Thursday, 26 May 2011

What book should I take to read for a trip to Paris?

In just over three weeks my daughter and I are treating ourselves to a little jaunt to Paris! My son is off on a school trip, so for a few days we plan to visit flea markets and glamorous shops, survive in a TINY studio flat and eat out every night, see the beautiful stained glass at Sainte Chapelle and sit on the steps at Montmatre again. And that's not including all the art galleries we plan to visit!

  A picture from the lovely book -PARIS by Sidney Dark, Illustrated by Henry Rushworth. 1926
 I love to take some books that suit the place I'm visiting. I often travel with Laurie Lee's " As I set out one Midsummer morning" because it has such a perfect sense of the tastes and smells of travelling. I would love to read something set in Paris but all I can think of at the moment is Orwell's " Down and out in London and Paris" which is not in the spirit of this trip! I'm not really looking for a guide book, although quirky ones are always interesting, more a novel which captures something of the spirit of the city....
Any suggestions?


  1. Well... Specific to Paris, one of my all time favorites (and in honor of The Stein Family Collection at SFMOMA now) - The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Have you read it?

  2. No, but I've heard of it and always meant to read it. Thank you so much, that's a great suggestion!

  3. Jane,

    I am going to be really Italian and suggest that you just take yourself, your hands, your eyes and your nose, to Paris, so you can perceive the beauty of yet another beautiful European city, first hand!

    I am a bit of a poet myself and a believer in the theories upon which Baudelaire based his great art. It's the reason why I am suggesting you use all your senses!

    Do you want a book suggestion? Poetry, Jane. The poems of Jacques Prévert really "throw" you into that French, and, in fact, continental European atmosphere. His stuff is really good and I love it! One poem at the time is all you need. Your will need your eyes to read through those food menus, won't you? And the wine labels...and the Made in China labels...

    Good luck! Van Gogh painted a Montmartre bar, at night. The light, in that painting is so fantastic! I love his work!

    I enjoyed my time in Paris when I was there, though I prefer Southern to Northern Europe (I LOVE GERMANY, though!) I do intend to go back to Paris with my husband to show him all the things he never saw when he was there.He missed out!


  4. Thanks Anna,
    I have never heard of Jacques Prevert's poems. I'm too English and land-locked! Are they available in a good translation, do you know? Sadly my french isn't really good enough to enjoy the subtle nuances of poetry.
    I agree about using your senses, especially the sense of smell. I can still remember the scent of the fresh streets after they'd been washed down by a funny little machine, the very first time I went there. Every city has such a different smell doesn't it?
    So, following your advice, I shall go and take in everything- Paris has been called ' a moveable Feast' and I intend to enjoy every moment.

  5. Jane,

    I believe the whole world is a "moveable feast"... it goes round and round and it's up to you to "grab" what you can. I have loved every place I have seen and been to. Greece is somehow very close to my heart. I love it! I am a lover of Southern Europe. But I also like a misty English morning, when the roses are covered in dew and you can smell the earth. And I like sitting in a pub, by a river in Winter, with logs on the fire... oh, so beautiful!

    So much beauty everywhere, wherever you happen to be. William Shakespeare was right when he said tht "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" In Italian we say:"Non e` bello quel che e` bello, ma e` bello quel che piace" Beauty is subjective.

    Jacques Prevert, like Pablo Neruda (I love him more than Prevert!) has possibly been translated in every language. Unfortunately, French and Spanish poetry actually lose the original "passion" when translated into English (French and Italian follow exactly the same grammar and construction- Spanish and Italian sound very alike, though, fortunately, we don't have the lisp and the guttural sounds. Italian is musical!)I like reading Neruda in Spanish, but it's almost as good in Italian. In English... not as good! But do give Prevert a go!

    Anyway... yes, you can buy his works in UK and everywhere else. But remember... don't do too much reading... just enjoy the holiday experience and remember, IT IS a holiday! So, have fun!

  6. Hello!

    Have just discovered your lovely blog - we seem to enjoy similar things! I hope you enjoy/ed your Paris trip - my daughter has just spent her annual school visit there and brought back a very nice Eiffel Tower keyring for everyone :)

    I enjoyed Laurie Lee's 'As I Set Out...' very much - I must dig it out again and re-read, perhaps lend it to my son - no hints intended but he is starting a two month school holiday and will be bored by day three... As his girlfiend spends every other weekend in Paris visiting her mother, he hopes to get up there for some time this summer, but I have plans for him to put some of my books on-line thus killing two birds - the first to keep him occupied, and the second to make some money!

    Rgds, Carol

  7. Hello Carol, How lovely to get your message and to find another lover of Laurie Lee. Isn't blogging fun? I have found so many like minded people in such a short period of time. Best wishes, Jane