Born and raised in Kansas, Alesa moved to France in 2014 to make her lifelong dream a reality. She currently works as a web designer and content manager for a handful of cultural websites and is eager to share her knowledge and love of French culture with other francophiles.
Alesa: I’d always dreamed of living in France and finally managed to come here on a scholarship after finishing my master’s in the US. I spent that first year in Montpellier, in the South of France, getting used to French life and perfecting the language, then moved to Paris to join my boyfriend and to continue my studies. I was excited to live in such a big, bustling, cosmopolitan city but, to my surprise, I quickly came to value the more laid-back sides of Parisian life – apéros on the banks of the Seine, sunny days spent reading in the park, afternoons of people watching at the café…
After 3 years in Paris, I just recently moved to Normandy, and while I’m appreciating the calmer, quieter aspects of my new home, I do miss a lot about Paris.
Alesa: I’m pretty happy being in a long-distance relationship with Paris at the moment. There is so much to do and enjoy in Paris, but when I lived there I quickly got caught up in work and responsibilities and didn’t take advantage of all the city has to offer. I love going back now when I can really set time aside to appreciate it.
Alesa: Housing. It’s so hard to find an apartment to rent and the apartments are small and expensive compared with the rest of France. That being said, I still think Paris is one of the more affordable big cities, certainly when compared to London, New York, or San Francisco.
Alesa: I’d say mostly the clichés of the Eiffel Tower, the wine, the baguettes. I thought that last one would be more cliché than reality, but I quickly learned that they all really do go buy their baguettes every morning and walk home with it under their arm! I still smile whenever I see that.
Alesa: How you could walk around the city your whole life and still find new and surprising spots. There’s so much tucked around every corner you could never see it all. You can’t get bored.
Alesa: Just next to the Buttes Chaumont there’s a sidewalk with a railing that overlooks the whole park. You can see almost all of Paris and there’s even a waterfall just below your feet. I love to stand there, look out, and let my mind wander.
Alesa: I’d have to say it’s the scene in A bout de souffle when Jean Seberg is handing out newspapers and talking to Jean-Paul Belmondo in the middle of the Champs Elysées. I really liked seeing an American speaking French in a French movie. It just seemed perfectly natural that she would be there and she fit in so well. It felt relatable and reassuring.
Alesa: I mostly stick to the classics, with Molière being one of my favorites (isn’t he everyone’s!?). I don’t generally read a lot of works by the same author, so I have favorite books or plays more than favorite authors. Candide by Voltaire is one of my all-time favorite books and Cyrano de Bergerac is one of my favorite plays. I’m trying to read more contemporary literature and I’m also starting to dip my toe into the world of bandes dessinées (comics). I loved Les Cahiers d’Esther!
Alesa: I think it would have to be something like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Soft and measured, loud and fun, operatic and quirky – a big mix of so many things that come together to make a classic that everyone knows and loves.
Sightseeing: Trocadero early in the morning, Musée Nissim de Camondo, Opéra Garnier
Stroll: Along the banks of the Seine or around the villas near Danube in the 19th
Cocktail bars: BarOurcq, La Perla
Restaurants: Dalmata, Roomies
Coffee shops: Léandrés
Chill: Buttes Chaumont, outside the Louvre at night
Gigs: Dame de Canton, l’Elysée Montmartre
Experience: Outdoor movies at La Villette
Don’t have a friend in Paris to point you to all the best places? You do as a part of our Urbansider Club! Join for free for access to personalized recommendations, downloadable guides, and a monthly newsletter with the latest from Paris as well as our new top addresses and experiences. You’ll also be invited to our exclusive Urbansider events in Paris.