Joyeux Bastille Day

Carousel at Tuilieries
Carousel at Tuilieries

Double Celebration today. This post on a Paris book and an Announcement. TA-DA! I am launching a photo e-book  on Barnes and Noble for your Nook.  I have expanded and converted my blog post called Ten Places to Eat Cheap(er) in Paris into an e-book. Check it out. (And if you read it, how about giving a review and rating?) Thanks.

Destination: Paris

Book: Paris Was Ours: Thirty-two Writers Reflect on the City of Light,  Edited by Penelope Rowlands. (NEW February, 2011)

Paris leaves deep impressions on most first-time visitors, but not all of them can express themselves with the grace and wit of the writers gathered by Penelope Rowlands. Paris Was Ours gives us essays by thirty-two writers, mostly Americans, few of them household names, look back at their first experience with Paris.

Because several of the essayists went to Paris first as students, there is a sameness to many stories.  Eating cheap, living in working class neighborhoods, traversing the Latin Quarter and the Luxembourg Gardens echo through several of the tales.

You can dip into the pages as you have a leisure moment, and come away with a bit of new information about Paris through the eyes of an outsider. Are the French cruel to their children? Where can you eat really cheap? What are the landmines for someone learning the language? How do the French education system, the health system, or the job market work? What is the French attitude toward money, love, strangers, prepared food, or scarves?

Among the writers I immediately recognized were David Sedaris, author ofMe Talk Pretty One Day and David Lebovitz, chef and author of The Sweet Life in Paris, which I reviewed here.

Eiffel TowerI particularly enjoyed the work of

  • Penelope Rowlands, the editor, in her own closing piece about leaving Paris. Triste.
  • Caroline Weber, learning about French psychology. Though provoking.
  • Veronique Vienne writes, “Living in Paris is ‘priceless’, but it will cost you.  It ain’t cheap, yet is one of the greatest bargains on earth.”
  • Joe Queenan tells us about his typical poor student’s life. He tells us how, in 1972, he lived on 5 dollars a day–roughly 25 francs–10 for room, 5 for alcohol and tobacco, 5 for entertainment, and 5 for food.
  • Jeremy Mercer lived (yes literally) at Shakespeare and Company.
  • Judith Warren deconstructs French Feminism.
  • Zoé Valdés compares her prior life in Communist Cuba with her new life as a Parisian.
  • Stacey Schiff‘s entry called In Franklin’s Footsteps not only made me insanely jealous of her gig living in Paris a year to research one of my favorite people, but also made me want to buy the resulting book,  A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America.

The variety means there is something for everyone here, but of course it also means that there are entries that you are not going to warm up to. Nevertheless, I’d recommend Paris Was Ours for the France shelf of your traveler’s library.

This book makes a nice way to celebrate Bastille Day, which will descend on Paris complete with fireworks and parades. I thank Holly Tucker and her blog,  Wonders and Marvels, because I WON this book from them (Just as YOU CAN WIN the book on African Wildlife Photography that I discussed last Monday).  Ken and I hold the copyright to the pictures used in this post, and we ask that you not reuse them without permission. Some books mentioned in the post are linked to Amazon for your convenience and my small profit.

If you were going to write an essay about your first experience in Paris, what would you focus on? If you really want to write that essay, Rowlands provides a place on the Paris Was Ours web page.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

8 thoughts on “Joyeux Bastille Day

  1. wishing you great success with the ebook —

    if Benjamin Franklin is one of your favorite people, I wonder if you know Adrienne Young’s CD The Art of Virtue? there are Franklin connections there both overt and less obvious. he’s one of her favorite folk too.

  2. Congrats on your e-book. Best of luck for its success.

    My first French experience would focus on either the people I met/saw walking in the various parks: an extraordinary microcosm of typical Parisian (and French) life. One very fond experiences of playing boule/petanque (I am hopeless but provided humour) with these crusty old gents who had been meeting weekly for over fifteen years. We ended up with quite an audience. i only wish my French was better to be able to have deeper conversations.

    Bons voeux pour le jour Bastille (he says in rough French…) – one of the great national festivals of the world.

  3. I would focus on the first meal I had. I remember it so well. First course: radishes. Second course: a whole fish. No conversation at all during the meal. I was 17.

  4. Thanks for such a thoughtful and extensive post on Paris Was Ours! I really enjoyed reading your comments.

    Also, I particularly appreciate your posting this on Bastille Day…

    all best, Penelope

    1. Thanks, Jessie: People like that blog post so much, I thought it would be a service to give them a format they could take with them when they travel.

Comments are closed.