Photos by Linda Donahue
A self-proclaimed wanderer and observer, Linda Donahue knows how to make herself at home. A writer and photographer by trade, Linda has built a career around roaming, exploring, and simply getting to know the ins-and-outs of cities around the world. Her latest project is Parisien Salon, a recently launched online magazine that aims to create a “virtual Paris” that will transport readers to the city and offer resources for those planning actual journeys. As with all of her projects, Linda prioritizes quality over quantity, and she is determined to provide her readers—both remote and local—with a true insider’s view of Paris. After five years in development, Parisien Salon launched in May of 2009, and with new features being added all the time, we can’t wait to see how the site develops!
Raised outside of New York City, Linda studied journalism in college and spent many years working as a magazine writer. She eventually relocated to Miami, where she built a successful career as a writer and creative director at various advertising agencies. Her work fueled her passion for writing, travel, and photography (she began exhibiting her photos a few years ago), and her new venture, Parisien Salon, is a dynamic synthesis of her professional expertise and personal passions. Through this portal, readers can plan trips, communicate with one another, share experiences, and simply “indulge their senses” in the many pleasures of Parisian life.
HiP: How did the idea for Parisien Salon come about?
LD: Parisien Salon is really about getting inside Paris in a way that most visitors don’t know about. I’ve had quite a few people ask me about Paris over the years; they wanted real insider information to help them get more out of the city. I’d always give them a handful of websites to check out, but there wasn’t any ONE website that delivered that virtual Paris experience while helping with trip planning. I started thinking about Parisien Salon about five years ago, and the site has simply evolved since then. It’s a destination magazine, but within the next month or so, users will be able to create itineraries from a complete listing of restaurants, shops, cafés, galleries, museums, etc – and even book them online.
HiP: Why Paris? How was your passion for this city born?
LD: I first visited Paris about 10 years ago. I took the overnight train in from Venice and arrived in Paris in the morning… I felt completely intimidated. I finally decided to just start walking and see where that took me. By the end of the day, I was completely in love with the city. I found that in addition to the built-in grandeur, there’s a wonderful simplicity about Paris. I loved that there was a true appreciation for the arts. I loved that people lingered over coffee or wine…and that they actually stopped to savor the moment. People took the time to buy fresh flowers, which they carried home at the end of the day with an equally fresh baguette. I was captivated by the endless parks and gardens created for quiet moments. I also found that Parisians had a much broader view of the world than did most Americans, which made conversations far more enjoyable.
HiP: What are your goals for the site? Where do you see it (and yourself) in 5 years?
LD: Parisien Salon is definitely intended to be my primary job. But right now, I’m approaching it from the standpoint of “what will make this site even better for the visitor?” I’m far more interested in the value it has to others than what it can do for me right now. I imagine Parisien Salon as an ever-evolving portal that will incorporate even more functionality to create a virtual Paris experience. I also envision the site having a very strong online community where users can share information, stories and even form their own circles. As for myself… I tend not to think too much about the future and instead focus on the now. I like being surprised by life, so I don’t really travel with a map.
HiP: Why did you choose blogging as the best medium to communicate your ideas?
LD: I actually hesitate to refer to Parisien Salon as a blog. Coming from a journalistic background (and working in magazines), I really saw it as the electronic version of a destination magazine. That said, I’m proud to be considered a blog, because there’s such a large community of people sharing information across a growing, interactive medium. That’s something that was always missing in print journalism.
HiP: Do you feel that you’re part of a community of bloggers?
LD: I’ve been really lucky to be able to connect with other bloggers, many of whom have become content partners. I’ve personally befriended Claudia Strasser from The Paris Apartment, since she lives only ten minutes away from me in Miami. And, of course, I know Erica Berman from Haven in Paris, whom I met when a mutual friend brought me to a Thanksgiving soiree at her beautiful Houdon apartment. I’ll be meeting up with a few of my fellow bloggers in the next few months in Paris…and I can’t wait!
HiP: Who is your target audience for Parisien Salon?
LD: The target audience for Parisien Salon are people who are planning to visit Paris, or who want to stay connected to Paris in various ways. I’ve found that this encompasses all ages and backgrounds. Parisien Salon is geared mostly to the U.S. and Canadian markets, but I’m finding that we’re getting traffic from all over the world.
HiP: How do you feel that online portals like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way people travel and communicate?
LD: The first trip I planned overseas was in 1989. There was no Internet or email, so I did everything through travel agents and snail mail and phone. It was a time consuming process, and I had no idea what to expect on the other end. With the Internet, we can see exactly what we’re getting, and we can get it in real time. But the emergence of Facebook and Twitter have taken that to an even higher level, because you can get recommendations from people you’ve identified as experts, or at least people who have the experiences you’re looking to have. It’s a viral way to get information and spread information.
HiP: Do you hope working on the site will allow you more opportunities to travel?
LD: Definitely! I’m planning on moving to Paris (as soon as I’m able to wrap up things in Miami), and that will give me a great home base for my explorations.
HiP: When you travel, what are your thoughts on renting an apartment versus a hotel stay?
LD: I think they both have their merits. I’m personally a fan of apartments because I’m the kind of traveler who prefers to see a destination through the eyes of someone who lives there. I also think that staying in an apartment gives you a certain level of access to Paris life that you don’t get at a hotel. You really become a part of the neighborhood.
So whether you’re planning a trip or simply web-traveling, make sure to stop by ParisienSalon. Traveling vicariously has never been so enchanting…and we look forward to seeing where Linda’s travels will take us.
To visit Parisien Salon, click here: www.parisiensalon.com
For more information about Linda’s photography, check out her website: www.lindadonahue.com
Traveling to Paris? Check out Haven in Paris’ wonderful portfolio of vacation rental aparments.