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)
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?