Much of my adolescence in Brooklyn was spent wondering why I wasn’t born French.
How I caught the “French bug” is anybody’s guess, however. No one in my family has French blood, none of my childhood friends were French, I never heard the language spoken at home, nor was I raised on fancy French food. Hell, there wasn’t even a French restaurant in my predominantly Italian-Russian neighborhood!
What I did know was that across that huge stretch of water opposite my grand parents’ Brighton Beach apartment building was a country where they spoke a lyrical language, wore sleek, sophisticated clothes, smoked and drank merrily, ate delicious food and lived in old, beautiful buildings.
Much of this elegant imagery came courtesy of my step dad’s video store. As a teenager, nouvelle vague marathons of Godard, Truffaut and Resnais films were frequent and I imagined myself a latter-day Anna Karina. At sixteen, the fantasy was finally put to the test during my first trip to Paris. Once there, my French was worthless— I couldn’t speak a word. Couldn’t even say my age, but I was beyond smitten. I decided then and there that Paris would one day be my home.
While many entertained my romantic French obsession, my choice of French as a foreign language had my grandfather Sol grumbling, “When are you ever going to speak French, you live in Brooklyn for chrissakes?” My decision to double major in Art History and French at Vassar so that I could spend a year abroad only added insult to injury. Let’s not even mention the sparring that ensued when I decided to move to Paris as a “five-month experiment,” nearly ten years ago.
Unfortunately, Grandpa Sol died well before either of us cold fathom how important France, its language and culture would become to me both personally and professionally; before I’d marry my French beau, Fabrice; before I’d make pain au chocolat from scratch in my cozy Parisian kitchen; before I’d speak French fluently with a charmingly unidentifiable accent; before I’d write about my adopted city and interview its brightest talent for leading magazines; before I’d hunt down Parisian lifestyle trends for international marketing and communication agencies; and before I’d aspire to write the first in-depth online guide to Paris’ most exclusive, by appointment only addresses with the fresh taste and renegade regard of a girl raised on other side of the pond.