The New Yorker journalist AJ Liebling remarked that “There would come a time, when, if I had compared my life to cake, the sojourns in Paris would have presented the chocolate filling. The intervening layers were plain sponge”. I get what he meant. I completely fell for the city during my bachelor’s degree where I was fortunate enough to study there for a year. Fast-forward to 2022 and I’m living in Glasgow. To quote Billy Connolly, there are two seasons in Scotland – June and Winter, hence the conversation with my partner: “It’s raining again! Shall we just move to Paris?”.
So, an Englishwoman and an Italian move to Paris. It sounds a bit like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? I batted off several warnings from French friends and well-informed blog posts that French bureaucracy would be tricky to navigate. I smugly informed everyone that I wasn’t a naïve ingenue who misunderstood la vie française. I had been there before; knew the city like the back of my hand – pas de problème! But really, I didn’t have a clue.
Very quickly our romantic elopement to Paris warped into things like frantically googling how to secure a visa for a cactus and apologising profusely for running one of our seven suitcases over the toes of a hard-nosed Parisian taxi-driver. On top of this, anxiety set in about how well I’d be accepted in The City of Light. Would I be rejected for the pale, English, baked-bean-loving aberration that I am? And – competitive horror – would my Italian boyfriend be welcomed to the city like a European god?
But as I write, peeking out from a teeny flat in the heart of the Marais neighborhood, excitement has kicked in. My boyfriend may be seeking better weather, but I’m in Paris to eat. And eat I shall. The intoxicating fumes from our local boulangerie were the second thing I noticed on arrival. The first? We were going to have to haul all of our luggage up five flights of stairs, sans elevator, during a nationwide heatwave (NB: there’s no air-con in our 19th century Haussmannian flat).
We dumped our bags and sweated our way down the street to Le Petit Parisien. Oh yes! Tiny chouquettes, puff pastry studded with nuggets of pearled sugar, line up patiently on glass shelves. Golden cages house several pointy baguettes. Art-deco mirrors, specked with copper tarnish line the walls, reflecting the sparkling patisserie that fill each counter – a sweet-treat mirror-maze; cacophony of gluten. I’m at the counter, grinning like an idiot. “Une baguette et un croissant, s’il vous plait,” I say loudly, proud of my deft wielding of the language. Not missing a beat, the unimpressed woman responds in English and sends me on my way with a pursed lip. No matter. I have my bounty.
Of course, we’ve not just moved to Paris for better weather and food – as my editor pointed out, believing that the weather in Paris is an upgrade was a huge tell-tale sign of my Britishness (okay, but I suspect Paris is pretty, even in the rain). We want to embrace a new way of life, and to soak up Parisian culture in all its sensual and sophisticated glory. In short, we’ve come to fulfil every cliché in the book. Not everyone can just jump on a plane at the mere sight of rain, c’est evident – so I’m grabbing this chance for adventure with both hands: I’m going to be a Parisian— for a while.
- More moving-to-Paris stories! Why I Moved to Paris During a Pandemic and Living French: Author Pamela Druckerman on Moving to Paris & Becoming French
- The author, Rachel Naismith, is a true foodie. Check out her selection on the Best Natural Wine Bars in Paris
Written by Rachel Naismith for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.