I have a dream.
A very specific dream.
It involves a Parisian apartment with French doors opening onto a little terrace with wrought iron furniture, a cafetière of fresh coffee and a view of cobbled streets along the Seine, a skinnier and more stylish version of me (I’m always skinnier in my daydreams, and in this one I’m dressed in agnés b) and three months of uninterrupted time in which to write a novel, haunt Shakespeare and Co. and have a fun-filled lust affair with a young French photographer.
(Why a photographer? There was an especially cute French guy on Sunday night’s episode of The City, and he was a photographer. So there.)
Once I came really, really close to moving to Paris. I was going there to learn to teach English as a foreign language in a school in the suburbs, and after the eight week, live-in course my fellow newly qualified TEFL teachers and I would be set up with jobs in the city and left to our own devices. But the day after I paid the course deposit, I got an email about a job in Walt Disney World, and that was the end of that.
But I never stopped wanting to move there, at least for a little while. I’m sure I’ll get there one day. In the meantime, I’ve been torturing myself with these Parisian treats…
A Writer’s Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul by Eric Maisel (Writer’s Digest Books)
This beautiful, small and linen-covered book is the ultimate in Parisian torture for writerly types. The author – selflessly, I’m sure you’ll agree – moved to Paris with his family for a year to write, and then took the time to tell us how we should go about doing it too. Beautifully illustrated, the book is filled with both practical and inspirational tips for spending writing time in Paris. Maisel champions not speaking French (so as to keep you focused on your WIP; making friends is only a distraction), visiting one of my favorite places in Paris, the Museé d’Orsay, when it opens, so you can soak up the creativity, and practicing the art of flanerie, or strolling, to get those writer juices flowing while seeing Paris at the same time. There’s even a chapter called ‘The Doable Dream’ in which Maisel (almost) proves that three months in Paris is possible; you just need to cut back on your luxuries for a while, skip your family holiday and find the right apartment. I already have mine picked out. Who’s with me?
A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke (Black Swan)
When I first picked up this book, I actually thought it was non-fiction. Englishman moves to Paris, hilarity ensues. As his adventures grew more and more madcap, I checked again and discovered that it was fictitious, but this didn’t change how I felt about the book. A word of mouth success, Clarke’s first book isn’t exactly Palin, Bryson or Mayle, but it is funny and I presume it gives some insight into living in Paris as an English-speaking wannabe. Clarke still lives in Paris (where, according to his Amazon bio, he “divides his time between writing and not writing”) and has written a slew of follow-ups with such fantastic titles as Merde, Actually, Merde Happens and Dial M for Merde.
24 Hours Paris: An hour by hour guide to the coolest entertainment, eateries and attractions in Paris by Marsha Moore (Prospera)
Paris can be an overwhelming place, especially if you’ve never been before, and while my patented Four Hour Highlights Tour – a mad dash that starts at the Arc de Triomphe, hits the Eiffel Tower, runs you past the Lourve, through the Tuilleries and up the Champs Élysées – has its attractions, no matter how long you spend there you always feel as if you’re missing out. Enter Marsha Moore’s 24 Hours Paris, a guidebook unlike any other, a completely original guide to Paris. 24 Hours tells you what you can do in Paris at every time of the day and it includes some absolute gems you might not easily find in traditional guide books, including the Paris Sewer Museum (yes, really), the Water Bar at Colette (serving 60 “varieties” of water, apparently), dining with Parisian families in their homes (Meeting the French), night swimming at Georges Vallerey pool while gazing at the stars and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio Galande, the only remaining European cinema to regularly show the movie. I’ve been to Paris a few times and yet every page turn of 24 Hours had me making mental notes about new and exciting things I have to do on my next visit – things that, until now, I had no idea even existed. I can’t wait to visit Tea and Tattered Pages, an English bookshop serving English tea, for example, and the city’s Air and Space Museum. (How did I not know it existed?! You can climb aboard a Concorde, tour a Boeing 737 and – gasp! – visit the planetarium.) AND there’s a Letters and Manuscripts Museum. AND a place called Cupcake and Co. Excuse me while I go book a flight…