Twenty-six years ago, François Pasquier launched a tradition in Paris that has spread around the world. It’s the annual “Dîner en Blanc,” or White Dinner Party, and its basic rules are simple: Attendees must be invited; they learn the location only an hour before the dinner; they must arrive on public transportation (or chartered bus); they bring their own table, chairs, and dinner; and everyone leaves at the same time, taking with them everything they brought.
This year’s dinner was last night (June 12) at the Pont Alexandre. In past years it’s been held all over Paris, from the Louvre to the Madeline to the Eiffel Tower. It takes a big space — recently, there have been 15,000 attendees.
PARIS IS BEST KNOWN as a welcoming destination for lovers, but for the solo traveler there are many charms as well, as Stephanie Rosenbloom, the Getaway columnist for the New York Times travel section, wrote in a recent column. She has an eye for both the small corners and broad vistas of the city — look at this description of a lunch:
“I sliced through an oyster with my cocktail fork, loosening it from its shell. A pulpy Utah Beach, it was brimming with lemon juice and its own slightly salty liquor. I lifted it with a thumb and forefinger, and tilted it to my lips.
“It was early spring in Paris. To my left, a white-haired woman with red lipstick disappeared behind a newspaper. To my right, a man and a woman flirted over starters. We were at the center of one of the last sprawling brasseries of the 1920s, where a large basin into which the artists’ model Kiki de Montparnasse used to climb has been replaced with a comparatively demure sculpture of a couple forming an orb with their outstretched limbs. A waiter paused at my table to rotate the platter of oysters so that the overturned shells faced the empty chair across from me.
I missed her column when it appeared last week, but found it today in one of the helpful links that run across the top of the Times’s redesigned web site. The link was actually to the paper’s “Times Insider” blog, which describes the newspaper’s internal doings and interviews the journalists about their work. In this case, Stephanie Rosenbloom’s Paris piece was included because it rose to #1 on the most-emailed list. Go here for Times Insider. I’ve linked to the blog itself, rather than the interview, because several of the posts are worth reading. (There’s a paywall, but try anyway.)
I reviewed The Resistance by Peter Steiner some time ago, shortly after I attended his presentation at the American Library in Paris. It’s a good book, and I hope he writes more like it (this is his latest, although he published several earlier). I was in Paris, my novel Treasure of Saint-Lazare was about to be published, and I was delighted to have the chance to talk to someone in the same business, even if he’d been doing it much longer than I. Steiner is well known, but not mainly in the world of fiction. His main claim to fame (and it’s a big and valid claim) is that he’s the man behind the timeless New Yorker cartoon captioned “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s the most-reproduced cartoon The New Yorker ever printed and even has its own Wikipedia page.
Here’s what I wrote on Amazon: “The central section of The Resistance was an engrossing and informative description of the operation of the French Resistance during World War II. I looked into this a little during the research for my own recent novel, Treasure of Saint-Lazare, but Peter Steiner covered it thoroughly and readably. I did have a little trouble getting started, and the end left me wishing I’d known more about the surprise heavy, but it was a good and informative read. I saw his presentation at the American Library in Paris on Sept. 18 and will add him to my list of regulars. (Kindle edition).” I gave it four stars. I haven’t changed my mind. You can find it on Amazon. I recommend it.
Doris-Maria Heilman of SavvyBookWriters.wordpress.com and 111publishing.com was nice enough to request an author interview. I thought her questions about Treasure of Saint-Lazare were pertinent and interesting, and I enjoyed answering them. I hope you’ll find them interesting. There’s been a lot of interest in stolen Nazi treasure, and of course I’m happy to keep it going.
This is a good chance to say again: Thanks to all of you who bought Treasure of Saint-Lazare. It’s been out 18 months and is still selling well, and I’ve seen a lot of interest from reviewers — I think it proves the point that there’s no reason for ebooks to ever go out of print.
I’m well along in writing the sequel, whose working title is Last Stop: Paris.
Before the George Clooney movie there was the revealing and definitive book The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel. I thought the book was fascinating when it was published, and nothing has changed my mind since.
(Recovered pictures at the Allied sorting facility in Munich)
Edsel is getting a lot of publicity because of the movie, and I hope it’s reflected in his sales and in the prosperity of his Monuments Men Foundation. He did an outstanding interview on Charlie Rose two weeks ago, then was on BookTV last week. He’s scheduled for an appearance sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota next month.
Parade Magazine published an interview with him in last Sunday’s edition. Of course, I thought the most interesting line in it was, “Probably the single most important painting that’s missing is Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, which came from a Museum in Krakow … ”
If you’ve read Treasure of Saint-Lazare, you know it’s all about that painting. It’s the story of a search that spans the Atlantic from Sarasota to Paris and back, and is filled with scenes of romantic walks through Paris and a drive in the Loire Valley — all in the quest to get to the painting and its accompanying trove of Nazi gold. I invite you to try it. Kindle, paperback and audiobook editions are available on Amazon.com, at http://j.mp/UKIVVi, and the paperback is available at Bookstore1Sarasota.
Treasure of Saint-Lazare reached #25 on Amazon’s historical mystery best-seller list and #45 on the Amazon France suspense thriller best-seller list. Thanks to you if you’re one of the readers who got it there.
One long-established Paris expat institution Jan and I would never miss on our annual séjour is Patricia Laplante-Collins’s ParisSoirées — Sunday evening gatherings, either at a restaurant or aprivate home, with good food, great conversation, and a whole lot of wine (you can do that in Paris because the public transportation takes you home).
I’ve been the guest speaker at two of the soirées. The first was 2012, just before I published Treasure of Saint-Lazare. I had only a few copies of the advance readers’ copy of my book to give away, and I was surprised (and very gratified) by the warm reception Patricia’s group gave me. My second presentation came during last year’s visit, and if anything the reception was even better than the year before. I was struck by how many French speakers Patricia has been able to attract into her circle. It adds a considerable depth of interest to the evening.
Patricia’s been a Paris expat resident since time out of mind. Her dinners are well known by just about every American who visits, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s a deal for 25€.
The whole thing is done by email. To sign up, go to her website www.parissoirees.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org asking her to add you to the email list.
Here’s a picture taken the evening in 2012 when I discussed the upcoming release of Treasure of Saint-Lazare. Patricia’s party was held in the private dining room of a terrific Indian restaurant.
Most afternoons when we’re in Paris I take the métro to Place Saint-Michel, the crowded plaza on the Seine across from Notre-Dame cathedral. For a few days before I took this picture and video a well-used upright piano sat ready for amateur pianists, most of whom were of the “chopsticks” variety. But one day the music changed, and we were treated to a real musician:
I watched a while and caught this short video. Stay with it through the end for a view of the famous fountain.
Then I left to write. When I returned four hours later the piano was gone.
If you’ve made more than one trip to Paris you’ve probably seen some of the famous Passages, the 19th-century indoor shopping centers under glass, which connect one street to another. They were important when they were built because they provided shelter from the rain as well as the mud and mess of pre-pavement Paris.
The City of Paris web site — paris.fr — has an English-language section that features a recent article on the Passages. Go to http://j.mp/X1NdNs for the overview, and from there you can download (PDF) the city’s brochure on the passages.
As an aside, Passage Jouffroy, home to the wax museum, the Hôtel Chopin, a really outstanding teashop and a bunch of antique-book stores, features prominently in the early portion of my novel Treasure of Saint-Lazare. (Amazon: http://j.mp/UKIVVi).
Hotel Chôpin, where my characters escaped from the pursuing Germans
Le Valentin, tea-room extraordinaire, just down the passage from the Hôtel Chopin. There’s a dining room upstairs, as well
One of the delights of walking around Paris is finding unexpected charms. Whether it’s a pocket park or an first-time view, it’s always a pleasant surprise.Today we enjoyed finding a familiar string orchestra in the busy Châtelet métro station, one of the prime spots for busker groups — soloists tend to stick to the corridors and landings, where the hard walls carry their sounds further than you’d think.
We first saw this group several years ago, performing under one of the arcades of the Place de Vosges. Since then we’ve bought two of their CDs, which they issue under the name “Le Marais Performers.” They are said to be conservatory students, but there’s no program so it’s hard to tell, and the players change frequently.