Paul is from New Zealand. He lives in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. His favourite spot in this district is “the Père Lachaise cemetery. I love walking round it with my children. It’s so big, you can be at peace there.” The dish he can’t live without? “A real Italian pizza.” His addiction? “Coffee, of course!” The artist who moves him the most? “Adele, I must admit. She conveys so much power and emotion in her voice.” The figure he finds most inspiring is “Nelson Mandela. I read his book, it’s insane to think that someone could spend 25 years in jail and leave with such a boundless spirit, free of bitterness.”
Paul has been married to Danielle for nine years. He describes himself as a daddy cool, relaxed and laid back. Becoming a father has made him more responsible. Our daddy cool has two companies. “I love starting things. I must say that as a foreigner in France, it was difficult for me to find a job I loved. The only way to succeed was to create my own company.
I manage Bike About Tours, a business providing guided tours around Paris by bike. I’ve been doing that for twelve years now with my partner. We employ about 15 people. And it will soon be two years since we opened a coffee shop in Le Marais called Le Peloton Café.”
Why France, Paul? “For a girl! It was sixteen years ago. I was 21. I didn’t speak a word of French and I didn’t know the country at all. She left me after 6 weeks! But I stayed, and it was an amazing experience. I love France. To the extent that next year I am going to try to become French! I enjoy life here. The population is more diverse than in New Zealand. We’re all in it together and I love that. Society is a bit less selfish in New Zealand than it is in the States. My mother is English. I lived in Japan, for my dad’s work. We travelled a lot. So it wasn’t too difficult for me to move to France. I’m used to moving around.”
Paul and Danielle try to go back to New Zealand every two years. “But these days five tickets demand quite the budget! My daughter Anahéra’s name is from back home, it’s Maori. I talk to my kids about my country a lot, so that they get to know it. They are all All Black fans and they identify as Kiwi! This is important to me.”
Do you ever get homesick, Paul? “Not in the first few years, but it comes with age. To ease this I talk to my New Zealand friends over the internet. They try to make me feel better by reminding me that not everything is perfect in New Zealand either and that I’m lucky to be living in France!”
When we ask Paul what he considers the eighth wonder of the world, he says: “The whole of New Zealand! It’s so beautiful. If you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings, you have to know that it’s exactly as it looks in the films. Beaches, mountains, rivers. It’s like a painting. And I’m not exaggerating, this is the truth! You walk through the mountains and see lakes that are blue like the sky. It’s sublime.
Visually, New Zealand is heaven on earth.”
When he was little, Paul was educated in a Montessori school. “In my country education is less about studying – we focus on sport, we spend time outside. It’s less academic than in France.” For his own children, he would like to provide an education based on the best bits of both cultures. “The kids go to a Montessori school as well. I want to preserve the creative, natural New Zealand spirit in them. But I want to give them that open French spirit too.”
Paul sees himself as a modern dad. “I think that being a dad is about participating. You can’t be one without doing everything yourself. In a couple, you have to share everything.”
His ideal home would be an eco-house. “I dream about an ecological structure with natural central heating powered by the sun, even if that might be difficult in Paris because the buildings are so old. Danielle and I try to live day to day in an environmentally-friendly way. We make the choice to eat organic and local produce. We try to favour small traders. On a daily basis we recycle as much as we can both at home and in my coffee shop. This is why my business is built around cycling. For me, it’s absolutely essential to participate in sustainable development.
We are sensitising our children to this. In New Zealand people really protect nature. We take it very seriously. I worked for Greenpeace for three years over there, so this topic is really important to me.
Paul, what should I wish you for the future? “Good luck! There are so many things to do that we’ll need luck for!”