Charming parks, exciting nightlife and plenty of picnics on the Seine; post-lockdown life in Paris is pretty perfect for Kiwi expat Verity McRae.
How long have you lived in Paris and why did you move?
I moved to Paris in August 2020 to take some time off from my career in communications and learn French. I spent all last year working as an au pair, which gave me plenty of time to explore the city and begin my bilingual journey.
What are your plans this year?
This year I'm continuing working as an au pair and improving my French at a language school. I also intern at a Paris-based website/blog, HiP Paris, to keep my skills fresh. But mostly I am going to enjoy my last year with plenty of time on my hands before delving into my masters in brand strategy and marketing next year in Paris.
What do you love most about the city?
Due to its large size and melange of cultures, there is truly nothing you cannot do or find in Paris (except Whittaker's chocolate). Paris has allowed me to explore my interests and try new things that I never could in NZ, which has grown me incredibly as a person. I hardly have a night to myself these days as I'm constantly out at events, bars, picnicking along the banks of the Seine, and more! I truly am a big-city person, which is why Paris suits me so well.
What are some favourite spots in Paris?
My favourite area is undoubtedly Le Marais (4th arrondissement). The area is quintessential Paris, with all the beautiful boutiques, boulangeries (bakeries) and architecture. It's also home to one of my favourite parks in Paris, Place des Vosges, which is undeniably beautiful and Parisian.
What was the Covid response in Paris like for you?
The first day I arrived in Paris last year was the first day they imposed the use of masks everywhere, which was a bummer considering it was still very hot. A few months later the whole country went into another lockdown but it felt very different from New Zealand. Curfews were constantly broken, the 1km range for exercise was always exceeded and social distancing really wasn't a thing.
Thankfully, on the day of my birthday, in June, most restrictions lifted and life has largely been normal ever since.
Did you ever consider coming home?
I never considered it seriously given the challenge of actually getting back into the country with MIQ. And it still seems rather impossible even today, so I never think of it as an option. I hope I can come back to visit for Christmas 2022 if the MIQ situation changes, otherwise I am unsure when I will be able to return.
How is the city now? Do things feel "normal" again?
Apart from wearing masks in indoor spaces, things feel very normal again. Everything is back in full swing and the city is incredibly lively with tourists returning.
Have you travelled since Covid?
Yes, I've done a lot of travelling this year – Spain, Italy, Denmark and a great deal of France. Italy was incredible and really blew my mind with its beauty, history and, of course, food. I also enjoyed the weekend I spent in Copenhagen this month. There are no Covid restrictions at all in Denmark and it felt incredibly liberating to walk in and out of stores without having to stress about finding your mask or if you were walking too close to people. A highlight was definitely Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen's theme park. We went to the park late on a Saturday night and were stunned by the beautiful lights that really transported you into a fairy tale world.
Where do you dream of travelling next?
I have a trip planned for Amsterdam in November with a group of friends and my boyfriend, which I am so excited about. Therefore, we're likely to spend the weekend celebrating and hitting up all the tourist hotspots like the Rijksmuseum.
Do you miss anything about New Zealand?
Naturally I miss my family and friends the most. While I've formed some wonderful friendships here, sometimes I miss spending time with people who I've known my whole life. However, I am incredibly content with my life in Paris. From time to time I crave Tim Tams or a pie but thankfully there is a very cool bar in Paris (The Black Sheep Society) run by an awesome Kiwi who serves delicious pies.
What advice would you give Aucklanders still in lockdown, and New Zealanders still unable to travel overseas?
Just try to remember that it isn't going to last forever. Go out for walks when you can and spend the time to learn something new. I enjoyed having time to sit down with a book and read classics I'd always promised myself I would.
Do you know a Kiwi expat living overseas who would like to share their experiences? Email email@example.com with Life After Lockdown in the subject line