February 16, 2012
Here at HiP, we’re always up for a good expat adventure tale, particularly one in which desserts play a starring role. In her new book, Paris, My Sweet, food writer (and regular HiP Paris contributor!) Amy Thomas regales us with stories from her two-year stint in Paris, where she wrote advertising copy for Louis Vuitton by day and scoured the city for sweets in her spare time.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty ideal existence, but like all expats in Paris, Amy faced a typical series of ups and downs. It’s no surprise that she fell hard for the city upon arrival; and it’s also no surprise that, once the initial Parisian shine wore off, Amy ultimately came to see the city’s not-quite-so-sweet side. It’s at this point that the story really starts to ring true for those of us who have been expats in Paris: you’re simultaneously charmed and alienated, comforted and challenged, energized and exhausted.
As Amy weathered the highs and lows of expat life, she also covered serious ground in the dessert department, hitting all of Paris’ confectionary hotspots and sampling the city’s most decadent delights. This book is not only an account of her time in Paris, but also a goldmine of bonnes addresses (in both Paris and New York) for dessert lovers. This woman knows her way around a pâtisserie, and serious sugar-high seekers would do well to heed Amy’s recommendations.
Paris, My Sweet is a guidebook of sorts, but it’s also just a fun and decadent read—I devoured it in less than 48 hours, pausing only to scrounge up some chocolate now and again. In addition to making me hungry, Amy’s writing transported me back to Paris, a trip I am ever-eager to make, if only vicariously.
Below, I caught up with the author to talk Paris, pastries, and ultimately picking her favorite city.
You’re a dessert fiend, so tell us—what’s the main difference between American sweets and the Parisian variety?
American baking is a lot more creative and crazy, but at the same time, it’s a lot simpler. As amazing as everything was in Paris, it was so decadent. I definitely missed the American classics, like cookies and brownies, while I was there.
In your book, you recount dozens of sweet experiences in Paris. But if you had to recommend just one sugar-centric destination, what would it be?
It’s so subjective, but I would probably say Stohrer on Rue Montorgueil. It was my neighborhood bakery, but it’s also a beautiful, historic bakery. You can find anything you want there: chocolate, viennoiseries, cakes, tarts, savory stuff. Everything they do is amazing.
And aside from the desserts, what do you miss most about Paris now that you’re back in New York?
Definitely the Vélibs. When I go back to Paris to visit, that’s one of the things that makes me feel so alive—biking around the city. It’s just so fun. And I miss those days when you just start walking, and you walk all day because it’s so pretty and enchanting. You just want to keep going and soaking it up.
Your book details the culture shock you experienced as you adjusted to Paris. Did you have reverse culture shock when you ultimately returned to New York?
The first six to eight months back in New York were hard, because everything felt very harsh here. Paris is a big city too, but things are slower and there’s an appreciation for some of the more indulgent things in life. So coming back to New York was like a slap in the face, but after a while, I felt totally happy—especially once the weather warmed up.
So now that you’ve had some time to compare and contrast, what’s the verdict—Paris or New York?
New York is definitely home. I’m happier and more at peace here, even though there are things about Paris that I miss deeply. I sometimes get teary thinking about Paris and what I had there. The great thing is, I now have this connection to Paris. It became part of me.
And what about your cat, who has now lived on both sides of the Atlantic. Which city does he prefer?
I adopted him in New York, so I think he’s happy here. But he had a pretty kick-ass setup in Paris—lots of space and a sunny window perch that overlooked the rooftops. I’m sure he misses that.
- Buy Amy Thomas’ book Paris, My Sweet on Amazon now!
- Paris Patisseries also has a great list of Paris’ 38 Best Pastries
- Check out Amy’s Paris blog here
- For tips on the best pastries to be found in Paris and New York, check out Amy’s Sweet Freak blog
Written by Tory Hoen
After attending Brown University and spending two years in New York, Tory bought a one-way ticket to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a writer (and of drinking wine at lunch). During her time in the City of Light, she chronicled the euphoric highs and the laughable lows of ex-pat life on her blog, A Moveable Beast. Though she's now based in New York, she travels frequently to Montreal and Brazil, and she'll use just about any excuse to jet to Paris ("I ran out of fleur de sel"). A regular contributor to Hip Paris, Tory also writes for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and she is a co-author of Gradspot.com's Guide To Life After College.
Website: Tory Hoen