In celebration of my soon-to-be-released novel, A Time for Love in Paris (May 11th), I thought I’d write a blog about the city that inspired the setting of the book. The city of Paris is also referred to as ‘The City of Light’. People often think this is because of the streetlights. But the term references the city’s history as a place where academics and artists convened, spreading enlightenment. Paris is also a city of love, attracting many honeymoon couples. When I visited Paris a few years back, I was awestruck. It was my first trip to Europe and my only visit to Paris. When I left, I knew I’d write a book someday, with the characters living in Paris. I’d been touched with the brush of enlightenment and my novel, A Time For Love In Paris, took shape.
I’ve frequently spoken of Paris as an architectural candy store—and it is! Whether it’s the Louvre or a Paris apartment with an iron balcony and a sloping tin roof, Paris is a feast for the eyes. The narrow cobblestoned streets of the Marais (once a swamp) and the St Germaine district are warrens of patisseries and boulangeries. Don’t get me started on the desserts (custard tarts topped with plump sugared raspberries are my favorite). Separating the Left Bank and Right Bank is the Ile de la Cité, the original heart of Paris. On the surface of this tiny islet is Notre Dame. She is brilliant. Inside the cathedral, massive stone arches flank the nave and the chancel while outside, Notre Dame is supported with stone buttresses resembling flying ‘ribs’ . Three magnificent wooden doors and a huge, rose-stained glass window complete the front side. Did you know you can climb to the top of the Notre Dame and see the bell? It’s a steep climb up a tight, winding stairway and the final ascent requires climbing a centuries-old wooden ladder to the bell tower.
The Right Bank is home to the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysées. But anywhere you stroll in Paris, you’ll discover a view for the eyes and the soul. Even the graveyards are cities unto themselves with pathways and green spaces and stunning mausoleums. Don’t forget to look down. Underneath the streets of Paris you’ll encounter the infamous Catacombs, stacked with the bones of long-dead Parisians. Why are the bones stacked underground? Because 200 years ago, Parisians could no longer stand the stench coming from the shallow graves that had become overcrowded.
What should you do in Paris? Stop by the Shakespeare & Company bookstore, take a scenic boat cruise along the Seine, visit the museums or the Eiffel tower, enjoy the food, and my favorite—rent a bike and ride through the streets, before hopping onto a train and riding through the village of Versailles. My husband and I signed up for this excursion with Fat Bike Tours and had a day we’ll never forget.
I left Paris suffused with memories and ideas. The city is a testament to man’s ability to create and live life fully. Unlike many other European cities, Paris remains mostly untouched by history. Though Hitler gave orders to bomb Paris, the orders weren’t followed and today the city stands still in time (with the exception of scattered Starbucks and McDonald’s signs). La Defense, the modern section of Paris, is in the distance, a shrine to modernity with glass skyscrapers. But old Paris remains, flanking the banks of the Seine, delighting everyone who visits.