Monday, 5 August 2013

Last Night in Paris

A lot has happened since I sat down in my furnace of a bedroom and wrote about la petite ceinture*. I've been blogging in my head again, so I thought it was time I got some words down.

My New Life in England- not even two weeks old- has been simultaneously better than I thought it would be... and so much worse.


I want to write chronologically, so more on my New Life in England later. Right now we're going back to Paris, to the day after I wrote my last blog post...

It was my last day working for the au pair family. The mum and dad wanted 'to do' a dinner with me and the kids. They bought sushi and champagne. They gave me some random leaving presents (a dark grey t-shirt from the mum's favourite understated, over-priced Parisian boutique, some stationary in fluorescent yellow to remind me of the ten year old girl because that's 'her colour' and some stuff from the spa that the dad owns) and we talked about what I was going to with myself once I got back to England. It was almost like I was a real person, with thoughts and feelings and a life of my own.

When I got in from work, I looked around my little Cinderella Room, trying to size up the immense Packing and Cleaning job that lay ahead. Not only had my cousin driven through Paris on her way back from Geneva** and taken a huge bag of stuff back to England for me, but Clare and Kayt's boyfriend had each taken a big bag of mine back to the UK... And yet my room still looked full. How would I carry all this stuff back to England? I also needed to clean the room thoroughly, so that it would be nice for the next au pair Emily, who would be moving in as soon as I left.

The first waves of panic washed in, my thoughts like tiny stones underneath, being turned over and over.... (By the wave of water... which represents my panic... DO yOU LikE My mETaPHOR?? :D)

I had all night though, I'd be fine. Fine. Packing always takes less time than you think. I had all night.

As I was trying to decide where to start, Julia called me and asked me where I wanted to go for my last night in Paris. There was a free hip hop night on at Wanderlust... 

My train wasn't until 7pm the next day, I could go out and leave all my packing for tomorrow...

Great plan, kiddo.

Before I went out, Emily came round with some of her stuff and we drank the dregs of three gin bottles I had knocking around. It's a shame that me and Emily were passing ships in Paris- I think we would have been friends if we'd lived there at the same time. We did go out once in Paris- we got really drunk and chatted for hours and hours... just like the first time I met Chloe, the family's old au pair who found me through my blog. I wonder how the family would feel if they knew that all their au pairs met through my secret blog...

Emily had to go home around 11pm because she had her flatmate's key, so we went our separate ways at the metro station. Julia picked me up at Gare de Lyon- I waited outside that big clock that we always say is Big Ben on his holidays- and by the time we got to Wanderlust there was a huuuuge queue outside.

We decided to give it a go anyway and the line went down pretty quickly. The place was packed, but in a good way- sometimes Paris can feel like a ghost town on Tuesday nights so it was nice to be somewhere buzzing and/or banging. The outside terrace was heaving but inside was unbelievable- there was actually sweat dripping from the ceiling.

I'm glad I spent my last night in Paris at a hip hop night, it was fitting because everybody in Paris kiffes hip hop, but I've never found any good nights. It reminded me of niche nights (bassline for any Southerners reading) back in Liverpool, because all the boys were good dancers. Sometimes you go to electro nights in Paris and the boys either bop about like a fish dropped on the river bank, or they stand still with their hands in their pockets, waiting for the drugs to kick in and their inhibitions to lower so they can thrash about like the aforementioned fish...

The music was good but we couldn't stay and dance for long, because it was too hot and sweaty. It's getting hot in here. We alternated between sitting on the terrace and working up a sweat until they closed part of the terrace and we decided to move on...

I didn't want to go home and pack. Julia suggested we drive round the périphérique so I could say goodbye to Paris. It was pouring down with rain, which I loved. Industrial grey towers, the dark river and sheets of rain... That's how I always think of my Paris- Amélie meets Blade Runner.

After our drive, we went to Au Pied de Cochon- the famous restaurant that serves food all night and where everything is made from pig trotters, even the onion soup. Julia told me about the place a while ago and I really fancied the idea of rocking up at 5am for onion soup and white wine, so that's what we did. They acted like we were the shadiest people in the place, but I ask you... how many normal people do they expect to eat pig trotters at 5 in the morning? 

The onion soup was really good- largely due to the disgusting but delicious meaty stock used. Suddenly it was approaching 7am and I realised there were twelve hours left to pack and get on the Eurostar; at least two of which I knew would have to be spent at the au pair family's house, because I needed to wash the bedding for Emily.

As we waited for the bill, we counted out how much money we thought it would be. We piled some coins up on top of a ten euro note and Julia had the idea that we could whip the note away, leaving the pile of coins intact. We both had a go and failed, spreading coins all over the table and earning furious looks from the waiter. But then, just as we were about to leave, Julia whipped away the note and the pile of coins didn't move!!

About a minute later... the coins fell over. Julia said I grossly exaggerated- she claims that the coins actually fell over about two seconds after she pulled the note away. But what actually happened is: time lost all meaning. Time slowed down. I believe that's what happened and it's my blog, so that's what happened. Strange magic.

Under the disapproving glare of the waiting staff, we finally left Au Pied de Cochon and went home. It wasn't a sad goodbye because we'd been discussing what will happen when I move to London- we'll flit back and forth between the two cities all the time and the magazines will have to resurrect that little-used term Par-don (I read it once, in Glamour) used to describe young ladies who split their time between Paris and London.

So. No need to be sad, but it was a bit weird. I looked at my street- Rue de Ponthieu, no harm in telling you now I suppose- and I didn't really believe that I was returning home for the last time ever.

I slept for about three hours, then took my bedding to the au pair family's house. I played with the toddler and the ten year old while I waited for the machine to finish, then the tumble dryer... then it was really time to leave. The ten year old was crying. I guess I've been there nearly every day for two years and now she's not sure if she'll ever see me again.

I got back to my room and panic set in. I didn't know where to start. It was 2pm and my train wasn't until 7pm... No, no. Calm, calm. I had all afternoon, I'd be fine. Fine. Packing always takes less time than you think. I had all afternoon...

Sound familiar?

In the end, Emily came round with some stuff and ended up helping me, a lot. She did more cleaning than me, but I think it's for the best- I took charge of cleaning the shower and after going at it with an old toothbrush for thirty minutes, it looked more or less the same. We threw loads of stuff away, even a set of little mirrors that were stuck to the wall.

Emily had a lesson to teach at 6pm so I had half an hour on my own before I left for the Eurostar. Just me and my Cinderella Room. That little room that I've spent two years in... I've showered while Kayt and Amy cooked at the hob next to me and it didn't feel weird at all... I've cleared the floor and practiced my twerking with B... I've shared that tiny bed with so many friends and ahem, a couple of acquaintances... I've spent hours at the little fold-down table, blogging away... I've sat in that room crying my eyes out at 4 in the morning, still in my high heels and eating pasta out of the pan...

It was teeny tiny but it was my room and all my stuff was there.  I really miss it.

I took my name off the door and put Emily's name there instead. Then I shut the door behind me.

As I left the building, I put a bag of rubbish in the bins by the courtyard. The bag had split open and as I struggled to lift the lid off the bin... a mirror slipped out and smashed into a million pieces. If you've read my blog before you'll know I'm superstitious.


I was running late so didn't even have time to tell the gardienne, I just legged it out of the building in case anybody walked by and tried to make me clean up all the broken glass. As always, the Eurostar was a dream- I love, love, love the Eurostar.

I can't remember much of the journey, only that they announced the name of Kate and William's baby and anybody on the train called George was allowed to get a free drink from the buffet cart. As the train pulled into London, I put Skyfall by Adele on, so I could feel like I was in a film. It was a dramatic moment. Urban cityscape, dusk falling over London, as I arrive to my new life.

This is the end... Hold your breath and count to ten. Feel the earth move and then...

Hey! I've always said that I'm a dickhead.

TC and OJ met me at St Pancras, so I didn't have to slope off at Arrivals like a lonesome cowboy. The next day was... Secret Garden Party!! But that's another story. I don't know if I want to share it actually,  it was so fun but I don't know how I could write about it.

I probably will write about it later, right now I should go and get dressed, seeing as it's nearly 5pm. Do you know what, forget Skyfall, this song is my Travelling and Moving On song:

*By the way, I realised a few days ago that I never explained what la petite ceinture actually is- it's an abandoned railway that runs around the outside of Paris, like the périphérique. It's been abandoned for years and a lot of the railway is now inaccessible, but there's still a good bit of railway between Gambetta and the 12th arrondissement. It's used by graffiti artists, who practice their tags on the ruins of railway stations that remain. Some people use it as a green space- it's like a secret stretch of land to use, hidden between buildings and busy streets. 

There are a few entrances but the easiest is the squatted garden near Fleche d'Or, opposite Mama Shelter, in Gambetta. You need to walk down a cobbled street and look for a gap in the wall. Squeeze through the gap into a garden filled with rubbish where a Romany Traveller family are living in tents. Walk through their encampment (if they're about, it's nice to ask if you can walk through their space but they don't own it or anything) and you can climb up on to the railway. We walked all the way to the 12th and then escaped over a fence because we got a bit edgy about two guys that were walking behind us... As it happens they were really nice and had to help Shayna over the fence because she got stuck but... DON'T go on la petite ceinture alone.

**Did I mention that? She and two friends drove through Europe, along the way they got amazing tans and into trouble. I wish I could have jumped in the van with them when they were in Paris.


  1. I love that you see your life like a movie. I do that sometimes too. Why not create a soundtrack to your life?

    1. I meant to do that before I left France and put up a soundtrack to my life in Paris, but never got round to it....

  2. That was very evocative, and glad you're there safe! I like the sound of your pig trotter/onion soup. I've o ly had French onion soup once in France, and they'd have better called it "salt soup garnished with onion". Bleh.

    1. Mmmm this was definitely not salt soup garnished with onion, it was meaty onion broth garnished with bread cheese and melted cheese, I need to learn how to make it, pretty sure it would be cheap as well!

  3. No word of a lie, that Bonobo song was my 'Goodbye Paris, hello London' soundtrack too. I still miss Rue de Ponthieu, and Paris, and French boys, but maannn, London's got some good stuff too. Who's to say this is it though? When I was there a few weeks ago (gutted we missed each other!) I felt right at home and like I would move back in a second, should the opportunity arise. Anyway, congrats on the move, good luck getting settled, and when you are, look me up for a beer, or two. I won't make you cycle a Boris bike, I promise. xx

    1. Can't believe that was your leaving song! I can't imagine how I'll feel when go back to Paris for a visit, looking forward to London though, if I ever get a job/home/phone/plan. Sigh. I'm coming v.v.v soon, no point wasting my days up north, looking for jobs on the internet when I could be in London looking for them, I'll definitely look you up! But in all seriousness did you know a poor French tourist was killed on a Boris bike? So sad and also terrifying.

  4. I've been reading your blog for a long time and now that you've left Paris I get the same feeling I used to get as a kid when I finished a very long, very good book. You know, "now what do I do with my life?". Don't worry though, I'll get over it. Thanks for writing, it's been amazing. I hope you keep it up in your new life too. Take care. // Your anonymous internet friend/blog admirer

    1. Thank you, I didn't really think leaving Paris would be the end of Left Bank Manc but I guess it is, even if I keep blogging from England... I'm thinking of changing the name of the blog, which feels quite sad. Merci for commenting, I hope you still check in sometimes!

  5. Hi!
    This may sound creepy but I'm going to be an au pair in Paris this year so randomly I found your blog about 2 weeks ago and I read it all! You're a really great writer and can't wait for the new posts (and be able to comment them without the years difference, ha!)

    1. I can't believe you've read ALL my blog posts, that's not creepy- I love it! It makes me feel like my blog is a book. Good luck with the au pair job and enjoy Paris!