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Anne Pawle, expatriate and world traveler, at the age of 24, left the BBC Drama Department in London, where she organised and attended the rehearsals and recordings of plays, to work as an au pair for a French family in the Haute Savoie. This enabled her to enjoy her free time during the winter by exercising her passion for skiing and, of course, learning to speak French.

She arrived in Paris with her husband in May, 1968, to stay on a friend’s boat moored on the Seine outside Paris. The May 1968 mini-revolution, a protest of general strikes bringing the country to a virtual standstill, kept them there. Opposite the boat lived a lady who encouraged Anne to come with her to work for an international organization in Paris rather than sunbathing. She worked for the organization for 30 years, ending her career by proof-reading, editing, and preparing books and reports for publication. Upon retirement, Anne’s book of drawings and poems was published. Later, she prepared a new bilingual book of texts and drawings called Leisure and Cultural Offerings in Paris, which is available from the publishers at www.Mot-Tech.com 

While working, and together with her husband, she spent 20 years of weekends restoring an old farmhouse forty miles from Paris. In continuation of this exercise, Anne has learnt Italian and worked together with a builder on the restoration of a house in a medieval village above the spa of Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany. Pictures of the house as well as her writings can be found (photo with blue and white striped sofas) under the blog section of the site: www.bagnidilucca.co.uk. Then, she spent 18 months in Berlin, where she signed on at the Galeries Lafayette’s website to participate in a Fashion Show on the main street outside the store, (see video) thereby gaining a contract with a modelling agency. Finally, back in France, her fluent French enabled her to take charge of the restoration work being carried out on her daughter’s 300-year-old house in the southwest of the country.

Just for fun I add the Fashion Parade video in which I participated in Berlin in 2012, organised by Galeries Lafayette:



AWP: What is it about France and women?

AP: French women have retained their desire to please and this is reflected in their clothing.

AWP: Some expatriates are predisposed, each in his/her own way, toward France: through fantasy, family or a cultural context at that time. Some may have already held a piece of their narrative. How was that the same for you?

AP: I came to France with the school and stayed in a hotel on the Place de la Sorbonne. I remember a warm night spent on the balcony, standing next to a Lebanese school-friend, who was chatting in French to the man on the next balcony under a star-lit sky. This night, as well as the size and taste of the strawberry cake that we were served that night in the restaurant must have left a lasting impression on my mind!

AWP: How has the idea of study abroad changed since you went? Do you think new technologies make a true study abroad experience obsolete?

AP: Nobody can ever replace the experience of living abroad. Every time I leave France and tell someone that I live in Paris, it is met with a sigh of wonderment that I could ever leave such a city, impressed on the mind as a city of love.

AWP: Several of our contributors have lived abroad as students or have taught school in France or Francophone countries. Many followers are preparing to study or live abroad. What would you say to them?

AP: Learn French as well as you can before you go. This is the best way to become integrated into French customs and way of life.


AWP: In your youth, what did you imagine your adult life would hold? What influenced this vision?

AP: I imagined a wider world than the one in which I was brought up, and so I set out to find it. I have lived in France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and visited Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Greece, Denmark, Russia, Spain, and the Republic of Ireland.

AWP: How did you get your foot in the door at the beginning of your career? 

AP: I started work in the BBC at the age of 17 as a trainee, probably due to the fact that my aunt was an actress and much inspired me by reading me the French poems that she had to recite for the BBC, and asking me to correct her accent when I was only 9-years-old. I must admit that my own accent in French, after 45 years of living in France, is still English. I only hope that my aunt’s French version of the poet Verlaine was sufficiently good to make the verse understood by French ears on the BBC’s Third Programme — the cultural programme of the time presented by a distinguished English poet.

AWP: Name the single book and movie, works of art and music, fashion or cuisine that has inspired you most.

AP: I have read a collection of English books used by a student at a Berlin university for her Master’s thesis on English Literature. These all relate to her theme which was the introduction, in the late the 18th century and in the 19th century, of women to the reading of novels for their own education, as well as their introduction to the use of books in lending libraries.

AWP: What is the last book you read?

AP: The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, often cited as an archetypal Gothic novel, and which was an inspiration to Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. The haunted castle and ghosts reminded me of my childhood readings of Enid Blyton and her Castle of Adventure.


AWP: Was being stylish important to you growing up? Is it now?

AP: Being stylish is not what I experienced when growing up after the war, when fashion shops were rare. It has now become more important to me since my Parisian-born daughter studied fashion in London and looks at the way I dress with a critical eye.

AWP: How do you define style or fashion?

AP: Style or fashion can be defined by a desire to invoke your individuality. I took part in a fashion parade on the red carpet in Berlin, organized by the French store Galeries Lafayette, which was called, “Du Bist die Mode,” or, in other words, “you are the ones who create fashion.” As a result of this, I was given a contract to model for a Berlin agency.


AWP: What is in your refrigerator right now?

AP: Salad, fish and vegetables.


AWP: What natural gift would you most like to possess? What talent are you most thankful for?

AP: I wish I could sing! In spite of that failing, a friend has invited me to join in the rehearsals of a local choir of 60 persons, where my voice is drowned out — luckily! I am happy, however, that I can write a little and draw a little.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® blog, French Impressions: Alice Kaplan – the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. Author and professor of French at Yale University, Ms. Kaplan shares her new book, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. By entering into the lives of three important American women who studied in France, we learn how their year in France changed them, and how they changed the world because of it.

How to find a (suitable) place in Paris, and other miscellaneous information, by Bénédicte Mahé. Frenchwoman from Brittany who is in her mastère-spécialisé final trimester doing an internship in Paris, shares with students how to find a place in Paris.

Vive La Femme: In defense of cross-cultural appreciation. Doctoral canditate and writer Kristin Wood finds Francophiles around the world divided about Paul Rudnick’s piece entitled “Vive La France” in the New Yorker magazine. As is often the case with satire, there is a layer of truth to the matter that is rather unsettling. Including comments from readers worldwide. 

I dream of Paris. Writer and educator Natalie Ehalt shares the quote from Napoléon, who wrote in 1795, “A woman, in order to know what is due her and what her power is, must live in Paris for six months.” To Natalie, Paris is the ultimate in elegance and style. It is old-fashioned, it is cobblestone, it is aprons, it is a chauffeur helping you step off the curb…

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2012 Anne Pawle. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.