Interview with Dominique Farrar aka Wannabe Française: on her love for Paris and her "happy" places in the 16th arrondissement.
Dominique Farrar is the face behind the blog Wannabe Française, where she documents her life as an American expat in France. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she moved to Paris a couple months ago with her French husband and two-year-old son.
Find out why she fell in love with the city of light and what are her happy places in the up and coming 16th arrondissement.
Blisshood: Dominique, you mentioned that you've fallen in love in Paris, although you've only been here for a couple of months. What has contributed to it?
Dominique Farrar: I think the whole slow way of life has been slowly growing on me over the years. I met my husband who is French about six or seven years ago and we'd make a trip to Paris every year around May and every time I just felt like it was too good to be true. It was just like a "pinch me" experience and when we decide to move here, I thought "well, that dream of what French life is like might not be true. I might get there, and real life will set in and it'll be a disappointment". But I've honestly found myself falling more in love with it every day.
Blisshood: So, you didn't experience a culture shock?
Dominique Farrar: No, I honestly dreamt of living in France.
Blisshood: You manifested it!
Dominique Farrar: I'd like to think I've manifested it (laughs). It took a lot of work and planning, but I feel like the honeymoon phase is just going strong and it's only been four or five months.
Blisshood: So, it's a forever kind of love?
Dominique Farrar: Yes, but I'm still finding new things to love about it every day, even with this very cold weather.
Blisshood: What part of Paris do you live in?
Dominique Farrar: We moved to the 16th arrondissement, that's the neighborhood my husband grew up in and it's the neighborhood we'd always stay in when we'd visit Paris so, we felt very comfortable moving to this part of town that we knew well.
Blisshood: Unfortunately, the 16th has a "bad" reputation, but it seems like it's not what you’ve experienced.
Dominique Farrar: Yeah, it's surprising how many people think the 16th is just a bunch of rich old ladies and just kind of a boring, quiet, "chichi" part of town. I think every area of Paris has something exciting to offer. What I love about the 16th is that it feels very family-friendly so, because we have a young child it's more important for us to have a bit of quiet and nice parks and wider streets and sidewalks for the stroller than to be in the "hip" part of town with all the restaurants and bars. So, yes, it is less "hip”, but it feels so perfect for raising a child.
Blisshood: I feel like the 16th is differently "hip". It might not be for everyone, but I really think it is an up and coming neighborhood. Are there any places in the 16th that you consider your "happy places"?
Dominique Farrar: Oh, I have a whole list. I feel like when you do stumble upon those "hip" places in the 16th it feels extra special. It's like these little pockets of coolness that are under the radar and people aren't necessarily talking about.
I love the Serres d'Auteuil. It's like this beautiful garden, arboretum. When I first went there, I thought to myself "you'd have to pay money to walk through a garden like this in California. It's just this beautiful public park with different animals, fish ponds. It's like a mini zoo. I love taking my son there.
On the flip side, you have really cool cocktail bars that are on little side streets that you'll stumble upon. There's the rooftop of Brasserie Auteuil that's pretty happening. [The 16th] is definitely not dead. I also love the Piscine Molitor.
Blisshood: Oh, yes! It's such an icon of the 16th.
Dominique Farrar: Yes, it's so iconic and it is way on the edge of Paris so, I feel like tourists don't really come to see it and a lot of locals make the trip to see it. But I think it's such a stunning place.
Blisshood: And with the book Life of Pi, for those that are huge fans, you should definitely go.
Dominique Farrar: Exactly and it's even more beautiful in real life. Those are just a few things that I love about the 16th.
Blisshood: In Blisshood we believe in following your bliss, how do you try to follow your bliss?
Dominique Farrar: Creating a new identity in a different country is fun and scary and intimidating sometimes. But since I moved here, I realized that I have a story to tell. I was a writer, I studied journalism in school so, moving to Paris has inspired me to get back into writing in order to share my expat journey with other people who might be doing the same thing or thinking about making the same move. So, following my bliss for me, I think my best days are when I've written something, and I've created something that I'm proud of. It takes a lot of focus and concentration. But, for me, following my bliss is really a creative endeavor; just knowing that I've put something out into the world that is hopefully going to be valuable to someone else...that's my bliss.
Blisshood: What would be two lessons that maybe you want to share with other expat moms? Or things that you just wished other moms knew about life in Paris.
Dominique Farrar: I would say one is "find your guru". Find someone who's done it before so that you can cheat off their notes and bounce your questions off of. Thankfully, I have my husband who is French and knew the system. But, to talk to other moms like you who already been down that road and can help make it a little easier, that's an absolute must.
My second would be "know that it's totally normal to have days when you're just crying uncontrollably for no reason" (laughs). Being overwhelmed is natural and I had a couple of those days where I just felt a little bit helpless like "I just don't know how to do anything here". I need my husband to translate things and it was just feeling very overwhelming. But, that's just part of the process.
Blisshood: For people that want to learn more about you and your journey, how can they find you?
Blisshood: I think you're past the wannabe part!
Dominique Farrar: That's what people say! But I think I'll always be a little bit of a wannabe.