Monday, May 30, 2011

Calm Before The Storm


I enjoyed a weekend out in the sun, catching up on some light reading. My current read is a book my co-worker Dianne gave me for my birthday... which I had actually been eyeing for almost a year!

This book, written by Elizabeth Band, is a story of how she met her husband and moved to Paris. She struggles with learning a new language, visits the lovely markets, and it follows her through dating, marriage, buying an apartment and all it entails. Tucked in the chapters are recipes that she connects with different moments in her life. Some of the ones I'm plotting to make are:
  • Fresh Mint Tea
  • Oven Roasted Pork Ribs with Honey
  • Poached Cod with Roasted Leeks and Homemade Mayonaise
  • Chocolate Creme with Creme Anglaise
  • Pasta with Fresh Peas, Arugula, and Goat Cheese
Now I'd better head off to slather another layer of aloe on.... the burn... it hurts!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What am I excited for?

Why am I so excited to move to France?

The Eiffel Tower? Gorgeous markets? The fashion? The language? No, I'm excited to be back to a place where there's fabulous pastries like these. I snapped these at a pâtisserie the last time I was in Paris, back in May of '08.

Buttery, flaky, glossy pastries. Unlike any I've ever had here in the States. Just walking into one of these shops, you inhale the most glorious scent, a combination of vanilla, bread, chocolate, it's completely intoxicating. And the best part of eating these is that you don't have to worry about your waistline, because you do so much walking, it's all compensated for ;)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Movies that Feed My Passion for Travel

The following movies are some favorite movies that have inspired my passion for travel and adventure:

Under the Tuscan Sun:
Author and book critic Frances Mayes, miserable after a hard divorce, heads to Italy on a trip her friends gave to her. On a whim, she ends up buying a fix-it-up villa in Tuscany. This movie takes you through her ups and downs while working on her house and her self. The scenery in the movie is just incredible, taking you through the countryside living of Tuscany, the busy streets of Rome, and the breathtaking Amafli Coast of Italy. Bravissimo!

A Good Year:
Greedy and selfish stock investor Max Skinner finds himself inheriting a small chateau in Provence, France from his favorite uncle, whom he has been disconnected from for many years. The movie has flashbacks to Max's summers spent in Provence with his beloved uncle, and his ultimate dilemma over selling vs. keeping the chateau. This movie showcases the beautiful region of the south of France, mainly Provence. The sweeping vineyards and quaint village cafes are so picturesque. It also stars one of my favorite French leading ladies, Marion Cotilliard, who is such a spitfire passionate woman in this movie.

Eat, Pray, Love
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert wakes up to realize that she may have it all, she's completely miserable with her life. She decides to go away for a year, first eating and enjoying life in Italy (Eat), then finding her spirituality in India (Pray), and wraps up the year combining the two in Bali (Love). Her emotional ups and downs in the movie are so humbling. The three locations they feature in the movie, will have to looking up airfare to see these things for yourself. One of my goals is to order a meal in French the same way Liz orders her meals in Italian. Flawlessly! The title of this movie is also the inspiration of the title of my blog :)

The funny thing about these three movies is that they are all actually based on books, two of them being real life stories (Tuscan Sun and Eat Pray Love) with a few changes. Peter Mayle, who wrote A Good Year, penned some of his own stories about his move to Provence, the first of which is A Year in Provence. I remember first reading this book when I was in the 7th grade and knew I wanted to go there someday.

Now readers, tell me, what movies or books inspire you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How It All Began

Everyone keeps asking me.... What made you do it? Why are you going? How did you do it?

I'm here to tell it from the beginning.

The Moment

Back in late January of 2011, I had my Elizabeth Gilbert/Frances Mayes moment. That moment that you just knew that you were unhappy with your current situation overall, where you just felt like you needed a permanent change in your life. I'm 24, I'm single, I have no kids, I have no significant other. I craved adventure into the unknown, I had dreams of getting immersed in a completely different culture. One restless night, my fingertips casually typed in "jobs that travel internationally". Among the international MBA programs, teaching English jobs, and Peace Corps results, popped up a website about becoming an Au Pair.

Become an Au Pair

For those unfamiliar with the term "Au Pair", Wikipedia states that "the title comes from the French term au pair, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use."

The lightbulb went off in my head. Why didn't I think of it before? I've known girls that have done it here in Jacksonville and they enjoyed it. In exchange for watching and teaching children, I have the ability to live in another country, immerse myself completely into the life of a family abroad. For those that know me... I love children. I've been babysitting since I was 12, I worked in daycares and summer camps, this would be a perfect opportunity to put that experience to good use.

So the first weekend in February, I posted my profile on Au Pair World. I quickly learned the main things that families were looking for.... a driver's license (many young adults in Europe don't get them until their 20's) previous experience with working with children, and some sort of basic knowledge of a foreign language. My profile had some background information on me, my hobbies, my experiences, what countries I'd like to work in, how long I want to stay, what languages I can speak, what age groups I'd like to watch after. The beauty of Au Pair World is that they have an "Easy Match" system, where they display matches for families that match your profile.

The Search Begins

My heart skipped a beat when I got my first contact from a family. I thought to myself "Wow. This is it. It's beginning. Am I really doing this?" Quickly, one after another, I was getting e-mails from across Europe. Italy, Spain, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland.... cities like Lyon, Nice, Barcelona, Rome, Geneva, Berlin, Edinburgh, and finally Paris. I knew deep down that I wanted to end up in France. I took 2 years of High School French and I've kept up with it ever since. I've been to France 3 times. It was meant to be. Every day, I'd get emails and I would begin corresponding with certain families I liked. Once it got into serious talks with a family, we set up a interview session via Skype. Of the few families I spoke with, one seemed like a good fit, but they offered the position to the girl before me (that they didn't think would accept their offer), I also had a mother of 13 year old triplets that only wanted me there to do her ironing and laundry and housework. A few interviews later, I was starting to wonder when I'd find my perfect match.

A Match, Finally

One day, at the end of March, I received an email from a family that came up as one of my EasyMatches. Right from the first initial emails we sent back and forth I had a really good feeling about this family. We had a lot in common, the mother had previously been an Au Pair in London, and they were located in the suburbs of Paris. It was clear what the family expected of me, and what they wished for me to experience as a member of their extended family. After two weeks of emails, we set up a time for a Skype session for a Friday afternoon in April. Once we began our Skype session, conversation flowed quite easily. I was introduced to the children, I'll call them O (boy, 3 years old) and M (girl, 1 year old). I spoke with the Husband, got a tour of the house, talked about some family things. At the end of our two hour conversation... it came to the point where she asked me if I would be able to give her an answer that day if I would become their au pair. And my answer was "YES." Finally, a yes. It felt so good to say it. Two months of searching and it had come to an end. I had found my host family.

Next up.... the Visa process.

Monday, May 2, 2011