Finding Japanese Vintage & Friendships in Paris

Monday, January 31, 2011

Did you know that Paris is home to one of the most extensive collections of vintage Japanese dresses this side of the globe? My friend Jule and her partner Noël run an Etsy shop based in Paris and dedicated to selling vintage Japanese treasures they find while adventuring abroad. I met Jule after stumbling upon her Etsy store while I was searching for Paris-based vintage sellers. I fell in love with a gorgeous patterned dress and asked her if she would mind me picking it up from her home instead of having it shipped. She graciously obliged and I got to check out her "Atelier", including part of the beautiful collection of clothes she showcases in her Etsy shop.

Jule hand-picks every dress from her favorite vintage boutiques in Japan and South Korea and brings them back with her to Paris. She let me have a sneak peek of the mountains of dresses she returned with in November from her latest trip east. Many of the items from her first collection were pieces that she had collected from her time spent living in Japan and part of her own personal wardrobe. This time around, she seemed to focus on what her buyers are looking for and so far, she has not disappointed.

I have purchased several dresses from L’Atelier de Jule and I have to say that each one is a joy to wear. The garments I own are one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect my mood and make me feel amazing and unique in an often uniformly colorless city. I bravely wear my buys to work and each time I do, someone inevitably notices its uniqueness and pays me a compliment. Men who wear dark suits everyday and women whose color palette is limited to navy blue and black are curious to know the stories behind my clothes.

Jule has a keen eye for fabrics that are impossible to find in modern garments and beautiful patterns that recall a colorful era of playfulness and whimsy. She is also a lovely person whose friendship I have come to treasure like so many others I have created since living in Paris. It’s funny how being an expat kind of emboldens you to meet people and make new friends – something I never made an effort to do while living in my hometown where friendships are established over many years. From tea-house owners to international podcasters to vintage clothing sellers, the friends I’ve made in this lovely city are undeniably full of talent and drive. Their passion inspires me everyday and I can’t help but wonder how deficient my life would feel without their enthusiasm and creativity to motivate me.

You can find me on Etsy under "MisplacedTexan" - join my circle and see some of my other favorite shops, including Gloaming Designs owned by yet another talented Paris-based friend.

If you’re in the Paris area and would like to pick-up a dress or try on a few, contact Jule at julesatelier [at] gmail [dot] com. (But beware, you might go home with more than what you came for.)

Jule with her wardrobe.

Coats in every pattern and color.

Packed full of beautiful goodies.

Waiting to be photographed.

How I'm wearing it - a few of my favorite purchases (and one I really, really want).

My maintenant

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lately, my days are filled with
  1. phone calls to dad to see how he’s doing after having a triple bypass last week,
Shortly after returning from our New Year's Eve trip to Austin, my dad had a mild heart attack that ended with him having triple bypass surgery. I flew back to Austin to be with him, my sister, brother and the rest of my family to support him before, during and after the operation. It was a terrifying experience - for him and for us, but I'm happy to report he's continuing to recover very well from the surgery. I've been calling him just about every evening to get a rundown of how he's feeling and check up on him. Living abroad is never harder than when hardship or tragedy befall far-away family, and I know I could not have gotten through it without the endless support of my friends near and far.

  1. knitting, knitting and knitting,
I can't stop obsessing about my knit projects. There's always SO much I want to knit and never enough time to do it. Right now I'm working on 2 big projects but filling in my cravings with smaller ones, like this striped shawl and finished hat. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just quit our day jobs and do our hobbies for a living?

3. browsing Etsy and my favorite shop, Jule’s Atelier (more on this later),

planning a trip to Rome that promises to rekindle my love of all things Italian,

Gui and I are planning to spend Valentine's Day weekend in Rome with another couple we're friends with. I'm so stoked! I've been using BBC Languages to try and refresh my memory of the 3 years of Italian I've managed to completely forget. It's amazing how little I remember of a language I loved learning and speaking so much. Hopefully, it'll all come pouring back into my brain once we're sur place, but I'm not holding my breath.

5. cooking, eating and indulging.

After restocking the fridge last weekend, I got back into the swing of cooking this week. From salmon vapeur to yummy eggplant napoleon (inspired by my friend, Kristin), it felt good to be back in the kitchen cooking up hot meals after eating mostly on the go when I was with my dad in Austin. Gui and I spent Saturday doing our own things, but met up for a late lunch at our favorite little brasserie/coffee-and-ice-cream-shop on Ile Saint Louis . I decided to go all out and order both my favorite coffee drink (café viennois) and a new dessert that I just couldn't pass up after seeing the guy next to me finish his plate - pain perdu à la sauce caramel beurre salé with a scoop of Berthillon moka ice cream. And that was just dessert - I had a plate of boeuf bourgignon to start!

Weekend wrap-up

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here are a few photos from a lunch we had with friends last weekend at a South Indian food chain called Saravana Bhavan. The rue du Faubourg-Saint Denis just off of the Gare du Nord metro and train station is the heart of "little India" in Paris with shops chock-full of colorful saris, ghee-filled desserts and favorite Indian DVDs. As usual, our friend (and food guide), Animesh, gave us his expert opinion on what to order and we had at it. I ordered a traditional southern dish (that nearly everyone else at the table also ordered) and a mango lassi. The food was excellent, but I think I've learned that North Indian food is more my thing. And so is meat. This place is great for a vegetarian looking to spice things up in Paris, though, so if you haven't been and are into trying something new, I highly recommend it.

Digging in.

Listening to directions from our food guide.

Loving her mango lassi.

Yummy sweet coffee.

Yummy HOT coffee.

Take 1 (pay attention, Guillaume!)

Take 2.

We grabbed a few things at the Indian market around the corner (hair oil and shampoo for me), had a strange and scary encounter with a Hells Angel dude (don't ask) and thus ended a lovely day spent with friends.

The rest of the weekend was spent mostly catching up with friends we didn't get to see before Christmas - one couple who had a baby girl on New Year's Eve and another who surprised us with the announcement of their little one on the way. And then, in keeping with tradition, we stopped by beau-père's place to cut into a galette des rois and determine who would be king or queen for the year. It was my second galette so far this year, the first being the one I had earlier in the week with colleagues where, out of everyone on our floor, I ended up with the crown. This time, we each had a 1 in 4 chance at getting the title, but fate decided that I needed a king and Gui ended up finding the fève in his slice of galette. As King and Queen, we've decided to rule the land with both venerable (but cheerful) reason,

...and upstanding, noble character.

How I got here

Friday, January 7, 2011

More and more, I’m finding that blog readers and people I meet are curious to know how I came to live and work in Paris. Of course my main reason for moving to the City of Lights was because Gui and I picked Paris to live in once we decided to get married. It was either Austin or Paris, and for us at the time, Paris was where we wanted to be.

Admittedly, I jumped into expat life without really considering the consequences of living in a French-speaking country, but living abroad wasn’t a completely foreign concept to me. Despite having grown up in the same town for nearly all of my childhood, I’ve always been pretty much at ease with traveling and adapting to new living environments. As soon as I saved up enough money and was old enough (at the ripe old age of 21), I picked up and moved to England for 3 months to be near friends and to participate in a workshop at the London College of Fashion. It was a mind-blowing experience to live outside of my country for the first time, to see just how different life was on the other side of the globe. I almost immediately fell into the swing of British life: I ate lots of curry, I had a housemate that was never there, I hung out with friends at pubs, took the train to school and back, hauled my groceries on the bus. I lived a totally independent life much like the one I’d been living in Austin, only without a car and full of new places to discover.

Then, a couple of years later, while studying Italian at university, I entered into a student study abroad program. I lived in Rome for a summer with an Italian family and went to language and culture classes every weekday with my professors from back home. I became close friends with some of the other students in the program, and I adapted to the slow-paced, laid-back Italian lifestyle effortlessly (I mean, who wouldn’t be happy taking 2-hour breaks in the afternoon and eating pasta for hours at each meal?). Living in Rome was a totally different experience than living in England, though – there was a slight language barrier and many cultural differences that although I quickly embraced, were far from the norm of English city life. I kept a short livejournal of my time in Rome that you’re welcome to take a peek at.

So, knowing that I'd already done it before, I felt pretty prepared to tackle life in a new and foreign city a little more than 2 years later when I moved to Paris. I've briefly archived the ups and downs of my expat life in Paris on this blog, but suffice it to say that adapting to the French language and culture was far more difficult than it had been for me to do when I was in Rome. I had never studied French before coming here, and I felt defeated enough by it most days to stay holed-up at home in front of the internet and CNN. Eventually, I got over it, and after taking a class at La Sorbonne, I felt fueled with enough knowledge of the language to work on it in earnest in my daily life.

Finding a job proved to be a different story, and I was rejected numerous times for jobs that I was otherwise qualified for in my mother tongue. What's more is that many companies wondered why an American with a degree in political science would want to work doing something non-political. It was tough.

So, the question I'm most often asked ("How did you get your current job?") is arguably the most difficult to answer only because it seemed to happen purely by chance. After acquiring enough French fluency for general conversation, I found a listing for a job matching my skills on and I applied for it immediately. I dedicated hours to coming up with the best script to describe myself and qualifications in French for the interview - every single night up until my interview, Guillaume and I literally practiced a dialogue of possible questions I'd be asked and how I'd answer them. When the big day finally came around, I was more confident about this job interview than previous ones simply because I was well prepared, I knew I was qualified for the position and they had requested my CV in English.

I was also lucky in that I already had the right to work in France as a spouse to a French citizen, which I know is not the case for everyone whose heart is set on moving here. Honestly, I'm not very well-educated on the subject of how to get a work visa independent of being married or "PACS'd. In fact, I only know of one person, my friend Juliet, who was able to have a company sponsor her for a non-English teaching/non-au pair job in France.

So, besides the whole getting married thing, I guess I don't really know I ended up in Paris. I've always been a sort of free spirit, wandering around trying to figure out my little place in this big world. Still, I never would have imagined I'd be living here - I never dreamed about living the French life nor thought much about sitting in a café where great writers once toiled over their lifelong works; I never fantasized about picnicking at the Champs de Mars under the Eiffel Tower, sipping wine and speaking French. Yet, here I am. Even though I never dreamed about having a life in Paris, I've come to appreciate what it means to live in such an envied city and above all, I've discovered another place in this big world to call home.

* * *

Below, I've listed a few resources I found helpful when I moved to Paris, including job search websites and language school info. If you're interested in studying French while living in Paris, either as a beginner or at an advanced level, La Sorbonne offers courses for all levels, some of which, I believe, qualify to obtain a long-stay student visa that also permits students to work part-time while studying. I'm no expert on the subjects of how to move to France, the French visa process, or where to find a job in Paris and I only know what I know from my own personal experience living here. What my experience tells me, though, is that in Paris there there seems to be a decent job market for bilingual (French/English; French/Chinese; French/Italian) administrative assistants, lawyers and accountants. That said, I have Anglophone friends who work as translators, writers, graphic designers and computer programmers in the city, so anything is possible.

If you have a specific question that you think my experience may be relevant to, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll do my best to answer it or point you in the right direction.

Living in France:
Expat Forum
Transitions Abroad
Getting Married in France
The Katia & Kyliemac expat podcast
The Paris Blog
Chez Loulou has recently written some wonderful tutorials on how to move to France (a must read for any American who wants to live in France)

Job Search sites:
magazine for anglophones
OECD recruitment site

French classes:
La Sorbonne
Alliance Française

On December and a new year

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Whew, what happened to December?! Gui and I spent the first couple of weeks of December planning and organizing our Stateside trip and the last two weeks were all about travel, family, and friends. The last month of 2010 just flew by, n'est-ce pas?

Christmas was really lovely. It was so great to see three of my nephews so happy and excited to open their gifts, and even more ecstatic to play with every one. They are all growing up so quickly, so it's always a cherished moment to see them so stoked for Christmas and family time. My sister, her husband and my mom cooked up a delicious and beautiful meal of salmon, prime rib and all the fixins that will definitely go down in the books as one of the best yet. It's always a given that we'll eat well during the holidays with family, and this Christmas was no exception. Overall, our Christmas was just fantastic, but the days following weren't without their drama (that I wish was as easy to forget as it was to materialize). So, Gui and I changed our plans at the last minute and decided to spend New Year's Eve in Austin, despite knowing that most of our friends would be out of town or already have something planned for the occasion.

I don't know if it's because we're getting older, or if it's because it's getting old, but we've been keeping things simple when it comes to celebrating, which is why we were so happy to accept a dear friend's invitation to a family & friends house party to ring in 2011. We got to catch up with some of our friends who stayed in town for the holidays and even with a few who were in town just for new year's eve. It always makes me happy to be back in the city where I grew up - to see how it's changed and prospered since I've been gone and to reflect on the lifetime of memories I have made there. The weather was, as usual, beyond perfect and we tried to squeeze in as much outdoor time and as many meals of Tex-Mex and other Austin favorites as we could.

In the end, I was glad that we amended our plans and passed through Austin. It was a treat to spend more time than was originally planned with my mom, step-dad and little brother. And, I was really happy that I got to see my other brother, my dad and one of my adorable nephews that I would not have otherwise had the chance to see before too long.

I'm looking forward to what will become of 2011, and although I do so with a slightly heavy heart, I'm mostly hopeful and optimistic. At the beginning of this year, I am as happy as I've ever been - I have the most amazing husband who I absolutely adore, every one in my family is healthy and I have built beautiful friendships with so many people all over the world that I am thankful for everyday. But, there is still much to sort out, including some very big plans for early this year and some healing for a wound left wide open. Still, I'm excited for the adventures that lie ahead and for all the hope and inspiration that a new year brings.

TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.