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    April In Paris

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    By Cara Black

    Bonjour All you good girls who kill for money! Tasha, my watching the Academy Awards buddy, asked me to wax poetic about springtime in Paris. But zut alors! according to my Parisian friend’s email this morning, there’s a cold, grey mist winding in the cobbled streets and the sun’s hiding behind a gun metal grey sky. So give it another month or so until sprigs of daffodils will appear in the window boxes overlooking the narrow Paris streets, mothers will pick up les enfants from the neighborhood school in their chic agnes b. khaki raincoats that I, for one, would die to own, lines will form outside the Louvre for the new exhibitions and every Parisian will have nailed down their August vacances. Yes, these people plan serious things, like the sacred August vacations, way ahead. Unlike my family who hit Google in July and search the net for lowest fares anywhere. Often with dire results. French people I know have the agreement signed for the apartment on the Brittany coast, the hiking in the Pyrenees route planned, the grandparents countryside bedrooms staked out and strawberry picking fields scoped out to a T. Makes me feel like I’m way behind already. But I always forget they’ve got a whole month of vacation to fill, while some of us scrape together a week here, a long weekend there. That’s the French way, a long holiday with family and friends spent eating, talking, fitting in those daily visits to a ruin or two.

    Leisurely, like it should be.

    Speaking of the French way, I’ve long felt Parisian women have a scarf gene we don’t have. This encoded Gallic tradition of how to arrange even the most lowly scarf in an artistic, breathless way that looks put together and tousled at the same time. Know what I mean? And knot the scarf in such a way that dresses up jeans and manages to look elegant in a way I never can do. Maybe it explains why they remain the idiosyncratic, artistic and savvy scarf-tying population I secretly aspire to.

    For those of us who are scarf impaired, and we are legion, try the following directions. Be easy on yourself. Like sailors, their knot tying skills are prodigious.

    1. Fold the scarf in half the long way.
    2. Fold that in half the short way.
    3. Put the scarf, thus folded, around your neck. One end will be free, the other the fold, forming a sort of loop.
    4. Put the free end through the folded end and pull tight.


    Oops forgot to say don’t try this alone and choke yourself as I did on my first attempt. Or on the second when my mouth was covered and I looked like I was in purdah. Use a mirror. Everything helps.

    Speaking of mirrors, not only in small boutiques but in big department stores I discovered French dressing rooms use two different sets of lighting. One for day (la jour) and one for night (la nuit). No wonder women buy the right outfit. They know how it will look when they wear it.

    And I fear I’ve neglected mentioning the most important place to enjoyParis in the spring . . . yes, the cafe-tabac, the home away from home, the living room for those who live in small apartments on the top floor without elevators. Not only can you get the latest neighborhood gossip, assuming you’re a regular, but also a bite to eat or more elaborate menu du jour if they’ve got a kitchen. You can buy a carafe of wine, espresso, your bus and Metro pass, cigarettes, lottery tickets and purchase your car registration too. Merveilleuse, non? Now that’s for me. Especially after having spent several hours in line at the DMV in San Francisco to renew my car registration. I envy my friend, picturing her at the local cafe-tabac: dining, drinking and taking care of business while sitting outside at a sidewalk table.

    But for anyone who wants to avoid the airfare and security line at the airport and take an armchair visit to Paris in spring, here are a few book suggestions from the myriad of books written about the City of Light.

    Maigret and the Fortuneteller — A classic tale of Inspector Maigret, George Simenon’s famous Police Inspector who’s stuck in Paris in August. . . quel horreur . . . unheard of . . . but when a fortune teller is murdered who else can they call?

    Talk to the Snail - Ten Commandments for Understanding the French byStephen Clarke — An expat Brit’s 3rd literary foray into French culture. He does have that wicked British wit poking fun at the French but reveals a superb technique for dealing with officious cranky French postal workers. Not for the faint of heart. Have a glass of red wine
    before reading.

    Almost French by Sarah Turnbull. Another expat, an Aussie, describing her trials and tribulations and final acceptance into Parisian society. I found so much true here and loved it. 360 Paris — A gorgeous photo book with 360 panoramic photos of the City of Light — slim, rectangular and fits in your bag nicely. The shots will take you up on the rooftops, even in high heels safely, and take your breath away.

    Paris in Mind edited by Jennifer Lee — Short vignettes by everyone from Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain to Saul Bellow and David Sedaris. Three centuries of Americans writing about their romance and frustrations in Paris. It’s amazing how little has changed.

    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. If you’re feeling classical and romantic and need some tragedy. My book group read it last year. Poor Emma suffering for love is as vivid now as ever.

    And I’d love to hear yours, so please share!

    Meanwhile, bon voyage girls,


    You absolutely will not want to miss Cara’s latest book, Murder in the Rue de Paradis. Pick up a copy TODAY!!!!!

    Murder in the Rue de Paradis (An Aimee Leduc Investigation)

    14 Responses to “April In Paris”

    1. Well, I’ll have to come back and read this post when I’m awake. I just got shaken out of bed by an earthquake. In St. Louis!

      5.3 centered east of here in Illinois.

      I woke up to a loud knocking. Then my bed started to shake. My wife woke up and my daughter.

      It lasted maybe 15 seconds. Seemed longer.

      There’s no way I get back to sleep.

      by Will Bereswill on April 18th, 2008 at 4:59 am

    2. Since it’s spring–and I don’t sleep in spring–I was awake when the quake hit. Very weird feeling.

      Anyway, a warm welcome to Cara! We’re glad you decided to spend a day with us in the GG clubhouse!

      by Laura on April 18th, 2008 at 5:46 am

    3. Cara, Maybe it’s that Y chromosome, but romantic books set in Paris? I have no suggestions. But welcome to the GG corner.

      Oh and sorry for the early morning newscast.

      by Will Bereswill on April 18th, 2008 at 7:27 am

    4. Yeah, I felt it too–very weird.

      Wish I’d been in Paris. But I have that feeling every morning.

      by judy larsen on April 18th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    5. Technically, I’m supposedly in the Midwest, but I didn’t notice a thing! Cleveland is just different in a depressing kind of way.
      Cara, I read a really nice review of your book, stressing all the background details as being incredibly interesting, which made me interested, too (it was in either Meritorious Mysteries or Reviewed by Liz), but I haven’t gotten it yet (I’ve got 28 books to read right now). The review mentioned the distinctive voice of your writing, and I can hear it here, too, which makes me want to resort my TBR pile. (Thanks)
      Personally, my coolest vision of Paris comes from the Highlander TV series, with Duncan living on a barge on the Seine, but some of those books you mentioned (esp. the Maigret) will have to join the pile too.

      by Kate Hathway on April 18th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    6. Thanks for the warm welcome GG! And to Tasha, who’s drinking partner…well, we’ll keep that ourselves, right? Will, I think you’re onto something with that Y chromosone!
      I though only we in SF had earthquakes… hope you’re all ok.
      Kate, Highlander…oui, oui, oui!

      by Cara on April 18th, 2008 at 10:59 am

    7. Cara, some things have to just stay in that bar in SC!!!! I do hope we’ve all destroyed the photographic evidence. ; )

      Thanks so much for hanging with us today! You’ve made me miss Paris more than a little bit……

      Will, everyone here’s talking about the earthquake as well. I’ve always suspected I sleep like the dead and the fact that I wasn’t disturbed in the slightest seems to support that hypothesis…

      by Tasha Alexander on April 18th, 2008 at 11:47 am

    8. Tasha, in the Murderati Blog, JT said she didn’t feel it either. My house almost sits on bedrock, (I’m almost on the Mississippi River bluff) and we got jolted pretty hard…

      Oh, the loud knocking I heard that woke me up a minute or two before the shaking began? It was a vase with an uneven bottom that I had just put some daffodils from my garden in. It started knocking at least a minute before the big shake and continued several minutes after. The water surface was rippling too. Seems I invented something I’ll call a seizmograph.

      by Will Bereswill on April 18th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    9. Tasha, apart from the photos to the National Enquirer? Ooops…kidding. And hanging here is a pleasure…thank you.

      Looks like a big quake now that I’ve read more…hope you don’t get any aftershocks.

      Kate…there’s another great Maigret you might want to put in the pile ‘Maigret and the headless corpse’

      by Cara on April 18th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    10. Cara, I use your books for the Paris experience.

      And Lee Child set part of one of his books there too. I thought it captured the essence of the city very well.

      by JT Ellison on April 18th, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    11. Mon amie JT…thanks!

      Lee’s amazing…which title, do you remember?

      Was hoping to make a research trip but with the Euro right now…aargh! Someone said they took 300 Euros out of a French ATM and it translated into $480 US…

      by Cara on April 18th, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    12. He goes to Paris to see to his mother… and my mind is blanking. Hard Way, maybe, or The Enemy.

      We were planning a research trip to Italy and ran into the same problem. Especially once the season starts, it’s just ridiculous.

      by JT Ellison on April 18th, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    13. Wow, just mention Paris and the earth moves! :wink:

      Great post, Cara! Thanks for the tips & the book rec’s. Besides a few you’ve mentioned, I also enjoyed PARIS TO THE MOON by Adam Gopnik–a book of essays & some personal journal entries he wrote while living in Paris with his growing young family and writing for the New Yorker.

      I guess my all-time favorite is still Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST, about his own life and times in Paris of the ’20’s.

      PS ~ Cara, love your photos, btw, both on your website and the newer ones you posted on Murderati last month. I’m especially fond of the shot of the woman with the umbrella on the rainy cobblestones!

      by Texas Lynn on April 18th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    14. oooooh, yes, Lynn, Paris To The Moon is GREAT!

      Recently read Julia Child’s memoir–has some wonderful bits of Paris in it. But be warned it will make you very, very hungry.

      And, Cara, if we made the Enquirer it would probably be worth it.

      by Tasha Alexander on April 18th, 2008 at 8:59 pm

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