Make sure you include all the following documents:

  • Au pair contract, signed by both parties
  • A copy of your diplomas, translated into French
  • A health certificate signed by a doctor, saying that you are in good health.
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • Motivation letter written in French (one page, totally okay to write in English then translate with Google Translate).

9. Host Family Takes Documents to be Approved

The host family will take the necessary documents to be approved. Once approved see #9. This can be a pain as the DIRRECTE may ask for additional documents to be sent.

For me, I ended up also needing to send a copy of my current resume and proof that I took French language classes. I used screenshots from the online portal at the university I had attended, but a transcript could work as well.

10. Have Host Family Mail Approved Contract and Certificate of Enrollment

You’ll need to have your host family mail you the approved au pair contract as well as the certificate of enrollment in a French language course as you will need the originals when you apply for your visa.

My family sent it by mail and it took about two weeks to arrive. I’m not sure if you can just take a scanned, approved contract to get your visa, but it was not something I wanted to test out.

[Editor’s note- as far as I understand your family has to send over a paper copy of the approved contract and certificate of enrollment, which of course is a total nuisance and should be done by scanning/emailing- oh, France. At least that was my situation as well.]

11. Make an Appointment to Apply For Your Visa at the Nearest French Consulate

To apply for your visa, you need to make an appointment. Depending on the French consulate you go to you may not be able to make an appointment that is any less than three weeks out. I made my appointment for the French consulate in San Francisco in late June and the earliest appointment I could make was July 25th! Something to be aware of.

In order to make an appointment go to this page (this one links to the consulate in San Francisco – you’ll want to find the equivalent at the consulate that is closest to you – just Google “French consulate” and then the state you live in) and find the link to make an appointment.

12. Book Your Flight

Depending on the time of year flights will be cheaper. I primarily used skyscanner to find the cheapest tickets, obsessively checking it each day. It has a unique feature that allows you to browse by date to find the cheapest day to fly.

You can also look for flights through Student Universe. They provide discounts for people under the age of 26, or if you’re a student.

I found that the sweet spot for cheapest flights is to purchase your ticket about 6 weeks before you wish to fly. I ended up purchasing my tickets about 6 weeks before I was set to leave and was able to get the cheapest ticket through Student Universe.

Keep in mind that flights will be the most expensive during the summer travel months and much cheaper in the fall or winter months. 

[Editor’s note- always request that your family pay for your flight. While not all will, some do so it’s worth asking. For reference, my family paid for my ticket.]

13. Apply For Your Student Visa

In order to work as an au pair you will apply for a student visa, or long séjour mention étudiant. Allow for at least three weeks before you leave for the visa to arrive. Find the nearest French consulate near you and search through their information. I needed to visit the consulate in San Francisco, and on their website it’s categorized as “long stay visa for au pair.” They had details on how to make an appointment, how much the visa will cost, everything you’ll need to bring, etc.

If you’re going to the French consulate, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Passport valid for at least three months after your return to the US + 1 photocopy of the identity pages. Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for at least three months after your return to the US and have at least 2 blank visas pages left.

2. Processing fees ($68) – may vary for different consulates. (This changed – their website said $68 when I checked, I ended up being charged $138)

3. One application form (English version) filled out completely and signed by the applicant. This can be found on the consulate web page.

4. One ID picture glued/stapled onto the application form

5. “Au Pair” Contract approved by the French Ministry of Labour. This contract is obtained by the host family in France at the “Direction Départementale du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle -D.D.T.E.F.P.”

6. Proof of your previous studies (your most recent diplomas) – I’d take copies of both the English and French versions that you had translated.

7. Proof of registration or letter of enrollment in a language school specifying exact dates of attendance.

8. If you are not a U.S. citizen: a valid U.S. permanent residence card (“green card”) or a valid U.S. visa with valid I-94 or valid I-20, or an Advance Parole document.

9. One residence form duly filled out (upper part only) – you’ll find this on the consulate website.

10. E-ticket or reservation confirmation showing the departure date for Europe.

11. A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY – NO FEDEX / UPS / AIRBORNE EXPRESS accepted.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to make the appointment for a weekday, you’ll need all of your paperwork, and you’ll expect to wait three weeks before you’ll receive the visa. My appointment was at 9:30am, so I stayed with a friend in San Francisco.

Upon arriving at the French consulate, it took maybe 15 minutes to get everything done. They will make sure you have all of the correct paperwork, plus copies of everything. They’ll keep the copies after confirming the originals. Then I was fingerprinted and they took my photo.

I was told I would receive the visa in the mail in 2-3 weeks and I received it just over a week later. It was incredibly easy, but I hear it does not go easily for everyone.

14. Once You Arrive in France, Register With The URSSAF

Ask your host family to register you with the URSSAF. Your family may give you this ahead of time but it’s not required before you leave. You’ll just need to get it done within the first eight days of being in France. This will cover your social security and health insurance while you’re in France and your host family should take care of this for you.

15. Register with the OFII

Within three months of arrival you’ll need to register with the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration). This will make you officially a resident of France during your stay. In my case this just involved sending the confirmed OFII paperwork via the mail to the necessary administrations. The paperwork is complete when the visa office sends it back (with the visa/passport) to you. This is something very important to remember when packing, otherwise you’ll need to have a family member send it over.

I suggest bringing the paper and then handing it over to your host parents once you get to France, they will know what to do with it.

. . . . . . . . . . .

There you have it! Lots of steps and a lot of work, but with good time management and the drive to have such a unique experience, it can be accomplished. The whole process was fairly easy, considering how many things needed to be done.

 

What to Expect When You Arrive:

Expect to not be able to understand the language. Even if you’ve had French education, the actual spoken French will be very different from what you studied.

I thought that I had an alright comprehension of French and when I got to France, I found it to be very difficult to speak and understand conversations. It helped that all of the family friends that I met were very welcoming and happy to help me learn. Every family will be different so you may not have a situation that is anything like my own.

Bretagne Red Door, au pair

My situation: I live with my host family and their two children and I work about 30 hours a week, which is the max that you’re allowed to work. My host family pays for my French language classes, my cell phone, my gas for the car that they provide for me (because I drive the children to and from school), and they give me 85 euro/week. I paid for my own airline tickets.

I live with the family but I have my own living quarters. I also am welcome at all of their meals and they will purchase any food I may want. I am free to do whatever I want in my free time. On holidays that the children have from school, I have time off and I can travel freely.

My Schedule: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri: 7:30 – 9:00am and 4:30 – 6:30/7pm, Wednesday: 7:30am – 6:30/7pm. These are average times, sometimes they vary greatly. Weekends I am free.

Other examples:

Friend #1: Works 30 hours at 80 euro/week. Two very young children. Language classes and cell phone provided by the parents.

Friend #2: Works 30 hours at 100 euro/week for three boys. School is not paid for by the parents but cell phone is provided. During school holidays Friend #2 is sometimes required to travel and work with the family.

Would you like to be an au pair in France?

Marianne_au_pair Originally from California, Marianne lives in western France where she currently is working as an au pair and struggling daily with the French language. A lover of dogs, bicycling, bread, and chocolate, she does freelance marketing and web design, and writes at www.californienne.com. She can be reached by email at californienneblog@gmail.com.

French Eating Habits I’m Taking Home With Me

French Eating Habits I’m Taking Home With Me

One of my favorite things about the French is that they tend to be well-rounded: The French dress fashionably, travel, read a ton, keep abreast of politics and quite famously, eat well.

Collectively I’ve spent about a year and a half living with French families so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about French home-cooking. But returning to Paris this year reminded me of so many French eating habits I have yet to work into my daily life.

While there are many French food customs I’ll never get on board with- like oeufs en gelée (blergh) and small, sweet breakfasts, there are others, like a salad with every meal and good wine that I’m more than behind.

*Note- not every French person or family does these things, these are just food customs I’ve observed personally.

A Salad with every meal

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Salad is truly an art form in France. In fact I never liked salad until I lived there.

When I lived in France, I made a simple green salad every day to accompany the main dish at dinner. I loved how it wasn’t a question- at dinner you always have baguette, and you always have salad.

You start with fresh, butter lettuce that you wash and dry with a salad spinner three times. It’s usually from the farmer’s market and speckled with dirt so it’s important to wash thoroughly!

Then you always, always, always make the vinaigrette from scratch. (I’ve never even seen bottled dressing in France!) Here’s my recipe.

And voilà, you have a delicious salade verte!

Yogurt after every meal

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After dinner in France we would bring out an assortment of yogurts: mousse au chocolat, lemon and strawberry, among other flavors. In my opinion, yogurt is the perfect low-key, weekday dessert, and boasts plenty of health benefits as well.

Sadly, this is one French food tradition I sadly won’t be replicating in America as American yogurt is sugary, processed and terrible for you. You might as well just eat half a candy bar.

Also, if you’re ever in France, the above yogurt, Fjord, is the yogurt of dreams: thick, tangy, creamy, addictive. As in like worth smuggling through US customs.

Apéro dinatoire

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Interestingly enough, there’s actually no viable English translation for apéro dinatoire! Cocktail party with snacks? Drinks and finger food?

Essentially an apéritif dinatoîre is when you invite guests over to drink and snack on an assortment of hors d’oeuvres. You don’t “officially” serve a meal so it’s not a dinner party; it’s more of a casual, often weekday gathering that lasts late into the night.

(Fun fact- did you know no one says hors d’oeuvres in France? It’s an antiquated word.)

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Gougères, or cheese puffs, I made for an apéritif dinatoîre last year. They’re surprisingly super hard to make- this was my third batch!

Sparkling water

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Sparkling water always makes me feel kind of fancy. Plus, if you’re trying to cut out pop, it’s a healthy carbonated alternative.

Always using a tablecloth

Another thing that makes me feel a little more put-together? A tablecloth. The French never sit down to eat without one.

Epic, five-course dinner parties on the regular

Oh god. French dinner parties are so much work yet so worth it. Here’s the drill:

1. Decorate your house beautifully, with a fresh tablecloth, flowers, chic stemware and your best china. Your best china isn’t just for holidays- it’s also for impressing your guests. And turn on some music!

2. Wait for your guests to arrive- they’re always a little late. Once they arrive greet them with a kiss and serve them hors d’oeuvres and cocktails (kind of like an apéro dinatoire but with a lot less food).

And don’t forget to thank them for their gift, usually a bottle of wine or flowers. In France it’s rude to show up empty-handed.

3. Sit down to the table for the first course (entrée in French. Yep, it’s backwards from English!)

4. Serve the main course. It is imperative for everyone to rave about the food- in France people talk a lot about food. Points for serving more exotic dishes like tagine or goulash.

5. Serve the cheese course. Ideally you will have at least 3-4 room-temperature cheeses on a plate- here’s my guide on how to serve a good cheese course.

5. Serve dessert. Also, this isn’t a throwaway course- it’s a lot of work. Ideas: financier with a berry coulis, omelette norwegienne, a poached pear in a salted butter caramel sauce.

6. Serve coffee.

7. Chat about politics/sex/family life until as late as three a.m., serving up plenty of wine.

 8. Wake up mildly hungover and wash about 8,000 dishes. Each of those courses had a fresh plate, remember?

Buying good wine

Once I grow up (ha) I vow to never buy Yellowtail again- good wine is worth paying extra for, in my book. Unfortunately, good wine in the states is pricey, but in France you can pick up a decent bottle from 3-5 euros!

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Also, someday I will have a badass wine cellar like my host dad in France with a gravel floor and a million wine bottles. #seriously

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Farmers markets

Ah, I love a good farmers market, especially in France. Most French farmers markets are open two-three days a week, and serve up all the good stuff: charcuterie, seafood, cheese and fresh produce. French_Eating_Habits_Farmers_Market

More picnics

Um I think if I mention one more picnic on my blog you are all going to kill me, but really- I never have them in the states. Picnics=the best.

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A cheese course before dessert

Because… cheese.

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Eating healthy on the weekdays and indulging on weekends

This is one healthful custom I’ve observed in France. The French often eat simple foods during the week, and on the weekends indulge in pastries for breakfast, barbecues for dinner and sinful desserts. It’s the perfect mix of abstinence and indulgence.

Omelets for dinner

I’ve actually never seen anyone in France eat an omelet for breakfast! But we did often eat them for dinner with chives and other fines herbes on top. Yum!

More cheese and butter in my life

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And especially more goat’s cheese.
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My actual favorite food in the world. Also it kills me that this cost literally two euros.

Which French eating habits would you like to adopt?

Back to Paris, My Home Away From Home

Back to Paris, My Home Away From Home

After my five-week Eurotrip across Italy, Switzerland, England, Wales and Spain, I knew there was one place in Europe I still had to drop by- Paris.

As long-time readers know, I spent a year in Paris working as an au pair, drinking cider on the Seine and becoming the oh-so-clichéd American expat in Paris. I made a lot of close friends during that year, both French and foreign, so I knew I had to pay them, as well as the city I called home, a visit.

My week in Paris felt… exceedingly normal. A friend even commented, “Honestly, it feels like you just never left and still live here!”

And as I remembered, there is nothing like spring in Paris. Between the pollarded trees and the plentiful picnics, a huge part of me just wanted to say, “Forget the rest of the world trip! I’m not leaving!”

Here’s how I spent my week in Paris.

 

 

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The view from my friend’s apartment! Pas mal !

Seeing Friends

As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s visit to Europe was all about seeing friends. And see friends I did, from picnicking in Parc Monceau and the Bois de Vincennes to partying until the dawn in Oberkampf and getting a ride home on a French guy’s motorcycle. Let’s just say not much had changed.

While some nights I crashed at “The Cupboard”, my friend’s shoebox apartment, I spent most of the week with my friend Vens at his place in Puteaux. Vens was an excellent host, and we spoke about 80% French- exactly what I needed to brush up!

IMG_1617 A weeknight picnic in the Bois de Vincennes with my former au pair family. Ah, just look at those rillettes! IMG_1640 Pre-gaming on the Seine like old times. Though I have to say, the Seine’s a lot busier in summer!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Picnicking and painting nails in Parc Monceau on my last day in Paris. Wahhh.

New Sites Around Paris

Although I tried my damndest, somehow I still have not seen all of Paris’ sites. So this year I checked a few more of my list: Sainte-Chapelle, a tiny Gothic chapel, the Promenade Plantée, a railroad track turned park, and Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris.

Thoughts? I loved both Sainte-Chapelle and the Promenade Plantée but would give Musée Carnavalet a miss.

And on my next visit I still need to see the Picasso Museum and the Catacombes. Good God there are way too many tourist attractions in Paris.

IMG_7740 Views from the Promenade Plantée IMG_7699

IMG_7453 Sainte-Chapelle’s famed stained glass IMG_7468

Paying Saint-Germain-en-Laye a Visit

I couldn’t very well visit Paris and not stop by the town where I lived, now could I? I popped over to Saint-Germain-en-Laye to visit my au pair family and was pleased to see not much has changed. The château still stands proud next to the métro, the rôtisserie chicken still turn in the streets and the teenaged girls are still rocking the I’m-so-effortlessly-thin-and-gorgeous-I-don’t-even-have-to-brush-my-hair look.

I can’t help but miss my snooty but stunning little town. IMG_7577 Paris blog1

Eating French Food

While in Paris, I ahem, attempted eat light- did you see what I scarfed down in England and Spain? I still made room for lots of my Parisian favorites: duck confit, gâteau basque, baguette, my favorite yogurt ever and steak frites with a glass of red wine.

And although I’m far from a pastry lover, one morning I even had pain au chocolat. Because, Paris.

IMG_7681 Cardiac arrest-inducing duck confit with potatoes and salad. Why are salads in France SO delicious?

IMG_7558 Gâteau basque with a pistachio filling IMG_7647 The obligatoire pain au chocolat IMG_7691

Discovering My New Favorite Bar

While I admit I filled my week with lots of unblog-worthy things, this one is worth sharing!

Blog readers, meet Café de l’Industrie. If Hemingway were still alive, this is where he would hang. From the neo-colonial décor to the inexpensive wines by the glass, it’s everthing you want in a Parisian café/bar/restaurant. IMG_7766 Paris blog

Overall writing this post and seeing these photos makes me sad- I have no idea when I’ll next see Paris, a city where I’ve made some of my fondest memories. But I’d like to think I’ll be back soon enough- there’s too much calling me back not to visit.

Have you ever returned to a place where you lived abroad? What was it like?

Thank you to Vens, Laura and Rach for letting me crash! Come visit soon!

The Best of Paris Nightlife: Where to Party in Paris

The Best of Paris Nightlife: Where to Party in Paris

At the age of 22, I spent a glorious petite année in Paris. I truly had the time of my life which may have had something to do with Paris’ fantastic bar and club scene.

So when Momondo asked me to become a ‘local ambassador’ for Paris and share my favorite local haunts I thought there was no time like the present to finally share my favorite after-dark spots!

I find tourists often overlook Paris’ nightlife- which, it turns out, is on par with many other European capitals.

Rather than recommend specific bars, I want to highlight Paris’ top nightlife districts. And just for the record I’m more a fan of late-night bars than clubs, and I normally head to places where you don’t have to pay cover. (Yep, I was the quintessential broke au pair. No shame.)

So without further ado, I give you all of my favorite places to party in Paris.

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Grands Boulevards

How to get there: (Boulevard Poissonnière, metro stop Grand Boulevards)

Grands Boulevards is a hopping 9th arrondissement neighborhood with many large, multi-level bars and clubs lining Boulevard Poissonnière in Paris’ (a large percentage happen to be Irish pubs, for some unknown reason). Grands Boulevards is a great place to meet both expats and locals, and due to the proximity of all the clubs it’s easy to bar-hop there.

Tip- if you’re in Grands Boulevards during the day there are many beautiful 19th century arcades around such as Passage Jouffroy and La Galerie Vivienne.

Favorite spots: O’Sullivans, Café Oz, Truskel, Corcoran’s

 

Oberkampf

How to get there: (Rue Oberkampf, metro stop Parmentier or Oberkampf)

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Oberkampf is my absolute favorite place in Paris for a night out. It’s filled with trendy, mid-size bars big enough to dance in but intimate enough you can always find your friends. From top hits pop music at Café Charbon to sultry, jazz-dancing at L’Alimentation Générale, Oberkampf has a range of late-night dance spots frequented by a more mature crowd than Bastille or Grands Boulevards.

Personal favorites: Café Charbon, L’Alimentation Générale, UFO Bar

 

Bastille

How to get there: (Rue de Lappe, metro stop Bastille or Ledru-Rollin)

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Looking for a rowdy, early-twenty something party scene? Welcome to Bastille. On the Rue de Lappe the music is loud, the drinks are strong and the crowd is young, boisterous and slightly douchey. If you steer clear of Rue de Lappe you can find more grown-up spots like Barrio Latino- but be warned, the drinks are obscenely over-priced!

Personal favorites: Café de L’Industrie, Barrio Latino, Le Bazar Egyptien (good for smoking hookah)

 

The Seine 

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During the warmer months, the Seine is the ideal place to pre-game, socialize and practice your French. While I wouldn’t spend the entire night there, I would definitely head there around 10 p.m. with a few bottles of cider and a whole bunch of friends. Head to the quay near Notre Dame- it’s always bustling!

 

Important tips for going out in Paris:

The metro closes at 2 p.m. best it’s best to get there around 1:30 a.m., some lines close earlier than others. You can also take the Noctilien, Paris’ night bus.

Parisians dress fairly sharp when they go out but you still don’t need six-inch stilettos. (I used to wear booties or black suede boots- no dancing ’til dawn in painful heels for me!)

Pre-drink hard. In Paris drinks are expensive, at around eight euros a cocktail. They add up quickly!

Don’t feel ashamed if you indulge in a late-night Nutella sandwich… (It happens to the best of us.)

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or a hangover-curing McDonalds feast the next morning.

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On a final note this is basically the French version of my friends and I on a night out in Paris:

Where are your favorite places to party in Paris?

My Favorite Paris Food Splurge: Lunch at Pierre Sang

My Favorite Paris Food Splurge: Lunch at Pierre Sang

Psst! I’m now listed on bloglovin‘ so if you use a blog reader please follow me there!

After a year of thoroughly exploring the Paris restaurant scene,  there was still one gaping hole in my virtual foodie CV- going out for a fancy meal. So for my last lunch in Paris, I headed to Pierre Sang with my Paris-based PIC, Edna.

And in the spirit of going all out on my last day in city, we opted for the 35-euro five-course menu. When in Paris, right? (more…)

Turning Twenty-Three: A Home-Cooked Birthday Dinner in Paris

Turning Twenty-Three: A Home-Cooked Birthday Dinner in Paris

So as y’all may have read I’m now 23! But I did want to tell you about the wonderful birthday party I had last week in Paris.

After a year of living with a host-family in France, I was seriously missing being able to host dinner parties. (I love dinner parties.) So when my good friends generously lent me their house for the weekend and okayed a dinner party at their place, I invited over my scant remaining friends in Paris and started cooking.

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My French friends’ gorgeously designed abode

After an early-morning trip to the farmer’s market in town (how French!), I spent the rest of the day preparing my birthday menu and trying not to sweat to death. This year my birthday, July 21, fell smack-dab in the middle of a ninety-degree heat wave in a country that rarely has air-conditioning. Yay.

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Once the guests arrived we raised a few obligatory toasts, after which I requested that we pray. Though I’m not a religious person, during my nine months in Europe I had never once held hands at the table and prayed. And I have to say, it felt good to send some thanks up to the heavens- I really do have so much to be thankful for!

For the main course I prepared Ina Garten’s lemon chicken with croutons, and as usual Ina didn’t let me down at all… it was tasty! With the chicken I served a butter lettuce salad with shallot vinaigrette, the same one I make everyday in France.

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My lovely friends who made it to the party.

As the soundtrack of Manu Chao, Gotan Project and Jacques Brel played on, I served up the cheese course: salers, bleu d’auvergne and chèvre.

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We finished off the meal with a super-simple financier, or almond cake which I paired with a home-made apricot sauce. While I love cooking, I hate baking so I make this easy cake every time I have a dinner party.

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While my other friends left to catch the last metro, Edna stayed over for a mojito nightcap and some late-night girl talk.

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And when the couple who let me borrow the house came back from vacation, we had a lovely laughter-filled dinner out on the terrace. Then my favorite French couple gifted me a beautiful shamrock necklace, which they said was “to bring you luck on your travels.” So sweet.

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And while a small dinner party was quite a departure from last year’s birthday celebrations, it was exactly what I wanted.

 What do you like to do for your birthday?

Hot July: The Firemen’s Ball and Bastille Day in Paris

Hot July: The Firemen’s Ball and Bastille Day in Paris

Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet, commemorates the end of the monarchy in France and the beginning of a kingless French republic.

For the first time ever, I got to celebrate under the “bleu, blanc et rouge” of my adopted home country, and take part in the trifecta that makes up Bastille Day weekend: the Firemen’s Ball on Saturday night, the Military Parade on Sunday morning and the fireworks on Sunday night. (Well um… I actually didn’t end up going to the military parade but more on that later.)

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