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An expat author in Paris: John Baxter

John Baxter, 24/08/12John Baxter is an Australian-born writer, film critic and literary tour guide, who has been living in Paris for over twenty years.

We asked him about his life, inspirations and one of his more recent books, ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris’, in which he recalls and recounts a year he spent giving literary walking tours through Paris.

John, how would you describe yourself in three words?

Driven international author.

John Baxter, 24/08/12You have been living in Paris for over 20 years, but had lived in Australia, England and America prior to this. What took you to Paris in the first place, and why did you decide to settle down there?

The short answer is “I met a girl”. The long answer takes up a large part of my book ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’. It took 15 years and two other marriages for me to realise she was my ideal wife. Since she’s Parisian, it followed that I should leave Los Angeles, where I was then living, and move here.

Before then, I had no ambition to live in France, couldn’t speak French, and knew Paris only as a periodic visitor. It quickly became apparent that this was the city where I was always destined to put down roots.

Do you consider yourself ‘Parisian’? What does being ‘Parisian’ mean to you?

If I am Parisian, it’s only by adoption. Not every Parisian would accept me as one of them. Fortunately, most people in Paris come from some other region of France, so I’m in good company.

Unlike the occupants of other cities in which I’ve lived – Los Angeles, London, Dublin, Sydney – Parisians make no claim to represent or symbolize anything. Though this is technically the capital of France, the loyalty of Parisians is exclusively to the city itself. To be Parisian is to respect and celebrate before all else the city’s traditions and patrimony. As I write in ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’, “Paris is my church”.

John Baxter, 24/08/12

You live in the apartment building in which Sylvia Beach, the founder of the famous ‘Shakespeare and Company’ bookshop lived. Did your neighbourhood inspire your work or did your interests lead to your life in the 6th arrondissement?

It was coincidence – or fate, or what Karl Gustav Jung called ‘synchronicity’.  The family of the woman with whom I fell in love and married had occupied that apartment since she was eleven, unaware of its significance in literary history.

Your Paris favourites

John Baxter, 24/08/12Place to eat…
Au Bon St Pourçain, rue Servandoni, 6ème.

Place to drink…
For an afternoon glass of wine, Bouillon Racine, rue Racine, 6ème. For cocktails, the bar of the Lutetia Hôtel, boulevard Raspail, 6ème.

Place to shop…
I don’t shop. My daughter and her friends distinguish between ‘buying’, which is what I do, and ‘shopping’, where the pleasure is in the process, and one may not necessarily come home with anything at all. The only place I indulge in that sort of ‘shopping’ is at brocantes and the weekend Marché aux Puces at Porte de Vanves.

Place to play (a nightclub, a park, a museum etc.)…
Jardins du Luxembourg, 6ème.

Place to go for a day trip…
Illiers-Combray in Eure-et-Loire, the childhood home of Marcel Proust.

Favourite bookshop…
As a book collector, I do most of my book buying for pleasure at the second-hand book market which takes place each Saturday and Sunday at Parc Georges Brassens on rue Brancion, 15ème. For new books, I buy online or download to my Kindle.

Read part 2 of our interview with John here, as we discuss writing and how the idea for his book was born.

Tell us about a walk that changed your perspective – join the conversation below.

Image Credits:
1. John Baxter
2. ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’, via johnbaxterpari
3. Sylvia Beach, via johnbaxterparis
4. John Baxter by Akira Chiba, via johnbaxterparis


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  1. Hannah Duke
    6 years ago

    I find that simply looking up is the perfect way to get a different perspective – even on a walk you take every day. You’ll see people in their offices and apartments (a bit creepy), gorgeous architecture, and the trees and sky!

    So that’s not really one walk, but it’s a good way to guarantee that you get the most out of your walk…


  2. Cyndie Bowen
    6 years ago

    One of my favourite walk in France is near my hometown in Carcassonne: I like to walk along the Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO listed site, built in the 17th century. It’s now used for pleasure boating between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.


  3. La Bree
    6 years ago

    The first time I walked the streets of Aix-en-Provence it was a sunny, tranquil summer day. I knew from that moment that I would always long to discover more of that je ne sais quoi that is quintessentially French. I realized that la France will always intrigue me, remind me to open myself to new experiences and ultimately remind me to appreciate life and love.


  4. Celine Mangiardi
    6 years ago

    I really like walking in Le Marais district in Paris. All those tiny streets, with no cars and beautiful buildings. People are very creative there. Lots of nice shops with a real identity, convivial restaurants and cafés, good looking people and an unique atmoshpere. There is no such place as Le Marais in Paris.


  5. Nicole
    6 years ago

    Thank you for inviting beautiful memories! While I was living in Nice, a new friend invited me for a walk, and walk…we did. We walked past Coco Beach, Pan Bagnats in hand. We walked past the Château de l’Anglais, through Villefranche-sur-Mer, then into Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where, after 2 hours in the late June sun, we reached our destination – The Euphrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens. If the walk wasn’t inspiring enough…. I thought I could walk no more but I was humbled by the edifice, the fountains and oh, the GARDENS! We walked for hours more, losing ourselves in the flora before our time was up and the slow trek home began. Beaten by the sun, we hopped on a bus in Villefranche to ferry us the rest of the way home.

    Surely a change in perspective from Ottawa, Canada!


  6. Kah Kit Yoong
    6 years ago

    A walk probably similar in parts to that described in this book was a significant moment for me as a photographer. At some point, my perspective changed from that of a tourist caught up in the dazzling icons of Paris to that of an observer watching the daily street theatre. Somehow in this city those seemingly insignificant moments of its inhabitants take on a special gravitas. I recall this change seemed to happen quite suddenly one day after walking from my hotel in St Germain, down the boulevard to the ‘three cafes’, crossing over to the right bank, and then on to the two islands, further up to Bastille and the Marais. I’m sure I must have made a few pitstops but I ended up returning via the left bank. This time instead of sitting absentmindedly, I would have observed things like how the terrace tables in Paris were always round and not square. How the chairs were always made out of that straw wicker material. How pets sat at the table just like normal patrons…


  7. Judy MacMahon
    6 years ago

    Congratulations to our three lucky winners: Nicole, La Bree & birdingbesty
    – we hope you enjoy the book!

    Remember to stay tuned to Ma Vie Française™ for more exciting offers!