Destination: France

‘Paris Was the Landscape of What I Wanted to Be’

In the latest essay in The Rumpus’ “The Last City I Loved” series, writer Rebekkah Dilts looks back on her time as a foreign student in Paris. Here’s a taste:

Speaking and being spoken to in French, this language that’s like a song, opened a new vein of cognition and a different sensibility in me. Paris was the landscape of what I wanted to be: I wanted to have a history that I believed in fiercely, I wanted for art and words to be acknowledged, but also for softness and aesthetics to be appreciated. And I was embraced by a family again; to feel tenderness and a sense of belonging in the setting of so incredible a city was the greatest gift I could have been given. I felt a unique and profound freedom.


A Street Corner in Paris

A Street Corner in Paris Photo: tibchris, Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Jeffrey Tayler had all but given up on the City of Light. Then he sat down at a Left Bank cafe.

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R.I.P. George Whitman, Shakespeare & Company Owner

It’s hard to imagine Paris without Shakespeare & Company, and George Whitman, who died yesterday at the age of 98, owned the famed Left Bank bookstore for years.

He took its name from the original shop owned by Sylvia Beach.

“For decades,” the New York Times notes, “Mr. Whitman provided food and makeshift beds to young aspiring novelists or writing nomads, often letting them spend a night, a week, or even months living among the crowded shelves and alcoves.”

Travel writer Erin Byrne profiled Whitman several years ago, noting that he had “fashioned a life for himself that brings together the two things he loves most in all the world, books and people. It is this combination that makes him tick. Old age without loneliness is unusual; George always has a house full of friends. Fragility without weakness is seldom seen; this man is thin and frail, but his presence is noble.”

His daughter, Sylvia, discusses her father and the store’s history in this terrific video:


The Not-So-Endless Summer

Biarritz, France Biarritz, France (Abbie Kozolchyk)

Parting with beach season is especially sweet sorrow in Biarritz, France, as Abbie Kozolchyk discovered

See the full audio slideshow: »


Stilettos in Paris

Eva Holland did the Bohemian backpacker thing in Paris. Paris Las Vegas gave her the chance to act out a different role.

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Splitscreen: A Love Story

Splitscreen: A Love Story from JW Griffiths on Vimeo.

Mesmerizing travel video shot entirely on a Nokia mobile phone.

(Via Kottke)


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Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Paris vs. New York: The Blog

Paris vs. New York, a tally of two cities is a fun graphic blog that pairs up aspects of the two iconic spots—Quasimodo vs. King Kong, for instance, or the macaroon vs. the cupcake. I guess this is one city-to-city comparison that never gets old. (Via Kottke)


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Expat Pleasures: Jimmy Buffett, Live in Paris

Jim Manzi is living in Paris, where a recent Buffett concert has him reflecting on the expat experience:

One of the many great things about living here is the fun of having typically American experiences completely out-of-context. The annual late-September Buffett concert in Paris has become, like the seven-a-sides in Hong Kong, a ritual gathering point for expats for thousands of miles around. This created a hilarious Anglophone bubble in the middle of Paris. About the only French I heard came from Jimmy at the mic (who, having lived here years ago, still seems to have pretty passable French).

A surprising number of his songs reference the city. In fact, he closed the concert with a great acoustic version of He Went to Paris, which is a song that Bob Dylan cited as one of his favorite tunes by one of his favorite songwriters. Though not many of us here are living a Lost Generation literary life, it still felt very bonding.

I can relate. One of my favorite weekends, during the year I lived in England, was spent preparing a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner and tossing a football around the backyard with other North American students—funny, since pigskin and pumpkin pie are no part of my life at home, however “typical” they are supposed to be. As Manzi points out, context is everything when you’re living abroad.


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Paris Offers Free Sparkling Water

In one public water fountain, in a wooden hut, in the Jardin de Reuilly. The Guardian explains:

France’s addiction to bottled sparkling water is up there with its penchant for bike racing, foie gras and Johnny Hallyday. Now, authorities in Paris are attempting to fight back against the national dependence by unveiling a public water fountain that gushes with chilled bubbles.

La Pétillante - literally, she who sparkles - is the first fountain in France to inject carbon dioxide into tap water before cooling it and serving it up to passers-by. Inaugurated today in the Jardin de Reuilly in south-east Paris, it is expected to prove a user-friendly means of weaning the French off the bottle.

France pinched the idea from Italy, which already has 215 sparkling water fountains.


From Paris to New York—in 1906

Conor Friedersdorf digs up an old gem from the Atlantic’s archives: a dispatch from a native New Yorker, returning to the city after an extended stay in Paris. It’s a must-read for NYC-philes. Here’s a taste:

In a word, this returned New Yorker finds few familiar landmarks; and the few he does find seem to have lost most of their original meaning. He is as much dazed and puzzled by his surroundings as Rip Van Winkle after his twenty years’ sleep. Nobody resides, does business, dines, or drinks in the same places as before. Nobody frequents the same pleasure resorts. Nobody saunters along the same walks. It is not safe for him to make a business or social call, or to set out for a restaurant, a chop-house, a theatre, or a club, without consulting the Directory in advance; and, even so, he risks having his trouble for his pains, inasmuch as there is more than a chance that a move has been made since the Directory was issued.

After he so far recovers from the shock of his initial disenchantment, however, as to be able to take note of details, he finds that there is some balm in Gilead, after all. At the end of a month he begins to catch the spirit of New York; and at the end of six months he has come completely under its spell, and loves it, as Montaigne loved the Paris of his day, “with all its moles and warts.” The radiant white city by the Seine still appears to him at intervals, like the memory of a favorite picture or poem; but it has lost the power to disquiet him with desire. Paris is no longer a perpetual obsession,—the absolute norm by which he judges everything he sees. Indeed, it has passed so far out of his life that he is in danger of being as over-lenient in his judgments as he was at the outset over-severe.