Fashion maven, former publicist and writer Mary Symons tells us about her 40-year love affair with the City of Light.

By Mary Symons


My first glimpse of Paris came when I was 18. Plan de Paris in hand, I navigated the streets as a young fashion model. I lived next to the Pantheon, and the Jardin du Luxembourg served as my backyard. I worked with some of the most notable fashion houses of the day, travelled the world and fell more in love with Parisian life by the minute. Those years were magical and set the wheel rolling for decades of joy — and the occasional sadness — in this great city.


A grand love affair eventually brought me back to Canada and life here continued to evolve with my work as a publicist and our lives together as a couple. We always returned to Paris. Specifically, to the legendary Ritz Paris. This landmark is where we went to spend what would be our last Christmas together in 2004 before my partner’s untimely death the following year. We made the most of this precious time; instead of being sad, it was a trip full of adventure, love and some inevitable goodbyes. For me, it added another layer of memories that continue to draw me back.


Returning almost every year since, the reasons were many and my experiences wonderfully varied, it became clear that I needed to formalize my relationship with the Grand Boulevards and make Paris my second home.


I have done so — not on the Left Bank of my youth, but on the Right Bank — renting the same apartment each year from a formidable French aristocrat, who luckily has an eye for design, art and entertaining. From the moment I enter the doors of Rue d’Anjou, my life takes on a different momentum and I am transported into the world of arrondissements, cafés, endless cultural choices, the tempo of the Seine, food markets, incessant sirens, apéro hours and magnificent walks.


I have yet to take the beauty of Paris for granted. I still marvel at the Eiffel Tower, day or night, the magic energy of a walk up or down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Boulevard du Montparnasse continues to draw me to her historic brasseries. I am a creature of habit, so the return to a familiar table, a chair by a fountain in a bustling park, the Hemingway Bar or the Palais Garnier, is part of the ever-changing tapestry that is Paris.




Maybe most importantly is the time spent at home. The apartment is always full and the table ready for the inevitable next round of joyful Champagne swillers. My landlady’s aforementioned eye for beauty means guests from near or far experience her exquisite taste in Old-World details. There’s an abundance of moulding and panelling, heavy wooden French doors, gilt mirrors and marble fireplaces. Art is everywhere in Paris and not a wall of this home is without a piece to take in. Some may think it overbearing, but for me, it is my sanctuary in the middle of the world’s most beautiful city and meant for sharing.


My life is filled with friends, old and new — everyone makes their way through Paris at one point or another. Reunions with other expat Canadians have grown into lasting bonds. I have counted some Parisians among my best and most beloved confidants. Somehow, conversations at Rue d’Anjou are longer, opinions stronger and laughter louder. Friendships have been forged between diverse and always interesting souls. There are no goodbyes because we will meet here again next year or the year after, and in the meantime, Paris stays with me in my heart. It’s not just a second home, it’s coming home.