My fear of ancient French elevators had me walking the seven flights of stairs to their apartment.
In front of their door I paused. I caught my breath. I prepared myself to meet my French family for the year to come, the kids I will be caring for, day after day, for 12 months of my young life.
The madame opened the door and welcomed me casually; monsieur stood in the kitchen smiling. They were both incredibly French, slim and well dressed, and much more attractive than the photographs revealed them to be.
She was dressed very casually in jeans, a long flowing tank, and a short stylish jacket. She was barefoot, in red painted toes, and wore no make-up. Still, she was quite stunning, and looked incredibly well put together all the same.
Monsieur wore jeans and a colourful dress top, and although he looked unapproachable and average looking in print, he had a gentle, well structured face, with piercing aqua blue eyes.
Their apartment is beautiful. Very simple, but extremely modern and chic. The stainless steal kitchen leads into a naturally lit living room with a view of the Seine. The living room is set up with white leather furniture to match the white walls. It connects to the dining area, where a small table sits surrounded by white and clear plastic chairs. Even their dining wear was impressive, with beautiful floral detail. One wall containing stereo equipment and a media centre was covered with a heavy beige curtain.
When they called out to the children they came out in leaps and bounds. A very thin and fair skinned boy and girl, dressed in pyjamas, each gave me a kiss on the cheek. They seemed completely unitmidated by me, and showed me their beautiful rooms with great joy. In the little girls room they both jumped up and down on the bed without rest. The small boy yelled "I'm a fireman!" and slid his way around the bed pole, his pyjama pants falling down. After the girl showed me her art book, and listened carefully as I read each painting aloud, I was called out for champagne.
The children were sent to bed, and as they left without hesitation, we began dinner. Eating with us was also the current au pair, a 23-year-old Tchèque girl, who kept mostly to herself.
Dinner consisted of the standard awkward silences, but these were mostly filled quickly with conversation. We spoke about everything from their ski holidays to journalism, from Parisian style to the fact that each croissant has around 500 calories. Pardonez moi? "But I love them!" I cried. There is no way I'm living in Paris and not eating croissants, I may as well not go shopping either.
The three courses went smoothly, champagne dancing on my tongue. Neither of them cook, but they bought lovely salads, a rich quiche, and an assortment of tarts and heavenly chocolate cake for dessert.
The couple seemed very young. Madame was slightly harder to speak to, a real business woman, but I can only see myself liking her more and more as I get to know her. Monsieur was very easy to talk to, very easy going and understanding.
When I left to see my apartment, where the Tchèque au pair is currently staying, and then to the metro, Madame handed each of us a bag from the Parisian department store Samaritiane. "Un petit cadeau." Oh my god, I thought, she works for Samaritaine. I tried not to look overly impressed, or to fall grovelling at her feet.
The Tchèque tells me that Madame often gives small gifts from work, and that her generosity is impressive. I can see this immediately. In the apartment she shows me a candle she was given, some designer perfume, and gasp, a small Dior make-up case. You have really got to love a job with perks.
The apartment is miniscule, with the worlds smallest kitchen, shower attached, and a minier than mini mini fridge. There is a small pull out bed, an armoir against the wall, and a little TV and stereo. You have to go out into the open air to get to the toilet, which is across the staircase, but everything else I need is in my room.
When the girl's cell phone rang it was monsieur. They thought it was too late for me to take the metro home, and wanted to drive me. I met monsieur at the bottom of the stairs, and he said we could either take the motorbike- which was much faster -or the car. Without hesitation I chose the motorbike. I only clinched when he said that I wasn't to bend with the bike when going around turns, but to hold my body straight up. Oh no, I thought, I'm going to tip us.
But It was sensational. Sitting on the back of the bike, helmet pressed into my head and wind blowing hard at my face. I felt like a true femme Parisienne, that I always see gracefully riding the back of motorbikes. Car rides with someone you barely know are often extremely awkward and very quiet. But this was different, with the hum of the motor in my ears, he occasionally yelled out the sites we passed.
It was the best way to see Paris at night. We went pass the Eiffel tower, lit up beside the seine, past the Opera and the night time cafés.
As I got off at the hotel, I joked about the mad state of my hair, showed my gratitude and exchanged goodbyes.
A life of fiction has become reality, and any fear I had has been replaced with anticipation.
It won't always be easy, but it will be delicous. A year of croissants, baguettes, two lively children and small designer gifts. I'm thinking a French boyfriend with a motorbike might be in order as well.