The khaki shorts, the socks hiked to the gods, puzzled eye contact, general clustering and moving in masses. Thanks for visiting Paris, tourists. We see you! Yes, we’d all love the superpower of fitting flawlessly into any destination, but no one can truly blend in on a hop on/hop off bus. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to prevent you from getting jumped for your Rick Steves money belt. -jkw
For me, food and art go hand in hand. Join me for a dynamic masterclass at French cooking school La Cuisine Paris, walking through my creative process, watercolor techniques and tricks for creating your own glorious works of art. Haven’t picked up a paintbrush since primary school? No fret, I will structure the event with a handful of drawing exercises to loosen everyone up, followed by timed pointers with pointers and prompts to get the creative juices flowing. All levels are welcome. Inspiration will be drawn from a gorgeous still life of fresh produce, flowers and Parisian objects.
Price of admission includes a palette with a selection of liquid Winsor & Newton watercolor paints, a paintbrush, pencil and watercolor paper. Participants are welcome to bring their own materials, too. Wine and nibbles are also included to keep the afternoon interesting.
NOTE: Although this event is generously hosted by La Cuisine Paris, this is not a cooking class.
Last week my name was called from a glass covered cubicle. I signed a sheet of paper. And I became French. There was no pomp or circumstance. I’ve heard expat urban legends of getting summoned to sing La Marseillaise on the spot. I prepped it just in case, but will need to dramatically perform my new battlefield vocabulary in the privacy of my own home.
It has been 10 years in the making mastering the French language on my own (thank you rosé!), starting a business in France and pushing myself to continually have an open heart and mind in this often dysfunctional, but still cherished adopted home of mine. I fully recognize the privileges that helped me along the way (being married to a French citizen, general white privilege, being American), but immigration is a long, tedious process for anyone.
I’ve compiled a list of some hard-earned tips to help expedite the long process of acquiring French nationality. I don’t get into precise logistics as it varies from Prefecture to Prefecture. But these are all things I wish I had a heads up on when I could only dream of living in France indefinitely.
1.) Integrate. In America, you can come and be who you are. But in France, you must become French. Shortly after marrying my French spouse, when I began the official immigration process, I had to sign a contract committing to integrate in every way possible. And the easiest way to do that is to learn the language. It expedites the process of creating a fulfilling life. And really commit to learning the culture (the cult films, the faux-pas, the ’80s French songs that get the crowd up and moving at house parties). I admit I’m much more prone to reading The New York Times than Le Monde, but it’s so easy to be information-isolated these days that it takes conscious effort to engage with the country where you’d like to invest your energy and life.
2.) Don’t throw anything away…ever! France still runs mostly on paper. My whole nationality process was set back for months by missing 1 electric bill from 2011 (Comment dit-on “Murphy’s law” en français?). It’s always the ONE paper that’s missing that you will need to complete your dossier. It’s survival of the fittest so buy a 2-ring binder and keep everything as organized as humanly possible.
3.) Phone a friend. Let’s face it, there’s a lot that even French people don’t understand about their own system. And a bureaucratic secret is that most anything can be negotiated. Find a generous friend or a French lover to help navigate the process.4.) You’re not entitled to anything. One of the first lessons I learned in France was that I am no one. Sure, this sounds harsh to coddled Midwestern millennial ears, but nothing about me was inherently special when I moved here. I had no work experience, my diplomas were invalid and I answered yes and no questions with “OK!”. I had to build that up through time, creating a life and fully engaging. I’ve been working on my dossier for French nationality for over 2 years and started thinking that it was a competition of how badly I wanted it. Think of it as Survivor, but the challenges included eating headcheese and having the right amount of 10 centimes coins to print 100 A4 black and white photocopies at Monoprix.
5.) Have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Usually there’s a hot blooded guy screaming bloody murder at the Prefecture before being escorted out the place. It has a way of bringing out the worst of people, but a lot can be said for being punctual and polite. A good old-fashioned “Bonjour madame / Bonjour monsieur” can go a long way. Take some M&Ms and a good book to ward off any boredom or blood-sugar induced spectacles. At the end of the day, France attracts so many dreamers because of its Old World slow life charm. It runs on its own timeline so find a form of catharsis (start a blog, find expat friends & a bottle of wine) and submit to the process.
Vive la France! I’m celebrating my newfound double nationality by taking up smoking and becoming completely unapproachable (joke!).
P.S. Teaching my first summer intensive ‘experimental drawing’ at the Paris College of Art from June 11-22 2018. Spots are still available if you’re itching to discover Paris in a whole new way. More info here.
It’s too easy to compare publishing a book to giving birth. I’ve yet to do the latter, but I’ll surely try working as many metaphors as possible. Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide (Rizzoli) is expected any day now (March 27th to be exact). The contractions are coming on strong (it’s released on Tuesday!). And she’s crowing (#1 Amazon New Release!). It’s all terribly exciting although it will surely change my life forever (here’s hoping!). I’m happy to announce, it’s a…a…book tour. I’m taking this baby on the road coming to a city hopefully near you: New York, DC & Chicago. I’ve set up some really cool events and I’d be delighted to meet you in person, share about my work, process, Paris and insider tips.
Once again, I have the thank you all. All the preorders have been wonderful. I feel like Jeff Bezos is smiling at us. If it’s still possible for you to leave an Amazon review on March 27th, it’s the final small favor I will ask of you to make sure that this fabulous book gets as much visibility as possible. I won’t try to explain the algorithm in Franco-American pig latin, but all I know is that preorders and first day reviews are the magic combination to get a bonafide high five from Bezos & co. It doesn’t have to be anything too intellectual, just 1-2 sentences about why you (hopefully) adore the book.
Look forward to meeting you soon, dear book foot soldier.
Order Paris in Stride HERE.
When developing the idea for my forthcoming book Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide (Rizzoli March 27) with my coauthor Sarah Moroz, the challenge was finding the sweet spot between creating a pragmatic walking guide and a beautifully evocative representation of the timeless city that keeps drawing back dreamers, artists and tourists alike. I would have loved to have dedicated an entire guided walk to all the amazing women in the restaurant scene who have trained in Paris and opened up some of the most unique food businesses in Paris over the last couple of years. And frankly, many have been on the forefront of some of the biggest dining trends: food trucks, vegan eateries and fast/casual spots. Instead I’ve compiled a growing shortlist of some of my favorites to support on your next trip to the City of Light.
Muscovado 1 Rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris
yam’Tcha 121 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
Chez Aline, 85 Rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris
Sur Mer 53 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris
Treize Bakery 16 Rue des Saints-Pères, 75007 Paris
Zia 22 Avenue de Tourville, 75007 Paris
Ten Belles Bread 17-19 Rue Breguet, 75011 Paris
Combat 63 Rue de Belleville, 75019 Paris
Carbon 14 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris
Rachel’s 25 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003 Paris
La Bête Noire 58 Rue Henri Barbusse, 75005 Paris
Mokonuts 5 Rue Saint-Bernard, 75011 Paris
Le Supercoin 3 Rue Baudelique, 75018 Paris
Le Servan 32 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris
Le Camion Qui Fume 168 Rue Montmartre, 75002 Paris
La Guinguette d’Angele 2 Rue du Général Renault, 75011 Paris
La Buvette 67 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris
Jean Hwang Carrant 84 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris
Jay & Joy 5 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris
HolyBelly 5 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010 Paris
Etsi 23 Rue Eugène Carrière, 75018 Paris
Boneshaker 77 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris
-Planning a trip to Paris soon or just dreaming of it? Preorder by book Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide (Rizzoli March 27th) with 7 guided walking tours to really explore the City of Light like a local. It’s as pragmatic as it is beautiful with over 150+ gorgeous watercolors of the timeless details that make Paris Paris. Order here.
-Telerama just compiled a list of all the female chefs in France here breaking it down zip code by zip code.
-Have another amazing restaurant or business to add to the list? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love traveling. The internet is great for scouting out places, but I always struggle with putting together an itinerary that’s concise, pragmatic and interesting enough to inspire meandering and really getting a sense of a city. But after living in Paris for almost 10 years, I’ve found a way to break down the city into one perfect little book...
I’m thrilled to share with you my forthcoming book Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide, to be published by Rizzoli New York on March 27th, 2018. I teamed up with Franco-American culture writer Sarah Moroz (Vogue, I-D, Another, The New York Times) and we walked every inch of Paris from twisty cobblestoned streets to wide boulevards, canals, and parks, and organized seven irresistible walking tours with over 150 vibrant watercolor illustrations—from maps and markets, wine bars, shops, cheeses, and oh-so-French signage to our favorite architecture, patisserie, and packaging. We make no claim that Paris in Stride is comprehensive—rather it is the personal take of two engaged, creative, spirited people with great taste packaged into a beautiful, cherishable object—exactly who you would want to show you around!
Congratulations! You have an ounce of artistic talent and you want to take it to the next level. I was there too not too long ago with a head full of ideas but no actual sense of how to make it happen. How do you move beyond the clichés of being an artist (a sun-filled studio with oversized windows, watercolor stained shirt sleeves, champagne ambitions & lentil budgets) and into the pragmatic building blocks of a creative career? Working for oneself never really grants concrete moments of introspection or a boss to ask how it’s going. But on the occasion of publishing my second book stateside Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide (Rizzoli March 27th), I compiled a list of a few pointers that helped me build a successful career as an illustrator, but these can easily be applied to writing, painting, photography, you name it. This isn’t a proven method as I still waste most of the day staring out the window and counting down the minutes to lunchtime. But these are some tips I hold close to my heart and still remind myself of from time to time….
Draw everyday. If you want to be an illustrator, then do everything in your power to create the time and space to do that. This is classic, art school bang-your-head-on-the-wall advice, but improvement only comes from daily practice.
Where do I start? Just look around you. When I moved to Paris indefinitely, I already knew how to draw more or less but was still stumped about what to draw. But being vulnerable in a new surrounding meant I was constantly drafting stories in my head about being an expat (hello, phone book of paperwork!), finding my place in an often bizarre country (why was the cheese platter the only thing that spoke to me at French house parties?) and adopting daily French customs into my daily life (French breakfast, American waistline). Putting a story with a visual was the ultimate catalyst for creating engaging illustrations and a selling point when contacting art directors.
Understand the market. Look at your work on screens big and small. Can it be understood on an Instagram feed? Does it stand out in a sea of fleeting attention spans? Since we are all saturated with photos 24/7, think about what can’t be photographed and start drawing that. Additionally a few years back, I noticed news sites incorporating gifs on their home pages. I started developing my own technique and it’s become a vital asset in my portfolio.
Let’s be honest. Most artists may never make a living doing what they love to do. After 6 years of working as a freelance illustrator and food stylist (my side hustle), I’m finally making a living just as an illustrator alone. Food styling taught me a lot about time management, building a composition, meeting client expectations in a microscopic work environment and jump started my creative professional network. All La Vie Bohème fantasies aside, a living must be made. Find another professional activity that allows you the time and resources to improve your craft and the backup stability during the unstable early days of freelancing.
Publish often. Having trouble creating everyday? Give yourself a deadline of how often you want to share work and stick with the schedule. Write a little bit about it and the process in making it. It helps connect yourself to other creative people and is a good exercise in talking about your work before professional appointments. Still stuck finding inspiration? Be your own art director and assign yourself a dream project (say, a fig scarf for Hermès. I’m still working on that one). It puts into perspective client demands, brand identity, developing your own artistic angle and communicates with the world the kind of work you would like to make.
Go out. I’m not trying to make myself seem special here, but not everyone “gets” what it’s like being an artist. No, it’s not about the occasional cheese cube & champagne flute proud moments of an opening or book launch. But it’s the nitty-gritty of working through instability, daily rejection and all the little things that make this a mostly impossible career choice. But being surrounded by other creative people gives you the nourishment, validation and brainstorming face time to push ideas forward. It’s no coincidence that artistic movements happen in big cities when artists are sitting around in cafés and avoiding the work they should be doing.
Be a master in your domain. Immerse yourself in your passions even if they aren’t directly related to your artistic practice. Love food? Take cooking classes and learn how to write recipes. It improves your understanding of the subject and can open up opportunities in the future for maybe writing your own cookbook and being the sole author of a project.
Be nice. My best metaphor for being a freelance artist is blowing up a bunch of balloons and trying to keep them all in the air at the same time. Sometimes one will fall to the ground, but hopefully there’s a steady rhythm of keeping them all afloat while also having the foresight to blow up a few ones along the way. It can be an exhausting process being an artist, but it’s also crazily dynamic and the pay-off is ultimately up to you. But it’s essential to be kind to yourself and others, know your limits, carve out time to feed that creative spirit and just be patient.
Tip speed round: always keep a stock of postcards, thank you cards and business cards on hand (sometimes an old-fashioned method has the greatest impact for getting seen), don’t spend too much time looking at the work of others, hire an accountant when you have the means, be frugal, trust your gut when working with new people, buy this book, don’t work for free, reach out to artists you admire on social media (you never know how they can help you out and vice-versa) and be generous with young artists.
Good luck, my friend! It’s a long, meandering road to becoming an illustrator or pursuing anything beyond the realm of the 9-5. But if you’ve found that creative light switch, that borderline spiritual urge to take an idea to its fruition, then do a little everyday and see for yourself. -jkw
Have a specific question? Tweet me at @thefrancofly.
A collection of Valentine’s Day cards for the franco-fiend in your life: the gourmand, the “summer water” drinker, the Paris Fashion Week stalker, the home cook who loves Julia Child as much as Marvin Gaye, the contemporary art snob. I’ve got you covered.
Need a little Parisian pick-me-up? Preorder my book Paris in Stride. Lauren Collins, author of When in French and staff writer at The New Yorker says “it’s like your fantasy BFF crossed with Google Maps.” And all the cobblestoned streets, corner bistros and architectural wonders are gorgeously illustrated in breathtaking watercolor with a healthy dose of whimsy. It’s the book to make a Francophile’s heart sing or IOU Valentine’s Day gift. Preorder here.