For many, the name alone conjures up romantic walks, intellectual discussions and wonderful food. For others it means filth, rudeness and bigotry. (Just yesterday there was a story on NPR about the problem of public urination in the City of Lights.)
Recently I read two books about Paris: A Paris All Your Own edited by Eleanor Brown and A Paris Year by Janice MacLeod. They are my "armchair traveling guides". Both are a fun, wonderful afternoon escape.
A Paris All Your Own is a collection of personal essays answering the question, "What are your honest thoughts about Paris?" by various women authors who have written about Paris. Some of the essays are poignant, some are funny, some are heartbreaking but all are entertaining. In one essay, the writer shared how she was determined to make a family trip to Paris absolutely perfect. After all, this was PARIS! Her husband and two elementary school aged children didn't share her enthusiasm for the trip. They arrived tired and hot and summertime Paris didn't do anything to assuage that fact. In order to make the most of the time, she immediately rallies the troops to begin their adventure by walking around and seeing the sights. Of course, Paris is known for its love of dogs but not necessarily known for its responsible (cleaning up after one's pet) dog owners. As luck would have it, her one daughter steps in dog poop. The author's description of how she tried to make that unfortunate event seem chic, "this is PARIS!", is quite funny. Certainly any parent who has tried so hard to remain positive in an emotional downward spiraling situation can relate.
A Paris Year is the second published book by Janice MacLeod. A dear friend of mine had given me her first book, Paris Letters (also pictured) which was very interesting. In Paris Letters, Janice describes how she finds herself in Paris and ekes out a living by having people sign up for a monthly subscription to receive real, snail mail postcards decorated with her artistic impressions. When I saw A Paris Year at the library I didn't connect the same author until I started reading it.
A Paris Year is Ms. MacLeod's journal- what she observed each day with an entry of prose and pictures. It is very inspiring because it reminds me of our powers of observation. I don't have to live in Paris to notice the world around me. My little town may not have quite the architecture (there is only one Eiffel Tower- sorry Disney Corporation- after all) but we do have interesting older homes. I might not be quite the artist as Ms. MacLeod, but I can still take a picture of the gorgeous colors of fall mums at the market.
Having read her book, it makes me wonder if I cannot apply the same observational skills in my day to day interactions? Can I slow down enough to enjoy the surroundings when I walk the dogs? Really study the petal arrangement of the bouquet of flowers on my kitchen table? Can I look at the neighbors’ gardens with a different eye?
What about you? Have you stopped and observed your surroundings? Do you have any special places you enjoy? What makes them so? Any personal stories about them? Do you have any armchair traveling reads? What are they? What makes them appealling to you?