Becoming French has its perks. The biggest perk is never having to renew my carte de séjour ever again, but being able to vote in French elections is high up there too. It’s one thing to follow another system online, but it’s another living and learning to have to navigate a new system. I have to say while we often take what we grow up with as the “right” way to do something. Learning how another country works is fascinating and really we all have a lot we can learn from each other. While I lived here during the Presidential elections in 2012 (French presidents are in office for 5 years), actually being able to vote changes one’s perspective.
To vote in France you have to be 18 years old. You register by December 31st. (I was lucky and filled in my forms right before the end of the year). By early April registered voters receive their “carte electorale” which has your voting locations and you must vote at that location within your arrondissement. Before both the first round voting (April 23) and second round voting (May 7th) registered voters receive a mailing with flyers for each candidate as well their name cards (these you vote with, but are also available at the local voting center).
Unlike the U.S. system, the election cycle is much shorter (and far less agonizing in that respect). France is not a two-party system, but rather home to many parties. The first round vote narrows down the large pool of candidates; the two candidates who receive the most votes will move on to the second, and final round. (John Oliver explains the system well.). Typically the two main parties — gauche/socialist and droite — move forward but neither made it through to the second round. In fact, Emmanuel Macron made up a party, “En marche!” translating to “let’s get going,” for his candidature. There are spending limits for each candidate, and each candidate has equal media time. During the debates, there is literally a clock tracking how much each candidate speaks. The debates last over two hours and end after midnight – interesting for a country with only one time zone. 24 hours leading up to the election French media nor candidates are not allowed to make statements (in this case, even to refute what has been dubbed as “Macron Leaks”.).
Voting happens on a Sunday in France, which helps account for the country’s high voter turnout which tends to be above 80%. (Speaks volumes to the U.S. which votes on a Tuesday and has about 50% turnout, even with early voting). The catch with the May 7th election is that it falls on a holiday weekend (Victory Day – one of three holidays in the month of May in France). During Presidential elections in France you are only voting for one person, and nothing else. The U.S. scantron and electronic voting system typically has at least 10 things on the ballot. In France there are the two rounds of elections, followed by a vote for the legislators a month later.
During my first ever French election [first round voting] I was in Dublin, which became an eye opening experience on how everything is not what one expects. As an American living abroad I’m used to absentee voting, which involves me applying for an absentee ballot and mailing in my vote to my home state before the election date. My eyes nearly popped out of my head that I learn that in France you vote by procuration, or essentially sending a friend to vote in your your place. My initial reaction was “voter fraud” but after having lived it through two elections now, I have to say it works. It is also very official and you go to the Mairie [Mayor’s office] to register in advance. So while in Dublin at a workshop I received a text from my friend — I voted! For French citizens who live abroad it is common to register and vote at your local French Embassy. The queue may be long, but there’s a certain pride that goes along with voting in person.
So how does voting actually work?
- Based on your carte electorale you know where to vote. Voting locations, like the U.S. are at schools, but also at the Mairie [Mayor’s office] of each arrondissement [district].
- You are given a number for your bureau de vote so you know which queue to wait in (my voting center had two).
- You cut the line to go pick up your small brown envelope. First you check in with your French I.D. You’re asked if you’re free later to come count votes, and then are told to pick up your name cards to go vote behind the curtains. The interesting thing here is that you’re required to pick up two names so that it is not obvious who you’ll be voting for. This year the name cards added braille for blind voters.
- You go “behind the curtain” to place your vote – folded inside the envelope.
- You destroy the card of the candidate you are not voting for and drop it in the big bin on your way out. (You the try to make out crumpled names to get a quick sense of the results as you walk by.)
- Given this is France you go back to the end of the longer queue. This is the part that confused me, as typically choosing your candidate is the longer part of the process. This line is to officially cast your vote.
- At the front of the line there is a big clear box with votes in it. First you have to be checked in yet again with your official I.D. card. There is a big paper ledger with all of the registered voters. There is a clear plastic line guide to ensure you’re signing in the right box.
- Once checked in the officiator of the box opens a small latch and tells you to put your envelope inside. She then says “A voté” to signal your vote has been counter [the latch has a counter associated with it] and stamps the back of your carte electorale. (I didn’t think to give my friend my voter card, hence no stamp for the first round.)
Congratulations! You may not have an “I voted” sticker, but you have voted in France! And now that I’ve voted and written this post, I have to jet out to vote again. Don’t worry, just voting by procuration, for a friend. Not too shabby to be voting twice in my first official French presidential election ;)
UPDATE: Emmanuel Macron won! He takes office next Sunday. Compared to the Americans (election early November, inauguration in late January), here’s one time the French sure work fast….
After 200+ tours over 4 years, I decided it was necessary to create a new home for my Paris tours: Navigate Paris!
The original Navigate Paris has always been my most popular tour (3-hour crash course overview of the city with custom exploration) — I love it because it’s never the same for me either. My Paris Design Tour has a general loop of many of my favorite shops celebrating French design and design-y places and adapt it to the interests of those on my tour.
I’m most excited for the latest addition: Research Trips. I started these a couple years ago but more thought of them as part of my consulting work. Now I want to open them up for others who may be looking to invest a little more, or are traveling to Paris with a specific project in mind and they’re looking to Paris for research.
Learn more about my offerings on Navigate Paris along with reviews, FAQ and links to my Paris guides! I also created a Navigate Paris Facebook page, and @navigateparis on Twitter and Instagram (but those accounts are more to tag; still follow @pretavoyager for Paris updates).
2016 went out with a bang. I had an entire full page feature (en français) in the December issue of Vivre Paris! My face in print! Talking life, work, and my favorite places in Paris. It was a legit 1.5 hour interview with the journalist (Anne Le Mouellic) and a photographer (Charles-Henri Dannenberg) came too! My life is un peu compliqué to explain, so I was thrilled how it came out. Look for the cover with a wintery illustration and “un hiver Parisien” in red type. I was also excited to see Marie-Anne Bruschi of Re-Voir Paris featured inside too! I know people tend to turn to blogs and Instagram for inspiration, but Vivre Paris is one of my favorite publications for everything Paris from the selections, to design and photography. It always feels fresh and focused. You can pick up a copy at a green newsstand in Paris or subscribe online.
What’s in store for 2017? Some changes. My word/theme for the year is “pivot.” I love what I do, but want to continue to make some tweaks to continue to focus on my end goals. I’m feeling alive and inspired from new discoveries and potential opportunities, so on verra (we will see).
I’ll announce it officially soon, but I’m currently developing Navigate Paris, a new website to house all my Paris offerings (tours, experiences, guides and tips). It’s still being tweaked, but you can check it out online at navigateparis.com. I’m really looking forward to taking on more of what I call Research Trips, which are intensive half or full-day experiences in the city to help businesses, organizations and individuals to explore an interest, theme or trend.
In non Paris related news, all of January I’ll be giving feedback to all projects updated in all of my Skillshare online classes, if you’re looking design a map, make a travel poster, learn InDesign (short or long form), rethink a presentation, or update/redesign your résumé or CV! There are a bajillion other awesome classes too if you just want to learn something new in the New Year.
Très Belle Année!
When I launched this blog 9 years ago, little did I know all the doors it would unlock, or who has been sitting quietly on the other side of the screen. Then last spring I received an email from Christine Herrin asking me to be her mentor when she was selected for this year’s Adobe Creative Residency (which may just be the coolest gig in town—one year to pursue the project of her dreams!). While lots of people love travel, there is a smaller handful who see it in unique, creative ways. Christine is one of those people, and through the residency is pulling together her skill as a designer, scrapbooker and handletterer, with the goal to make documenting cool again by developing her stamp line (they’re clear! you can see where you’re stamping!!) and creating her own travel kits (trust me, she’s thought about every detail). After a few year hiatus, I’m thrilled to resurrect Boarding Pass to share a glimpse of how Christine travels.
I’m rarely in my own travel photos, but I knew I needed to get my picture taken beside my initials. This was a mural in Shoreditch in London.
Last trip taken:
San Diego, CA for Adobe MAX! It was the big event we had all been long preparing for, and a really important one for many reasons. I got a chance to show and talk about my work to a bigger audience (and gave my first conference talk in front of 450 people!) and hang out with my mentors and fellow Creative Residents. Then Anne and I hit the road and drove back to San Francisco swinging by Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain, and Santa Barbara. Before that I went to Seattle, WA — locked myself up in an Airbnb to get stuff done, and I have to say, it worked! (Now I need to go back to Seattle to explore…)
Everyday Explorers Journal Kit I designed as part of my Creative Residency project.
Next trip on deck:
Manila, Philippines, for the holidays. Looking forward to all the food that comes with Christmas gatherings, and finally getting to recharge. Also can’t wait to see family and friends. A big international trip with Adobe is being planned for early next year, but it’s still a big mystery whether I’m being sent to Berlin or Tokyo!
Get a peek inside Christine’s dream Creative Residency.
One place you would go back to again and again:
London. Definitely my favo(u)rite city. Some of my best friends from college currently live there, and have successfully talked me into visiting every year since 2011… and if I could, I’d make it a yearly tradition forever! (Or maybe move there someday…)
London is my favorite city. I was in town for the Queen’s Jubilee a few years ago, and like a true fangirl, camped out along the Mall to see Prince William and Kate Middleton wave from the balcony!
Place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Seoul, Korea. A perfect mix of good food, efficient public transportation, hipster coffee shops, and all. the. stationery.
The design scene in Seoul is amazing.
Preferred method of transportation:
Train for sure, but I try to walk as much as I can. But then again, I get most of my best ideas on long-haul flights too.
Place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Dying to do a few weeks in Scandinavia — I’ve only been to Copenhagen, but would love to go to Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, etc.
My favorite thing to look out for when traveling? Local paper shops!
Place you’d never go back:
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I went a few years ago as part of a Asian backpacking trip with college friends and we were super underwhelmed. Then again it was probably because it felt so much like Manila that we got pretty bored easily. ;)
Most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
Three weeks: Switzerland, London, Mediterranean cruise (Greece/Italy/Turkey), Rome, Mexico. One carry on bag with a coat + boots, a bathing suit, and a formal gown to boot. :)
More design work inspired by travel.
How do you prepare for a trip?
Most of my obsessing comes in booking flights (always looking for the cheapest deal) and figuring out where to stay. Almost always leave packing to the night before (panic!) and light research before the trip. I usually like to figure things out when I get there, as long as I have a general idea where I am and what I’d like to see.
How do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
I collect everything and anything. Usually at the end of each day I try my best to write in bullet points some highlights or the activities for the day so I don’t forget for my scrapbooks. Usually the amount of iPhone photos I have is enough to remind me, though!
Another rare photo of myself — sometimes I feel like I need to take these as proof that I was there. In this case, “there” was Snaefellsnes in Iceland.
What is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
I love street signs and well-designed advertisements. Sometimes shop fronts with good type is fun too.
A set of travel cards for scrapbooking that I designed with prompts I use — because it’s not just about what you see and do, but what you eat, too! ;)
On an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Ooh, too many to count. Maybe 300, I’d say.
What’s in your “designer travel kit”?
I bring my Instax camera but am usually too shy to whip it out and take photos in a quiet cafe (especially when I’m alone). A blank sketchbook/notebook for sure, always. My phone is my main camera.
An example of what goes into my travel scrapbooks.
What do you do after a trip? How long after a trip does this happen?
In the past I’d gather the stuff I’ve collected and put them into a Project Life album — probably a few months after. Lately haven’t had the time to really collect nor write anything down (cry!).
Another peek at my scrapbook — this one was from a trip to Melbourne I saved mostly restaurant business cards and the empty shell of the local SIM card I got.
Local magazines and publications, smaller art pieces (prints, postcards) from local designers/illustrators. I do pick up a lot of random paper things along the way — ephemera like maps, brochures, postcards, tickets, postcards, and flyers. I see it as getting a taste of the local design scene (and I hoard paper, in general.)
A few things I saved from my last trip to Seoul. A favorite piece was the small instruction card that came with my meal on the flight, explaining how to eat the traditional dish they were serving.
What inspired your Everyday Explorers journal?
I love collecting a lot of bits and pieces when I travel with grand plans of turning them into finished pieces and scrapbooks when I get home. Buuuut, we all know how it goes: you get home exhausted, and all the stuff you’ve collected ends up in a big ziplock bag that you can’t throw away. This kit was born out of my desire to document on the go and give myself a place to put all the bits and pieces, whether or not I end up creating something with it or not.
Collected pieces from a day (!) around Paris = design inspiration.
I actually got the idea for a portable box during a trip to Paris to see Anne, as we observed how we both loved to collect paper pieces and just needed a place to organize and put them all. A lot of the prompts [see image #3 above] included in the journal kit are things I used to notice on my own travels, and having them all in one place will hopefully make documenting and reflecting much easier while you’re in the moment!
Custom box design for the Everyday Explorers Journal Kit.
What was the first trip that really got you excited about traveling?
I remember getting the chance to tag along with my parents to a trip to Beijing when I was 15. History was already my favorite subject then (I ended up becoming a history major later) and I had just learned about the Forbidden City in class. I found myself standing in front of the actual Forbidden City (and its size blew my mind and was larger than I had ever imagined) close to tears and so excited to see more, more, more.
Elsewhere on the web
- website: christineherrin.com
- shop: christineherrin.com/shop
- blog: christineherrin.com/blog
- instagram: @christine.herrin
- twitter: @_ch21
- Feature on the Adobe Create blog.
- Christine on It’s Nice That. Christine on Raise Your Hand, Say Yes podcast with Tiffany Han.
Boarding Pass is a series that explores the creative ways people see the world.
Paris Fashion Week is in full swing, so I thought it’d be fun to share a post of my favorite independent designers, of a different sort—ahem, the ones actually in your budget and that make great souvenirs. The more I travel the more I realize that at times it seems everything looks the same, so on my Paris tours I make a concerted effort to showcase French designers and “made in France”—the things you can’t find everywhere. This post highlights nine of my favorite French brands who are constantly pushing the status quo, their work and the materials they use.
OMY is a French company specializing in playful coloring “maps” that range from oversized wall posters to pocket guides to Paris and beyond. Fun for all ages. Shop 10th arrondissement (2 Rue Gabriel Laumain, 75010), and found around the city at shops like Merci and BonTon.
Papier Tigre run by 3 French designers is constantly pushing the possibilities and creativity of paper. Their products are printed on recycled paper, primarily in France. Their Paris shop is located at 5 Rue Filles du Calvaire 75003 (with their products also for sale at other boutiques), the Mitte area of Berlin, as well as a Pop-Up in Ginza, Tokyo.
Macon & Lesquoy accessories take a playful spin on broaches (hand embroidered, inspired by military pins) and iron-on patches. It’s not until you put one on that you realize the full joy it brings — I love my croissant and pretzel! Available at Papier Tigre and various stores around Paris, and online.
What started as a crowd-funding campaign to encourage illustrators to imagine a New Yorker-esque covers of the imaginary magazine “The Parisianer” has spun off into a series of posters and a book. Available at booksellers such as ARTAZART.
Nailmatic is a line of nail polish made in France. The company can often be seen collaborating with French brands like OMY and Paper Tigre. There’s a polish vending machine inside BonTon Filles du Calvaire, and available at a range of shops.
Jamini is the brainchild of Usha Bora, working with artisans in various regions of India to help bring a French design aesthetic to traditional craft methods from wood block prints [pictured here] for home décor to the use of peace worms for elegant scarves. Two boutiques (10 rue du Chateau d’Eau 75010 and 10 rue Notre Dame de Lorette 75009) + online shop.
Kerzon is a scent-centric brand by two brothers focusing on smell packets, candles and more recently perfumes where the packaging is just as important as the product. Available online, at Papier Tigre, and various shops.
L’Instant Parisien started as one of my favorite Paris-based websites and inspiring Instagram accounts highlighting chronicles of creatives around the city (in a local, non-cliché kind of way) before launching a crowd-funding campaign to launch their very own magazine (in French and English!). Available online and various stockists; cover art by Virginie Morgand.
Speaking of Paris, there’s currently a free Made in Paris expo in Hotel de Ville (City Hall in central Paris). Visit through the Rendezvous entrance facing BHV department store. Rendezvous also happens to be a great tourism resource and gift shop that’s aimed at a more local, less mainstream tourism crowd; they also have a fantastic collection of free, beautifully designed brochures of resources and events for you design fans.
The fall theme for Le Bon Marché department store is also Paris. The installation with Paris-curated products is on through October 15th and is a great way to discover unique French brands, and exclusive collaborations.
Nothing irks me more than when people say I live a charmed life because I live in Paris. Really, there’s a lot of unglamorousness behind the scenes, particularly when it comes to living in Paris apartments. My life is definitely not like you see in the movies! This month marks 7 years I’ve called Paris home since moving here for grad school in 2009. In June I moved into my first “real” Paris apartment. For the first time in 7 years I have my own mailbox and can check my mail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can’t tell you how luxurious life feels now!
Recently Elena Berton, a writer for the WSJ Expat blog reached out to me after seeing my past posts about finding an apartment in Paris (1, 2, 3 and my personal favorite where I had friends draw floor plans of their first Paris apartments) to get my take on small living. While I’ve always been proud of my modest, miniscule living the fact that I had been a long time editor for Design*Sponge sharing more than 500 hundred beautiful “sneak peek” interior home tours from creatives around the world made me a bit ashamed, or at least hesitant, to share pictures of my own apartment. Also, after grad school I was in my 30s, found myself unexpectedly starting my own business, and bragging about how small and unglamorous my apartment was wasn’t exactly the clientelle I wanted to attract at the time. I decided the time has come to finally give a “sneak peek” inside my own Paris apartments.
Have you ever started a collection without really realizing it? For me it’s Paris maps and Paris guide books. I’m fascinated by the way people travel and how they use various tools and resources to travel. I’m dubbing this series “Ready to Travel.” Get it? It’s the translation of prêt à voyager! I have much more to share beyond just travel guides. In fact, I’ve had it all in drafts since January, but I figured it was high time to get this series going! I have an idea for what my own dream Paris travel guide would look like, but until it comes to life, I wanted to kick things off by sharing a handful of my favorite Paris city guides that are less mainstream and help you really explore the city in a less touristy way. Besides, they’re all beautifully designed and you can’t help but want to touch them or keep them as a souvenir. Even if you’re not coming to Paris anytime soon, these guides are great for armchair travel.
Isabelle Boinot‘s Paris: a Subjective Guide in 53 Addresses of her favorite addresses with her own simple illustrations and a short description in two languages (some variety of English, French and Japanese, so pay attention to which edition you pick up!). All of the addresses are very local and you’d be likely to find me at any of them.
Paris Style Guide is French stylist Elodie Rambaud‘s guide to the city, which encourages you to go a little deeper into the city as she shares her favorite locations where scouts for photoshoots (speaking of which Elodie took all the photos too!). The French title is Paris Shopping Insolite, which refers to insider or hidden places. Depending on the country where it’s published the book may have a different cover. Elodie was also one of my first French friends I made in the city because of our love of exploring!
I may be partial to Herb Lester City Maps because I wrote the Paris Small Shops edition, but I was a longtime fan before I contributed myself. Their collection includes maps for cities around the world, but when it comes to Paris there’s also Paris for Pleasure Seekers, It’s Nice to Be Alone in Paris, and Paris en Famille. Each map guide is illustrated by a different illustrator and printed on quality paper in the UK, which makes for the perfect souvenir. You can also purchase the entire Paris collection.
Paris Syndrome guide by City Syndrome is named after the actual disorder some tourists, particularly Asian, experience when Paris doesn’t meet their expectations that they’ve seen in movies and on television. So this urban notebook is a city guide meets journal with a few clues and photos to get you exploring and re/discovering Paris to help serve a more realistic guide to the city. It also acknowledges addresses are constantly opening and closing, so it’s not attempting to be an up to the moment guide, but rather one that encourages you to write your own story.
The New Voyager city maps were created by Emma Swinscoe as cool city maps for kids, but the fact of the matter is that they’re great for any age. Each map is the same format but illustrated by a different illustrator with a map on one side, and 25 locations on the other, so it’s well curated and not too overwhelming. The Paris edition is perfect for giving kids a taste of Paris and then hanging in their room after the trip is over.
The Hunt Guide is a series of pocket-sized guides that help you discover more local sides of the city. The Paris Hunt Guide also happens to be written and photographed by my friend Haleigh Walsworth (of By Haleigh, formerly Making Magique). Trust me, Haleigh knows what’s up in Paris if you’re looking for specific addresses.
Martin Montagut‘s illustrated Bonjour Paris map is the one you’re most likely to happen upon in a Paris shop as it comes in an English and French editions. The series has expanded to Bonsoir Paris (Paris at night), Bonjour Provence, Bonjour London, Bonjour New York and more…
My custom Telescope Cards decks were a project I was really excited to work on (see full project post). They’re fun because the format is completely different from any other city guide I know, and definitely pocket friendly. You can make your own deck before or after a trip, or you can pick up my PAV: Paris Top 25 and Paris Piscine [swimming pool] decks.
I instantly fell in love with the new series of mini themed guides Carnets Parisiens published by Galerie Celmentine de la Feronniere. So far two editions exist: Les Musées Étonnants de Marie Doazan (Surprising Museums illustrated by Marie) and Les Piscines de Léa Maupetit (Paris pools illustrated by Léa). While the titles are in French, all the content inside is in French and English, so as a bonus you have a language lesson! I’ve spotted these books at ARTAZART, BHV, and FNAC.
La Ville de Paris (City of Paris) have incredible resources for locals and tourists alike (start with Paris.fr and QueFaireaParis.fr). They also work with incredibly talented graphic designers to create materials and posters around the city. Believe it or now this “First Time in Paris” map is free if you stop into Rendezvous boutique, a cool, less touristy gift shop located inside Hotel de Ville (city hall)—the entrance is across from BHV department store—where they also sell a nice selection of Paris inspired gifts from carafes by arrondissement or mini Fermob chairs. The English version has florescent green text. If you don’t see it out with all the other beautiful printed brochures, you can always ask.
On June 16, 2016 I became French. Getting French citizenship was the “easy” part, staying in France was the real challenge. The most exciting part is that I never have to go to the Prefecture [above] to renew my paperwork as a foreigner again, otherwise what was known as “my least favorite day of the year”.
I was reading expat expert Jean Jaquet‘s latest newsletter, and there was a section about living in France by starting a small business. In his words: “Clearly, one needs cold blood and iron nerves to choose this solution, as it makes impossible to comply with the requirements of the prefecture, but it can be done.” I can confirm, this is a true statement. Living in France as an expat is ripe with catch-22s. Rules have changed since I went through the gauntlet, and I’ll openly admit if I knew what I knew now, I probably wouldn’t be here. The first years after grad school my seasoned professors would see me, and say “Anne, how are you still here!?!” with genuine awe. Most of my friends have managed to stay, stayed by getting sponsored by a company (only an option for higher level positions), or getting PACSed (civil marriage) or married—both which involve their own rounds of paperwork.
I never moved to France with rose colored glasses, I knew there would be hurdles, but knowing that I stayed here on my own, by starting my own business (a path I never imagined for myself, but can’t imagine any other way), it’s even more rewarding knowing not only did I become French, I did it the extra hard way.
(Read my French Bureaucracy, Explained post for a better appreciation of the challenges and limitations of living in France. Skip to the bottom of the post for naturalisation/citizenship specifics.)
Jump to the bottom for more citizenship specifics!
Nine years ago today I started this blog on 14 Juillet—Bastille Day. Four weeks ago today I became French.
It was a day like any other. I waited in line to get in the doors, then waited in another line once inside, then waited for the ceremony to start. But on this day, Meg was with me, and I was officially becoming French. I technically have been French since April, according to letter with a xeroxed stamp making it official, but refused to believe it until the ceremony where I received my official documents and got to sing the Marseillaise. That day individuals from 32 different countries became French.
In honor of the occasion I wore two of my favorite French designers. The dress by Papier Tigre is only available in Tokyo, and the pin by Macon & Lesquoy was a collaboration between Macon & Lesquoy and Papier Tigre. Two hearts for my two countries, which conveniently are the same colors seemed quite fitting for the day.
Later that night Meg surprised me with a cliché French celebration with my friends in Paris at the Amélie cafe (Les 2 Moulins). It was easy to spot the group as we were all wearing stripes and berets, which was extra entertaining for my friends who are actually French. Fun fact: besides being my favorite movie, Amélie happened to come out in 2001, the same year I studied abroad in Paris for the first time. It was the perfect setting to catch up with friends and celebrate my newfound Frenchness! And to top it off, at the end of the night two random tourists who didn’t speak English came up to me and asked if they could take a picture with me in front of the Amélie poster—because I looked like her! It was awesome, and we all had a good laugh.
What’s changed since then? I now have two passports, two birth certificates, I’ll be able to vote in the next election, I have full working rights (on my prior status I had the right to work in France, but was not allowed to hold a salaried position/contract), I’ll be able to work/live anywhere in the EU, and I’ll save a bajillion hours of my life every year because I no longer have to renew my paperwork every year.
A huge thank you to Meg (aka De Quelle Planete Es-Tu?) for being such an amazing friend and support, and for the amazing documentation of the day! If there’s one thing true about bureaucracy, it’s that it brings people together. I never could have navigated this alone.
Ironically, I’m not sure that I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for my blog. Stay tuned for the long version of how I became French… UPDATE: Here’s how I became French.
Ask any American if they know who Julia Child is and their eyes will light up; ask anyone in Europe and you’ll get a blank stare. For me, having the chance to step inside Julia Child’s home in Provence was a dream come true. She’s one of those everyday people (albeit extremely tall) who found stardom in being herself and having a passion for food. She didn’t begin cooking until she was in her 30s, and didn’t become famous until her 50s with the hit PBS TV show, The French Chef. Her goal was to make cooking accessible to everyone (TV dinners were all the rage when she emerged), as well as acting as an ambassador of sorts for French cuisine. She was a perfectionist in someways, testing recipes over and over for Mastering the Art of French Cooking (co-authored with Simone Beck), but perfectly imperfect in others. One of my favorite TV episodes ever was when Julia and Martha Stewart made a French tower of chou pastries; Martha’s looked impeccable, and Julia’s looked like a child could have made it, but it didn’t matter to Julia with her wonderful sense of humor and distinctive voice. She truly knew how to embrace who she was.
As fame found Julia later in life, she was recognized everywhere she went. The modest home she and Paul had in Provence became a refuge for them. The home was referred to as La Pitchoune, or La Peetch for short. Translation: the little one. It’s located about 45 minutes north of Nice.
The kitchen built by Paul was a replica of her official test kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, complete with tall counter tops. However, the big difference is that there was a more relaxed atmosphere in the south of France. In Cambridge she kept an ongoing list of every ingredient on hand, but in Provence cooking was more about quality time with friends.
Paul was a graphic designer and also created the peg board system for Julia to store her kitchenwares, and more importantly, to know where to put them away.
Everything was labeled so it was easy to find. (The labels are original).
Everything had its place.
Paul created a slit in the kitchen counter to store Julia’s knives.
The kitchen wouldn’t be complete without fresh, local ingredients.
When the Childs weren’t at La Pitchoune friends would often stay at the house. Julia created “The Black Book” which had everything from plumbing instructions to driving directions. One could argue that at times the information as a bit too detailed.
The dining/living room. Furniture has changed over the years. The bedrooms (not pictured) are most noteworthy for how short the beds look.
The home today still contains photos of Julia. The photo on the mantle is of her and Paul.
My Life in France is the biography about Julia Child, which was published in 2006, after she passed away. Much of it covers the time she and Paul spent in Paris. It’s a must read for any francofile.
Weather in Provence makes for many meals on the terrace.
Luke Barr‘s Provence, 1970 gives fascinating insight into Provence during Julia’s time there. Luke’s great aunt was M.F.K. Fisher, a prominent American food writer, and using her diary and old letters, the book recreates the winter of 1970 when several key figures in American cooking, including M.F.K, Julia Child, and James Beard connected in Provence. It’s wild to read it and know that he re-created reality through archives—it truly feels like he was there, and you’ve traveled back in time together, and inside their minds.
La Pitchoune is located in La Plascassier, France not far from Grasse (famous for perfumes) and Valbonne. I couldn’t help but think that 2016 Julia would have been best friends with everyone in Valbonne. I spent two weekends there and already was starting to feel like a regular.
My first visit to Patisserie Lenoir was magical. I walked inside to see Jean-Jacques Lenoir himself behind the counter and chatting with the locals (foreigners, but clearly regulars). Frodo the yellow lab would stroll in and out, while his owner François clearly preferred to speak English, showing off his time spent in Canada. Everyone who walked into the shop seemed to know Jean-Jacques and had their own inside jokes. I soaked it all in as I sat inside starring at the impressive (and beautiful) array of pastries in front of me, sipping my tea and eating a slice of quiche. I couldn’t help but think to myself: Julia would have loved this. Address: 14 Boulevard Carnot, Valbonne.
While looking for a boulangerie, a woman heard me ask someone and directed me back into the main city—”It’s much more local, just through the arches.” Had I not known I was looking for a boulangerie, I never would have found the white tent with a small stairway down into the large kitchen. Rémy wakes up at 2:30 every morning to start baking (he took over after his grandfather stepped down). He bakes between 250 and 500 of the local “Valbonnais” loaves in the few meter long oven. They sell so fast there’s a good chance you can get one straight out of the oven too! It was totally normal to see people with five loaves in their hands as they walked around town. Le Fournil d’Eugene: 19 Rue de la Fontaine, Valbonne.
After living in Paris for so many years, one of the most striking things about visiting the south of France is how nice people are. The same went for M. Gilbert, the butcher at Boucherie Rondelli. Everyone has personality, and in his case, a butcher with tattoos! Address: Résidence Vallis Bona 55 Route de Grasse, Valbonne.
Every Friday morning in Valbonne there’s a market in the center of town, and it’s the big shopping day for everyone. But every day of the week there’s incredible produce at Dumanois Primeurs. It’s not often you see such care put into every display. Even their green beans were arranged into rows. And like most places in town, they close early on Sundays. Address: Résidence Vallis Bona 55 Route de Grasse, Valbonne.
With a shop named 365 Fromages, it’s not hard to guess they sell a lot of cheese. But out of all the options, I went straight for the butter. Make sure you look at the signs on the shop window too, as they’re quite amusing. Address: 22 Rue Eugène Giraud, Valbonne.
In order to host a dinner party in true Julia fashion, one needs wine—lots of it. Galerie Bouteille was a hole in the wall shop, run by Fabien was able to help me pick out the perfect bottles of red, white, rosé and bubbly for the occasion. Prices were very reasonable, and the wine I bought was by independent winemakers in the region. I also love that he was sitting outside at a table set up in front of the shop having apéro with friends when I first visited. Address: 13 rue Eugene Giraud Valbonne.
Dinner at Le Bistrot du Sommelier was recommended by Fabien at the wine store and it didn’t disappoint. Prices are very reasonable, especially given all the food is made with fresh local ingredients. Address: 21 rue Eugene Giraud, Valbonne.
Unlike most French cities I’ve visited, the center of Valbonne is arranged in a perfect grid. It was absolutely magical during the golden hour with the sun setting.
A few minute drive outside of Valbonne, there’s olive oil factory Moulin d’Opio. There are guided tours and tastings, but there’s also a free self-guided tour if timing doesn’t work out. The gift shop is full of all things olive, including giant historic presses. Address: 2 route de Chateauneuf, Opio.