Paris And I – Our 9th Anniversary

Carla Coulson_along the seine winter_All images from Paris Tango

It was nine years ago this week that I had finished Italian Joy, sent her bundled up off to the publisher and packed up my Florentine life and moved to Paris.

Unlike the modern traveller I poured myself onto the Eurolines bus with my worldly goods (an archive of negatives and photography books) and travelled the old fashioned way kilometre by kilometre from Florence to Paris.

There were a million thoughts going through my head as we drove through the night in a silent bubble with others slumbering around me finally passing the Italian border.  When I arrived in the Marais that first night I remember being filled with wonder and hope.

As the days passed it suddenly dawned on me what had happened.

I had arrived in a city where I knew no-one, I couldn’t speak the language, I had left my ‘happy place’ far behind in Florence, my love was finishing his architecture degree in Lyon and I was freezing my butt off.

Life became really difficult like someone turned the light off.

Carla Coulson place vendome christmas

Christmas Rue Castiglione Copyright Carla Coulson

But I had done this ‘moving country’ thing before. Why was it all of a sudden so difficult?

Naive as I was I didn’t understand there was a great difference between choosing a country  you want to live in and choosing one that someone else wants to live in (in case you have just tuned in hubby wanted to move to France).

I asked myself over and over again ‘had I ruined my life’, it certainly felt like I had. If moving to Italy for me had been a breeze this was a battle. Finding an apartment impossible, opening a bank account an olympic event without a gas bill and just hearing a ‘yes’ every now and then was a modern miracle. And I couldn’t understand a single word they were saying..

Paris has so many lessons to teach you. Paris was not mother Italy that opened her arms and dragged me to her bosom, fed me when things got rough or found a way around everything. At first glance she is a beautiful princess on the outside and a tough old bag on the inside who adores saying ‘non, c’est pas possible’ and entering her bosom is like prising open the door to Pandora’s box.

But when you finally enter there is stardust all around!

Carla Coulson_Dior Haute Couture Gown

Dior by John Galliano Copyright Carla Coulson

Photography, my forever muse saved me! She connected me to people and to Paris. My first job was to shoot the haute couture gowns at Dior, Valentino and Christian Lacroix and off I trotted into the magical world of Paris to become another victim to her enchantment.

The feast continued when I started to work on Paris Tango
and My French Lifeand I really had the chance see Paris in all her layers.

Carla Coulson PERFUME djordje varda at the Ritz Hotel Paris

Florist Djordje Varda at the Ritz Paris Copyright Carla Coulson

But if our reason for being on this planet is to evolve as human beings, to learn and grow there was a reason I needed to live in Paris. I had so much to learn and she has taught me so much.

Carla Coulson dogs metro

On the Paris Metro Copyright Carla Coulson

You see before I turned up here I was a ‘pushover’. Paris gave me a backbone, she taught me to stand up for myself and alllowed me to find my voice. She taught me that many things are worth fighting for even if they are on a daily basis!!!

Carla Coulson_Buying Tea at Mariage Freres

Buying tea Marriage Freres Copyright Carla Coulson

Paris is the keeper of beauty, she understands patina and discretion like no-other country and she will hold off on that reno as long as she can because she knows in her heart that peeling paint is an additional layer of life and part of her story.

Carla Coulson_artist hippolyte romain

Artist Hippolyte Romain Copyright Carla Coulson

Paris showed me how she respects the world of artists and their art. To live in a world where art is valued and treasured makes my heart skip a beat.

Carla Coulson_luc making baguettes

Baker in the 9th Copyright Carla Coulson

And no-one loves tradition like France. There are still people that give up a lifetime of nights to bake bread the way it was always baked!

Carla Coulson -chimney sweep

Chimney sweep going down my stairs Copyright Carla Coulson

Or to come and clean your chimney like something you imagined only existed in a children’s book.  I nearly died with love the first time my local chimney sweep knocked on my door with his ‘pipe cleaners’ swung over his shoulder. Are they serious I asked?

primo maggio 2

Lady selling Muguet at Bastille Markets Copyright Carla Coulson

And traditions like selling Lily of the Valley on May Day are alive and well and dear women like this one fossick in the forest to gather it and sell on the street corner on the 1st of May.

Carla Coulson BLACK AND WHITE OR LES PARISIAN Jules and Yann at La Perle

Yann and Robert La Perle Copyright Carla Coulson

And the Parisians themselves are a wonderful lesson in beauty, discretion and I adore how they speak in ‘whisper quiet’ voices as they chat to each other across a small wooden bistro table.

PARISIANS cafe st Germain La Palette

La Palette Paris Copyright Carla Coulson

Paris showed me that love is all around if you open your eyes and look for it.

Carla Coulson Shay Marais night

Dancer Shay Stafford in the 2nd Copyright Carla Coulson

That beauty is in the details and the form.

Carla Coulson Moulin Rouge

Backstage Moulin Rouge Copyright Carla Coulson

And the fantasy!

Carla Coulson pont des arts

All Images from Paris Tango Copyright Carla Coulson

I now hoon around Paris on my old bike like I have known her forever. There are moments when I come screeching to a halt, mouth hanging open like a labrador dog in wonderment at something I have just seen. Paris is full of surprises, there is one at almost every corner.

Paris taught me to be grateful for daily happiness, friendship and love.

And no matter what happens in the coming years, baby it has been a hell of a ride, you have taught me so much and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to have floated around your streets, your cafes, your museums and your gardens. To have walked hand in hand across the bridges with the man I love and hugged you close to me.

Looking forward to our 10th year together!

‘Rick (Humphrey Bogart): If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman): But what about us?
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): We’ll always have Paris.’

From the movie Casablanca





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9 years ago

Beautifully written and photographed, as always, Carla!

Nicole Landgrebe
9 years ago

OHhhhh sounds like Bliss to me, you have just transported me back to just a few weeks ago, I dream of Paris in all its glory…. exactly as you have told it here…. Congrats Carla on 9 magic years…..

9 years ago

So beautifully expressed – and what a life-changing journey! Thanks for bringing us along for the ride. See you soon, C xx

9 years ago

Wonderful words. amazing places and beautiful photos. What more could a girl want?

9 years ago

Beautiful story and photos of such a magical place. Thanks for sharing Carla!

9 years ago

What a magnificent, heartfelt post. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learnt. You are really making the most of your one precious life. It’s so inspiring. Xx

Corrina Tough
9 years ago

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love Paris any more than I already do…………. Simply thanks Carla xx Corrina Tough

9 years ago

….and to think I went west instead of south……..emigrating to the US when I could have just popped across The Channel which was right outside my door, darn it! What was I thinking!

Really amazing photos Carla and your story is so lovely – I can imagine the early years were hard but look at you now!

Thanks for sharing all this loveliness with us – I hope to return to Paris soon, then on down to the Languedoc where my brother and his family live. I desperately need a French ‘fix’ soon.

Hugs – Mary

sharon - my french country home

Carla, this is so beautifully written, I read it twice. And the photos … well that just goes without saying



Elizabeth Garbellini
Elizabeth Garbellini
9 years ago

One day Carla, I hope to experience Paris just like you. Your photographs are just so beautiful. LizXX

Bev Norman
9 years ago

Carla,I enjoyed this post immensely! The two weeks I spent in Paris this fall as a “flaneur” gave me a real sense of the layers to be discovered. When I returned home, I found myself starting to miss “her”. Although it had not been my first time to the city, it introduced me to the “layers” for the first time. Bev

9 years ago

Carla, This really spoke to me as I have moved 10 times over my many years of marriage when my husband was transferred. I always had to start over. But as you say, love is all around you if we look! My youngest daughter lives in England and is married to her love, a Brit and I sent this to her. Next May, I will be in Paris for the third time and this time I am bringing a special friend who recently lost her husband to cancer. She is starting over also. I love your beautiful photographs and the woman selling the bouquets has to be one of my favorites! Thank you!!!

La Contessa
9 years ago

I so understand what you are saying about Italy and France but I have to say you conquered those PARISIANS!You ordered a MAXI TAXI by phone!!You delt with the GUARD in the TULLERIES and you could understand the MACHINE in the LOUVRE!WELL DONE!I think I may have crumbled having to change countries again!!!I have to tell you I am reading THE PROMISE right now by LISA and can barely put it down!Another GREAT story hoping it gives the connection on how you two met!The chimney sweep………you had waited for him all day when we met in the Gardens that day!LOVE THAT PHOTO of him skipping down your stairway??What an adventure…………HUMPHREY is right!You two will always have PARGI!!!!!XXXXX Lucky YOU!

9 years ago

Hello from Toronto Carla….. Beautiful heartfelt words and marvelous pictures. I have two of your books, Paris Tango and Italian Joy. Any time I need reminders of both places, I just pick up the books!! Thanks.

Francesca Muir
9 years ago

Such a wonderful tribute Carla – so evocative and full of passion. Love it. See you soon. F xx

9 years ago

I lived in Paris briefly back in ’96. After two children and many years back in Australia, your words still brought a tear to my eye. Paris…it never leaves you and changes you forever! Beautifully written. Thank you

Nathalie DeSouligny-Blanco

Happy Anniversary Carla! What a beautiful post and i believe that you captured Paris perfectly!

9 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story and wonderful photos.

Pam / Parisdise
Pam / Parisdise
9 years ago

Gorgeous read – I can just imagine you when you first arrived here in Paris. It’s now your home – you are lucky you have three beautiful homes, Australia, Italy and France. Always loving your photography and love those three little quotes at the end. Allez hop – To the prochain dix ans !!! xo

9 years ago

As always Carla – your words and photographs allow me to live vicariously the life I would have liked to have live. Beautifully written and stunningly captured xx

Claire Lloyd
9 years ago

Carla this is a rely beautiful post, it’s really touched me xx

9 years ago

Do not know I missed this. Absolutely lovely – as always. Thanks for sharing Carla.