Interview: Gina Hunt – my Parisian dream
Welcome to the ‘MyFrenchLife™ Member Interview Series’ – interviews with savvy Francophiles from all around the world capturing their passion secrets and tips, all about their favourite places in France, from Paris to Provence.
As you read these interviews you’ll become immersed in the individual member’s ‘French Life’. You’ll also learn why France is so special in their eyes & how they came to be so passionate about this country.
Discover so much more about France in the process and you’ll personally benefit from the tips & discoveries these savvy Francophile frequent travellers generously share.
Introducing Gina Hunt
The first time I came to Paris, it was a short vacation – three days in Paris followed by two in Brussels.
As the plane, leaving Paris and heading to Brussels, taxied down the runway, I cried. I wasn’t ready to leave Paris then, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be.
Why do I love this city so much?
Part of it is the breathtaking beauty that surrounds us here.
From the architecture to the gardens to even the store windows, beauty is everywhere, and it’s an important part of French culture.
Sometimes just gazing on an elegantly designed building feels like I’m feeding my soul.
Then there’s the history.
I’ve always loved history, and Paris has over 2,000 years of stories to tell.
I’m constantly falling down a rabbit hole whenever I look up some interesting new thing I’ve learned. (Did you know that recent DNA tests have shown that Napoléon III wasn’t actually the nephew of Napoléon I? Crazy, right? Welcome to the rabbit hole.)
The focus of quality over quantity, in clothes, food, and maybe everything except vacation where quantity is probably equally important is something else I love here.
It’s not all Champagne and roses, for sure, but I love my life here, and I’m still head over hills for Paris.
My first trip to Paris
I was 41 when I visited for the first time and 42 when I moved here.
I’ve lived here for just over 10 years.
What I love about Paris – the 18th and the 2nd
Paris… I love just wandering!
Paris is ever-changing, so a wander in an arrondissement that I haven’t been to recently always reveals fun surprises.
My two favourite places are Montmartre and rue Montorgueil – the 18th and the 2nd arrondissements respectively.
- Montmartre has a village-like charm.
The cobblestone streets, the older architecture (untouched by Haussmann), the artists painting in the square, and the vendors selling crêpes from their windows all cast a spell. When I give tours of Montmartre, I always show people rue Lamarck which is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated streets in Paris. The architecture along this street is simply stunning.
- Rue Montorgueil is another charming street with lots of great terraces for a perch, a drink, and a little people-watching.
Am I a different person in Paris?
No, I think that I thought I would reinvent myself here, maybe become more chic or something, but although I’ve grown, I’m still the same me. My nephew tells me that I’ve become a city girl, and I certainly am Parisian. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
A la Biche au Bois
– I’ve been going there for so long that they know me, so it’s like eating with old friends in their home. Also, everything is homemade, and it’s all delicious.
45, avenue Ledru-Rollin,
– Frenchie opened shortly after I moved to Paris, and it feels like we’ve been growing as Parisians together. At first, you could call the restaurant to get a reservation. Then you had to go by or reserve before leaving after having eaten there. Then you had to be really lucky because they were always booked, and now I think they’ve got it figured out, so while you have to be on your toes and reserve online a few weeks out, it is possible – And they just got their first Michelin star! Much deserved.
5, rue du Nil,
75002 , Paris
– The first L’Avant Comptoir also opened the same year I moved here, 2009, and it’s been a favorite hang-out ever since. It’s fun, and the food and wine are great. Try the butter – it’s Yves Bordier butter, and it will change your life.
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon,
My life in the 15th arrondissement in Paris
I live in the 15th arrondissement, a residential area that tourists rarely see – unless they’ve wandered off the path to or from the Eiffel Tower.
It’s quiet, but that’s just what I want after a day of touring around the city, usually spending a good amount of time in some of the most tourist-heavy spots.
We have everything we need here – great boulangeries, fromageries, boucheries, etc., and my neighbors are (mostly) friendly.
I’ve been living in this arrondissement for 5 years, and although I sometimes miss living in the 7th which is so fabulously central and the 18th which is so charming, there’s a lot to be said for living in a quiet neighborhood.
I found an apartment that I love here – that’s why I’m here!
And there are many other parts of Paris where I would also love to live. I’m pretty easy to please… as long as I’m in Paris.
My favourite places to walk off-the-beaten-track
- Parc Montsouris is a large park in the 14th arrondissement.
It’s so green, and you’re allowed on the grass! It’s designed as an English garden, so it feels more relaxed and unstructured than, say the Jardin du Luxembourg. There’s a lake, over 1,400 trees, a puppet theatre, and when the weather is nice there are outdoor concerts too.
- The 17th arrondissement around Villiers is another favorite area.
This area is quiet, clean, and beautiful with gorgeous architecture and a great market street, rue de Lévis. And there’s an Arnaud Delmontel patisserie – where you can find what I’ve decided, after much testing, is the best caramel au beurre salé macaron in Paris.
My best purchase ever!
I was not really a purchase!
I adopted my cat ‘Luigi’ here from the SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux).
A recent memorable experience
A recent apéro where we were from at least 6 different countries (and at least 3 different continents) and all speaking French and laughing together.
Most notable exhibitions
- I love the Maison Européenne de la Photographie where there are always photo exhibits that make me smile or amaze me and
- the Philharmonie de Paris because the acoustics are amazing, and I’ve seen my favorite conductor (Gustavo Dudamel) there three times.
A few tips I’d like to share…
- Eat some Mont d’Or if you’re here between October and March.
- Take a car after dark from one side of the Seine to the other – beautiful, especially if they drive between the Louvre and le Jardin des Tuileries.
- Always say bonjour before asking for help.
- And try your French... they’ll appreciate it so much.
Gina, thank you so much for sharing your life and love of Paris with us. Your recommendations will certainly be useful for our readers planning a trip to the French capital.
To read other MyFrenchLife member interviews – inspiring Francophiles all of them:
1. Keith Van Sickle
2. Ray Johnstone
3. Henrie Richer
4. Virginia Jones
5. Gina Hunt – this one
Images: copyright all Gina Hunt