F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.”
I’m pretty sure he could have been talking about the American expat writer, Sara Lieberman. Sara came to live in Paris almost on a whim, which I think is just the best way to move to Paris. The story goes (and I may get some of the details wrong because she told it to me over several glasses of wine), that after wrapping up a year in London writing for UK’s most-read Sunday glossy Fabulous, she went to Paris to visit friends, had one of those once in a lifetime nights on the town, came home, and typed into her Facebook page, “I’m moving to Paris.” When she woke the next day to many, many excited comments from friends and family, she decided it was destiny. That was over three apartments ago.
I got to meet Sara this past January while on a spontaneous trip to the city of light. We happen to have a good friend in common, and so when I emailed asking if we could sit down over a glass of wine and talk, she said yes. I’ve been an online fan of Sara’s bi-weekly newsletter, Overthinking It for a while, and I’ve always felt that if we met in real life, we’d be fast friends, and I was right! Her writing voice is completely authentic to who she is in person.
If you aren’t acquainted with her newsletter, which you absolutely should be (click on the link above to sign up), odds are you have read her writing in some of the best magazines and newspapers around the globe. If you’ve used Google to find information about visiting Paris concerning style, food, beauty, fashion, nightlife, pop culture or entertainment, you’ve “met” Sara. You can read some of her best pieces here.
I love Paris. It is the first city in Europe I chose to visit when I was 18, it was the city I studied abroad in, and it was where I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. If I die without ever living there, it will be one of my regrets. So having the opportunity to speak to a fellow writer, New Yorker, and expat was a thrill. Here is a smattering of some of the soundbites from our conversation…
“In Paris, you’ll always have to ask for a menu, a glass of water, to order, and for a bill.”
“Dairy is very confusing. The cheese and the yogurt have so many complexities.”
“Paris is actually affordable, more than NYC. Utilities are low, and you can have a great three-course meal for 20 euro with tax and tip included.”
“For first-time visitors, planning is everything. You can’t just pop in anywhere and expect to get a good meal. You need to do your research. You are not going to get that amazing cup of coffee or the unforgettable steak frites at any terrace on the street. Make reservations, and know when places are open and closed.”
“Walk or take the bus and look around.”
“Take a risk. Find a new neighborhood. Stay somewhere new.”
“Paris is small, much smaller than NYC. First, cut the city into left and right. Going across banks by public transport is not easy, and requires a transfer.”
As an ex-expat, I asked Sara what she missed about living away from home.
“Bagels, pizza. I’ve had good pizza here, but it’s more of a restaurant outing and not a snack like in NYC. I miss the idea of the customer always being right. The French have not figured out customer service, and they say no a lot. Returns are always an issue. They are big into their policies, so always check them out before making a purchase.”
Sara’s blog is called Overthinking It, and I asked her why?
“I’m a bad decision maker. Part of me is super shameless, and I tend to overshare about everything, but on the same level, I’m conscious of what people think of me, and that makes me overthink.”
Her last words…
“When visiting try to plan less, let things happen more. Because sometimes the best nights are when you have no plans.”
I texted Sara throughout my stay, and she recommended some of my new favorites places like Ellsworth, a real gem. When I asked for an authentic brasserie, she suggested Bofinger, and it was exactly what I was looking for. She was so on point, I asked if she ever did bespoke, customized experiences for curious, adventurous travelers, and she said to send them her way. So if you are interested in an insider scoop through the lens of a seasoned New Yorker, consider hiring Sara. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merci mon ami!
Have fun. Be Bold.