In this series, I have featured a wide spectrum of creatives, from graphic designers and writers to photographers and food entrepreneurs. Now, I can add painter to the collection of talented Francophiles.
Watercolor artist Carol Gillott would gladly trade the roaring energy of New York, her current home base, for the indulgent leisure of Paris but compromises with visits three to four times a year - she refuels her creativity, soaks up inspiration and shoots thousands of photographs from which she paints upon her return. Not only does Paris drive her professional work but her long-running blog Paris Breakfast, a sort of visual love letter to Paris which she updates five times a week. While her fruitful career has taken her from shoe designer and travel book illustrator to in-house photographer at the James Beard Foundation, it's the projects that bring her to France that offer the most fulfillment.
Describe what you love about France in three words.
Can we make it 5 words? Eyes, ears, nose, tastebuds + brain.
Paris stimulates all my senses constantly. I'm inspired all the time - endlessly surprised and amused. Sadly, New York doesn't do it for me anymore...
What you love about Paris and can't get in New York?
I'm nuts for the 38 municipal pools - totally accessible, clean, beautiful, well-run and cheap. My favorite was the one in St. Germain until I discovered Pontoise - open daily at 7am for early birds. My other great love is the Paris bus system - a well-kept secret. Efficient, friendly and convenient if you have the time. (For Paris bus routes, click here) New York could certainly learn a few things from Paris in the way of public services!
Best spot to spark inspiration for your work?
I hang out in supermarkets Carrefour and Monoprix. The vast range of products, the package designs, the hand-written type fonts on jam jars – I love them all! Crazy I know, but Paris supermarkets are my museums.
Favorite French sweet treat?
Lemon meringue was my birthday 'cake' of choice growing up so my tastesbuds haven't changed much. Pierre Herme's, Tarte Citron au Citron wins hands down as my favorite Parisian sweet. With its tarty lemon confit/peel sitting on top of the best lemon curd in town - deeply satisfying. As a back-up I'll, take any citron macaron as a petite bouchée in a pinch.
Paris vs. New York: most frustrating difference?
New York's checkerboard grid with uptown/downtown and Eastside/Westside is a snap to negotiate. In Paris, I get lost constantly and I'm late all the time for meetings. No matter how much I consult Google maps or allot extra time I'm always en retard. Paris's little passages, cul de sacs, and alleyways keep me running. Still, I wouldn't change the geography for anything. I can think of far worse things than getting lost in Paris. (I just need a Smart phone with a GPS!).
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