Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catching Up..


Better late than never, right?

I am sitting in Jardin du Luxembourg in the gorgeous sunshine that has failed to show up in the last few weeks, feeling bad for neglecting my blog for so long -oops.
Here is a quick summary of my June.



A few weeks ago I was lucky to have a few fellow Canadian travellers stop by for a Parisian visit: my lovely cousins Carla and Becky, along with my previously mentioned friend Mary Stirling. We must have been quite the sight; four blonde girls wandering the Parisian streets, laughing uncontrollably, wiping nutella from delicious crêpes off our faces, waving at the awkward tourists in the passing tour boats as we snacked on pineapple and raspberries along the Seine; all while the cousins tried to avoid knocking over passer-bys on the street with their giant backpacks(it may have happened once or twice). Despite the chilly weather, it was such a nice day and we were sad to see it come to an end when it was time for the girls to continue on their adventure to Spain and catch up on some much needed sleep.


Mary stayed with me, however, and after catching a few Z’s for ourselves as well, we hopped on the train and made our way through Belgium and the windy Netherlands to Amsterdam for the weekend.



The city was every bit as beautiful as I remembered. We arrived a bit too early to check into our hostel and did the only logical thing there was to do to pass the time: bought candy and knockoff snuggies.



After a quick nap we headed out on the town for some shopping, dining, and exploring. We had booked tickets ahead of time to visit Anne Frank's previous living quarters and were humbled to see how fortunate and uncomplicated our lives really are.


Afterward we caught a bit of live music in one of the town's lively squares and then decided it was time for Mary's first encounter with the Hard Rock Café for overpriced drinks and appetizers. We then headed back for the night to curl up in our snuggies and sleep.


The next day consisted of lounding along the canals, more shopping, a visit to the Van Gogh Museam -most definitely worth the wait to get in- and a delicious snack of traditional Dutch waffles with ice cream! Amazing.


Mary stayed with me a few more days in Versailles and got to see as many of the Parisian sights as possible; Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacré Cœur, etc. We even had a late dinner next to the Eiffel Tower one evening, which happened to get us stranded in Paris for a while because unlike another favourite city of mine, this one actually sleeps.



Mary and I have yet to finish our European travels together; we will again be reacquainted in a couple weeks to roam the streets of London. I can’t wait!



As for life in Versailles, I have not a single complaint! My schedule is fairly simple, and the kids have been behaving a lot better for me, which makes my life a lot easier. My school, although the daily commute is a bit of a hassle, is really great and I have learned quite a bit in these past few months. My French is improving, but at a less rapid speed than I had hoped. I realized I am at a bit of a disadvantage in that area because, since I speak English at the house, I don’t exercise my grammar and vocabulary enough to have it flow as easily as I would like, but I still have another two months to continue to work on it.



Lately I spend a lot of time with a few other Au pairs in the area, and it’s so nice because we try to see as much of Paris as we can, but also enjoy relaxing in and visiting our favourite haunts –like the candy store in St. Michel where the owner recognizes and knows us well enough to give us discounts.

France has been quite exciting lately: Fête de la Musique was a blast, Le Mois Molière (where the city is filled with theater productions) happens all June in Versailles, and currently happening is the Fête du Cinema, where you get into all movies for just 3 euros! Maybe best of all though, are the summer sales in nearly every store, which are quite quickly taking care of my income for me!



The main thing I am missing back home right now is the lake! I’d love nothing more than to hop on the boat for a round of wakeboarding, bobbing, and lounging in the sun eating cherries and sunflower seeds. For now though, acquiring freckles from the Parisian sun, dipping my feet in this tiny pond, and watching the kids play with the little motorized sailboats will have to suffice!

Bisous!


Playlist of the day: Is there anyone who's NOT listening to Adele right now? Her voice gives me chills time and time again..


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Un Jour Rouge

Today was a red nails, red lips, and red heels kinda day. Unfortunately my red heels did not take the journey across the ocean with me so they were replaced by silver espadrilles -no harm done.


I usually take advantage of the weekends by soaking up as much of Paris as I can, but this Saturday I decided to spend some quality time in my current hometown, Versailles. After a bit of shopping (never enough), and wandering around town, I went to the city's focal point, Château Versailles. It was a beautiful day so I decided to view the interior another time and peruse the beautiful gardens instead.

The garden is filled with fountains, labyrinths, flowerbeds, and pathways to get lost in, but my favourite thing about the park is the mini lake in the middle complete with picnicing onlookers scattered on its banks and picturesque rowboats dotting it's surface. Ahh, perfection.



Some more of my Versailles favourites


I love the feeling of living in a beautiful small town with everything you need,
next to the big city for everything you want.


Our own version of Notre Dame


Every street feels like it is straight out of a novel
(Some days are "red shorts" kind of days)


This pool of water is right next to our house, and used to be connected to some sort of fountain. It's no longer functional but it makes for beautiful sunsets and games of duck spotting with the kids.


Gardens! Everywhere! Spring has been so gorgeous because there are bundles of brightly coloured flowers everywhere you look!

Playlist of the day: It was a Beatles kind of day.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Amoureux


Believe it or not, I, Stephanie Ardell, have fallen in love in Paris.

We met briefly a few years ago but it was only today along the Seine River that sparks flew and he really captured my heart. He is clever and witty, and although he dropped out of school when he was just sixteen, he is truly one of the most remarkably talented men I know.

Unfortunately he died 85 years ago, but he left behind many incredible paintings for me to marvel at.

(Oscar)Claude Monet is one of the most accomplished artists to come out of the eighteen hundreds and is world renowned for mastering the art of impressionist painting. Often, he painted the same scene multiple times at varying hours of the day to capture the different effects of the lighting -as if painting it once wasn't phenomenal enough. Personally, I draw a mean stick figure, but the ability to comprehend and capture the same intricate details processed by our retinas and reproduce them using only paint and a brush is mind-boggling to me.

A few of Monet's works reside between the likes of Van Gogh, Pierre-August Renoir, and Edouarde Manet; to name a few, in the gorgeous Musée D'Orsay along the Seine River. It is a fabulous museum filled with paintings, sculptures, furniture, photography, and paintings dating back to the nineteenth century (1848-1915), and I had the pleasure of visiting it today. I adored all of it (okay, the furniture was boring) but my favourite piece was this painting by my darling Monet.


This is one of his "Houses of Parliament" series, and the picture does the real thing no justice.

Although our relationship is only budding, I cannot wait to be reacquainted with my dear Claude on our future rendez-vous around Paris: the Marmotton, the Grand Palais, and wherever else I can find him!

**He has a really interesting biography, and you may be suprised to find he's quite funny! Click here to read a bit more about Mr. Monet straight from the horses mouth!

Playlist of the day: Beautiful piano stylings from Maria Mena

Saturday, May 14, 2011

La Vie En Rose

Sitting in my favourite little coffee venue in Versailles -a cute little French café called Starbucks- reading, writing, blogging, and people watching is one of my favourite pastimes these days. It is just next to the town center, and close to the famous Château de Versailles, and one of the reasons I love it is because I’m pretty sure their music selection is handpicked for me daily. Sometimes it boasts beautiful French melodies, but more often –as with many shops and cafés in France- it plays familiar English music, which is always a nice taste of home for me. Some days you can hear the likes of Bob Marley, The Beatles, Aretha, or Stevie Wonder; and other days you’ll be humming along to Joss Stone, Regina Spektor, The Fray, Iron & Wine, Edward Sharpe, and Alicia Keys. Like I said, fabulous. Today, however, they are playing an instrumental version of “La Vie en Rose.”


I first became acquainted with the tune while watching Sabrina, one of my favourite Audrey Hepburn flicks. Since then, I find myself recognizing the melody all the time; whether it be on the soundtrack of another movie, on the radio while waiting for my train, or, like today, wafting from the speakers of a coffee shop. My favourite encounter with the song happened while I was wandering a small street in Montmartre and spotted a violinist serenading a young couple on the terrace of a quaint little restaurant. I eavesdropped a minute but the song was soon lost amidst the rest of the violinist’s medley. These are the kind of moments that make you fall in love with this place.




'La vie en rose' is the equivalent of 'life through rose colored glasses' as we say in english. Beautiful song, no?

Adventure to the Big City (part one)

After a few days of being in France and couple bouts of confusion with public transportation (for the record, it is always a bad sign to be the last one on the bus) I pulled myself together and weaved my way through the maze of train systems in and around the big city. The train from Versailles to Paris traveled at a slightly higher altitude than the majority of the city so I was treated to a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Cœur, La Défense, and the Montparnasse tower on my way. Thirty minutes later I arrived in Paris and my life changed forever… just kidding.




I had been to Paris before, a few years prior with my family, but we’d run into dreary weather, and I was young and not in a frame of mind to fully appreciate it. The Paris in front of me was unrecognizable to the rainy, exhausting Paris from my memories and I loved it immediately. It was bursting with energy, mystique, and wayyy too many tourists (it’s my blog -I’ll be a hypocrite if I want to). I suppose the sunshine’s endorphin-inducing rays peeking out from behind all the beautifully architecture of the surrounding buildings didn’t hurt either.




I spent the day doing a bit of shopping –a dangerous thing in Paris, sipping cappuccinos, and wandering around getting hopelessly lost without a single worry in sight. Everything was fantastic aside from for the little “shortcut” I took which led me to an…interesting… neighborhood where the shop titles no longer boasted “Lanvin” and “Dior”, but “Afro King” and “Fried Chicken Express.” Oops. After deciding against getting a weave or having my nails “did,” and dodging the questioning glances being sent my way, I found my way out and continued on with my adventure. A few minutes later I stumbled upon Place Vendome (A piazza boasting many shops I’ll never be able to afford) and it was uphill from there. Place Vendome is just off of Rue de Rivoli(another shopping street) which leads directly to the Touleries, a giant gorgeous park that houses the Louvre, which is proceeded by the Place de la Concorde and Champs-Élysées, which of course wraps up under the Arche De Triomphe. After taking my fill of picturesfor the day, my giant tourist magnet of a map and I were making our way to this tower -maybe you’ve heard of it.. Eiffel something rather- when the clouds got a bit heavy and began to drip, ending my first adventure to the big city.




Playlist of the day: Florence and the Machine

Je Suis À Danemark!

So this past weekend I was in Denmark visiting my good friend, Miss Mary Stirling! It was quite lovely, and GREAT to hang out with a familiar Canadian face!

I got to take a peak into Mary's Danish life; meet her friends, crash in her apartment, visit her campus, and wander the streets of her beloved Copenhagen where I graciously helped her spend all her money on clothes.



Alright. First things first. I'm famished. Jealous?

Hittin' the shops!

Day 2: Miss Stirling giving me the tour

Picture perfect day at one of Copenhagen's beautiful harbours

So ecstatic to be in the presence of the "Little Mermaid."
Very Famous; Less than Impressive. But Canada has a
giant bronze statue of an ugly spider so I guess we're in no position to ridicule.

New Harbor (Nyhavn)

Lounging along the canal

Very expensive, but so worth it! Mmm..

Another day in Copenhagen

Lovely. So many bikes!

Copenhagen's Famous Tivoli Gardens

At the airport, waiting for my flight. The barista liked me more than Mary; she drew a heart and a smile on my soy latté


After a great weekend with the ever hospitable Mary, I was excited to head back. Although the fashion was to die for, I found myself missing France, especially the language! Ahh.. home sweet home.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Petite Fille Drôle

Never fear! I have a few posts in the works but not quite ready to be published yet. Here is a video to keep you entertained until then.

video

Best impression I have ever heard of a dolphin: 0:13