United

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I wasn’t planning on sharing my thoughts on recent world events, but it has been hard to focus on anything else. Days ago America elected a new president. This is not meant to be a political post, nor am I trying to attack anyone, that’s not my goal with this blog. I try my best to spread optimism and inspire others with life in the City of Lights, and my frequent travels, both for which I feel very lucky. I am however, American, born to a Polish immigrant mother and an American father who taught me freedom of expression and acceptance of others. I grew up in a privileged community in the Hamptons, while spending summers in Communist Poland, and took pride in my bi-cultural upbringing. America is composed of immigrants after all. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I truly felt at home, having met so many others like myself. My circle of friends represented India, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, France, Italy, Israel, Bangladesh, Spain, Argentina, England, New Zealand, Korea, Turkey… the list goes on. We all felt accepted regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or social status. THIS is what America is to me. Certainly New York City does not represent the rest of the country, nor the world. Living in Paris and traveling as much as I do has proven that. Yet I have a hard time accepting the racism and bigotry which has recently been fueled in the United States of America, key word: United. It is my hope and prayer that our new president will unify rather than isolate the people of my country, and even more so, the people of our world. In moments of doubt let us remember this, and act accordingly.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

bon voyage

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Perhaps it’s because I grew up traveling that I don’t think much about getting on a plane and visiting another country. Actually, I thrive on it. There’s nothing like discovering a foreign land and getting to know its people, cuisine and customs. The ways in which travel can expand your mind are innumerous! Lately, with so much turmoil in the world, and heartache in my very own beloved countries of France and the United States, fewer people are crossing continents. I understand the uncertainty of being a “stranger in a strange land” and the potential threats we are faced with, but I choose not to live by this fear. Having experienced 9/11 in New York City and more recently the attacks in Paris, I realize how fragile life can be. I’ve also come to realize that it must be lived fully, with caution, but without fear. “Carpe Diem” as the saying goes. In the end, it’s a choice we make. I will continue walking these beautiful streets of Paris in peace, meeting friends for an evening apéro, shopping at our local markets, conducting my workshops and fashion tours… and getting on a train or plane as often as possible. And I hope you too will continue to travel and expand your horizons. If you have any doubts, I’m happy to convince you otherwise.

As you plan your next trip, here’s an informative article about safe travel from Bella Vita Travels. Bon voyage!

when we were young

Recently I was looking through old family photos and stumbled across something my mom had saved from my elementary school years. A photo of me being creative; drawing, designing, making something; my favorite past time as a child. Along with the photo was a typewritten note from my teacher. I blushed upon reading it! Was I really such a joy, and with so much wisdom? Little did I recall. The same way I don’t remember all that much about my childhood other than that it was mostly a good one. It’s true that family always meant a lot to me.

Rereading this made me think about how honestly and purely we know ourselves as children. It’s the time in life when we are free to be, and to become, without thinking too much about what any of it means. Born to artistic parents, I followed suit with a creative mind of my own. This freedom to express was what provoked me years ago to start designing bags, to start writing (even if initially only for myself), to step off the corporate ladder and instead follow my own path of travel which eventually led me to Paris.

These words from a teacher who has so many years later left an impact, are what I will reread whenever I feel doubt or confusion as to who I truly am. This little girl knows.

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Who where you as a child? Has this impacted who you are now? Let us think about when we were young…

state of sunshine

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“The days are long but the years are short.” This quote by Gretchen Rubin articulates well how quickly days become years. And within them we must try our best to use the time we have, wisely. (One of the reasons I decided to travel the world for a year, and continue to travel and experience all that I can in the days I have been granted.) Yet as so many of us do, I easily become wrapped up in my work, constantly doing and in turn, becoming. That topic I’ll save for another post… But is this what really matters the most in life? No, it’s the time we share with those we love, and how we treat others. So I decided to surprise my mom for her birthday, a day long journey (which became quite an adventure with an expired passport and a delayed flight) from Paris via New York to West Palm Beach. Needless to say, she was shocked and elated. What greater joy is there?

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Mom and I are enjoying these long days in the sunshine state, with dinners at home, a trip to neighboring Palm Beach (these photos capturing those moments), and of course birthday celebrations coming up. You can follow along for daily updates via instagram. Enjoy each day before it becomes a year… and see you back in Paris!

Intention

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My favorite day of the year is the first. Life is somehow reset and regardless of the good, bad or indifferent that found us in the days passed, there’s a lightness in the air, the promise of greatness ahead, a fresh start. This year, rather than make resolutions that only wait to be broken, I have chosen to live a life of intention.

I will continue to set goals and work towards them. Professionally speaking, my plans for Kasia Dietz handbags include more collaborations and private label projects, as well as collections of my own, inspired by life.  I will also continue to write, mostly about Paris and travel, and to work on my book. As Elizabeth Gilbert would say, creativity chooses us and we must find a way to make peace with it. “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.” I couldn’t agree more!

Above all else however, this year and for all years to follow, my intention it to truly live in the moment. To let go of past insecurities and future fears, to live more with my heart and less with my head, and to appreciate this wild and wondrous journey as it happens. This too, I wish for you. Happy new year!

merry everything

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It’s that time of year to slow down and look up. To spend time with those most dear to us, reflect on the year coming to an end, and the one soon to start. The past year has been challenging both personally and globally, and I for one am looking forward to beginning a new one. But first, Christmas. My Italian and I are heading to Rome for a little pre-holiday celebration. I’m looking forward to rediscover this city that I haven’t visited in nearly 15 years. And who better to explore it with than my favorite travel companion! Join me on my adventures in Rome followed by the Italian Riviera, via Instagram and Facebook. Incidentally, I was recently named one of the 20 Paris Instagram Accounts to Follow by Bonjour Paris. I’m honored!

For a little year end news, here’s my holiday newsletter. I’ll be back in the new year sharing more of life and love in the City of Lights, and who knows where 2016 will find me. Thank you for joining me on this beautiful journey.

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Wishing you and yours merry everything! Happy new year from the City of Lights!

giving thanks

Today is my favorite holiday, not because I’m terribly patriotic (though I do love my native country), or because of the copious amounts of decadent food and drink that will be ingested (that happens quite often in Paris),  but by how Thanksgiving unites us and makes us reflect on what we are grateful for in this life.

Here in Paris we celebrate with a yearly feast hosted by a friend from the New York chapter, where new faces mingle with those who have made this a tradition. There’s even one Native American in the expat mix! We share the table with French, Italian, Irish and Australian, all of us taking this occasion to count our blessings. Isn’t it so commonly said that expressing gratitude leads to happiness and well-being? After six years in Paris, I certainly have a lot to be grateful for. Though life never ceases to challenge us both personally and globally, as events of the past few weeks have proven, we must savour every day. As goes the saying, carpe diem!

I wish for you, dear readers, a feast filled with peace and love. May you carry gratitude in your hearts, always.

Chloe Lodge photographer-Kasia Dietz

resilience

Over a week has passed since the tragic events that shook Paris, and in turn the world. Life is slowly resuming while the mourning continues, as it shall for a long time to come. Winter has crept in and the city appears more quiet than normal, yet resilience and strength are felt in Parisians and expats alike. Life goes on, in strength.

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Many are asking whether it’s safe to travel to this beautiful city, one of the most desirable destinations in the world. My answer is yes! We cannot let fear guide us. We must love Paris more than ever. Here are a few thoughts from fellow Americans, including myself, via Stylecaster.

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I’ll be getting back to designing and writing this coming week, sharing what is uniquely beautiful about Paris, this city that so deeply inspires my senses. Thank you for following along on this journey, and for all your continued thoughts. Paris je t’aime.

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Fluctuat nec mergitur. “Though beaten by the waves, she never sinks.”

J’aime Paris

I’m finding it difficult to articulate my thoughts of the past 48 hours. My beloved Paris, a city adored by all, attacked, so many innocent lives lost. And for what? For enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My Italian and I live in the North Marais, bordering the 10th and 11th arrondissements, steps away from Place de la Republique. On many evenings we are carousing these sames streets where the attacks occurred, where many were not as lucky as us. Glued to the news at home, we could barely believe the events as they unfolded all around us, sirens in the distance making it all the more real. My heart aches for the families and friends of the victims, for the lives so suddenly cut short. I was immediately reminded of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier in the year. Again? The shock and despair I feel, that many of us feel, is all too similar to 911 in New York, an attack not just on a city, but on the entire world.

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On Saturday, rather than stay home and allow the media to feed our fear, we walked to the sites of the attacks, in thought of the victims and in support of our adopted city. My eyes filled with tears as we passed the cafes with terraces once brimming with locals; now only bullet holes remained. The gate was down at Le Petit Cambodge. Flowers and candles lined the streets, people of all ages gathered around to pay homage. Suddenly it became all too devastatingly real. That evening we spent with friends from the neighborhood, all of us grateful not to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Chance.

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The sun shone brightly on Sunday and again we took to the streets. As we often do on mild fall weekends, we biked to the Seine and rode the length of the river past Hôtel de Ville and our favorite haunts in Ile Saint-Louis until we reached Musée d’Orsay. Museums and markets remained closed, but all around us life was being lived. Parisians mingled at neighborhood cafes, children ran around the riverbanks,  tourists queued to view Paris by boat, we even caught a glimpse of a token bride and groom. Love for the city was felt around every corner.

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Since 911 my affection for New York grew deeper, it became a city that will forever remain in my heart. Now too, I feel more bonded to Paris, much the way I do to a loved one whose well-being is of paramount importance to me. This is perhaps the most sane way to survive such terror, by expressing profound love and cherishing the life we have been given. Every. Single. Day.

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As the sun set and we made our way back home, I thought about the official Paris Motto since the Middle Ages, now again relevant, Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, Though beaten by the waves, she never sinks. Stay strong Paris!

adventures in Essaouira

On July 29th I celebrated my birthday. In true leo fashion, I toasted grandly with friends in Paris. Meanwhile, my Italian, forever the romantic, planned another surprise getaway. The last three were in Italy, but this one, he hinted, was to foreign landscapes I had often dreamt of. I arrived to the airport unaware of where I would be spending the next four days. Tears of joy collected in my eyes as I saw the boarding sign: Essaouira, Morocco! In just over three hours we landed and soon after arrived to gorgeous views from our riad.

IMG_7474That evening I experienced my first Moroccan sunset. I was already enamored.

IMG_7587The following day we explored the Medina of this mid-eighteenth century fortified city.

IMG_8147I learned that the prominent blue covering many of the doors and windows were remnants from a Jewish past, and also the symbolic color of a port city.

IMG_7478 IMG_7484IMG_8004I was interested in learning about the local products of the artisans, and even met a few.

IMG_8012The port of Essaouira, known for it’s myriad of blue boats and hundreds of local fisherman, was the most important trading port between Europe, Africa and the Americas from it’s foundation in 1770 until the first half of the nineteenth century.

IMG_7739 IMG_7772 Having first ridden a camel in the desserts of Rajasthan during my travels in India, I thought what better way to discover the Moroccan landscape, with it’s miles of sandy beaches.

IMG_7940With the winds in full force, we boarded these gentle dromedary and began our tour.

IMG_8414Our guide stopped to show us the ruins of an ancient Sultan palace from the 18th century.

IMG_7954We continued until we reached the town of Diabat, where Jimi Hendrix’ legacy lives on.

IMG_7957The last day I experienced a local hammam, and we spent the afternoon in the Medina, a place I had grown to love for it’s vibrancy. Many tagines later, it was time to return to Paris.

IMG_8158But not before one last sunset, ending a magical adventure in Morocco.

celebrating four years

Today marks four years since that magical day in Monterosso, our wedding on the sea. To mark the occasion, I thought who better to capture my Italian and I than Chloe Lodge, a friend and photographer whose work I have admired since she lived in Paris. During her recent trip to the City of Lights we met her at our favorite apéro spot Café SaintRégis.

CLP_04From there we walked through Île de la Cité enjoying the sunshine on a perfect spring day.

CLP_13CLP_14As natural as it felt, I knew Chloe and her camera were watching us. My Italian lightened the mood with his humor. I could not help but to smile as we danced along the Seine…

CLP_34CLP_36CLP_37This time was precious. There was nowhere to be but in the moment. In love.

CLP_18 CLP_28Time passes so quickly. Thank you Chloe, for helping to savour it, one moment at a time.

united we stand

In an attempt to make even a small difference in the world, one that is often fraught with conflict, I designed the United Collection, representing people coming together in freedom, harmony, balance and unity. Twenty percent of all proceeds from sales of the United bags will go towards the global humanitarian organization, International Red Cross. With my mission in place, this was certainly a fun project to work on. Photographer Hélène Loire and I spent a beautiful late afternoon photographing the collection, beginning with that which we are all entitled to, freedom.

freedom (n): The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

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harmony (n): A pleasing combination of elements in a whole.

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balance (v): To bring into or maintain in a state of equilibrium.

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united (n): The state of being united or joined as a whole.

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More images from the United Collection on Kasia Dietz handbags website.

In addition to donating 20% of United bag sales to International Red Cross, I’m giving away a bag to one of my readers (chosen at random Dec 1st) as an early holiday gift. Just leave a comment below stating which United bag is your favorite, and be sure to join my designing life on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Meanwhile, let’s all try to maintain a sense of freedom, harmony, balance and unity.

Venice of the North

Bruges, or Brugge as the locals call it, is considered Venice of the North. Where better to sneak away for a surprise romantic weekend with my Italian? I secretly made all the arrangements months in advance, and with only a few minor obstacles, just as the leaves were changing into spectacular shades of browns and reds, and the chill of winter lingered in the air, we boarded the train. A short 2-hour ride to discover this UNESCO World Heritage city in Belgium’s Flemish Northwest.

IMG_6174Home was a welcoming regal 15th Century Palace, once the residence of the Burgundian aristocracy.

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Bruges greeted us with a cloudy sky and the promise of rain, setting the mood as explorations began.

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We were both struck with the city’s architecture. Elegant brick buildings set upon tranquil canals.

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We did our best to avoid the crowds and chose any side streets we could find, following the sun.

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To get a better look at the city from above, we climbed the 366 steps of the historic Belfry Tower.

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A view to savour as the ancient clock tower chimed all around us.

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We also enjoyed an impressive view from the rooftop of the last remaining brewery, De Halve Maan.

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What’s a trip to Belgium without a chocolate tasting? After trying quite a few, I favored Dumon.

IMG_3848Having taken quite a few weekend escapes since living in Paris, Bruges was one of my favorites. It’s inhabitants friendly, it’s range of dining options impressive (In’t Nieuw Museum is a must for a real local experience) and the scenery spectacular. There are quite a few museums and galleries too, satisfying all the senses. Weekend in Bruges, a success!

four years!

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Today marks four years in Paris. Hard to believe how quickly time passes, does it ever slow down? Not to labor on all the sentiments, hardships, and celebrations of the last 4 years (though certainly I could), I will simply say that it’s taken this long to feel that Paris is truly my home. Whenever I return to NYC, I embrace the city and it’s chaos, but it is Paris that I long to return to. The calm and culture. And in both cities, I cherish the people. Life is much about the people we share it with, and those that are truly dear, will forever be. Regardless of where life takes us.

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Fittingly, today I took part in a project all about New York in Paris, very proudly of course! More on that later. In celebration of this exciting endeavor and my Paris Anniversary I am giving away a bag! Simply leave a comment with your favorite French word or phrase (who knows, it could appear in my new Paris bag collection) and the bag you’d like to win, from any of the collections: kasiadietz.com

Winner will be selected randomly & announced August 27th! Bonne Chance!

wine country

Having just returned to an empty Paris, I am filled with visions and tastes of Italy. Surprise adventures began as we boarded the plane, enroute to Turin but unaware of the final destination. What was my Italian up to I wondered? With map in hand I tried to search for the secret spot in which we would celebrate. Several hours of suspense along the open road, with nothing but vineyards in sight… And then it dawned on me.

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We were entering the Piedmonte region, land of some of the best wines in Italy.

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Our home was a charming agriturismo near Barbaresco, with views, vines and of course, local wines.

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We explored the region, stopping to admire the views, and taste the local delicacies. Spectacular!

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The following day our adventure began in the village of Grinzane Cavour.

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Shouldn’t everyone spend their birthday at a castle?

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In Barolo, we indulged in a wine tasting and met with one of my oldest friends from the Hamptons. What a perfect setting in which to meet! But it wasn’t until dinner that the real wining began.

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We entered a michelin starred restaurant boasting a breathtaking view, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Was this all an illusion? By far one of the most memorable meals, and days, of my life. From the first glass of prosecco to the trumpet serenade. I will forever look back, and smile.

viva Italia!

Anyone who knows my Italian (or reads this blog) know’s he’s a romantic, and like me, loves to travel. He also loves to plan surprise romantic escapes. Yes, I chose well! For the last few years my birthday was spent in Italy, destination unknown, until we arrived. A few years ago it was a charming agriturismo in Tuscany… and last year hiking in the Dolomites. Both adventures I smile upon. Once again this year, we are enroute to Italy to celebrate. I’ve never before so much looked forward to my birthday! I suspect we are heading south, but haven’t a clue where. Any ideas? Wherever it is, July 29th will certainly be a day to remember!

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After our journey to places yet unknown, we are heading to Monterosso, home on the riviera. You can follow my adventures via instagram and I promise to post photos as soon as I can. Until then, wishing you all a wonderful summer wherever you are in the world!

like father like daughter

Dad and KasiaThere is something uniquely special about the relationship between a father and a daughter. When I was merely five years old I asked my mom in a state of panic, “You married Dad, so now who will I marry?”. Yes, I was in love with my father. And rightfully so, as he was a special man. Gentle in nature, strong in character, handsome in visage, filled with personality and witty beyond words. Unfortunately, our time together was short, and at the age of fifteen he passed away due to illness. I often wonder how my life would have evolved with his support and influence, considering we shared many of the same dreams and visions of life. And continue to.

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Though he is not with me in the physical sense, I continue to feel my father’s presence. During my many months of travel I knew he was there, and felt safe. When I serendipitously met my Italian I knew my dad was behind the scenes, silently directing my path. And now, I am living a life between France and Italy, his two favorite places on earth. Perhaps I am fulfilling his dreams, as I fulfill my own. After all, it is what he has taught me, to always follow my heart and believe in myself, that has led me on this journey. For this life, to my father, I am grateful.

two years

Today we celebrate our second wedding anniversary. It feels like just yesterday, our wedding on the sea. Yet time and experiences have filled these days with memories. Our life in Paris grows deeper and our bond even stronger. To celebrate, a few memories from then, which we smile upon now.

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And this is only the beginning.

flying carpet

One of my creative passions (other than designing bags) is decorating. Finding just the right furniture and accessories to fill the space and create a home. Since moving to our new apartment, this is exactly what I have been doing. With the approval of my Italian, of course. (Thankfully, he usually agrees with my taste.) In need of a carpet for the living room I thought why not find one in Istanbul? And with the help of our local friends during our recent visit, that is exactly what we did.

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Rather than brave the Grand Bazaar with the tourists, Emre took us to the street of rugs. And there began our hunt for the perfect piece to complete our Parisian mid-century modern salon.

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The friendly sales people, who were busy mending a carpet when we entered, were more than pleased to help us, having many options of traditional woven kilims as well as patchwork rugs.

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We were shown dozens of rugs, mostly the patchwork style which I had quickly fallen in love with for it’s ancient yet modern allure. And then the bargaining began… Which was the chosen rug?

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An elegant black and white patchwork, that fits perfectly with our decor, and is the best souvenir we could have brought home. I knew this was our rug as soon as I saw it, but what fun to experience running around the carpet stores! Now perhaps a trip to Morocco for a lamp?

people and places

Over three years ago I moved to Paris, knowing only one person, my Italian. Him being the reason for my move. I tried not to focus too much on the active social life I left behind in NYC, or even whether I would find another one. I felt confident in my path and though I dearly missed my friends those first years (and still do), I enjoyed the time we shared with Paris as our sole companion.

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Last week, in planning a surprise birthday party for my Italian, I realized how full our lives have become. Not simply with frivolous goings on in the form of gallery openings and happy hours (though we enjoy our share of those too), but with quality time spent with people we admire and appreciate, our friends. I consider myself lucky in this regard, building friendships that last through time and travels. After all, is not the place where we live (though Paris is indeed one of the most beautiful), but it is the people with whom we share this life. That is where true happiness lies.

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Thank you dear friends (and readers) for being part of this journey!

from Paris with love

It feels like a cliché writing about love on Valentine’s Day, in Paris, the city of romance. But in my opinion it’s a subject worth indulging, regardless of the day. And regardless of your status. Several months ago I wrote an article for HiP Paris, all about falling in love with Paris in a day, and with no one other than yourself. And in so doing, I often explore Paris, and fall in love with the city which I call home. Either alone or in good company (otherwise known as my Italian).

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Photos taken with Instagram, for more images of Paris you can join me here.

Wishing you all a day, and a life, filled with LOVE!

 

Marais à la mode

On my many past visits to Paris, it wasn’t the scholarly air of the Latin Quarter or the history of Montparnasse that captured my heart, or even the chic appeal of Saint-Germain, though I appreciated and admired these districts to no end. It was undoubtedly the cobbled streets and charm of the Marais, untouched by Baron Haussmann, that always felt like home. And so it became.

Kasia Dietz-Lonely PlanetNow, over three years since I call the Marais my home, or NoMa (North Marais) as I refer to it, I have officially become a local. How do I know this? It’s as clear as the words on a page. I’m honored to be featured in the latest Lonely Planet Paris, my most revered and respected of guide books. Traveling all over the world with these books tucked safely in my bag, little did I ever think I’d be included within their pages. As a local handbag designer no doubt. (Also mentioned on pg 315) This is so terribly exciting!

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In more good news, the Marais will continue to be called home for much time to come. My Italian and I have recently embarked on a new project, (also called searching for real estate in Paris), and after viewing over 50 apartments within 6 months and beginning to lose faith, we finally found our nest! And in NoMa of all places, exactly where we wanted to remain. More news on project nest in the weeks ahead… These days there is much to celebrate!

a new chapter

Every new year I reflect on the days gone by and set goals for the days ahead, often referred to as resolutions. This year, no more. I’ve come to realize that by thinking about what is not (ie. what I need to work on or improve) I continue to struggle with keeping up and lose sight of all that already is wonderful in my life. So this year I am starting out not with a long list of what I need to do, but a long list of what I am grateful for, much like what I wrote in my giving thanks post. It certainly helps to step away from the routine of life and look from a distance, as I was able to do during these last few weeks in Florida. This trip meant even more than sacred time with family and friends. It has also allowed me to acknowledge and appreciate all that I have been blessed with in my life.

I believe that each of us is writing the book of our lives. It is mostly up to us what is written upon the pages, and how our unique story unfolds. As I write (and re-read) my own, I am grateful for every chapter and look forward to writing the next.

happy holidays!

Wishing all my dear readers, fellow romantics and francophiles around the world the happiest of holidays! From the City of Lights (with a glorious display on the Champs-Élysées) to sunny Florida where my Italian and I are spending Christmas with family and the New Year with friends. Time to reflect on the year that is behind us, and think of all that is yet to find us in the days ahead.

Looking forward to sharing many more adventures, travels and musings in 2013!

Warmest regards,
Kasia

giving thanks

No better day than today, Thanksgiving to those of us from America, to give thanks. What exactly am I grateful for? Where to begin… When I think back to my first year in Paris, feasting at a faux American restaurant in the rive gauche with people I barely knew, feeling lost and less than grateful to be dining on what tasted like a microwave turkey meal. Three years later I am dining in style with close friends, as I do many nights. Thus begins my list of gratitude. Something we should all be mindful of, all year long.

1. good friends (I’ve even made a few French girlfriends, not an easy feat!)

2. a doting and darling Italian (even with my moods… perhaps this should be #1)

3. my ever supportive and loving mom (what would I do without her!)

4. the ability to communicate in foreign tongues (particularly the French one!)

5. a creative mind (which has allowed me to create my life, via blogging, designing, doing)

6. limitless supplies of culture in many forms (THIS is what makes me thrive in Paris)

7. travel (forever grateful to see the world!)

8. the ability (and courage) to follow my dreams

9. good health (the older I get the more I value well-being)

10. optimism (something I brought with me from the USA)

And so much more. I will remind myself of this list and continue to add to it, in moments of doubt or difficulty. Now time to celebrate life and friendship with a grand feast, American style!

Happy Thanksgiving tout le monde!

city of dark

This past week my mind has been with New York, it’s neighboring regions, and the east coast, the place where I was born, raised, and lived for so many years. New York is a part of me unlike any other city. It’s people are my people, resilient, strong and united in their cause. I feel this connection now, more than ever, with the sadness and suffering left behind by superstorm Sandy. I was there in 2001 for the tragic events of 9-11, I was there for the blackout several years ago, and I am there now, if not in body than in mind. Hard to believe how suddenly life can change, by forces outside our control. Stay strong New York, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, New Jersey… the world is with you.

Here’s a list of how to help those in need of food, clothing, housing…or donate directly to Red Cross.

city of history

Some of my fondest memories as a child are feeding the pigeons on the main square in Krakow. I always felt well amidst the charm of this city, even during those many years of Communism, when my young mind struggled to make sense of all the disparities. Each trip to visit my family in Sanok included a stop at this city, the place of my mom’s Alma Mater. On my last visit to Poland I returned, though now I do my best to avoid the pigeons. I still love to wander the winding streets and visit my old haunts. Or simply sit at one of the many terraced cafes and watch the world go by.

This former capital of Poland was miraculously saved during World War II, and here now lies much of Poland’s rich historical, cultural and intellectual splendor. As is evident around every corner.

I caroused the thriving, creatively inspired and very much bohemian neighborhood of Kazimierz, which remains one of the most culturally significant Jewish areas in the world.

Hidden courtyards off the main square were explored, revealing charming bed and breakfasts, this one run by a family friend, aptly named Antique Apartments. (My next home away from home!)

I took a long walk across a newly built pedestrian bridge, decorated with love locks just like in Paris!

As much of the world as I have seen, and have yet to see, I will always welcome a return to this vista.

year three

Today marks three years since I arrived to Paris. Filled with lightness and love. Ready to begin a new chapter. Unaware of the challenges ahead as the hopeful optimist won over the practical realist. How am I feeling as I reflect on the last three years of my life as an expat in Paris? Finally, at home.

Year one was the hardest of all. Refining myself and discovering my place within a new context.

Year two was all about establishing myself and building a new life. A year of growth.

Year three, at least to me, is much about letting go and accepting the idea of ‘home’. I still struggle with calling Paris my home. Wasn’t it after all, New York where I became who I am, and where so much of me still resides? Or so I thought. Until the realization struck that home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. When I am in NYC, with it’s energy and motion I feel at home, and perhaps always will. But what I have now come to accept is that my home too, is Paris with it’s cobbled streets and history, Monterosso with it’s coastal charm, and Sanok which holds the key to my ancestry.

Most of all, this last year in Paris has taught me that we learn to define ourselves, not simply by the places in which we live, but also by the people we surround ourselves with, our interests and hobbies, our travels and experiences. And equally, the celebrations and hardships that accompany this journey. Paris is now as much a home to me as New York, and I am even more richly defined.

summer celebrations

These days I have much to celebrate. Even simply the path that led me to the city of lights. It’s now nearing 3 years since my move to Paris and the start of my blog, which came to life shortly before that. And inevitably I’m soon to be another year older, on July 29th to be exact. Since Leos love to celebrate, and my Italian knows this well, he has planned a surprise birthday adventure. Four days exploring an unknown landscape. Where, I haven’t a clue, and I am happy not to know. Soon the adventure begins…

For the rest of our time away, I will be sitting beneath the shade of these umbrellas, on the beaches of Monterosso, staring at the sea. Celebrating all that I am grateful for.

cheers to life!

As this year comes to a close I think about all that I have seen, felt, experienced… and I feel very grateful. Ready to begin a fresh year, happily unaware of what it will bring. Rather than make a list of resolutions, as I have the habit of doing (needless to say that mastering the French language would be at the top of that list), I have decided not to write a list of what to do but rather, how to live. I have long ago decided that life is not meant to be lived with regrets, and this, the Top Five Regrets of the Dying only confirmed why. Wisdom indeed comes with age, and we can learn a thing or two from those who have lived. So I share these insights with those alive and well.

1. live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you (perhaps most important of all)

2. don’t work so hard (seems the French have this one figured out)

3. have the courage to express your feelings

4. stay in touch with your friends

5. let yourself be happy

Wishing you all a new year filled with less work, more time with friends and always, happiness!

I shall be celebrating Christmas in Monterosso and the New Year in Barcelona. Back in 2012…


marriage 101

Marriage is defined as an intimate or close union. Today marks 4 months since that intimate union.

Still, it feels like yesterday. Very often someone asks, has anything changed? Possibly fearing that through the commitment of marriage everything does inevitable change. Other than feeling more settled and better understanding what it means to be part of a self-designed family, nothing has changed. And that is the way I would like to keep it. How exactly do I plan to do this? By doing exactly what we did beforewe were married.

1. spontaneous dates (even just an apero after work)

2. romantic getaways (another trip to the Loire perhaps?)

3. love notes (most often left behind on my way to a girls night…)

4. sweet nothings via text (a modern version of the above)

5. speak about everything & laugh often

Most important and obvious of all, never take each other for granted. Creating this union, whether married, paxed, or simply commited on your own terms, is one of the most beautiful gifts of life.

I’m sure as the months turn into years I will have a few more to add to the list…

in remembrance

Today, like so many around the world, I pay tribute to New York City. To the 2,976 lives lost and those forever changed by loss. Ten years have passed since that fateful day. One which will never be forgotten. Like so many others, I looked up towards an ash filled sky, in disbelief, over a city filled with promise, hope and freedom. In that instant all had changed. Today I remember, along with the French, at a real time commemoration at Place du Trocadéro.

As the touching tribute concluded, gray skies turned to blue and the sun shone. In honor.

year two

Today marks two years of life in Paris. A place I now call home. Much in the way I called NYC home for almost 12 years. It feels like just yesterday I was the ‘new expat in town‘ and now I’m offering advice to fellow newcomers adjusting to the cultural nuances of life in the city of lights. (Not to mention those who dream to live here.) Not an easy adjustment might I add, but certainly one that leaves you feeling accomplished when you finally change your status from visitor to local.

Year one left me with with many lessons learned. Humility among them. All in preparation perhaps.

Year two has been a momentous one, proving just how much can happen in the space of 12 months. Most notable is the change in my status from mademoiselle to madame. Beginning and ending with Greece. Italy being the setting for the fairytale. In professional matters, I set my creative mind to work and launched my handbag business. Perhaps anything is possible in Paris. Socially I am grateful. Surrounded by like-minded expats and even a few French friends.

Most of all, year two has proven how privileged I am to live what often feels like an adventure. For better or for worse. To have the possibility to follow my dreams. And to be given the gift of love.

I look forward to year three. I hear that’s how long it takes to really master the city. I’m on my way.

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.

 

 

at last

At last, the wedding song. Did we have one? Not officially.

Many months ago when the fairytale began, my Italian and I happened to be in my hometown of Westhampton Beach while the great Etta James was performing. She being one of my all time most loved singers. Me being ecstatic to see her perform live, to say the least. And yes, she sang At Last.

This could very well have been our wedding song, as it is for so many, but instead it remains discreetly in the soundtrack of our love story.

What the wedding singer did perform was a Napolitan classic, requested by my dear friend Maria, a Napolitan girl herself. Not planned yet perfectly timed, Ti voglio bene assai became our song.

Here, where the sea shines
and the wind howls,
on the old terrace beside the gulf of Sorrento,
a man embraces a girl
he wept after,
then clears his throat and continues the song:

I love you very much,
very, very much, you know;
it is a chain by now
that melts the blood inside the veins, you know…

He saw the lights out on the sea,
thought of the nights there in America,
but they were only the fishermen’s lamps
and the white wash astern.
He felt the pain in the music
and stood up from the piano,
but when he saw the moon emerging from a cloud
death also seemed sweeter to him.
He looked the girl in the eyes,
those eyes as green as the sea.
Then suddenly a tear fell
and he believed he was drowning
I love you very much,
very, very much, you know,
it is a chain by now
that melts the blood inside the vein you know…

The power of opera,
where every drama is a hoax;
with a little make-up and with mime
you can become someone else.
But two eyes that look at you,
so close and real,
make you forget the words,
confuse your thoughts,

So everything became small,
also the nights there in America.
You turn and see your life
through the white wash astern.

But, yes, it is life that ends
and he did not think so much about it
on the contrary, he already felt happy
and continued his song:

I love you very much,
very, very much, you know,
it is a chain by now
that melts the blood inside the veins, you know…

I love you very much,
very, very much, you know,
it is a chain by now
that melts the blood inside the veins, you know…

homemade traditions

One of the most memorable chapters of my life took place on a recent sunny day high up on a cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean. Throughout our Greek island-hopping honeymoon (many adventures which I will soon share), thoughts of our wedding left me feeling warm and somehow, complete. All the many months of planning this international affair (with the aid of a certain gracious Italian sister and uncle), were well worth it. (Originally we were tempted to elope!)

As so well articulated in my Italian’s speech, our love story is a cross-cultural one, with roots in the US, France, Poland and of course Italy. This was represented by our mix of friends and family as well as in our celebration.

We enacted the beautiful Italian tradition of the groom greeting the bride at the door of the church and handing her the bouquet. (What a moment!) The church service was a religious tradition which we had both grown up with. No bridesmaids or groomsmen but rather, four witnesses to acknowledge our union.

Being covered with congratulatory cries of “Auguri!” and rose petals was a moment to cherish.

So many other details set the scene, each proving how much love and care was expressed by all.

Compositions of pale blue hydrangeas mixed with white roses and a touch of lily of the valley, representing innocence on the sea (my interpretation), carefully selected by the local florist.

My bouquet of white roses and white ranunculus composed by my mother, flowers being one of her passions. (This designer mom also made my veil!)

Following an apero, a 12-course meal began (Italian style), filled with tastes from the sea. Apparently an Italian wedding is not a good one unless the guests have eaten more than enough.

The meal ended very sweetly, with a local dessert wine, sciacchetra, expertly concocted by my Italian’s father (with our names on the label – surprise!)

The cake was a special (secret) recipe from the local pasticceria, delicious! My Mom lovingly crafted the ceramic couple to top it off. Perfect.

What my Italian and I were happiest with in the end was all the fun that was had. Evident in the singing and even, dancing! Someone once told me Italians don’t dance at weddings. Certainly we challenged this tradition. The revelry began as the sun set beyond the cliffs. And it went on, and on…

Only to arrive home to the final surprise – a bed filled with rice. Another Italian tradition.

queen for a day

On June 11th, I will be a married woman. A madame. For this one day, I will feel like a queen.

What exactly does that mean? I have been thinking a lot about what happens in the process of ‘getting married’, other than a lot of chaos, planning and stress. Followed of course by much celebration and excitement. (Looking forward to that part!) In preparation, if one can actually prepare for this new chapter of life, I have been speaking with the experts. Namely, my married friends. (Wise women!) One of them, Andi Fisher, put me in touch with a real marriage expert, Alisa Bowman. Several months ago she sent me a copy of her book Project: Happily Ever After, and I read it eagerly. She tells the story of ‘saving your marriage when the fairytale falters’. Did I need to read this? No, though I am living what truly feels like a fairytale. But why not live ‘happily ever after’, even before the actual wedding? (I do recommend this book for any married women.)

As I ingest all the advice and prepare for festivities to commence, I also picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow up to Eat, Pray, Love, her latest book Committed, all about the history of marriage and her own personal journey. An insightful read which I am indulging in mindfully.

But as I tend to believe, life proves the greatest teacher and I will soon enough discover for myself what it means to be married, and the many feelings that come with my madame status.

Until then, I plan to cherish every moment along the way. With friends from as far away as Seoul, Dubai, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, New York and New Jersey… Paris, London, Florence… The world (my world) is meeting in Monterosso, Italy to celebrate life and love. This is the meaning of it all.

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.

home sweet nyc

I have returned to New York City, a visiting local. After a long and eventful year living another life. How does it feel to walk these familiar, chaotic, energy exuding streets? To be surrounded on all sides by foreign faces and stimulation? To speak in a language of English mixed with smiles?

It feels like home. (I have long ago determined that you can have more than one.)

dedication

One of the hardest parts of living in Paris, is not the attitude of the French nor the language and cultural barriers, but the distance from the one person that means the world to me (other than my Italian of course). My mom. I used to be able to hop on a train and be at her doorstep in under 2 hours, a quick jaunt on the LIRR from NYC to the Hamptons. I miss that. Equally, I miss those rare days when she would come to NYC for business and the day would end in one of those magical mother daughter encounters. For a moment, NYC became ours to share. (I will always smile when I pass Bloomingdales, our chosen meeting place.)

During my ‘formative years’ beginning at age 15, she was my sole parent, not an easy task with 2 kids in tow. I am grateful that my mom always supported my decisions, to study abroad, to move to New York City… even to travel the world. “You know what is best for you,” were her exact words. And to move to Paris, knowing she would see me less, but most importantly, knowing that I was happy.

Every day I look forward to sharing the pieces of my life with her. Trials, successes, random thoughts and musings, all if it. It is the words of my mother that always seem to bring clarity, though sometimes I may resist them. Stubborn traits run in the family? After all, who knows us better than our own mothers. And simply, she makes sense.

It is also for my mother than I began to write a blog, and continue to. During my travels in 2007 it was she who I wanted to share my adventures with (and anyone else who was willing to indulge in my journey). And now here in Paris, on those gray days when I don’t feel inspired, I simply think about my mom and how much she looks forward to my thoughts and experiences. And I write.

For these many reasons, and simply because I feel eternally grateful to have been raised by such a wonderful, warm and wise woman, and to have her in my life, I dedicate this blog to my mom. Also, it happens to be her birthday and I’m a big fan of surprises. Since I can’t be with her in person, (though soon enough we shall raise a glass), a virtual celebration will have to do.

Happy Birthday Mom!

 

 

 

 

destiny defined

destiny [ˈdɛstɪnɪ] n

1. the future destined for a person or thing; fate; fortune; lot
2. the predetermined or inevitable course of events
3. (Philosophy) the ultimate power or agency that predetermines the course of events

My destiny (and I happen to believe all of the above) was defined exactly two years ago. On Prince street in a city of millions. In the form of an Italian man with smiling eyes.

For this reason, amongst others, New York City will remain in my heart forever.

Do you believe in destiny?

single to plural

In exactly 3 months, what I have known to be a single life will begin in the plural. I will be legally and ceremoniously committed to the man I met and  fell in love with almost 2 years ago.

I’ve never been one to dream about a wedding, to envision myself  as a princess adored by a royal court. Rather, I had visions of walking along the beach with my partner in tow, barefoot and carefree, surrounded by those that are most dear to us. And that is almost what it will be. Though I will be wearing fancy shoes and the ceremony will overlook the sea from a church atop a cliff, slightly more formal than a beach party. A dream I never envisioned but anxiously anticipate.

In preparation, if you can actually prepare for such a momentous event, we are taking a marriage class as required by the Catholic Church. Little did we both know how insightful and wise would be the teachings, and not solely limited to a religious faith, but a spiritual and universal one. There is much to be gained from looking within yourself and asking questions you might not otherwise ask.

What have I learned thus far? Most of all, how truly essential it is to communicate. Effectively. And the many ways of doing that. And how trying this can often be. (Especially when dealing with all the stress of a wedding!) I remember my mom once telling me that the  most important ingredient in any relationship, aside from love, is communication. (My mom is indeed a smart woman!)

As my journey into plurality continues, I think often of these words. Finally they make sense.       Love is a not merely a feeling but a decision.

tribute to the girls

Recently I read an article that confirmed my belief in the importance of girlfriends. It proved something along the lines of how women find comfort in other women much in the  same way that a man finds comfort in his wife or partner. This I believe, having formed several lasting female friendships throughout my life. Most of whom I am still deeply connected to.

A few weeks ago, two such dear friends and I met for a quick jaunt in London. Unabashed girl time. Karen was flying in from Istanbul (where she is living her own adventure), parting with her little girls in order to spend time with the big ones. I hopped on the train from Paris, and we both met at the home of Brandy, whose wedding we attended last Spring in a castle in Scotland.

Karen and I have been friends since the high school days (we won’t mention exactly how long ago that was…) Brandy we met during the university years when she and Karen shared a room. On my way via train I thought about our many journeys together. A spring break when Karen won a luxury trip to Jamaica and rather than inviting her then boyfriend, she brought me. (That is friendship!) There too we met Brandy for the less luxurious yet equally exciting chapter of our Jamaican holiday. (Ah the stories we can tell!) I also recalled our travels in Italy in which we drove (or can I say sped) all the way to Croatia. And never will I forget our millenium spent in Amsterdam where another friend Anna joined us, as did many a random adventure. The list of girl bonding goes on…

Rarely did we all ever live in the same city, yet both Karen & Brandy called my first NY apartment their home. So many chapters of our lives we have shared together, and continue to. Next stop Italy!

London in the rain proved the ideal background for colorful conversations and carousing…

It is friends like this that become the family we are not born with. For them, I am grateful.

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.

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.

reason to celebrate

Is there ever not a reason to celebrate? These days, learning to conjugate an irregular verb is reason enough. Life is so much about the small victories, and those occur daily. If we pay attention to them.

At present we have even more reason to celebrate than my pending fluency in French. My Italian has officially become French. In regards to his working status that is. (Once an Italian always an Italian!)

My arrival to Paris contained only one certainty. The who (I had chosen to share my life with), not the what (I would do) and where (we would live). Though we both had hoped Paris would become our home. Over time (I won’t get into just how long this process took), my Italian pursued this option, since I was (mostly) happy in Paris and he loved the city from day one. If all went accordingly, we would not be packing our bags to move to Milan for January 1st. Love in the City of Fashion?

And here we are. 18 months into our love story, and 6 months away from our wedding, finally calling Paris our home. Though we do have moments in which we desire to run off to Vietnam for a 2 year stint, or perhaps a Greek island in the Cyclades. Even Rome sounds like an adventure. Oh, the possibilities! And yes, there are many. But for the unforeseeable future, this will remain our vista.

As we do every evening in French tradition, raise a glass and celebrate! What are you celebrating?

The Dream Life

Moving abroad and creating a home in a foreign land (or even a new city for that matter) is by all accounts an overwhelming experience. Finding a place for yourself, new friends, a job which often means a new career, all leading to what is called a life. In so doing, there is often much time to reflect. To think about what it is exactly that you want to do in this new life, what you want to create for yourself, and what is even possible. Not to mention, what will bring you fulfillment. Within the space of an odd and curious new world, you are forced to examine yourself more closely. 

In so doing, I find it enabling and empowering that we can recreate ourselves as who we believe we are, rather than who we have been labeled to be in our past lives. The possibilities are endless!

I won’t get into my personal history, how little I cared for cliques in high school, and never opted to be part of a fraternity in college, always seeking my own path, accepting not to fit in, whatever that means in American standards, white picket fence and all. And how happy I am for doing so.

I can very well say that I have pursued and continue to pursue my dreams. Certainly not without difficulty. A little language barrier can’t stop you, can it? Nor can all those voices of reason. Hence my decision to travel the world and move to Paris.

In the past, most often led by the adult, I achieved both success and fulfillment working in advertising (one of my long-time professional dreams) and will continue to do so, though Paris is a long way from Madison Avenue.

Sometimes in the pursuit of dreams, it’s important to ignore the adult and pay attention to the child. Who were you before you were told who you should be?

I discovered my child a few years ago, very fittingly, in the home of my youth, while hand-printing canvas and constructing a bag from it, creating what I call wearable art. The dietz bag was born and thus began my life as a designer, combining my love for art, design and fashion, led by inspiration from my mom. More on that later. (Incidentally, my other dream of writing comes from my dad.)

Along this journey I have met many fellow expats and non-expats living what they consider their dreams, having chosen to follow their hearts and/or instincts. In the next several months I will share their stories and hope to learn of others. Many of these people I am pleased to consider my friends.

This leads to my query. Are you pursuing your dreams? If so, do tell! If not, what are they? Take a moment to think. And if need be, pack up and start again. Figuratively if not literally.

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.