France

Review: F is for France — making sense of its ways, A to Z

I came late to this amusing and informative book, I’m sorry to say. It’s an amazingly detailed compilation and exploration of what the French would call curiosités or choses insolites but it’s also a broad cultural overview. It’s an example of the best of a certain type of book designed to explain France to English-speakers. …

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Review: “If I flipped a franc, it would land on something worth swallowing”

“If I flipped a franc, it would land on something worth swallowing,” David Downie writes of his arrival in Paris in 1976. He remembers, as I do, gazing into the yawning seven-story hole where Les Halles had provided food and drink to all Paris until its relocation to suburban Rungis several years before, and he …

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Labor Day in Paris – friendly with a side of Molotov cocktails

MAY 1 IS LABOR DAY in almost all of Europe (the Netherlands and Switzerland are the exceptions), and in France it’s a day for political demonstrations led by the unions or the political parties — or both. I never want to miss a party, so I went out to Place de la République this afternoon to …

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[Review] The Capitalist: A Thriller (A Louis Morgon Thriller), by Peter Steiner

Opening Peter Steiner’s new novel The Capitalist was like visiting an old friend in his quaint cottage in the Loire — comfortable, relaxed (with a glass of good wine) and confident you’re about to hear a great story. I came to Peter’s books with The Resistance, when he presented it at the American Library in …

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The ultimate summer treat: Acting in a movie for the Paris Opera Ballet

The highlight of our two-month stay in Paris this summer, hands down, was the day and a half Jan and I spent as extras for a film being made for the Paris Opera Ballet. We had short roles but fairly prominent ones — we’re the first people you see when La Grande Sortie (“The Grand Exit”) opens, two …

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“Voilà une semaine qui commence mal” – last words from the guillotine

I was walking through Place Dauphine on Île de la Cité when a bookstore display caught my eye — it was this book of “stupefying but true” prisoners’ last words before they ascended the steps of the “national razor.” Its title is “Shortcuts,” which is witty enough, but it’s the last little lagniappe that makes it really …

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Hot Time in the Old Town – Heat Wave in Paris

Paris in July is normally a comfortable place to be, with high temperatures around 70 degrees, sunny days, and an occasional rain shower in the afternoon – which is why many people carry tiny umbrellas all the time. But in recent years there have been all-too-frequent exceptions, with potentially fatal consequences in a country that …

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Rue Daguerre – a hoppin’ Paris place

Rue Daguerre is always a hoppin’ place, but on Sundays it really comes to life. It’s a magnet for Parisians and tourists looking for a good lunch or really choice groceries – today we bought slices of an outstanding rolled veal roast, from a butcher who normally deals only in poultry. It was a good …

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Another Paris Travel Hit from David Downie

If you’re a fan of David Downie’s Paris books, as I am, you shouldn’t miss his new one. It’s entitled, romantically enough, A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light, and was published only a few days ago to general acclaim — even from some of the crankier reviewers. The best compliment I can pay the book is that its …

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Here’s why you should schedule your trip to Paris NOW! – the Euro

Remember all the political talk about the debasement of the dollar? If you’ve been following exchange rates lately you’ll understand that debasement, like the looming inflation that was about to devour the American economy, has been sort of … weak. Like nonexistent. Wonkblog (Washington Post) posted an astute analysis of the Euro/Dollar situation and came …

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