Barbara Diggs

Author Image for Barbara Diggs

Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer who has been living in Paris since 2001. A former corporate lawyer, Barbara graduated from Stanford Law School and practiced securities litigation at a major law firm in New York City. Barbara later moved to Paris to work for another leading law firm where she handled international arbitration disputes.

In the end, Barbara decided that it would be much more fun to be a writer in Paris than a lawyer, so she quit her job. After traveling around Europe, overseeing the restoration of a ramshackle 19th-century country house in Burgundy, and simply enjoying life for a while, she began freelancing for various magazines and websites, including International Living, Forbes.com, Bankrate.com and many others. She has been International Living’s France Correspondent since 2012, and has also developed a thriving business writing online legal content for lawyers and law firms. 

She lives in central Paris with her German husband and two young sons. 

Archives

Beziers

Uncovering the Truth About This Charming, Medieval French Town

Was there some mistake? I had just arrived at the train station in Beziers, a large medieval town set upon a towering ridge in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the South of France. And I was feeling a little confused.

I’d heard a lot of contrasting information about Beziers. Some people insisted that it was a dispirited, neglected town whose saving grace was its medieval core. Yet I knew that it was home to a number of expats who raved about its charms. So, which was it?

Apartment in Paris

A Happy Life and an Apartment For $100,000 in Paris

For Lisa Anselmo, 50, keeping one foot in two very different worlds is one thing that makes her feel complete. Lisa has been splitting her time between Paris and New York City ever since she impulsively bought a small apartment in Paris three years ago following the death of her beloved mother.

France

A Healthier Lifestyle and Affordable Healthcare in Wine-Loving France

Would you become healthier if you lived in France? Maybe.

France is one of the healthiest nations on earth, if average life expectancy is any indication. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization (2013), France comes in at #9, with an average age life expectancy of 81.6 years. This puts the country well ahead the United States, which ranked #34, with a life expectancy of 79.

Paris

5 Places to Meet Expats in Paris

Planning an extended stay in Paris and worried about meeting other Anglophones? I have one word for you… Don’t. In Paris, we expats are practically tripping over each other, there are so many of us. By some estimates there are more than 200,000 American expats in Paris. Add to this tens of thousands of English, Irish and Australian expats—not to mention countless other expats who happen to speak English—and you’ve got yourself a very robust Anglophone community.

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Bikes, Beaches, and Oysters on France’s Secret Island

France has no shortage of elegant beach towns, but none transports you to a more graceful time and place than the island of Île de Ré. Floating in an ocean of clear blue-green water on France’s southwestern coast, this little-known island is a world of scrubby pine trees and golden shores.

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France’s “Secret Venice” on the Mediterranean

Of the handful of canal towns that fancy themselves the “Venice of France,” the port town of Sète, in the Languedoc region on France’s Mediterranean coast, comes closest to deserving that title. Its blue-green canals are stunning, wide, and elegant. And, as in Venice, they are an integral part of daily life. But, swap Venice’s sleek gondolas for Sète’s workaday fishing boats. And instead of multi-million-dollar edifices lining the canals, expect to see rows of lovely, pastel-hued, 19th-century buildings with rusting, wrought-iron balconies and flaking façades.

Lyon-France

3 Affordable Regions and Cities in France

Living in Paris is wonderful, but it’s not the cheapest place on earth. This came home to me recently when, after having a simple cup of coffee in a café, I got socked with a €6 bill. Almost 7 dollars, for a not-so-big cup of coffee. Argh. Not all of Paris is so exorbitant, of course.

France

3 Great Rural Towns in France

If you wanted to visit all of France’s most fascinating cities, one right after another, it would take you a couple of months to do so. But if you wanted to explore France’s most intriguing rural villages and towns, you’d need a couple of years—at least. France has thousands of rural towns and villages. While I can’t say that every single one will blow you away with charm, it seems that the country hosts an exceptionally high number of rural beauties.

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Mediterranean Living in a French University Town

For city lovers like me, Montpellier’s draw is its historic center, Écusson. Dating from the 10th century, Écusson is full of wonderful flagstone streets lined with timeworn, sand-colored stone buildings. Boutiques and shops, from upscale to funky, abound. Tree-lined squares, with their inevitable spate of cafés, reveal themselves at every turn. A pedestrian-only zone, it’s the sort of place you can never tire of exploring.

France Beach

Real Estate Gems in the South of France From $85,000

You wake in the morning and throw open the shutters to see a pure blue sky. Just as it was yesterday. And the day before. You return to your bed, content to gaze at the fluttering of the plane-tree leaves and terracotta rooftops outside your bedroom window, as you contemplate the delicious possibilities the day holds for you.

Paris

All the Romance of Paris Without the High Price Tag

From the cool allure of the Avenue Matignon boutiques to the glittering elegance of the Opera house, Paris is a city that makes you crave the best of everything. It’s a city that thrives on its glamorous reputation…and is known for its high prices. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: […]

France Beach

Retire in France for Under $3,000

“You live in France? Oh, you’re so lucky. I wish I could live in France.” Ever since I moved to Paris over 14 years ago, I’ve heard variations of these three phrases hundreds of times. Often the phrases are said lightly and I know the speaker has no strong desire or intention to move to France; it’s simply another way of saying that they really like France.

France

An Unspoiled Medieval Wonder in the South of France

Whenever anyone asks me to name my favorite part of France, my immediate response is always the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France. Whenever people ask me why, my answer always comes a bit slower. Images of vast blue sky, scrubby foothills with strange flat plateaus, deep red earth, and tidy rows of vineyard […]

montpellier

Where the Wild Flamingos Roam in France

When visiting the charming university town of Montpellier, it’s tempting to spend all your time exploring the medieval city center, Ecusson. There’s good reason for that, of course. Ecusson’s winding cobblestone streets offer enchanting attractions—boutiques, artesian workshops, leafy squares—at every turn. But there’s so much more to see in Montpellier than its historic heart.

Lyon

Lyon: The City Good Memories Are Made of

You know those moments where you see, hear, or smell a quick flash of something, and you’re suddenly reminded of another country or city that you’ve visited…a memory that fills you with an intense longing to return there? One of those moments happened to me the other day here in Paris. It was a beautiful, bright, late winter day—cold but so sunny I could feel the warm breath of spring. I was crossing a bridge, looking at the Seine river swirling below, when I was gripped with a memory of walking across a different bridge, in a different city, feeling the same cheerful anticipation of warmer weather ahead. The city I was drawn back to was Lyon in the Rhone-Alps region of southeastern France; the bridge was the Pont Bonaparte, spanning the Saone River. I had spent three days in Lyon last year in late winter, and my sudden longing to return was so intense that it surprised me.

France

Your First Choice for Retiring in Europe Is France

Even though I live in Paris, I still look through my monthly issues of International Living carefully, keeping an eye out for intriguing spots in the world that make me think—“What if…?” Tempting occasionally…but when it comes down to it, I still prefer the idea of retiring in France to anywhere else. Naturally, this feeling partly comes from the fact that France has been my home for nearly 14 years, so I feel comfortable here. But comfort isn’t what makes me seriously consider spending my golden years here. What does? It comes down to four things: Practicality, beauty, location, and way of life…though not necessarily in that order.

France

French Health Care: Why It’s Still A Bargain

It’s no surprise that many people considering a move to France are eager to know more about France’s universal health care program. The World Health Organization has recognized France as having the best overall health care system in the world. Health care costs are low, the quality of care is high, and nobody can be rejected for a pre-existing medical condition. What’s not to like? Expats usually gain eligibility for insurance benefits from the national health care system (known as Couverture Maladie Universelle or “CMU”) in either of two ways. First, you can become eligible by paying into the French social security system.

Paris

Why 30 Million Tourists in Paris Need Your Help

Paris receives about 30 million visitors a year, regularly placing it among the top three most visited cities in the world and creating an opportunity for the expat entrepreneur. One business model that has low start-up costs, low operating costs, and a potentially simple structure is the tour business. Yes, there are thousands of tour businesses in Paris. But if you develop a creative, dynamic tour that builds upon a personal passion that intersects with the desires of just a fraction of the millions who visit Paris every year, you can find great success despite the competition. For some visitors, Paris is the most beautiful city on earth, and they’re yearning to see its most stunning vistas and picturesque neighborhoods. For others, it is a culinary mecca, and they’re looking to immerse themselves in the food culture. For still others, it is the capital of haute couture, and they long to explore the footsteps of Yves St. Laurent, Chanel, and Dior.

Dordogne

How to Own a French Vineyard without Lifting a Finger

Owning a French vineyard is the ultimate dream for many expats—and it’s easy to see why. From Burgundy to Bordeaux, France’s vineyards lie in some of the most beautiful areas of the country and have produced extraordinary wines coveted throughout the world. To live in such an idyllic setting, drinking wine from your own grapes and playing some small role in wine’s ancient story, is a concept that’s both thrilling and gratifying.

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The Secret Rival of the City of Light… Even Parisians Love Lyon

Paris may be the darling of pretty much everyone, everywhere, but many French people aren’t quite as impressed. In a number of polls, the French have said “non” to Paris as their favorite city. Instead, they point to Lyon, an absolute stunner of a city in the Rhône-Alps region, as the best place to live in France.

Monpellier-France

Retire to the Friendly University City of Montpellier, France

Certain images are fixed in my mind of the French town of Montpellier. When I think of it, I remember cobblestone streets filled with students and a cheerful energy. I remember riding a sleek tramway entirely painted with bright, intertwined flowers. And I remember eating one of the most extraordinary meals of my life there at the charming Lozèrois restaurant, Cellier & Morel.

Glamorous, Elegant, Beach-Town Normandy

For more than 150 years, well-heeled Parisians have descended upon the golden shores of Deauville each summer, earning it the nickname “the 21st arrondissement” of Paris. And who could blame them? The small town is a mere two-hour train ride from the City of Light, on lower Normandy’s lovely Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast). And the natural, open beauty of Deauville’s beach effortlessly holds its own against the prettiness of beaches in France’s south.

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Buy a Glamorous Pied á Terre in Elegant, Beach-Town Normandy

It’s a quiet day in late June on the beach in Deauville. As I walk along the water’s edge, golden sand crunching beneath my toes, it almost feels as if the mile-long beach is all mine. Tranquility reigns right now, but a change is coming. Near the boardwalk, row after row of multi-colored beach parasols, elegant as Ralph Lauren models, are standing as ready as soldiers.

Towns and Villages in France Worth Considering for Retirement

Although retirement is still a good 20 years away for me, whenever I travel throughout France these days, I find myself thinking: “Now this place might be a great place to retire!” I thought it when I was relaxing on a sun-soaked café terrace in Aix-en-Provence a few months ago. And I thought it again as I strolled along a golden sand beach in Trouville, a seaside town in lower Normandy, a few days ago.

Paris

The Bewitching Joys of Paris on a Budget

No city in the world wears a cloak of glamour and sophistication quite the way Paris does. From the cool allure of the Avenue Matignon boutiques to the glittering elegance of the Opera house, Paris is a city that makes you crave the best of everything.

ShopCookEat

Shop, Cook, Eat: A Gourmet Income in France

For some visitors to France, a fulfilling visit consists of getting a couple of snapshots of the Eiffel Tower, dining in a classic brasserie, and bringing home a piece of France: a case of Châteauneuf du Pape or perhaps a wheel of brie.

bordeaux

The 5 Best Places to Retire in France

Countless people dream of retiring in France—and for good reason. France offers a seductive blend of old-world sensibilities and modern living, all wrapped up in one beautiful package. While it’s true that most people don’t retire to France to save money, life here can nonetheless be surprisingly affordable. So, where in France you should think about retiring? Consider these five prime towns and regions: 1. Bordeaux: A Lower Cost of Living in “Little Paris”… Bordeaux is a beautiful port town of 239,000 people lying along the Gironde river…

france-versailles

Live Affordably in These Five Towns One Hour From Paris

There are those who adore Paris but could think of nothing worse than living in the city center. Romanticism aside, Paris is a big city—and an intense one. After living here awhile, you start to notice that the streets are endlessly thronged. Scooters and motorcycles gun through the streets day and night. And most reasonably-priced apartments are about the size of a walk-in closet. The best way to revel in the advantages of Paris…

chantilly

A Fairytale Town Close to Paris…for Less

The small, pretty town of Chantilly is less than 30 minutes from Paris by train, but when you arrive at the station and take a lungful of fresh air, the big city couldn’t feel farther away. Chantilly (pronounced shahn-tee-yee) lies in the Oise department of France, 24 miles north-northeast of Paris. It is both the name of a town of 11,000 people, and of a larger commune that comprises several other towns and villages, bringing the total population to 36,000.

carcassonne

A Pied-à-Terre in the South of France: $676 a Month

Think you can’t afford to retire in the South of France? Think again. While it’s true that unless you’re fairly wealthy, you should cross places like Cannes, St. Tropez, and most of the pretty medieval villages of Provence off your list, there are still a number of south of France towns, villages and cities, particularly in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (my favorite), that offer a highly enjoyable lifestyle for a reasonable price.

Five Fabulous Towns—One Hour From Paris

Five Fabulous Towns—One Hour from Paris

If you’re a die-hard lover of Paris, there’s probably no possible place on earth to live except in a sweet, 19th-century apartment in Montmartre that offers a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Or among the teeming cafés near the Bastille. Or in the glamorous neighborhoods surrounding the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Paris real estate is cheaper on the outskirts of the 12th arrondissement.

Paris Real Estate: Tips for Buying in the City of Light

Now is a pretty good time to buy. Thanks to a weak economy and the flight of the wealthy to tax-friendlier countries, housing prices in most parts of Paris were (and continue to be) on their way down for the first time in over a decade. According to a recent Bloomberg news report, Paris prices fell by 2% in the last quarter of 2012 and sales volume is down by 20%. What’s more, prices are likely to fall further over the next year.

paris-winter

Paris: Europe’s Greatest Retirement Haven

No, Paris is unmatchable. It has bragging rights that other cities can only dream of. For centuries, people have traveled to Paris from all corners of the world to sip from its cup of sophistication and knowledge.

AGuideToBuying

A Guide to Buying Your Dream Property in Paris

It was a grey Saturday morning in December when we got the knock on the door we’d been dreading. It was the mail carrier delivering a registered letter from our landlord.

TipsOnLoans

Tips on Loans and Renovation Costs (in Paris)

• A mortgage broker can get you the best loan terms. When we first approached our regular bank for a loan, our representative gave us terms so abysmal that we thought we’d have to rent, after all.

paris-bistro

The Charmed Life of A Parisian Expat

Whenever someone asks me what I love best about living in Paris, I find it hard to answer. As you might imagine of the city of romance, living in Paris has countless charms. First, there’s the beauty. Even after being here for 12 years, I still have not grown blasé about the unabashed prettiness of Paris.

paris-winter

I Escaped to Paris, Thanks to This Earn-Anywhere Income

Last week, I had one of those moments when I realized how fortunate I am to have the life and career that I do. I am a freelance copywriter living Paris, which means that not only do I live in one the most beautiful cities in the world, I have the flexibility to actually enjoy it and my life here.

CoolBerlin

Cool Berlin: Five Places to Drink, Dine, Dance

Of all the ultra-cool things about the German capital, Berlin, here’s what I think is coolest: You don’t actually have to be cool to partake of the hip scene. Sure, like anywhere, failing to have neon-blue hair or a withering stare may bar you from certain places. But generally, to experience some of the trendiest restaurants, bars, and clubs, you need only know how to find them…literally.

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