Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Passport to Paris

Today features guest blogger Joanna Marple.
I know it is clichéd, but I do love Paris! This city of romance is truly seductive!
As you trip down cobbled streets in the different quartiers, you began to sense the centuries of history, from the Sun King’s lavish building projects in an effort to make Paris the ‘new Rome,’ to the gory beheading of Marie Antoinette, the conquest and opulence of Napoleon’s era and the ambiguity of the Vichy Régime.
Amble along the rive gauche of the River Seine and rummage through the piles of old books for sale as so typically portrayed in the movie, Midnight in Paris. Weave past the gifted street artists in Montmartre as you climb up to the Sacré Coeur Basilica, erect and majestic at the top of the many steps - it's highest point higher than the top of the Eiffel tower with unsurpassed views across Paris. Here even the least religious will embrace a sense of light and spirit.
Enjoy the pace of life, though still more hectic than where I live, in Nice, compared to many other Western capitals, no one rushes yet everything gets done efficiently. Waiters never write down an order but remember everything and food is served at a pace in complete harmony with the community – where there is time to digest and discourse, which Parisians love with a passion. This is a city where academia and philosophy are not disdained (forget not that the official world language of Diplomacy is still French!) Traffic is scary fast (though not quite as dangerous as Italians in Nice) and there is an element of courtesy in the honking and breakneck maneuvers!  Scooters zip around everything and everyone, with rider chatting on cell phone squeezed between ear and helmet, possibly carrying a dog in a basket between his legs!
Paris needs to be experienced on foot and with minimal agenda and an openness to be enticed into an antique shop, or a Jewish bakery or spend two hours over an espresso at a table on a busy sidewalk or tranquil square. For any Americans, please don’t miss an even larger Statue of Liberty than yours - approximately 35 feet in height. She stands upon a tiny island called Swan Ally, [Allée des Cygnes] in the Seine near the Grenelle Bridge – a gift to the French in 1889, by the American residents of Paris as a remembrance to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution.
I could rave for pages of this city that has been home to so many great artists and writers, instead I want to leave you with some book and app recommendations pertaining to Paris should this city be part of your summer vacation plans.

Paris Tours App:Beware Mme La Guillotine, A Revolutionary tour of Paris. This is a historical story app that the whole family will enjoy taking you on a tour of Paris at the time of the
French Revolution.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (ages 4-8) - I think this classic, award winning 1940’s rhyming story about an orphan girl is still one of the best picture books on Paris for younger kids. The illustrations of this Parisian era are sublime.

Secret Letters from 0-10 by Suzie Morgenstern (ages 7-11) Ernest has lived a regimented life with his elderly grandmother and equally aged housekeeper for 10 years. All changes when Victoria and her 13 brothers come into his life. His dull routine is blown apart. He has NEVER even been to a grocery store until he helps Victoria, but on this fateful day, he discovers a book in the paperback rack that may have the answer to his life-long question; where is his father, and why did he leave him?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (YA) - A somewhat predictable ending, but a cute and very funny teen love story set in Paris.

Author Bio: Joanna Marple is the author of Snow Games. She grew up surrounded by the architecture of the city of Cambridge, UK, and immersed in the books and landscapes of the Brontes, Tolkein and Beatrix Potter. Her tall tales were not always appreciated as a young child, but her passion for storytelling remained unfettered and was fuelled by the marvelous people and animals she encountered during her humanitarian work across the continents. More recently, her years as school librarian in Southern France relit her passion for children’s books. Her stories focus on her love of the natural world and the richness of the cultures she has encountered in her travels. She lives presently in Nice with two quirky cats and a stream of visitors from all over the globe.


  1. Oh how lovely! You've made me want to see Paris for myself, Joanna. (I so appreciate the way your writing can take me to a place so that I can practically smell, taste, feel and hear it.)

  2. Thank you so much, Beth. It is a very sensorial city!

  3. I would have loved to have visited you in Nice. I enjoyed your description of Paris and Nice and the history. So nostalgic. It sounds like you have the best of so many worlds where you live. You are so close to so many cultures and wonderful opportunities to do humanitarian work. Would love that if I were young and single. Lovely post.

  4. Very romantic vision, Joanna, and you certainly make a person miss Paris. I totally agree, Paris is best experienced on foot. A couple of years ago we were rudely awakened at 5am in our hotel near the Eiffel Tower by honking horns announcing a taxi strike! So we spent the two weeks on foot, and thank goodness, too, or we would have never stumbled across so much that makes Paris, Paris! Thanks for the delightful memories. Lovely post! Thanks, Michelle.

  5. @Jo, I think that taxi strike was serendipitous, for you would have missed so much. And after all that walking, one appreciates to food all the more!

    @Pat, I have been living in an exceptional part of the world, with Italy, Spain, Switzerland just a few hours away by car, and many more nations within easy visiting distance. I hope and believe, that I have made the most of the opportunities this location has offered me!

  6. Beth, Patricia, and Jo,
    Thanks for visiting Polliwog and for your comments. I just returned from our latest travel adventure and am catching up. Watch for my new travel posts beginning next Tuesday. I'll be writing about the "Wild West" of Italy- Sicilia!

    Joanna, Thank your for being a guest blogger.