I'm delighted to introduce Daisy to you all today because she is such a gem. Passionate about art, history and Paris, Daisy always has a story to tell and she happens to be a great story-teller. I first met her when she invited me to participate in one of her treasure hunts, where I was partnered with Lisa (mentioned during the interview) and we had a lot of fun despite not really knowing what the heck we were doing! It was so much fun in fact that I rallied a few friends to do the Halloween hunt with me last November at the Louvre, which was a pretty magical experience. Daisy's energy is infectious and her enthusiasm is the real deal. I'm looking forward to our future coffee dates in the park with Storsh (her son) and hearing some more of her wonderful stories! Over to you Daisy...
How did the name Daisy de Plume come about? It was actually el Argentino, my husband’s creation. When I knew I wanted to start a company my friend Kasia, who was instrumental with her advice and expat-entrepreneur mentoring, reminded me that I’d need to be comfortable in the public. So to maintain a bit of privacy I played around with all sorts of names. Daisy is my childhood name (what my mother, friends, husband and son know me by) but officially (on paperwork and by current and former office-mates) I’m Charlotte or Charlotte Louise. I guess I’ve always had many names going on, so the de Plume part fell into place quite naturally.
Daisy, could you tell us how you ended up in Paris? It’s a long story which I wrote about quite fully for Misadventures with Andi here but the gist of it is that I took a three month sabbatical from my life / magazine job / identity in New York and never actually returned. That was ten years and a husband, son and several funny jobs ago.
What was your motivation for starting THATLou? There are several factors. My mother was an art historian who always had museum games up her sleeve (to keep me quiet, to allow her to actually visit with her treasures) as I was growing up. Then as I was old enough to go the Met without her, my friends and I saw the museum (and other city’s museums) as a playground. Recently I told Lisa about how my closest childhood friend Abbey and I used to bring 25 pennies to the Temple of Dendur to skip them across the lovely still pond surrounding the iconic Egyptian temple. Another element – strangely – was having Storsh, my toddler. It was some sort of chemical or biological kick in the butt to do something interesting with my life, to do something that stimulated me. I’m interested in company strategy and business on a theoretical level, and have always been able to talk the talk of being a company man, but my heart is too cynical to believe in it or to care much about climbing someone else’s corporate ladder. Yet I have a need to be devoted to something fully, so starting the company has been a natural next step (with a lot of work, but it all feels right) and we’ll see how far I can take it!
The reality of living in any big city, even one as pretty as Paris, is that there will be things which are not so agreeable about it. Could you describe some positive (and negative) aspects of daily Paris life, based on your personal experience of the city? I think anyone who lives here will agree that a big minus – in Paris or France altogether – is the bureaucracy. It wears one down, from the Titre de Séjour to the Carte Vitale, and I don’t even handle the business side of THATLou which I understand from my clever husband is a headache. I rattled on about it to poor Lindsey here. Positives are abundant though – from food, wine and appreciation for living (‘being’ opposed to ‘doing’) to the aesthetic, which I think the French do better than anyone. Everything’s just so pretty, I don’t think I’ll ever feel numb to it. I hope not, at least!
You have 24 hours left in Paris before you move away. What would you choose to do? I’d be sure to touch on a few parks with Storsh and his trotinette – Square Montholon, Square du Temple, the trampolines of the Tuileries, our precious Jardin du Luxembourg in which he’s spent so much time while my husband and I were building THATRue. I’d have a few hours of alone time at the Louvre to say goodbye to my old friends. I’d love to have a meal at whatever my flavour of the moment would be with el Argentino, perhaps Floyd’s in the 10th Arrt’s rue d’Enghein with its secret back room. A debauched bottle of Grand Cru Chablis with friends at Benjamin le Caviste. A midnight walk along Canal St Martin that can be so perfectly peaceful. The reality of course would be mad packing and stressing at La Poste ,and fighting at the bank, and not noticing a bit of Paris because I leave all moves to the last minute.
One thing on your Paris bucket list? I am past the point of raving in catacomb-like tunnels below Paname’s surface, but it’s a huge regret that I passed on opportunities to investigate the underbelly of Pourrie Pourrie before I reached my current dotage. It’s not even for the actual parties, it’s just the fact that they exist down there and I haven’t been, which makes me wish I were down there scouting out their labyrinthine street art. Truffaut’s Baisers Volés has a great scene where a very important love letter crosses town to Montmartre via pneumatic tubes across these subterranean streets. A whole world exists down there without me….
Which city would you be prepared to leave Paris for, and why? Buenos Aires / Shanghai / Hong Kong out of personal interest but London or NY are more likely (I’ve already lived in both places). London and NY are where my nose is headed at some point in the 5-year plan before we need to take Storsh’s school seriously.
As I only live on the other side of the Channel, I feel lucky to be able to get home so easily. I know it’s not as simple for other Paris expats. What's the one thing you really miss from home that Paris cannot replace? The NY minute does boost one’s energy, whereas I’ve always seen my move to Paris as an early (and very welcome) retirement. But I don’t think it’s the pace which I miss. Sadly what I miss about NY no longer exists. I miss the stoops of the West Village, where we’d have yard sales, sell lemonade and have snow ball fights as children; smoke and gossip as teens; as adults we’d share a bottle of wine with silver goblets because we’d broken too many glasses in the past and pissed our families off with shards of glass, and have to hear about it for weeks on end. The village was a tight community and when someone sat on another person’s stoop the proprietor didn’t mind (I know from smoking on every street between Charles and Jane, except my own, as a teen). Now there’s this money money money that has changed the environment and made it commercial (Bleecker street being key in the Village’s corruption) and hardened its residents into an un-welcome-ness that breaks my heart when I think about it. I guess I’m nostalgic for a NY that no longer exists, but I should instead be celebrating this. After all NY is - and has always been - about the future and money and ambition, and it is that certainty that keeps it as it is. If the average joe (which is all the Village consisted of growing up) are pushed out to the outer boroughs or even the suburbs, then so be it. The disparity between those who have and haven’t is supreme. Perhaps it was this way when I was a child, too, and I see my past with rose-glasses, who knows. But I miss the sense of community that I was raised in.
I’ve been listening to the BBC4 Desert Island Disc podcasts recently. So, in the very unlikely scenario of you being sent to a desert island, please tell us:
- one book (or magazine) you’d choose to take with you Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or TS Eliot’s 4 Quartets
- one luxury item Hermès un Jardin sur le Nil perfume
- one piece of music Beethoven’s 9th or Handel’s Messiah
- one social media application you’d like to keep Instagram
Quick Fire questions
Favourite patisserie? Paris Brest / Boulangerie Louvard at 43, rue Miromesnil in the 8th (they repeatedly win best baguette year after year).
Favourite metro line? Line 5, crossing the Seine.
Rive Gauche ou Rive Droite? Droite.
Red, white or rosé? White (Chablis).
Favourite Parisian café? Epicerie de la Cour or Ferme de Charles – mainly because the tree-lined Cour des Petites-Ecuries allow for Storsh to trotinnette to his heart’s content.
Favourite French film? Truffaut’s Baisers Volés.
Favourite Paris museum? Would you like to hazard a guess?
A huge thanks to Daisy for sparing me her time (I know she is always very busy doing something) and sharing some of her lovely Paris photos for the post. Why don't you say hello to her: she's on Instagram and Twitter.