'I walk through the streets and enjoy listening to wild chattering French with the same level of understanding that one has glimpsing a row of sparrows crowded on a telephone line. Are these people really talking, or are they just singing to each other? They look far too elegant and sophisticated to be uttering the half-assed things people say to each other in New York.'
This is one of many vignettes from Eloisa James new book I can't put down,
After a series of crisis author James insists her Italian husband, Alessandro and two children, Anna (11) and Luca (15) pull up stakes in New Jersey, sell off everything and take off for a year's sebatical in Paris. Most entries are short, yet they paint an unforgettable picture of Parisian daily life that makes you feel you're there with her whether you've ever visited or not. I've tried to match up photos to her inimitable words. I'm smitten. I think you will be too.
James scatters throughout mini weather reports seen from her window.
'My study looks directly onto the gray slanted roofs of the other side of rue du Conservatoire. I love watching rain pour over the slate, creating dark rivers that sheet down the gutters. The cat who lives opposite, whose owner puts her out on the little balcony when she cleans the apartment, is not enthusiastic about the rain.'
'...I sallied forth to La Grande Epicerie on rue de Sevres and bought three different kinds of chocolate: Zanzibar's orange en robe (twists of rind with delicious coating), Cote d'Or's citron gingembre (a bar with ginger and lemon peel), and Michel Cluizel's noir aux ecorces d'orange (a dark bar with tiny chunks of orange). Anna and I had a tasting test. The winner was Cluizel's chocolat noir. It's astounding:deep and rich, with a silky melt.'
'There is a bakery down the street from Anna's school, on avenue de Villars, where there is always a line. They specialize in little fruit tarts. The most beautiful one has figs sliced so thin as to be translucent, then dusted in sugar. Luca's favorite looks like a tiny version of the Alps: small strawberries, each one sitting upright and capped in a drop of white chocolate.'
'My personal favorite has sliced apricots arranged in overlapping patterns, like crop circles in an English field.'
'Yesterday I went with a friend to the Musee Jacquemart-Andre, the home of a nineteenth-century couple who were passionate art collectors. The collection is spectacular: the bath alone was worth the price of entry...'
'...If you're planning a trip to Paris, this museum is a must-see - the cafe is catered by a fabulous patisserie, Stohrer. Nicolas Stohrer worked in Versailles as pastry chef to King Louis XV; he's famous for creating the beloved baba au rhum (rum cake). Diet suspended for the occasion, I had it, and I think he'd be proud.'
'I've discovered at least one secret of thin French women. We were in a restaurant last night, with a chic family seated at the next table. The bread arrived, and a skinny adolescent girl reached for it. Without missing a beat, maman picked up the basket and stowed it on the bookshelf next to the table. I ate more of my bread in sympathy.'
'My mother placed white sugar right next to crack cocaine in the catalog of the most dangerous substances known to man (not that she knew what crack was, but you get the idea). To this day my idea of heaven is a handful of small marshmallows: pure undiluted, bad-for-you sugar in a form that could never be mistaken as healthy. I have found a supplier here in Paris, which is akin to a junkie discovering a private poppy field'.
Photo by Mes VitrinesNYC
'My favorite Galeries Lafayette window is set with an exquisite dinner party scene: crystal chandeliers, fabulous dishes, tiaras scattered among the plates, wine glasses draped in pearls-all of it being enjoyed by assorted marionette bears. One has a wineglass in each paw and a tiara tipped over one ear. He raises the glasses drunkenly, toasting all the children outside the window'.
'My cocottes will remind me that food is meant to be served to others, to be beautiful, to be original (even violet-colored), to be dreamed over. They will remind me that indulgence is not a virtue we should keep for the holiday season alone, and that saving time - when it comes to food - is more sinful than virtuous'.
'The impetus to move to Paris - to sell the house and the cars and simply fly away - sprang from my mother's death and my own brush with cancer. But I wonder if I would have acted on the idea without the lessons learned from Rose.
So this book is my phone call - not from the top of the mountain, or even the top of the Eiffel Tower: the "here" is negotiable.
It's so beautiful here.
You must come before you die'.
Please read Eloisa James, Paris in Love.
Let me know if you love it as much as I do.
Let me know if you love it as much as I do.