How to Ride the Paris Metro

Before the holidays Ashley (aka Chasing Heartbeats) and I signed up for the Visual Storytelling class on Skillshare taught by the lovely Helena Price. In our class there were two lectures (live but being in Europe I watched the recorded versions) and ample opportunity for Q&A and feedback from Helena and our classmates. Ashley and I decided to collaborate because one afternoon while she was in Paris we shot some footage of me riding the metro for fun. We weren’t taking it too seriously, but figured we could make something out of it. Even if Photoshop isn’t my favorite for working with type, Ashley and I both love Photoshop 6 because you can edit video in it (see her Everplaces video, or my iPhone video of Hotel Negresco). This class was the perfect excuse to give us the extra kick to finish the project we had sort of started, while testing out some new skills on our own time. Sure, we finished our video 2 months after the class, but hey, we did it all remotely, and it’s done and we had fun! (Don’t worry, it’s short + sweet, but we did go 15 seconds over our 30-second assignment).

Speaking of Skillshare, I’m teaching a Map Making class starting on the 18th. I’ve kept busy schedules in mind, so it’s no stress + all fun. There are some truly awesome inspiring people in the class already, so I do hope you will join us! Student projects (still in brainstorming phase) include maps of the Ivory Coast (because there aren’t many maps and they get lost on hikes), a wedding map in Wisconsin, a map of Dublin transportation, a map of local neighborhoods for Sudanese refugees, parklets in SF, an Agatha Christie interactive map of Tasmania, craft stores in Amsterdam, favorite walks in Sydney, maps for house guests, embroidered maps, memory maps, the list goes on! Join us.


P.S. If you live in Europe or plan on visiting soon, you should enter Ashley’s “heartbeats session” photo giveaway!

P.S.S. The font in the video is Blanch by Atipus on Lost Type.

P.S.S.S. Thanks Angelo  for being a fun assistant and putting up with our crazy ideas and adventures!


Cross Cultural Simplicity

The more time I spend in Paris the more I realize I still have so much to learn. Four+ years collectively in France, and over 30 years of general life experience and on a regular basis my mind is blown by the simplest of things. Over the weekend we had our first major snow (it doesn’t happen often here). On my walk to the pool I saw the snowman (above), stopped and took a picture, and thought to myself, now isn’t that cute. Then on my walk home, I passed another one (below) and had the startling realization that all my life I thought all snowmen were made of balls (typically three, sometimes two). But was this cone/pyramid the “official” snowman form of France? I asked on Twitter and several people had responded that they had also noticed these alternative snowmen. Finally I called on some French friends who said it is something that is common, in part because they don’t get much snow here. Another said it was French “nonchalance.” Still, it caught me off guard to suddenly realize that there are so many ways of seeing things, and “what shape do you make your snowmen?” was never a question I thought to ask my French friends… until now.

In a similar vein, this year I came to realize that the French don’t water their trees. I know growing up we didn’t always (only because we forget half way into the season), but we always had a metal or plastic tree stand which we’d screw the tree into. The French? Their tree comes with their natural wood stand it’s “screwed” into in it’s own way (or hammered to crossed boards). The design is actually quite brilliant, but I do worry it becomes more of a fire hazard.

Isn’t Paris pretty in the snow!?!

Follow me on Twitter + Instagram for more cultural observations! And don’t forget to sign up for my map making class on Skillshare! So many great people from around the world, it’s going to be great!

Paris Personality

Early in 2013 my matra became “be memorable.” It was inspired by a plethora of lack luster e-holiday greetings where nine times out of ten I couldn’t help but think to myself that their typical emails were more memorable and engaging. In an era where we’re inundated with information, even great work can be lost. But this 2013 Holiday Greeting from Havas Worldwide Paris is an example of doing it right. I wasn’t even on their holiday email list, but what they created was not only memorable, it was engaging and fun, and it made it’s way to me because of that (thanks, Lauren Lou for knowing I’d love this). Also, for the record, I’m not trying to suggest you have to have a giant budget to be memorable, just do something a little different.

The other awesome thing this video does is magically capture the personality of Paris neighborhoods through typography and simple, yet highly effective illustrations and animations – all in black and white. They’re spot on with their choices. I love too, if you listen closely, you’ll hear how the sound plays off the word and image to strengthen the concept. A must see, and it only becomes stronger as you notice new details each time you watch.

Bravo to the team at Havas Worldwide Paris for a memorable holiday card for any time of the year! The video was produced by Flying V (QUAD) – you can view more of their work here.

// Originally discovered on Golem13. //

P.S. Just a reminder that I’m teaching Map Making on Skillshare in Feburary. Sign up now, it’s going to be a ton of fun! (No design skills required).

Olive Us: Betty in Paris

Surprise, surprise, I woke up to another grey day in Paris. But there’s something about the grey that is just so Paris. So many photos and postcards you see of Paris are sunny and perfect, but a certain charm is missing from the reality of days. When I watched the latest “Olive Us” episode with “Betty in Paris” I was hooked from the very first Amelie-esque scene. Then I realized that the charm really was in the way that colorful Betty in red and blue stands out against the “blah” Paris. The Blair family – all 8 of them – is an American family living in Normandy for over a year now and their adventures are chronicled on Gabby’s blog, Design Mom. “Olive Us” is a video series in conjunction with the fabulously talented Tiger in a Jar that captures so many simply delightful moments about their life in France (and sometimes their travels). They’re all great but this episode is seriously beyond adorable!

Produced by Ben + Gabrielle Blair
A Tiger in a Jar Production
Title Illustration by Merrilee Liddiard

Watch all Olive Us episodes here!


P.S. Did you see? I’m teaching a map class on Skillshare. Would love to have YOU join!

P.S.S. After this post goes live, I’m updating my RSS feed to this. This is something I didn’t keep in mind in doing my site migration + hoping it helps solves some issues moving forward. Thanks!

I’m Teaching Maps on Skillshare!

Since the beginning this site has always been about the intersection of travel + design and I’m excited to announce another direction I’m taking this idea. For the past couple months I’ve been talking to Skillshare – an awesome platform for taking online (and sometimes in person) classes. They essentially gave me the guidelines to come up with my dream class, and so that’s what I did.

My class is called Map Design: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully. I was inspired by my own way of travel where I don’t want to carry around a bulky guidebook, I like to see things on a map (in the past I have walked crazy distances having no clue places were not close at all), and getting advice from local experts. I designed the map of the Canal St. Martin area of Paris as just one of a million possibilities of what you could create in this class. (Computer + design skills NOT required!!).

So here’s how it works:

  1. You sign up! (All Skillshare classes are totally affordable!)
  2. This class is perfect if you want to chart your latest travels, are planning a wedding/event and need a map, host guests in your home a lot, or just love your own neighborhood and want to map it. It’s open to all levels, ages and stages. Enthusiasm + eagerness to learn will get you far!
  3. The class is structured into 3 units:  Hand Drawn Maps + Concepting, Mapping in the Digital Age + Alternative Guides, and Office Hours (Q&A and Google Hangouts with me + your classmates).
  4. Knowing people have really busy lives, I’ve structured it so that both of the lectures come early in the 3 week online class. They’ll be pre-recorded and you can watch them whenever you have a chance. That gives you more time to work on your final project: a travel/map of the place + theme of your choosing.
  5. Both of the main lectures will have mini exercises to help get you thinking about mapping in a new way. They are designed to encourage you to disconnect from your computer, and realize that even great maps can be imperfect. You share your work with your classmates along the way, which is an awesome way to get you thinking about all the different ways you can approach the same design challenge.
  6. Work on your final projects, which can be print or digital. During the lectures I’ll share tons of examples, talk about format, and give you ideas so you can create your own map(s) for however you want it. And if there’s anything you still have questions about, you can just ask. It’s a highly collaborative environment and your classmates are awesome resources too.
  7. All while you’re learning you’re interacting and checking in with the progress of your classmates. You can create “groups” too for people working on projects similar to yours. I’ve taken a couple classes through Skillshare now and have even made some great professional contacts. There some awesome people around you, so make the most of it!
  8. Awards! As part of the incentive to stay on task, the top 10 maps created in class will be shared on Prêt à Voyager! I’m trying to cook up some other awesome rewards, but you’ll just have to sign up to see where that goes.
  9. Even if your life gets kind of hectic during the time of the class, you’ll still have access to the information even after the technical last day of class. The idea too is the skills + resources you pick up in this class will stick with you and you can apply to any future projects or maps.
  10. More info on the class here.

I’ve taken a handful of Skillshare classes now and I find they’re the perfect excuse to actually DO the projects I’ve been thinking about for ages. If you want to to sign up for my class you can do it here. Skillshare has TONS of awesome classes you should check out regardless – anything from logo design to designing web apps to food photography or how to make the perfect meatball, and with some of the coolest teachers around! Check out all the Skillshare classes here! (And they’re constantly adding new ones).

Any questions? Just leave them in the comments below, or tweet me @pretavoyager!

UPDATE: I’ve created a Google map of all the students signed up here. More than 10 countries around the world + counting!

P.S. Look at the map in this post for 10 seconds + tell me what you see :)

New Year, New Look

I started this site on Bastille Day 2007 as a personal project to get my creativity going in a way it wasn’t being fulfilled by my day job. That was 5.5+ years and 1,241 posts later, and a lot has changed since then. Of key importance is that I actually live in Paris now.

There are certain things that this city has taught me, but the key lesson today is style and refinement. The style of Frenchwomen doesn’t come from having a million clothes and accessories. (Their closets only overflow because apartments are so small). Instead it’s about having a few key pieces that work and make you feel great. From first glimpse my blog probably doesn’t look that different, but as with this stylish Frenchwoman walking down the street (she is a far more together version of me on my about page in the same color) it’s just about putting together the pieces in a more sophisticated way. As someone who wears many hats, I feel like I’ve finally found a way to tie all the pieces together (I’ve even added FAQ and consulting pages, as well as starting to offer workshops). I’ll warn you now, that like any life lessons growing up, the move to my new WordPress platform was not without its hiccups. Many images in the archives have yet to be re-sized, tags added, or links may not work – a process that will be manual in my case, even in a digital age. But you all are a resourceful bunch, and the search button works like a charm! Also, for your pro tip, deleting .html from the end of an old post may just get you where you need to be (growing pains, I tell you).

As today marks the start of les soldes in France, I leave you to consider those little additions or tweaks you can add to your life to help you tell your story and add a simple touch of fabulousness to the everyday. Speaking of today, les soldes + lèche vitrine are key words you should know from past “French Lessons.” While the headlines about France these days aren’t the greatest, there is still much we have to learn from each other.

Happy Exploring!

// image from @pretavoyager on Instagram! Follow me there for more Paris fun!  //

P.S. I did this blog migration myself, so my apologies if you need to sign up for the RSS again. High five to all the developers and coders of the world. After this experience I have even more respect for what you do!

Visions of Sugarplums Danced Through Their Heads

Last night – Christmas Eve – I found myself amongst 2 Frenchmen, a Canadian, and a fellow American. Over a few bottles of wine we discussed a range of topics. First up, which is more important in the celebration of Christmas where you’re from: Christmas Eve or Christmas Day festivities?

It’s one of those things that you don’t pause to think about, but just know how you grew up. In my family it involved going to Church on Christmas Eve (I have fond memories of being an angel in the Christmas pageant). Christmas morning I’d always want to be the first awake. Stockings could be opened before mom and dad were out of bed, but we had to wait for presents. Then later in the day we’d have Christmas dinner together, followed by drinks with college friends at a bar in later years.

The conversation segued into other fascinating topics such as translations of movie titles from English to French vs. Quebec French (inspired by our favorite Christmas movies), the fact that Inspector Gadget’s support characters were named Sophie and Fino (rather than Penny and Brain) along with a discussion of the strong Japanese influence in all the shows we grew up with, and “Sauvés Par le Gong” (“Saved by the Bell”) led my French friends to an insatiable desire to have lockers in high school (sure, prom doesn’t exist in France either, but lockers were were the action always happened). It was a truly enlightening and humorous evening strengthened by our different backgrounds.

Wishing you all the merriest of days! May you learn something you never knew before today too.

Holiday displays from BHV, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores in Paris. Follow me on Instagram!

New to Town {Paris}

Paris unlike other cities can be a bit more closed than other places when you first arrive. Lately I’ve met a lot of new-to-Paris people and friends of friends who just moved to town. It got me thinking a lot about being new to a place and trying to find your bearings while meeting people. I thought it’d be fun to put together a mini guide of my favorite resources when you’re new to town. While it’s aimed at newbies to Paris, a lot of these ideas can apply to anywhere (marked with *), and are a good excuse for anyone to get out and try something new.

  1. Eventbrite* – Technically a ticketing system, searching Paris, France by date can be a great way to discover things you’d never know were happening otherwise. (Thanks to the site I went to a great free conference at Science Po last week).
  2. Meet-up* – This is all about finding others with your same passion. A filmmaker friend met her long-term boyfriend this way.
  3. Twitter* + Facebook* – Follow / Like locals and chances are you’ll pick up an awesome event or two going on while you’re at it. There’s something for everyone – even a group for freelancers.
  4. Newsletters* – Sign up for newsletters for local bloggers. Often times they make references to events and happenings
  5. Vayable* – Be a tourist in your own city and sign up for an experience with a local to learn about something new. There’s a wide range of offerings, so expand your mind.
  6. Gidsy* – Scope out a new activity. If you sign up for a group one chances are you’ll meet others in the process.
  7. Creative Mornings – This monthly breakfast series of inspiring talks takes place around the world. (Paris talk this Friday!). Sign up for the newsletter for your local chapter for updates, and follow them on their social media channels as well. RSVP required as the spaces tend to fill up fast. Don’t worry, if you miss one, they’re all posted online.
  8. COlunching* – The idea is you sign up on the platform for an upcoming lunch and network with a new group of people while trying out a local restaurant.
  9. Dating* – Hey, just throwing it out there. Many of these sites are international now. OKCupid is free, has a fee. (Too small a presence in Paris, but I like the concept behind How About We for proposing an activity to get out and do together rather than chatting online)
  10. Activities* – While the French are possibly the least athletic group I’ve ever met, running clubs, swim or basketball teams, or yoga at least increase your chances of having to meet new people. On the other hand, Paris is also a great place to take cooking courses.
  11. Franglish – This is like speed-dating for foreign languages, but the main intention is language exchange with French and English over a drink.
  12. The American Library – There are regularly great speakers and free events here, but also a supportive community of expats. (Membership required for library).
  13. The American Church – Every fall they offer “Bloom Where You’re Planted” aimed at helping you get your bearings around life in France. Year-round they also offer a job/apartment board on site. 
  14. Message Paris – This is a parenting group for English-speaking parents in Paris. Great info for kids.  
  15. Cours Municpaux – The local Mairie de Paris system offers wonderfully affordable “continuing education” courses. Some can be quite intense, meeting 3x a week. I took an advanced French class which was possibly the most internationally diverse classroom I’ve ever been in (very cool), but there are also computer, art and design courses too. Just note the French style of teaching may not be what you’re used to as an American. Also, be aware that it is a bureaucratic process involving paperwork + a passport sized photo. Classes fill up fast so sign up early.
  16. Bonjour Bonjour app – I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s an app encouraging spontaneous social adventures.

Ok, your turn! What other ideas do you have for getting out and about in Paris, or anywhere?

Photo from Instagram. Follow me there!

Best Commercial Ever.

I try not to get commercial on here very often, but every now and then there’s something that catches your eye and you have to share. A couple weeks ago Samsung launched their Galaxy Note 2 in France and made a special video for the launch. I have to admit, it features so many of my favorite spots (or at least recognizable – to me). But the real icing on the cake is the fun way they integrated the illustrations of Dutch artist Tineke Meirink, which bring the city alive in a whole different sense. It’s just plain fun. You can read more about the pub (that’s French for advertising) here.

This is not a sponsored post. And even as an iPhone lover, I ADORE this! Three cheers for creativity.

Merci, Elodie for sharing!

The NEW Parsons Paris

Last week I was lucky enough to celebrate the launch of Parsons Paris at one of my favorite places in Paris – the Palais de Tokyo, a modern/contemporary art museum open nightly (complete with bar and resto). Many people know Parsons Paris from their former space in the 15th arrondissement frequented in early seasons of Project Runway. However, after a split a couple years back, Parsons has not had a presence in Paris (that space is now housed by the Paris School of Art). Last week marked the official launch of the NEW Parsons Paris, which first established a presence here in 1921. It is all part of their global learning initiative seeking out a new academic model in a response to today’s rapid globalization. With sister campuses in New York, Shanghai and Paris the idea is to highlight the world as a place interconnected by technological, environmental, economic, and cultural networks. The Paris campus with be housed in the 1st arrondissement at 45 rue Saint-Roch. I for one am thrilled about their return and can’t wait to see what they bring to the city and creative collaborations. You can read more about their new academic center in Paris here, and catch up on last Thursday’s celebrations which were Storify-ed in a visual recap by Heymann, Renoult Associées. My instagram images from the evening are below.

The location: Palais de Tokyo in the 16ème arrondissement.

VIP moment getting photo taken upon entry.

Inside the great shell of the Palais de Tokyo, which recently underwent a major renovation.

Student work takes center stage through projections on boxes.

Parsons Paris is a love story between Paris and NYC.

And the Eiffel Tower twinkles upon leaving…

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