Ah! The City of Light. In 2011 we put all of our things in a storage unit and flew to Paris France. It was one of the scariest decisions we've ever made but has proven to also be one of the most rewarding! Here is a Paris Guide a friend wrote for us when we came to Paris on our Honeymoon. I'm putting together my own recommendations as I get to know the city better. In the meantime you can read about Things to Do in Paris and Things to Eat in Paris. Thinking about making the move abroad yourself? Read about my experience moving and living in France right here.
Once we officially had our French visas we put all our plans into motion. We made a packing list of the kinds of things we wanted to bring with us. We researched movers and storage places to keep our things in San Francisco while we were gone. We started to take French lessons from a tutor. We tried to estimate what our monthly costs would be and looked for hidden costs so we wouldn’t be surprised. And last but not least we started to look for a Paris apartment. (Here is my first post.)
Looking for an apartment in Paris is a dream and a nightmare. Since I knew it would probably be the only time we were going to live in Paris, I really didn’t want to skimp. I wanted it all: parquet wood floors, floor to ceiling windows with a view, a great Parisian neighborhood with a market, a nearby Metro stop. I dare you to look at Paris apartment listings without getting starry eyed. It’s impossible. There are some really amazing apartments out there. On the other side of the coin, Paris apartments can be old, have very strange layouts, are hard to find, and can be very expensive. In general if you are looking for an apartment in Paris I would look on Seloger, Sabbatical Homes, Fusac, or Craigslist. (In order of helpfulness.)
(Continue reading below for our story and all the surprise costs.)
I am missing Paris this week. We have been home three months now and I have been trying to process the whole experience. I wanted to write down my thoughts on the subject before I forget everything. Moving abroad was definitely one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Before we went Paul and I had always talked about moving abroad like a lot of people do. But the motivation really came when I was at a photo shoot for Anthology Magazine and the photographer and the artist (whose home we were shooting) were talking about the time they each had spent in Paris. And it sort of clicked, I realized that a lot of creative people I knew had “done their time” in Paris. I don’t think moving to Paris is necessary for being creative but I decided if there was any way we could make it happen, we should try.
We started to research about visas and we realized if we could both keep our jobs and work remotely from Paris then we wouldn’t have to go through the challenges of finding a job and getting a work visa (very difficult). We were also happy to find out that rent in Paris is cheaper than in San Francisco. Our two bedroom apartment in Paris which was in a nice neighborhood and had a small view of the Eiffel Tower was about $2500/month. In San Francisco a two bedroom in an equivalent neighborhood would be more like $3200/month. If you don’t live in a city that probably sounds like a lot but all the New Yorkers reading this I’m sure are rolling their eyes about how affordable it is! (On a sidenote, my sister moved to the French countryside at the same time and they have a huge Farmhouse for about $1500/month. She covers all of that in this post.)
The financial aspect for me was the most frightening. I don’t get nervous very often but it was terrifying putting ourselves in a place where we weren’t sure how much we would make (as freelancers our income is always inconsistent) or how much our monthly expenses would be. Sometimes people use words like “lucky” about us moving to Paris, and I know we are. But I want to sit them down and explain to them how scary it was moving to France. It put us so far out of our comfort zone in every way possible. We didn’t speak French, we didn’t know a soul, we didn’t even have a place to live, or (continue reading below)
We feel really lucky to have met the people we did in Paris. For the short amount of time we were there we met some good friends that we’ll have our whole life. A few days before we left Rubi put together a going away party for us. It was a picnic at the tip of Ile de la Cité, one of my favorite picnic spots in Paris. We stayed until it got dark then took a long walk home next to the Seine. It was the perfect Paris going away party. We are going to miss these people.
I had thought at some point I would take nice photos of our Paris apartment so I could remember it but of course that was low on the priority list in the midst of moving so here are some pictures I took of our living room last summer. These photos weren’t taken on the same day which is why the art is in different places in some of the photos.
We’ve loved living in this apartment. It is located in the 7th arrondissement with great food streets like Rue Cler and Rue Grenelle nearby and and six bakeries within two blocks of us! It is located across the street from the Eiffel Tower and you can even see it out our window (just a tiny bit.) When it sparkles in the evening it catches my eye while I’m working or reading to my kids on the couch. It always makes me smile and reminds me that I’m living in Paris.
When we rented it in February 2011 it was partially furnished. This was a blessing and a curse. It meant that we didn’t have to buy beds or a refrigerator (in France unfurnished apartments don’t come with appliances!) But it also meant we had to live with some funny old lamps I didn’t love. In fact the sofa it came with wasn’t very comfortable and I was dreading living with it for the year so we decided to have it taken to storage and bought the navy blue velvet one you see below. (Which by the way we are selling the sofa this week. If you are interested and can come pick it up by Thursday email me and I’ll make you a great deal.) We had to make due with some things but a lot of the pieces in the apartment were antiques and were nice and sturdy. It was a challenge to decorate it when it was temporary–for things like art we made some of our own and I think the biggest trick is to try to have lots of plants around to make things feel homey. Live plants make everything feel better. For all my sources see the list at the end of the post.
Click through for more pictures and sources.
Some people still don’t know that my awesome big sister is also Design Mom. When I was younger I used to steal her clothes (she aways had the best clothes.) And she was the one who taught me even when I was in middle school to care about design. I remember her telling me “Never buy anything ugly. If you have to buy a trash can, make sure it is the most beautiful trash can you can find.” Here are three things you might not know about Gabrielle. 1. She is one of the best stylists I know. Every shelf in her house is casually and beautifully arranged. She doesn’t show it off very much but her house looks like a photoshoot in real life. She doesn’t even have to try hard and things look beautiful. 2. Her and Ben are really the best parents. Their kids are happy and passionate about lots of things (because they are encouraged by their parents.) You really have to see it to believe it. 3. She is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and she means it. I’m super lucky to have her as an older sister! It has been so fun to move here to France at the same time. We can go up and visit them in Normandy and they can come visit us in Paris. Last Friday she took the train to Paris so we could spend the day together without kids. I thought it might be fun to list our itinerary here. Here is how to spend 8 hours in Paris. This is perfect if you don’t really want to site see and just want to get some good shopping and exploring in.
8 HOURS IN PARIS
11:00 am We meet for an early lunch at the trendy Pause Cafe, 41 Rue Charonne, in the Bastille (we got the poached eggs.)
11:45 am Finally flag the waiter down and pay our bill. Walk around and explore the shops in the Bastille.
12:15 pm Try on lots of awesome clothes at a vintage store Adom, 56 Rue de la Roquette. They have the cutest boots there!
12:30 pm Rent some Velib bikes and ride to BHV
12:40 pm Explore BHV, 55 rue de la Glassware, the famous French department store. We check out every floor and make sure to stop at the craft and stationery sections, the lighting department, and the toy department.
1:45 pm We get on bikes and head up to the famous market street Rue Montorgueil and Les Halles.
2:00 pm We park and start in at E. Dellherin, 20 Rue Coquillière, an industrial cooking supply store and G. Detou, 58 Rue Tiquetonne, a specialty cooking store. We stop at Stohler, 51 Rue de Montorgueil, one of Paris’ oldest bakeries to try one of their famous pastry: Puit d’Amour. SO GOOD! We walk down Rue Montorgueil and check out bakeries and stores. (If you want to spend more time on Rue Montorgueil follow David Liebowitz’s guide.)
3:00 pm We head to COS, 68 Rue Monmartre, an awesome Swedish brand. They make beautiful quality clothing with really interesting designs. We try on clothes for a long time! G buys me a fluorescent bracelet I was admiring (thanks sister!) We also stop by La Drogerie, 11 Rue du Jour, an amazing ribbon and trimmings shop and a quick stop at HEMA, 118 Rue Rambuteau, a great Dutch brand that has cheap knick knacks.
4:30 pm We jump on bikes and head to the Marais.
4:45 pm We stop at Merci and Bonton. And afterwards head down to Rue des Rossiers to check the famous Falefel.
6:00 pm We head to the park Place des Vosges and get some macarons and a lemon tart at Carette Cafe, 25 Place des Vosges, before we hail a cab and Gabrielle goes to the train station to catch her train.
7:00 pm I get on my bike and meet my friend Valerie before I ride along the Seine back to my home in the 7th.