Posts Tagged ‘David Downie’

Catching Up And A Few Good Reads

November 6, 2012

Pre-surgery ETs preparing for the tough times ahead

The Experienced Travelers have been on a medical hiatus throughout the summer and fall.  Nurse is battling a serious infection in her knee, but we are on the road to recovery.  Just one more surgery for another knee replacement and she’ll be dancing a gigue.

This is what Nurse was hoping might emerge from the kitchen but my cooking skills run more toward grilled cheese than galettes from the Marais.

In my dual-role of primary caregiver and temporary cook, I prescribed regular infusions of Chateauneuf du Pape for the patient and the chef.  It certainly improved her disposition – and heightened the quality of my cuisine.  So, Dear Readership, you went on the back burner – so to speak.  Mea culpa.

Here are a few Parisian “good reads” I bookmarked for just such an occasion.  It’s the season for fireside reading and these books go nicely with a glass of wine and ripe Norman camembert:

The French art of seduction extends to shopping. Barb and Chris demonstrate the effects in a Marais scarf shop. I think two of those scarves came home with them.

Elaine Sciolino, Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times is author of  La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life.  Oh Dear Readership, how we long to understand the game, and Ms. Sciolino guides us through the labyrinth of French social interactions and teaches us how to flirt with the butcher.

Seduction governs all aspects of French life – romance, cuisine, business and politics.  The ETs have been under the spell for years. Just as we were relieved to know the diagnosis with Nurse’s knee, we are thrilled to understand the frisson and shortness of breath we get when we start planning a trip to  Paris.  I downloaded a sample and so far, it’s terrific.

To the Dear Readership who reside in France — what is your take on the art of seduction?  We rely on you to give us the straight story.

Melinda just caught an edge of Philippe-Auguste’s legendary wall

I’ve always meant to tell you about Alistair Horne.   His “Seven Ages of Paris” is one of the best comprehensive histories of the city I’ve read – twice.  From the island of Lutetia to the postwar period, it’s entertaining, well-written and relevant.  It might make you want to find the extant remains of Philippe-Augustus’ 12th century fortified wall.  If you do, I can tell you that it’s against local law and ordinance to pry off a piece of the wall for personal home use.

A splendid view of Montmartre from the windows of the Musee D’Orsay.(Photo by Barb and Christine)

Another good read is David Downie, a food and travel author who resides in Paris. (someone else who is living the life I was meant for, but I shan’t be mean about it…) “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” is a series of  essays on different aspects of the city, its inhabitants and its history.  You *will* reserve flights after reading “Paris, Paris”.  Mr. Downie also writes an excellent blog.

My current bedside reading includes Mary McAuliffe’s “Dawn of the Belle Époque” about the Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau et. al.  It’s a bit formulaic but provides an excellent introduction to this fascinating period in French history.

A symbol of the Belle-Époque “can do” attitude. (Photo by Barb and Chris)

And speaking of the Belle Époque – have I mentioned Proust lately?  Set aside Danielle Steel and read the Mother of All Modern Social Set Pieces – Mme. Verdurin and her Wednesday “at homes” with the little clan or the Princesse de Guermantes’ “see and be seen” party.  Just *try* “Combray” – the first section of “Swann’s Way”.  If you get that far, you’ll have friends for life in six volumes.

Choose the new Penguin editions, which are  easier to grasp than older translations. Don’t suffer like I did because I wanted to read the same translation that Virginia Woolf  read.  Historical verisimilitude is nice but it will make you want to walk into a pond with stones in your pockets – oh, wait a minute…

Paris seduction begins on the Seine, in view of the Pont-Neuf, and most likely in a light drizzling rain. Get reading and fall in love with Paris!

In fact, I think that “La Seduction..” makes a perfect pairing with “In Search of Lost Time”- the theory explained in Sciolino and the practice artfully demonstrated in Proust.

There.  Now your holiday wish list is done and you can spend the winter weekends “in Paris” – without dispensing with jammies and a cuddly comforter.  It’s good to be chatting with you again!

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