Living and Writing in France
No one back in college could have predicted that Jennifer Ditsler Ladonne ’84 would wind up living and working in Paris. After all, she had studied only a little high school French and just one semester in college. Her academic focus at Denison and at New York University, where she earned a master’s degree, was English literature; she spent her junior year in England. But life has a way of serving up twists and turns.
Twenty years ago, Ladonne was freelancing for a record company and magazine and book publishers in New York. “I was living in Tribeca,” she recalls, “hanging around with artists. A very close friend, a painter, moved to Paris and started having shows. I would write his catalog essays and they’d pay me with airfare. I’d go back and forth a couple of times a year—things were cheap then, and I had places I could stay. At a party I met someone, and in 2003 we were married.”
Soon it was decision time. “I had a great life in New York,” Ladonne says, “but I was ready for a change.” Thinking ahead to having a child, she and her husband—also a freelancer—saw a lot of advantages in the Paris system of education and health care. “Besides,” she adds, “my apartment in New York was fabulous but tiny. In Paris, he had a real house.” They moved.
A friend of a friend, an editor at Fodor’s, the travel book company, hired her to work on the shopping section of its Paris guide. “In New York,” Ladonne says, “friends were always asking me where to find the good shops. I knew where to go.”
Today, she researches and writes for Fodor’s books and website, covering food, shopping, performing arts and culture for visitors to Paris, Provence, and other parts of France; she co-authored a Fodor’s book, Around Paris With Kids. (Life with her daughter, now 13, helped prepare for that assignment.) She writes regularly for France Today, a magazine for Francophiles.
The Ladonnes live in a large suburb just outside the city limits. Theirs is a Parisian lifestyle, even if both French and English are heard in their home. But Ladonne hasn’t left her past behind completely.
“Two of my very closest friends today are from my Denison years,” she says, “and I remember the campus as an idyllic place with so much to take advantage of. I grew up outside of Cleveland. When I was eight, my parents bought an old farm, a fixer-upper in the woods, and that’s where I developed a real love for the countryside. We spend two months back there every year. My heart is still in Ohio.”