As a native Philadelphian turned full-blown Parisian, Lindsey Tramuta has fielded a fair amount of questions about her hometown in the decade she has spent in the City of Light. So what facet of Philly comes up most frequently among curious foreigners? Its pivotal role in American democracy? Our blossoming culinary scene? The priceless work housed in the Musée Rodin, Barnes Foundation, or Museum of Art?
"It's Rocky," she says with a laugh. "Even in France."
If the mention of our famous fake boxer makes you groan, you're not alone. And you might also be interested to know that France's capital city, for all its global cachet, has dealt with its own brand of cultural reductivism for decades. With her debut book, The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement, Tramuta works to refute the many hoary clichés associated with the French lifestyle, introducing readers to a young, talented generation of chefs, artisans, and entrepreneurs redefining Paris for a conscious modern audience.
Growing up in Fort Washington, the daughter of a Jefferson psychotherapist and a teacher, Tramuta took her first trip to Paris with her French class while attending Upper Dublin High School. "The seed was planted on that 10-day trip," says Tramuta. "I realized [it] was something really special."
She went on to study at Muhlenberg College before transferring to Temple, drawn to the city school by its strong French-language program. In her book, she recalls hanging out with classmates over cappuccinos at La Colombe off Rittenhouse Square, chatting dreamily about their ambitions to travel the world. Tramuta made it happen: In 2006, the summer before her senior year, she traveled back to Paris for a seven-week study-abroad program, oriented toward linguistics and fashion.
While there, she met Cédric Morel, the Frenchman she wound up marrying. But, first, she finished her studies, the fall semester back at Temple, and the final semester through a satellite program in Paris.
Though she is not fond of characterizing her landing in France as "following a guy" -- she now has French citizenship -- Tramuta concedes that meeting her future husband did "put some new cards on the table. ... But I already had this instinct that I was going to try and do something here."
Determining what that something was, however, was a challenge. The bilingual Tramuta decided to pursue a master's degree in global communication from the American University of Paris, which led to work in branding, fashion, and digital advertising. On the side, she launched a blog, Lost in Cheeseland (lostincheeseland.com), chronicling the interesting people she meets from the perspective of an American adjusting to a new way of life.
"It's always a struggle to figure out how [to] make the city your own" as an expat, Tramuta says. "How do you make the experience something unique for yourself? Once I started writing, that did it for me."
It seemed to do it for others, too. Launched in 2009, Tramuta's blog has grown in visibility, as has her reach on Instagram and Twitter -- she has more than 73,000 followers between the two platforms (@LostNCheeseland). Writing and social-media consulting have been Tramuta's full-time job since 2015. She has contributed Paris stories to the New York Times, Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and other major publications, leading to her deal with Abrams Books for The New Paris.
It's Tramuta's boots-on-the-ground access to those making headway in the Parisian scene, and the bold contrast between her reporting and the outdated notions of France many of us have, that have proved appealing for readers and editors.
Though Paris, among Americans especially, can be fetishized via its landmarks and deep history, the reality is that a familiar contemporary element is in play. The economic crisis of 2008, or la crise, "brought the realities of a fragile job market and dwindling opportunities into sharp focus, especially for young people," Tramuta writes in the first chapter of her book. "Their paths wouldn't be clearly paved, and many would attempt entrepreneurship as a way to control their futures."
Many young Parisians ditched the suddenly unstable 9-to-5 path for something better, in the same way many American entrepreneurs have found happiness through a self-shaped second career. "People of all ages began breaking out on their own," Tramuta writes, "leaving desk jobs or unsatisfying careers to test their mettle at more fulfilling pursuits."
Throughout each chapter of The New Paris, which Tramuta will promote in Philadelphia this month, readers are introduced to a diverse, dynamic cast of characters contributing to a renewed energy. There are bankers turned environmentally conscious cheesemongers, corporate photographers who started selling pristine local produce. And it's not just those of the Gallic persuasion -- Tramuta also celebrates contributions from Paris' Middle Eastern, African, and Asian populations, in fields ranging from fine dining and pastry-making to coffee-roasting to soap-crafting. These profiles are accompanied by a historical perspective on the city and how it has evolved, both throughout the centuries and over the decade Tramuta has lived there.
The author doesn't begrudge Paris its most persistently popular attractions -- a first-timer "should absolutely go to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre," says Tramuta. Her book, rather, serves as an accompanying road map, providing a rigorously vetted entry to a side of the city well-versed locals know best. "We like to think of Paris as this place that never changes," she says. "It's not that."