Beauty Journalist and Author of Paris Dreaming
Where did your love of Paris come from?
My parents are both Francophiles, although my mother’s love of all things French goes way back. Her great grandparents were French, but were asked to leave their country in the late 19th century due to a failed royalist plot (le scandale!) and, after a disastrous attempt at trying to set up a coffee plantation in New Caledonia, ended up sailing into Sydney. Their yearning for the motherland filtered down through the generations to the extent that this side of my family simply believe that all good things in life come from Paris, or very close by. Mum dreamed of Paris as the capital of glamour as she grew up, and the idea of Paris became a kind of reward for her, for working hard at school and university, and at setting up her career. For dad, he came to appreciate France for its history and politics and social awareness — and the food, of course. Our first family holiday was to Paris, when I was aged five; we were instantly hooked. It was around Christmas and I remember being in this winter wonderland. Everything twinkled. I’ve gone back many times since and the lustre has never worn off.
What is it that draws you to it?
There are so many reasons I love Paris. One of the top ones for me is that it’s a kind of escape. It’s like a retreat in a way. Some people recharge their batteries at a spa with yoga and lentils; I take myself to Paris to walk around its cobbled streets and eat macarons. There’s an almost meditative quality to all the walking you do in Paris, with all its harmonious shades of beige and along seemingly endless avenues. Paris teaches you to be in the moment. You see more, smell more, taste more. Everything is heightened. So it recalibrates your perspective on what’s important, it reminds you to cherish the little joys in life. That might sound contradictory for a city that’s the capital of luxury, but it’s also a city of simple pleasure, where you can sit by the river, eating a baguette, and be in total bliss.
And then there’s also the beauty factor. Like many women, I love beautiful things. I fell into beauty editing for this reason. But one reason I stayed in this job for so long is that it took me to Paris so much. As a beauty editor, you’ll often go to Paris on a press trip or to interview an expert. It’s the capital of the beauty industry, of course, so you learn a lot there, from the perfume masters to the skincare scientists. But what Paris teaches you is that beauty is a much more holistic concept. Yes, Parisian women are groomed, but that’s a different, more abstract kind of beauty, because they’re not trying to look a certain way except like a better version of themselves. Because for the French beauty is not just in how you look, but it’s how you live and converse and read and eat. The French are aesthetically driven people and it’s on perfect display in their capital city. If you had to choose one adjective for Paris, it would surely be ‘beautiful.’ It just makes your knees weaken and heart flutter.
Being a writer for half your life, was it a natural progression to write your own book?
I think most journalists have ‘write a book’ on their bucket list. I’d been juggling clients and churning copy for so long that I’d pushed that particular task down the to-do list for many years. But when my two main contracts suddenly unexpectedly ended, I had time to stop and look at the bigger picture. The print industry was contracting and not what it used to be. And I felt burnt out from the pace of online. I craved having time to research and perfect long-form prose. And so I knew that finally getting down to writing a book would be the reinvigoration that I needed.
How much time did you spend researching?
Six months for the initial research and plan, which secured me an agent. We continued to work on the first half of the book for the next six months, until it was ready to shop around. I was soon signed up with HarperCollins, who gave me another four months to complete the manuscript. Then there were a few months of editing and tweaking.
Can you tell us about the artwork for the book? I adore the illustrations.
Aren’t they heaven? The Parisian watercolour artist Clementine Campardou has her studio, Blule, down the road from me in Bondi. I’d bought some of her artwork and always had her in mind as my dream artist. Fortunately HarperCollins agreed, and commissioned Clémentine for the cover illustration and those inside. I could not have been matched with the more perfect artist (her inner Australienne to my inner Parisienne). She knows Paris like the back of her hand, so the attention to detail was so loving and spot-on. And at the time, she was quite homesick for Paris, so that yearning — which the book is all about — really came through in the cover illustration.
Top ten places/food/stores/galleries in Paris?
Angelina — the velvety-lush hot chocolate will nicely fuel you’re a day of walking.
Les Deux Magots — the hot chocolate is similarly thick and fabulous but my favourite time is apéro, when you can relax and watch the world of the Left Bank (complete with its resident eccentrics and stylistas) go by.
Café de Flore — any time is great but I especially love it here for lunch, in the middle of a day of Saint-Germain shopping. I can’t go past the gooey goat’s cheese on toasted Poilâne bread, served with a side of rosé.
Musée Rodin — for the art, of course, but also the exquisite interior (the staircase is to-swoon-for) and the delightful garden.
Palais-Royal — the old arcades offer wonderful shopping options (Stella McCartney for one), or you can just sit in the garden and dream all day.
Tuileries — another garden in which to dream, but also admire the clipped trees and colourful flowerbeds, watch the kids sail old-fashioned yachts around the pond, and sigh over Monet’s waterlilies in the Orangerie museum.
Île Saint-Louis — this divine island has been preserved in all its 17th-century stone splendour. Buy an ice-cream from the Berthillon flagship in the main street, then eat it at the western tip, watching the boats and swans glide by.
Merci — the cool concept store in which you’ll want everything, from the linen bedding to the bobo clothes to the fresh juices to the cute little Fiat parked in the front courtyard.
Shakespeare & Co — before jumping into this rabbit’s hole of a legendary bookstore, grab a coffee or chai at the corner café (it’s good as you’ll get in Australia).
Bar Hemingway at the Ritz — a glorious ode to Ernest (and his love of drinks). Get here right on 6pm to nab one of the glossy tables, and settle in for a night of delicious cocktails (they’re pricey but come with substantial snacks) and entertaining people-watching.
Do your boys also love Paris?
Yes — which I’m quite relieved about! They’ve been once and still talk about going up the Eiffel Tower and eating way too many Nutella crêpes. Unsurprisingly, I’ve encouraged them to believe it’s the place from where all good things come.
What's next? another book?
I hope so … I’m just working on a few possible projects now to see which one will take off first.
Would you ever want to live there?
I’m mostly happy for Paris to be my dream, somewhere I dip in and out of — not my reality, which would mean paying bills, overseeing homework, battling with bureaucracy and the like. But having said that, I’ve long like to see my future self as a grande dame with a lovely little pied-à-terre in Saint Germain, sauntering down the Café de Flore every morning, Le Monde, under arm, for my morning’s croissant and hot chocolate. So we’ll see …
What’s your winter beauty hit list?
My favourite fix-it for dehydration is a hyaluronic acid serum, to plump up skin and prepare it for any other treatment serums; my current favourite is one by Vichy, which I bought recently in a Parisian pharmacy. For lipcare, I’ve never found a better balm than Lanolips 101 Ointment. And there’s nothing like a red lipstick to brighten up a wintry face; Dior’s 999 shade is a gorgeous classic.