Paris – the City of Love. How many romantic movies begin and end there, complete with visions of strolling along the Seine beneath the chestnut trees with your amour. Continuing our Parisian theme (see April in Paris – Part One) with some bibliotherapy for the Francophile may I present a book that is simply enchante. A Paris Year – by Janice MacLeod (My Good-reads review below)
A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janice Macleod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Janice MacLeod’s first book, Paris Letters, chronicled her Paris adventures after she quit her job, sold everything she owned and moved to the City of Light. This sequel, A Paris Year, is more like a personal journal of her year there, full of photos and illustrations, (she is a watercolor artist). The cover alone is gorgeous, and the pages are a visual treat. While there, she acquired a French husband who just nodded when she told him she was making a pretty book about Paris, and that’s exactly what it is. Should be required reading for anyone contemplating a trip to Paris, so they know what to expect, and for the rest of us who only dream. A charming, thoroughly enjoyable book.
I noticed this book in the bookstore because of it’s beautiful cover, (one of the author’s watercolor paintings),
but at $35 Cdn plus tax, decided to order it through the library instead, but I enjoyed it so much I bought it. Although I had read her earlier book Paris Letters it didn’t grab my attention the way this one did. Perhaps because I thought the ending was too pat, in a we-must-have-a-happy-ending for the book way (there is a wedding picture of her and her French husband on the last page), but then I felt the same way about Eat Pray Love, and look how that turned out, despite a subsequent book on staying Committed. It is wise to be skeptical of a relationship where two people don’t speak the same language and don’t seem to have anything in common (ah yes, but love is not always wise, and as the song says, is for the very young), but frankly as an older more cynical person I was worried about her. An exception would be Colin Firth in Love Actually, who learned Portuguese so he could communicate with his new love, but I think we might all learn The King’s Speech if Colin Firth was involved. There is an admirable degree of bravery in wanting a different life and doing something about it, but when you are older you realize there doesn’t always have to be a guy at the end for it to be a happy ending. Just once I would like one of these memoir travel type books to end with the author just sitting Under the Tuscan sun, gazing contentedly at the gorgeous view…..and if the gorgeous view happened to include your own Colin Firth that would be okay too! (I think I shall write it myself – “Our middle-aged (but well preserved due to French beauty secret), heroine-in-waiting is sitting on the terrace of her French villa on a soft summer evening, a glass of chilled Chablis in hand, contemplating the calming rows of lavender waving in the evening breeze and thinking how lucky she is to be here in the lovely light of Provence….
…when suddenly she observes a man walking up the lane.” The End.
Is it a) a lost tourist b) the vin delivery garcon c) a uniformed police detective or d) Mr. Darcy. The answer is e) all of the above. Stay tuned for the sequel, Murder in Provence, wherein our lovely heroine meets Inspector Darcie LeDuc, who is investigating a series of murders involving art thieves, wine merchants and lost tourists, with plenty of dead bodies sprinkled in the lavender fields and vineyards. Will she be next?)
But I digress (badly), enough about fairy tale endings, forever after and just for the moment. I am glad it all worked out for them because they are now living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. (link to her website Paris Letters Press) She has a very nice website and also paints and writes a monthly personal letter on Paris which she sends out via snail mail, a business which enabled her to finance her stay there. In the About section she says her first book was about her move to Paris, but her second is about being an artist in Paris, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much. It was just like being there – there were lots of photographs and quirky journal entries about her cafe observations and day to day life in the city. Plus her paintings were charming, but then I am partial to watercolors.
It is a lovely book visually speaking, an illustrated journal on good quality paper with a beautiful cover, in the same vein as the Susan Branch books on Martha’s Vineyard and England. (if you are not familiar with Susan Branch check her out, her blogs are so inspirational and she is currently blogging on her trip to Cornwall and England). I suspect that type of book, which is basically a hard cover blog, is expensive for a publishing company to produce which could be why Susan Branch now publishes her own. Anyway, both are good reads for armchair travelers.
I split this blog into two, because someone told me my blogs are too long, and the April Love section seemed like it deserved it’s own topic. Does anyone remember the fragrance, Evening in Paris? One of the most popular fragrances in the fifties, it was a light floral fragrance in a blue cobalt bottle (you can still find some of the bottles on e-bay), evoking images of l’heure bleue in the city of love. I have a visual image of my mother wearing her Jackie Kennedy-like sapphire blue dress and beads, dabbing perfume behind her ears, and then bending down to give us red lipstick kisses on our arms, on the rare occasion she went out in the evening. Somehow spraying perfume doesn’t have the same degree of glamour. Last year while cleaning out my mother’s house I came across a bottle of French perfume stashed below the bathroom sink.
My mother says it was a gift from my father in the early years of their marriage, which would make it over 60 years old. When I opened it, it still had the sweet smell she remembered, as it had been kept in a cloth bag, in a dark spot, the way you should store expensive perfume. A perfume can evoke an era, a love story, a moment in time. It reminded me of Bogie’s promise to Bacall, we’ll always have Paris. Here’s to romance – may you always have a small piece of Paris in your heart to reminisce about on starry nights.
Postscript: In my university days I wore Je Reviens, and later in my 20’s and 30’s Ombre Rose, then I mostly abandoned perfume because so many places, work and social, have no-scent laws now. My bottle of Ombre Rose from three years ago is still half full. Do you wear perfume, and do you have a favorite scent, or a scent that reminds you of a certain time in your life?
9 thoughts on “April in Paris – Part Two”
So much to unpack here! I left my marriage in 2007, just as Eat Pray Love was hitting the bestsellers list. I was given six copies. I hated it.
Don’t get me wrong, the author is a tremendous writer. But, as I slunk out of my marriage into dire poverty, I had trouble “identifying” with her pain. Somehow, I figure there’s an angst-distraction-factor involved when one’s publisher foots the post-split tab for a year’s dalliance around the globe. It was just so….spiritually self-absorbed.
The last thing I wanted in those dark days was a happily-ever-after ending with a man in it. I desperately needed to be okay–just being me. And, I’d always wanted to write. I’d let the issues in my unhappy union distract me from who I wanted to be. I took my new silences seriously. If I didn’t write then, I had no excuse.
Thus, “but when you are older you realize there doesn’t always have to be a guy at the end for it to be a happy ending,” resonates for me. And, despite my depression and angst, I set out to write a novel that didn’t wander into the sunset with the new man, an unusually happy novel. Go figure. (And Paris was in it–go figure again.)
As a young person, I had trouble with perfume allergies. Still, it was the thing to do. I found a few scents that I liked that did not cause asthma–Givenchy’s “Interdit” and “Flora Danica.” Even as much as I liked them–I could not avoid the ethics of the flip side–if other scents caused me trouble, who was I to impose my choice on others? So I gave up on scents. But who could forget “Evening in Paris,” the scent that always reminds me of school teachers. Christmas inevitably meant that teachers received gifts–and “Evening in Paris” inevitably found itself in the stash. The teacher would return, after the new year, and for a few weeks thereafter she’d be doused in it–just long enough for acknowledgment–then back to the more familiar scent of chalk dust.
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HA! 6 copies! I suppose people thought it was inspirational. I didn’t really care for EatPrayLove, spiritual self-absorption is a good term, and I remember the first chapter about her rich New York life being rather whiny. I liked the Italy part (the food), found the India (meditation) part boring, and hated the Bali ending – somehow I visualized her lover as an older bald Brazilian man wearing a speedo bathing suit (but I might have that confused with a Caribbean cruise ship I was on once). They seemed to have nothing in common, and ended up back in the US and are now divorced. And yes, her publisher footed the bill.
I am glad to hear you could identify with the don’t need a man for a happy ending comment, as I didn’t know whether to include that but when you are older you know love doesn’t always last forever….I see too many people rush into relationships when they just should take the time for themselves. (The book I profiled in Part One – A Paris all Your Own had a chapter that really resonated with me – she was an introvert who wouldn’t answer the door because she went to Paris to write and didn’t want to be disturbed!) Of course older people aren’t immune from rash decisions in love. I am currently just starting reading Joanna Trollop’s latest book An Unsuitable Match, which is between two 60 year olds and of course the grown up children are objecting because they really are ill-suited – red flags all over that one, can’t wait to see how that works out. Re Evening in Paris – Ha re the teacher being doused with it! Poor woman, she probably preferred the chalk. I find any kind of perfume too strong now that I am not used to it. I will definitely have to check your novel out!
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Oh this DOES sound like something I’d like! I shall have to track it down, thank you very much for the introduction. Apart from beer a Paris-addict, I too am generally quite partial to watercolour.
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I was able to buy it for $11 on the bookoutletcom site – and it is a truly gorgeous book. I don’t know why it wasn’t a bestseller last year, as they had lots of remaindered copies left, other than the price. I hope I didn’t sound too skeptical of the author’s romance but I wonder why they are living in Canada, when she was from the US? Why live in Canada when you could live in Paris! I hope you are able to find a copy and enjoy it. Perhaps if you check her website, ParisLettersPress she might be able to tell you how to obtain it in Paris? Since she lived there, she might know of a shop who has copies?
Oh my goodness! I do remember Evening in Paris! That was one of my mother’s perfumes when she was younger. Later, it was Tabu.
I no longer wear perfumes, only a light lavender spray mist dusted over with lavender talc. Perfumes have become taboo these days, especially in summer heat. Lavender is now my signature fragrance, as it was my grandmother’s — Old English Lavender.
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I remember Tabu also! I love the smell of lavender and often use a lavender body spray which I keep in the fridge for an added cooling sensation – I was just working on a blog about this…….stay tuned…..