Thursday, April 3, 2014

Paris. The dream vs the reality

It has been almost 2 months since I have written on this blog. There is good reason. Life has been a little crazy. As to be expected when it rains it pours and as a result I found myself on a train to London just to get away, refresh my soul and reset.

It worked.

Now, I am back in Paris. Things are winding down with school for the year and I am about to embark on my next journey of interning with the French Government for the Summer. I'll keep you posted on how that one goes.

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to stop and reflect on my life and what it means to be a single woman, in her 30s living in the city of love. Being an Australian in Paris who writes a blog (even if it is somewhat sporadic), I receive quite a few emails, mainly from Aussie women, asking me for advice about moving to Paris. When I receive these emails, I can sense the same hope and excitement I felt before I took the plunge.

There is something alluring about Paris.

Before I moved, I dreamed about living here. A lot.

Since childhood I had a fascination for foreign lands. I wanted to live somewhere I didn't speak the language, somewhere completely different.

So the place that became my focus was France and more specifically Paris. In 2007 I decided that was the place that it was going to be. So for 5 years I dreamed. I signed up for French lessons, googled jobs in Paris, I looked for apartments, found blogs of other young women living in Paris. I did everything I could to find out all I could about this city I so longed to call home. Then one sunny day in August 2011 when I was in Paris for a work conference, I decided now was the time. I had a successful job in Melbourne, I was happy and 29. I could get a working visa for France until I was 30, so it was now or never. I returned home, booked my flight and told my boss of my plans. He was a little shocked and convinced me not to quit my job, but instead take a year of leave without pay. So if this huge gamble didn't work out, I would have something to fall back on.

It was perfect. 

So in May 2012, I said goodbye to Melbourne and hello to Paris.

It is safe to say, that rainy day in May was the day my life changed forever. I moved here knowing no one, with no solid plans and with no real intentions to stay longer than a year and here I am almost 2 years later, still here.

I had this idea in my head when I moved here. That things were going to be like a Disney fairytale. I would find my dream job, meet a French guy, fall in love.... blah blah blah. I read Sarah Turnbull's book "Almost French" so I had an idea it may be little difficult to live here, but never did I think that it would be the hardest thing I have ever done. 

I am someone who can be described as somewhat of a Nomad. I have moved, a lot, and travelled to many countries around the world. Even some places one would say are not exactly on the safe side, but never in my life have I felt like I have living in Paris. 

Moving to France completely changed my life. The first and most notable change was giving up my career. I had been working as a Nurse and in healthcare related jobs since 2005, gaining loads of experience across difference hospitals in both Australia and the UK. So I thought it may be a possibility to work as a nurse here. Turns out because I was not 1. Blessed to have a European Passport, 2. Did not do my nursing training in Europe, and 3. Spoke French like a 2 year old, my nursing degree and 7 years of nursing experience meant absolutely nothing. If I wanted to work as Nurse here, I would firstly have to do a French test to ascertain my French level (which seemed perfectly reasonable) then go back to University and redo my nursing degree (not so reasonable). So just like that, the last 10years of Nursing experience went straight out the window and meant absolutely nothing in France. So I was left to find another solution. I looked into being a Medical Rep, but I would stumble across similar problems. Either my French level was not up to scratch, or they would not be willing to hire me as I was on a one year working holiday visa. So I did the next best thing and became a Tour Guide!

I love working as a Tour Guide as I get to spend time with people who are genuinely pumped to be in Paris, however it was a hard change. All my years of hard work went out the window and suddenly I was on a different path. I had to keep telling myself, it was my choice to move here and learn French and I would do that by any means possible, even if it meant sacrificing my career.  So with this job, came a whole bunch of new friends, many of whom were/are a lot younger than me.

OK, so the first plan of having my dream career didn't really turn out, but it wasn't bad and it was a pretty fun job to have while living in Paris. So I shifted my focus to the French men. 


If you have been a reader of my blog for a while you will know about my folly in French Internet dating. It was like watching a car accident in slow motion over and over again. I didn't walk away so much as traumatised, more so firmly convinced French men it seemed were not for me!

This all wasn't turning out as planned, so I refocused on my French. I took so many lessons, went on so many conversation exchanges I lost track and even took private lessons. After all this, I thought I would be fluent. Nope. Nada. It turns out if you don't have any French friends to practice with, you are not really going to improve. That's another thing about Paris, SUPER tough to break into the French crowd, essentially all my friends here are expats (which is AWESOME by the way) but not so great for the French. So after 10 months, I decided it was time to go home. I had applied to do a Masters degree but in my head thought it as not likely to be a reality so packed up my things and headed back to Australia.

Within a week of being home, I got accepted into the Masters degree. Of course I did. Paris wasn't done with me yet. So in August, I came back. Ready for round 2.

I thought this time around would be much easier as I knew what to expect, and in some ways it was. I knew how to do the simple things like set up my phone and banking but nothing could have prepared me for going back to study after 8 years off at a French University. Being at school 9-5 every day and working  6-10 some evenings and most of the weekends quickly burnt me out and I could find myself losing grip of my never ending happiness. 

Suddenly school and everyone in it became my world and personalities and cultures quickly began colliding. I guess that is what happens when you put over 30 people of all different ages, from 22 different countries in a confined space for a intense period of time. Friendships were quickly formed and almost as soon as some of them began, they seemed to end. I felt myself clinging to some friendships a lot longer than I would have in normal circumstances. I became so consumed by my new school life, I almost forgot I was living in Paris. I no longer had time for work, I rarely went out and saw my old friends and pretty much stopped writing. I felt like my life had become wrapped up in a mini drama in which I had a starring role. 

It temporarily got better in the new year after 2 weeks in Australia, as I had the opportunity to get some sun and the second semester of the course was only every second week. However after a few weeks I felt myself slipping again. I never seemed to have any money (the joys of being a student), I became more concerned about other people than myself and as a result, made myself sick. It was just one thing after another and I quickly began disliking my life in Paris. I became a recluse, always exhausted physically and mentally and then one day I woke up and realised I no longer recognised myself. Something had to be done, so I booked a train ticket and headed to London for some R and R.

Being in London is the next best thing to going home for me, and I spent time with dear friends laughing and chatting about everything BUT my life in Paris. It was perfect. I felt like someone had sat me on the charger and my happiness was on the rise. I spent 4 days focusing on what I had neglected over the last few months and realised only I was able to make the change. I just needed to take the time to have some perspective.

It made me realise that these are the highs and lows of being an expat. We put ourselves in these incredible situations, often nothing like what we are used to and it tests us. Sometimes we feel euphoric, other times we feel depressed. Its the normal highs and lows of life far away from the familiarity of our family and friends.

No, life has not exactly turned out how I expected it would in Paris, but it is pretty impressive none the less. We make ourselves so vulnerable when we make these bold decisions and move across to the other side of the world. Suddenly you are well and truly outside your comfort zone and you find yourself much more open and ready to accept whatever comes your way. Then if you are anything like me, beat yourself up when things get hard and are not turning out exactly as you thought they would. It is so important to keep sight of who you are and keep yourself surrounded with positive energy. 

So, I made a conscious decision when I stepped off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord that things were going to change. I would no longer surround myself with anyone/thing I felt to be toxic. I spent my 20s desperate for people to like me, but now I am in my thirties I have realised, sometimes in life people will just not like you, and you know what? That is OK!! We barely have enough time in our lives for people that we care about, let alone people we don't, so why waste precious time and energy?! 

Some things are out of our control and it is how we react to these things that make us who we really are. 

I guess this takes me back to the point of writing this post in the first place. 

Paris will challenge you to your core. I have yet to meet someone that has lived here and not felt it in some way. There is something about this place, I feel living here is like a relationship between magnets. When you are here it sometime feels like you and Paris are magnets of the same polarity and no matter what you try you don't seem to connect. Then you leave and somewhere along the line one magnet flips and suddenly you feel this uncontrollable force pulling you back towards each other.

So for those dreamers that want to live here, I say do it. You only live once, but be warned. It will not be easy. Trading in your life for Paris means sacrifice and hard work. If you can accept that your life here will not be nothing like it is at home and that a lot of the time you will feel like you are lost in translation, then go for it. It will make the times you can lay on the grass in the sunshine, gazing at the Eiffel Tower feel all the more worth while. 


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Children of the eighties

I was recently lucky enough to have a childhood friend from Australia come and visit me in Paris. We have known each other from the tender age of 4, so it is safe to say she is one of my oldest friends.

It was great to spend time with her and reminisce about the good old days while showing her my new life in Paris

On her last day in town, with Camera in tow, I decided to take some photos to commemorate her visit and following are some of my favourites.


P.S If you happen to be in Paris and want a free photo shoot, head to my 'About me' page and make sure you get in touch!




Saturday, February 8, 2014

Three days in Tunisia

Ever since I can remember I have been dreaming to travel to the Middle East and North Africa. Call me crazy but I find something incredibly alluring about the Middle East. I love history and culture and I believe some of the countries encompassed in this region are some of the most beautiful and misunderstood countries in the world.

So when a friend suggested either a day trip to Burgundy and the half joking proposal of Tunisia, I jumped on the second option with bells on. Within hours we had booked our flights and just over a week later we were on our way to Tunis, Tunisia.

Of all the places in North Africa and the Middle East, Tunisia was probably one of the countries I knew the least about. I have had a burning desire to go to Egypt (and Libya) for as long as I can remember, and almost saw this dream come true in 2006. I booked a trip to travel through Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, only to have the trip cancelled a week before I left because Lebanon and Israel went to war. Everyone seemed delighted I was not going to be venturing through the Middle East at this time, especially my parents and a couple of new friends from Iraq, but I was devastated. Especially when my passport returned with my brand new Syrian visa that was never to be used and now considering the state of events is not a place I will visit any time soon.

My Syrian visa, never to be used...

Since then I have gotten closer by travelling in 2008 to Turkey and more recently in 2011 to Morocco. I loved so much what both of these places had to offer and as a result my desire to travel through North Africa and the Middle East burnt brighter than ever before.

Tunis was everything and more than I could have expected. From the minute we landed, the people proved to be some of the nicest and accommodating people I have ever met. The fact that I found and got to play with a cat in the transfer terminal was just the cherry on top!

The day we landed was the day that Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki signed their new constitution and everyone wanted to tell us about it. It was the first thing anyone would mention when we met them and it was an honour to be there on such an important day. Within the first few hours of being in Tunis I had several conversations in French, Arabic and English, eaten my first cous cous and collected 2 phone numbers of people who wanted to show us around. Are you starting to see why I like this place so much?!

My first bowl of Tunisian cous cous
So the next 3 days were filled with adventures in the colourful Medina, delicious food, visiting the Grand Mosque, taking in the views from the cliff tops over beaches, navigating our way through ancient ruins all whilst enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

Here or some of my favourite photos from our adventure. Enjoy!



Monday, January 27, 2014

Australia Day

Happy Australia Day from Paris!!

It was a freezing cold & wet day here in Paris, but that didn't put a damper on the Australia Day festivities.

I started the day with a trip to a new cafe that I have been meaning to try out called Fondation Cafe. I was lured there with the promise of a taste of home. I was warmly greeted by Chris and quickly tucked into a coffee and the lamington I so desired and it did not disappoint. It was also a treat to sample the banana bread which I haven't been able to find since leaving Australia's sunny shores and it was perfect. They are definitely onto a winner.

It has a great vibe, and is super petite making it feel cozy on a cold Parisian day. The perfect place to start the Australia Day festivities.

Definitely felt welcome for Australia Day!

After spending a solid amount of time here, we finally decided to brave the weather and head to our next destination, Belushi's Bar by the Canal.

Belushi's is a typical backpackers bar. I am not one who would really frequent an establishment like this, but they had organised a party for Australia Day with the Triple J Hottest 100 and authentic Australian food and drink, making it the ultimate venue to see out the day.

We arrived early afternoon, found a table and settled in. We started the afternoon off with lunch of chicken schnitzel burgers with chips and kept hydrated with Australia's finest beer, Coopers. 

It was a fantastic place filled with super friendly Aussies, great music and the perfect place to celebrate with new and old friends.

All in all a fantastic day had by all. Happy Australia Day!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2013. A reflection.

2013. A reflection.

Wow, where do I begin?!

I spent the last 2 weeks of 2013 in Australia going to the beach and soaking up the sunshine, trying to recover from the mayhem that was school for the previous 3 months. It was bliss and it gave me plenty of time to relax and reflect over the year that had just passed us by.

Since returning to Paris, I have been thinking about this post and only now have figured out how to tackle it.

I don't like generalising years saying they were the best or the worst so I am just going to say that 2013 was an interesting one. A LOT happened and some decisions were made that will and have change the course of my life.

So in order to make this easier and without getting into too much detail, I have decided to do select some photos that best sum up 2013. Enjoy!


I started off the year right with a 30 day Bikram Yoga Challenge. It was tough, but I made it through!

Also in January we saw the first official snow fall of winter. It was beautiful and like a typical Australian I reverted to my childhood with excitement and wonder!


I made the decision in February to move from Paris back to Australia, so I really went out and enjoyed what time I thought I had left.

Chinese New Year Celebrations in the 13th Arrondissement.

A bizarre but extremely fun disco on the Batteaux Parisian.

Spending the weekend with a dear friend in Luxembourg.


This was the month I said goodbye to life in Paris and hello to life in Adelaide. What better way to spend my last week in Paris than to live on Ile Saint Louis?

Only to arrive back to Adelaide later that month to receive this...

April - July

So finding out I got into the Masters Program in Paris meant I had limited time in Australia, so I had to make the most of it. I spent the time Nursing and visiting family and friends.

A vintage grape harvest for wine making in the Adelaide Hills.

Socialising in Sydney.

Enjoying strangely perfect weather in Melbourne.
However my favourite times was spent with these too munchkins.


Then feeling like I just left, I was back.

Nothing says Welcome back to Paris better than this Iron Lady.


I celebrated another birthday in Paris...

....and made some wonderful new friends.


October - December

From October December, life went crazy as I tried to figure out how to be a student again. Most of the time, I just felt like this...



What better way to recover from such an eventful year than on the beaches of Australia

So there you have it. 2013 in a nutshell!

Heres to 2014 and the many adventures to come!