A Brave Woman in Paris

I met a woman for coffee at Cafe de Flore today whose “moving to Paris” story inspired me; I thought you might like to hear it, too.

She’s a friend of a friend whose name was passed along with a request that I might help acquaint her with life in Paris. This is one of the many benefits of living here — I get to hear from so many people (friends and distant connections alike) who are coming to Paris and want the “inside scoop.” I don’t fool myself that this is due to my personal charm — let’s just say we had noticeably fewer visitors in Boston — but to this beguiling city that I am lucky to call home. (For now, that is. No familial panicking, please.)

So we met at Flore, one of the city’s most famous cafes, where Sartre and de Beauvoir carried on their infamous love affair. I recognized my coffee date right away (as she did me), marking one another by our unmistakable American-ness. There’s something about the open expression, eager smile and informal air that makes it instantly easy to spot fellow countrymen.

And so she shared her tale of living the Paris dream so many have, but only a brave few actually attempt. She leased out her house, bid adieu to her beloved job, rented a storage unit and filled it with her worldly possessions. No longer a kid but a woman in her prime, she’s lived long enough to know that life is short. Single and independent, it was time to explore the possibility of actually living in Paris. Her plan? To write, explore and expand her horizons — generally live life, and all its small pleasures — while figuring out what the next step will be. Pretty great, eh?

She’s staying in a Latin Quarter flat owned by some relatives, filling her days discovering museums, parks, restaurants and hidden treasures. (She also bravely joined a French gym, perhaps a post for another time…) There was talk of a memoir project and architectural research — both perfectly suited to the passions of this fair city. As we talked on about language programs, the many groups to join, classes to take and places to visit (not to mention shops to discover), I began to think her adventure may extend beyond her planned three-month stay. But as is always the case in life, we have to take that first bold step before we can see (or even imagine) the rewards that might follow. Bravo to her for having the guts.

Who knows? She may come to the end of her Paris stay and decide she’s ready to return to the full life she left behind. Then again, Paris has a way of changing people’s plans. I have a feeling she might be one of them.

What about you? Do you dream about living in Paris or somewhere abroad? If you live in Paris, was it tough to make the move? I’d love to hear from you…


14 thoughts on “A Brave Woman in Paris

  1. I'm studying abroad in Aquitaine for two months and today is the day that I moved past the culture shock and into the stage of loving every single thing I lay my eyes on. It's an unbelievable feeling!

  2. Bonjour, Mia – I hope that fresh perspective lasts as long as possible. It's the BEST and let's you know you're really living! Enjoy your program and thanks for commenting!

  3. Wow, that sounds like my story 🙂 I got laid off from my job in SF (by design) in 2010, rented an apartment here for 3 months, met a Frenchman mid-way through, and decided to stay. Returned to the States briefly, rented my house out for a year, and came back. My boyfriend and I just got PACSed this week (the French version of domestic partnership). People often describe me as brave, but it all feels surprisingly natural… well except when I'm trying to make myself understood when I'm outside the house 😉

  4. Congratulations, Lynn! Great story – thanks for sharing. Cool things happen when we shake life up a bit, eh? Bonne chance avec le francais! 🙂

  5. Hi Paige…I've commented before about our upcoming move to Paris. We live in a coastal town south of Boston with our 4 children..17, 14, 10 and 3. Thankfully, all of us are excited about living in Paris! We will be there for 3 years with my husbands company and already we are trying to figure out if we could extend. Can I bring you anything from Boston? 🙂

  6. Years ago I woke up from a deep “auto pilot” slumber and my every nerve cell indicated that I must immediately get to Paris and then the Basque Country on my own. Difficult to do with 3 small children and a husband at home. But I had not been back for 15 years (the time I was married) and I was so empty, with a longing so great…
    And so I went before it was too late as I was sinking very fast. The Force was with me.


    The moi I met knew she longed to live here…

  7. Bonjour LaBergere! 🙂 I enjoyed checking out your blog and love your personal journey of self-discovery. The part about Paris being the place to discover the “woman you are really meant to be” is so right on. Wonderful! Thanks for commenting.

  8. Hi Pam – You must be getting excited! I think three years is a great amount of time – long enough to figure our how to really live and thrive here but not so long that you'll never be able to go back. (Unless you choose not to, that is..) Ohh, what do I miss from Boston… iced coffee and a honey glazed from Dunkin's, perhaps? 😉

  9. Hi Paige! Your new friend sounds almost exactly like me – with the slight exception that I sold or gave away almost everything I owned, not even opting for the storage unit. The most difficult part was making the actual decision, which I mulled over for almost a year. But once I did, all my thoughts were filled with the excitement of the new life I would soon be leading. And though my time in Paris might be limited, each day I wake up and even in the un-dreamiest moments I think, “I am living my dream. I am in Paris.” And that makes every scary part of the risk 100% worth it. I think the same can be said of any big risk we choose to take… it's just a matter of making the decision.

  10. Hi Paige!
    I love that story!
    I'm planning to visit Paris for my first time this August. I will like to move there but I'm afraid I won't be able to find a job. I studied communications and I speak perfect Spanish and English. I know I have to learn French.
    Can you give me any advices?

  11. French blogs are my dirty little workday habit. From “Haven in Paris” to “Provence Post” and food blogs like “Chocolat& Zucchin”i and David Lebovitz, I flit from post to post getting my 15 minute french fix and fantasizing about a return visit. Thank you for a wonderful post…and the thought that I could someday reach out and ask “please show my your Paris!”

  12. It seems this French dream is strong with many of us….we are still waiting to get there, so from South Africa to Mougins, which is where we are hoping to set up home.

    Am also blogging about it – sharing my dramas and dreams – and hopefully very soon I will be blogging from France too.


    Thanks for sharing Paige, it really is lovely to read your adventures.


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