I used to live in Paris – just around the corner from the Musee Rodin on Rue Barbet de Jouy in the 7th arrondissement (I liked the fact that my address had 007 in it!).
It all came about whilst I was on holiday in Copenhagen. My mum called me from the UK to let me know that a job had been advertised in the quintessential magazine ‘The Lady‘ for an au pair…4 days later I was flying to Charles de Gaulle airport. We still talk about how utterly reckless it was to have been so impulsive!
I hit the ground running, waking daily at 5am to freshly squeeze the children’s orange juice and then drive them across Paris to start their day at school. French schools start and finish early, so by 2pm I would return to collect them using the family’s huge Mercedes 4×4 (gulp!) unless it was Wednesday ‘protest day’ and then I would use the Metro.
Although the purpose of me being there was to work, the real experience came from living a Parisian life. I was earning very little money so I had to be frugal but in a city little Paris, rich experiences don’t cost money.
I recently bought the book ‘How to be Parisian – wherever you are’…
It’s such a terrifically fun read with exerts that any Parisian dweller could relate to:
‘A Parisienne always has good reason to be sitting on a bench’…’when she wants to read a book and to be seen reading a book.’
Paris is a city for contemplation, melancholy, being alone, being in love…
In one of my favourite films, An Education, Jenny (played by Carey Mulligan) claims, ‘Well, after I’ve been to University, I’m going to be French, and I’m going to Paris, and I’m going to smoke and wear black, and listen to Jacques Brel, and I won’t speak. Ever.’
Paris does that to you! It makes you throw caution to the wind and indulge in the stereotypical behaviours that you secretly found incredibly cool as a teenager…wear oversized dark sunglasses, purchase your first classic trench, the odd Gauloises here and there and cultivate an obsessive passion for film that will be your loyal companion throughout life.
Other aspects of Parisian life which I have adopted include:
Diptyque candles (my favourite: Pomander – it’s spicy, cinnamon fragrance creates an instant wintery cosiness)
French film (my favourite: Little White Lies – it’s August and Paris has left for the coast. A group of friends who holiday together each year have a summer of love, laughter and loss. This film brings out every emotion…extremely touching)
Perfume (my favourite – Insolence by Guerlain, it’s heady and intoxicating but still reminds me of the retro sweets parma violets!)
Music (my favourite: Florent Pagny – an incredible artist, whose music covers many genres. I saw him in concert in Pau with my mum and great friend Georgina. Florent wore his signature leather trousers and casually kissed female members of the audience! His album, Baryton (recorded at Abbey Road) is classical and is still one of my all time favourite cds)
I have returned to France a lot as my mum lived in Biarritz for seven years, so monthly flights were booked in advance and holidays were spent soaking up sun, stories and sauvignon blanc.
The last time I was in Paris was very special. It was February and the weather was kind enough that I could travel everywhere on foot. I took in the underground Catacombs which was an intense and unforgettable experience. Dined at the exquisite Laperouse and Le Jules Verne and spent the Sunday meandering the breathtaking Musee d’Orsay.
I am heading to Paris in May and I am excited for so many reasons (BRANDON FLOWERS!) and I will of course blog all about the gig and the incredible hotel where I am staying.
I now have 2 months to plan my perfect yet nonchalant wardrobe taking my inspiration from gamine Lauren Mayberry…
…and yes, dark sunglasses will be packed!