Tag Archives: Paris

EarthCam – Le Tour Eiffel

My Francophila has hit a new low. Behold, the EarthCam – The Eiffel Tower. A 24-hour live stream of the Eiffel Tower in all its shiny glory. Now I can sit at my desk, with a cup of coffee and a madeleine and pretend I am back in Paris.

I need help.

Paris Je’ taime, j’adore le tour Eiffel

That is all. Happy Friday everyone!

Paris in Love (Eloisa James)

Paris in Love by Eloisa JamesParis in Love by Eloisa James
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Source: Library
Publisher: Random House, 2012
ISBN: 9781400069569 / 260 pages
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In 2009, Eloisa James, her husband and two kids took a big leap in their lives, hopping across the pond from New York to Paris for a year. The move came during Jame’s recovery period from her diagnosis and struggle with cancer only two years after cancer took the life of her mother. The memoir isn’t really about the cancer and learning to live in the moment. In her own words she:

did learn that moments could be wasted and the world would continue to spin on its axis.

The book is a wonderful collection of snippet observations that James had posted via Twitter and Facebook and emails during her time in Europe. This is by far, one of my favorite memoirs about living in Paris. James’ observations are witty, clever and eloquently written. The brief stories range from the experiences of her entire family. There was a very unique twist of her American born children going to an Italian school in France (their father is Italian, so the children are already bilingual). Both James and her husband, Alessandro, are teachers taking a year old sabbatical to live in the city of lights. The sections about the children’s time in school was the most entertaining for me. It added a depth of understanding to French culture that other memoris gloss over.

There is also an adorably overweight chihuahua that makes appearances throughout the book, although Eloisa’s mother-in-law might not want to hear him described as such. Eloisa seems to have a fantastic relationship with her family, and it was nice to read about their family adventures, particularly in the ordering strange foods department at restaurants.

Each chapter starts with a few pages of Eloisa retelling a particular story in-depth. The rest of the chapter is followed by snippet observations. The book chronicles their time in Paris from summer 2009 to summer 2010.

Here are some of my favorite posts to give you a feel for her writing style:

Quelle horreur! The guardienne came to clean and noticed that our glassware was smeared, which had been driving me crazy. The box of dishwashing powder that we’d been using? Salt! It looked like dishwashing powder, it was under the sink, and I never bothered to puzzle out the label. We have been running the dishwasher with salt alone for two months.

Due to my disinclination to chop off chicken heads, my butcher whacks them off for me, but he leaves the knees; black and red, hardscrabble knees for running hard. Parisian chickens are much more chickenlike than Mr. Perdue’s; furthermore, eggs come ornamented with tiny feathers. My children shriek: “Butt feathers!” Having grown up on a farm, I like remembering the sultry warmth of newly laid eggs.

Marina said today the first thing she plans to do back in Florence is find a new vet. That nasty vet who told her Milo is obese, she said, is too young and doesn’t understand Milo’s emotional problems. Taking his life in his hands, Alessandro pointed out that the vet was the third and most recent to cast aspersions on Milo’s weight, and that the most important number to keep in mind was not the vets’ years, but the figures displayed on their scales.  

Eloisa James’ also describes May Day in Paris, which is filled with protests, and lilies of the valley being sold throughout the entire city. My husband bought a bundle of the flowers, some wine, cheese and bread, and we had a fantastic picnic on our hotel balcony watching the rest of the world walk by. Although we didn’t see any protests on the streets last year.

I also adored the story of Milo getting stuck between the wall and the couch while making a run for a treat, because he couldn’t fit.  There are also a number of beautiful descriptions of the rain/snow falling down her window, off the roofs, on the floor; the relationship she and her family formed with the homeless man sitting outside their nearest metro stop, and their experiences with visiting family and friends.

Eloisa James is also a highly successful romance novelist, so this book will be a welcome addition for her current fans. I finished this book in 2 days, and would have probably finished it in one night, if I hadn’t started reading it at 11p. As an added bonus, James’ includes a list of the shops & restaurants that she and her family frequented during their stay in Paris.

Just for kicks, this is my favorite picture of Paris from my honeymoon last year. We stayed in the Rue Cler district, and this was our view every morning when we went out for breakfast. Is it any wonder why I’m so desperate to go back there? Maybe that’s why I’ve relegated myself to living vicariously through other people’s Parisian memoirs. I think I’m bordering on pitiful at this point. Oh well. C’est la vie.

Paris My Sweet (Amy Thomas) – Review

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light…Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (And Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir / Paris / Food
Source: Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewer
Publisher: Source Books, 2012
ISBN: 9781402264115 / 280 pages
Publication Date: 2/1/2012
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Working as a journalist in New York City, Amy Thomas is given a job offer dreams are made of. A year to work on a marketing campaign for Louis Vuitton in Paris, France. As a self-proclaimed Francophile, Thomas only slightly hesitates before accepting a position that takes her across the ocean. Despite her wanderlust with the city of light, Thomas’ love affair with Paris isn’t 100% as sweet as promised.

I think it was this paragraph that first drew me into this book:

…built a mini-library so I’d never be far from Paris. I had books about cats in Paris, dogs in Paris, expats in Paris; Parisian interiors, Parisian gardens, and Parisian cuisine, organized by neighborhood; bistros of Paris, patisseries of Paris, and shopping in Paris.

I think I’m about a few books shy of mirroring her collection of books on Paris in my own little California apartment. Much of Thomas’ love for Paris is driven by her sweet-tooth, namely for chocolates. Although I’m not really a sweets type of girl, I did admire her ardent determination to explore and sample from nearly every single patisserie in both Paris and New York. This book is chock-full of cafes and bakeries in both New York and Paris. It’s definitely a wonderful resource for anyone traveling to either of those two cities with the intent of gorging on sweets.

I’m more of a pastry girl, I’ll take a croissant or danish over a chocolate cake any day. I still remember wandering the Rue Cler, going to a different bakery every morning until I found one right on the corner of Rue Saint Dominique and Blvd du Tour-Maubourg  that had the best apricot croissants. That’s the fun of Paris. There is good food, everywhere. Not to mention the Rue Cler had one of the best open markets in the city. That’s where I ate my first macaron. I’ve been searching endlessly for bakeries in the Bay Area that sell macarons. They are very few and far between and nowhere near as good as the ones in Paris. The best that I’ve found come from Le Boulange Bakery, and Masse’s Pastries.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

What I really liked about Amy’s memoir is that it provided a very new perspective to Paris. As a single girl in her 30s, Thomas didn’t move to Paris because of love, or marriage. She moved there for work, and her experiences of trying to fit in were more interesting as she had to figure everything out on her own. From disastrous dates, to a complicated work-environment, Thomas shows us that living in Paris isn’t always as romantic as we think. There are ups and downs, and soon she finds herself in a cultural limbo, not quite a Parisian, but no longer a typical American either.

Most chapters alternated between Thomas’ life in Paris and New York. Most chapters focused mainly on various comfort foods that Thomas relied on to get herself through the tough times in both cities. There are a number of paragraphs describing foods so rich and sweet that I thought I might develop second-hand cavities from her descriptions. My only complaint was that Thomas made several mentions of living in San Francisco for 7 years, but never once mentioned or listed any bakeries or cafes of note. Living so close to San Francisco, I would have loved to have gotten her recommendations for places nearby.

I can happily say that Thomas does actually have recommendations of bakeries in San Francisco, New York and Paris on her two blogs, God I Love Paris and Sweet Freak. I’m also happy to note that she still regularly updates both blogs. Nothing bugs me more than when a blogger abandons their blog after snagging a book deal.


The Flaneur (Edmund White) – Review

The flaneur : a stroll through the paradoxes of ParisThe Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White
Age: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction / History / Social Groups
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2001
ISBN: 1582341354
210 pages
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A flaneur is a person who explores, examines and watches life as an idle bystander. Flaneurs can be found sipping coffee at a cafe, watching the people stroll down the street. The flaneur will aimlessly walk about town, with no destination in mind, but always on the lookout for something new.

Using the flaneur as a vehicle, author Edmund White takes us through six distinct sections and social groups of Paris:  the acceptance of black Americans, the position of Jews, Baudelaire and Gustave Moreau, homosexuals, and monarchists.

To be honest, I had a difficult time seeing how the flaneur fit into all these different chapters. The flaneur I learned about in college did nothing other than watch other people. This is often proclaimed as a French past time, sitting in cafe’s watching the world pass you by. Nearly each chapter begins with the flaneur walking this way, or that way, so I suppose the flaneur’s walks about town lead us into the vast history of social strifes and successes in Paris.

I did enjoy learning about the history of each group. I loved the literary history chapter, discussing Colette, Baudelaire, & Balzac. I enjoyed the chapter on the acceptance of blacks, especially in contrast to the lack of acceptance in America during the same time frame of the 1920s. This book reminded me a lot of Parisians by Graham Robb because of the bits of trivia in each chapter. Although at 210 pages, the book is small, its 4″ x 8″. Each chapter is a quick read, and although White discusses the history and the social context heavily, he does infuse his own experiences in each chapter, giving this a bit of a memoir feel.

Book 59 of 2011

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  1. Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb
  2. The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter
  3. The Flaneur and his City by Richard D.E. Burton

French Milk (Lucy Knisley) – Review

French milkFrench Milk by Lucy Kinsley
Age: Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel + Travel Memoir
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2007
ISBN: 9781416575344
194 pages

Part memoir and part drawings and scribbles, Lucy Knisley’s work takes us through the 6 weeks she spent with her mother in an apartment in Paris shortly after Christmas.

I’m not quite sure if the age difference (I’m 28, and Lucy is 22 in the book) or the fact that I’ve read a million Parisian travel memoirs this year, but this book is neither here nor there for me. Its funny, Lucy has a quirky sense of humor. But I found the book on a whole to be pointless. She either misses her boyfriend or constantly checks her e-mail. I found the book to be somewhat shallow with cutesy illustrations to soften the blow. I did appreciate Lucy’s visual inventory of all the food she and her mom ate during their stay. Its something I wish I paid more attention during my stay.This book would serve as a good resource for restaurant hunters in Paris.

Lucy spent more time whining about being homesick than enjoying the city. Its not the best way to start a travel memoir than with the perspective that the author would rather not be traveling. There was no introspective views into the culture differences, or even interactions with anyone other than her mother. I expected more from this book, especially when Lucy mentioned that this was her second time in the city of lights.

Its a light read, 193 pages and mostly illustrations. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone older than 25.

Follow Lucy’s Blog/Illustrations

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Book 37 of 2011

French Lessons (Ellen Sussman) – Review

French Lessons by Ellen SussmanFrench Lessons by Ellen Sussman
Age: Adult
Genre: Chick-lit
Format: AudioCD – 6 discs Random House Audio, 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2011

Three French tutors spend a day with their American students, sight-seeing and rediscovering what it means to be in love.

The story is told through the perspective of the three American students, each in France for their own reasons for their despair and frustration with their lives. Josie is the first narrator. She is in France grieving for the loss of her love, the father of one of French class students in the Bay Area. She spends the day with her tutor, Nico, trying to forget the reasons for her sadness. The second narrator, Riley, is a frustrated housewife living in France with her husband and two children. Feeling friendless and alone, Riley is frustrated with all things French, especially her tutor Francois. The third narrator is Jeremy, the husband of a famous American actress filming a movie in Paris. He develops a crush on his tutor, Chantal, and begins to question his love for his wife.

Within each of the three sexually charged narratives, there are questions of happiness, love, romance, home, infidelity, and feelings of belonging. All of these issues are brought up to light through the sexuality and sexual interactions of the characters. All six characters think about sex, love, sex and more sex. Although the stories were well paced, I found Riley’s character to be the most annoying and obnoxious of the set. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but something about this novel felt off.  At times the dialog felt unrealistic, overly floral and descriptive. Kathe Mazur reads the book  and times the French accent sounded more Middle Eastern then French. I think I would have enjoyed the text format of this book over the audio-cd, but there are a number of holds on both formats my library, and the audio-cd had fewer holds.

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Book 38 of 2011soundbytes picture

Lunch in Paris (Elizabeth Bard) – Review

Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: Paris
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company,2010
ISBN: 9780316042796
324 Pages

Lunch in Paris is not your typical love story. Lunch in Paris is about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of being an American living in France. We follow Elizabeth’s life from when she first meets Gwendal to their dates, the proposal, the wedding, and life afterward. Their romance is not the center of the story. Elizabeth butts heads with France, she has a love affair with the food, carefully honing in cooking skills from her daily trips to the market. Carefully and thoughtfully woven throughout the chapters are Elizabeth’s insecurities, hesitations, successes and problems with assimilating into the French culture.

I connected with Elizabeth from the very moment she described herself as a “bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” (page 6). As well as someone who was “born in the wrong century.” (page 19). I can’t say I’ve never felt the same based on my tastes in music, hobbies, movies and art. I felt she was very honest with her struggles in Paris. It seems to be every girl’s dream to fall in love with a charming, dashing Frenchman who just happens to be a good cook to boot. To get married and live in a little bohemian love bungalow with the Eiffel Tower in view from across the distance. Elizabeth fills us in on what happens after that happily ever after moment. The truth about the struggles of living in another continent from your family and friends and trying to start a brand new life.

I could readily identify with Elizabeth’s torn self between American and Parisienne. Although she sheds  a certain amount of American traits (talking loudly everywhere, buying less than quality foods, rushing through meals, etc.) there are some habits and rights of Americans that are not available in other countries. The right to a second, third or fourth medical opinion, the ability to get married and work in the country without any restrictions, optimism and a can-do attitude, the ability to rethink and reuse objects for something other than their intended use. Although France is highly cultured, part of that is the strict adherence to the mentality of stasis.

At the end of each chapter, Elizabeth pens a couple of recipes that she had discussed during the chapter. Food and cooking very important to her, as they were the stepping stones of her entrance into the French life. From her first introduction to her then boyfriend’s closest family and friends, to her ability to improve her French and order meat like a pro at the butcher’s. What I like about the recipes is that I already own most of the ingredients in my pantry. They are regular pantry herbs and spices and only the proteins used would require any extra effort to locate, even that effort is limited. The recipes are a mix of traditional French, recipes of Elizabeth’s Jewish heritage, and sometimes a cross between the two styles, with a little American classic comfort foods thrown into the mix. She begins each recipe with a little paragraph explaining its origin as well as how to change certain ingredients to get a more personal and unique flavor from the dish.

Book 29 of 2011

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13 Rue Therese – Review

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13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro
Age: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: Paris
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
ISBN: 9780316083287
278 pages
Source: Public Library

Back cover synopsis:

Trever Stratton is an American professor and translator, newly arrived at a Paris University. There, in his office, he discovers a box filled with letters, photographs, and antique objects – a beautiful pair of gloves, a rosary, a silk scarf. Whose life is preserved here? And who has left this mystery for him to find?

I have seen glowing reviews of this book scattered around the blogosphere for a while now. Luckily, the reviews that I did read did not give away anything of the plot which left me pleasantly surprised with how the story of this mysterious box unfurled in Trevor Stratton’s life. Elena Mauli Shapiro did an excellent job of weaving in two parallel stories and bringing them together in the end. The first story is of Trevor Stratton and his discovery and subsequent analysis of all contents of the box. The second story is of Louis Brunet and of her life in Paris in 1928.

I found Trevor to be a really amusing character, especially with his struggles in translating the French documents and his constant fevers and colds clouding his judgement and perception of reality. Louis Brunet is a full-bodied and complex woman. Lusty, frustrated, intelligent and witty, full of energy with no real outlet. Even her worst transgressions didn’t bother me, I wanted to know more about her life and her story.

What I really didn’t expect was to find out that the author, born and raised in Paris, actually came into possession of a box of trinkets by the real life Louis Brunet. I didn’t realize this until after I had finished the book and read the author’s biography blurb. This book is based entirely on objects that are real and dear to the author’s heart. I think its amazing that she was able to craft such a wonderful story based on a real person that she knew so little about.

Book 24 of 2011

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13 Rue Thérèse : a novel

The Most Beautiful Walk In The World – Review

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The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
On sale: 5/24/2011

Part memoir, part Paris guide book, John Baxter takes us through a year of his life in Paris as a literary tour guide through the city of light’s 6th Arrondissment, better known as The Latin Quarter.

Written as a series of essays, each chapter chronicles a different part of Baxter’s life that either lead to his career as a literary tour guide, or what followed as a result. What I liked about the book is that Baxter offered a lot of insight into the famed Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, as well Paris itself. Many of his warnings and advice came in handy while I was there. The best time to read this book is either in Paris, or on your way to Paris because that is when you can see Paris through Baxter’s eyes. This is especially true of the Latin Quarter. Had it not been for this book, I would have missed the significance of much of this area of Paris in terms of its literary history. I loved that he included tips to get around the city in the back of the book. In fact, I had torn out these pages and carried them around me during my week stay. I liked that he complimented the narrative with quotes, songs and poetry, and that this wasn’t a typical chronological memoir.

What I didn’t like: Since this was an ARC copy, there were a few minor editing errors throughout the book (ie. William Faulkner being named twice in a list of authors.) I thought that it would help if the photos provided in the book had captions to help explain their significance. One chapter was missing a photo entirely and had an error message in the box. I also thought a nice added touch would have been for Baxter to create either a simple map or a reference guide for all the street names and their histories on one page. Something easy to refer to when trying to decide what spots to visit on a day trip.

Overall, this book was a great way to prepare myself for the literary side of Paris. Baxter’s writing style is very eloquent without being pompous, and his portraits of Paris at its best times and worst times are a great way to understand the mood of the city.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
by John Baxter
Harper Perennial, 2011
302 pages
Via Harper Perennial
 Book 20 of 2011

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The most beautiful walk in the world : a pedestrian in Paris