My year in books:
Book Goal: 25
Books Read: 32 (well, 31, but I’ll finish “The Woman in the Photograph” by Thursday)
Books Set in/About Paris: 16 (one more than last year!)
Books Borrowed from the Library: 14!
Favorite Book(s): “The President’s Hat” by Antoine Laurain, and “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery
Least Favorite(s): “Headhunters” by Jo Nesbø was just terrible. I borrowed it from the library because it involves a series of art heists, but what a disappointment. It read like a shorthand synopsis of a film script Nesbø was pitching to someone else to write in full. At one point, the protagonist hid in an outhouse toilet. Also “My Paris Dream” by Kate Betts. I didn’t think it was possible to write a bad memoir about Paris, but boy was I wrong. Entitled, miserable drivel.
Longest Book: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, 784 pages (again.) Having now read this twice, I can safely say I won’t read it a third time.
Shortest Book: “Flore: A Short Story” at 27 pages. I received this as a free download from the author (who also wrote “Paris, Rue des Martyrs,” Adria Cimino).
Funniest: “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, though perhaps it’s more clever than laugh-out-loud funny
Saddest: “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Susan Vreeland, a touching (fictionalized) account of Renoir’s famous painting and the stories of each of the models. For non-fiction: “The Hotel on Place Vendôme” and “In The Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson, both of which focus on Nazi Germany’s rise to power and are just seriously depressing.
Books Bought in European bookshops: Just 1 :(
Prettiest Covers: Hard to pick, as none of them are knock-outs, but I know for sure it wasn’t “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. It may look like a cheesy grocery store checkout romance paperback, but I promise it wasn’t!
Most Overrated: “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Guys, did you know we like, shouldn’t be afraid of our creativity? Groundbreaking stuff here. And “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George. To summarize my Goodreads review: “The Little Paris Bookshop” was neither little, in Paris, nor a bookshop, DISCUSS.”
What did you guys read this year that stood out for you? I’m always taking suggestions for next year!
And that last photo might be my favorite I’ve ever taken. That pigeon photobombed me as I was taking it, but I knew immediately it was for the best. I just love it. What do you think, should I add it to the Print Shop? I might even print one for myself!
There is nothing like the light in Paris. There were long stretches of gray for the first few days of my trip, and then, almost as if someone flipped a switch, the skies lit up in blue and gold in that classically Paris way. Winter light is different, sharper and clearer, than hazy summer and spring sunlight. I marveled at it like a silly tourist, standing on street corners just staring up at the sky. I also tried to be less precious this trip about not photographing people, rather than waiting for passerby to exit my frame.
There are places in the world where you immediately feel happier, more alive and complete, just by setting foot there. For some people, it’s the beach or a childhood home or a private island, I don’t know. For me, it’s Paris, but even more specifically, it’s the gardens of the Musée Rodin. There is no where, and nothing, I love more than this place. And happily, the main house reopened in early November after nearly two years of construction, though it was hard to go inside and leave the gardens when the weather was as glorious as it was that day.
People sometimes complain that Paris can be over-glorified with so many twee, Pinterest-y images flooding our collective conscious, and that’s true to a certain extent. The city isn’t just macarons and carrousels and accordion players under the Eiffel Tower. However, after spending the morning with my favorite artist, I can confirm: it really is all rainbows and bunnies. How lucky was I to spot both?
A Paris highlight: attending (yet another) auction at Sotheby’s, this time an African art and sculpture collection that was delightfully outside of my normal interests (read: Impressionism or bust). I stood in the back corner, along with several gallery girls, diligently taking notes on every lot and paddle number. I love that place, which sounds strange, given all the monuments and museums in the city, but I do. If you’ve ever been curious about auctions, go! They’re open to the public, endlessly entertaining (where else can you see millions of dollars spent so freely and openly?), and informative, if you’re an aspiring novelist or art enthusiast.
I’m trying to edit these down, but it looks like I’m going to inundate you with at least another two weeks worth of photos. How did I take nearly 400 photos in a week? (That’s rhetorical, of course I know how. Have you seen this city?).
I went a few places this trip I hadn’t before: exploring Le Marais, visiting the Musée Carnavalet (and getting to see two Louis Béroud paintings in person finally!), and stopping in to the Palais Royal. I am so embarrassed it took me this long to visit this gorgeous, meticulously designed garden, but I fully intend on making it my first destination when I’m back in the city in March (96 days!). If it looked this beautiful barren, I imagine I’ll be overwhelmed in early spring.
What can I say about Paris that I haven’t already said? Are you sick of hearing me sing its praises? (I don’t blame you!) I will say that I expected Paris to be many things last week: cold, dark, rainy, still reeling from the terror attacks a few weeks ago, scared, on edge, different. It wasn’t any of those things. It drizzled exactly once, a quick shower not even worthy of digging out my umbrella. I found the same Paris I’d left in May: unseasonably warm and bright, welcoming, insouciant, defiant, alive. I noticed more tricolores hanging from balconies and hung in shop windows, more signs declaring “Fluctant Nec Mergitur,” and yes, more French soldiers with large guns, pacing in front of monuments, standing sentry in front of synagogues in le Marais, and more security guards requesting to check my bag entering shops and museums. But Paris itself? Paris was the same, if not quieter and calmer, for the off-season lack of tourist and crowds. It was beautiful, and I loved every second of it, as I always have and I always will.
I hung out with Süsk, ate my weight in baguettes and butter, went to three museums (the Louvre, Rodin, and Carnavalet), wrote my ass off and finished a chapter that had been giving me a headache for weeks, explored new neighborhoods, walked an average of 25k steps (roughly 15km) each day, and only cried in public three times (all happy occasions, I promise, like seeing the Eiffel Tower again). I have so many photos to share with you! I’ll go easy on the words, because really, you’ve heard me say it all before. En bref, Paris is perfect.