Julie & Tim Maarhuis: Bonjour! Welcome To Your Dream Life!
We all have dreams — but most of us aren’t great on the let’s-make- it-happen part. Meet Julie and Tim Maarhuis, a couple who actually did it. They bought an apartment… wait for it… in Paris! The plan is to live there for part of the year. And they couldn’t be happier.
Picture this: a Vancouver couple have been running a veterinary clinic for 15 years, taking care of people’s beloved pets. They do have a passion for travel, though… especially Europe. When they went for a month-long vacation with their kids almost 10 years ago, they fell in love… especially with Paris. “It really resonated for both of us…we love the city, we love the culture — it’s romantic,” says Julie. “We love the food,” laughs Tim. And so, whenever they went on a trip, they’d find a way to fit in the City of Light, even if it was just for a short time. “One time, we went for 24 hours!” she says.
This is how a dream happens. At a dinner party, Julie’s friend asked, “What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?” Julie didn’t hesitate, saying she would live in Paris for part of the year, every year. “It just came out,” she says. And Tim was all in, too. “We work a lot as a team, and we’re really good at helping each other realize our dreams,” she adds. They started thinking about renting out their property in British Columbia on Airbnb, and, well, they bought an apartment in Paris. “It all fell into place,” says Julie. “So, it was partly pushing through to realize your dreams, but it was also kind of meant to be.” Serendipitously, they had already sold their business and were preparing to retire, and their kids are all in their early 20s, so they’re more independent now. The timing was perfect, and the stars aligned.
Julie and Tim didn’t buy just any place. They purchased a classic Haussmannian-designed apartment — the kind that one thinks of when they think of an apartment in Paris. It has large windows that open onto wrought-iron balconies, chevron wood floors, marble fireplaces and intricate moulding details. And, they had fun furnishing the place. When you think of some of the places people live in, sometimes people just toss in whatever items they have on hand. Not this place. They went all out with an antique headboard and really beautiful linens. “It has chandeliers … it’s nostalgic and authentic,” says Tim.
As for location, location, location… tick! The two-bedroom apartment is in the 17th arrondissement, about a 10-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, but it’s not a touristy neighbourhood. “It’s the authentic French experience,” says Tim. If you take a walk down the road on Rue Lebon, you’ll find a butcher, a patisserie (bakery), a cheese shop and a flower shop. The plan is to rent out the apartment when they’re not using it, so Julie set up an Instagram account to get the word out. And, she likes taking pictures, so she often posts her favourites, everything from gorgeous bunches of peonies and fresh pastries to the Luxembourg Gardens and art installations.
“It really resonated for both of us [Paris]…we love the city, we love the culture — it’s romantic”
What is their tip for anyone who wants to make a dream happen? “I think the biggest thing is just get started,” says Julie. “For us, we started looking at real estate online and seeing something in our price range. You might think, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive to buy something in Paris,’ or you can’t because of the language barrier, but once you start, it takes you down a road, and sometimes there are obstacles, but there are ways around them, or you can get other people to help you,” she adds, pointing out they worked with someone who spoke English at a finding agency. “I always say, ‘Somebody somewhere has already done it, so it’s not like it can’t be done,’” she adds.
For this couple, the pursuit of happiness landed them an apartment in Paris, where they spend their time biking along the Seine, lacing up their walking shoes to discover new places and riding the Paris metro. “You feel like you’re at the centre of things that are happening. It’s a combination of things that never change, yet [Paris is] at the cutting edge of everything [like] fashion and innovation,” says Julie.
“What’s really cool is that Paris is very touristy. It just is and always will be with the buildings and art,” says Tim. “But, it’s almost like there’s a little curtain that you can sneak past and look and see that there’s way more to it than just the touristy part.”
INTERVIEW BY ESTELLE ZENTIL