I first met Lisa Anselmo in Paris through a mutual friend, Lisa Taylor Huff, a sweet lady who passed away far too young two years ago July 6th in 2015. Together they started a movement called No Love Locks when they became upset with the way bridges in Paris, especially Pont des Arts, were becoming covered with “Love Locks” and because of their work and the attention they received, the locks were removed. An interview in a magazine led to Lisa being contacted about writing a book and the result, My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, was published. Maurice and I went to hear her speak at WH Smith in Paris and I asked her if I could interview her for my blog. She went through a lot moving to Paris as you will discover when you read her book.
1.In Chapter Two of your book, My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, you talk about your first trip to Paris and the bad impression you had—until your last day when your teacher showed you her favorites areas. Now that you live in Paris (part time), what are some of your favorite areas?
I like many of the places in my neighborhood—walking along La Coulée Verte, and elevated park that was once part of the Bastille train line; shopping in Marché d’Aligre, an historic covered market with a surrounding open air market. Or just hanging in my favorite café on Rue de Charonne. I also like areas that don’t feel like you’re in the city, like La Butte Bergeyre in the 19th, a district with quiet winding streets lined by tiny two-story houses. So charming. Even after so many years, I’m always discovering new and wonderful places here in Paris.
2. I’ve seen many people compare New York City and Paris. Since you live in both, how do you compare them to each other—favorite things, and things that bother you.
Shameless blog plug here, but I write about this so often that I have a category called “Paris vs. New York” (https://myparttimeparislife.com/category/paris-vs-ny/). The two cities have very different energies. For me, New York charges me up and Paris recharges me. I have my creative sparks in Paris, but I get things done in New York. Paris pet peeve #1? Public transport that shuts down too early. Midnight during the week? Vraiment ? If the city is really concerned about air pollution, that’s one place to start. One time I nearly got locked inside the Nation Métro station along with a few other pour souls—gates closing down around us as we ran from exit to exit, growing more desperate by the minute. It was like something out of Stephen King. That wouldn’t happen in New York. It’s a real empire—24/7, baby. But on the other hand, in Paris you can sit at a café and write all day for the price of a drink. You can’t do that in New York, where it’s eat, pay, leave. (Maybe that should be the title of my sequel, huh?)
3. What surprised you about Paris once you started living here?
The biggest surprise—and a large part of my book is dedicated to talking about this—I thought I knew Paris, it felt like home to me, but as a new resident it became suddenly strange. For many reasons: dealing with neighbors who refuse to repair a leak that was trashing my apartment, living in a district where no one spoke a lick of English. Little tasks become huge hurdles when you don’t know how it’s done. The fear, the loathing—the loneliness. This was all totally unexpected.
4. If you had it to do over, would you have picked a different area to live in? Of course, this is assuming money is no object.
I’m not sure now. The longer I stay in my area, the more I discover, and the more I like it. It’s one of the last unspoiled patches of real Paris. Everyone is so nice and convivial. It’s the sort of neighborhood where they greet you like the Prodigal Son at your local café every time you enter. And I have many Métro & RER lines close by. Although, I admit for real estate values there are advantages to being more centrally located than where I am now. And I suppose if money were no object, well, I have had my eye on a gorgeous building on the northwest corner of Square du Temple (3rd arr.) that has an apartment with a large balcony. Let’s just say that wouldn’t stink too much.
5. You’ve dated in both cities—what do you think, if any, are the differences between American men and French men. How is dating different?
I actually wrote a chapter just about this because well, yes—very different. I find the French to be serial daters. Dating different people at the same time, or dating casually, seems to be frowned upon. You’re going steady after a few dates. It’s like dating in high school. In 1959. My current boyfriend was talking marriage on date number three. I didn’t take him seriously; I figured that’s just how they talk, all hearts and flowers. But a year later, well, we’re still together, so…
6. Advice to someone wanting to move to Paris? What do you wish you had known?
Where do I begin? Are we talking about living arrangements, local attitudes and customs, neighbors who don’t fix leaks—which? Let’s start with a place to live, oui? If you’re looking to rent or buy, the best and only advice I have is to hire a professional expat real estate agency and relocation specialist, like Adrian Leeds. (Yes, the lady from House Hunters International.) Don’t go it alone—please! There are no multiple listing sites in France so you can’t expect to get the best access to the best places. Real estate agents on the ground in Paris don’t care about you. Only the seller or landlord. I found this out the hard way. Handholding is so invaluable for a big move like this. They’ll even help set up your utilities for you. And do your research beforehand. Check out the different neighborhoods before you buy or rent. What’s great as a tourist may not be very livable when you are a resident, especially if there’s no market nearby. I lucked out with my neighborhood because, let’s face it, I just plunked myself down in what I call in my book, “No Man’s Land.” I do have many more tips on this, here: https://myparttimeparislife.com/2013/06/14/pied-a-terre-in-paris/
7. Do you find it hard to live in two places? In my case, I have to have two of everything so I don’t have to carry heavy suitcases every time I change locations-two hair blowers, two sets of makeup, etc.
Right. Me, too. Two of everything. Although somehow I’m still lugging the big suitcase of clothes. (I have my favorite outfits, what can I say?) For me, I’ve really loved the back and forth up to now, but recently I find it’s tugging on me emotionally. Maybe it’s the boyfriend, or maybe it’s just that I’m ready to put down real roots somewhere. I’m not ready to land in one city full time yet, but it’s getting harder to split my life in half. And that’s how it feels now. I long to attach and belong. Hard to do with a foot in two places.
8. Do you have problems adjusting to a different city each time? I always feel like it takes at least a week to adjust.
In the beginning, not at all. It felt seamless—not two lives, but one life in two cities. But at that time, I was just staying in Paris for brief visits—long weekends, two to three weeks. The first time I stayed in Paris for a full five months to film my series, I really felt the difference once back in New York. Though it’s been my home city for more than 20 years, after so much time in Paris, it was a shock to my system. I felt suffocated by the towering buildings; the pace overwhelmed me. It took six weeks to adjust. New York to Paris is a breeze. The other direction? Much harder.
9. Do you plan on writing a follow-up book? Since I know a bit about your history because we both were friends with dear Lisa Taylor Huff (The Bold Soul), I know about the whole Love Locks adventure http://nolovelocks.com), how it lead to the locks being removed from the Pont des Arts. Do you plan to write about that?
I’m working on a follow-up book now; I’m playing with essays about my life in Paris, vs. another long-form story. Lisa and I used to talk about writing a book together, about our fight to preserve the monuments of Paris with No Love Locks, but I don’t see doing that now. Not without her. (Note: Lisa passed away in July 2015 from cancer.)
10. I’d like to know how the whole situation with the major leak in your new apartment was resolved? Lisa told me about the huge dehumidifier that you had to rent for instance. Did you get reimbursed as your lawyer told you?
I had a giggle when someone on Amazon said the only flaw in my book was that the story line about the leak was not resolved by the end. How little he knows about how things work in France! The slumlord (sorry, but that’s what he is) who owns the apartment above mine was finally ordered by the courts to repair the leak in his shower a full 18 months later, after it totally destroyed my apartment. Then, yes, I had to dry out the place for a year before we could renovate. The case was finally closed in April of this year (three years later!). A small repair that would have cost the owner about a thousand euros, cost him five figures. He kept thinking I’d go away, or give up. They don’t know me. Winning! Your readers can catch up on all of this, here, replete with heartbreaking photos: https://myparttimeparislife.com/category/challenges-of-parisian-homeownership
11. I asked this at your book signing: Do you ever see living in Paris full time? Do you have to stay in NYC for work?
See Question #7. 😉
I don’t have to stay anywhere, being a writer, but my readers (and clients) are mostly in North America, so my tours and lectures are there. I can’t work in France at this time with the type of visa I have. I’m still not sure what I want to do, or where I want to focus my time. And I still need both cities. They share equal halves of my heart.
Find Lisa here:
Book: My (Part Time) Paris Life
Lisa Anselmo has spent most of her professional career in magazine publishing, working on such iconic brands as Allure, Mademoiselle, InStyle, and People. She’s been everything from a creative director to an opera singer, but ultimately, she has followed her passion for storytelling and inspiring people.
Anselmo started traveling to Paris regularly more than ten years ago—at first, to cover the fashion trade shows for a lifestyle website. But soon, she had cultivated friends—both Parisians and expats—and eventually built another life across the ocean. After losing her mother to breast cancer, she was motivated to make her other life official, buying an apartment in Paris’s Right Bank.
In 2014, she decided to leave her day job, and now splits her time between New York and Paris, where she writes full time. Her experiences inspired the memoir My (Part-Time) Paris Life, a candid narrative of a woman searching for hope and healing in the city she loves.
Our dear Lisa Taylor Huff.