Just shy of two weeks ago, I returned from a 15-day European jaunt where I spent the lion’s share of my time in Germany with a brief stint in France. The jet lag has since dissipated, and I’m finally functioning in the Midwestern state of mind again. Ope!
The catalyst for this overseas journey was the wedding of one of my dearest friends, and since I wasn’t going to miss that, I decided to turn the trip into a real adventure and make the most of my time abroad.
Aside from getting lost in Stuttgart, missing a connecting flight in Iceland, and being subjected to a child singing “Purple Rain” in the Eiffel Tower queue, all went well. Many macarons were manger’d, a considerable number of croissants were consumed, and particular pretzels were partaken of – but considering that I walked roughly 200K steps, I’m not worried about the carb intake.
Aside from eating and drinking overseas, I also absorbed the French and German cultures through the sights, architecture, art, history, and literary-related means, with the bookish experiences taking front and center here.
Bookstores Visited & Books Purchased
Between Stuttgart and Paris, I visited five different bookstores – commercial establishments and small independent shops. Two favorites were San Francisco Books Co. and Shakespeare and Company – both located on Paris’ Left Bank.
Founded in 1997, San Francisco Book Co. is an English-language bookshop specializing in various used books. Here, I found a book called A Dictionary of Cliches by Eric Partridge from 1940. This decades-old hardcover caught my eye amongst the stacks and near-ceiling-high shelves because, in all my thrifting and resaling, I’ve never come across a book like it.
Another book my friend and I found was An American Lady in Paris, which I almost bought, as I was indeed an American lady in the heart of Paris, but suitcase restrictions and parameters had me stay my hand. After all, it was early on in my travels, and I already had to accommodate two beer steins.
In the realm of new books, I visited Shakespeare and Company, another English-language bookstore that opened a few decades earlier – in 1951. A popular destination, we did have to stand in line because only so many people could gain entrance at a time, but it was worth it. Unfortunately, photos and videos were not allowed, but I think the quaintness of the shop can be construed from the exterior shot I took. Here, I purchased Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, which my friend assured me is a classic and quite dark – perfect for the upcoming spooky season.
At another Parisian establishment, I purchased one of Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeleine books in French for my niece (because I am a good Tante Jambon, aka, Aunt Ham), and at a German bookstore, I found a Deutsch version of one of my book loves – Tolkien’s The Hobbit. My goal was to find a copy of The Hobbit in each country I visited, but I was unsuccessful in tracking down French and Icelandic versions of the fantasy story. Next time!
As for writer experiences, what is more writerly than sipping coffee (or hot chocolate) at a street-side cafe or strolling the streets of Montmartre in the heart of the artist district? So many famous writers once roamed Paris – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, etc. – I felt in good company while exploring the city.
At one bar, the bartender, of course, asked what I do, and I replied that I’m a writer. He found that to be a particularly sexy occupation and told me so, which is a win in my book but also not entirely true. I think sometimes people imagine writers just relaxing with a journal and cafe au lait at a tiny table for one, a cigarette slowly smoldering on their lip as words flow easily from pensive thought to pen in hand. The reality, however, is me curled over my laptop on my hand-me-down couch, tapping out and deleting nouns, adjectives, and many a preposition broken up by commas whilst wearing sweatpants and a hoodie – not exactly the romanticized or sexy vision of a writer, but I’ll let that bartender have his imagining.
Another fun experience pertaining to writing was finding Casimir Rue in Paris. You may recall that this name inspired one of my novel’s character’s names (Cazmir). I shouldn’t be surprised since Paris has strong ties to Catholicism, so it makes sense that a street could be named after a saint, even if Casimir is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania and not France or Paris.
And even though the scene and setting were perfect for a writing experience, I didn’t write at all while on this excursion. I left my laptop at home but brought a journal in case inspiration struck. However, I was so busy walking, eating, looking, laughing, and rating macarons that I didn’t have time to think about my freelance gigs or my novel, and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. After all, it’s good to disconnect and truly enjoy the present moment while on vacation.
Now, I could go on and on about my other experiences during this two-week getaway – the macaron taste-testing (Maxim’s won, Laudurée lost), the kind people I met (so many), and the paintings and sculptures I viewed (hello, Louvre) – the blog would carry on for many more paragraphs. However, I wanted to drill it down to this overview with a focus on book and writing-related anecdotes and moments because, as you know, that’s my wheelhouse. And as amazing as the trip was, it is good to be back home. After all, there’s no place like it.
P.S. And of course, I had to get a new mug to commemorate my return to France 😉
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