Each Friday Simplifying Fabulous! presents Fab Fridays, an up-close-and-personal look at how one of our community members simplifies fabulous in their own life. Is there someone you’d like to see featured? Email your submission to email@example.com.
Simplifying Fabulous! with Doni Belau of Girls’ Guide to Paris
ABOUT Doni Belau is the founder of Girls’ Guide to Paris, a virtual guide book to the City of Lights. A true Francophile at heart, Doni combs through every guidebook written about Paris, scours every blog and travel magazine and spends countless hours hunting down and experiencing the newest restaurants and shops in Paris. When she is not writing about Paris, she is counting the minutes until her next trip. Before travel overtook her life, Doni worked in the not-for-profit and political arena, raised kids and produced television commercials.
Editor’s Note: Doni is currently helping me plan a trip to Paris with my teenage daughter and is recommending the most fabulous things! We’ll be taking a segway tour of the city, wandering through the streets on a chocolatier and patisserie tour, whipping up French confections at a private mother/daughter cooking class, and…le piece de resistance…we’ll be mixing our own custom-made perfume at a perfumerie in Paris! Merci Doni!! Tu est merveilleux!
Robin Baron: What inspired you to create Girl’s Guide to Paris?
Doni Belau: Well that’s a bit of a story. I was in politics and not-for-profit work, but Paris was my love, my passion. My husband and I had a place there in the 6th arrondisement for six years and I was always doing trips en famille, solo and with the girls and decided it was time to pursue what I truly loved. First, I thought of doing a book about Paris and then it evolved into a website. It took a lot longer and was much more complex than I originally thought it would be, but it has been such fun, particularly because of the incredible people I’ve met.
RB: The Simplifying Fabulous! mantra is that Confidence Begins at Home! Do any aspects of Girls’ Guide to Paris align with this?
DB: Absolutely. I consider it my job to inspire women to travel to Paris, and not wait for their mates or friends but to go it alone if need be. Its a glorious town to take in by oneself and you never have to ask the question “what would you like to do today”. I would turn that phrase on its head a bit and say confidence can also be found on the road….in Paris!
RB: You offer so many resources for women visiting Paris…what are YOUR go-to spots in the City of Lights?
DB: That’s a very long list but my favorites are actually on the site for all to see on our Must Do page. I also love to check out new and undiscovered places that I’ve read or heard about. Although we’ve written about it, I have yet to go to L’Association 59 Rivoli, which is an art collective where you can meet and see artists in action. What fun! I’m planning on going this fall. I still want to go to more galleries in Belleville and sample more pho in Chinatown. I would like to try to do a private make-up session with By Terry and see if she can’t help me finally learn to put on make-up properly before I turn 50! There is a never ending list of things to discover in the city of light.
RB: Tell us about your work space. How do you personalize it?
DB: Oh boy, will that might surprise you because I never work in the same place. My work, unless I’m meeting with clients or partners in Paris, is at home on my computer. Because I spend hundreds of hours behind the computer I feel I have to switch things up so sometimes I’m at home in the dining room, other times I’m at the library trying to find a quiet corner, mornings you might find me with my lap top on my bed or I will tweet or respond to email from my iphone at a café in Paris. I do have an actual office which I decorated with a “Red Tent” theme after I read that book a number of years back, but I somehow never use it. I think its because the desk is too small and it faces a wall. I really must do something about that!
RB: What impact has your passion for Paris had on your own home decor?
DB: Well everyone gives me those “I’d rather Be in Paris” pillows, which are a bit kitch. I have Paris map plates and many other Paris-themed items, but I suppose what I love most that I bought in Paris is my Christian Liagre coffee table (he designed my apartment there) and the R & Y Augousti shagreen covered side tables in my bedroom. I got those a long time ago and they still look pretty fab.
RB: What do you love most about your home and why?
DB: My garden. I love to walk outside on a stressful day or just in the morning to see what is blooming. And if I’m particularly overwhelmed a walk through the zen garden makes me feel much more calm. In France, I’d also say my garden–but in particular the view of the Dordogne River.
Editors Note: Although Doni doesn’t mention the interiors of her Bordeaux home, she shared them with us and we think they’re absolutely fabulous, don’t you think!?
RB: In this age of technology and information overload, how do you refresh and find energy to approach your work and life?
DB: Good question. I try to meditate, or just remember to breath and taking a walk in the garden or staring out at the river always works. Nature is the cure to excessive screen time.
RB: Anything else really that you’d want to include about the company would be wonderful!
DB: We are thrilled about three things that are coming up for us this year and next. 1) We are finally going to release, in September, our iPhone apps, which will be the iPhone version of our walking tours. 2) We are hoping to release our new membership program which we are busy at work on in November on the 2nd birthday of the site. This will allow our readers to receive some fabulous discounts on apartment rentals, hotels, plus they’ll enjoy special prices and unique experiences at restaurants and shops and on tours in Paris. We are terribly excited about it. 3) We are doing a book! I can’t say too much more about that until we get it underway but its going to be great!