Why I left New York to move to Paris and how I did it
I made my first trip to Paris when I was 20 years old in the late 1970s and fell in love with the city. I said one day I would move there. Once smitten, I came back as frequently as I could, every few years. Every time Vincent and I would visit, we would fantasize about the move. We would pick an apartment building and say that’s the building we would live in, then Vincent would go back to New York, hire a headhunter to find him a job as an art director for a big Paris ad agency with a huge salary, and we would move to Paris and live happily ever after. Reality would set in when we returned home and we would go back to working the typical hectic New York schedule of 50 to 60 hours a week, and our Paris fantasy would become a distant memory only rekindled by our recurring visits.
In the mid 1990s, two of our good friends, a gay couple from New York, visited Paris for the first time and fell in love like we did, vowing they would move there someday. We said we had the same fantasy and with a cynical tone we told them that the fantasy would wear off and it probably wouldn’t happen. But low and behold they were dead serious and a few years later they sold their New York apartment and moved to Paris lock, stock and barrel. We were of course very supportive and wished them lots of luck but we were also envious: they stole our Paris dream and did it while we languished in New York.
Once they moved, we started to come to Paris on more regular basis, once or twice a year to visit them. It was a much different experience staying with friends in an apartment than a hotel and we became a lot more familiar and comfortable in the city, feeling like it was our second home. Our friends lived on the border of the Marais and that’s how I got to know the Marais so well. As we watched our friends blossom in Paris and make their way successfully, the idea of moving became alive again.
I lived in New York all my life and never lived anywhere else and Vincent was from Hackensack, New Jersey and moved to New York when he was 17, so our desire to live somewhere else was getting stronger as we were getting older.
In the end of August 2004 we made a trip to Europe for three weeks and the tail end of the trip was five days in Paris. At that point, we both felt very stuck in our careers, working 50 to 60 hours a week to just survive the high cost of living in New York that included an expensive mortgage and maintenance on a Soho loft and work studio for Vincent. I had already been catering for 20 years and was tired of the physical grind and Vincent was getting burnt out from working long grueling hours servicing his demanding clients. Working so many hours doing fashion art direction and catalogs, Vincent didn’t have time or the creativity left to pursue his painting or film making desires.
We arrived in Paris the first week of September, smack in the middle of the rentree, and the city was booming. The weather was beautiful and all the Parisians looked chic and happy to be back in Paris. Paris was pulsating and in those few days it was never more seductive. In a singular moment Vincent and I decided to make the move.
We went back to New York and put the pieces together. We aimed to move sometime in the late summer or early fall of 2005, giving ourselves close to a year to orchestrate the major life change. The thing that most predicated our move would be the sale of our apartment. We purchased a two story 1500 square loft in Soho for under market value in 2001. We learned in 2004/2005 during the height of the Manhattan real-estate boom that we could almost double what we paid. The fortuitous real estate boom was our ticket out of New York. After crunching the numbers, we could realistically pay off all our debts, pay for the move, live for a year without working, and have a bit of savings if we got our asking price. With fingers crossed, we put up the apartment for sale in February in 2005. We accepted a bid six weeks later for close to our asking price and the closing date was symbolically July 14, 2005. (My real estate agent wanted to do it on July 13 but I purposely wanted July 14).
We closed on July 14th signing away our last toehold in New York, our apartment. We stayed an extra month to tie up loose ends and our one way tickets to Paris were for August 15th, 2005.
We rented a temporary apartment near rue Oberkampf and luckily found our current apartment in the Marais on rue Saint Antoine within three weeks. It took almost until Christmas time to fully settle in, between waiting for our furniture and personal items to arrive from New York plus furnishing the rest of the apartment. Having both worked since we were teenagers, it felt good relaxing, enjoying and exploring Paris without the pressure of having to work.
By the spring of 2006 the novelty of a life of leisure was wearing off and I was getting antsy, looking for something to do. It was the time when blogs were just beginning to take off. When I lived in New York, people always asked me where to go, where to eat, what was the latest thing to do, etc. Now that I was beginning to know Paris well, people asked the same thing. I thought a blog would be a good way to share my insider knowledge of the city. Originally I called it I Prefer Paris but my friend Suzanne Falter, a brilliant coach, came up with the name Eye Prefer Paris because www.ipreferparis.com was taken and she said I have to have a .com instead of .net. In the end it turned out to be the perfect name. Never really having any experience as a writer or photographer, I posted my first story on June 26, 2006. I had no idea where it was going or what it would lead to but I posted regularly, twice weekly in the beginning months, graduating to four times weekly. I found my voice/groove quickly and people started to discover me. I read the key to any successful blog is strong content and the theory was “write good content and they will come”.
In the meantime in the year I was not working, friends, acquaintances, family, and friends of friends would either ask me advice about Paris or ask me to show them around when they were here. Sometimes I would get strange or outlandish requests like, “you met my aunt Tilly once 10 years ago at a party and she adored you and she wants to know if could show her around,” or a cousin asked if her 16 year daughter and her two friends could stay with me for 10 days. I was happy to fulfill some of the requests and it was fun showing people Paris. The first thing I would usually do is walk them through the Marais, since it was where I lived and the area I knew best. Most of the time people would love it, and say things like “Wow, I’ve been to Paris so many times, but have never seen what you showed me” or “I’ve been to the Marais and never saw the places you took me to.”
After doing it a number of times and always enjoying it, I got the idea that maybe I could do the same thing with strangers. I could lead informal, private tours more like a good friend showing you Paris rather than a formal guide reading from a script and only sharing the history. I did some research and found there was nobody doing this kind of tour. So I took the plunge and had Vincent design my website. I launched Eye Prefer Paris Tours in the end of January 2007, again having no idea where it would go. About 10 days later I received an email from a photographer who was coming to Paris for the first time and wanted to do a tour. I was so thrilled to have my first client and he did the tour in February 2007. Things moved quickly and in March I had three tours, June, five tours, and by September I had 11 tours that month. Originally I just did Marais tours but eventually expanded my repertoire to include other tours.
The rest is history as they say and I am still enjoying the high of writing about Paris and showing off the city to my tour clients.
You can check out my blog and find out more about my latest tours. I have also just launched a postcard subscription service where I send out my latest photos in high quality matte prints every month.
Many thanks to Barbara for encouraging me to tell my story.