Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

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Hi there reading friends–  I’ve just spent a pleasant week “in Paris,” reading Edward Rutherfurd’s newest titled just that, Paris.  If you love historical fiction and the city of Paris both as much as I do you’ll fall for this book too.  It’s over 800 pages cover history, geography, culture… from 1261 until 1968.  The story lines follow a number of families– the deCynes (proud aristocrats), Le Sourds (perpetual revolutionaries), Gascons (solid labor class) and the Blanchards (rising businessmen) — whose lives over generations are interwoven with the events of Parisian history.

One of my favorite chapters involved Thomas Gascon, steel worker on the Eiffel tower.  His conversations with Eiffel reveal the complexities involved in constructing the tower.  Paris at war both during WWI and the stories of the brave resistance during the German occupation of WWII were intriguing, peopled by characters both historical and from the families whose characters filled the book.  You come across Luis the XIV in Versailles, spend at evening in the Moulin Rouge, sit at a cafe with Hemingway, sympathize with the plight of the Huguenots…  Rutherfurd’s meticulous research pays off in a human look at the french history you pick up along the way.

If I have a criticism, it would be that some characters seemed much less developed than others, leaving you wondering… (but could the book have been longer?!).  And the chapters jumped from century to century forward and backward, not chronologically as his other books, at times unsettling.  Nevertheless,  over all, I loved reading through the generations of these families, their sins and their successes.  But in the end, the true star of the book is Paris itself, brilliant and always fascinating.  I’m wishing I was planning a trip there soon.

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We’ll always have Paris…

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Hi all– I was browsing through my favorite card shop up in SF when I came upon this glitter encrusted copy of an old Notre Dame post card.  I grabbed it to send off to Laurel– to remind her of  our Paris trip this time last year!  I wish we could do that trip all over again– but at least I can drag out our photos to enjoy those memorable days one more time …

IMG_6119   IMG_3764   IMG_6293We were intrepid tourists and strolled out every day to see all the famous (and not so famous) sights.
Laurel’s fish-eye view of the line into Notre Dame, in the park behind the tower, overlooking gardens in Versailles.

IMG_4009   IMG_3658   IMG_6430  We poured over the incredible art, pieces we had studied in art history classes and were so glad to “meet” them in person.
— Van Cleve’s “Christ the Savior of the World”  at the Louvre, Representations of Cosette in the Victor Hugo Home,  portrait by Jean Dubuffet at the Georges Pompidou.

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Oh, and the food.  There was no shortage of wonderful things to eat.  —
Breakfast at “La Favorite,” around the corner from our hotel,  Charcuterie for dinner,  artichokes in a market stall, the remains of Laurel’s duck dinner.

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All around, everywhere we looked, so much beauty…  thank you Laurel for a trip
I’ll never, ever forget.
View from a Louvre window, sailboat pond in the Tulleries, a street view in the Marais, clock window upstairs in the Orsay, Hotel de Ville.

The Paris Wife

IMG_0312Hi all– Just finished reading Paula McLain’s, The Paris Wife, a novel as told by Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway in the 1920’s.  At the end of  his book, A Moveable Feast, written later in his life, Hemingway writes, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.”  In this new version, Hadley details her faithful devotion to a talented, egocentric genius.  Theirs was a charmed, if battered, marriage.

Soon after they are wed, the couple moves to Paris and makes the acquaintance of such luminaries as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound.  They socialize with this carousing, amoral crowd of expatriates, but live humbly themselves, Hemingway, not yet famous, passing his days writing in an unheated rented room.  They have a son and travel with friends, skiing in Austria, to the bullfights in Spain.  Hadley remains the faithful wife, supporting Hemingway’s tender ego, overlooking his failures as a husband and a human being.  All revolved around “his work.”

But eventually the marriage falls apart. Hadley cannot compete with the savvy, edgy world around them.  Through the book, I was hoping for an ending I knew couldn’t wouldn’t happen.  Hemingway’s first notable book, The Sun Also Rises, is published just as they are divorcing and he dedicates it to Hadley and their son, Bumby.

IMG_0309It’s a sign of a worthwhile book, that I as I finished reading, I raced to google “Hadley Richardson” to find the rest of her story.  And pulled A Moveable Feast off my shelf for a “re-read” to compare Hemingway’s account with this fictionalized version.  The Paris Wife opens the door to a fascinating place and time and an intimate picture of a complex man.  I think you might like it.

Paris in Love

51RB-OsoB2L._AA160_Hi Book Buddies–  You know, some books are downright educational. You feel so very noble as you plow through them.  Some books pull you along by your emotions.  You are heart-warmed or terrified…  And some books are just plain fun.  Like this one.

Paris in Love is the memoir of Eloisa James, who scooped up her handsome Italian husband, Alessandro, and two growing kids to live a year in Paris.  She and her husband are both professors and took a sabbatical year, where she intended to pen a couple books.  All she managed, though, were her clever facebook postings home to friends, observations on food, fashion and family as they savored Paris.  In the end, she artfully edited these posts and “voila!”– we have the good fortune to read along.  Here’s are a couple of my favorite “posts:”

of the open market stalls she writes–   “I was staggered by a mound of fresh mushrooms, big and ruffled like hats for elderly churchgoing fairies. It was only when the “marchand de fruits” asked me if I was quite sure I wanted that many that I realized these particular fungus cost the same as our rent.”

“I asked if Alessandro would pick up some of the spectacular chocolate mousse made by a patisserie on the nearby rue Richer.  His response: “I thought you were on a diet.”  These seven words rank among the more imprdudent things he has said to me in the long years of our marriage.”

“A row of elegantly narrow dormer windows sprouts from the building opposite my study.  Sometimes a gaunt woman with beautiful cheekbones and sleek black hair pushes open her window and leans out, smoking and flicking the ashes onto the slate.  Today she wears a read dress and looks as if she belongs in an eighteenth-century novel in which heroines come to a bad end.”

There are more–snippets of a year, lived fully, appreciatively in Paris.  All delightful.  If you can’t have your own Parisian year, this might be the next best thing.

Five Breakfasts with Laurel

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Hello there friends–  The lovely thing about traveling with my girl Laurel is that she likes to eat as much as I do.  Here she is savoring tapas our first night in Barcelona, so happy to be back in Spain!!  …But this time I wanted to report on Breakfasts.  We had some good morning feasts on our travels together…

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#1. Our favorite meals in Dublin were those homey breakfasts, with pots of tea and hearty scones -One morning we threw caution to the wind and had a full Irish breakfast–current scone, eggs and bangers, a huge savory mushroom, something between bacon and ham and brown Kilkeeny bread that was chock full of wheat oaty grains– sitting at the window on the second floor watching the morning walkers, bikers and buses passing by.
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#2.  On the Boulevard, around the corner from our tiny Paris hotel, we settled into “La Favorite”– a neighborhood cafe with breakfast eaters lining the sidewalk.  We tucked into the standard morning baguette and butter breakfast and watched the morning unfold on the bustling street in front of us.

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#3.  It was unplanned, but we ended up in Paris along with Aaron and Jessica (son and dear daughter in law)– We met up for an exquisite breakfast at Laduree and a chance to catch up with them mid-trip for all of us.  It was apricot pastry and pain perdue beautifully served under the frescoed ceiling on elegant silver.  I was charmed!  On the way out Jessica picked out a box of their famous macaroons for us–a Parisian dream come true.

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#4.  Our sunny Sunday morning breakfast in Utrera, Spain wasn’t notable for the wonderful food.  I loved it so for the sweet wave of nostalgia that washed over me.  This is where Laurel was a toddler and we spent plenty of Sundays here on the town plaza sipping “cola cao” and munching on crunchy “mostachones.”  So many memories of stopping here for afternoons pastries or morning toast with Spanish friends– surrounded by the beauty of buildings centuries old.  It was perfect.

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#5.  And I must include the much anticipated churros breakfast in Seville.  We ate those things with chocolate as a Sunday morning ritual the years we lived in Spain.  Nothing like the “wooden” churros found here– light and airy with the most tender crunch.  And the chocolate– thick and rich enough to qualify as pudding.  We couldn’t believe we could eat all the churros we ordered.  But we did!

I would love to eat all those breakfasts with Laurel all over again!  Thanks LoKate…

Lunch in Paris

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Hey there-  This summer in Paris Laurel and I worked up an appetite sauntering through galleries of French and Italian paintings.  So for lunch we got out our trusty guide book (we are not ashamed of being real tourists) and trudged across town to a promising cafe. It was my favorite lunch in Paris– at Boullion Chartier.

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Built 100 years ago as a workers’ canteen tucked down a little alley on rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, it doesn’t seem to have changed a bit since then.  Rushing waiters serve up simple  (but delicious) food at good prices.  You really know you’re in Paris…

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Laurel ordered a plate of duck and roasted potatoes, which she declared delicious.   And I happily tucked into my steakfrites.

And, of course, I had the most adorable dining companion, to rehash our morning and to plan out the day ahead…

When lunch was thoroughly consumed, the waiter tallied up our meal on the paper tablecloth cover and took our payment to the little white haired lady in the cashier’s box.  It was a fine meal.  We were charmed.

PARIS


Hi friends– Paris.  We were charmed.  Five glorious days of beautiful streets, art and, of course, food.  We started at a bountiful market and moved on to magnificent churches,  memorable museums and cunning little shops.  Here’s our “Top Ten” from Paris:

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#1.  First stop, the Marche d’Alegri (founded in 1621)  was a mouth watering stroll passed a beautiful, bountiful display of fruits, cheeses, meat, veggies, flowers…  We picked up a bag of bright rosy apricots for pre bedtime munching.

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#2. We sat on a front pew in Notre Dame to listen to a men/boys’ choir rehearse.  Glorious.  The voices reverberated on the high stone walls.  So much beauty all around, all to give God glory.

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#3.  Laurel loved our morning in the Louvre so much that we went back for a second day to stroll through the remaining European canvases.  We loved studying paintings we had met in art history classes and we recreated the “bored face  photo” we have of  Laurel when she was just 4 in front of the Winged Victory.

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#4.  Best lunch of the trip found us at Chartier.  It seemed as if the restaurant was created in 1900 and had not changed since.  Steak frites for me, roasted duck and potatoes for Laurel with a carafe of Rose.  We loved how they wrote to bill on the paper table topper.  Perfect.

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#5.  I have read about the Shakespeare and Company book shop for years.  And was not disappointed by the maze of rooms and cozy reading nooks. Books floor to ceiling, even up the stairway.  I could imagine Gertrude Stein sitting by the window… It was my favorite spot in Paris.

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#6.  A morning stroll around the corner to the Victor Hugo Home, set in the Pace Des Vosges.  A fascinating view of his life in the family photos, tour notes and the rooms he lived and wrote in.  Beautiful.

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#7.  We joined Aaron and Jessica for an elegant breakfast at Laudree.  It was great fun to catch up with them mid trip (for all of us) and a dream come true to be in that lovely bakery/cafe.  This is Laurel’s apricot pistachio croissant.  Jessica treated us to a box of their famous macaroons on our way out.  So Thanks AA & J!

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#8.  We passed a wonderful morning studying the Orsay from top to bottom.  Set in a previous train station, the impressionist  and art noveau exhibits were fascinating and oh so impressive.  And the views across Paris through an original clock were the best.

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#9.  We spent a perfectly sunny day roaming the monumental grounds of Versailles, past imposing statuary and sculptured gardens, watching singing fountains and sumptuous flower beds.  We stopped on a stone bridge in the woods for a picnic we had gathered in our neighborhood shops that morning.
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#10.  One of the best parts of our Paris sojourn was simply walking the streets past elegant shops, stately architecture, inviting food, leafy gardens and, of course, bridges across the Seine.  Our last night we sauntered home under a glowing blue night sky.  Au revoir Paris.

A Trip to Remember…

Hi friends–  Well, Laurel and I flew in late last night from our marvelous, memorable travels together.  From Dublin to Paris and through Spain, we tasted and strolled and museum-ed to our hearts content.  Here’s a list of both of our “Top Fives…”

  
First stop Dublin.  Tops for Laurel was the National Natural History Museum, also known as the “dead zoo” –a treasure trove of stuffed animals in a century old setting.   And I loved the grand tour led by an articulate young woman who was a PhD lecturer at Trinity college.  We started at the college and wound our way through the cobbled streets of Dublin, hearing tales from vikings to current politics.  Fascinating.

  
And Paris.  Laurel was so taken with the Louvre that we went back a second day to continue on studying the European painting.  Magnifique!  And I was totally charmed by the “Shakespeare and Company” bookshop– a warren of smallish cosy nooks and comfy reading chairs.  There are books everywhere, even up the stair case!  It couldn’t have been more perfect.

   
We both were happy to be back in Spain when we reached Barcelona.  And loved the unique. wondrous Catalan sense of design.  Laurel’s favorite was Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia” Cathedral, begun in 1892 and still under construction, it’s a magical confection of color and otherworldly charm.  My best of Barcelona was the “Palau de Muscia Catalana,” a light filled concert hall that is lined with colorful decorations in glass, stucco, stone, brick and ceramic.  Finely tuned beauty wherever you look.

  
Seville was like coming home.  Everywhere we looked there were so many memories.  Laurel’s highpoint was feeding the “palomas” at Maria Luisa Park, slightly terrifying from my point of view.  And the best for me was Sunday back with old friends at the Utrera church, lunch together, tapas late evening in the park.  Perfect.

  
Our last stop was just two days in Madrid.  We took the Spanish tour of the “Monasterio de los Descalzas Reales,” a convent that has been the home to nuns of royal lineage, so very oranate and sumptuous. That was Laurel’s “fave,”  I loved, loved the Sorolla Museum, an old favorite, housed in the early 1900’s home of the Spanish impressionist Jaoquin Sorolla–so many beautiful works of his wife and children.

So that’s it.  Our two and half weeks flew by, with the normal travel ups and downs.  Thank you Laurel for the magnificent birthday gift of this trip, and for being an impressive map reader and the best travel buddy.  Great memories…

P.S. — I have so many more fun things to write about this trip.  I’ll be writing to you about it over the next few weeks.  So many pretty parks… and oh the food!…

Au Revoir!


Hello friends–  We’re off!  Me and my girl.  Today is the start of the much anticipated birthday trip and I’m jumping up and down with excitement!

We’ll touchdown in Dublin, visit a castle, have a pint or two (that would be Laurel, not me) and find some tea and scones.  In Paris, we’ll Facebook our picture in front of the Eiffel Tower and sit over breakfast on the Place Vosges…  Then on to Spain where we’ll walk familiar streets and talk with old familiar friends.  I’m joyfully anticipating sitting and worshipping in our small Utrera church and lingering in the park eating tapas with the Utrera friends.  I am so grateful…

P.S. – My little blog will still keep posting everyday without me here, and when we get back I’ll put up a few travel pictures of our rollicking adventures!