Expat tales: Karina Clarke shares her love of Paris with holidaymakers every day
Picnics in the park and drinking wine in rooftop gardens are all in a day’s work for Karina Clarke.
Where are you from?
What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
A trip to Paris the year before moving there inspired the move. We were looking to head overseas, and Paris seemed so exciting. We stayed on Rue de Buci in Saint Germain, and I remember wandering around wide-eyed. I didn’t have a pre-conceived idea of what it would be like to live there, just a feeling that I wanted to try. I arrived 11 years ago, just in time to be wowed by the July 14 fireworks.
Drinking coffee and wine on Parisian terraces are among Karina Clarke’s favourite pastimes.
What do you do there?
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What are the greatest advantages to living there?
Accessibility to amazing cultural activities. The size of the city means being able to meet friends, last-minute, for a drink without having to drive. The work-life balance, excellent transport system, ease of travel to other countries, respect for artisans and excellence, the markets, and the long, light evenings.
It can be tough to get admin things sorted out, and is crowded and noisy. I had to harden up a bit when I arrived, but maybe that’s just being in any big city. Also it’s so far from New Zealand. Like all my Kiwi friends in France, the thing we’d most like is a teleporter.
It’s always a good time to visit Paris, Karina says, but September is her favourite month.
I guess I drink more wine, which is great value. A pint near the Champs Elysees could set you back around 12 euro ($21), but normally 6-8 euro in a low-key neighbourhood and maybe 3.50 euro if you go at happy hour.
Fruit and vegetables are definitely cheaper, as are cheese, wine and bread. Ordering tea at a cafe is crazily expensive though – I got out of that habit years ago.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m lucky since my work means I spend a lot of time out and about in Paris, which is what I love the most. At the moment there are picnics, outdoor cinema, lazy afternoons in the park, and drinking coffee and wine on terraces, or on rooftop gardens with my laptop.
Breakfast on a balcony in Paris.
I’m taking a drawing class and I go horse-riding as often as possible just outside Paris.
What’s the local delicacy, and would you recommend eating it?
Yes, I’d absolutely recommend trying everything, although choose your restaurant with care. Paris does pastry and tarts best. They are literally everywhere and taste as good as they look. Delicacies such as steak tartare and escargot, I wouldn’t miss, although they’re really not bad. Then there are all the amazing cheeses and so many Champagnes to choose from.
Easiest way to get around?
Walking and biking, metro and bus in the city centre, and the trains are great for trips out of the city. Don’t expect to hail a cab easily.
Preparing a welcome basket for a guest on the Ile Saint Louis.
What’s the shopping like?
Chic clothes can be expensive. It’s best to wait for the twice yearly sales. It’s fun though, the French know how to window dress and the presentation is gorgeous.
There are the grands magasins (department stores) for serious shopping. Malls aren’t a big thing, although the newly renovated Les Halles is pretty cool but less charming than the boutique-lined streets of the Marais or Saint Germain. There are streets such as Rue Saint Honore for luxury brands, and flea markets where you can occasionally find a gem.
Best after-dark activity?
It really depends on what you’re looking for, and you can do anything. Clubbing isn’t a big thing, but drinks and taking a really long time talking over dinner is a popular pastime.
The food and wine are two of the best things about living in Paris, Karina says.
Best time of year to visit?
I love Paris at any time, in every season. It’s quieter tourist-wise from November to April. In August, some things are closed while Parisians are away on holiday, but when it’s calmer, the city has its own charms. My favourite is September when everything is open again, people come back to work in a good mood, and the city is buzzing with new exhibitions and shows starting. I love that we get two new starts to every year.
What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?
Take time for the small pleasures – walking, admiring the beautiful buildings, going to the markets, taking coffee on a terrace, having a long lunch, an aperitif in a cosy bar leaving time to be spontaneous.
Paris knows how to do luxury, and it’s the city to splurge in if you can. Depending on your budget, go to a Michelin-starred restaurant (lunch is a better deal), fancy spa and a ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier.
Come for at least five days, rent an apartment and do an activity like wine-tasting, or a bike, walking or food tour. It’s sociable and makes you feel more connected.
Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
It’s an expensive flight. Last year, I was lucky and went twice, once as a surprise. The huge bonus is that I can take some of my work with me.
For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?
I’m not really sure. The Kiwis I know in Paris are mostly in creative industries – advertising, animation or making some of the best coffee in the city.
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Karina prefers shopping in the boutiques of the Marais and Saint Germain to department stores.
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