Franco File Friday: Oh La La Livia (Olivia!)

Last week, I spoke to a group of freshly-arrived study abroad students at Boston University's satellite campus in Paris about my experiences not only in the program they were about to embark on but about life as an expat since then. It hasn't been that long since I was in their shoes, wondering where this brief stint in Paris would take me and hoping my France-French was at least as good as the version I was told I spoke in class. And it hasn't been all that long since I was in Olivia's shoes- falling in love with a Frenchman, pursuing graduate studies in Paris and thinking of ways to carve a solid place for myself in my adopted city.  

The first time I met Olivia, of the blog Oh La La Livia, I was struck by her confidence, bohemian spirit and drive to create. But what impressed me most was her courage to settle in Paris when home and family were in Melbourne, some 24 hours away by plane. But she's come at the right time - making contacts, sharing common interests and plights and even starting a side business are greatly facilitated by social media which was just beginning to gain ground in France when I was her age. Seeking inspiration for her jewelry business Cleopatra's Bling keeps her busy in Paris when she's not in class or traveling east to Turkey and India, her other great loves. Today, she talks a little bit about how she's made France feel like home.  

Describe what you love about France in three words
Food, coats and history. 

Something most visitors overlook in Paris?
I think that most visitors do the "usual" Paris highlights but because they are so crowded, this can sometimes jade their experience. The thing about the city is that you don't need to go far to experience its strengths. Just step outside your front door and go to a market, sit in a café and people watch or walk down the Seine. These are the kinds of activities that allow us to get to know this intricate and complex city well – both by observation and engaging with locals.
Paris Café terrace

Go-to source for creative inspiration?
I really like sitting in small cafés in my neighbourhood (Les Batignolles) with my notepad and writing down ideas for areas of my life for which I am always seeking new inspiration: my recipes, my blog, my e-boutique, future travel, etc. Being in this environment seems to have a creative effect on my reflection and I accomplished more!  I also love to go buy myself flowers at my local Marché des Batignolles- flowers make everything better and put colour into my day.

Something you've learned since living in France?
French!  I also make a point of looking up the origins of French traditions (such as la Galette des Rois) which makes me feel more integrated in the culture. I also receive daily expressions françaises which are fascinating- they give the historical origin of a phrase and then I can pull them out in French conversation to show my knowledge (I don't really do that, I'm just kidding). I've also discovered multiple things about myself.  Being in France and learning about the culture, history and food has given me even more desire to go traveling to learn more. My new favourite places are Istanbul and India but of course I also love the small towns of France where you can discover regional specialties.

Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
Can I have a little vent here? It frustrates me that they (on a general basis, of course, but hey I am going to generalise) think that their cuisine is miles ahead of any other cuisine and that they are the only nation that knows how to put together a decent meal. The amount of times I have received comments such as "Oh you're Australian so you eat McDonalds and English pudding? What do you even eat in Australia? There is no culture there, right?". I'd like to use this opportunity to bring to your attention, dear readers, that after the Americans, the French are the biggest consumers of McDonalds. Why are they still skinny and attractive? No idea, but I tell myself it will catch up with them one day.  I can't speak for the whole of Australia but in Melbourne, we are food lovers and have a wide variety of fresh produce. Colonised in 1788, we have a wonderful fusion food culture which includes all Asian cuisines and loads others. I think people should just be open-minded to food because it’s through cooking and regional dishes that learn and understand so much about another culture.

Olivia’s favorite neighborhood spots:

21 rue Brochant, 75017

Les Puces des Batignolles
110 rue Legendre, 75017

Her sights may still be set on Melbourne but she's certainly coming into her own in Paris. Follow Olivia's journey on her blog Oh la la livia and check out her budding boutique Cleopatra's Bling

{1st and 3rd shot courtesy of Olivia, café shot by me}

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