Friday, April 30, 2010

Pre-Paris Summer Reading List

The other day, my Paris Tour Guide sent me - and the others in our group - a suggested reading list of pertinent titles, with the thought that they would make good poolside/beachside/summer reading.

I already have A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway on my list. Now, I have to decide which of these to add. Time to make use of my Master's Degree in English Literature and go back to my voracious reading ways of youth, for today, I admit, I am one lousy book reader, preferring to poke around and search for material that interests me, encyclopedia-style, Googling my way across the Worldwide Web, flitting from topic to topic, sometimes just looking at the pictures and headlines ... much as I do when I read magazines and the newspapers ... only stopping to delve deeper if it's (a) Important or (b) a topic of Obsession - which changes from day to day in both categories.

Nevertheless, here's the list. Could I possibly read them all???? It would be a feat to rival my attempt at trying to learn how to speak French in any which way.

Any input from my dear followers or people passing through this blog re: which of the below book(s) is/are a MUST-read prior to (or even after) a trip to Paris, please, please, do chirp in. Thanks!

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund - which my Tour Guide says is "a great book about Marie Antoinette, one of my favorites!"

Marie Antoinette- the Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever (no comment from my Tour Guide)

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull - which my tour Guide says is "an Australian journalist's account of establishing her life in Paris with the man she loves--ooh-la-la!"

Catherine de Medici-the Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda -my Tour Guide claims to have "learned so much French history from this book." 

The Serpent and the Moon by Princess Michael of Kent - "two rivals for the love of a Renaissance king---this will make you want to go to the chateaux of the Loire Valley," says my Tour Guide. I could pass this up since the Loire Valley is not on our immediate itinerary.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - "a story about a family during WWll Paris," says my Tour Guide. Mmmmmm, a little boring perhaps?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gearing up my undergarments for Paris

Typical French Maid costume, available at

The bra for my upcoming Paris trip will be a regular, everyday bra, nothing special ... except it may have something attached to it. OR maybe it will be attached to my panties. You will never know.

The "it" I'm talking about is this ...
... a flesh colored "Secret Stash"TM detachable bra pocket. I'm going to try out my new undergarment gear when I get dressed for an evening soiree that I am attending this weekend. I'll stash my driver's license and emergency cash in it.

I've read about the problem with pickpockets in European tourist zones, and decided this would be one plan of attack to ensure the safety of my financial instruments. I'm not inclined to carry some kind of "anti-slash," theft-proof travel purse, and would rather use a nice leather cross-body handbag when I go on my trip. (Hey, I've travelled all over New York City, on the subways and along the crowded streets; I know how to guard my belongings!)

I've searched online and seen the bags that have zipper locks and shoulder straps reinforced with steel cable wires, but I haven't found an attractive one that suits me.

How about you, what have you used/what do you suggest in this regard?

French bra ad - via YouTube

French related bra trivia:
"Bra fashion history truly began with the first bra to be patented. The first bra was patented in 1914 by Mary Phelps-Jacobs an American. It is not thought to be the first bra ever, but it is the first patented record and that gives her the credit. Mary Phelps-Jacobs patented her bra design under the patent name of Caresse Crosby. Some suggest it was her French maid who provided the idea or the stitching help. Two silk handkerchiefs were tied together, baby ribbon sewn on to make straps and a seam set in the centre front."

Until Paris ...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Have You See The Duchess of Langeais?

Moune Jamet/IFC Films
My weekend indulgence was stepping inside the world of nineteenth century Paris via the cinema and watching this mesmerizing film: The Duchess of Langeais, based on a short story by the French writer Balzac.

(French, with English subtitles)

It is an artsy period movie that is quite the confection, not without an ever-present and haunting gloom that is in the vein of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

First, I watched The Duchess of Langeais for the story, the costumes, the drama, and after having been completely swept away, I will watch it a second, and perhaps a third time, for my French language lessons. For now, I can say "Mon frair" (my brother) - a phrase from the movie.

Have you seen this movie? If not, I highly recommend it if you want to go back in time and visit Paris during the Napoleonic/aristocratic era.
Until Paris ...

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Moleskine Journals - Yet to be Filled!

Moleskine - not to be confused with moleskin - is a maker of notebooks, journals and date books. Their journals have been the legendary choice of artists, writers, intellectuals and travelers worldwide, including the famous American writer, Ernest Hemmingway who wrote a book about his time in Paris that traces his footsteps through the City of Light, called A Moveable Feast.

Anyway, when I was at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore buying une carte de Paris, I also purchased a set of two Moleskine journals. I am a writer by trade - I write advertising copy, and have done this for nearly a quarter of a century - with two degrees in English Literature and Creative writing. A frustrated novelist? Perhaps. I originally thought I would not write about Paris, merely photograph it and enjoy it ... and here I am, writing a blog about it, holding in my possession two empty Moleskine journals, in lovely shades of green.
My promise to you: I will write in them when I get to Paris and share with you my observations, delights and thoughts upon my return! You see, I won't be blogging or online during my trip.

And today is a special day; it is exactly five months to the day until I leave for Paris.
Enjoy YOUR day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Le Cœur From Limoges

From the time I was a teenager, and throughout my adult life, my mother has given me gifts in the shape of a heart, often pieces of jewelry. And not too long ago, my mother gave me this Limoges box. It is a heart within a heart.
I keep it on my dresser, and it is a constant reminder ...
... of my mother's love. My mother instilled in me the love of culture and fine things, including a desire to travel. It was she who insisted that I take up my pen pal's invitation and go to England for the first time at age 16. Twenty years later, I took my mother to England for her first time. The French word for heart is cœur. Now when I look at my lovely Limoges keepsake, I am also thinking of my upcoming trip to Paris. 

"The Limoges Hinged Box was invented in Paris in the early 1700's, and they were popular among the French aristocracy as snuffboxes."
- Rough distance in miles from Paris to Limoges: 215 miles or 345.94 kilometers
- Number of people I talked to about my upcoming trip to Paris today: five (my neighbor, my mother, my friend and her fiance, my fiance) PLUS all of you, however many of you are reading me today!
- Number of days until my trip to Paris: two ... and five months. I wait patiently, with all of my heart ~ de tout mon cœur.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Les Gateaux on my Decoupage Tray

My friend and colleague, Joanne, won this decoupage wooden tray at a charity event that our professional association held two Christmas' ago. I wanted it so badly that she gave it to me! You can see why I wanted it so much ...
It has yummy illustrations of French style pastries all over it. I also like the brown and beige striped border.
(Perhaps I will do my daily French lesson off of this tray today. There are many French words on it. Right now, I am proud to say I know that the French word for cake is gateau, a masculine noun that requires "le" or "un" before it. The plural form of gateau is gateaux. I am learning, albeit slowly, the French language ... one bit at a time, sort of how one should enjoy un gateau.)

If you like this tray, you can find it at: and

Until Paris ... only five months and three days to go!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lundi Trivia

Monday ... Lundi in French. (I confess - I thought it was "Mundi." I had to double-check. Note to self:  Practice days of the week in French.) And today, Paris touched my life in an unusual way. Okay, trivial way. I was on the treadmill, watching the biography of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. Did you know that the estranged wife of Rudolph Valentino lived in France? Her name was Natacha Rambova. She studied ballet in Paris.

So much for Lundi trivia. Until Paris ... only five months and four days to go. Sigh.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Une Carte de Paris

What is a trip to Paris without a map? Probably full of adventure and surprise! I probably won't really NEED to have a map of Paris when I get there, as I will be traveling as part of an escorted tour and when I venture away from the group, I don't want to look like a total tourist. But before I get there, I want to know where things are situated. So off I went to Barnes and Noble, to browse ("Je regarde," - I'm just looking!) at the handy, dandy guidebooks in the travel section. You know, the guidebooks that list all the restaurants and hotels in a given city, with however many $$$$s apply, and where one should go to lodge or dine on the cheap, etc. There were so many cumbersome choices - from Fodor's to Rick Steves Europe. I even found a spiral bound tour guide from AAA. Which would be best? What I needed was a map. Not a regular map. The tour group planner already sent me one of those. So boring and full of advertisements, very practical and useful for most travelers. But I wanted a FUN map. One with pictures! Does such a map of Paris exist? I kept looking ...

Viola - I found it! "MapEasy's Guidemap to Paris: A location map and guidebook in one! Waterproof & tear resistant. The unique, easy-to-use guide to Paris." Hand-drawn by an illustrator with an ink pen and colored pencils! Not only that, "MapEasy accepts no advertising or fees." And they offer an interactive index and city information portal online at

I opened the map to its fullest and within minutes found where the hotel I will be staying at is located. I spread the map out on the carpet floor and poured over it like a kid with a Christmas catalog, imagining how I'd walk here or there, take the Metro to such and such arrondissement, and have no fear - this map is not without a keyed "legend" showing restaurants (and their appropriate $$$$ designations), retail shops, and so forth. It's fun to look at AND informative, this new map of mine.

So until Paris ...

Only five months and five days to go!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Ballet Flats

My ballet slippers have been chewed. And here is the chewer! More about that later ...

First a little Paris Fashion "trend spotting" I found in the news. A snippet appeared in USA Today's "Life" section citing Kate Moss in Paris wearing a nautical striped top, red jacket, skinny jeans and ballerina type flats. How many trends is she wearing that you'll also find Carolg writing about on her Paris breakfasts blog? There's the ballerina flatand the red jacket. Two right there!

Well, I must be Paris fashion forward, too. I wear a pair of mock ballet flats around the house. I wear them as slippers because they are good for little more than that. Good for twirling on hardwood or linoleum, bad for walking on cement and asphalt. Not just because they have the thinnest of soles, but more because I don't want to scuff their pale pink, suede tips or ruin their plaid, taffeta uppers. I adore them. I bought them last year at Target and know I'll never find another pair just like them. Chloe, my Bichon Frise dog, started to gnaw on one of the bow ties, and she nearly snipped it into pieces, but I caught her just in time and have since sewn back the part she chewed. Sigh of relief!

Here I am, talking about des chaussures again! Like I said, I have a bit of a shoe fetish. And I guess I am making progress with my French lessons - I was able to write des chaussures without having to look it up to get the correct spelling first, only to check that I spelled it right - and I did.
Until Paris ...
only five months and six days to go!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Leçon du jour

A little practice goes a long way. I am spending at least ten minutes twice a day (once in the morning and again before bedtime) with my little French phrases book and visiting online sites that offer free language lessons and activities. Below is the lesson I just did this morning, which is on YouTube. The man's voice is loud and clear, and the visuals reenforce what he is saying very well. You can watch the video and learn - or just listen to the audio and train your ear to the nuances of the French language. The video covers the different articles that go before masculine and feminine nouns, something we don't have in English (although I am familiar with this concept from my Spanish lessons in high school and college). For instance ...

- la balle or une balle (the ball/a ball) - feminine
- le razoir or un razoir (the razor/a razor) - masculine

See for yourself:

And so my morning leçon du jour is complete.

Until Paris ... five months and eight days to go!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Des Chaussures

A trip to Paris should include LOTS of walking, and thus, you will need good walking shoes. So part of my planning for my upcoming trip to Paris is going shoe shopping. I found a great pair of walking shoes at Famous Footwear, called "Nella" by Naturalizer.

The shoe is a what I might call a sporty ballet flat ... featuring a cushy insole that provides comfortable support, with a rubber sole that gives ample traction for avoiding spills on slippery surfaces, should one encounter rain. The leather "strip" across the front of the shoe gives it a polished look, I think - in lieu of a fussy embellishment. The shoe is simple and practical. My new Nella shoes can be worn with pants or a skirt. With a skirt, I'll add black, dark gray or wine colored opaque tights.

Of course, as I have a slight shoe fetish, it would be nice to have another pair of shoes for my trip that are also comfortable but a little dressier for the evening. This is what I found...

... a pair of black, peep-toe pumps called "Lina" by LifeStride, also at Famous Footwear. These shoes are lightweight so they'll be easy to carry in my suitcase. Normally, I wouldn't buy these shoes due to their being a little sedate and somewhat frumpy, but for my trip, they'll be perfect because they have a bit of cushion inside, a non-slip sole, and a sort of "kitten" heel - all of which will make them very suitable for walking from my Paris hotel to the restaurants in the evening. I plan to wear these with either pants or a skirt - and add black fishnet hosiery to make the look more stylish!

On the plane, I plan to wear a pair of low heeled riding boots, so I'll have those as optional footwear when I arrive in Paris. I can always take my boots off on the plane and slide into my slippers, while I catch some serious zzzzzzzz's on my overnight flight - that is, IF I can possibly sleep. I may be too excited!

So ...
Des Chaussures for Paris? Check!

Just five months and nine days to go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Actually Five Months & Ten Days

The wonderful thing about planning a trip so far in advance is that you can be excited about it, dream about, and talk about for what will seem like forever.

And while this blog is called "Five Months Until Paris", my upcoming trip to "The City of Lights" is really five months and ten days from today. I've got so much I want to do during this time, I thought it would be good to share it with you.

I've been doing a lot of research online about what to see, what to pack, what kind of shoes to wear, what kind of handbag to carry, and so forth. And you can only learn so much by reading what others say. The rest you simply have to "do".

Perhaps you're planning a trip to Paris or would like to. In this blog, I hope to share my trip planning experience with you and gather comments from others who have information to share in regard to Paris travel as well.

There's so much you can do when you plan a trip well in advance! For instance, I can learn "Just Enough FRENCH: How to Get By and Be Easily Understood", as the little McGraw Hill paperback book I bought at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore suggests. This is the kind of information I will need when I venture off on my own, but for the most part, I will have a guide, as I will be traveling with a small group of women whom I have yet to meet, as part of an escorted trip. (More about that later.)

I first started talking about wanting to go Paris to my family and friends back in October of last year, when my mother announced that she planned to give me $500 for my fiftieth birthday. You see, when she turned fifty years old, I gave her $500 which she put towards a trip to Mexico with a friend. She said, "You can use the $500 I give you towards a trip for yourself. Where would you like to go?" Paris was at the top of my list.

My fiance has no desire to go to Paris, despite the fact that I want to go, his cousin lived there, his sisters have gone there, and he's of French descent. And that's ok. I am perfectly fine with going to Paris without my fiance. He and I have already traveled many places together, and to be perfectly honest with you, my Paris trip - the one I have in my mind's eye - is really a trip for women. It's full of window shopping and REAL shopping, eating delicate pastries for lunch with cups of tea, and admiring the fashionable Parisien natives and ... you get the picture.

I tried to arrange this trip with a good friend of mine, but we were unable to mesh schedules. And so ... for safety reasons and the sake of ease, I decided to go on an escorted tour with a small group of women.

Up until now, I've been rather busy. I've already purchased the following: airline tickets; two pairs of shoes (one for daytime walking, another for evening walks); an annotated map with drawings on it, much like one might receive at an amusement park; an educational booklet on French phrases for the traveler; a travel-safe wallet; a skirt and jacket to wear when going out in the evening; two blouses; and I think that's about it.

And so ... let the journey before the journey begin!

From the BBC series on Paris, Blood and Chocolate (Part 2 of 3). Enjoy!

Streets of Paris - I shot this the day I left Paris, on a rainy September morning.

Small group Paris tours for women