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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

HistoryInspires

History Inspires a Money-Making Revolution

Sarah Towle never meant to become an entrepreneur. when her husband James’ job brought their family to Paris in 2004, she thought she’d enjoy kicking back in the City of Light for a while, then return to her career as a linguistics teacher. “At the time, his assignment was for two or three years, so I didn’t think it would derail my career completely, just put it on hold for a little while.”

paris

Pick Up a Bargain in Paris

Unsurprisingly, Paris offers fashion mavens a clothes-shopping adventure like no other. Just passing the glitzy fashion houses like Chanel, Prada, and Dior on the Avenue Montaigne or Faubourg Saint-Honoré will make you feel as if you’ve tumbled inside the pages of Vogue. But if you don’t have $400 to blow on a napkin-sized scarf, you’re better off heading to the Marais neighborhood, where you can find classic Parisian chic at more affordable prices.

ASavyShopper

A Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Paris

Unsurprisingly, Paris offers fashion mavens a clothes-shopping adventure like no other. Just passing the glitzy fashion houses like Chanel, Prada, and Dior on the Avenue Montaigne or Faubourg Saint-Honoré will make you feel as if you’ve tumbled inside the pages of Vogue. But if you don’t have $400 to blow on a napkin-sized scarf, you’re better off heading to the Marais neighborhood, where you can find classic Parisian chic at more affordable prices.

Florence-Italy

Slow Down and Enjoy the Moment in Tuscany

Each summer, my husband and I perch ourselves on the house’s upper terrace and gaze out at the valley below. Shimmering there in the heat is Florence. It thrills us that beneath the haze lies a trove of Renaissance treasures: Michelangelo’s David… Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome… Botticelli’s Venus, standing tall and tranquil on her scalloped sea shell. In just 20 minutes we can be down there…

SecretBurgundy

Secret Burgundy: The Lure of Yonne, France

For many people, the word “Burgundy” usually brings to mind either a deep purple-red color or an excellent bottle of wine. Here’s what comes to my mind… Fairy-tale woods, winding trails, velvety-brown cattle sitting heavily in the grass, nipping at clover. Springtime hills draped in lemon-yellow blossoms…

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Christmas in Paris

When I first moved to Paris, France more than a decade ago, I had high hopes for my first Christmas season. I just knew that this special city, already so magical, would transform itself into something extraordinary.

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The “Sweetness of Doing Nothing” in the Hills of Florence

Forty years ago, long before Under the Tuscan Sun was a twinkle in Frances Mayes’ eye, my parents-in-law bought a 14th-century stone house on a woodsy Tuscan hillside just outside the city of Florence. The foundation of the house dates back to the Roman period and the jagged bits of stone wall found on the lower terrace, underlining a stretch of silver-hued olive trees, is Etruscan.

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Travel with a Twist: Becoming a Professional Best Friend in Paris

Wouldn’t it be great to have a best friend who lives in Paris? She could take you to the secret cafés and corners that locals love but the guidebooks miss. She could give you tips on dealing with surly French waiters, and boost your confidence as you test your high school French. She’d be someone to call if you get lost. And someone to laugh with over a glass of wine.

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Certaldo: An Oasis of Calm in Tuscany

In Tuscany, it can seem nigh on impossible to find a worthy sightseeing destination where you’re not elbow-to-elbow with fellow travelers. That’s part of what makes Certaldo such a treat. The masses often whizz by this stunning hilltop town in Chianti in their rush to visit nearby Siena or San Gimignano.

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Discover the Secret Castles of Puisaye, France

The magnificent chateaux of France’s Loire Valley get the lion’s share of attention from tourists and guidebooks. But castle-lovers willing to slip off the beaten path will discover equally fascinating—and much less crowded—châteaux in the enchanting, woodsy region of the Puisaye, northern Burgundy.

tuscania-italy

Enjoying a New Life in Italy

“Ever since I was young I’ve always loved ancient Italian history and ruins. In fact, I was so drawn to Italian history that I remember seeking out Roman ruins on a trip to England,” says expat Cathy Powell. It’s only fitting, then, that Cathy eventually moved to Tuscania, a small town with deep Etruscan roots in the Lazio region of Italy.

Insider Tips—Getting Started in France

Insider Tips—Getting Started in France

I’m writing this on a stunning terrace café overlooking the Louvre. Later, I may stroll along the banks of the Seine or among the city’s elegant boulevards. Life in Paris is good. And it’s no surprise to me that so many expats are here enjoying a better quality of life… After all, I’m one of them.

Living and Working in Burgundy, France

Living and Working in Burgundy, France

I’m just outside of a tiny picturesque village in Burgundy, France. It’s only two hours away from the clamor of Paris, but it feels much farther. Here, I am surrounded by gentle curvy hills blanketed by golden blossoms and emerald-green grass. Behind me, the village, a cluster of stone houses and a 16th-century church, waits quietly. Before me, a thicket of pine trees lines the horizon.

Make a Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Vézelay

Make a Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Vézelay

As you climb the steep path rising through the pretty medieval village of Vézelay, in northern Burgundy, it’s easy to imagine the exhilaration long-ago pilgrims must have felt upon reaching the town’s summit and catching their first full sight of the glorious Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine.

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