|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