Paris has so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming if you try to do it all. In this interview, Cynthia Morris talks about how to visit Paris like an artist and how walking and wandering is a great way to see the city in a more relaxed way. We discuss how to manage museum and art gallery overload, how to pay attention to your curiosity and tap into your senses, plus we talk about some of our favorite places in the city.
Cynthia Morris is the author of historical fiction as well as travel memoir and creativity books, including Visit Paris Like An Artist. She’s also a coach, speaker and runs workshops in Paris and online.
- Wandering the back streets of Paris, taking it slow and allowing for serendipity
- Managing your energy when there is so much to see
- Eating and drinking well in Paris with recommendations for resources to find out more
- Tapping into your senses in order to see things in a different way
- The value of curiosity and slowing down when exploring a new place
- Recommended travel books about Paris
You can find Cynthia Morris at Originalimpulse.com
Transcript of the interview
Joanna: Cynthia Morris is the author of historical fiction, as well as travel memoir and creativity books, including Visit Paris Like an Artist. She’s also a coach, speaker, and runs workshops in Paris and online. Welcome, Cynthia.
Cynthia: Hi. I’m so glad to be here.
Joanna: We’re excited to talk about this today.
Why Paris? How did you come to fall in love with the city?
Cynthia: To go way back, when I was in high school and had to choose a language to study, I chose French because my grandmother, my mother’s family, is from Louisiana. And the family lore goes that my grandmother was not allowed to speak her native French in school, and she was punished for it.
So I took up French as a way to carry on the lineage. And then, instead of being at high school graduation, I was on a plane to France, to study there for three weeks. I got to Paris and fell in love immediately, and then spent a year studying in France. So that’s kind of how I got into it.
But then, why do I still love it? The city is such a unique city to me. I’ve been to other cities, but Paris stands out as a real testament to beauty. And also hospitality.
There’s such a way that the streets and the way the city is laid out and designed that make it really a place to hang out and just be out on the streets. There are wide sidewalks, lots of green spaces, water fountains, park benches, and then the cafes so that it’s a place where there’s beauty everywhere. You turn every corner, and the buildings are gorgeous. And then there are ways and invitations to pause and linger and enjoy. So, really, the beauty of it is what keeps me going back.
Joanna: It’s interesting because I feel like Paris is so famous. People are like, ‘Oh, I want go to Paris.’ But that can actually make it too touristy.
What are your tips for getting under the surface of Paris, and doing more than just the Eiffel Tower?
Cynthia: It is. It’s a total icon in the world of romanticism, I think. And so, for a long time, I was really chagrined that I was in love with a cliché. But writing Visit Paris Like an Artist really helped me to see how much Paris influenced my life and made me the woman I am today.
In terms of getting away from tourism, first, I would say, before you even go, get clear on what kind of trip you want to have. What’s important to you? Is it seeing all the sights, picking them off a list? Or is it more getting a sense of what it’s like to be a Parisian and live in the city?
I always rent an apartment. I never stay in a hotel, because, partly because I just need my morning coffee right away. And I like to have my morning time. I don’t really want to go out for food and coffee. So, I rent an apartment. And that helps me feel like I’m living there.
And then, in that way, I’m able to inhabit a neighborhood more than just visiting touristy sites. Neighborhoods, to me, are the key, for any city, but Paris especially has its 20 arrondissements. Each one has its own flavor. If you stay in one neighborhood, you can play with getting to know that neighborhood.
You go for your morning croissant, or you go and explore the streets. One of the things I like to do is I’ll have one thing a day that I’m doing. I will go to the Pompidou Center, or I’m going to something across the city. And I’ll make my way there. I’ll give myself plenty of time to go there, discovering things along the way.
Or I’ll give myself time afterward to wander around and explore a little bit, so I don’t spend a lot of time necessarily in touristy locations. Just getting to know the neighborhood and the streets is such a wonderful way to get to know the city.
Joanna: What are some of your favorite neighborhoods, the arrondissement that you have enjoyed the most?
Cynthia: Good question. I’ve tried to stay in different ones, so that I get to know the city more. When I was researching my novel, my historical novel that is set in Paris, I spent a lot of time in the sixth. And that’s kind of in the center. It’s on the left bank. A lot of art galleries and literary history are there. That’s in the Luxembourg Garden. I love that neighborhood.
But then I’ve expanded out. I really love the 11th, near République. Oberkampf, kind of from the Bastille up, and the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir goes up along there and it’s kind of in the middle. It’s a pedestrian walk with lots of trees, and they have markets there. So that’s really a beautiful strip, east of that. I love that whole neighborhood. And that’s where I’ve been staying more and more lately.
I’ve also been discovering the 9th and the 10th, which are just below Montmartre. And that’s where there are a lot of new businesses and artists, and a lot of the young creative class is in the 9th and 10th now, and the 11th. Someone called the 11th the ‘Brooklyn of Paris,’ just to kind of have a sense of the creative vitality of more new Paris.
Joanna: In terms of language, because, I mean, obviously, you speak French. Are you fluent in French?
Cynthia: I am. I have what I like to joke as a highly useful French degree. It actually has turned out to be useful. Going there every year and leading workshops there has been an extended graduate school for me, continuing to learn about the language and the culture. It’s just super fun for me to speak another language, and French is just really fun.
Joanna: If people don’t speak French, do you think staying in the neighborhoods is still worthwhile? There’s also a stereotype of French people being a bit standoffish if you try to speak terrible French.
What do you think about the language side of it?
Cynthia: It’s definitely easy to feel self-conscious about not speaking a language. But if you don’t, the fact is, you just don’t, and that’s okay. I think what I’ve always done when I go to a country where I don’t speak the languages is get a few of the phrases of politeness and the thank you.
Just a few phrases that show that you care enough to learn ‘thank you’ and those simple niceties. And if you do speak a little bit of French just saying it with a smile, like, ‘Oh, je parle un petit peu.’
And the French, in terms of the service class, when you’re in a restaurant or a cafe or something, they generally seem to like to play with you. The French are very flirtatious, so if you go in with a sense of play, and lightness, and maybe even a little flirtatiousness, they pick that up. They love that.
And then, most people that you’re going to encounter do speak English. And English is the international language. That is, if that’s a language you speak, if that’s your native language, too. I think just not being too hung up about it or self-conscious about it.
I went to Japan, and clearly, I’m not Japanese. I don’t speak Japanese. I went to Morocco recently. Again, I don’t speak that language. So just having a few words of politesse made all the difference, and people seem to be fine with it. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Joanna: Oh, that’s good. I agree. So, where are some of your favorite places to visit?
Where do you find artistic inspiration?
Cynthia: Oh, I could go on and on!
Joanna: Just a few.
Cynthia: First, as I said, just wandering around on the streets, there’s always something that you’re going to discover. And so, going out with a sense of discovery. This word, ‘flâner,’ is to wander and to just enjoy and let your curiosity guide you.
I mentioned the markets. I love going to the open-air markets, and when I have an apartment that it makes it easy to buy fresh produce, that just stimulates me so much, seeing the food, and seeing people shopping there.
I also love the cemeteries, especially Père Lachaise Cemetery. It’s just really one of the most special places on the planet.
Other cemeteries there, Montparnasse Cemetery, a lot of literary luminaries are buried there. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre in the Montparnasse Cemetery.
And then I like to go behind places. So, for instance, Notre-Dame, it’s right in the center of the city, everybody goes there. And there’s this big plaza out in front where you see a lot of people, but if you go behind Notre-Dame, there’s a wonderful garden, and a little park, and there’s shade. It’s much more quiet.
I’m always seeking out the quiet spots. So, behind Notre-Dame, if you go up to Montmartre, and you’re near Sacré-Cœur, go behind Sacré-Cœur, there’s another little park there. So, kind of going to any touristy place, and just kind of popping adjacent to it, or going behind is a place that I love.
I love, in Paris, the river is a really special part of the city. So, walking along the river or along the bridges. And then lastly, I’m always seeking out green spaces. So, while I love Paris, I am very much a sensitive person. I need to take breaks and get a little bit of nature. So the parks, the pocket parks, and the Luxembourg Gardens is a place where I always have to go and hang out. It’s a great place to recover from jet lag.
Joanna: That’s interesting. You talked about walking a lot, and wandering, and the flâneur type of way of life. I don’t even have a car, and living in the UK, I walk all the time. But I feel like it’s almost a lifestyle difference with Americans. I do find a lot of Americans, in particular, don’t actually walk that much.
Cynthia: It might be. I know there’s a trend of counting your steps, and walking as a fitness thing. So it’s more like, ‘I’ve gotta get my steps in.’ But walking, I love that you bring that up, because it’s really the best way to be in touch with a place, literally. You’re going to rub elbows with people. You’re going to encounter things.
You’re forced to slow down. You’re also going to get lost. I think that’s one of the best things you can do in terms of opening yourself up to serendipity, or synchronicity.
We can have our itinerary, we can want to do all these things on a trip, but getting lost and letting yourself surrender to where the current is taking you, I think is one of the things that usually gives us the most when we travel.
I’m not here to give you travel advice necessarily, but one of the things I would say is having too many things on the agenda, trying to cram too many things in, keeps you in that efficiency mode that you have at home, when we’re at home. We’re going on errands, and trying to get things done, and we’re not really slowing down and enjoying. So I would say don’t do that when you travel. Don’t pack your itinerary with things that you must do. That sounds like not fun to me at all.
Joanna: Or at least it’s a combination of both. I feel like it was probably the third or fourth time that I went to Paris that I could actually relax. Because before then, I was running around doing all the things I had to do.
Cynthia: Right. Well, there’s so much to do. It’s hard not to. I would say one or two things a day, with plenty of space in between for a nice lunch or time in the coffee shop… Always by the end of the afternoon, I’m just kind of full.
It’s a great way to just process everything and sit in a cafe, do some journaling, some sketching, whatever, just to rest and absorb it, and then go on for part two, the evening.
Joanna: Yes. Obviously, there are some key places that people will want to visit, for example, the Louvre. It is a must-visit if you are an art or culture lover, even an architecture lover. There’s some brilliant architecture around that.
How can we make the most of museums without getting overwhelmed?
Cynthia: Especially the Louvre, it’s just massive. You can’t really see it all. So, take advantage of maybe you do a guided tour. And there are a lot of Airbnb experiences that include a guided tour of the Louvre. I think that can help to concentrate and focus your attention and awareness. If there are specific pieces of art that you want to see, knowing what those are. And also knowing when you’re done.
I was at a museum last week, and it’s the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. And it’s chock full of art. It’s just so much. And then there was a point I was on the second floor, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m feeling faint. I’m done.’ So, knowing when you’re done, and then taking a break.
You can take a break in the cafe, or just be done. I’ve got maybe two hours in a museum. So, knowing yourself, and then knowing that that’s enough, and you can come back, and you don’t have to see everything. There’s definitely a point of diminishing return.
Joanna: Totally. I like to research in advance. And I think there’s definitely a balance between what you’re saying, getting lost and wandering. But if I can identify at least one thing that I definitely want to see, and then on the way to that thing, to notice a few other things.
But as you say, there’s so much in the Louvre, and there’s the Musee D’Orsay. There are so many museums and art galleries. You almost have to want to see something. Although I wouldn’t suggest it’s the number one thing on everybody’s list. It might be something a bit unusual.
I like sculptures, and within the Louvre, there’s a really lovely sculpture atrium. I like going there, and you can sit there. It’s open to the sky and that might be another way to address it.
Cynthia: Right, exactly. Knowing what are the things that you’re interested in, and focusing on that. I don’t think I went to the Louvre for a long time, because I’m not a big crowd person. I try to avoid the highly trafficked places. I much prefer the side streets.
I love Rue de Seine, which goes from the Seine straight into the sixth, and it’s just lined with art galleries. And that is a fun way to go, if you do get overwhelmed with crowds, or the Louvre seems too much, and if you want to see what contemporary artists are doing. That’s a great way to window shop. You can pop in here and there, and see what’s going on in the contemporary art scene.
Joanna: And of course, you talked there about stopping for a nice lunch. And obviously, we can’t talk about Paris without food and wine. I do think that having a croissant in Paris, and in France in general, is important.
What are some of the other things that you like to eat and drink, or what to avoid?
Cynthia: Well, every day, it’s the vitamin P, the daily pastry.
Joanna: I like that. I haven’t heard that before. I would agree.
Cynthia: I can’t help myself. It’s funny because I’m not eating pastries every day at home, for sure. But it feels like some kind of duty, because it’s so good. And I really don’t eat croissant or pain au chocolat outside of France much, because they’re just not as good. So, pastries, for sure.
One of my favorite places is, I think it’s in the 10th, it’s Du Pain des Idées, and it’s wonderful. And they also have bread. Some of the things I love, it’s kind of cliché, but the cheeses are just fabulous. Going to either a cheese shop, or an open-air market, or even just the supermarket, you can get a few cheeses, and they’re not expensive. It’s really great.
It’s refreshing to not spend so much money on them like we do in the U.S. And the baguette, and maybe a fresh tomato, having a little picnic along the Seine. I’m not a big crepe fan.
Joanna: No, nor me.
Cynthia: But they have some at the Popincourt market that’s in the 11th, that are just incredible. And there’s always a long line, which is great, because then you can watch them make them. And then I also sketch them making them while I’m standing there. And they’re just fabulous. So, that one place is where I go for that.
There are a lot of young entrepreneur hipster coffee shops in Paris now. And that’s one of the things that I really enjoy doing is discovering those, so, different areas of the city, I’ll go to one of those different coffee shops, for either coffees, do coffee tastings, have pastries there.
I don’t eat out in restaurants a lot, I have to say. If I did, it would be lunchtime. There’s a great Japanese restaurant in the third. I cannot think of the name. But it’s mostly not traditional French food that I enjoy. It’s more the things that go around it, the bread, the cheese, the pastries, the coffee, and olives.
Joanna: I would say if you are in the tourist areas, really avoid the tourist French food, like escargot and frog’s legs. And these are almost a joke now for tourists, right? It’s like, why are they even doing that? Maybe you should do it once, but that’s not really what French people eat anyway, anymore.
Cynthia: Yeah, probably not. And you’re right, definitely, I’d never ever, ever, ever, ever, never, never, never, never, ever eat within sight of a tourist site, because it will be bad, and it will be expensive. And I really, really work hard to never eat a bad meal, so I will go the mile. I will walk.
Joanna: That’s brilliant.
Cynthia: Why waste a meal on something bad? It just makes me sad. So, there are two resources that I use, because, like you said, you’re a researcher, and I am too. I will research to make sure that I eat well.
Two resources in Paris that are fabulous, one is a blog, and I think they do tours as well. Paris by Mouth is a great website. And they have reviews of restaurants. It’s pretty up-to-date. And they also do tours, which is a fun way to eat your way through a city.
And then, David Lebovitz is an American author and food professional. He writes the most fantastic blog. And so, he also has a subscription for his newsletter, which is $20 a year, and I’m like, ‘Here, David. Take this $20. Yes, I would give you more. You give me so much value.’
His writing is incredible. It’s funny and smart and helpful, and he’ll give some guides to places to eat. So, David Lebovitz, and Paris by Mouth, those are my go-tos for making sure that I know what’s up to the minute, in terms of what’s open, when it’s open, and where to go.
Joanna: That’s a great tip. We should say about the wine. What I find is that, just the vin de table, the house wine, is usually completely brilliant. If you’re on your own, you just get a glass or a carafe, which I don’t know, do they do that in America? It’s just three glasses. Three glasses in a carafe, which is very civilized when you’re traveling alone.
Cynthia: I love that. I’ve even bought a couple of them, the tiny, it’s like a glass and a half, or maybe two, and I bring those home. Those are great. I don’t know that they do that in the States. They do different size pours, like a six, five ounce or a nine ounce. There’s something like you have this little carafe, and you’re drinking your little wine.
I think the quality of wine is better there. Obviously, if you get a French wine, it’s going to be better. And then, if you go to a grocery store, there are just so many choices. And you can get a bottle for $5, €5.
Joanna: Yes, a couple of euros. And it’s good. I think that’s the difference. People think you have to spend €20 or something to get lovely wine, but there’s so much good wine that you can just go with house wine, and it’s good. You can really have a lot of good eating and drinking. I love your recommendations there. I’m totally going to go and have a look at those.
Cynthia: Cooking classes are a thing now. And cooking classes and food tours, and I just think that’s a super fun way to get a little deeper with the food.
Joanna: You mentioned sitting down and journaling and sketching. And your book, of course, is full of your wonderful drawings and pictures.
How does your visual art help you see the city in a different way? And any tips for people who aren’t necessarily so artistically talented?
Cynthia: I started doing the sketching and drawing in part because, as I mentioned, I’m a sensitive person. And it’s a lot of input when you travel. I think it’s thousands more inputs than you have on an ordinary day at home. So, I found that keeping a journal, sketching, was a way to process things, and get grounded, and not feel so overwhelmed or overstimulated. So that’s a great way or reason for keeping a sketchbook or a journal.
And if you’re like, ‘Well, I’m not an artist. I don’t do that,’ then I think some of the things that, in terms of ‘travel like an artist,’ what does that mean? When I wrote that book, I was like, ‘I can’t write just an ordinary guidebook, because there are already plenty of those, and how do I travel, and what is meaningful to me in the way that I travel?’
Some of that are just some basic things, like slowing down. I mentioned earlier, not trying to pack too many things in. If you’re operating on the efficiency imperative, you really haven’t changed your state of being from being at home. If you’re just rushing around doing stuff, then you might just add more stress, rather than enjoying it.
So, even if you do have a lot of things in the schedule, slowing it down a little bit, not having to be anywhere at a certain time, really helps me. ‘Okay, well, we’re going to be there, but I don’t have to be there at a specific time.’
And then, even just pausing. When you’re at a traffic light, you’re walking around and you’re at a traffic light, and that’s a forced pause, look around. Look and see how many things you can see. What do you notice? And doing that just randomly, just stopping, taking it in.
One of the things I like to do, I have two exercises that I do in my workshops, it’s sensual focusing and color focusing. Sensual focusing is where you go through each sense, and you shut down your eyes and you shut down the sense of sight, and you ask yourself, ‘What do I hear?’ And you tune into all the things you hear.
And then, ‘What do I smell? What are all the smells? What do I touch? What’s touching me? What’s the quality of the air?’ Slowing it down, and then opening your eyes and, ‘What do I see?’
Generally, after you’ve done that, and that takes just three minutes to go through each of the senses, opening your eyes, you really see in a totally different way. I call it focusing because it kind of like turns the dials on all of your senses, and really lights up your senses so you’re seeing more and feeling more, and colors are brighter. It’s like a magic trick.
And then the color-focusing one is just playful, where you set out and you say, ‘Okay, today, on this walk, I’m going to really notice green. I’m going to see all the different iterations of the color green.‘ And it’s so fun to do that, because all the other colors dial down and all the green dials up, and you start noticing.
And then you can play with naming them. So, ‘Oh, that’s French green,’ or, ‘That’s forest green,’ or, ‘That’s ugly-would-never-use-that-color green.’ It’s just a way to be playful, and notice more. Those are a few ways.
So, pausing, slowing down, using your senses more.
Those are some ways that if you don’t sketch per se, or consider yourself an artist. The last thing I would say around that is be curious. It’s very easy to compare. We go somewhere and say, ‘Well, this isn’t like that at home, and it’s not like that at home.’ And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Maybe also add in being curious, and playing with being open, like, ‘Huh, I wonder why they do that. That’s so weird. That’s so interesting.’
Joanna: Yes, and being a little bit outside your comfort zone, like you mentioned with the language. It’s not the same, but that’s part of the curiosity and the acceptance of things being different, and part of why we travel in the first place. Otherwise, we could just stay at home.
Cynthia: Exactly. I think you bring up a good point about the comfort zone. I think it’s just in our human nature to want to be comfortable. You go to exercise, there’s a part where you’re exercising and then you slowly start sweating and you’re like, ‘Okay, it’s okay to sweat and get my heart rate up and stress my body a little.’
It’s the same with traveling, and knowing what comforts you need. You really need good shoes. Don’t mess around with that. And you really need a comfortable bed, and you need a certain kind of food.
But then, being open beyond those basic needs, to, I can stay up a little later, or I can walk a little longer, or I can be courageous and talk to this stranger.
Everybody travels for their own reasons, but I travel to grow and to learn, and to be challenged, and to encounter and experience a little bit of discomfort. I think that grows me and develops me as a person, and as a world citizen.
Joanna: How have you dealt with the pandemic? I personally found it very, very hard to not be able to go elsewhere.
We had about nine months of lockdown, in several bouts, where we couldn’t even go too far from our houses. I felt like a bit of a caged bird, I think, sort of bashing against the bars of the cage, and found it very hard. How have you coped with this lack of freedom?
Cynthia: It’s definitely a different world that we’re living in now. We didn’t have restrictions about where we could go. Obviously, it wasn’t really, for the first year, going inside much. But my husband and I developed this Sunday ritual that I called LBR, long bike rides. We would get on our bikes and bike across town to a different neighborhood.
We were searching out the perfect breakfast burrito in every place we went. Seeing different neighborhoods, seeing new things, really, really gets me going. I love that. Even seeing new things in your neighborhood, walking down a different street, walking down a different alley, letting yourself be awash in wonder when you do see something.
Nature is a big hit of that, seeing things that are beautiful. ‘Oh, the leaves,’ or, ‘Oh, look at that flower,’ just noticing.
I think we had to really dial in our acute attention. Where we’re not encountering so many new things, how do we see things anew in our neighborhood, noticing the passage of time through nature, and the development of plants and trees. The long bike rides really helped.
And then, yesterday, I was in Boulder and I went for a hike. I came down off the mountain a different way and was walking through a different neighborhood that I’d never seen before. I was just full of wonder for about 15 minutes, looking, ‘Wow, look at that, look at these buildings,’ and just really noticing.
By the time I got to my car, I was so happy and filled up. So, really dialing up that sense of wonder, even in something as mundane as a street full of houses.
Joanna: Yes. I’ve ended up treating my country like a foreign place, and going to places that I haven’t visited, even though they’re closer to home, where in the past I would have jumped on a plane to Spain or got on the Eurostar and gone to Paris, rather than go to Wales, which is an hour from my house, for example. So, yeah, treating things closer to home.
You mentioned your husband there. I feel like many of the activities you’ve mentioned, the stopping and sketching or whatever, are more suitable to solo travel.
Do you do a lot of your trips alone?
Cynthia: That is a great point. And it is true. For many, many years, I was single, and traveled alone. I love it. And that was part of what I loved yesterday about going to Boulder and going on a hike and then going to the library. I was like, ‘I’m alone. I love being alone.’
Joanna: Me too.
Cynthia: Right? It just feels good. It’s more rest restful. I love being with friends and talking, but I think you’re right that a lot of that time that I spent alone was the journal, the sketchbook was a sort of ally. And I was never lonely with it.
Eating alone, I could always sketch, or sitting in a cafe sketching, and it’s sort of a friend-maker. People will come up and talk to you about it. But it doesn’t mean that if you’re not alone, you can’t use it. Especially, for me, any time I sit down for coffee or lunch or whatever, I get out the sketchbook, because I’m just impatient.
I wouldn’t say I get bored easily, but I will start eating more or drinking more than I need to, because I’m just sitting there. So the sketchbook has helped give me something to do, and occupy me, and get me grounded and centered.
I think if you’re with someone, you can do that. And maybe you need to just communicate, ‘I’m with you. I’m completely here with you. I’m just sketching at the same time too.’
And if you’re with family, say, if you have children, you may do it as a project together. The notebooks that I first started using were accordion albums, or they’re also called a concertina, where they open up, big spread of pages open up. And that’s a fun thing to do with other people.
You can get your kids working on a few pages down the row, and you’re working on this page. So, it could be something that connects you to the people you’re with. Definitely connects you to the environment. But it doesn’t have to be something that you can’t do even when you’re traveling with someone.
Joanna: I love that. I do travel with my husband, but I do like being alone. And on a recent long walk I did, a pilgrimage, a woman stopped me. I’m late 40s. And a woman stopped me, similar age. And she said, ‘Do you get scared of walking on your own?’
I found it very sad that someone would ask me that, because she obviously is scared. And obviously, we protect ourselves. But when you have traveled alone, or when you’re wandering around the streets of Paris, what about the safety?
If people are worried about safety of traveling alone, what do you think about that?
Cynthia: It’s really important. I do think everybody has their own sense of safety in the world. And based on experiences, or just thoughts or fears, I’m fortunate that I do feel safe in the world. I think that’s because I have not had anything terrible happen to me while I’m out there in the world.
Partly, I rely on my intuition. I really don’t mess with that. When there’s something in me that says, ‘Don’t go there,’ I don’t go there. Also, that goes to trusting my instincts around people. As a solo traveler, I really wasn’t going out at night much, so that’s why I don’t eat out in restaurants at night. I’m out during the day, and maybe I’ll go to an event at night, a reading in a bookstore or something, but then I’ll go home.
I do feel pretty comfortable in Paris. I bike in Paris. I will do the bike share. So, I feel pretty safe on the bike. I feel safe in the Métro. I feel like I’ve just developed a really solid way of being in the world.
I act as if I know what I’m doing. I’m aware of my environment. And this goes back to the acute, exquisite attention. If you’re paying attention, you’re much less going to be a victim, because you’re noticing things, like, ‘Oh, that person seems shady. I’m going to go away from that.’
Joanna: Well, at the end of the day, a big city like Paris, it’s the same in London or New York or Tokyo, or any big city anywhere in the world, it’s be sensible about things, about your safety, but don’t let the fear stop you from going and trying something new.
Cynthia: For sure. And if you are going out at night by yourself, that’s when you might take a taxi or a ride, car share home, and not take the Métro or a bike.
I really think the bottom line that I would say is really learn to trust your instincts, and don’t mess around with that, because that is really your number one safety tool, is knowing, ‘Oop, nope, don’t go there,’ or, ‘Oop, that person is not to be trusted.’ That is fail-proof, I think.
What are a couple of books you recommend about Paris or set in Paris, or about travel in general?
Cynthia: There are so many books about Paris and so many good ones. I mentioned David Lebovitz earlier. He’s written many books, and many of them are food-related. But one that I really loved was called L’appart, and it’s about how he bought and renovated his apartment. It’s one of those renovation horror show stories, if you really like to read those. That was super fun.
There’s another fun little book. It’s called Everything Paris: A petite encyclopedia of indispensable and superfluous information. And it’s just a delight. They’re these short entries that tell you things about the Métro, and about the sewage, and things. If you’re interested in facts and information, it’s really fun.
Lindsey Tramuta is an American journalist who lives in Paris, and she’s written two books that I think are fabulous. One is called The New Paris, and that really is speaking to a lot of the entrepreneurs and artists and creative people who are doing business in Paris. Her more recent one is called The New Parisienne. I was so impressed with that book.
It was really wonderful. She interviewed a good number of Parisian women, and really overcoming that stereotype of what a Parisian woman is. So that was super to get to know those women, and all different kinds of women, all different kinds of work. And then they also shared some of their favorite places in Paris. So, it’s both kind of pieces about the women themselves, but then about their favorites in Paris.
And then, if you like, Cara Black is an American author who writes a series of mysteries set in the different arrondissements in Paris, and I read Murder in the Marais, which is her first one, when I was staying in the Marais.
If you like to read books that are set in places where you’re traveling, I think that’s a lot of fun, because you’re inhabiting the city or that spot in a whole other level. And I think that’s really fun. So, she has a series of books that are set in the different neighborhoods in Paris.
Where can people find you and your books, and everything you do online?
Cynthia: I have everything online on my website at originalimpulse.com. My company is called Original Impulse, so it’s pretty easy to find me there, originalimpulse.com. I’m on Instagram @CynthiaMorris.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Cynthia. That was great.
Cynthia: Thanks, Joanna. I loved having this conversation with you.