I’ve read Lisa’s blog for the longest – using it as my inspiration to keep on keeping’ on in Paris, where there’s an abundance of b*tchy boulangers, sassy servers, and cashiers who couldn’t give less f*cks. For some, the image of Paris is all buttery croissants and bougie boutiques, especially on most travel blogs, but when you’ve spent a decent amount of time within the périphérique, like Lisa who’s going on her seventh year, you realize that la vie is not always rose.
Paris is a beautiful city, with beautiful buildings, beautiful food, beautiful people, and a beautiful language to top it all off. The entire world knows that, but what the entire world doesn’t know is what daily life is truly like in Paris. Enter: Is Paris Always a Good Idea? – Lisa’s blog. Honestly, when I found her blog, I was glued to my screen reading her daily adventures about mishaps interacting with French administration, awkwardly running into exes at the bar, and shocking Parisians with big ol’ American hugs.
It’s not everyday that you come across someone who have a eerily-similar backstory to yours – someone who is not only a blogger, but who has also done the New York City – Los Angeles – Paris triangle, who has worked as an extra for Central Casting, and who has had relationships with French people. And as if that’s not enough to bond over, we’re both somewhere in the middle of this never-ending Love-Hate battle with Paris. So with all of that, I sent her an email, pretty much demanding that we go get a café allongé.
Take a look at our day here at the Hôtel Amour (it’s not what you think), a few photos scattered throughout from the Musée de la Vie Romantique (her suggestion), and her witty-a$$ answers to my massive list of questions:
Locals of Paris
Hometown: New York
Where you’ve lived before: All over! Olympia, WA, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and a handful of arrondissements in Paris
Arrondissement in Paris: Currently in the 12th
What you do in life/job: I am a memoirist and to pay the bills, a copywriter. I write the blog Is Paris Always a Good Idea? The blog started under my pen name Ella Coquine while recovering from a broken engagement to a French guy back in 2011. It morphed into a public diary documenting my Parisian life from being a 30-year-old temp in a tax office to a babysitter, to being a new bride (married to a different and amazing French guy!) to now being a mom in Paris.
Social media handles: Facebook: Lisa Czarina Michaud Twitter: @ellacoquine Instagram: lisaczarina
How did you end up in Paris?
I once had a roommate whose email signature included the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Do something everyday that scares you.” Emails from her usually arrived while sitting in a cubicle in NYC at one of my many jobs that compartmentalized my 20s, where I would ask myself if I was living my life to its scariest potential. But what exactly defines scary? My definition of fear came at a time when most people I knew were starting their families or getting promotions, when I decided to follow the words of Mrs. Roosevelt and responded to a blind intuition, —a calling if you believe in that sort of thing —by moving to France by myself.
Your first few months in Paris. What sticks out for you?
The first thing I noticed was how limited the supermarkets are. In America, if you want to buy a yogurt, you literally have a wall of choices varying from coconut milk, almond milk, whipped, blended, vegan, organic and in wild flavors like piña colada. In France it is much simpler: you have strawberry and it’s made from milk. And the other thing I noticed was how good-looking the men are. I know, I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true otherwise Mecs Métro Paris wouldn’t exist. (Click and swoon.)
What is something you think people get so right and one thing people get so wrong about the French?
I would say the idea that the French wear darker colors is somewhat accurate. I always feel extra flashy when I wear something bright in Paris, like my LA attire, which doesn’t exactly blend here. The stereotype that the French don’t work is simply not true. While we get more vacation time here, the eight/nine-hour workday very much exists.
What do you personally love about Paris?
I love how the French are such avid readers of books…actual books! My local bookstore is always packed and whether I am at my in-laws, a friend’s house or even looking at my husband’s nightstand, there is always a book in the process of being devoured.
French word or phrase you wish you had known:
Beet! Like carrots, nectarines, artichokes and other produce, I thought if I pronounced the English word with a fancy French accent I would be able to communicate properly. Unfortunately the word beet (spelled bite but pronounced the same) means c*ck. So when I told a French family that I was allergic to c*ck, it was then that I wished I’d known the word for beets. I learned later that beet in French is betterave.
French food everyone must try:
A classic summer picnic nibble is fresh radishes with a dab of salted French butter. It sounds gross, I know, but it’s one of those things that you just have to try to know whether you like it or not. I am personally a fan.
French songs on your playlist:
“Ne me laisse pas l’aimer” by Brigitte Bardot
“Marcia Baila” by Nouvelle Vague
“Survet’ vert et mauve” by Bertrand Burgalat
“Flash Forward” by Serge Gainsbourg
“Le Roi des Ombres” by M
“Boum” by Blossom Dearie
Three words to describe Paris:
Scarves, strikes, and sass.
You have a day off – describe your perfect Parisian day from morning to night?
I’ll walk you through a weekend day when I was a single, because the perfect Parisian day doesn’t exactly exist with a six-month-old baby.
When I lived in the Marais, upon waking up I would walk downstairs to La Perle and have a noisette (espresso with a dopple of steamed milk) at the bar. If it was nice, coffee would be followed by walk along the Seine stopping by the “bouquinistes” to look at old books, art, and postcards. Lunch was either a sandwich made in my tiny attic apartment or if I had just gotten paid, I’d treat myself to an omelette at my favorite corner brasserie Le Saint Gervais on Rue Vieille du Temple and hunker down with a stack of magazines to spend the afternoon pretending I read perfect French. Then I would go back to my place, cut up whatever fruit I picked up from the market that week and write to my favorite French radio station FIP, as the sound of weekenders in the Marais drifted through my open windows. Dinner would consist of a baguette with charcuterie and wine with friends on Île de la Cité with our feet dangling over the edges of the Seine waving to the passing tourists boats.
What do your friends and family back in the US think of you traveling and living all other the world?
Most thought it was crazy but were supportive while others actually got pissed about it. I lost a few friends after moving because me living in Paris made them uncomfortable. At first I would accommodate them by pretending that I didn’t live here because I didn’t want to be accused of showing off, until one day I realized that I was being unreasonable with myself. We should be proud of the risks we take and if someone doesn’t like that you challenge yourself with new experiences, then that’s on them.
What is something in the Paris suburbs, or at least outside the city center, that someone staying here for a while should go see?
Visit Fontainebleau or Vaux-le-Vicomte. A 40-minute train ride from Gare de Lyon transports you to a French village with quaint restaurants, little shops and sometimes flea markets where you can find some really great stuff…cheap!
If someone is in town for a Friday night, what do you recommend they do?
Go to the Canal Saint Martin, an area dotted with restaurants, bars, and clubs. Or if it’s warm have a picnic with the other Parisians along the canal. I used to go dancing at the downstairs club at La Fidélité or have drinks next door at Grand Amour Hotel.
Cheap deals in Paris. Please tell us, where are they?
I have never had tons of money in Paris, so how I’ve gotten around it is making my own food, drinking wine over cocktails (because good cocktails in Paris are expensive) and organizing picnics with friends instead of going to restaurants. Fortunately, all of this works seamlessly with the culture so it doesn’t look cheap…it looks Parisian!
To follow more of Lisa in Paris, check out her blog here:
[In our “Locals of” series, we will be highlighting locals of each city we travel to. Go figure. These aren’t just randos walking down the street; they’re people we have personally connected with and vouch for in terms of knowing how to do their city right. They’ve got some juicy deets that might just change the way you see their cities and we want to share them with you.]