In our July 2012 issue, we loved talking to five authors who’ve featured Paris in their books, and generally we got very enthusiastic answers about the City of Light. But we wondered if there was a dark side to their experiences in the city. So we asked Eloisa James, Laura Florand, Cara Black, Joanna Bourne and Anna Davis, who all have recent releases set in Paris, this question: Was there any point where Paris let you down or didn’t deliver? Did you have a “bad day,” Parisian style?
Eloisa James, whose memoir Paris in Love discusses her year abroad in Paris:
Oh, yes. I did have a very bad day—and my whole family experienced it with me. It was my son’s 16th birthday, a day that included our only encounter with that famous movie staple, the “Rude French Waiter.” It was hilariously awful, and I can’t help thinking with some satisfaction that I got my revenge in print.
Laura Florand, author of The Chocolate Thief:
Oh, yes, often! It rained pretty much my entire first year there and people really did seem quite rude to someone coming from a small town in the South who had spent her previous time overseas on a friendly tropical island. And as a young female on my own, the level of harassment was well beyond the scope of anything I knew how to deal with at first. In fact, when Cade Corey in The Chocolate Thief pushes someone into the Seine, it’s my little creative revenge. When you come from a small town where smiling is the de facto interaction with everyone, there’s a steep learning curve to dealing with a city like Paris. But ... it has the most delicious chocolate and pastries in the world, among many other moments of gustatory bliss, and that makes up for a lot. As does the Seine at night.
Cara Black, author of Aimée LeDuc mystery series:
A bad day is when my feet blister from walking and I'm far from a Metro station. I love to ride a bike in Paris and it takes a load off my feet and I can end up lost and discovering a new area.
Anna Davis, author of The Shoe Queen
I went for a long weekend in Paris with a good friend while writing the book, and specifically wanted to explore Montparnasse (having not previously done so). It was a huge disappointment (though the guide books did warn me!). Big shopping center, crappy cafes and restaurants, no trace of the crazy past.
Joanna Bourne, author of the Spymaster historical romance series, answered a slightly different question: What would you say is the biggest American misconception about Paris?
(Subtext: Are the people really all so rude? Is everybody really impossibly chic and thin? Do they really lug their dogs everywhere? Do even small children and house cats drink wine?)
Are the French rude? I think it's not so much that Parisians are uniquely rude, as that the French live under a complicated set of rules and expectations of which Americans are clueless. So it goes something like:
Tourist: Is the restaurant open?
Waiter: Of course. It will be open at 7:30.
Tourist: It's six o'clock and I'm starving. Where can we eat?
Waiter: Nowhere, Monsieur. It is not time for dinner. Dinner is at 7:30.
Tourist: Well, that sucks.
Waiter: Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.
Let me say one thing about chic. Paris is full of perfectly groomed, skinny people. This fills me with envy. Big, green envy. That's all I have to say about chic.
Let us move on to dogs. Dogs are welcomed everywhere. You couldn't shy a coconut in any direction without bonking somebody carrying a dog. There are dog-shaped purses and baskets to carry your dog in when you ride the Metro or go shopping.
Children do drink wine with meals, but it's very well-watered wine. The alcohol content is quite low. One sidenote -- American kids raised in Paris spend their teens going out to bars and discos. When they go back to the States for college they find themselves relegated to coke and ginger ale, which must be dismaying, I should imagine.
Want to hear about the sunnier side of these authors' Parisian adventures? Pick up a copy of our July 2012 issue, in stores now, or subscribe to RT BOOK REVIEWS today!