Monday, May 14, 2012

This is the last, absolutely the last, paper book I will buy in London


Mais oui, I have booked my tickets and hotel for Paris. It's mon premier temps, and although I ne parler pas any French (as you will no doubt have guessed at this point), I look forward to my German and Italian making a strong comeback as soon as I set pied on French soil. I was never a girl who had a fascination with Paris, but I enjoy wine, cheese, coffee and croissants, so I'm confident this will be a success.

Plus I intend to go and see this:

I get a strange number of Google search hits for "bayeux tapestry" so let me reiterate: that is a picture of the Bayeux Tapestry, and I am obsessed with the Bayeux tapestry.

As I say, this is my first time, and I don't have an enormous list of must-sees other than

for good measure
so I have set myself the excitingly low bar of (1) walking around a bit and (2) going to the Louvre.* And this particular guidebook is (or seems like -- not like I've tried it out yet) the perfect book for such a person. It is made up of a series of walking tours that take you through the various neighborhoods, with a particular emphasis on the architecture and architectural history. The walks link up, which is an interesting approach. In theory, I guess, you could take the back half of one and the front half of the next one together, I guess.

The book is pretty stripped down; it's certainly no DK Eyewitness Guide (my parents' guidebooks of choice). The main decoration is in the form of simple pen sketches by the author of some of the buildings. Nearly every two page spread has a sketch so it's not completely plain but the only color comes from the headings and so on being in dark blue ink. On this aesthetic point, my only real objection is to the cover; what works well for the interior is not so great for a cover. The main contents are generally good (again, as far as I can tell), and there's a little glossary of architectural terms with explanations of the major styles, plus a "further afield" section which is always a nice feature. If you want the usual sort of guidebook things like hotels and restaurants you'd have to look elsewhere, but that's no big deal. My only complaint is that the little map of "Paris Districts" just has them labelled by number, while the walking itineraries only give their colloquial names and don't mention the numbers.

And now I will completely contradict my post title and say that I'm open to your suggestions of what I should read in Gay Paree, since, despite my lack of previous attachment to the city, I admit that it does seem sacrilegious to read a Kindle by the Seine. Preferably not history (I took two French history classes for some reason in undergrad, and they dented my GPA), and preferably something light or at least not depressing. I already read The Dud Avocado. I'm thinking maybe I'll just pick up some kind of cheap disposable paperback for the trip, something that, despite all previous experience, I'll be able to just give away or leave behind somewhere without being tempted to fit it in my suitcase.

*Incidentally, it seems cruel that everyone says you can't possibly cover the Louvre in a day and yet they don't sell any sort of multi-day ticket.



    I do remember that the best spaghetti I ever had ever was in France. Like, anywhere I ate it. "Oh, now this one's the best." Spaghetti bolognaise. Mmmmmmmmm.

    I actually had a not-great-time in Avignon, but I still miss the food. Because amazing. Unlike English food, which makes me make a sadface. :(

    Zero suggestions for what you should read, BUT I advise you visit the Conciergerie, because it was kind of cool. And if you can, the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was all popular back in the turn of the century. And the Tuileries, which are RIGHT next to the Louvre, and from them you can see the Arche de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower (which gets all glittery on the hour in the evening).

    And go to every patisserie you can. Obvs.



      See that? That's the Luxembourg Gardens. I had an Asian lady take it. "Excusez-moi, pourriez-vous prendre mon photo?"

    2. True story, my hotel is pretty much right across the street (some streets) from the Luxumbourg Gardens. Therefore I shall take your advice.

      I am looking forward to the eating, 'ow you say? very much.

  2. My suggestion is, listen to Ella Fitzgerald's I Love Paris like LOADS and bask in the frenchness of it all (when I went to Paris, I didn't know who Ella was, and now I'm sad about this. But I should probably work these issues out somewhere else).

    ANYWAY! Reading. I don't know. The only french book I can think of is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and you should clearly not read that because, well, slightly depressing for a holiday. So, something easy with a nice cover, since no one will know what you're reading anyway! (This is actually a lie since basically everyone in Paris can parlez vous l'anglais, which is really annoying when you're trying to do french at them, but will be handy for you! :) )

    So clearly I was no help! But have lots of fun anyway and don't bother seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre if you were going to because it's tres disappointing. For reals (plus, after they'd seen it, my family basically wanted to leave because they are plebs.)

    OH, and also, Sacre Couer is so beautiful, so if you have time to see that do! And if you find the cafe from Amelie, I will be so impressed/jealous.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's all, "Mona whatever". My parents came to London and spent one evening wandering around a giant ASDA; like we don't have Walmart at home. Le sigh!

  3. There's a beautiful little novel by Rumer Godden called The Greengage Summer. It doesn't take place in Paris, really, but it does take place in France.

    Highly recommended.


    1. Oooooo, this sounds great! I am going to note it down; thanks so much for suggesting it, I love suggestions :)