Cemetery (Dieppe and France)

Luxembourg Gardens
Well, another fun week is unfortunately done. Monday was my shopping day (I seem to be having quite a bit of these…). My goal for Monday was to get 1) a Christmas tree ornament, as I’m hoping to get one everywhere I go. And 2) a Lollipops Paris purse. I’ve always wanted a Lollipops purse ever since I saw my very first one in February three years ago. I remember it clearly: the family and I went to Hendaye for the week and the day that I decided to go to Spain, I jumped on the boat that would take me from France, across the bay, to Spain. There was a family on this boat and the mom had a gorgeous purse that I instantly fell in love with. So I got up nice and close until I saw the “Lollipops” label on it. When I got back to Rambouillet, I looked it up and went to the store, but only to admire the purses as they were way too much for my $3.75/hour paycheck to afford. But now it’s sale season, and sale season is a magical time. That day, I ended up getting my Christmas tree ornament, but I didn’t find my Lollipops purse. I however found not one, but two pairs of shoes. So now I have six pairs here… Oh geez. 

On Tuesday, I went to my favourite gardens, the Luxembourg gardens. It was a gorgeous day out but it was one of those days where you had to sit still or you would die of heat. So the Luxembourg gardens were great for that! Then I found a cute, little park in Bercy so I explored that for awhile.
On the way to the cemetery
Uncle Walter Ahrens 30/09/20-16/07/44

On Wednesday, I woke up early to catch a train to Dieppe. It’s a nice little town about two hours north of Paris, right next to the English Channel. It’s also the closest beach to Paris. And since it was 31 degrees, I think a good majority of Paris had the same idea as me. When I got there, I found out what bus I had to take to get as far south as I could. Then I walked about ten minutes outside of town to the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, a beautiful little cemetery on the countryside. There, I was able to find Uncle Walter’s grave, my Grandpa’s brother. I felt so happy to finally be there, after talking to my mom many times about going. I felt such a sense of pride, knowing that he fought for our freedom. But it was also scary to me. And what’s so scary about it? A combination of things… The fact that he was only 23, a year older than I am now. That he went to the other side of the world to fight for his country and for our freedom, never to actually return. That only a handful of people have went to see him in the 68 years he’s been gone. But I know he hasn’t been forgotten. No, I knew who he was even when I was a child. Grandma and Grandpa kept a picture of him in that guest bedroom with the pink bed and the organ, the room my sister and I always slept in. But I wonder… Was HE proud? Happy? Did he get everything he wanted in that short amount of time we call life? Did he love? Was he loved? What were his final thoughts when he looked death right in the eye? Then I wonder, if I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with the way I lived my life? I think so… But did  I do everything I wanted to? Well, no. I have never let myself love, never been loved, never had a child to call my own. But maybe because I don’t know really those feelings, I don’t know what I’m missing out on and therefore it would be okay. Because I’ve also had amazing experiences, experiences that I DO know how they feel, and they’ve made me live life to the fullest. I’ve been lucky enough to swim in the Pacific and Atlantic, ride a helicopter, travel the world, walk up the Eiffel Tower, fly a plane, zipline through Mexico, swim with dolphins, go repelling down a waterfall, find friends who love and care for me. I’m happy with who I’ve become, with the people I have in my life, and the family that I have been blessed with. It would almost seem selfish to ask for more… But I hope that Uncle Walter got everything he wanted out of life; I think he should be really proud of what he did. After the cemetery, I made my way back into town. I explored the castle, which was pretty cool, and then I went to the Canadian square. It was really neat in Dieppe because down all of the streets, there were maple leaf signs with “Dieppe 1942-2012” written on them. Everywhere there was a France flag, there was usually a Canadian flag as well. I went for a walk by the beach, which was really overcrowded, but then I found a deck that was reserved for reading. They were strict on making sure that everyone who sat on that deck was only there to read. So that was kinda cool! I went for dinner afterwards and I figured I should probably have seafood since I was by the sea. So I got some kind of fish soup and then a HUGE bowl of mussels. They were okay, but the consistency was really throwing me off. I made myself finish them though, even though I wasn’t sure if I could keep it up. Then I had dessert! I don’t even know what it was but it was delicious! Some sort of apple cake thing, so good! And then I had to catch my train. And I literally could not walk; I was way too full! That’s what the French do though; they give you a really awesome deal to get an appetizer, main dish, and dessert, and then they give you HUGE portions. And you eat the entire thing cause French food is amazing, and then you can’t move at all! That must be how I gained 25 pounds the last time I was in France…
Dieppe Castle

On Thursday, I continued my search for my Lollipops purse but ended up buying two OTHER types of purses. Then Friday, I finally became the proud owner of a Lollipops purse, yay! On Saturday, I stayed at home to watch the Olympics before Laura came. I still don’t think I’ve seen an event with a Canadian in it. Unfortunately, France only focuses on France, but I guess it makes sense since they’re fourth place in the medal standings right now. Laura showed up later that night with her friend Kelsi, so we went out for dinner before going to bed. On Sunday, we went to the Moosehead Canadian pub for poutines and then we spent the rest of the day at the flea market. That night, Laura and I went to the movies to watch To Rome with Love! Unfortunately, half of the movie was in Italian with French subtitles, so I had to translate as much as I could to Laura. It ended up being an okay movie in the end though. Today, Laura and I went to L’as du Falafel for lunch and then we just walked down the street and shopped. It was fun! It’s good to finally have someone to talk to and to enjoy my time with; I’m really happy that she was able to come! I only have less than two weeks left here so I’m going to have to figure out if I need to do anything other than shop… Miss everyone tons! Love always

Penguins & Moonboots (Paris)

Vel d’Hiv Memorial
I can’t believe I’ve already been gone for two weeks! The time goes by way too fast, but it must be cause I’m having a great time! Monday, July 16th was a very important day in history: the 70th anniversary of the Vel D’Hiv roundup, a day that wasn’t even acknowledged in France until less than twenty years ago, in 1995. Seventy years ago, 13152 Jews were arrested by the French police, who were at that time controlled by the Nazis. The victims were kept in the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a bicycle stadium, for days without food or water, before being sent to the camps. I spent the day at the Shoah Memorial, a museum and memorial of what happened during those years beginning in 1942. It was sometimes disturbing, but very moving, and I felt like I should acknowledge what happened, as most still choose to ignore it. After I couldn’t take any more sadness, I went to where the Vel d’Hiv used to be, before it was destroyed in a fire. There, in front of the memorial were many Jewish people, probably amongst them some survivors. I wondered what it felt like now for them, to show who they are with pride; I had a tremendous amount of respect for all of them and just to be in their presence felt great. For more information on this tragic part of our history, I encourage everyone to add a book to their Reading List: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. It’s an amazing book and it has also been made into a film. I think we all need to be a bit more educated about this stuff 🙂 I only remember slightly going over it in school, but not to a great extent.
Tuesday was my shopping day. I woke up nice and early to catch the train to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, which is where I used to always shop three years ago. I guess I haven’t mentioned yet but France, by law, only has two sale seasons every year. It’s against the law for any stores to put stuff on sale when it’s not during that period of time. So right now, we’re just nearing the end of the summer sale, which is why I’ve been spending so much time shopping. And the sale season is the best/worst time to come to Paris. I found out that I have no self control; I’m turning into a shopaholic! Good thing I came with an almost empty suitcase! That day, I got most of my clothes at H&M, one of my  favourite stores in Europe (it just isn’t the same in Canada).
Bois de Boulogne
Wednesday was my relaxing day. I went to the Bois de Boulogne, a beautiful park on the edge of Paris, that hardly any tourists know about. It has a small lake in the middle, where people can rent rowboats and paddle to the island to have lunch. I spent my time right beside the lake, reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a gorgeous day, and it was nice to get away from all of the mayhem that occurs in Paris.
Thursday was my Rambouillet day! The family told me to come at 7pm for dinner but I got to town at about 12 so I could spend some time walking around town and going to see familiar places. I started at the mall (of course) and did a bit of shopping there. Then I stopped at my school and headed downtown, where they were taking down the carousel! So I’m glad I at least got to see a little bit of it. I got my lunch at my usual Chinese place and took it to the castle grounds to eat. Everything was pretty much the same, it felt so good to be back! I think I got better feelings being back in Rambouillet than when I first got back to Paris. After lunch, I walked through the grounds and went to look at the castle. Then I went to my absolute favourite store (Cache Cache), which I probably shouldn’t have saved for last. Then I went to the Celtique, my café! I was pretty sad when an unfamiliar face came to take my order, but then I saw Old Guy walk out, and it brought a smile to my face. None of the other guys were there though. I got my demi-pêche and I had forgotten how good they were! It was amazing! I ended up staying at the Celtique for about two hours before it was time to see the family. My heart was racing as I got closer and closer to their house, getting to about a thousand beats per minute. I tried walking as slow as I could to try to calm myself down before I got there, but it didn’t work. And then I was there. I walked up to the front door and knocked, waited, but no one came. Then I heard a car drive up and as I turned around I heard, “Janelle!” All of the nervousness washed away and all I could feel was happiness. I gave Anne and Emmanuel kisses and then Elsa stepped out of the car. And as soon as I saw her, tears started pouring out of my eyes. I started bawling as I picked up that little girl and held her close, as she said in her high-pitched voice, “Janelle, you looked after me when I was really, really small?” That’s right. That precious baby that I met for the first time when she was four days old, whose diapers I changed, whose bottles I gave her, who I’d let fall asleep in my arms, as I tried to make as strong of a connection as I could with her so that maybe she might remember me, that sweet, little baby was now a beautiful 3-year-old girl. She’s the cutest thing and she’s such a tease, I never saw anything other than a smile on her face. And she snuggled right up to me all night and asked me to pick her up and hold her. All that worrying I did about her being too scared to talk to me because she didn’t know who I was, was completely unnecessary.
Me, Elsa, Antoine, and Alice
Alice and Antoine are pretty much the same, just three years older and much more mature. Alice is nine, oops sorry, “almost ten,” and Antoine is eight. Alice is still her talkative self, still my little helper when it comes to my French. She was always so good with making sure I understood everything at the age of six, and even now, when the adults were talking, she’d come up and say, “Do you understand what’s going on?” and her English! The parents and I can no longer speak English when we don’t want the kids to know what we’re saying. Alice picks up bits and pieces, strings those pieces together, and can figure out what we’re talking about. She even read me an English book! I was so amazed and so proud. I went and got my wallet and showed her the marble she gave me three years ago, the one I carry with me everywhere I go. And she replied with, “Just a second,” and bolted upstairs. She came back down with a piggy bank and said, “There’s only one coin in here and I’ve kept it for three years. I’ll never spend it,” as she pulled out the Canadian quarter I gave her on my last day. I was touched, that something that doesn’t seem like much to us, could mean so much to a 6-9 year old. And I was shocked that she had kept it without losing it this entire time! Antoine is the same too; he’s shy and he keeps to himself. The parents say that I’ve been the only female who’s been able to give him hugs and kisses, and who he’s actually had a real relationship with. “Antoine thinks he’ll never be able to find a girl like you,” I couldn’t help but feel flattered. I remember trying so hard to get him to open up to me, and finally succeeding. As for the family, they haven’t had an actual au pair since me. They’ve tried but Anne said she kept comparing them to me so they didn’t last long. The first lasted two weeks, and the second lasted three. Since then, they decided, “It’s Janelle, or no one.”
That night, I got to sleep in MY bed in MY room, which has now been made into Anne’s office. It was nice being back, being able to sleep in a familiar place, and being able to see familiar faces. I had breakfast with the family, helped Elsa get dressed, and did Alice’s hair, like I always used to (but this time while I was doing Alice’s hair, Elsa was doing mine). Then I said my goodbyes and went back to the train station, as they had places to go. It sucks that I only got one day to spend time with them, since they’re leaving on holidays, but it was totally worth it! I loved every minute of it! 🙂 That night, and for the next two nights, I went to the FNAC Festival. They had seven concerts every night set up on a stage outside the Hotel de Ville, and they were all free! So I got to watch singers and bands, some I didn’t know, some I knew from keeping up with the French music scene while I was gone. There were 75000 people who showed up for the festival; it was crazy! I got to see Naive New Beaters, Pony Pony Run Run, Revolver, and many others that I had never heard of before (and will have to add to my music library!). One of my favorites was We Were Evergreen so I decided to name my blog title after one of their songs. The last night and the very last concert was my favourite band, TRYO! I came early that night (the concerts start at 5:30) and I ended up getting front row! By the end, my back and legs were killing me but it was totally worth it! Anne was very jealous that she couldn’t go; she probably loves them more than I do since she’s the one who introduced them to me. The festival was a great way to spend my weekend! Now I just have to find more stuff to do before Laura comes on Saturday! I hope everything is going well at home, miss everyone tons! Love always

Let the Rain (Iceland, France, and Bastille Day)

Well, less than a week in Europe so far and I’m having a great time! My journey started off in La Ronge, when I left on Sunday after our family reunion. I arrived in Saskatoon around 6:30, unpacked, went for dinner with Ben and met up with Katie, then started repacking at around 9, tried to go to sleep at 1:30, could hardly sleep and woke up at 6:30 to go to the airport! I had to walk on the tarmac to my plane for the first time in Saskatoon, and as soon as the plane started its motor, it began rocking back and forth. And for the first time ever, I thought I wasn’t going to survive. I mean, we all know I like planes as much as I like pilots! 😉 but this one didn’t feel so great… When we got in the air, I swear the motor quit and I was just waiting for us to fall. At least that flight was only to Edmonton. I got to Edmonton as soon as they started boarding my flight to Toronto. On this flight, I watched The Hunger Games! (which was very suiting since I read the book the day before). When I got to Toronto, I finally got to eat! No, the plane didn’t serve ANY snacks, so I was starving since all I had was a muffin before I left Saskatoon. I had an amazing Indian tikka masala meal, with rice and chutney at the Beaches Boardwalk Café. Then I waited for my four-hour layover to finish so I could hop on the plane and make myself go to sleep. Like that would happen… 
Hallgrímskirkja Church
Five hours later, we were finally in Iceland (Reykjavik) at 6:30 in the morning (12:30am our time). We had to go through a second round of security when we got there, before we could be mixed with the EU passengers, it was weird. Then I waited for my luggage. And waited… And waited… And waited… And of course, nothing came. So they informed me that the next flight from Toronto wasn’t coming until Thursday, meaning they’d have to send my luggage to me in Paris once it got there. But they kindly gave me an overnight pack, consisting of a toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream and a razor, cleansing milk and moisturizer, a brush, deodorant, and an XXL white t-shirt. I then caught the Flybus to my hostel: Reykjavik Backpackers, which didn’t have check-in til 2pm. So since I had just over five hours to kill, I spent the majority of the day walking, taking pictures, and going into absolutely every store downtown. And Iceland  sure is gorgeous! I was always shocked by how beautiful something was and then I’d turn the corner and I was shocked all over again! The Hallgrímskirkja Church was absolutely breathtaking!! I noticed that the majority of the population is blonde; I’ve never seen so many blonde people in my life! So I actually fit in, even though I kind of missed being the minority in La Ronge… 😛 When I checked in at the hostel they asked, “Do you have a sleeping bag?” And I said, “No, they lost my luggage so I have nothing,” (not that I had a sleeping bag in the first place…), so they gave me free linens and towels, wahooo! Then I continued to walk around, shop, then went back to the hostel to shower. I can live without shampoo and soap, but the hardest part was not having flip flops to wear on the shower floor, yuck! Anyway, I managed to stay up until 8 and then passed out in my top bunk. When I woke up at 11pm, it was still light out, and when I woke up at 2am, it was the same thing. 24-hour sun days are kind of cool!



Gullfoss Falls

I woke up the next morning at 6:30 to get ready for my big tour that I signed up for, the Golden Circle Tour. They took us to a bunch of lookout points, to Þingvellir National Park, and then to the Gullfoss waterfalls, which were so cool!! I got drenched just walking to them, but it was sure worth it! There, I had some traditional Icelandic lamb soup, which wasn’t too bad, although I don’t think I’ve ever eaten lamb before. Then we went to the geysers of Geysir, which shoots out water because of pressure underneath the ground. The first time it happened, I jumped cause it was so unexpected. After that, we visited the Skalholt church, and then went back to Reykjavik at around 6pm. Afterwards, I just sat by the pond until my bus came at 9:30 to take me back to the airport. I later realized that I got sunburned just from sitting outside from 7-9pm, wasn’t expecting that!!

My flight to Paris was at 1am on Thursday and was only 3 hours long. I wasn’t able to sleep at all so I was quite tired by the time I got to Paris. Nothing a grand crème and a pain au chocolat couldn’t cure! I got settled into my apartment, which is in the Montmartre area, right by the Sacré Cœur. It was so good to be back in Paris, seeing the familiar metro stops, smelling the familiar smells, I was smiling from ear to ear while walking down the sidewalk. The only thing that’s changed is my ability to tell the difference between Parisians and Americans. Three years ago, an American would stand out like a sore thumb but now, someone that I think is American is actually French. Either the French got more American or vice versa because there were three ways that you could tell the difference before (not counting the extreme obnoxiousness that came from the Americans): 1) Denim. Denim used to be a no-no in Paris, but now EVERYONE wears it! 2) Converse sneakers. They used to be a French thing, now they’re an everyone thing. And 3) Hair gel. If there was a guy who wore more hair products than you, you’d know that he’s French. Now, no guys wear hair gel, which I can’t complain about. Anyway, once I got to my apartment, my first task was to get groceries, shampoo, etc. The grocery  store was awesome, seeing all the foods that I’ve totally forgotten about. I tried to remember everything Anne had taught me in the kitchen and grabbed some things to make some simple meals. After the grocery store, I made my way to H&M to get my much needed clothes. I don’t remember actually going to sleep that night but I know it was sometime between 10 and 12. I didn’t wake up the next day until 2:30pm! That day, I stayed in my apartment because I had to wait for my suitcase delivery.

Saturday was Bastille Day, the biggest day of the year!! I woke up early to make it to the Champs-Élysées for the morning parade. It was just a whole bunch of military marches and vehicles, not floats or anything like we have in Canada. I then headed to the Eiffel tower (finally!) to enjoy my lunch in the park. After that, I went to a free piano concert, cause I’m cool like that and would choose a free piano concert over a free actual concert any day. I then thought about how I haven’t touched a piano since the last time I left France, and I figured maybe I should pick it up again. Afterwards, I went to the Eiffel Tower and waited an hour and 15 minutes for the bathroom (!!) before finding a spot in the overcrowded park to wait for the fireworks to start. This year’s fireworks were disco themed, playing classics from the 70s and 80s, such as “It’s raining men,” “YMCA,” and “Funky town.” By far, the best fireworks I’ve ever seen!! Getting home was an adventure in itself, as all of Paris (and more) was trying to do the same thing. The next day, I went to church (yay!), which moved locations since the last time I was there. Afterwards, I went to the Pere-Lachaise cemetery to see Chopin’s grave, and then I went to the Sacré-Coeur to hang out for a bit before heading home.

About two weeks before my trip, up until I got to Iceland, I kept doubting myself. “My life is perfectly fine here; I’m with the people I love, what kind of crazy person decides to go halfway around the world alone?” But as soon as I made it to Iceland, I knew I had made the right decision. Now I’m just wondering what stopped everyone else from going with me… It’s so worth it! Hope everything’s going well back at home, thanks for reading!