Au Revoir Barcelona… Oh wait, it’s Adios.

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Barcelona. I arrived at 12pm Friday night from Paris and left Sunday night at 8:00. It was not enough time to see everything. But, it was enough time to see that I want to return.

I took Spanish in high school. That was a waste of four years of my life. The basis of my vocabulary when I was in Spain was Si, Hola, Adios, Gracias, and De Nada. Barcelona, like Paris, is a big city with many tourists. So, getting by with only English was easy. The problem with me was the “French mode”that I was in. I would use Oui, Bonjour, Au Revoir, Merci, and de rien more often that the Spanish words I know. It’s like when I came back to the States I instinctively said “Pardon”(in a French accent) when passing a lady in the airport. I added the “me” because I realized I was in America now. I had now become an 80 year old southern woman. So, the whole trip was me saying, “Oui, oh Si, ugh I’m sorry.” speaking 3 languages like an idiot.

P2251283.JPGNow, enough about my horrible language skills. Let’s talk about the highlight of the trip. Sagrada Familia. Now, if you have never heard about Sagrada Familia, this is a link to their website here Sagrada Familia. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudis masterpiece that has been under construction since the late 1800s. I have seen a lot of Cathedrals and Basilicas in Europe. However, this one is so detailed that it is going to be hard to beat in my mind. Everything was thought out and has a meaning behind it.

There is a Nativity side and a Passion side of the Basilica. On the Nativity Side there are three doors. Jesus in the middle, Joseph to the left, and Mary on the right

The Passion Side has columns that that are meant to look like muscles. The carvings are deliberately made to be more square or rough on this side because of what it represents.

 

The inside of the basilica was modeled after a forest. Gaudi made the columns on the inside look like huge trees. The side of the church where the sun rises has huge stained glass windows in cool tones. And the side where the sun sets is in warm tones. The light reflecting inside the Church is really what you notice. Colors dancing on all of the walls.

 

 

I took the lift up to the tower on the Passion Side of the Basilica. I researched when I bought my ticket and that at side is supposed to have a better view of Barcelona. The view was amazing! I also think the line was longer for the tower on the Nativity side. So, if you are going, maybe choose the Passion side. Overall Sagrada Familia was my favorite part of the trip because it just blew my mind. I just kept thinking about how Gaudi got thousands of people to commit for hundreds of years to his vision. He just designed something so ambitious and people are still trying to achieve his goal. Amazing.

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My favorite picture from Sagrada Familia

Saturday I needed to eat something. I had researched food in Barcelona before I left and discovered La Boqueria. It was was highly recommended by many websites and blogs. Mainly because of it’s fresh fruits and juices. Also the variety of vendors and food choices. This was a close call for my favorite thing in Barcelona. The atmosphere and the people were great. The juice was only 1 euro (at the small booth I found) Some were 1.50 euro. So, walk around a bit if you want to save money or find the best deal. There are so many vendors. Also, If you see something that looks good I suggest you get it at that moment. I saw a few things and thought, I’ll come back if I don’t find anything better to eat. After walking and not finding anything else, I couldn’t find those places even though I tried. I had to settle for some fried seafood that I didn’t really eat. But then I found some ice cream that was like heaven. So, overall it was a success.

The best thing about traveling by yourself and staying in a hostel is that you meet new people. Saturday night I got dressed and sat down in the common room. I was going to rest and then find a place for dinner. I ended up talking to some people and met a guy who was from Lafayette, LA. It really is a small world. I then had an invite to dinner and met three new people in the span of 10 minutes. That night we played drinking games with Sangria, and tons of people who were staying at the hostel joined.

Sunday I had a ticket to Park Güell for 10am. Waking up for a shower and everything before was tough because of the Sangria, but I made it there. If you don’t like to walk I suggest you take the bus from the Metro to Park Güell or take a taxi. The walk to Park Güell is about 15 minutes and it is not the easiest. It makes the views great but the walking includes going uphill. Although, the one thing I noticed in Barcelona is how Sagrada Familia and Park Güell would be easy for a handicapped or older person. Sagrada familia has ramps and an elevator for the towers. Park Güell has access to the front gate by taxi, and most of the going up you can do by ramp. That is very rare for Europe.

 

Park Güell was beautiful and the stone formations were very cool. The architecture of the buildings is interesting to look at and there is a great view. I don’t know if I would recommend going to Park Güell if you only have 2 days like I did. It is very time consuming and kind of out of the way. Very worth it if you have the time, though. I loved it. I also saw Casa Milà and Casa Batlló from the outside. I did not see the inside of Casa Batlló, but I wish I would have. The exterior was absolutely amazing. It was so interesting and cool.

Last but definitely not least, I went to Barceloneta Beach. The beach was very beautiful. There is a nice boardwalk that you can walk along to get there from the metro. There are restaurants and a big marina with huge sailboats. If you do not want to walk along the boardwalk, there is a bus that will take you strait to the beach. The bus stop is right by the metro, easily named Barcelonta. The walk is nice, but if you are crunched on time, the bus is a good option. After about a 20 minute walk you will make it to the beach. The beach in Barcelona was absolutely beautiful. I did not have the greatest experience because I decided to go touch the Mediterranean ocean. Well, the next thing I know, my jeans, shoes, and socks are soaked. So, I guess I have been in the Mediterranean ocean. It’s about the memories, right?

 

Overall Barcelona was an amazing trip. I discovered a new love of Gaudi and I made some new friends. I also answered the question Spain vs. France, which is better? I have no idea at this point. But Barcelona is a must visit if you are in Spain. It has the best of everything. Beautiful beaches, good food, nice people, great history, and amazing architecture. Definitely not as pretty as Paris, though. Every building is pretty here. I was asked about liking Paris because some people say it is dirty, which I have not noticed at all. I am told people love or hate Paris. My answer to this is that all big cities are dirty somewhere. Its like New Orleans. Don’t judge it based solely on Bourbon Street. FYI: Watch out for dog poop in Barcelona too. Except, it doesn’t make sense to me at all there because they actually have grass. So, It must be a European thing.

That’s all for now.

Besos,

Jolie

 

 

 

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An American in Normandy

Normandy was my first trip in Europe away from Paris. I went on a guided trip with EIAP-Sorbonne Nouvelle. This is a trip that is mainly for Erasmus students. (Erasmus is a EU student exchange program). The trip is also open for au pairs. I ended up being the only American on the trip. It was mainly Italian and Spanish students. Also, there a was a guy from Greece and another from Germany.

On this trip everyone spoke French to each other. My French is not great, yet. So, most of them could speak English to me. This just made me realize the difference in language skills of Europeans and Americans. We rely on English so much and do not stress the importance of learning a second language. I have spoken to people who have been studying languages for years. Many schools in America do not do that, but they should start. Anyways…

Normandy was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Even the bus ride was amazing. As soon as I saw the picturesque countryside, I had to add another thing to my bucket list. A road trip through France.

The first city visited was Honfleur. It is a very beautiful city with img_5896-2quaint streets and a marina. There was an open market and cafes right near the water. We ate lunch here and I got the recommended meal: Moules à la crème (Mussels with Cream) Which is a specialty in Normandy. If you like seafood and go to Normandy, get the Mussels. It was delicious. Make sure you order the correct thing. At first when everyone’s appetizers came out, I thought I had ordered incorrectly. We had all ordered the same entrée and I was looking around at plates of escargot and hoping that I was not getting that same plate. I didn’t! Thank you random French word that I somehow knew. Seriously, Moules? Why can’t all the normal words stay in my head?

 

img_5594-1After Lunch we headed to Deauville. There is a beach here with beautiful views of the hills. There are a lot of
shells on the beach. It reminded me of my recent trip to Florida. FYI, I tried to bring one of the shells back as a souvenir…FAIL. It broke into tiny pieces in my purse. So, I guess look for a thick shell if you do that. We also had some amazing crêpes at this place called Tutti Frutti. They have so many choices that you cannot go wrong.

After spending the evening there, we headed to Caen. This is where we stayed for the night. Before going out we took a walk to Caen Castle. It was founded by William the Conqueror in 1060. We walked to the top and had some great views of the city. The battery in my phone and Camera died at this point. Sorry, I have no pictures of any of this.

soro5276The next day we visited Mont St. Michel. There isn’t much to say about this. The magnitude of Mont St. Michel is still crazy to me. It reminded me of kings landing on Game of Thrones. It was actually the inspiration for the castle in Tangled, which got me excited. Does the fact that those are two of my favorite things to watch say something about me? I guess I really like castles. Or, I have very eclectic taste in cinema and television. Moving on now. I was not expecting a little village within MSM. It is something that you need to see if you have the time. Truly amazing.

My weekend in Normandy was wonderful. I got to meet a lot of people and see a few cities in France. I wish I could have had more time in each of them, though. I truly loved Normandy.

 

 

Packing for Paris

The anxiety of packing was keeping me up tonight so I decided I would write. Packing for a year abroad is a monumental task. I laugh when I think about all the stuff I need to bring and all of the stuff I have to leave behind. Nervous laughter? It’s really overwhelming, but I know what I need and don’t need. The problem with packing for a year is that I sit here and I say to myself “What if I forget something?” over and over. I leave in 5 days. I still think it is crazy and I’m not sure if I will believe it until I am on the plane. I’m ready to go, yet I’m not ready at all.

I have compiled list of things to bring if you plan to live in a foreign country for a long period of time. I have read many lists. I find that some of them are lacking in some categories. Here is what I have learned from research. Here is my list and tips.

Packing list for living abroad (My Au Pair Packing List)

I have categorized this for convenience.

Electronics:

  • Cell Phone
  • Camera
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • (don’t forget chargers)

Converters: There are some converters on Amazon that are 3/7.99. They are specific to country. If you are living permanently  in a new place they are perfect.

Bathroom items:

  • Clear bag and containers that will let you pack liquids to last for 1-2 weeks
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shave cream
  • body wash
  • face wash
  • moisturizer
  • Razor (I just bought a bag of disposable b/c I think I will have to buy a new one)
  • feminine products
  • Toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • makeup
  • perfume
  • hairbrush
  • straightener
  • curling iron
  • Do not weigh down suitcase with hairdryer (Unfortunately, Hair dryers do not work as well with converters)

If you have favorite bathroom items that you cannot live without get extras.

Medicine: Prescription and those you use regularly.

Clothing Items:(May vary from person to person, but here are basics)

Basics:

  • Bras
  • underwear
  • socks
  • camisoles
  • pajamas
  • robe
  • tights

Tops:

  • T-shirts
  • Sweaters
  • blouses
  • Cardigans

Dresses/skirts: Based on preferences, not a necessity

Outerwear:

  • leather jacket
  • light jacket
  • sweatshirt
  • heavy coat
  • raincoat

Pants:

  • Jeans
  • Black pants
  • leggings

Shoes:

  • Sandals
  • Flats
  • Booties
  • Tall boots
  • Sneakers
  • slippers

Accessories:

  • Scarves
  • gloves
  • hats
  • jewelry
  • purses

Presents for host family

Carry on items for international flight

  • Prescription Medication
  • Essential Medication
  • Reading material
  • Activities to keep busy
  • Pillow
  • Blanket
  • Notebook or Journal an Pen
  • Camera & Charger
  • Laptop & Charger
  • Tablet & Charger
  • Phone & charger
  • Headphones
  • Wallet
  • Passport/Visa
  • Plane ticket
  • Papers for finishing visa process (if au pair in France OFII form)
  • Makeup
  • Face wipes
  • Baby powder or Dry shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Visine
  • Hair accessories
  • Hairbrush
  • Clear bag with liquids inside
  • Scarf
  • Ear plugs
  • Face mask
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel Toothbrush set
  • Snacks
  • Gum
  • Umbrella
  • Change of Clothes(In case your bags get lost or delayed)

A lot of the lists I see tell you how many of each thing to take. I plan on taking two suitcases and a carry on. I will be taking as much as I can fit in the suitcases. 🙂

Quick tips: get the Ziploc space bags. Also, there are many rolling and packing tips on Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the great state of Louisiana…

In 11 days I will be leaving for Paris, France. It is official, I have my visa and a one way plane ticket. I have been seeing a ton of posts about comments on the floods that say, “Why would you stay there?”My response to these people is that it’s all about the people around us. They don’t get it. Please don’t get angry at the people who live in places that just haven’t experienced southern hospitality. They don’t understand that neighbor helps neighbor. Our friends are family, and we try to treat everyone with kindness.

I am going to miss Louisiana, and it is even harder to leave now.When things like this happen in Louisiana, it makes me love my state even more. I see people doing things for others and not wanting for themselves. I see friends helping clean out houses and tearing down walls. I have friends who have flown down from other states to help other friends of mine. All I see is love, kindness, and respect. I am amazed at the people of Louisiana.

The one thing I have also noticed is that friends whose houses have flooded never stopped caring about those around them. Their lives have been turned upside down, and they still are making sure those around them are helped.We put others first, and that is why I love this state and the people so much. I had one friend message me on Facebook (while his house flooded) to say he couldn’t make it to my house that day for a going away party. He did have the wrong day, but he messaged me and told me that even though there was 4 feet of water in his home. Another friend of mine had about a foot of water in her house. As soon as I found out I asked if I could help. Her first response to me was, “No, no. You have to pack.” The fact that these people around me care so much makes me wish I had more ways to help. C’mon Powerball…ugh I have to buy tickets for that to work.

In closing, all I want to say is I have some amazing friends and family. You all make me sad to leave Louisiana. Yet, you are the ones who push and encourage me to go. This State is strong and resilient. I am glad to call Louisiana home.

 

Love is all you need.
Photo Credit: Dustin Clouatre

 

Love is all you need,

Jolie

And so it begins…

I finally made it to the French Consulate in Houston to apply for my visa today. I should get the visa in 5-15 days according to the French man behind the glass. He said, “Your name is Jolie Hebert?” obviously it was to clarify for visa purposes. However, the facial expression that was added was not necessary.

I am one step closer to officially being an Au pair in Paris. It is a long process and there is a lot of paperwork included to get to the final visa appointment. But, once I got to Houston the meeting took about 15 minutes. Comical, to say the least.

The worst part was the waiting. Waiting for the French government to approve my papers and send my au pair contract. Luckily my family hired an agency to help me with the paperwork. I am going to do a blog post later that explains the process better. FOR EXAMPLE: There is a form called an OFII. Basically, you just have to bring a copy to the Consulate and get it stamped. That’s it. It is to be filled out in France. This information was nowhere to be found on the consulate website or on any blog I have read.

There is so much lost in translation. Thankfully, I am done with this part. The next step is packing. You never truly realize how much stuff you have until you have to pack it into two suitcases and one carry on. Needless to say, many clothing donations have been made.

I encourage everyone who reads this to please leave any packing tips in the comments! I will need them! More updates soon!

 

 

Tomber sept fois, se reveler huit.

To say lot has happened since my last post is an understatement.

I sent all of my papers to France. Translated, originals, copies, etc. I decided I may need to be a translator. When I paid $33/ page to translate documents, I decided that might be a good job. Who knows what the future holds?

All of my information is in France being processed. So, seeing as I don’t have a criminal record, I think I should be accepted. Waiting for the papers to get back to me is excruciating.

I have an appointment set at the Consulat général de France à Houston on July 29th. I’m praying that all of the papers that I need get back to Louisiana in time for me to go to Houston and apply for my visa.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of horrible things that happened in the last 30 days. To name a few: Dallas, Nice, and finally Baton Rouge. People are resilient, and we come together in bad times. The quote in the title is one of my favorites that reminds me of this.

“tomber sept fois, se relever huit”(Fall seven times, Stand up eight)-Phillipe Labro

A lot of people have been asking me if I am still moving. Some have told me I shouldn’t go. After everything happened in Nice, my grandmother told me that she didn’t think it was a good time for me to be going to France.

I understand the concern and I am lucky I have so many people who care about me.

However, I am still going. And here’s why.

I will not let these horrible people change the course of my life and happiness. If you are thinking of changing any plans out of fear, DO NOT do it.

Now, lets all be happy and live our dreams! Whether it is traveling the world, having a family, owning a home, or skydiving. Seriously though, “small” dreams are important, too!

Go do it and avoid ALL the people who bring you down.

LOVE,

Jolie

drems

 

 

 

Au Paris?

 

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First off… If you’re wOndering why it’s jolie in wAnderland. It’s a play on words. Wanderlust has taken over my life. Get it? 🙂

I have been dreaming of becoming an au pair in France for a while. It’s been a long time coming. Planning, saving money, and ultimately having enough courage to just go for it. I have been thinking about how I came to this point in my life. The past few years have been hard for me. Thankfully, my family and friends are amazing. I got through it because I have great people in my life. Especially my parents.  Somehow, I think I am a better person now. Who said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Kelly Clarkson? just kidding. Good song, though.

At that time,  I had a lot of rough days. Dreaming of traveling helped me get away from all that was going on. It was my happy place. I am finally in a great place, and ready to go. When I thought about how I came to the decision to be an au pair, I had reservations. I needed to make sure it was the right decision. Is this really what I want? I have thought about this for months. I am definitely ready. I still dream of living in France and traveling around Europe daily. I don’t use it to get away or to be happy. This is what I REALLY want.

I have found a family that I hope I will end up with. They are lovely. I told them about my Epilepsy and the could not have been more understanding. I already find them to be so sweet and welcoming from across the world.

I am starting all of the paperwork for my visa. Crossing my fingers and toes that everything works out. I am making lists of things to do. FYI…I don’t normally do that. I normally just go with it. Let the anxiety begin. Deep breathing begins now. Woosah.

I figured I should write a blog and I wanted to start early. I want to keep track of the process from start to finish. >Find Family >Get a Visa >Packing>Moving>Live in Paris>Travel>Etc. I want to share my experiences before and after I move.

The best is yet to come.

“Ours is a divine journey; therefore, this journey has neither a beginning nor an end… This journey has a goal, but it does not stop at any goal, for it has come to realize that today’s goal is only the starting point of tomorrow’s journey.”-Sri Chinmoy