paris (im)perfect: A love of two cities
Sion Dayson talks to the author of 'Paris, My Sweet' about Paris and New York, life and pastry - and about not falling in love with a Frenchman.
I always love tucking into a new book, but there's an extra special thrill when the author is a friend. I was delighted (and amazed! and overwhelmingly happy!) when I received my review copy of Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by the très-talented Amy Thomas. Her book just came out 1 February.
Besides being a successful advertising copywriter, popular blogger, and oft-published journalist with articles in The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler, Amy is also a self-described Sweet Freak. Her book winds its way through the City of Light in search of perfect pastries and points us to the best sugary addresses in the Big Apple, too.
What I really adored about Amy's book, however, was how seamlessly she wove her own personal journey alongside her quest for the tastiest of treats. This is a memoir, you see, and it delves into the sometimes bittersweet realities of being a fish out of water - even when land is Paris and so heartbreakingly beautiful.
Any expat will relate to the excitement and challenges of finding yourself in a new place.
And anyone with a sweet tooth will agree Amy makes a great case for eating dessert for dinner. I devoured her book in two days.
I am thrilled that Amy was willing to answer a few questions today.
Amy, we both share a common condition: we are in love with both Paris and New York! This yearning for one place while living in the other takes up a large part of your book. How do you reconcile having these two loves now?
When I moved back to New York, I did so with the knowledge that Paris would always be in my life somehow. Having lived there for nearly two years, Paris is now more than a cherished city or dream destination; it's part of me. It's in my heart and blood. So whether I invest in a pied à terre at some point, end up moving back as an old lady, or simply keep visiting multiple times a year, I will always be connected to and enmeshed in the city, my friends there, and the life I built. That's the hope anyway!
Paris and New York seem to have a love affair with each other, too - macarons popping up in NYC, the cupcake craze in the City of Light. What do you think each place/tradition admires about the other - and what do they still have to learn?
There are few cities in the world that can put you under a spell like these two world-class capitals. Paris and New York just get under your skin. So while they're so different, it makes sense that there's this transatlantic love affair going on.
I think the general passions for fashion, food, art and culture play a big role in that. In both cities, you're surrounded by beautiful people, can eat the most amazing food, see incredible, inspiring art and just be moved. You can literally sit in one of these cities and be awed, enchanted and mesmerized. The cities are "peers" in that way, if you will. The great challenge is to accept the differences in each city. That it's okay to slow down and "do nothing" in Paris, just as it's okay to let loose and break a rule or two in New York.
Paris has such a romantic reputation. Yet you experienced the city as a single woman and discussed how very difficult dating was here. (I agree!) Do you have any theories as to why it's so hard? Have you cracked the cultural code?
[big belly laugh] No, I never did crack that cultural code. I can't even tell you how many people told me I was going to fall in love with a Frenchman and never come back when I was getting ready to move to Paris. So by the time I arrived, I was pretty excited: not only I was going to Paris to live my dream but, inevitably, I was going to meet the love of my life, too! Needless to say, it didn't happen.
I guess it comes down to the general norms in Paris. It's the most visited city in the world and there are boatloads of expats. The locals don't necessarily want to invest time in relationships - platonic or romantic - that are so transient. And besides that, I learned that the French stick tight to their friends from childhood or school. They already have well-established social circles, with whom they spend most of their time, and these are hard circles to break into.
Mostly though, I'm just really bad at flirting and can be shy around someone I like, so, Paris, New York, it's been par for the course in my life!
This book had me almost licking the pages, the sweets you describe sound so amazing. When in New York, what are the top three sweets you miss from Paris? And in Paris, what are you pining for from New York?
When I visit Paris now, I am absolutely shameless. I go on a sweets rampage. So, Sion, picking just three is very difficult! I would say, though, I'd go for the praluline brioche at Pralus, a good old Nutella street crepe, and either a pain aux raisins from Stohrer or some delectable croissant from Boulangerie Julien. And these days, I must always sample something from Lola's, too.
In Paris, I missed the general absurdity of the sweets-things like a cornflake-marshmallow chocolate chip cookie (Momofuku Milk Bar), a chocolate chip-pecan-butterscotch-coconut-graham cracker Hello Dolly (Billy's Bakery) or banana peel hot chocolate (City Bakery).
Your dream was to live in Paris and to publish a book. Now you've done both! What's next for you? What are your dreams now?
That's a good question! I would love to write another book (maybe about sweets and/or bakers, but definitely not more memoir!). And do more travel writing. And maybe launch some sort of sweets company of my own. I don't know. There's no one ‘must do' idea anymore so I'm trying to channel my thoughts, passions and outside forces to point me down the right path. I don't know exactly what the next chapter is but, oui, hopefully it includes many more sweets, exotic destinations and great people.
Thanks, Amy, and congratulations, again! I am so, so happy for you, my friend.
(Read more about Amy's adventures in her wonderful book, Paris, My Sweet [highly recommended!]. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and check out her blogs, God, I Love Paris and Sweet Freak.)
Reprinted with permission of paris (im)perfect.
Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris. Her work has appeared in a number of different venues and she blogs about the quirkier side of the City of Light at paris (im)perfect.
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