The Dream Life of Michael Pereira

_DSC7528Last year, along the expat path in Paris, I met one of the most positive and inspiring people I’ve come to call my friend. Right away I was attracted to his unique, vibrant energy and was intrigued to hear his story. And could some of his positivity rub off on me, please? (Often it does.) His name is Michael Pereira, though I choose to call him ‘Miracle Michael’, for reasons you’ll soon understand. He is truly living his dream in Paris, dancing and singing his way to the top, having created his own stage on which to perform. What’s more, Michael has close ties to spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson who I’m a great fan of. (We both recently heard her speak in Paris.) But this tale is about Michael.

How did I come to live my dream in Paris?  It’s a long story….well, not really.   I was once a real New Yorker.  You know one of “those” New Yorkers.  I would even go a step further…I was a Manhattanite.  Yes, one of those snobs that thought living in Brooklyn was akin to living in Minnesota or if someone asked me to go see them in Queens I would say, “Do I need my passport?”  I was going to live in Manhattan forever.  However 8 Years ago I had the opportunity to visit Paris and the city enraptured me.  From that point on, I visited Paris every year at least once a year.  During one of these visits as I was packing to return to my beloved Manhattan and I heard this little whisper that said, “Don’t go.”  I was baffled by this voice.  I let it go and returned to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.  Shortly after returning from that trip, I started becoming obsessed with Paris.  Searching the Internet everyday for what was going on there…apartments…festivals…new restaurants and so on.   I kept returning to Paris and every time I was there I would have this same feeling/voice saying “Stay, don’t go back to NYC.”

That whisper you keep hearing is the universe trying to get your attention. – Oprah Winfrey

I have a secret to tell, I am a meditator.  So one day in my meditation, I asked what does this thought mean “don’t go?”  What I received or heard or felt (however you want to say it) was this, “There in something in Paris that you must learn and you can only learn it there.”  Pardonez-moi?  I was puzzled but I didn’t question it.  After this, I became more obsessed with this city and was determined to live there for at least 6 months.  At that time, it was not a possibility however 2 years ago the world presented me the opportunity to live in Paris for 3 months.  I leap at the chance and was as happy as a pig in mud.  I arrived to Paris and I was living in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape dream filled with baguettes, croissants, and macaroons.  After being in Paris for as little less than a month, I made the crazy decision to stay.

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When you learn, teach.  When you get, give – Maya Angelou

My next thought was  “what will I do for work?”  I know! I would teach dance.  I was a Broadway dancer and had already taught all over the USA.  So I thought, this is a no-brainer.  I will start a class and it will be packed.  I was fortunate to already have set up some classes at 2 of Paris’ most famous dance studios.  I was sure that they would be sold-out.  Aaaah American arrogance.  On the day of my 1st class at the Centre de Danse du Marais I had the grand total of zero students.  LE OUCH!  I brushed it off and decided that it was a gift from the universe as it was my birthday and now I could go meet a new friend for a drink.  The next day came and I had 1 student, the next 0, the next 1, then 2, then for the rest of the month it would vary from 2 to 6 students.  I was disappointed but not discouraged.  I had met an American Expat and she said that she would recommend me as an English teacher at a high level school in Paris and that would help make money too.  Ok, so I thought, “”I will survive.”  I had been surviving in NYC, so now I will do the same in Paris.  No big deal.

But I did have my moments of fear.  “What happens if I fail?”  “What will happen if I can’t pay my rent?”  Oh la la!  I am lucky to have a strong support system lead by my Godmom.  She said, “If you are happy you will have no choice that to succeed.”  I trust her, so I decided “Ok Michael, onward.”  I started teaching English and I continued to teach dance where I could.  At first as a substitute when other teachers couldn’t teach and then Studio Harmonic would offer me a week here or there during vacation times.  Little by little, my classes started filling up.  10 people, 15 people.  WOW!  I was thrilled.   Then one day, I had this crazy idea that I should start a ½ day workshop on a Sunday.  I would offer a taste of American style musical theatre training.  The director of the studio wasn’t into it as they had never done anything like this but she said let’s try.  Well, it sold out in one week.  Et voila, that was the real start of Broadway In Paris.

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Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. – A Course in Miracles

You know, I never thought in a million years that I would be living a dream life but here I am.  I believe something powerful happens to a person when failure isn’t an option.  I had to succeed.  I had to pay my rent.   I never wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a star.  A big fat Broadway star with my name above the title.  Now, that never happened, I had some very rough times in NYC.  I had some really wonderful and glamorous times too but a lot of rough ones.  New York, I tell people, is like a wild animal.  You tame it and ride it or it will throw you off itself and eat you alive.  Weirdly enough, I was loosing strength and scared that NYC might bite me.  I digress; I started teaching in the States to help pay the bills when I wasn’t performing.  But little by little, I started loving it.  I loved sharing the knowledge that I acquired.  I was always a seeker of knowledge and still am.  In the performing arts I want to sing better, have deeper emotions, dance faster and bigger, etc.  So along the way, I learned from some of the best.  I also applied this desire for knowledge to life spiritually and emotionally.  I started combining these to things and saw that it was working.

If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train. – Marianne Williamson

When I started teaching in Paris, I just continued doing what I did in the states.  Being me.  Helping my students fulfill their potential.  Seeing them in their greatest light.  Infusing every situation with love.  Uplifting people.  Teaching them a different way of looking at things.  Creating a safe space.  I am a deeply spiritual guy and I firmly believe that miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.  So I try to fill everything I do with love.  It seems to be working miracles for me.  I am so grateful that this City of Light decided open it’s arms to me and shine its light on me.

Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others. – Marianne Williamson

At this time, I am really excited to start my expanding my teaching to more and different classes at Studio Harmonic, including Broadway Jazz, Tap and Ballet expanding my private voice studio and song interpretation workshops, continuing my teaching in the Studio International’s musical theatre program and my jazz concerts.  I have also been invited to teach workshops outside of Paris and I have a few other surprises up my sleeve.  Plus, coming my jazz concerts.  I really love doing those.  I take Broadway songs and do them in a jazz style.

I am ready for more miracles in the City of Light.

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Thank you for sharing your story, Michael. You can find his inspiring words on his blog, Michael’s Year of Miracles, and learn more about his dancing classes on his website Broadway In Paris. I’ll need to dust off my tap dancing shoes one day and join the fun… He also sings Broadway show tunes at local Paris venues including Club Rayé.

Be sure to follow Broadway in Paris on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also follow the adventures of Michael himself on Twitter and Instagram. He’s certain to inspire a miracle or two in your own life.

 

The Dream Life of Nichole Robertson

Nichole Robertson is one of those women I look at and wonder, how does she do it all? (And so well!) Excel at a career in New York’s high-paced advertising world, manage a continual state of wedded bliss, raise two young sons… all the while living the dream of Paris, photographing this city by capturing it’s essence unlike anyone else. Recently she was featured on Martha Stewart, but there was more I wanted to know. And so I asked her how Paris became a reality.

My husband and I decided to move to Paris on a whim one night after a few glasses of wine. By all measures it seemed crazy – we had two toddler boys, wonderful friends, a network of business contacts – but something nagged us. Was this the life we were supposed to be living?

We hadn’t yet bought a house (we were living in the NYC suburbs) and we both were self-employed with flexible work arrangements. Nothing was holding us down, and our desire to shake up our lives outweighed any practical considerations.

So we stored or sold most of our things, and did it. I didn’t really overthink it, and looking back, I’m humored by the cavalier manner in which we did it. It was exhilarating and scary and wonderful.

As we adjusted to our new neighborhood, everything was a challenge in the best possible way. While I could sleepwalk my way through a workday with a client in NYC or at Whole Foods or Target, simply buying milk or navigating the post office presented challenges. I had about as much French as an 18 month old and the same wide eyes.

Being out of my comfort zone was good for me. It allowed me to slow down and notice things I may have otherwise overlooked. Even though I’m a writer, I had little interest in writing about my experiences in Paris, it was all visual. I carried my camera with me everywhere. I snapped photos of everything that caught my eye (I even have photos of trash cans!), simply because it was new. New to me, and that’s all that mattered.

That was three years ago, and what started out as simple snapshots of my life in Paris turned into a three-year project, a side business and a book. I’m still floored by that, and wonder why my life took this turn. I guess good things happen when you follow your bliss.

To experience more of Nichole’s bliss, step into the world of Little Brown Pen where she often captures Paris in Color, her book releasing on April 18th! My favorites being red and gray, or perhaps the elegance of white… You can also follow her visions of Paris via Facebook and Twitter.

The Dream Life of Suzanne Flenard

Moving to a foreign country, as challenging as it is, can afford us the privilege of redefining ourselves by asking the question ‘Who am I and what do I really want to do?’, versus following a path that might not lead to fulfillment, which to us New Yorkers, often means climbing the corporate ladder.

Suzanne Flenard is one such savvy ex-New York gal I met along the expat way. She and her partner Jeremy decided to take a ‘break’ from the grind of life in NYC, having both lived there for over 15 years. Six months of a break has now turned into 3 years and they have never looked back. Paris very quickly became home. Might I add that home to them looks much like a boutique hotel in the Marais, très chic!

As a seasoned professional in the world of interiors, working with furniture companies such as Design Within Reach (one of my personal favorites), Suzanne always had the desire to create something of her own. It was over lunch one day with a mutual friend that we brainstormed ideas for her vision. Over the course of several months, Suzanne set her designing mind into motion. While her foodie partner was busy exploring the gourmet markets of Paris, Suzanne spent many an afternoon carousing Montmartre and the Sentier in search of just the right fabrics (an exercise I know well), not to mention the virtual world… I introduced her to my trusted manufacturer… she impressively designed her own website… et voilà! Square Modern came to life.

What exactly is Square Modern and why is it so unique and eco-friendly? In the words of Suzanne…

Square modern is a limited edition collection of pillows/cushions using reclaimed designer fabric remnants. The idea came about as an interest to introduce the European Community to “Mid-Century Modern” textile designs, in addition to other beautiful modern classics, popular in the United States. These designer fabrics are selected from some of the most exclusive textile manufacturers that exist today: Maharam, Kvadrat, Knoll and Kravet. Square Modern uses primarily reclaimed fabric remnants, often found in limited supply. Therefore, the collection is produced in limited quantity and will continuously change as interesting textiles become available. All cushions are produced in Paris.

I am very proud and excited for Suzanne, living her dream in Paris, a life she could not have foreseen in New York. I for one, possessing a passion for interior design, particularly mid-century modern, already have my eye on a few coussins…

Square Modern is based in Paris and available internationally. Join on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the latest limited edition pillows!

soul of New York

Anyone who knows me, is well aware that New York City resides deeply within my heart. Much like a first love that will forever be revered. Several months ago, via my blogging journey, I met a fellow New Yorker with a similar sentiment towards the city that doesn’t sleep. Phil Vasquez is a writer and filmmaker from Canada, inspired by classic and foreign films and American and French popular music songbooks, everything from Cole Porter to Charles Aznavour. He has resided for many years in NYC and soon… Paris. I quickly discovered that Phil possesses a unique sensitivity and depth that was revealed in his short film, Song of Relations, a beautiful tribute to the soul of old New York City.

Nested in nests of water bays. Superb, rich.
Hemm’d thick all round with sail ships and steam ships.
An island, 16 miles long, solid founded.
Numberless crowded streets. High growths of iron. Slender, strong, light.
Splendidly uprising toward clear skies.
The countless masts. The white shore steamers. The lighters. The ferry-boats.
The downtown streets. The houses of business of the ship merchants and money brokers.
The river streets.
City of hurried and sparkling waters, city of spires and masts.
City nested in bays. My city.
– Walt Whitman

I look forward to following Phil’s journey from New York to Paris, a city he and his wife plan to call home, where he will absorb the culture and no doubt make authentic French films with an American independent production style. And where his unique vision will continue.

To view his film and learn more about this writer & filmmaker in the making: www.tpapictures.com

Also be sure to join Phil Vasquez on facebook and connect on twitter.

 

gratitude

I am a Francophile. An expat. A dreamer. A traveler. A seeker of that and those which inspire me. Above all else, I am grateful. In just under two years I have not simply found, but created a life in Paris. Not a city that easily embraces outsiders. And so us outsiders found a way in. By sharing our stories and thoughts via the world of blogging. A passion for some, therapeutic for others. I am equally excited to share stories that inspire me via my own blog, as in The Dream Life series, as well as to share my life via others.

Today I am honored to be featured on fellow Francophile and friend Lindsey’s fabulous Paris blog, Lost in Cheeseland. A series very aptly titled Franco File Friday. This gal never ceases to amaze. (Fellow Frenchies, have you tried her cookies yet?)

Other recent and honorary features include design savvy Anne from Prêt à Voyager. She shared my travels on her ingenius Boarding Pass series and my neighborhood of the Marais in her Tour de France. Doubly honored! I’ve also appeared on the lovely (and romantic might I add) Susan’s blog Fleurishing, in her Proust Q&A series.

I cannot neglect to mention my HiP Paris dining adventures as of late, with fellow Paris bloggers at the haute Petrelle. Many more foodie explorations to come!

As I have done in the past and will continue to do, I share the love as year two approaches, life in Paris evolves, I feel even more gratitude, and the language of blogging continues to unite.

The Dream Life of Chloe Lodge

When I first met Chloe Lodge, I sensed a curiosity in her gaze, and a warmth in her demeanor. When I found out she was studying to become a photographer, my interest grew. (Having worked as a Print Producer in the advertising world for over a decade, I grew to know and admire many visual thinkers, and have developed a love for photography.) With undeniable fervor, Chloe told me about the Masters Programme she was completing in Paris, and her final project, documenting ‘Expat Women in a Foreign Land’: Paris. (And would I want to participate? Bien Sur!) So, how did Chloe arrive to pursue her dreams, in Paris? Her path is a unique and well-traveled one.

It still surprises me, how quickly life can change. If a year ago, someone said to me that I would be at the beginning of a new career in photography, having studied in Paris and been exhibited at the Rencontres dʼArles I would never have believed them. I am delighted to say this is exactly what has happened.

Photography has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. When asked as a child ʻwhat do you want to become?ʼ for me, aged 7, my answer was always ʻI want to be a National Geographic Photographer.ʼ At fifteen I showed my photographs to my art teacher who said ʻthese are nice pictures but they are holiday snaps. To be a photographer you have to make the everyday appear extra-ordinary and more interesting than its perception.ʼ I had little, or no idea what she meant and felt discouraged.

After a brief spell at Art College studying sculpture, I achieved a BA Honours degree in Art History. Not having a clue what to do with a qualification such as this I fell into the city life of London, initially working in Event Management, then momentarily for the big boys at Goldman Sachs on Fleet Street. However, the creative Chloe gasped for breath inside everyday, so when a slightly unusual opportunity presented itself to me, I grabbed it with both hands. Working alongside Bear Grylls was a fascinating and all-encompassing job. Regardless, my role was one I could tweak and mould how I wanted. It was about organisation, PR, event management and with a little design thrown in. During a particularly intense period manning the 24-hour UK base of Bearʼs 2003 Trans-Atlantic Arctic Expedition I realised that it was about time I stopped sitting behind a desk organising adventures for others and see the world for myself.

My London flat went on the market, and I booked myself a round-the-world ticket. I planned on three months away but ended up being away almost three years. In that time I travelled across Russia, Mongolia and China on the Trans-Siberian, I spent four months backpacking in South-East Asia and finally ʻsettledʼ in New Zealand for almost two and a half years.

The back streets of Valletta, Malta. May 2011

The age of digital photography was upon us and, small compact in hand, I rediscovered my love of photography – capturing the beauty in the everyday. The landscape, culture and texture of life in the ʻLand of the Long White Cloudʼ awoke the softly doozing hunger for the photographic image from inside me. Whilst down-under, I not only fell in love with my photography again, I fell in love with the very wonderful James.

This was almost five years ago, and for reasons unknown to us, we then ended up in England. The dream of any little girl came true and James proposed. It was a double whammy because he also agreed to my fantasy of a small, intimate wedding on an Italian hillside, then the intense organisation began. It was all going to plan, until devastation hit. It was a Saturday afternoon, exactly three months to the day before our wedding, that I received the phone call. My dear and much-loved Mum, had died overnight in her sleep. Aged just 58, it was sudden, unexpected and shattered my world from the core.

Unwillingly but essentially I had to shift the wedding plans to funeral plans, desperately trying to ingest the utter shock of what had happened. We had to decide quickly whether to go ahead with our Italian wedding plans, or not. We decided whenever we were to get married after that she wouldnʼt physically be there: getting ready on the day, smiling at me with pride as I said my vows, laughing with me every step of the way. But she had been part of the planning THIS day, so we had to move forward.

Springtime in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. March 2011

Is it possible for light come from the darkness of utter tragedy? Sitting in the shade of a palm tree on our honeymoon, a realisation slowly dawned on me that I might now have the opportunity to follow that childhood dream of mine. I could go back to school to study photography. After much research and a swift application, I received a confirmation from a school in Paris to study Professional Photography starting September 2010.

Still fragile and in shock from the previous six months, I wondered if it was the right timing for me. Being in my mid-thirties, it felt like it was ʻnow or neverʼ. I had visited Paris as an art student, spending many happy hours in the Louvre and Musee DʼOrsay, and knew Iʼd always loved it as a city and so, swallowed hard and took the plunge.

As I began my studies I felt that the studio was where I wanted to be, ʻmakingʼ pictures and not ʻtakingʼ them. However, as my first semester journey of personal and creative exploration ventured on I began feeling more and more that the outside world is where I wanted to be. My interest has always been in people, within the context of their lives. Understanding how things change and evolve for them over time. I consider myself a social observer and a story teller, and it’s for this reason documentary and portrait photography is the area in which I love to work. Photography is not purely the creative action of taking a picture, it’s about people and their stories, their lives.

Kasia Dietz, from the portrait series 'Modern Women at Home in a Foreign Land' April, 2011

Ten challenging, soul-searching but fantastic months later, I have achieved a National Diploma with Honours, and finished the Masters Programme. Following our final diploma show in May, two out of 68 students were selected to be part of the 26 year celebration exhibition of our school at the Rencontres dʼArles… and my work was one of them. It was a complete surprise, but a fantastic honour so soon after graduating. The same exhibition will be shown in November, during Paris Photo Month, at the Speos Gallery, Paris. A city at the nucleus of the photography world. It feels like the beginning of something very wonderful… itʼs not the start of a new chapter, itʼs the start of a whole new book. A book I have always dreamt of starting, and now I am.

The Residence of the US Ambassador to France, Paris. April 2011 (selected for Rencontres d'Arles)

Congratulations and best of luck to you Chloe, as your ‘dream life’ of visual story telling continues!

Chloe Lodge Photography, will be exhibited at the Speos Gallery, 75011 Paris from November 8th – December 31st 2011. You can also follow Chloe Lodge on facebook as her life soon takes her from Paris to Asia. (Once the traveler always the traveler!)

ʻModern Women at Home in a Foreign Landʼ captures todayʼs Anglophone women making lives for themselves in a country where the culture, language and tradition is often very different to their own. Each following their own dream, in so many different ways. Her self- published book is available for viewing via Blurb.com

Blogging with Andi: The Why

It’s no secret that I am a big fan and pleased to be called a friend of Andi Fisher, author of Misadventures with Andi. I was thrilled that she agreed to share some of her blogging expertise with me. Valuable insights for anyone in the vast and ever-expanding blogging community.

Blogging with Andi: Part 1: The Why

When I met Kasia in Paris this past October our conversation was too short. But despite the length a connection was made, one that will continue to bind us whether we meet in person again or not. This is one of the many blessings of blogging, an activity that has become an integral part of my life.

Kasia asked me to explain that further. So here we are.

I am an introvert.

But I can fake an extrovert like nobody’s business!

In reality, I think a better way to define myself is as a conflicted introvert. One who has become a virtual extrovert as a result of blogging and social media.

This is something that I have struggled with for years. By pure Myers-Briggs I am an INTJ, but at work I “fake” being an ENTJ because I am also a care-taker, project manager, organizer and that takes some “E”. Yet, outside of work, I rarely socialize, spend a lot time at home reading, writing, watching movies by myself or with my husband. I hate talking on the phone and rarely answer the telephone when it rings. Yet, when I have chosen to be “out” I am 100% committed to the evening, the lunch, the client meeting, the conference.

One of my favorite comments on this topic comes from a bloggger named Daniel Hindin (he doesn’t blog anymore). I have never net, but I have kept his thoughts close to me:

The way I see it is that writing allows an introvert to be a temporary extrovert. As a blogger, Twitterer or Facebooker, I control how, when and what I share. I can get in and out whenever and however I want. I can interact with people and share in their energy while still having no concern about awkward moments or being stuck in a conversation when I’d rather retreat into myself.

After I’m done writing a blog post or have an engaging Twitter conversation, I’m often energized. But after I’m done with a social function, I’m completely drained. The tools of the social web allow an introvert to control how they enter and exit a conversation – or whether they want to take part in the first place. These tools also allow us to take written thoughts that once might have ended up in a private journal and quickly spread them to hundreds if not thousands of people.

I’m still an introvert, and that will never change. But these tools allow writing to pose as conversation. That allows people like me who feel more comfortable with the written word, as opposed to the spoken word, to use our once private craft as a social tool.

In these moments of temporary extroversion, which are quite frequent these days, maybe not even moments, but rather long collections of engagements, I have met and connected with extraordinary people within the blogging community. And as I have mentioned before these encounters are with some of the most genuine people I have met. It’s funny because the posers, the disingenuous, the maligned are sorted out very quickly, and you are left with a still rather large collection of kind souls. I am still amazed.

But it is also more than that.

There is a section in Chris Brogan’s book Trust Agents, (somewhere in Chapter 3, ‘One of Us’) that talks about how many online relationship might be closer than offline as people tend to share more intimate details with people that are their “friends”. You don’t have to explain to your online friends (even if you meet them offline) why you are so passionate about blogging – a common question posed by non-bloggers. You don’t have to explain how writing every day, even if it is just 30 minutes completes you in away you could have never imagined. You are understood. You are accepted. You are part of some kind of strange inner circle that has the capacity to do amazing things.

I have seen bloggers gather together to raise money and give items to a victim of domestic violence. I have seen bloggers raise money for a freelancer without medical benefits. And I have seen more. Each time I feel blessed to be a part of this community, one that accepts me for who I am and understands where I am coming from.

My only regret is that I did not have my blog when I was living in France from 2003-2007. I had no outlet to discuss my daily struggle as an expat. I did have my weekly missives sent to friends and family back home, which I called Misadventures with Andi, but I did not have the community of blogging friends that I have now which would have undoubtedly kept me sane on those days where I thought I would go insane!

And so I missed out on meeting Kasia when I was living in France, but you know what? I don’t think we were ready to meet yet. I think the Universe is much smarter than we are. So we met when we met, connected as bloggers in love with the same city, a bond that strengthens every day. One of many incredible people I have bonded with as part of this amazing generous community.

Thank you Andi! May you continue to inspire and enjoy this wondrous journey of ‘virtual extrovertism’! And yes, we must indeed trust the Universe. (Why I am living in Paris, after all!) Stay tuned for Blogging with Andi: Part 2: The How…

The Dream Life of Amy Thomas

I liked Amy Thomas the moment I met her. Not simply because she arrived to Paris from NY (though us New Yorker’s do tend to stick together). Perhaps we bonded due to our careers in advertising or passion for writing. No. Amy is a dreamer. A romantic. A thinker. Above all, a lover of all things sweet, as she has so appropriately coined herself Sweet Freak. In her blog God, I love Paris Amy shares her nearly two-year long love affair with Paris, where she has always dreamed to live. But some romances are not meant to last. I will allow Amy to explain, in the name of love.

Can one question change your life?

I’m willing to bet a 25-piece box of Jean-Paul Hevin bonbons on it.

In 2008, I was sitting in my office, living what I considered to be a pretty dreamy life. I was single, owned my own place in the East Village, and was braving New York’s dating world. I had a great group of friends, and I liked my job as an advertising copywriter. But I loved my moonlighting dalliances even more: exploring and writing about sweets. Life was good: easy, fun, comfortable. Then my ad agency’s in-house recruiter walked into my office and nonchalantly asked:

What do you think about Paris?

Let me just pause and say—I am obsessed with Paris. Almost as obsessed as I am with sweets. So when the recruiter revealed that the Paris office of my international agency was looking for an English-speaking writer to work on the Louis Vuitton account, my first question was how soon could I leave? Of course I wanted to go live in Paris and work with one of the best fashion houses in the world. What Louboutin loving, Coco worshipping, macaron addict wouldn’t?

The only thing holding me back from the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) was several months of bureaucracy. Five long months of waiting, the papers were finally in place (a little preview to the pace of life in Paris). I packed my laptop, clothes and black tabby cat, and then gulped, vigorously nodding my head as my doorman reminded me on the way out, “It’s like business and pleasure. You’re getting paid to do what you love.” Indeed, I was off to live my dream.

And a dream it’s been. Especially the first six months. Having arrived in early March, each new day was a little bit longer and brighter. Spring turned into summer—a beautiful and balmy season when the sun didn’t set until 10 p.m. I became an instant Velib addict, to say nothing of the sweets. I cruised from Les Petits Mitrons in the 18eme to Du Pain et des Idées in the 10eme. From Blé Sucré in the 12eme to Pain du Sucré in the 4eme. From Michel Chaudun to Michel Cluizel; from Ladurée to Pierre Hermé; Les Deux Abeilles, Stohrer, Le Patisserie de Reves… there was to be no viennoiserie, gateau or bonbon unsampled by me. After all, I told myself, biking from sweet spot to sweet spot, this was a great way to get to know my new hometown. Which was true. But as familiar as I became with each arrondissement’s best patisseries and chocolatiers, and their closest Velib stations, many of the city’s customs, codes of conduct and unspoken rules were still foreign to me.

And then the inevitable happened. After a prolonged honeymoon phase, I crashed. Hard. Summer had turned into fall, which turned into a long, dark winter. My beautiful city was suddenly cold and alienating. Not being able to communicate with the postmaster or dry cleaner was no longer a challenge that I approached as sort of fun and charming, but, rather, left me feeling totally defeated. Which just made me miss my friends, family and comfortable, easy life back in New York.

But I plodded on. With work (pulling longer hours than I ever did in New York). With French lessons (often swallowing cries of frustration when I couldn’t wrap my tongue around those R’s). With making friends (though this—gasp!—entailed befriending almost exclusively other expats as I couldn’t get a proper Parisian to give me the time of day). I willed myself to be tough. To stay strong. To smile, even if it made me look like an American dork. But mostly I lamented my lost love. I just wanted to feel moved by Paris the way I once had.

In hindsight, I know it was a perfectly natural cycle. Even the best affairs cool down at some point. After that initial head-over-heels infatuation, the ho-hum reality sets in and the daily grind is no longer sexy or romantic. Even in Paris. So after a season of sulking and consoling myself with a ridiculous amount of bonbons, I reset my expectations for a more “real” relationship with the city.

And now, the love affair continues. I cram my days with observing and writing, eating and drinking, Velib’ing and, toujours, ogling and sampling the sweets. And I have wonderful friends to share the meals, wine, stories and moments with. I’m a happy, lucky girl and I love every day that I’m here.

Because… all good things must come to a close. As mad as I am for Paris, I’m returning to my first love. New York is calling my name. It’s not been an easy decision, but I know it’s time to go home. And instead of looking at Paris or New York as an “either/or” option, I see it as “both”. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.

Paris will dearly miss Amy and her ‘joie de vivre‘, even the vélibs will feel the loss. Not to mention the pâtisseries! But her sweet life continues in New York. And lucky us to be able to read all about it in her upcoming book to be released in March 2012, a merging of God, I love Paris and Sweet Freak. Sounds like an ideal union to me!

The Dream Life of Cat Beurnier

Cat Beurnier has a sweet life in Paris, quite literally! She is the founder and owner of Sugar Daze, a leading American-style cake and cupcake business in Paris. Well known and savored by both expats and locals since it’s inception in 2008. When I met her and found out she was also an ex-ad girl from New York, with an equally entrepreneurial spirit, I took a liking to her immediately and began to inquire about the hardships of settling into life in Paris. Cat’s story not only inspired me but it filled me with hope that it does get easier and it is possible to create a new path, with great resolve, hard work and dedication to your dreams. 

My story begins with a coup de foudre which happened approximately 29 years ago when I first visited Paris with my mother and grandmother.  Though I had lived in New York City all my life (a city millions dream of running away to), the charm, the beauty, the history of Paris won me over almost the second our taxi turned off the Peripherique.  Paris was a place I would return to time and again — on vacation, for a summer study abroad, for my junior year in university… I never tired of it and each trip left me wanting more.  When I graduated from university, I spent a few months looking for work in various French corporations but my leads never panned out – unemployment was high and no one was willing to sponsor me, a recent grad with no real experience to get my work papers. I contemplated moving to France and working as an undeclared server at one of the many bars or restaurants that cater to the Anglo-Saxon crowd (something I had done the summer after my junior year). But in the end, I wasn’t brave enough to make the leap of faith and head down this unknown, unchartered course.

I found a job in a well-known ad agency in New York and fell into daily life as a young, single gal in the Big Apple.  I loved my dynamic, fast-paced job. I very slowly started to work my way up the corporate ladder. I even got to travel to Paris a few times to assist on some new business projects.  Fortunately, I had an endless supply of friends, and even some boyfriends, who happily agreed to accompany me on the frequent vacation to Paris so I could get my fix!

Fast-forward about 10 years, when I experienced love at first site for the second time in my life.  I was at a party with an ex-boyfriend (who yes, I had at some point dragged to Paris!) when I saw this tall, handsome stranger standing with a group of people at the side of the room.  I casually walked over, joined in their conversation and fell under the spell of his charm.  As the evening went on, I found myself alone with him chatting and sharing stories as if we had known each other for years.  At some point talk turned to how we knew the hostess and he told me she dated a friend of his before they both moved to New York.  Curious to hear more, I asked where he was from.  When he said Paris, my jaw dropped open.  I hadn’t detected a hint of an accent in his voice, and yet when I looked closer, I saw that yes indeed, his choice of clothing, his mannerisms, his features, etc. gave away his distinct un-American-ness.

Long story short, over the course of the next five years we dated, moved in together, and married.  The funny thing about my husband is that he was just as much a romantic about NYC as I was about Paris!  Moving to France was never a consideration for us; I was content with the once a year or so trips we made to visit his family.  And then our son was born and it was a total game changer.  Cramped into our one-bedroom apartment with our son in a crib at our feet, we started fantasizing about the type of apartment we could have in France, and what neighborhood we would live in.  On a whim, we listed our apartment in the Sunday NY Times and I don’t think either of us could really believe it when just a month later, we found ourselves signing it away.  Those last few months in NY were surreal — we were new parents and about to set off on a whole new adventure on the other side of the Atlantic!  My husband hadn’t lived in France for 10 years and I think he felt the culture shock coming back just as much as I did.

We arrived in Paris at the end of November seven years ago this month.  For those of you who know Paris, you’ll probably agree this is one of the worst times to have started our new life here.  Months of cold, damp and grey weather as a new mother unaccustomed to life outside the office left me feeling depressed and sullen.  My husband’s friends, who had always been so warm and welcoming when we visited, many of them new parents too, were too busy with their day-to-day lives to hold my hand as we settled in.  And to complicate matters, our fly by the seat of our pants “planning” meant living at my in-laws until we could find a place of our own.  Which actually didn’t take too long as I was totally motivated!  It took me a loooonnnngggg time to adjust to my new life in France, but little by little, I started making friends and got the hang of life as a stay-at-home mom.

France is a country where families are king.  And the benefits families receive to ensure their kids are looked after as they return to work are nothing short of amazing. Because I had never worked legitimately in France, many of those benefits were not available to me, and my husband encouraged me to return to work before we thought about expanding our family. I had become very involved in an English-speaking parents group called MESSAGE, and took on the role of VP, Public Relations but it was pro-bono work and so no benefits to speak of. As I started to think about a return to corporate life, I realized that the long hours, the stress, the travel – it just wasn’t worth trading my time with my son. I found myself at the age of 35 taking a long hard look at my life as I tried to figure out what I “wanted to be when I grew up.” I decided on a radical change and began investigating the possibility of my own business.

One of my childhood dreams was to be a pastry chef. In fact, my closest elementary school friend, Suzanne, and I used to “host” a cooking show called “Snacks Delight” where every weekend we would whip up a different dessert in front of our “live studio audience” (usually comprised of her little sister or our Barbie dolls). As an adult, I studied pastry at a culinary school during a period of unemployment and worked for several restaurants and a caterer in the US. It’s physically hard work but something I enjoy enormously. I’ve never considered myself overly creative but when I bake, I have the sense of accomplishing something made with my own hands. Our last apartment in New York was just around the corner from the famous Magnolia Bakery and since I love cupcakes, I was inspired to import this traditional American dessert to my new adopted “hometown.” But just as this idea was taking shape, I found out I was pregnant again. I had to put my project on the back burner and there it stayed until late 2008. I had kind of given up hope on ever having my own store as I was just so busy with 2 children and dealing with everyday family life, which in a foreign country can sometimes be complicated. But I always found time to bake on the weekends, for friends, etc. and one day I found myself agreeing to make cupcakes for a friend of a friend for a party she was having. And thus my company, Sugar Daze (formerly Little Miss Cupcake), was born.

Around that time, I read an article in an entrepreneur’s magazine that advised that if you have a dream, and you don’t have the money or the support or the time to realize it, you don’t have to scrap your dream entirely. Instead, take a step back and figure out how to make this dream a reality on a smaller scale. And that is exactly what I have done by creating a small, custom order cupcake business. Things just took off after that first order; I started a blog to document my baking adventures which got my name out there, and through the grapevine, people came to hear about me and my cupcakes. Baking and making cupcakes is one of my greatest passions and knowing how happy they make people is a reward in and of itself. But it isn’t always a cakewalk. Most mornings, I am up and at my kitchen by 5 to bake the day’s orders fresh from scratch. I am back home by 8 to get my kids up, dressed and out the door for school. My daughter is only 3 and spends her afternoons with me. And so after a full day of shuttling my kids around and taking care of household chores (and my husband!), I often find myself working late into the night once everyone has gone to sleep to catch up on paperwork or to hand-craft the decorations that top my cupcakes. I am the sole employee of Sugar Daze and so this means that my responsibilities include answering all inquiries, shopping for supplies, baking and decorating all the cupcakes, doing my own accounting, creating marketing materials, making deliveries, etc. (and most of this is done in a language that is not my mother tongue!). I feel like a lot of my days are some wild juggling act where at any minute the whole thing is going to come crashing down but I’m doing something I absolutely love and that makes the difference.

I believe that many times in life, your destiny is shaped by being in the right place at the right time. Some may say this happened on the night I met my husband, and looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to start up my business just as the cupcake craze took hold in Paris. It’s taken a lot of work to get where I am today and without a storefront, it’s sometimes hard to compete with the growing number of cupcake stores. But I believe in my products and am constantly experimenting and improving my offerings to ensure they are the best American-style cupcakes you’ll find in Paris! Life continues to be a challenge but I am living proof that you can have your cake and eat it too!

To indulge in Cat’s dream life of cupcakes, take a look at all the sweet possibilities on her menu. I recommend  La Vie en Rose or perhaps a Black Coffee in Bed? And let’s not forget the NYC classic Empire State of Mind. I could go on… Thank you Cat, for making life in Paris a little sweeter!

Update: In June 2012, Cat opened her Sugar Daze Bake Shop in the dynamic South Pigalle area of Paris.  Sugar Daze serves an array of cupcakes – sweet and savory – cheesecakes, brownies and other American baked goods with a rotating daily menu, available for eat-in or take-out.  Custom orders and cupcake classes are also available.  The Bake Shop is open Wednesday-Sunday (see www.sugardazecupcakes.com for more details).  20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009, 09.83.04.41.77

The Dream Life of Forest Collins

How exactly does one end up living ‘the dream life’ in Paris? By following your dreams, fearlessly. Forest Collins, fellow expat, drink connoisseur and creator of blog 52 Martinis, did just that. And little does anyone know (until now) just what an insightful and inspiring journey she took, with just the right amount of spare change, a little luck, a lot of strength, and always the will to dream.


photo credit: Melanie Vaz

Nearly ten years ago….it was a warm Parisian night and I was riding home on the Metro thinking to myself, “How did I get here?” Lost in my thoughts, I reached into my pocket and jangled my entire net worth of €1.57. Just at that moment, a busker strolled by and in a Pavlovian reaction held out his hat to the sound of my jingling coins. I didn’t look him directly in the eye, but shook my head lamely and muttered a barely audible “désolée”. I knew what he was thinking: I don’t look very sorry and I do look like I could spare a bit of change.  I wanted to tell him that, judging by the contents of his cap, he was financially better off than me and considered asking him for some job advice.  But, instead I silently pondered my situation. It’s then that I had a very important realization: In life, sometimes, you’ve got to eat some Top Ramen. Let’s face it.  No one wants to eat Top Ramen, the main sustenance of poor, struggling, American college students. They eat it so they can afford to pay for their education…or beer.  Either way, they believe it’s a payoff in the long run that’s worth the deprivation in the immediate moment.  They can try and dress it up with some fresh garlic or Tabasco, but, in the end, it’s still just limp watery noodles with a bit of MSG.  But, you know what? It’s not. It’s the sacrifices you make in the present to achieve something better in the future.

My first major “Top Ramen” experience was many years ago now. Having arrived in France, flush with cash and ready for Euro-adventure, the last thing on my mind was my finances.  But, as the date on my return ticket drew nearer, I played with the idea of staying beyond my originally planned six months. The only obstacle was my lack of funds.  Would I let that stop me? Since I was a little girl, I had dreamt of the challenges of living, working and learning the language in France. I decided I was ready to eat Top Ramen or do whatever else it took to reach this goal.  Being American, without specific marketable skills in France, not being fluent in the language and not having working papers ensured that this would be a challenge. I had to continually remind myself that my goal was not to climb a corporate ladder, but to stay in Europe.  With this in mind I began the search for work. I sat at the Internet café, plucking away at the keyboard, sending resume after resume for any job that seemed remotely feasible. For all of my persistence and eagerness I was having no luck and getting discouraged.  One evening, over drinks with friends, I was lamenting my desperate situation. Just then, someone leaned over towards our table.

“Excuse me”, he says. “Would you be interested in working in an Irish pub?” Several things went through my mind. First of all, I’m skilled and educated. I should be a secretary or the President. But, a bartender? Then again, I had always had a romantic notion of what it would be like. I’d have my regulars who would sit around the bar telling me about their day. I’d mix fancy drinks and deliver them to tables with witty repartees. But for all of my “skills” and cocktail experience, I realized I hadn’t a clue as to what it took to tend bar. So, of course, my response was “I’d be delighted!”

The following day, I went for my official interview with the gentleman from the bar and his business partner. In my broken French I managed to convey my enthusiasm and, apparently, impressed them enough to get the job.  They told me they’d help me get my papers, pay me a decent wage and set me up in an apartment.  The only thing I had to do was cover a shift in their restaurant for a couple of weeks while the bar was being finished.  Slightly daunted by the fact that I had never worked as a waitress, much less in a fancy French restaurant, I agreed. On my first day of work, I was initially thrilled with my good fortune – my Top Ramen days were over. It took all of twenty minutes to realize that I was completely unprepared for what was going to unfold over the next six days. I consider myself an intelligent person who learns new skills quickly, but the waitressing life was a mystery to me. It didn’t help that I understood nothing anyone said. On the second afternoon, someone was giving me instructions and the only two words I understood were “touch” and “plate”. So, of course I touched the plate. Immediately, I realized they must have said “Don’t touch the plate. It’s hot.” as I screamed and waved my scalded finger in the air. My inability to understand was demoralizing.  I would become ecstatic when I took a complete order correctly and return to the kitchen to place it only to have the cook respond with an excitement-quelling look that implied “any idiot can take an order.” Certainly, if they speak the language. It wasn’t just the language barrier, it was the work. I did ten to twelve hour days for six straight days. It was hot and hectic and stressful. The customers were unforgiving of my lack of linguistic skill.  After what I considered a relatively successful week of work, on the sixth day I was given an envelope with my wages. I was told that they had found another Anglophone to work in the bar that already had papers. So, instead of helping me get mine, they were letting me go. Feeling hopeless, I walked home and collapsed on the couch. While doing so I opened the envelope to count the money and found I had been paid the equivalent of $2 an hour for my hard work.

I surprised myself by finding the events more funny than infuriating and tried to take it as a life lesson. Fortunately, a few days later  I got a call from a U.N. agency in Geneva to which I had applied earlier and they wanted me to come for an interview. I danced around the room with renewed hope. Then I looked at my calendar. Coincidentally, the date of the interview was the exact date of my return flight home. My return flight home on a non-changeable, non-refundable, non-transferable ticket. If I went to the interview and didn’t get the job, I’d be stuck here with no money and no way to leave. But, if I didn’t go to the interview, I knew I’d regret it. It’s not hard to guess what I did. A week later I was on the train to Geneva, which was not far from the tiny French town of Annecy where I was staying. After the interview, on the train ride back, I fantasized about the possibility of actually living and working in Europe. Arriving at the station in Annecy, I dug around in my pockets for change for the bus ride home, but found them empty. I stopped by the cash machine and the inevitable finally happened. There was no more money in my account. I stood there absorbing the realization that I was now completely broke, in a foreign country with no guarantee of a job. I walked for an hour to get back to the tiny apartment I was renting. I sat in my room uncertain and scared. Not knowing what to do, I waited. A few days later, the phone finally rang. It was Geneva. I had the job.

Finally, the payoff! I spent the next year and a half working in Geneva. I was well paid and lived a very comfortable life. Instead of soggy noodles, I ate in fancy restaurants and spent nearly as much time traveling as working. But after sometime, the annoying little voice of adventure started nagging at me. It kept saying “This is pretty good.  This was sort of your goal.  After all, you’re in Europe.  But, didn’t you really want to be in Paris?”  Its counterpart, the boring little voice of realism, tried to explain that although Paris was my first choice, prior experience had taught me it would next to impossible to work in France. And, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up the good life just yet. The little voice of adventure was too strong of an opponent to defeat.  At the end of my contract, I was in a rental car on my way to Paris.

Paris, France. I had finally arrived. But, there was a sense of déjà vu. Here I was again, flush with cash from my Geneva stint, ready for more European adventure. I enjoyed myself and got settled into the apartment, the neighborhood and the city. Once again, my money dwindled. Once again, I realized it was time to find work. Once again, I tried everything I could think of. Searching the classifieds, I applied to any job I thought I could do – and even some that I knew I couldn’t. I networked.  I searched notice boards and the Internet. After a few months of this, I had nothing to show for my efforts except an empty bank account. During this time, I was offered a few positions back in Geneva. It wasn’t easy to not give up on Paris and return to a comfortable, stable and well-paid life. But, here I was stubbornly staying put without even enough money to buy a cup of coffee. Fortunately, what I didn’t know at that time was that I was about to be offered a job in a translation office. Would it be more Top Ramen or just what I wanted? There would be no way to find out but to try.

I still remember that metro ride, which was so many years ago now. I think about all my friends that tell me how “lucky” I am to live in Europe and follow my dreams. But, I know it’s not luck. I’ve eaten a lot of Top Ramen to get to where I am today.

If you’d like to know what Forest is eating (and drinking) these days, follow her on twitter and be sure to check out her blog.

Thanks Forest, and cheers to you! Keep on living your dreams…

the journey of letting go

Bindu Wiles asked me to be a contributing writer as part of The Shed Project, an effort in cleansing your life and living minimally, to say the least. Having packed one bag to travel the world for over one year, and later moving from NYC to Paris, I have learned to let go and the journey that comes with it. (Thank you Bindu! And good luck to fellow Shedventurers.)

The Journey of Letting Go

I always found great comfort in my stuff, even as a child. Things that remind me of a person or a place. Things that, to me, hold emotional value. Notes, ticket stubs, a drawing on a napkin, a love letter scribbled in haste, a valentine’s day card from my father. I think of these as sacred pieces of a puzzle that compose my life.

As I got older I became more selective with my mementos. Living in close quarters in NYC played a major role. As did the accumulation of stuff. Closets filled with fabrics for clothes I never had the time to make and store bought clothes I never had the occasion to wear. Shelves filled with books I had not yet read but surely would one day. And all the hidden spaces containing mementos I had collected throughout the years.

I often thought if I had to evacute my apartment in an emergency what would I take? Surely my 7 photo albums and 11 hand-written journals. And that huge box of memories I’d been saving since the 8th grade. These were all pieces of my past. But how was I supposed to grow and become by holding on to them? And weren’t they all part of me anyway, even without their physical presence? Thankfully, I never had to flee my apartment.

As the years went by, I began to feel more encumbered by my stuff. Yet I could not let go of it. I had very skillfully attached sentimental value to each and every item. I remembered the moment I bought it, or who had given it to me and for what occasion.

I felt weighed down by my possessions and dreamt of feeling light and unencumbered. This was one of my motivations for throwing away a quarter of my belongings, packing a bag and hitting the open road. One year of travel taught me just how little you really need. And how empowering is the detachment from stuff. I was reminded again and again how much more important people and places are, and space in which to create new memories.

Post travels I returned to NYC and was reunited with my stuff. The two thirds that remained. Was I happy to see it all again? Not really. I hadn’t missed it and not once did I feel like traveling back into my history to dig out a past memory. I had created too many new ones.

The greatest lesson in letting go of stuff came when I fell in love. I was moving to Paris to begin a new life. Again, it was time to pack, not simply for one year but quite possibly, forever. I was forced to open each box of memories I had been saving, even those momentos from my travels, to revisit my life and for the most part, let it go. 

I sorted through the bulk of my possessions, mostly clothes and books, with a trusted friend. Someone emotionally detached from my past. Two-thirds of my wardrobe ended up in a mountainous heap on the floor, ready for the taking. I could not bare to throw these once relevant pieces of my life away. Instead, I gave them to friends, neighbors and those in need, free to create memories of their own.

In terms of my most personal stuff, many long nights were spent living in the past, confronting chapters of my life I had not thought about in years. Filled with nostalgia, I reflecting on the life I had created and all the momentos that were left as a result. I very carefully selected keepsakes and placed them in a box titled ‘my past’. Well aware that irrelevant of what I discarded or stored, these memories will always remain a part of my life. This process of letting go of so many chapters of my personal history resulted in a feeling of freedom I had only briefly encountered during my travels.

A few of my most revered remembrances, the scrap book composed from my travels, my most recent journal, an envelope of childhood photos, I put aside. They would join me in Paris.

I left NYC with two suitcases, and never looked back.

meeting, the year after

I’m often mentioned on this blog as “my Italian” and I happily accepted to have a more active part for the one year anniversary of  “Love in the City of Lights”.

Of course, I requested to write what and how I want, including English mistakes… but what to write about?

While I was asking myself  how could I try to fit in this little world, I noticed that this blog started with a post named “meeting”.

Probably, I don’t manage enough the English language to say if  “meeting” can be considered a beautiful or ugly word.

What I know for sure is that a lot of us, including myself, associate often the word “meeting” to those sleepy or stressing hours that we have to spend in fairly big groups, listening to each other and closed inside some “unfriendly” room.

The room often has no window and it happens frequently that air conditioning is aiming directly at your neck…

Sometimes, on these occasions, we can assist to some of the best modern performances of human vanity, arrogance and…. weakness.  

On the other hand, a few months ago, while we were going to a Chopin concert in the Jardin du Luxembourg, we had a random interesting “meeting” with a completely white dressed beautiful old ballet dancer.

After a while, we also met her companion and I had a chat with him, while Kasia was entertained by the white “ballerina”.

When I asked this humble man, dressed with simple clothes and a very peaceful smile, what he was doing for a living, he answered to me “oh nothing… something with literature…”.

I got to know that he was a French, Russian and Serbian translator of classic literature.

In our 20 or 30 minute chat, he told me as many interesting things as I can’t generally read in a few months.

In between other things, he told me that Nietsche said “…that all material things, like a diamond, or a palace (Nietsche didn’t know Ferrari…) lose their value once that we can buy them, but we cannot buy friendship, love and all things like that….”.

I don’t want go so far as philosophy, but I always believed that we cannot buy love and I have also continued to think that we can meet it…

In an aimless Wednesday, in a crowded street of  New York, I randomly met my ideal love, Kasia.

We both understood pretty soon that it was also a “meeting” with good luck, we put all our passion into it and we made it possible.

I can say today that the “cake” turned out even better than what I could imagine in the beginning.

I remember well a few ingredients that I put in it, but I don’t think I can put together all the recipe…

I only know that it was very very worth to go for it.

– Kasia’s Italian

P.S.

Probably, our work meetings would get more interesting if not planned…

I don’t think that I’ll try to convince my management to make it a rule… or maybe I will, why not? 😉

a place of destiny

Globe-trotting foodie, Francophile, and a woman I greatly admire, Andi Fisher, author of the blog Misadventures with Andi, asked me to write a guest post about my Passion for Paris. I thought a lot about it, not wanting to describe in detail all the clichés that so often come to mind. I decided to write about how living in Paris has always been my destiny, and the path I took to arrive there.

Passion for Paris: a place of destiny

My love affair with Paris began at the age of 7, many years before I knew anything on the subject of love. I listened to my father describe, in such melodic detail, a city in which writers found refuge, artists found inspiration and dreamers found a home. Somehow I knew that one day I too would succumb to it’s lure. Even then, I was a romantic.

My first encounter with Paris was not until my university studies found me in London. With great anticipation, I took myself on a weekend escape to ‘The City of Lights’. Thankfully, I knew early enough in life that it was not prince charming who created the fairytale but ourselves. Though perhaps he was waiting for me across the English Channel.

Upon entering the scene, I fell in love. The centuries old architecture illuminated by antique street lamps, the blue and pink hues of an incomparable sky, the many bridges, each telling a unique story as they transport you from one bank to another. All of this combined to create a mood of timeless enchantment. Those few days in Paris felt much like stepping onto a stage, set from another era. I became lost amidst a tangle of cobbled streets, indulged in many a café crème, and sat for hours in mindful euphoria. Aside from my permanent grin and a lack of French vocabulary, I could have passed for a local. But it was not my time, I was not the star of this performance. Not yet.

My ‘adult’ life commenced and NYC became my home. I held on to my visions of Paris, confident that I would find my way back. I began a career in advertising, made close friends, gained professional experience and reveled in my independence. One such friend became very dear to me. She too happened to be a Francophile, having both lived and loved in Paris in the past. Immediately we began to plot ‘Operation: Pick Up and Move to Paris’, logically of course. We were prepared to put our careers on hold and reduce ourselves to working in a café or perhaps teaching English. I’m not certain whether it was the difficulty of abandoning the corporate ladder or whether a new love had deterred our attention. Needless to say, we never made it to Paris.

It was several years and promotions later that Paris reappeared. I was by this time working at an international advertising agency, living the Madison Avenue dream. By complete chance, I met a Parisian girl who happened to be my counterpart in our Paris office. We got along famously and almost immediately discussed the possibility of exchanging positions in our respective cities. ‘Operation: NYC-Paris Swap’ was put into motion. It seemed the perfect plan until her job situation, simply put, fell apart. Perhaps this was a sign that I was not yet meant to cross the sea.

During my tenth year as a New Yorker, I became much more curious about life in the rest of the world. With little more than a grand appetite for travel and discovery, I packed a bag, bid farewell to the life I had known, and began my greatest journey, to date. Thirteen months spent exploring 32 countries. France of course, being one of them.

Within my ambitious travel itinerary, I allowed myself the luxury of spending one month in ‘The City of Lights’. Perhaps now my passion for this city would finally be satisfied, I would find a home and the journey of a thousand days (400 to be exact) would come to an end. I would become a Parisian.

Alas, that was not the case. Mostly because it’s impossible to become Parisian, especially for someone of my foreign stature.  And to be honest, during this, my seventh trip to Paris, I did not care to. I began to see the city in the light of reality, versus the enticing glow in which it had previously shined. I was not disenchanted, that would have been impossible, but I began to look at Paris as someone from within. I began to notice the social and cultural complexities as well as the formality in the people. I began to see Paris as real. My relationship had finally become intimate. The seduction ended but the love affair continued.

My life resumed in NYC, much richer and more insightful than prior to traveling. I became newly inspired by all things French. I took cooking classes to better understand this highly-revered kitchen, and resumed my language studies. The stage was being set.

And then, one day on my way to yoga on an early Spring evening, the entire path of my life became clear. It appeared in the form of a handsome green-eyed Italian. (But shouldn’t he be French? No, that would be too easy.) Smiles were exchanged, followed by words, followed by a drink, dinner and a promise to return. After all, he lived in Paris.

It took six weeks to fall in love, though who was counting, and another three months to move to Paris. The heart had decided and the head followed suit. I had met the most passionate man of my life and he lived in the most romantic city in the world. Was there even a question?

I am now living what I often considered to be my destiny. It was just a matter of time. I do believe there exists a place in which we feel most ourselves, where our souls can take flight. For me this place is Paris. Not without difficulties, but the myriad of pleasures outweigh the pains. The richness in the culture is undeniable, ever present in the historic sights that line the streets, the enchanting gardens waiting to be discovered, the neighborhood markets displaying regional specialties, the numerous art exhibitions, music and film festivals. I could go on.

To live in Paris is to live within a composition of perpetual charm and beauty. Am I over-romanticizing? Yes indeed, but this is the city of romance, and I am in love.