French 5 | 08.13.21 (ft. Katrina of @parisfordreamers)

Welcome to the 22nd edition of French 5, where I share a glimpse of France through language, places, food and drink, arts and culture, as well as a random fun fact.

In this week’s edition, Sydney-based writer and founder of Paris for Dreamers Katrina shares the french expression that captures the secret to a good life and some of her top Paris picks.

A big thank you to Katrina for participating in this interview and for sharing her photos. If you have any feedback or ideas of what you’d like to see or who should be featured, please leave your comment below.

Featuring || Katrina of @parisfordreamers

Coucou! My name is Katrina. I’m a Sydney-based writer and founder of Paris for Dreamers, a travel advice website/service for anyone yearning for a dream Parisian holiday. I’ve been to Paris countless times (literally: I’ve lost count) in my life since the age of five, through to my work as a beauty journalist for women’s magazines. This led me to write a book Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick, and during the launch period I met many other women (and the occasional man!) who similarly dream of Paris, and live life always planning the next holiday to their soul city. This in turn inspired an e-guide, Paris for Dreamers: Whimsical Walks through the City of Light’s Delights, and the launch of my website, where I provide information as well as a custom itinerary service. When the world returns to some sort of state of normal, I have plans to extend my offerings.

01 Language || La vie est faite de petits bonheurs

This has to be my all-time favourite French expression, because it not only, for me, captures the French secret to a good life, but also because it has inspired my own life. It translates to: Life is made of small happinesses. In other words, live the little moments. French culture is about living to eat not eating to live, working to live not living to work. Sitting down to lunch and enjoying every slow mouthful, or savouring a single macaron in the latest seasonal flavour. Stopping to smell and buy fresh market flowers. Sitting on a park bench and reading a book that is written so intricately that the concentration it requires makes you commit fully to the task. Some of these things sound cliché but when you go to Paris you realise that they are clichés because they’re so true. Parisians seem determined to live in the present. To converse passionately with friends. To inhale a book and several cups of coffee at the local café. To enjoy an impromptu picnic by the Seine. To walk, not run. It’s a city of simple pleasures, where you can find happiness in a fresh baguette. And, over time, as you visit and get to know Paris more and more, you also start to appreciate and emulate this joie de vivre, the joy in the simple act of living.

02 Place || Saint-Germain-des-Prés

I am utterly obsessed with Saint-Germain-des-Prés. You walk in the footsteps of greatness here, following the ghosts of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Colette, George Sand, Delacroix, Baudelaire … I love strolling around the district’s streets, noting all the building plaques that tell you of former famous residents, and sitting in cafés while reading books that were actually first drafted in these very places. Again, it might sound like a cliché. But for me, Paris is about these intellectually and artistically stimulating experiences. It was the centre of Western art and culture for so long — with Saint-Germain the epicentre — that there are few places on earth as head-spinningly inspiring. My favourite spots in Saint-Germain are Café de Flore (especially at apéro hour), Les Deux Magots (for afternoon tea and a treat from the pâtisserie platter), Musée Delacroix (with its lovely garden out back), Rue de Buci (for people-watching, although sadly the old market is no more), and the fabulously rambling École des Beaux-Arts (particularly the Cour Mûrier, originally the cloisters of a convent commissioned by La Reine Margot, who was one of the earliest influencers to build in Saint-Germain, and kick off its transformation into an artistically fashionable neighbourhood).

03 Food & Drink || Kir Royal

I can never have too much kir royal! It’s my ultimate French apéritif, although in truth I could drink it all day long. It’s champagne with a dash of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), which not only sweetens a brut bubbly, but also infuses it with a gorgeous blush. (It’s also a fabulous way to fancy-up a cheaper sparkling wine when you’re hosting a soirée chez vous!)

04 Arts & Culture || The Musée de la Vie Romantique

The Musée de la Vie Romantique is to me a quintessentially Parisian kind of a place. It’s one of the city’s many gorgeous smaller museums, one that ends up lingering in your memory more than perhaps a Musée d’Orsay, because what it lacks in size it makes up for in soul. It’s especially so at this museum, which is about life as much as art. The Museum of the Romantic Life (how can you resist such a name?!) pays tribute to the nineteenth-century Romantic author George Sand, who used to party at this delightful cottage, the one-time home of her friend, painter Ary Scheffer. Wafting through the olde-worlde rooms, lined in floral prints and lit with candelabra, you come to see that George was about so much more than her work, that she also thrived on the smaller things in life. She treasured trinkets and mementoes, cherished her friends and family, her private world. It’s the kind of place that reaches in and grabs your heart because it teaches you the importance of the interior space. That reminds me of another French expression I love: le jardin secret. The figurative secret garden is a woman’s private realm, where she keeps her fears and hopes and dreams to herself, which is meant to give her a certain mystique. But in Paris, of course, there are also many literal secret gardens! And this museum has one of the prettiest, a fragrant rose garden filled with vintage patio furniture, by an old glasshouse-turned-café that serves the most delicious cakes and teas. It all makes for one of the most pleasant Parisian afternoons imaginable, where you can stop and smell the roses of all kinds!

05 Fun Fact || Knowing a little about a lot

A Parisian once said to me, We know a little about a lot. I love that there is a broad love of knowledge, of knowledge of all kinds, both high-brow and lower. And this comes through in the French style of conversation. If you eavesdrop on a group of Parisians in a café (you can always justify it as aural language practice!), you’re likely to sense this in how they flit so effortlessly from one subject to another (sometimes seemingly unlinked) one. Some say this goes back to seventeenth-century salon culture. The legendary salonnière, Mlle de Scudéry, once proclaimed, ‘I want great and small things to be spoken of, so long as they are spoken of elegantly.’ It reminds me of the French philosopher Montesquieu, who claimed the French have a penchant for ‘doing frivolous things seriously, and serious things frivolously.’ That’s why, I think, you might hear a Parisian conversation drift so seamlessly from politics to perfume, fashion to feminism.

Follow Friday || Clémentine of @doodleblule

I love the watercolour art of Clémentine Campardou (@doodleblule), a Parisienne-now-Sydneysider whose studio Blule is near my house in Bondi Beach. She illustrated both my book covers, and I adore her whimsical style.


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