Retire to Paris

Retire to Paris

Day-glow sunrises and sunsets over the River Seine, fresh breakfast croissants on your private balcony overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral, public transportation practically at your doorstep…

Try retirement in Paris, France; it’s as romantic and magical as you imagine, and it’s easier than you think.

My husband Jim, 75, and I, 63, discovered our perfect retirement here after three vacation visits. We had a desire for something different after 22 years in our St Petersburg home in Florida. That desire became an obsession for my husband Jim, who wanted to have the adventure of life in the “City of Light.”

Our initial plan called for a year in Paris. Now, more than six years later, we don’t have immediate plans to return to the U.S. Despite the troubled dollar and unpredictable stock market, we have little trouble enjoying everyday life. Paris feels like home.

Paris isn’t the cheapest destination, but it’s more affordable than you think. The trick is to move past the “you’re on vacation” mentality.

Daily afternoon foraging at a patisserie (a mouth-watering pastry shop), can be justified on vacation, but living here we remind ourselves: It does cost money and add calories. While some wine may be less expensive than exotic bottled waters and imported soft drinks, a brasserie or wine bar tab can easily add up if one consumes multiple glasses at $4.25 a pour. And take heed: Une carafe d’eau (a free pitcher of tap water) is perfectly acceptable and healthy when dining in France.

Café life continues to flourish in Paris, and the legendary Café de Flore and Café les Deux Magots attract celebrities, locals, and tourists.

They command legendary prices, too. A café crème or a cappuccino can set you back more than $8.50.

While these hot spots remain on our list for entertaining visitors and special occasions, for everyday coffee stops we have a different itinerary. A neighborhood coffee shop just around the corner from our fifth arrondissement (neighborhood) apartment offers French immersion—few tourists or English speakers—and terrific coffee for less than half what the more glamorous cafés charge.

And making friends is easy. On a stay in the local hospital so many U.S. expats turned up to visit me that doctors asked if Jim was a diplomat or president of a global company. Our answer was of course no; Jim is a retired electronics engineer and I’m a freelance journalist. It’s just that we built a community in France through joining and volunteering.

I have good French neighbors, who met us at the door when I returned from the hospital to offer help and support. We feel included in café visits and holiday gatherings. We profit from international friendships, the terrific public transport system, and life is enjoyable if you are interested in culture, art, and good food. There are so many things that are free or reasonably priced. Big-city life is good here.

Editor’s note: You can read Pamela’s full article on Paris—including local tips, costs, and budgets—in the current issue of International Living magazine. You can subscribe here.

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