Robin Denise shares insights and tips on how to live in Paris
I recently had the pleasure to learn more about Robin Denise’s lifestyle blog, Péchés Mignons, and about what she loves the most about life in Paris
Like many internationals, Robin came to live in Paris to pursue her dream. In her blog, she shares ideas for activities to do in Paris, good areas and hotels to stay at, restaurants she loves and also funny stories
1. Who are you? What brought you to Paris?
I’m Robin. I was born in the US, and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve lived in England before (which I did not like at all) and Paris (which I loved). I currently live in downtown Stockholm, work in television, read a lot, run and do yoga. I love going to the movies, trying new restaurants and travelling. Aside from Paris, some of my favorite places are Berlin, Hongkong and Värmland, a Swedish region where our country house is situated, with a lot of lakes, mountains, cows and old cottages.
I visited Paris the first time about ten years ago, and at first, the city and I did not get along. I didn’t speak a word of French and although I thought Paris was beautiful, it was pretty daunting as well. Still, less than a year later I came back again and that time it just made sense to me. I fell madly in love with everything about it, and started coming back several times a year, and usually for a full month during summer. In august of 2013, I took a leave of absence from my current job in Stockholm and went to Paris for six months to study French. It was an amazing, and challenging, experience. As of today I am back in Stockholm but at some point I plan to live in Paris again. Meanwhile, I visit as often as I can.
2. Where does the name of your blog « Pêchés Mignons » come from?
I read quite a lot in French, and stumbled over the expression “pêché mignon”, meaning “guilty pleasure” or “vice”, a couple of years back. I was just starting a new blog, and I thought that it was a good name, as I write about things I like, such as food, film, books and fitness, aside from everything Paris. They are all the small pleasures that gives life a silver lining, but when indulging too freely might give you a bit of a guilty feeling. Not that it has ever stopped me!
3. Why should people read your blog, Pêchés Mignons? What makes it different from other blogs?
If you are in love with, curious about or just planning to visit Paris for a long weekend, you can find some inspiration and information on my blog. I don’t paint an overly romantic picture of Paris, because that wouldn’t be true and it wouldn’t be fair to the city that is so much more special than that. That being said, it is hard to post about Paris without sharing gorgeous views, the fantastic food, beautiful houses and flowers, cafés, parks… I share ideas for things to do in the city, good areas and hotels to stay at, restaurants I love and also hilarious stories about what might happen when trying to open a bank account when your French isn’t very good or having to call “les pompiers” in the middle of the night because water is coming through the ceiling of your Paris apartment.
I get quite a lot of emails from readers, and I do my best to answer their questions. I like that a lot, because it makes me feel like we have a good dialogue and I hope that the feeling is mutual.
4. What’s your favorite blog and why?
I read a lot of blogs but very few of them religiously. Rue Rodier (http://ruerodier.blogspot.se/) is absolutely beautiful and every time I read the blog I get an acute Paris deficiancy! I turn to The Hip Paris Blog (http://hipparis.com/) to find new, cool bars and restaurants to visit, Messy Nessy Chic (http://www.messynessychic.com/) for inspiration and Minimalist Baker (http://minimalistbaker.com/) for great, simple and healthy recipes. I also love Pinterest, which isn’t really a blog but I can get lost there for hours. My boards of inspiration can be found here: http://www.pinterest.com/robindenises/
5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog?
My best advice, which I did not follow myself, is to know what you want your blog to be. Is it a blog about your daily life? Is it a blog about your interest in gluten free baking? No matter how wide or specific your subject, try to define it to yourself. If you don’t know what your blog is about, people who happen by won’t understand either. Once that is settled, get creative! Write a blog about things that you would want to know.
6. Describe what you love about Paris in three words.
Beautiful, surprising and ever-changing.
7. What are the unique places you like to take out-of-town guests in Paris?
I have always loved the calm and beauty of Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. A good place to go afterwards is Le Perchoir, a rooftop bar on 14 rue Crespin du Gast in the 11th arrondissement, for some wine and a great view over the east side of Paris.
Three places slightly off the usual tourist map are Rue du Commerce in the 15th arrondissement, for some shopping and a truly parisian feeling, the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement for the romantic surrounding and the fairytale-like greenhouses and Belleville on the border between the 19th and 20th arrondissements, for some beautiful views, great food and cheap mojitos in hip bars!
8. What are your favorite shops in Paris?
I love Centre Commercial on 2, Rue de Marseille. The ambience is hip and cool and they have great pieces from Margaux Lonnberg, Suzie Winkle, Repetto, Valentine Gauthier and Naked & Famous. Also, down the street are outlets of some of my favorite brands, A.P.C., Maje and Claudie Perlot. The Conran Shop, right by historic department store Le Bon Marché, is like it’s own little universe of amazing interior design. Super expensive, not for us mere mortals, but so inspiring. Lastly, if you have the time I really recommend taking the RER (from Gare de Lyon) to La Vallée Village, an outlet village perfect for bargain hunting such brands as Vanessa Bruno, The Kooples, Michael Kors, Kenzo and Carven.
9. What are your top 3 must-visit restaurants or cafés in Paris?
One of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Sur les Quais on 37, Quai de Valmy in the 10th arrondissement. It’s small and simple but the food is wonderful. Que du Bon on 22, Rue du Plateau in the 19th arrondissement is another fantastic spot for food, traditional French food and a dreamy wine list with only organic wines. Last but not least, just around the corner from my old apartment in the 11th arrondissement, is À l’Ami Pierre on 5, Rue de la Main d’Or. This is as local as it gets. There is only one menu, written on a black board, and you have to wait your turn. On paying, you will be offered a little digestif.
10. Where would you go in France (outside of Paris) for a relaxing getaway?
This is embarrassing, as I have hardly been outside of Paris! I visited Provins, a little medieval village an hour and a half from Gare de l’Est, and I absolutely loved it. I want to go to Bordeaux for the wine and the surroundings, Marseille for the culture, food and climate and I would love to explore the villages and nature of Normandy.
11. What are your three best tips for feeling at home in Paris?
I get emails from people who ask me what level of French they need to live in Paris. I usually say that you can survive in Paris speaking English, but even if you find a job where you speak English, everything else will be a continual struggle: going to the doctor (no, a lot of them don’t speak English), understanding what the letter you got from your electrical provider says (imagine trying to call them to clear things up!) or even just ordering in a restaurant and having the waiter answering you in English (actually, most of them do speak English). You will feel like an outsider, and you won’t truly learn about French life and culture. Studying French in Paris will open up the world to you, and it is so worth it.