garden of art

My neighbor is Picasso. Rather, his art collection, contained in the Picasso Museum. How privileged do I feel living in such close proximity to some of the greatest art works in history? Very. But for the moment, a long moment ending sometime in Spring 2013, the museum is closed. That leaves me to explore the artwork surrounding the museum, more modern in style, some of it equally abstract.

Anyone who lives in Paris or visits often knows that you need only to look up to find artistic expressions in the form of graffiti, posters, murals… Often times the art found on the exterior walls of Paris is more interesting than that found inside the museums. If you take the time to look for it.

The beauty of the Picasso Museum lies also in it’s structure and surrounding garden. An ideal place to seek refuge and read a bit of French philosophy, do some writing of your own, share a baguette, or play a game of ping-pong. The latter one of my favorite Paris past times. And the composition of the sky above the museum at dusk is in itself a masterpiece.

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

today in history

You know you are living in the right city when there is a street commemorating your birthday.

I often walk past this unassuming street, cornering the famous Colette off of rue Saint-Honore, and feel a little special. So, what does it mean? This day in history celebrates the July Revolution in which Charles the X was overthrown, soon to be replaced by Louis-Phillipe, establishing the July Monarchy. July was an eventful month! Today, I celebrate along with the French, mindful of my own personal history. (Part of which fondly recalls last years adventures in Tuscany.)

How will I spend this day? If weather is on my side (still waiting for the return of summer to Paris), I will venture to the beach, Paris Plages that is, travel to India via the Pompidou, stop by chocolatier Michel Cluizel for a praline sampling, maybe even a Berthillon (pourquoi pas?) and simply lose myself in the tangle of streets, rive droite to rive gauche. (Yes, after almost two years I can still become happily lost.) All the while, grateful of having turned another year wiser and more fulfilled.

 

 

lights of broadway

Tonight I experienced the lights of Broadway. High up in the sky over the Eiffel Tower. Fireworks synchronized to famous show tunes such as ‘Memory’, ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’, and of course ‘New York, New York’. I am not a huge Broadway fan, but within these spectacular 30 minutes, I felt nostalgic. And utterly in awe. Amidst the 1 million spectators, I had a New York moment, in Paris.

 

 

places and people

Recently I spent one week in New York City and the unavoidable question arose, NYC or Paris? Two cities replete with culture, activity and energy, in unique and varying degrees. And both cities now considered my home. I was fortunate enough to discuss life between NYC and Paris over dinner with friend, francophile and New Yorker Amy Thomas. She well articulated this dilemma that many a New Yorker who moves to Paris experiences via HiP Paris Blog in New York or Paris: Une Bonne Question. A question far more complex than ‘bagels versus baguettes’.

Did we arrive to the conclusion that you can live a simultaneous love affair with both cities? Yes.

What became quickly apparent as I caroused the streets of this city that never sleeps (clearly evident in my 6am jetlag induced walks in the East Village), was that is it not the city but the people that create the feeling of home. It was not the trendy new restaurants, art exhibitions and fashion boutiques that I was eager to indulge in. It was the people that had composed my life for so many years. The unique faces that became friends had made my life in New York feel like home. And the backdrop of a vibrant city with endless possibilities, only enhanced the moments we shared.

As the days passed I filled them with as many warm faces as possible. Catching up with friends for even just a New York minute, playing with their babies, attending the wedding of the dear friend I moved to NYC with so many years ago… and celebrating friendship with a well needed girls night.

I began to look at NYC the place as a former love that I will forever cherish. It was NYC the people that held my heart. And shared it with Paris.

look. read. shop.

One of my favorite shops, which also happens to be in the Northern Marais where I call home, is Ofr., a boutique, bookstore and gallery. Genius! While you are perusing the impressive collection of art and design books, you can stumble into the back gallery and live an art experience. If you are new to Paris, owner Alexandre Thumerelle will guide you, literally, with his very own Guide Paris.

Here too, amidst the fine art photography filled walls,  you can find my hand-printed rive gauche and rive droite bags. A perfect setting for wearable art! And perfect bags to fill with books!

During my last visit I entered the creative vision of artist Jeremy Everett. What exactly did I find?

The American Heritage Dictionary. Unlike I have ever seen it.

Stay tuned for the 15 year Ofr. party on May 20th! And check here for more art events.

a la mode

 

Many years before I first stepped my well dressed foot in Paris, I loved Parisian fashion. I found it to be timeless, elegant and classy. Had I as a child, watched too many films starring my beloved Audrey Hepburn? Perhaps. Nonetheless, for anyone who has ever been to Paris, there is definitely a ‘look’. Depending on the neighborhood of course, but in my designing eyes, Paris is the city of fashion. Once the home of Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent (to name a few), how can it not be?

Fashion week is upon us again yet I am losing track of it’s dates as every day can easily prove a fashion show. I tend to rely on basic black adopted from my NY days and select accessories, constituting my ‘Parisian look’.

For more of my fashion musings, here’s something I wrote for the ladies at HiP Paris: ‘Parisian Fashion‘.

 

And take care when you run to the boulangerie for a baguette, there does exist a dress code!

The Fairytale

HiP Paris asked me to write a post in honor of Valentine’s Day. How fitting! Considering that it was LOVE that brought me to the ‘City of Love’. Much like a dream (or fairytale) come true.

The Fairytale

The dream of every girl, particularly on Valentine’s Day, is to be swept away by a Prince Charming, into a setting of eternal sunsets and romantic interludes. Does such a fairytale really exist? No, not exactly. But for everyone there does exist a unique love story. It’s simply a matter of time. And meeting the right Prince.

Needless to say, I never stopped believing in fairytales.

I met my ‘Prince’ one late March afternoon in New York City, very fittingly on the corner of Prince Street. It was a chance encounter, provoked by the puppets of destiny. Me, a hopeful romantic who had just returned from a year long journey around the world. He, a passionate Italian living in Paris. The ‘city that never sleeps’ our stage. Now this was the setting for a fairytale.

Five months later I moved to Paris.  To live my story.

It is now eighteen months of a life founded on love, in a city that sets the precedent for romance. Has it always been easy? Not at all. But is has always been a great adventure. Within this time we have experienced many an amorous interlude, in settings including Italy, Corsica and Greece, but it is the place we call home, Paris, that proves the most enchanting. I might add that the summer sunsets do seem to last an eternity. To continue what can certainly be called a fairytale, we are soon getting married. A happy ending that is merely the beginning.

I often reflect upon my life and how thankful I am. To have met him. And to never have stopped to dream.

Many more inspiring stories on life and love in Paris on the HiP Paris Blog.

morning marketing

Ever since I moved to Paris, we’ve had the very French idea to go ‘marketing’ on Sunday morning. Particularly the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th, one of the largest markets with the widest array of fresh produce. Our plan was to buy all of our fruits and vegetables for the week, fresh fish for an evening feast and perhaps even mingle with the locals. How enticing! In theory. Come Sunday we were so happy to have time to rest and enjoy a long and leisurely brunch at home, we simply never made it to the market, which closed at the absurdly early hour of 1:30pm. Exactly the time we were enjoying our second cup of coffee. (Fortunately, Marche des Enfants Rouge is just around the corner.)

Recently I was invited to join well reputed Context Paris for a Sunday morning market walk led by docent, foodie and writer Meg Zimbeck, who I was eager to meet, where else but at the Marché d’Aligre. (How did they know?) Finally a morning at the market with my Italian, and a guide!

It turned out to be a morning well worth sacrificing our Sunday ritual, even though the temperature made for quite a chilly stroll. We explored the length of the market, both indoor and out, tasted of delicacies I hadn’t dreamt of sampling so early on a Sunday, and ended the tour with a seasonal (and very savory) cheese tasting. Perfect.

My Italian and I left feeling both educated on the history of this part of our city and fully indulged in the tastes of France. An added bonus was sharing the tour with Raquel, a lovely travel consultant with a grand appetite for Paris.

How are we spending next Sunday? Marketing of course. Thanks for the inspiration Context & Meg!

the language of blogging

When I moved to Paris almost 18 months ago, I knew barely a soul. My one Parisian friend was living her own story in Tel Aviv and all forms of human comfort aside from my Italian, were back in NYC. I soon met a few ‘friends of friends’ and very slowly began building a social network. Feeling the need to reach out into the world, as I had done during my travels, I started a blog. Also simply because my story of love in Paris was too unique and beautiful not to share. And, I love to write.

What would I gain from this experience of blogging? More than I had anticipated. Not only am I able to share pieces of my life from across the sea, and in so doing keep in touch with family and friends from home, in the shared language of blogging, I have met many new ones. I must add that Twitter has had a lot to do with it!

In the very early days of my Paris blog it was a woman named Andi Fisher who first reached out and somehow I felt less lonely in this quest for a new life. Since then I have come to know Andi through her misadventures, one of them taking her to Paris last October where I had the pleasure, along with many fellow Paris bloggers, to meet in person. It was an honor! (And yes, Paris bloggers rule!)

I had a chance to speak with Andi about her life and experience of blogging… and she had a lot to say! I consider Andi a mentor when it comes to social media and blogging. Soon I will share her insights.

Since that meeting I have gotten to know many of these soulful and charismatic bloggers on a deeper level as we share the experience of Paris through our online journals. These ‘tweet-ups’ as they have come to be known, provide a forum in which to share frustrations and celebrations, find support and simply enjoy the company of others living what can often but not always be called the Paris dream.

Via our shared language, I feel more at home and have a deeper awareness of Paris and it’s people, than I had imagined I could in so short a time. Here are a few of the many faces from Sunday’s much anticipated ‘tweet-up’, organized by Priscilla of Weekend in Paris, who was doing just that…

Melissa of Prête Moi Paris, Beth Arnold of Letter to Paris and Lily of Context Paris

Bellanda of Bellanda’s Creations, Karen of Bonjour Paris and Monique of Entrée to Black Paris

Shannon of Je Ne Sais Quoi Blog and Forest of 52 Martinis

Opal of  Opal Blossoms, Sion of Paris (Im)perfect and Milla of Not Just Another Milla

Me, one of my Paris Collection bags, Bellanda and Priscilla of Weekend in Paris

Who have I missed? Until we meet again, may we continue to share the language of blogging…

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!

sharing the bag love

It’s been 17 days since I launched my new handbag business. I hadn’t planned on writing a post about it, but with so much attention, interest and orders from around the world, I simply can’t resist. Mostly, to thank everyone for all the love and support. Where to begin?

I was honored to be interviewed by friend and fellow expat Lindsey Tramuta of Lost in Cheeseland who writes a weekly column for BitchBuzz, a highly reputed women’s lifestyle site. It’s interesting (and challenging) to delve into your own mind and find out exactly what makes you tick, and in my case, design. Here’s our Q&A: from NY to Paris, also featured on her blog!

Nirit Sumeruk writes a very fashion forward blogazine Paris Popcorn featuring new and emerging trends, my handbags being one of them! She is particularly fond of the Paris Collection and asks the eminent question of anyone living in Paris: are you Rive Gauche or Rive Droite?

Speaking of Downtown/Rive Droite gals, friend and fellow NYer/Parisian (you can surely claim to be both, can’t you?), Amy Thomas of God, I love Paris, has chosen her favorite side, and bag.

My Francophile friend and blogger Andi Fisher of Misadventures with Andi generously included my ‘I heart Paris‘ hand-printed bag in the grand finale of her 12 days of Christmas giveaway. (You still have time to enter, winner will be randomly chosen at midnight PST on December 19th!) It’s also great to know which bags are favorites from both old and new collections!

Little did I know who else was sharing the love. Maggie Battista, part of the lovely HiP Paris blog, is coveting one of my bags on her ‘wish list‘ (perhaps her husband will get the subtle hint?)

I’m very proud to be a featured designer on Swelle Boutique, a showcase of clothing & accessories that bring the dreamy and romantic into our daily lives in tangible, wearable form. How fitting!

Please let me know if I am missing anyone, as I would like to offer personal gratitude.

Stay tuned via my Facebook Fan Page and twitter @kasiainparis (and for special bag promos @kasiadietzbags) for a lot more news and bag love in 2011!

a love story

The most beautiful love story of my life, other than my own, began many years ago in the early 70’s. It was a meeting of two disparate souls, their paths forever altered by a chance encounter. (Sounds familiar?) My Mom and Dad met in London on the night before my father was to return to America. Little did he know that a woman who introduced herself as Cleopatra, would leave such an impact. What happened in those moments will forever remain a romantic mystery, as it should.

Seven days later the young Polish beauty received a letter from the handsome American gentleman. He was returning to London to see her again. And to propose. They were married three months later, and thus began their life together. Almost to this very day, so many years ago.

It was here in Paris that they spent their honeymoon, my father being a devout Francophile. Three weeks of romance on the left bank. Hotel des 2 Continents on 25 Rue Jacob, to be exact. How fitting! On my many carousings in Saint Germain, I often walk on Rue Jacob and imagine the time my parents spent there, the many places they went, the bistros they dined in, the conversations they had, the first chapter of a the life between a writer and his muse…me, a romantic?

It also happens to be the location of one of my favorite sweets shops in Paris, Laduree. Even more reason to dream, with macaron in hand, as I live my very own love story. Inspired by two romantics.

the designing life

Several years ago, inbetween a demanding career and a busy social life, I took one of my creative ideas and materialized it. Literally. I began to print fabric combining my affinity for minimalist designs with prints my mom created in the 70’s. I bought a sewing machine and voilà! Well, not exactly that easy but from those first handbag prototypes, that I so aptly titled ‘wearable art’, reversible no less, my designing life took off. With the help of a good friend, we put together a site and before I knew it I was being interviewed by the Japanese in NYC’s Bryant Park. They loved my hand-printed canvas bags for their uniqueness and versatility, especially the frog bag.

The ferns bag happens to be one of my favorites. Notice my first handmade labels!

In time I expanded my collections to include totes and clutches, the hamptons collection, and began to sell in boutiques all over NY and California. Since then, provence inspired by my travels in France.

Since moving to Paris, the path towards designing has not been an easy one. I faced one hurdle after another, namely finding a manufacturer. Oh, the adventures I have had in this quest! And all of this in a language not my own. Frustrated but determined, I bought another sewing machine and got to work, inspired by my travels and my new life in Europe. Prototypes were created and many an afternoon was spent in the garment districts between Montmartre and the Sentier. As luck or can I say karma would have it, one of my new ‘friends in the fabric world’ Jean-Claude, passed along a few names of local manufacturers, and I followed my instincts. With all the American optimism I could muster, I began production.

Many weeks, language lessons and production schedule revisions later, I am very happy and excited to reveal my latest reversible handbag creations. The tribal collection, inspired by places I have yet to visit and the retro collection, designs that remain timeless. Highlighted by the most beautiful backdrop of all, Paris. (I also designed a hand-printed collection inspired by life in the City of Lights.)

From Ile de la Cité to Place des Vosges, two of my favorite Parisian scenes.

As a big fan of big bags, I expanded on my totes (and clutches) with the earth and sky collection.

My new website is live! Thanks to my web designer, and very patient friend Bernard. I must also thank Evelyn, fellow designer and friend, and of course my Italian for all his business and design advice (who knew he had a knack for colors!). And all those who will soon be gifted with a handbag.

Take a look, order a handbag (just in time for the holidays!), and pass along to everyone you know. For new product updates and special promotions, join kasia dietz handbags on twitter and facebook.

concrete jungle

Admittedly, I often miss the feeling of being lost in a concrete jungle, also known as New York City. Feeling so small amidst such grandness has a certain appeal. Perhaps it’s the feeling of so many lives being lived vertically, that behind each window another story is unfolding. And simply to look up is to feel alive! Rather than hop on a jet and cross the ocean I hop on the 1 train. Destination: La Défense. 

Recently I had some business to tend to in Neuilly Sur Seine, a wealthy suburb to the west of Paris. What most appealed to me were the views of the skyscrapers ahead, or what is actually Paris’s major business district. Beneath a moody sky, I decided to walk. My Italian lunch date awaited.

I crossed the Seine from the peace of a small French village into the energy of concrete motion.

En route I was impressed with the many artistic displays, both on the ground and in the architecture.

One particular place is my favorite. A wooden boardwalk behind the Grande Arche, overlooking a blanket of trees and a cemetery. It is here where we often sit. And I think of the many lives once lived below and the many being lived above. 

Soon La Défense will be wrapped in holiday lights. A view from the top of the Grande Arche beckons.

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…

Paris in a day

Is it possible to see Paris in a day? No, but we were determined to see as much as we could. The Italians were coming (my Italian’s family that is) and we had only three days to introduce them to the city we call home. Their first visit. Their first flight. And so many more firsts (little did they know!)

The best, most relaxing (not to mention romantic) way to tour Paris is by boat. More precisely, the Batobus. Unlimited transportation for the day, stopping at eight destinations, at a mere 13 euro (a Privilege fee of 9 euro if you hold a Pass Navigo). I have often seen this vehicle coasting up and down the Seine, transporting an array of international tourists to it’s various stops. Now it was time to become one of them. And happily so! I hope to never stop viewing Paris with the eyes of a tourist.

It was a gorgeous sunny day. In other words, Perfect ‘fall in love with Paris’ weather. We boarded the boat at Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall. From there we headed along the Seine, first stop Eiffel Tower.

What could be more spectacular than the view of Paris from a height of nearly 1,000 feet?

From there we walked through the Parc du Champ de Mars, dined in a nearby bistro and resumed our tour by boat. Next stop the Jardin des Tuileries beneath a clear blue sky. Magical.

And yes, the Louvre. A quick stop to admire the architecture. The masterpieces would have to wait. 

Back on the boat to enjoy the views of my favorite part of Paris, and one of the oldest, île de la Cité.

This island is the home of Notre Dame and here we disembarked as the sun was getting ready to set. 

Much more of Paris remained  to be seen in the two days ahead. The next tour would be by subway and foot. As we had suspected, the Italians were enamored. Wait until they discovered Versailles…

fashionably speaking

Paris is the world’s fashion capital. And nowhere else is this more evident than on the streets of this fashionistas gone wild city. I’m lucky to be living in what I consider one of the most fashionable neighborhoods, the Marais. The streets keep me informed of the latest styles and colors, keeping me inspired in my own world of creation and design. I’m not one to follow too many trends, in my personal style nor in my designing, but do appreciate what’s ‘in vogue’ and enjoy this ever evolving creative medium called dress. I shared a few thoughts upon arrival one year ago during my first Fashion Week in Paris. And again in ‘the look of a Parisian’, as another Fashion week approached. 

The streets of Paris will remain my all-time favorite perpetual fashion show. Here are a few recent ‘street looks a la Parisienne’. This year however, at the invitation of Melissa, a fellow expat and blogger, I finally had a chance to see what goes on behind closed doors. Specifically, the doors of Galerie de Minéralogie. Where else but in Paris do you attend a fashion show in a history museum?

Spanish designer Amaya Arzuaga proved to have chosen the perfect venue to reveal her geometric designs evoking caterpillars, butterflies and other fauna. More on Melissa’s blog: Pret Moi Paris.



Ready to fly yet?

Paris: year one

One year ago I left everything and everyone that had composed my life for nearly 12 years, and moved from NYC to Paris. I remember the moments leading to this day so well. The great anticipation mixed with nostalgia. The fear outweighed by excitement. I never once doubted or questioned my decision, and one year later I feel even more confident having followed my heart. 

The journey has been an insightful and often difficult one. As anyone living an expat life well knows, in Paris or anywhere. (I will refrain from getting into details, but oh the stories I could tell…) 

Here are my top 10 ‘rules to live by’, based on what I have learned thus far. In no particular order.

1. let go of expectations (or prepare to be disappointed)

2. learn humility (perhaps the most important lesson of all)

3. follow your instincts (trust yourself completely)

4. laugh at yourself whenever possible (otherwise you might cry)

5. learn the language to know the people and culture (still working on that…)

6. indulge guilt-free in the pleasure of local food and drink (without over-indulging)

7. take time to discover yourself (outside the context of work)

8. don’t be driven solely by the ego (period.)

9. appreciate the simple pleasures (never take them for granted)

10. follow your dreams (and believe in them)

summer stillness

My first August in Paris. Without the Parisians. Without the comforts of local boulangeries and bistros. Equally, without the discomforts of cafes overflowing with locals. Most of my neigborhood haunts are closed, as are most well regarded restaurants. The owners have resigned to their annual month long holiday. Hard to believe for someone coming from the USA, where to close, even for a long weekend, would mean to lose business, which would inevitably lead to demise. Not so in Paris. Perhaps these frequented spots know their value too well. They know their customer will return, as they do every year come September when the city breathes life again.

These days the streets are filled with international faces and sounds, a melody of English mixed with Spanish and Italian, among others. My place has become somewhere in between these curious tourists and the confidant locals who remain. Many of whom spend long afternoons upon the sandy shores of the Seine called Paris Plage, lasting until August 20th. Not a bad option for a sunny day.

This time is ideal to appreciate all the luxuries, both food related and other, that can easily be taken for granted. It is a time for stillness and reflection. James Morgan so well articulates the feeling of August in Paris in The Longest Sunday, ‘Coffee, Bach, the newspaper, brunch, a walk in the park, the knowledge that no one else is working—what could be better than that?’ Absolutely nothing.

There exist many activities to quiet the mind, far away from the toil of the tourists. Visits to hidden gardens, antique markets and museums, those often walked by but never entered. Now is the time. One of my favorite August activities is the pique-nique. A simple recipe. Close friends, often mixed with a few new ones. A carefully chosen selection of cheeses and fruit, a good bottle of wine and a glorious sunset. 

Maybe one day I too will dream beneath another summer horizon, but until then I will enjoy this one.

sharing the {blog} love

It is almost one year since I began a life of love in Paris, and Love in the City of Lights was born. What a journey it has been! Little did I know what I would learn and who I would encounter along the way, and all the friends I would make in between.

Through the experience of sharing my life with fellow expats and even a few hopeful romantics, I have come to know Paris, its culture and its people more intimately. I still struggle to understand (and accept) the many French cultural nuances, but I feel much more at home and much less an outsider. For these fellow bloggers (and many others not mentioned), and my dear readers, I am very grateful. I share this love with fellow bloggers, francophiles around the world, and Paris expats.

One of my first virtual friendships was with Andi of Misadventures with Andi, who blogs about many of my favorite subjects including travel, culture, love and of course Paris, always keeping the conversation varied and interesting. I hope to meet in person on her next trip to Paris! 

On the topic of life in Paris, so many I love! Beth Arnold I have come to know and admire for her sophisticated and unprecedented Letter From Paris. Lindsey, of Lost in Cheeseland shares many an anecdote on life as an expat, often with humor and always with candor. For the latest in goings on in the City of Lights, Kim inspires with I Heart Paris. Many secrets and cultural happenings are revealed by Heather in Secrets of Paris. The stories and visual poetry by Nichole of little brown pen, living between Paris and NJ, always cause me to feel lucky to live surrounded by so much beauty. Though many don’t realize it until living here, Paris is indeed imperfect and Sion brings this to light in Paris (Im)perfect. Marjorie, who is neither French nor has ever lived in France, writes my inner French girl, describing the French art of living. That undeniable je ne sais quoi that is so inherently French!

Of the mommy club which I am not yet a part, but have several expat friends who are, Barbara writes a very real and witty blog about the experience of living and raising children in a foreign country in International Mama. As a super Mama and freelance writer, she also writes The Expat Freelancer to help expat writers find their voice and use it. Another saavy American mama with many a story to tell to aspiring expat mothers is La Mom.

On the topic of food, everyone knows (or should know) David Lebovitz for his appetizing site about all things food related and author of The Sweet Life. I met David at a sexy book signing and hope to cross paths again over crepes at Breizh Cafe. For those with a sweet tooth, Cat, otherwise known as Little Miss Cupcake, creates the most delectable cupcakes! About where and what to eat (as the amount of dining options can be daunting) a wonderful new site recently launched, aptly titled Paris By Mouth. Food porn anyone? Through a good friend I met Cynthia, a writer and adventurous foodie from LA who writes about exactly that in Adventure Eating. All that eating but where to drink? Forest keeps a detailed account of the tastiest cocktails and happiest happy hours in 52 Martinis

On the topic of travel, one of my favorites, there’s a blog I simply love which bridges the gap between France and Italy, both of which I now consider my homes. Robin, a travel consultant and writer with great travel taste, captures the essence of two of the most beautiful countries in My Melange. I am also a fervent follower of the travels of  Granturismo, Lara and Terence, as they travel for 12 months in 24 destinations. Instant nostalgia for my 2007 travels, 13 months in 32 destinations.

New York City will always remain home to me (considering I now have 3, and counting). To keep myself connected to this dynamic city I begin my mornings with a café creme and a cup of Jo, much loved blog by fashionista and new mommy, Joanna Goddard. There are many more NYC blogs I read, including the inspiring and design saavy my turtleneck by Catherine Mangosing of Brooklyn.

I’m looking forward to discovering many more blogs, meeting many more bloggers and fellow expats, and continued adventures and musings on life and love in Paris in year two!

meet Paul Klee

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible -Paul Klee 

If there were an artist I would have loved to sit down to dinner with a good bottle of French wine, (there are so many, but having to choose only one) it would be Paul Klee. Not simply because he was a talented musician, writer AND painter, nor for the fact that his unique style of painting included the art movements of expressionismcubism, and surrealism, but because certain of his paintings evoke in me a feeling so rare and magical that I would love to know the workings of his mind. To know how these painting came to life. I have learned this somewhat, by reading the passionate and provocative prose of his diaries, and whenever possible I search for his work in museums around the world, including two of my favorites, the Tate Modern in London and the MOMA in NYC.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Mr. Klee in Paris. He work was featured at the Musée de l’Orangerie, what is now one of my favorite museums in Paris (in addition to the Musée dOrsay, loved by all for it’s renowned Impressionist collection). The exhibition was very soon ending (today in fact!). I had been meaning to go for ages, and finally made a date with the master.

I brought my Italian, curious whether he would fall in love the way I did upon my first Klee encounter, so many years ago. Does not taste in art make a relationship even stronger? Well, not really, but if it’s a passion then surely it should be shared. We were both impressed with the collection of 26 works by Ernst Beyeler, one of the founders of Art Basel. I enjoyed the show but missed some of my favorite pieces that hang in Klee’s country of birth, Switzerland. 

That reminds me. One of the most memorable nights spent during my travels was in Bern. I arrived in the late afternoon, and as luck would have it, on my one night in the city, the Paul Klee Museum was open until 9pm. Needless to say, I spent over 3 hours in what felt like the most intimate encounter with a man and his work.

Klee once so wisely said, Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.

It is Paul Klee that speaks to me again now, in this time of wandering, that we must never cease to search, and always to dream.

Childhood was a dream, some day all would be accomplished. The period of learning, a time for searching into everything, into the smallest, into the most hidden, into the good and the bad. Then a light is lit somewhere, and a single direction is followed (that stage I now enter, let us call it the time of wandering).

One of my favorites: Chat et Oiseau (1928) 


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.


art on the canal

I’ve been feeling a bit homesick lately, missing the cultural activities of NYC and most of all my creative-minded accomplices to indulge in them with. Not that Paris lacks in art, music or film festivals, particularly in the summertime. I simply need to dig a little deeper to find them, and often that means translating. (In other words: intimidating)

When I found out that NYC friend and photographer Casey Kelbaugh, was bringing his Slideluck Potshow event to Paris as part of his European tour, I was thrilled! It has taken him four years to present to a French audience (we won’t get into those details) but finally he made it happen. Slideluck Potshow is a non-profit organization dedicated to building and strengthening the community through art and food. Hence the mixing of Slideshow and Potluck. Casey is one example of  a creative visionary who planted a seed (in his hometown of Seattle to be precise) by gathering friends and artists together in his backyard, and has in the last 10 years watched it blossom and grow throughout the USA and Europe. Much due to it’s success in NYC in the last 6 years. 

I felt at home within this atmosphere of familiarity with a French twist, as did over 400 others. A night of meeting and mingling with artists and art aficionados, eating a mix of foods as is the SLPS theme, and watching a carefully curated slideshow presentation of 40 chosen photographers, organized around a theme, each show accompanied by it’s own soundtrack. Well done! 

To add to the appeal, the event could not have been better located than on Canal Saint-Martin. Le Comptoir Général in the 10th arrondissement, is now my new favorite venue for all things creative. 

This all leads me to question, are the grounds of NYC more fertile than those in Paris? Can creative visionaries find a home here too? To be continued…

the sounds of summer

The summer sun has finally reached Paris. It took a while, with chilly temperatures until just last week. To celebrate the summer solstice on June 21st, Paris holds an annual event in which music fills the air. This musical celebration began in Paris 28 years ago and now takes place around the world.

I first experienced the sounds of Fête de la Musique last year on a visit to Paris, just before jetting off to the Isle of Skye for work. It remains one of favorite nights, as every corner of Paris is filled with song from 7pm until early morning. Classical orchestras, jazz bands, rock musicians, or simply a man standing on the street performing his best rendition of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’. Quite a number of characters, as well as large scale talent find their way into this festival of music and it’s a sensation to weave in and out of the streets with tunes of one performer melting into the next. Personally, I love the ‘organized chaos’ of it all and wish it lasted longer than one night.

In the midst of the melodies as we caroused the right bank, we stopped for dinner at a little bistro, and much to my delight the jazz band featured a tap dancer, tapping to many old American favorites.

One of the most impressive and certainly most passionate performers we heard was Buika, a Spanish singer who filled the air with a unique mix of flamenco and jazz. The jardin du Palais-Royal was the perfect setting for such a diva.

As we biked from the vicinity of the Louvre, too impatient to wait two hours on line to hear the Orchestra de Paris, and much more eager to wander in the direction our ears chose to take us, we biked back to the Marais. Here was quite a scene! The streets were filled with dancing and drinking…and yes, a lot of singing. Though not sure who was part of the line-up. Trying to avoid the madness, we took a few narrower paths and came upon a small crowd of people at the door of the Bibliotheque Historique. Like three small birds, these women’s operatic voices filled the air. We were instantly mesmerized. The perfect notes upon which to end the night.

My mom once said, the greatest talent is the gift of song. Maybe in my next life.

the dreams of a seven year old

On a recent trip to Monterosso I felt like a movie star. Not because of my Jackie O sunglasses or the many tourists photos I am (accidentally) appearing in, but because of a little seven year old girl named Emma. It turns out that Emma, the beautiful product of  an ‘American girl on holiday meets local Italian boy’ love story that originated on the shores of the Ligurian Sea, is completely enamored with Paris. Why? Simply because it’s Paris. (On that note, who isn’t?) I understood her very well, and she could feel it. If I correctly recall, that’s about the age when my love affair with Paris first began. 

When I encountered this little Emma, already quite a cultured and curious, not to mention naturally bilingual girl, she was star-struck. I was met with a grin from ear to ear. After all, she was in the presence of a real live walking and talking girl, (quite a bit taller and older than she, minor details) who lives in the city of her dreams. In her young and impressionable mind I was a movie star. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little, but I felt flattered to indulge this little girls fantasy. 

We spoke about Paris with sparkles in our eyes, while I dreamt of youth and she dreamt of adulthood. Both of our fantasies grew more colorful and with the gap of a generation, we understood one another perfectly in the unspoken language of the dreamer.

Emma and her mother are planning a trip to Paris soon, where surely we will rendezvous. Emma in fact, already she has her outfit picked out. (I hope she’s keeping track of the Parisian trends, I don’t want her to experience a fashion faux pas!)

I left Emma with a knowing smile, and these few words, “Be mindful of what you wish for, it may very well come true.” She smiled back.

What did you wish for at seven years old?

melancholic air

I often feel like an optimist living in a world of pessimists. In other words, an ex-pat living in Paris. At first, and even second glance, Parisians do not appear a happy bunch. They rarely smile or laugh and formality is evident in their manner of speech and body language. Is this attitude contagious? Will I become more serious and less smiley in time?

What is the reason behind this seemingly grim outlook on life? Perhaps this pensive look is a facade, meant to imply depth and intelligence. The French highly value knowledge and like to question almost anything. And anyone, for that matter. This is all in high contrast to the ‘light and happy’ approach to life Americans are known to possess. (I tend to live somewhere inbetween.)

The French are lucky, given the expansive healthcare system and 35-hour work week, not to mention the haute cuisine, enchanting landscapes…I could go on. France is a country often rated number one in terms of ‘Quality of Life’. There is no reason not to feel the joie de vivre. Unless there is a secret I have not been privy to. 

Perhaps we can blame the weather for this ‘melancholic air’. It’s currently Spring and the temperature rarely exceeds 60 degrees fahrenheit. More often than not, the sky is filled with clouds releasing torrents of rain. I can sulk beneath the varying shades of gray, spend late afternoons at a local cafe plotting a protest, or debating Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s socio-political role in French affairs. Or any number of philosophical musings.

Or I can continue to search for that and those which make me smile. And simply enjoy what is. Aware that after the rain the sun will shine, and I might even catch a glimpse of a rainbow.


love in a day

Today marks my anniversary of love. Not the day I met this handsome man so serendipitously on the street, nor the day I arrived to Paris to begin this grand adventure, but the day somewhere inbetween when we both knew our childhood dreams of love had finally been realized. I remember it all so well. The soundtrack to these defining days includes the Cinderella Opera at Lincoln Center followed by a live performance by my most revered blues singer Etta James. At Last! Can it get any more romantic than that? Most of all I remember the words spoken and the feelings shared. The promise of forever, a word that should never be taken lightly, nor ever taken for granted. 

I think about all the days leading towards this one. The act of falling in love, the many  steps along the way, most taken without hesitation or looking back. When something, in the form of someone, feels so natural it is impossible to walk away. In my experience, as the romantic that I am, you must simply allow yourself to be taken, confidant that the who is much more relevant than the how, where and why. The when becomes the day you look back upon and smile, knowing there was no other path.

Love cannot be summed up in a day, or even in a lifetime. Each day should be uniquely cherished and celebrated. How the years will unfold remains a mystery, which days will stand apart from others, making their mark upon the calendar of our lives. Regardless, May 7th will always be our day.

Everyone has their own unique story. Some have yet to experience it (my advice: enjoy the journey until that day finds you). For those willing to tell, which day most symbolizes love for you? (No, Valentine’s Day does not count.)

the journey of success

These days I think a lot about my life, what I have done, how I have done it, and what I have yet to do. The word success comes to mind as my ego struggles to come to terms with a life in which I am currently undefined by work or social status. Does ‘open-minded ex-pat from NYC’ count? 

Success is defined as: the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. By definition I consider myself successful, having desired a career in advertising, planned a trip around the world, and attempted love. All of which I have achieved. The latter of which I consider the most important and most difficult to succeed in. (Perhaps why such an emphasis is placed on career, it’s much more manageable than matters of the heart.)

Why then am I struggling with the destination, the who and what I will be in the context of this new life, when it’s in fact the journey that causes us to become, and eventually to succeed. As I have become before and will become again. Can I not revel in the role of a girl in love staring at the sky? It just happens to be a sky I am not accustomed to, above a world lacking definitions. Perhaps I have become programmed after so many years of over-stimulation and professional endeavors in a society where success has no limits and is often measured monetarily. It was much more about the doing than the being. I tended not to agree with this mentality but I was indeed a part of it.

Along the way, did I lose sight of the simple pleasures in self-discovery? In the fulfillment of personal achievements that are exclusive of the ego? Of what, and more importantly who, is truly significant in life? Now, as it’s presented to me every morning in the form of a smiling face and anticipatory eyes, I understand that this, by all accounts, is the truest measure of success. Achievement in it’s most pure, simple and gratifying form, love. The journey has only just begun.

one year later

It is almost one year since I met him. ‘Him’ being the reason I am living in Paris. So much of life is about timing. The rest is up to us. In the words of my mother, indeed the wisest woman I know, ‘everyone is given a moment in life that can alter its course forever, and it’s what you do in that moment that makes all the difference.’ Either the head or the heart must dictate. I chose the heart.

This is my story in short, to inspire those searching for love amidst the chaos and distraction of a city like NYC, or anywhere in the world for that matter. I met with love on the street, on a late evening in early Spring, in NYC’s Soho neighborhood. In one fortuitous moment two smiles were exchanged. Followed by a drink, followed by dinner (which will remain one of the most defining moments of my life), followed by simple knowing. Perhaps it all began with knowing.

Reflecting on my life, have I ever been one to follow the assigned path? To do what is expected of me? Yes, in regards to my academic and professional life. I climbed the proverbial ladder, so to speak, living 12 years of a highly responsible, moderately corporate, decreasingly satisfying life in NYC. Until I disembarked at a rather advantageous height and abandoned the ladder altogether (here begins my story of traveling the world, an experience that undoubtedly contributed to the status of my current life, to be delved into in later musings…) Back to the path, the vast vista that lies ahead in which all the secrets of our lives are revealed. When it came to love, I simply NEVER followed a path. Born a hopeless romantic who at around the age of 15 decided it wiser to live a life as ‘hopeful’, my heart ALWAYS dictates. For this, I thank my parents.

Every day amidst these foreign tastes and yet undecipherable sounds, I feel fortunate. Whenever appropriate I share my story with like-hearted women, those who for years have reputed love to be something only to read about in romance novels or to watch upon the big screen. (One too many heartbreaks can dissuade even the most diehard of romantics.) In our current state of ‘Generation X’ affairs, the mind often takes precedence over the heart. A career sets the path while love only provides temporary rest stops. I agree that we must follow our own path towards fulfillment, and whatever we consider to be success, but at what cost? Is not love the foundation upon which fulfillment and success is built? Beginning with the love of self.

I believe that you get what you ask for in life, what you truly desire. Often this is not so evident as it’s hidden deeply in our subconscious. But in a moment, or sometimes an entire lifetime of reflection, the answer becomes clear. Sometimes it’s as simple as smiling at a stranger.

Life in Paris : Top 10

It is nearly 6 months that I am living a life of love (and miscellaneous other sentiments, depending on the day), in the most romantic city in the world, Paris! Not to mention with the most passionate of men, an Italian. (No offense to all others nationalities of the world, most of which I think very highly of, but I must be partial). 

As any ex-pat who has lived in Paris knows very well, living in a uniquely French culture is no easy task. These days the French are even asking themselves ‘What does it mean to be French?’ Hence, is there even a place for the culturally curious like myself? Being raised by a Polish mother and an American father (a Francophile I might add), I always understood and accepted culture to be a mysterious and stimulating mélange. Having grown up mostly in the USA, a country composed of immigrants, this is what I was taught is acceptable, also considering I never chose to fit in, in the first place. In hindsight, the ‘American Dream’ was never mine. (Hmmm, does a white picket fence exist in the South of France?)

Rather than begin the debate ‘Can an ex-pat ever be considered French’, or a long list of what I miss about my life in NYC (so many simple pleasures filled my 12 years…), versus the many difficulties I face in France, I will focus on what I LOVE about Paris. In an attempt to increase my awareness about this city and to miss home a little less.

My top 10, in no particular order (except for the first one):

1. Paris is for lovers and I am in Love! In NYC too, surely love can be found, but much more difficult to nurture in such a fast-paced city with so much of everything.

2. Eating is an art. Dinner is a daily ritual, an experience to savour, whether dining at home on a Monday night, at a local bistro with friends, or at a highly-rated Brasserie. 

3. The pace of life is S L O W. These days, I rarely walk with the speed of a New Yorker. As soon as the flowers begin to blossom I will take the time to smell them. ALL of them.

4. Living history. Each corner of Paris feels like stepping into the pages of a history book. Simply taking a walk, anywhere, is enchanting.

5. Simple pleasures. You can exist on a decadent (if not so balanced) diet of the finest in bread, cheese, wine and chocolate, at least for the first month. I could go on about the cheese…

6. Art fills the air. The unique and often beautiful graffiti art and murals are a pleasure to admire. Even a shopping trip to Galeries Lafayette proves a cultural experience, with a gallery exhibiting select artists and window displays to match. And the MANY revered galleries lining the left and right banks…

7. The sky. Particularly mesmerizing at dusk. (I can’t recall, was there even a sky in NYC?)

8. Time to be. Mostly due to the highly coveted 35 hour work week. The French value their free time, something I (nor anyone I know) seemed to ever have enough of in NYC. To pursue hobbies, to travel, simply to be. 

9. The Seine. Whether it be a late summer night, wrapped in warm air overlooking the Notre Dame, or a brisk walk across the Pont Neuf in the chill of winter, in the reflection of the Seine I cannot help but to smile and feel grateful.

10. The people I love most in the world will all come to visit. This is Paris after all!

The list is much longer and there remain many more Parisian delights to discover. (Please feel free to add your own.)

What is that famous saying, ‘you can take the girl out of the city…’. I will always be a New Yorker at heart, and I will never quite attain the status of a Parisian. But surely I will enjoy the experience of living in this culturally resplendent city and adding to the richness of my own unique culture.

Sunday stillness

I have quickly come to cherish Sundays in Paris. For one simple reason, love. Sundays in NYC, following the sacred ritual of brunching with friends, were most often spent solo amidst the masses, shopping in Soho or sitting in Central Park reading or dreaming. I think too, of the countless Sundays during my travels. Regardless of the continent I inhabited, endless hours were spent in observation (often considered sight-seeing) as the world became suddenly still. Sundays, as I well recall in my childhood, are a day to spend with family (or friends who in the case of my previous life in NYC had become family). Now here in Paris, I feel the warmth of family. It is only he and I, but that is enough to provide the feeling of home.

Today, in our sacred Sunday tradition we woke up to the late morning sun, radiating light from an inviting sky. Most often clear and bright in it’s winter chill. A savory brunch in the Marais, which has become quite a trend in Paris. A late edition of the ‘International Herald Tribune’, much more manageable a read than my esteemed ‘Sunday NY Times’ (though indeed I do miss the Travel and Styles sections to name a few). Upon walking to the Seine to admire the serenity and the awe-inspiring views, we stopped for a moment of reflection at Church Saint Gervais. As though invited through divine intervention, we entered the setting of a performance combining poetry, painting and music. Within this scene illuminated only by candles, I could understand words not phrases, emotions not meanings. Yet, in all it’s abstract obscurity, the experience was deeply enchanting. The flutist sounding the melodies of birds as images of clouds and sea projected above the altar. It is upon such an impromptu path that life most naturally reveals itself.

living history

I have always enjoyed the company of older people. When I was a little girl I would sit for hours with heavy lids, listening to the conversations and trying to follow the gestures exchanged between my parents and their unique assortment of bohemian intellectual confidants. I was much more eager to sit at the adult table than with the kids who somehow I found too simple-minded in their approach to life. It was the elders who had truly lived, as they spoke with great enthusiasm about the pleasures and travails of life which seemed so fascinating to my young mind. Much more interesting than a history book are the reflections of someone who has lived the story.

In Paris, a city of such remarkable history, I have found an elderly companion with whom to share it. Her origins are Polish and her experiences are plenty. Recently we attended the Grand Palais for the Renoir exhibit. It seems fitting to peruse the work of this venerated Impressionist with a woman of class and culture. Though he is not a favorite of mine, as the work does not move me like that of Cézanne or Degas, it was a genuinely historic experience. Our next rendezvous will include an aged whisky and tales of life in 1970’s Paris. Though I must admit as I become older and (I like to believe) wiser, and this new chapter continues to be written, I appreciate more and more the innocent and open mind of a child.

joie de vivre!

A walk on the esteemed avenue of the Champs-Elysées makes me feel entirely like a tourist. I’m not exactly sure when I will give up this status and become a local, perhaps when I stop looking up at the sky and pardoning those who ask me for directions that I am lost myself. In all honestly, I hope to forever live my Parisian life as a visitor. To appreciate the grandeur within and upon each architecturally inconceivable structure. To smile at the encounter of every hidden alleyway and secret garden. To always carouse the streets with curious eyes and a mind eager to learn. It is after all the most fascinating and serendipitous encounters we find upon the streets. Here in Paris this is where art is discovered in it’s many forms.

A display of Vogue magazine covers, beauty captured through time, caught my eye amidst the golden hues of falling leaves…

A lesson in history. One day in 1616 Marie de Medicis decided to create a long tree-lined pathway within a space that held nothing but fields (Elysian fields). This quickly became a very fashionable place to walk. In years to follow (namely 1724) the avenue was extended up to Chaillot hill, now the site of the Arc de Triomphe and the Etoile. In 1828 the avenue became city property with the addition of footpaths, fountains and gas lighting. It is now a haven for tourists, filled with cinemas, cafés, and luxury shops. And for those who crave the energy such a street possesses.

un café s’il vous plaît

A large part of the Parisian culture involves sitting in cafés. This ‘art of café and observation’ has become one of my most revered past times, allowing me access to an interior world of secret encounters and animated conversations, and an exterior world much akin to innocent voyeurism. From a strategic yet secluded position I observe the dexterous formation of the lips when words are spoken, the vivacious gestures of the body, the smiles expressed by both eyes and lips. It is here, in the confines of a neighborhood café that the French come to life. A contradiction to the formality found in passing on the street. It is from here too, where the greatest show takes place, upon the surrounding streets. For the mere cost of a cup of coffee you can sit for hours and observe the acts of time.

Whilst sitting in cafés I have learned much about coffee, namely the variations so common to the French. A café is essentially an espresso: short, strong and sincere. A café au lait is a coffee that has been popularized in America, simply a coffee served with a separate pot of steamed milk, not so French in fact. A very common type of coffee is the café creme, a large coffee served with hot cream. Café noisette is a favorite of mine, espresso with a dash of cream. Perhaps the name particularly appeals as it technically means hazelnut, hinting at a coffee delicacy. Café leger is espresso with double the water, bringing us closer to the café Americain, simply put, filtered coffee. Less than appealing after indulging in dozens of French style cafés. A cappuccino does actually exist in Paris, though it should not. The French, much like any nation other than Italy, cannot create a proper cappuccino. Not to mention this inaccurate version of a café au lait costs upwards of 5 euros.

Needless to say, as the days pass I feel a growing urge for a large seemingly bottomless cup of coffee served in a classy paper cup marked ‘Grande Caramel Skim Latte’. Thankfully, this is found all over the world.

the sky…

There is something uniquely spectacular about the Parisian sky. It can hold my gaze for hours with its dynamic ever-changing composition. This sky is magnificently temperamental, and when not caught under it’s sudden rain, I am in utter admiration of its kaleidoscopic palette. I wonder if the locals share my awe for the space above. Do they walk around gazing skywards, stopping to smile at the passing clouds revealing indescribable hues of blues and pinks? Do they notice the perfect light as the sun sets to welcome the night? (I believe that is the time for an aperitif in this culture). No, the French are too composed for such behavior, it is their sky after all and they expect it to be extraordinary. Perhaps after so many years of searching for slivers of sky amidst imposing skyscrapers I find even greater pleasure in the light of day.

…to Paris

I arrived to Paris exactly five months since the dinner at which destiny was served me. It was a day long anticipated, seemingly much longer than the time that led to it. Since that day my love had returned twice more, the former visit driven by relentless passion, the latter a cordial family/birthday celebration. In the midst of these visits I had flown to Paris to indulge momentarily in my new life. It was then that we spent our first holiday together in Corsica, a clear indication of our mutual affinity for travel and beauty. But it is here in Paris where the story begins.

encore!

Upon returning to Paris I met Bartosz who had come from London for a brief encounter with this city and the places that had become so familiar to me in this, the French chapter of my journey. We spent the weekend walking from the Louvre and it’s collections to Montmartre with it’s views…



A Sunday stroll in the Marais, a last glass of wine with friends and it was time to part with Paris.

Rue Saint Sauveur

I am living on Rue Saint Saveur, near to Rue Montorgueil, a lovely pedestrian street in the 2nd Arrondissement. These streets speak of a deep history, an experience much like living within the walls of a museum. Often I do not understand these whispers in the air as French remains a language I struggle to decipher, mostly with eager optimism, though there are moments when I feel a bit lost amidst the many French peculiarities, both cultural and verbal.

I have indeed found a beautiful life here, having met many people such as Alexandre and Stephanie, friends of Delphine’s with whom I spend many moments wrapped in conversation (somewhere in the middle of English and French), Beatriz who lives next door, Gaia and Caroline with whom I am sharing a flat, two artists filled with a unique passion for life. And I cannot forget to mention Minka the cat, a most pleasant companion. Paris has become my school, as I spend many hours bicycling along the Seine, willingly lost in the streets of the Marais and St-Germain, studying French, speaking with anyone who will have the patience to listen…most of all this experience has become a lesson in life, as I continue to discover the inner workings of my mind and heart.


Paris!


I arrived to Paris into a world of art! my Parisien life began with a grand tour of the heart of Paris, through the cobblestones of the Marais, into the natural tranquility of the Luxembourg gardens and the grand presence of the Louvre, my most venerated church of St Eustache…is there any place more beautiful than Paris in the Fall? For the moment there is not. My dearest Delphine was here from Jerusalem and together we admired the new collections at Christie’s followed by lunch at Cafe de Flore, after which I headed to FIAC to see the contemporary work from the many places in the world I have most recently called home. At the Pompidou I spent an afternoon with Giacometti, a most comprehensive insight into his life of art. The tour continues to the Grand Palais with Beatriz, a darling girl from Brazil, where we indulged in Courbet…there remains much more to see, savour and learn as my life in Paris evolves…