Prêt à Voyager Travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world. Mon, 08 May 2017 09:46:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 French Lessons: Voting in France Sun, 07 May 2017 12:43:14 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> pretavoyager-PAVcarteelectorale

Becoming French has it’s 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?

  1. 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].pretavoyager-bureaudevote18
  2. You are given a number for your bureau de vote so you know which queue to wait in (my voting center had two).
  3. 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.
  4. You go “behind the curtain” to place your vote – folded inside the envelope.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Once checked in the officiator of the box opens a small latch and tells you to put your envelope inside. She then says “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….

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Paris Tours: Navigate Paris Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:49:49 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> NavigateParis-pretavoyager-tours

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).


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Vivre Paris Wed, 04 Jan 2017 13:05:12 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> 2016-dec-vivreparis2016 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 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!

BOARDING PASS: Christine Herrin Sun, 04 Dec 2016 21:17:08 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> boarding-pass-christineWhen 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.

010I’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…)

christineherrineverydayexplorersEveryday 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…)
08London 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.

06The 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.

012My 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. :)

03More 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!

011Another 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.

02A 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!).

05Another 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.

Favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
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.)

07A 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.

09Collected 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!

sqsCustom 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

Boarding Pass is a series that explores the creative ways people see the world.

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9 Independent French Designers Mon, 03 Oct 2016 09:46:13 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> pretavoyager-parisdesignParis 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.

pretavoyager-omy-600OMY 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.

pretavoyager-papiertigre-600Papier 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.

pretavoyager-lebagnieur-600Le Baigner (translation: the bather) is a men’s natural soap brand with the most beautiful packaging.  Available at Papier Tigre and various stores around Paris, as well as online.

pretavoyager-maconlesquoy-600Macon & 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.

pretavoyager-parisiener-600What 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.

pretavoyager-nailmatic-600Nailmatic 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.

pretavoyager-jamni-600Jamini 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.

pretavoyager-kerzon-600Kerzon 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.

pretavoyager-linstantparisianL’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.

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{Un}Glamorous Paris: Chambre de Bonne Fri, 12 Aug 2016 15:32:24 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> IMG_2590Nothing 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.

Nearly 7 years later, I’ve made it. I’ve started a successful business in France (hello, uphill battle), earn a significantly higher salary than I ever did at my full-time job in the U.S. (where salaries are much higher than in France) where the word “freelance” can be the kiss of death in terms of trying to secure a Paris apartment (as well as being foreign). On top of it, I became French, not by getting married or being sponsored by a company, but by my own sheer stubborness. Small living may not always be glamorous, but my 7 floor walk-up was a free gym, I had a killer view, great natural light and I was able to save a bit of money, pay off my student loans, and finally graduate to my real apartment that’s 34m2 (365 sf) that feels like a palace to me (seriously, I don’t know what to do with so much space). Of course, it’s not much bigger than my childhood bedroom, but for Paris it’s a huge step up. It’s also been a strangely humbling and rewarding journey to get there.

“Chambre de bonne” refers to the top floor former maid’s quarters of apartments which have been renovated and use space incredibly efficiently. For perspective, the first one was about the size of a closet in the U.S., the second, the size of a bathroom, and the 3rd, the size of an American kitchen.  Still, it’s staggering how much crap you can fit in these tiny spaces, which I realized after my latest move (note: I moved to Paris with 2 suitcases and a backpack). One thing is for sure your expectations and standards change in Paris. You get to a point where you’re happy to have a home. I’m just glad the internet exists while calling these humble abodes home.



size: 10ms2 (110 sf)
location: 7th arrondissement (next door to the brother of the King of Saudi Arabia who was rarely home) [Ecole Militaire]
floor: 5, no elevator
view: “Eiffel Tower” (aka 2 inches at the top, but at least I could tell time by when it twinkled)
toilet: shared, in the hallway
price: 550€/mo
fun fact: If I tottered on my feet, my armspan could reach both walls the short way.










size: 12m2 (129 sf)
location: 9th arrondissement [St. Georges]
floor: 5, no elevator
view: Opéra and Paris rooftops
toilet: shared, in the hallway
price: 475€/mo (weird, because they charged my friend before me more)









size: 16-18m2 (172-194sf)
location: 11th arrondissement [Parmentier]
floor: 7, no elevator (at least there were windows)
view: half of Paris looking south including Notre Dame and Centre Pompidou
price: 607€/mo
issues: skylight blew open at 4:30am during a crazy wind storm, hot water tank started leaking at 3am two days before Christmas, leaky window that landlord didn’t want to deal with for 2 years even after it started raining indoors on Easter Monday










Soooo, when I say I live in Paris, in a small apartment, is this what you expected??

More in my {Un}Glamorous Paris series!

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Ready to Travel: Top Paris City Guides Mon, 01 Aug 2016 14:15:32 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> Prêt à Voyager top Paris city guides

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.

IMG_4574Isabelle 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.

IMG_4602Paris 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!

IMG_4580I 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.

IMG_4584The 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.

IMG_4588The 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.

IMG_4578Martin 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…

IMG_4582My 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.

IMG_0687.1I 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.

IMG_4576La Ville de Paris (City of Paris) have incredible resources for locals and tourists alike (start with and 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.

Want more Paris ideas? Check out my Visit Paris page and follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram! Ready to Travel is a new series showcasing my favorite resources and tips for traveling around Paris.

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The Road to French Citizenship Wed, 20 Jul 2016 22:10:35 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> pretavoyager-prefecture

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!

Long story short.

I moved to Paris in 2009 for a Masters in Global Communications from the American University of Paris on a student visa. After I graduated, I became an auto-entrepreneur which allowed me to freelance in France (all freelancers must have a SIRET number to work in France). I spent the August after I defended my thesis writing a 50-page business plan in French while every other French person was on holiday. Collecting the pile of documents was even more painful than writing a business plan from scratch. Miraculously, I had everything I needed for my appointment at the Prefecture. Unfortunately, I was naive enough to think after all that I may even receive a 3-year carte de séjour, but the reality is when I went back, they gave me a piece of paper, a récipissée, a document that extended my visa for another THREE MONTHS. Auto-entrepreneur status can easily sound appealing to freelancers with lower charges, but the reality is it’s a secondary working status for the French which allows one to have a side business (it also has a salary cap). The catch: auto-entrepreneur is not a residency status for foreigners, hence the paperwork living hell. The irony of course being that I could have been making money and contributing to the economy, but instead I was running in circles hunting down documents.

I continued on the auto-entrepreneur track, going back and renewing every three months until I hired Jean Taquet to talk about my residency options. Upon his recommendation I went in for a changement du statut, a status change to profession libérale status—I now ran an official business in France, along with paying the significant social charges that go with it. I’m fairly certain in one of Jean Taquet’s recent newsletters, he mentioned that the path I took is no longer a viable option.

I can’t stress enough that every foreigner in France has a different situation, and laws change, and sometimes people just get lucky. I’m definitely sparing you a lot of the agonizing details. All the paperwork below is after I did a major purge.

The application process.

The general rule to apply for French naturalisation is that you must be a legal resident of France for five consecutive years. As I write that sentence, five years sounds short, but trust me, the mountains of paperwork make it feel like you’ve lived through ten.

There are certain situations that lead to a reduction in time required to apply. One is getting a two year Masters degree in France. As I studied at the American University of Paris, I went into the Bureau de Naturalisation office to specifically ask if I was eligible [given it wasn’t a French university]. The woman was very friendly, explaining everything I need. And when it came to my early eligibility, she went to the back office to confirm that my degree would count. “YES,” she said, “as long as you take the French exam as your studies were not in French. ” Remember this statement…

Compared to a typical annual carte de séjour renewal, applying for citizenship didn’t feel that much more complicated. Here’s an incomplete list of what was required:

  • Every address you’ve lived in your life (I have definitely lived in more than average!) and every job you’ve held.
  • Birth certificate (recently issued), with apostille. My parents were sweet and took a trip to Richmond, Virginia to pick up my apostille for me (it is possible by mail, but I think my dad was looking for an excuse for a train trip). The document was incredibly underwhelming given the hassle it took to get it. Essentially it was a printed Word document on normal white paper with a gold sticker on it. Then have both documents certified translated, which runs you about 50€ per document. (I used Davron Translations). It’s important to realize that French birth certificates are more like status updates, which are updated throughout your life (I have one now!!). Therefore, as a longtime foreigner in France, you are required to get multiple birth certificates issued, and re-translated despite the fact that most of the document is French 101 and a US birth certificate never changes. The translator is required to start from scratch after a month or two time limit. My theory is it’s a ploy to keep the economy going.
  • Birth certificates for your parents. Translated, certified, of course. Marriage certificate was on the list as well, but I didn’t do this.
  • A background check “casier judiciaire” for everywhere you’ve lived for more than 6 months. The woman at the naturalisation office gave me a small sheet of paper with the contact of a place to get fingerprinted. It was completely wrong and out of date! In any case, thankfully I learned about Eve from a friend. Eve does FBI finger printing—wait for it—in a squash court in Montmarte! [See photo below.] I had some other friends go to French police stations, which, sure, it was cheaper (free), but they can not say they got finger printed in a leather chair with squash matches going on! Dope… The FBI background check was the slowest part of the process, which usually takes about 6 weeks. However, mine got stuck in the U.S. government shutdown a couple years ago, so there was a delay. With expats in France, you often hear about “documents must be collected within 3 months.” It’s probably a complete constructed concept (or it applies to married people). So I went ahead and sent in my [first] citizenship application without having received my background check (instead sending a photo of my fingerprints and envelope)… Which of course had to then be certified translated once I was cleared!
  • Declaration of revenue from Centre des Impôts (tax forms)
  • Avis d’imposition for past 3 years (more tax stuff)
  • Bordereau situation fiscale P237 for last 3 years – this was no fun for me because I lived in 3 different arrondissements in the course of 3 years, and hence had to visit the Centre des Impôts [tax office] in each area. Of course two locations were so nice and did the form for me immediately, while in the arrondissement I actually lived in tried to tell me to come back in a few days. These documents alone are a very good example of the “running in circles” insanity of French bureaucracy.
  • Copy of my diploma
  • Biz docs
  • 3 last rent slips + EDF or phone bill in your name
  • A copy of passport and carte de séjour
  • [ugly] photos
  • French exam (level B1 required)


The French Exam

I’d tell you more specifics about where I went for my TEF French exam, but I know from another friend who applied after me that they changed the exam since my time. Still, I’m going to tell you about it, because I found it highly amusing.

The French exam is not necessarily only for those applying for naturalisation, but it is required with the application. And it’s only offered about once a month. For me, it became an “oh crap, I have to reschedule everything so I can fit in this exam.” I didn’t study, but in talking with a friend going through the process at the same time, I was glad I had at least seen the format of the exam, because it was not like any test I’d taken before. Welcome to France.

First it’s important to know that you should have plenty of ugly photos of yourself on hand as you need to mail one in to take the exam. It’s hard to do much in France without ugly photos. I also sent a check for 90€.

Next, goodbye Number 2 pencils, you use pen to take this exam.

The form was Scantron-esque, but instead of ovals, you had to fill in thin rectangles. One point for a correct answer, minus one for a wrong answer, and no point for leaving it blank. If you messed up, you were to fill in all the rectangles in the row, and you had one more chance in the row below to fill in your final answer. [Rumor has it the scoring has changed for the exam too, but again, mine makes a good story.]

Then it’s time to start listening to the oral part of the exam, where a dialogue is played and you have to fill in the items in the order you hear them. That is correct, if you miss one, then it means you’re probably going to get everything wrong afterwards. Also, make sure your proctors play the correct audio to go with the exam book in front of you with the images and questions. A couple people in my test room definitely started to fill out answers for an audio that made zero sense.

The questions get increasingly hard for each section. You listen to phone conversations and a radio program, and select the multiple choice question.

The second part of the exam was a conversation, however, it’s France so I felt like I was being graded on my ability to debate rather than my language skills. Each person is called into a private room with a proctor who facilitates and records the conversation, that will later be graded. The first conversation is 5 minutes, and my topic was about wanting to rent an electric bicycle from a shop. A phenomenon I find myself in all too often is that people seemingly don’t understand me because I don’t ask typical questions. For me it was completely normal in this scenario to ask how someone becomes a bicycle tour guide, as I have many friends who would be interested. The proctor definitely responded like I asked a completely different question. It’s not my fault I ask different questions. I also got points off because I said “booking“—a term my friends were using and I’d see on metro posters at the time—rather than the proper “réservation“. C’est la vie.

The second conversation was 10 minutes, and this is where I feel like my lack of debate training came into play. This was a back and forth exchange where in the scenario I received, I was trying to convince my friend (played by the proctor) to help me clean up an oil spill. “Don’t worry if you don’t know the vocabulary” she assured me. It was all about hitting the key points, and “don’t be like the guy before you who didn’t understand the concept of a debate and kept giving up on his friend.” I will also add at this point that another friend had her “debate” regarding getting a dog or a cat. Good thing I wasn’t trying to pass the BAC that day.

About a month later you receive two thick pieces of paper with your score. Scores rage from A1, A2, B1 (required), B2, C1, C2. Given that I’ve studied French since high school I was disappointed not to get a higher score than I did (still, was above the requirement), but I’ve never been a good test taker, and I was not prepared to debate an oil spill clean-up.

Rejection. And re-application.

I was rejected the first time I applied for citizenship and the reason given was that I have not lived in France long enough. The irony is that if they had held my dossier for another 4 months, I would have hit the 5 year mark. In 2003-4 I worked for a year as an English Teaching Assistant for the French Cultural Ministry, but no sympathy. Nor did my time studying abroad into the count.

One friend said they reject a lot of people on their first attempt. They want to know you really want it. I could have contested, but by this point I was making more money and decided I was about to pay my next round of taxes, so I may as well shut up and reapply two months later.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized why I was rejected. I was organizing my paperwork, something I’ve lost way too much time to over the years in France. I found my document from AUP stating my graduation was in January, but I graduated in May after I defended my thesis. I did two a 2-year Masters, however this document claimed it was only a year and a half. As I was communicating in English when I requested this document (that was in French) it was the only document I didn’t think to read closely and double check. I shouldn’t have been rejected at all! Alas, half of the adventure in living in France is having good stories. Only the strong survive

The interview.

I received about three weeks notice before my interview. That June morning in 2015 I dressed up (and was surprised how few people waiting did), looking as French as the day I became French and was ready for anything—at least I hoped.

In talking to a French friend the Friday before my Tuesday rendezvous she tells me another friend has been studying for her French citizenship test. Mais non, there’s no exam! I have a minor heart attack and end up talking to that friend, who indeed has a Livret de Citoyen PDF she’s been studying. (Apparently they now send the link when you receive the convocation for the interview.). I immediately printed it and studied. That’s the perk of only discovering it exists a couple days before your appointment—you can only freak out so much.

I went in calm, and decided that day I would have an answer for everything. No being wishy washy. Are the majority of your friends French? Yes. (That’s the right answer.) Why do you want to be French? Which number is correct on your tax form? Now that was the biggest curve ball, but thankfully had looked at my accounting recently, and pointed to the number. (Don’t worry, the tax form question was likely just for me, as I tend to always be a special case). She gave me a copy of the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et Citoyen to read over before signing. I was sure that was going to be when she started with the real questions. I knew friends had been grilled on anything from the color of the French flag, the three key foundations of France (liberté, équalité, fraternité), three dishes made with cheese, the major rivers of France, French writers/singers, to naming presidents of the Fifth Republic and key Ministers. I got asked nothing. I actually called a friend afterwards and said, that was too easy, what’s wrong.

My best theory is that the functionnaire with my case took a bit of pity on me because the first question was about the fact that this was my 2ème demande—my second applicationand she asked why I wanted to apply again.

Another friend had pointed out that when they ask you why you want to be French, they’ll quiz you on that topic. If you say architecture for example, they want to know you have actual knowledge on the topic. My response was daily life, and I was clearly passionate in my reasoning. It may have been reason enough that I didn’t need further questionning.

I also learned a new word in the process: enquête [inquiry]. At the time I thought that the functionnaire was saying “inquiéte” which means “worry”, regarding my French background check. She explained the situation saying they need to make sure my last name isn’t on any lists. Turns out my French background check went through later that day, which she emailed to tell me. I now had a contact, and emailed her on a couple occasions (for once having a French friend assist me in making sure my French was impeccable).

A normal renewal.

Just because you’re applying for French citizenship your other paperwork doesn’t stop. Every year for the past three years I’ve gone to the Prefecture hoping change in my carte de séjour that I renew annually for a carte de 10 ans that I only have to renew every—you guessed it—10 years. And every year—including this year—my dreams were crushed, and the paperwork hell lived on. My student years (the type of visa associated with it) do not count towards the 10 year card.

In my nearly 7 years in France, more of the “paper”work has gone digital, which would be a good thing, except the designer in me cannot navigate the bureaucratic websites to save my life. At least with mailed documents you know you don’t have to print everything just in case. And don’t be fooled that things got easier over time. During my annual renewals in 2014 and 2015 I was missing a document (that of course was not on the list for those running their own business), so I had to go running to get the document and return to the office later that day. (Once I said I’d be back in 30 minutes but it took me 3 hours and that result still was me returning with screen captures.). It routinely would be a 2-3 day mental recovery for me after those visits, not to mention the anxiety of having to book appointments 6 months in advance at times.

In 2016, I got lucky. I “got the guy”. No, not the man of my dreams, but the jolly guy who works at the Prefecture. The night before a friend had told me “get the guy, he’s awesome.” I got my number, and saw it wasn’t his guichet, and was disappointed, until I realized my number hadn’t been called yet. The angels were watching me that day, because I got him, and the breeziest renewal I’d ever had… But of course a month later I found out I was French, so it was all for show. But on an up note, I never had to pay for that renewal!

The strange reality of this all is that it was easier for me to get French citizenship—with French passport and birth certificate—than it was for me to get the ever elusive 10 year card.

A piece of paper says you’re French.

Technically I’ve been French since the beginning of April. I found out while checking my email on an elevator. Can you say anti-climatic!? Every step of the process had taken longer than expected, so I did write a follow-up email that day. Even the email said I had been French for a week! I still would hardly believe it, only announcing it to friends privately on Facebook. This was France. I needed the official letter for it to be real.

Another friend had her interview a couple weeks after me. She had her letter, mine could come any day. But it didn’t, and my guardian started to get annoyed that I was checking my mail every day (yes, I had to knock on their door—at certain hours to get my mail). I forgot about it, and about three weeks later it finally showed up. Enter anti-climatic moment number two. I’m French, shouldn’t there be confetti inside!? Instead there was a photo copied stamp, which I didn’t think would look very official to border control when my carte de séjour was set to expire in June.

Still, I refused to celebrate and only made it public by telling people in person. Why the skepticism? One friend had received that letter—the same letter that says congrats you’re French, you’ll be invited to a ceremony at some point, anytime, in the next 6 months, so just sit around and watch your mail again. Except after she received that letter that she was now officially French, she was required to produce yet another document! She’s been in France longer than I, and even had a 10 year card. With the help of her parents she got the document, but still, I became scarred in the process. I could only truly believe I was French once I had the ceremony and the documents in hand!

The other irony, I received the second letter with the date for the ceremony on the last day I moved out of my apartment. I call that fate.

The day of my ceremony came just over a year after I had gone into the Bureau de Naturalisations for my interview. All told it was 3 months to collect documents, 8 months from submitting my documents to interview, 10 months until I received word I was French, and another 2 before I was sworn in. The last part happened faster than expected.

The day I became French.

See here.

Being French.

The best part about being French is how nice they are when you go to the local Prefecture. The week after I was sworn in, I made my appointment online with a few days—not a few months—notice. I thought I was prepared, but hadn’t photocopied enough copies of a couple documents, and I’d only filled out the form once, thinking that it’s the same form for the passport and identity card, so figured one form would work for both. Clearly I forgot I was in France. Despite my slightly unpreparedness, the functionnaire was incredibly nice. It was the most pleasant experience. I was proud that better customer service was one of those unexpected perks of citizenship.

A few weeks later I received a text that my passport was ready and went to pick it up at the local Prefecture, which happens to be on the same street as the squash court in Montmarte where I was fingerprinted, and it all felt like my story was complete.

I’ll get to re-live that squash court memory again soon in a couple more weeks, when hopefully my ID card is ready too. There’s no notification system for that, so France still has their ways of keeping me running in circles…


Tips for applying for French citizenship.

  1. Go into the Bureau des Naturalisations on Ile de la Cité and ask them which documents you need for your situation. (aka don’t ask me!) They’re very helpful and can tell you exactly what you need and can answer technical questions. My rule of thumb is to go in person whenever possible; the phone will either ring forever, or you’ll be on hold forever.
  2. Find other people who are applying and are going through the process at the same time as you. It’s mutually beneficial, and more relevant. Requirements have already changed since I went through it, and when it comes to bureaucracy, I like to block it from my brain.
  3. Be patient, and realize you’ll probably have to renew your other paperwork in the meantime.
  4. If you’re married parts of the process get fast tracked, so be prepared to be summoned at any time. One married friend applied after me and became French before me. (But because I’m not married, it meant I received my birth certificate at the ceremony, which she did not.)
  5. If something bad happens, it makes for a good story. The best way to survive is a good sense of humor. I’m very thankful I can call myself French today, but I know for everyone it’s not so easy…

Readings from some fellow “French” friends:

Lily of Paris Je T’Aime, Me Neither part 1 & part 2

Bryan Pirolli (& the cost of French nationality)

Chez Loulou’s citizenship chapter by chapter

Heather of Secrets of Paris part 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

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I’m French! (and American) Thu, 14 Jul 2016 09:27:36 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> naturalisation2

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.

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A Weekend in Provence Tue, 28 Jun 2016 20:47:36 +0000 Read The Rest →]]> PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-11

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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-8As 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-ext2 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-2.5Paul 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-kitchen3Everything was labeled so it was easy to find. (The labels are original).

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-kitchenEverything had its place.


PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-kitchen2Paul created a slit in the kitchen counter to store Julia’s knives.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-10The kitchen wouldn’t be complete without fresh, local ingredients.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-blackbookWhen 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-13The dining/living room. Furniture has changed over the years. The bedrooms (not pictured) are most noteworthy for how short the beds look.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-6The home today still contains photos of Julia. The photo on the mantle is of her and Paul.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-7My 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-12Weather in Provence makes for many meals on the terrace.

PAV-JuliaChild-LaPitchoune-4Luke 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne6La 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne4My 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne11While 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne10After 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne9Every 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne2-365fromagesWith 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne7In 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne2Dinner 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.

PAV-JuliaChild-Valbonne5Unlike 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.

PAV-Provence-oliveoilA 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.


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