I have a strong connection to Paris. I have French cousins, I lived here in my 20s and I've visited a lot over the years for work. When we sold Sass & Bide just over two years ago, I'd owned the business with my lifelong friend Sarah-Jane Clarke for more than 15 years and I was starting to crave newness and change. We were in a fortunate position to have built the business to a place of good health, and suddenly both my husband, Nico, and I had a little window where we were free to move, or to explore and travel.
We liked the idea of giving our girls, India, 11, and Elke, nine, a second language and quickly settled on the idea of moving to Paris. It just felt right. We booked tickets and a month later we'd rented out our Sydney home and were off. We were moving with the current.
There's the romance of Paris, of course, and a history that's constantly revealing something new. But more than that, I love the anonymity that's possible here. I feel like you could live in Paris forever and never really feel like you know the city inside out. It's always revealing new layers, and that's especially exciting if you're a creative person.
Our Australian home is in Palm Beach. We used to have a little boat and would be out on Pittwater each weekend and always barefoot. That's what we adore about Australia and our life there, but our Paris existence is very different. It's much more about the culture and weaving that into our day-to-day life.
Our next big leap was buying our 250-year-old stone manor this year in the south-west of France. It's about an hour's drive north of Bordeaux in the Médoc. We moved here at the end of July and will spend the next year transforming the property and loving her back to life. The house hasn't been lived in for a couple of years, but has amazing bones - all stone with beautiful four-metre ceilings. It feels like it just needs a big hug, children's laughter, flowers and light.
It's a very different existence again to what we've had in Paris, but we're excited about another change. I don't feel like we're leaving Paris entirely, though - this is just our next adventure in France, and the plan is to get back to Paris at least once a month. Inspiration is on tap in Paris, and that's like food for me, like fuel. Every time I step out my door I feel like the city will take me somewhere. The architecture, the galleries, the parks - there are always new discoveries to be made.
Thankx God I'm a VIP.
Thanx God I'm a VIP is one of the largest vintage shops I've found in Paris - an essential one-stop shop, in the 10th. It's curated well and everything is colour-blocked. They have a great selection of pieces from the old, classic French fashion houses - you can often find Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Hermès, for instance - and there's a menswear section. The owner is really helpful, too. I always leave with something great, even if it's just a new belt or a gorgeous scarf.
The 9th is a great area for vintage. It's not far from Montmartre and has been up-and-coming for a while now, with a village-like feel to it. You can see a lot of the neighbourhood on the walk to Célia Darling. There's a good mix of the old fashion houses, including amazing Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, and some unknown, more interesting pieces from the 1970s and '80s. Thanx God I'm a VIP, 12 rue de Lancry, 75010; Célia Darling, 5 rue Henri Monnier, 75009
The only way I can lure my husband to Clignancourt is to take him to Ma Cocotte, an atmospheric restaurant in the middle of the market. It's not high French cuisine, but they do a great burger, and classic French roast chicken with amazing mash. Nico loves the desserts. You can't book, so get here by midday and ask to be seated upstairs - there's a great energy and good art on the walls. Afterwards, walk off lunch by wandering through the labyrinth of vintage and antique stalls. Ma Cocotte, 106 rue des Rosiers, 93400, Saint-Ouen.
Astier de Villatte.
It's so well known now, but I still visit Astier de Villatte to buy porcelain - beautiful espresso cups, big bowls and candleholders, for example, or ceramic trays to hold jewellery. They've just opened a new shop in the 6th near Saint-Sulpice. Another must-see is Tsé & Tsé. I always leave with something unique and love their selection of handmade porcelain, fairy lights and ceramics. Astier de Villatte, 16 rue de Tournon, 75006; Tsé & Tsé, 20 rue Moreau, 75012.
It can be tricky finding things to do with children on the weekends in Paris. You really need to get creative and plan ahead. Jardin d'Acclimatation is by far the best children's playground we've ever been to; it's a zoo, garden and amusement park all in one, at the centre of the beautiful Bois de Boulogne. We always take a picnic blanket, baguettes, cheese and fruit for a picnic and arrive around 10am, before the crowds, and have a really fun few hours. You can also hire bikes just outside the front gates of the park and ride around the lakes and ponds of the Bois de Boulogne. Jardin d'Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne, 75016.
The Broken Arm
The Broken Arm.
The Broken Arm in the Marais is part-store, part-café, and it feels like a new Paris to me, part of a new movement of places that offer something outside the traditional French brasserie breakfast and brunch. The shop section does a really avant-garde buy - labels such as Loewe, Jacquemus and Vetements, for instance, and I'll often pick up Yohji Yamamoto trainers here. On the bottom floor there's a great selection of art and fashion books and magazines, and you can walk directly through the shop into the café for an organic brunch, good cup of coffee or fantastic open sandwiches (the tuna with bean sprouts is my favourite). The Broken Arm, 12 rue Perrée, 75003.
Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt
I buy a lot of vintage clothing for our daughters and myself at the brocantes, or markets, not to mention unique furniture, china and wonderful objets trouvés. My favourite among the brocantes, Clignancourt, is where I feel most like myself. There's this warmth from the people and the atmosphere. I have to visit each week - I need it like air to breathe. I've bought some very special things here: a clam shell - just short of a metre wide - that's actually a lamp, and some great hand-painted African lamps from the '50s. For antique or market lovers, I recommend an app called Brocabrac, which tells you where the nearest brocante is being held in France, how to get there and what its specialities are. Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm, Mon 11am-5pm; Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, rue des Rosiers, 93400, Saint-Ouen, marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com
A good idea if you're staying in central Paris is to hire a
Vélib', one of the public bikes, before 11am on Sundays. Everyone
knows about the bikes but the real tip here is the time to hire
them. The entire city is asleep until midday, so by heading out
early you can have the busiest streets to yourself. The four of us
fly down the centre of the Champs-Élysées tout seuls without a car
in sight or care in the world, and then we go and try out new cafés
in the 8th and 1st arrondissements. en.velib.paris.fr
Parc de Bagatelle
Picnics in Paris are a real highlight for me. It's not a super-green city, but it has the most beautiful parks. Not far from d'Acclimatation in the 16th is Parc de Bagatelle, one of Paris's four botanical gardens. Go prepared with a map - it's very big and it's easy to get lost. There are beautiful rose gardens and a stunning orangerie in the park, just waiting to be explored. Parc de Bagatelle, route de Sèvres à Neuilly, 75016.
We lived in Paris's 8th arrondissement - it's calm, clean and was within walking distance of our girls' school. It was a great family existence, but sometimes I missed the grit and yearned for the "real" Paris. This particular market offers that. Musicians play here in the warmer months, you can pick up some great Lebanese food to eat on the spot, and there are beautiful herbs and spices for cooking Asian dishes. I'd often head to d'Aligre to pick up fresh flowers like hydrangeas, or just stock up on green foliage to scatter throughout the house. Tue-Sun 7.30am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm; Marché d'Aligre, Place d'Aligre, 75012, marchedaligre.free.fr
This shop stocks my absolute favourite linen - the handle and wash is unbeatable. There are quite a few Caravane shops in Paris and they stock lots of other homewares - gorgeous blankets, rugs, tableware and cushions - but I love their linen in particular and the colour palettes: beautiful, muted pastels in mushrooms, soft dusty pinks and grey-blues. The scented sprays are also amazing. I sometimes put their orange-blossom water on the sheets after making the bed - a beautiful touch. Caravane, 9 rue Jacob, 75006, caravane.fr
Hôtel Particulier Montmatre
Heidi Middleton at the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt.
This hotel with a restaurant and bar is hidden off a
cobblestoned street in Montmartre. It has so much charm and
character. The restaurant offers high-end French gastronomy and a
great wine list, while the downstairs bar, Le Très Particulier,
full of palms and greenery, serves beautiful and exotic cocktails -
keep an eye out for the Elderflower Martini. The garden is an
incredible spot for a drink before dinner - very intimate and
bohemian, a sort of fantasy storybook garden. The hotel feels like
it inhabits another world, and yet it's very French at the same
time. Hôtel Particulier Montmartre, 23 ave Junot, Pavillon D,
A friend of ours, former architect Guy Griffin, opened this café last year in the 11th. We go often for all-day breakfast of amazing shakshuka eggs and the world's best banana bread. We love it because it feels so cosy and familiar, and has outstanding food, excellent coffee, and a different and interesting cake every week. Café Oberkampf, 3 rue Neuve Popincourt, 75011, cafeoberkampf.com
In the past couple of years this area, straddling the 19th and 20th arrondissements, has really taken off. There are lots of contemporary art galleries in Belleville with younger, up-and-coming artists well represented. I always love getting lost in this neighbourhood and stumbling into new galleries. Antoine Levi gallery is one of my favourites - I love his eye. For art lovers, it's a must. Antoine Levi, 44 rue Ramponeau, 75020.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Aux Merveilleux de Fred.
When you go to someone's house for a meal in France it's protocol to put some thought into the gift you bring. These bite-sized, highly addictive meringues are my family's most adored treats, and a nice alternative to a tart or chocolates as a gift. Whether it's the salted or burnt caramel, cherry, classic chocolate or any other flavour, really, they're all little love-explosions and dissolve instantly in the mouth - we'd often buy a box of 12 and they'd all be gone before we got home. There are numerous Fred shops in Paris, but the store in the 7th is a unique space, with a great chandelier. Aux Merveilleux de Fred, 94 rue Saint-Dominique, 75007, auxmerveilleux.com
Heidi Middleton is a creative consultant on Hands of Fashion, a new brand launched by the United Nations-sponsored Ethical Fashion Initiative, providing employment for artisan women's groups in developing countries. She is set to launch her own online fashion and art atelier in 2017.
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