Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

Old Jul 1st, 2012, 06:38 AM
  #101  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 387
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This trip report is giving me a very long summer reading list!
jmct714 is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 07:13 AM
  #102  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,738
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
TTT
TDudette is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 08:25 AM
  #103  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 543
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for the book recommendation, latedaytraveler. I also loved Suite Francaise. What a brilliant writer. I felt like I was leaving Paris with her!!
LindaL is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 09:03 AM
  #104  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Jmct714 and TDudette, thanks for hanging in. I never thought this report would be so long...

“I also loved Suite Francaise. What a brilliant writer. I felt like I was leaving Paris with her!!”


Linda, so true. The first part STORM IN JUNE describes the flight of Parisians (from every social strata) from the city in June, 1940 as the Germans advanced. Part II DOLCE is set in an occupied village near Paris describing the tenuous relationship between the Nazis and townspeople.


Nemirorsky had projected three more parts to this masterpiece # 3 the resistance, #4 the battles, and # 5 the peace. Although the writer died in the camps in 1942, her young daughters somehow had possession of this manuscript which did not surface until the late 90s. Published in 2004, it was critical and popular success.
Actually, I “read” SUITE FRANCAISE in the audio version which was great.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 01:12 PM
  #105  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
“It fields, however, have frequently been blood-soaked from Viking invasions, the Hundreds Years War (1845-1850)” about Normandy.

Errata above – of course, I meant 1345- 1450 ish – LOL
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 02:19 PM
  #106  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43,564
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 1 Post
Another book of interest you make like is
Rescuing the Children a Holocaust Memoir
by Vivette Samuel and translated into English.
Ms Samuel was an outstanding person in Oeuvre de Secours Aux Enfants(OSE or society for assistance to children) which saved Thousands of Jewish in France from deportation to be exterminated.Samuels, at 22 was the resident social worker
at Riversaltes. I learned about this book when I was visiting a vineyard at the spur of the moment because I saw on the map the the house wine we drink came from nearby Riversaltes.
We stayed for wine tasting and later dinner where the conversation let me to the book.
Elie Wiesel writes the forward-He and Prof.Charles B. Paul, the historium were amoung the children saved by OSE.
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 04:09 PM
  #107  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,574
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I love reading your report because we are going to Paris for the first time, leaving July 28. THANK YOU so much for the address of the scene in Midnight In Paris where Gil is whisked away to the 1920's. I wrote down the information in my notebook (& about the Alexander III bridge) because I LOVE MIdnight in Paris, & have seen it 3 times. I am also reading Moveable Feast, which I love, too. The chapters about Fitzgerald were riveting, IMO, because I didn't realize what a whiny, spoiled, self-centered man he was! "Get me a thermometer!!"

Will it be easy to find Church of St. Etienne? We are staying at Hotel Bonaparte in the 6th.
Kwoo is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 05:15 PM
  #108  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cigalechanta,

Thank you for recommending RESCUING THE CHILDREN. I am very interested, as I suggested above, with how the Holocaust played out in the occupied countries.

In what part of France was this OSE located? I appreciate your continued interest in this lengthy tome.


“Will it be easy to find Church of St. Etienne?” (stairs scene in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS)

Kwoo, no problem. The site is very near the Pantheon in the 5th. Check out the article about the church in Wikipedia. Did you find those sites that list all of the locations in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS?

Agreed, Fitzgerald comes off badly in A MOVEABLE FEAST. Loved the scene where they could not get the convertible top up on a long road trip in the rain. Hem was thrilled to return to Hadley in Paris after that one.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 06:11 PM
  #109  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 43,564
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 1 Post
Riversalte is a commune in the South of France
in thePyrenees-Orientales.
We are learning so much from this thread, thank you
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m.../ai_106730962/
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2012, 06:22 PM
  #110  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 543
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cigalechanta: Thank you for the book recommendation, also. I really appreciate it.
LindaL is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 01:27 AM
  #111  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 903
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the link, Mimi! I'm reviewing Sarah's Key for my book club in September and this ties in with my research.
moolyn is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 01:28 AM
  #112  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks to all - ready to post THE BEACHES and MONT ST MICHEL shortly. This is longer than expected...
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 04:20 AM
  #113  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
TUESDAY, JUNE 12

CAEN-NORMANDY BEACHES & MONT ST. MICHEL

The majority of folks on this Globus tour were from the US and Canada for whom the highpoint would be “the beaches.” Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate – cold, raw, and windy. Our guide Philippe admitted that Normandy weather was often “humid.” But to us, “humid” means hot and sticky (similar to Washington, DC in the summer) - not the wet chill we were experiencing in Normandy. Philippe also explained that, although many Parisians have summer homes along the coast, few swim in these cold waters.


Reminders of D-DAY are everywhere in the area. Apparently each village has some kind of small museum or memorial – an old tank or jeep, a small fighter plane, or a large piece of artillery now preserved amidst flower beds in town centers or in roundabouts along the road.


The “landing beaches” extend some 60 miles along the Norman coast, but our circuit basically included – JUNO BEACH liberated by the Canadians, GOLD BEACH secured by the Brits, and OMAHA BEACH stormed by the Americans. (I hope I have these beaches designated correctly because they all look alike.)

At one point we stopped at ARROMANCHES where the Brits, thanks to the foresight of Winston Churchill, had built an “artificial harbor” of concrete to receive the goods and supplies necessary to carry on the fight.


Pieces of these huge piers, called MULBERRIES, eerily remain off shore. According to one account: “The harbor at Arromanches was Mulberry B, while Mulberry A was near Omaha Beach where the American forces landed. Unfortunately, just a few days after the harbors were built, a major gale struck. The harbor at Mulberry A was completely destroyed, and Mulberry B was severely damaged. After the storm, all of the Allies had to use the harbor at Arromanches.”


On to OMAHA BEACH and the NORMANDY AMERICAN CEMETERY and MEMORIAL at COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER containing the remains of 9,387 Americans most of whom were killed on D-DAY or shortly thereafter. Magnificently manicured and maintained, this resting place, administered by the US government is a “perpetual concession” granted by the French government. The gardens and tree-lined lanes invite visitors to walk out among the headstones reading the names of the fallen. Below the waves continue to crash on Omaha Beach. RIP to those who slumber there…


At lunch time we stopped at SAINTE MERE EGLISE, the first town liberated by Allied Forces on June 6, 1944. The “church tower itself was scene of famous story of one US paratrooper - private JOHN STEELE. His parachute was caught in the steeple of the church, leaving him hanging from its roof-top to witness the carnage. The wounded paratrooper hung there limply for 2 hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. John Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division. A life-size figurine of paratrooper hangs from the church spire, commemorating this story.”


Evidently the hero John Steele made many visits back during his lifetime. His picture was everywhere in the town. D-DAY souvenirs and all its memorabilia provide a veritable cottage industry in the many shops around the church square. I joined with others for lunch in a small café – creamy vegetable soup and warm French bread.

Again, the weather was miserable so I retreated to the aforesaid church EGLISE NOTRE DAME DE LA PAIX. This Romanesque-Gothic church was built in the 11th century with additions and refinements over the centuries to follow.


The church interior was inviting, with soothing Gregorian Chant music in the background. Looking up I saw “a stained glass window depicting US paratroopers and airplanes around the Our Lady… donated by veterans of 505th Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.” I lit a candle (as I had done at every other church of this journey) and enjoyed the peaceful tranquility of a place that had once known such turmoil.


MONT ST. MICHEL


I have wanted visit to this rocky promontory on the Atlantic for decades, ever since reading HENRY ADAMS’S (1838- 1918)MONT SAINT MICHEL and CHARTRES, “a pastiche of history, travel, and poetry, that celebrated the unity of medieval society, especially as represented in the great cathedrals of France.” (Not beach reading.) Adams was a crusty sort, a historian concerned with the decline of civilization. Having had a grandfather and great-grandfather as Presidents of the United States is rather a hard act to follow, I guess.

Adams traveled in that circle of high diplomacy, art, and literature with the likes of John Hay, Bernard Berenson, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Bunking down in their comfortable Paris digs for months at a time, they often amused themselves on chauffeured jaunts into the French countryside to study medieval churches and monasteries.

While still damp and drear, the rains had ceased by mid-afternoon as we reached our destination. Over 3 million souls visit Mont St. Michel each year. According to Philippe, they are not looking for more tourists in this fragile environment. As of April, 2012, cars and busses are no longer permitted to park on the mile long causeway leading to the site. A new car/bus park is some 3km (isn’t that 1.8 miles?) from the shuttle which covers only part of the soon-to-be-removed causeway. That’s a long walk and the reason, according to Philippe, why many tours are dropping MSM from their itineraries. Other arrangements can be made for the handicapped.


We stayed at the Mercure Saint Mont St. Michele, one of a cluster of hotels at the end of the causeway which allows guests to park their cars/busses on their property – thus saving them the hike from the new parking area which looked soooo far away. After checking in, we still had to walk quite a distance to this new train like contraption which covered most, but not all, of the causeway. In case you’re wondering, said causeway will be a thing of the past when a new bridge is opened around 2014. I would welcome hearing from those readers who have visited MSM lately and experienced these changes.


The approach to Mont St. Michele is breathtaking – a stone pyramid of buildings with layers of ecclesiastic architecture from 709- the 19th century rising to the heavens which forms “a tower in the heart of an immense bay invaded by the highest tides in Europe.” Primarily a Benedictine Abbey, the site was a fortress during the Hundred Years’ War and a prison after the French Revolution when most church properties were debased. Rejuvenated in the 19th century under the able hand of the master restorer EUGENE VIOLLET-LE-DUC (he of Notre Dame and Carcassonne fame), UNESCO declared MSM a world heritage site in 1979.


Philippe shepherded us across the causeway to the entrance of MSM where he left us with our guide, Maria. The ascent wasn’t easy – some three hundred stone stairs. But with each new level, the view of the bay and surrounding area became more arresting. On this tour, we were given “whispers,” audio devices so we could hear the guide clearly on outdoor excursions. Maria was breathing heavily into her mike as we continued to climb. It had been her 3rd trip of the day – and with some age and girth, it could not have been easy.


At last we reached the majestic pinnacle, the highly vaulted gothic church. Now Maria was waxing poetical about the floors below in excruciating detail. I noticed that some had turned their “whispers” off. Suddenly I had an urge to depart and, smiling, told Maria that I was a bit wuzzy from the height, gave her my tip, and slid away. I left through the cloisters – but these did not lead directly out from this stony labyrinth. Soon I was back with my group at the book store. I reassured Maria that I was feeling better.


I wasn’t giving Henry Adams much thought as I descended those 300 steps, trudged to the shuttle, crossed the causeway, and returned to the hotel. Looking back along the roadway, the view was spectacular as the sun made its first appearance of the day.


After dinner some in our group returned to MSM and enjoyed the abbey by moonlight. It’s open until 11 o’clock. But I packed it in early even though the sun was still streaming in the window across the salt meadows that surround Mont St. Michele.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 04:53 AM
  #114  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,541
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Kwoo,
It would be hard to miss the church of St Etienne as it is behind and to the left the Pantheon as you look from the front. It's straight ahead and to the left in this streetview link: http://goo.gl/maps/YG4X

latedaytraveler,

Sorry for the interruption but Kwoo did ask. Looking forward to more of your fascinating report!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 05:18 AM
  #115  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 412
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, LDT, this is a fabulous report. I am among those who have added new reading material to my "list".
kansas is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 06:21 AM
  #116  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Paris/Amsterdam,

Thanks for the help. I am also watching MIDNIGHT IN PARIS for the third time – checking out various locations.

Hello Kansas,

Thanks for your kind words. Of late I have been listening to many of these classics like A MOVEABLE FEAST on CDs. I get them all from the local library. I got hooked on these when I was teaching English – listening to TOM SAWYER and ANIMAL FARM made the texts more enjoyable for my students.

These CDs are very well done these days. I downloaded a few mongrel readings from the web which really didn’t cut it.

Almost done…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 2nd, 2012, 03:53 PM
  #117  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Clarification on visiting MONT SAINT MICHELE

The medieval town that surrounds the bottom of the Abbey contains the “Grande Rue” or main street with souvenir shops and eateries. Houses date from the 15th -16th centuries. This is the area which is free and open to visitors until around 11 o’clock in the evening.

Tickets (€9) are needed to enter the Abbey itself above. Summer hours are 9 AM to 6 PM. One hour and self- guided tours are available.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jul 3rd, 2012, 02:02 PM
  #118  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,766
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Loved your report! Your interests seem exactly the same as mine - including literature. I can't get enough of Paris, the museums, architecture - and French literature (or English books about France!). Love Edith Wharton, needless to say. One book I came across some years ago was "A Little Tour of France" by Henry James, written in the 1890's, I think. He describes a train tour he took with some friends. Fascinating, with his observations. I also really enjoyed one by Edith Wharton describing an auto tour that she took in France - I can't remember the name of that one.

Another more recent book I enjoyed was Ina Caro's "The Road from the Past - Traveling through History in France", describing a road trip she and her husband took starting in Provence, and driving through Languedoc, the Dordogne, Loire Valley, etc. up to Ile de France. It was fun to read, and makes you really want to do the same thing. Since reading that, I've taken 2-week driving trips to Loire Valley, Burgundy, Normandy, Alsace, Brittany, Provence - all solo - and loved every minute! I think I've gotten too old for the solo driving thing at this point, (I started these adventures rather late in life) - but I'll never get too old for trips to France!
Sue4 is offline  
Old Jul 3rd, 2012, 05:06 PM
  #119  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 844
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am still reading...I am jotting down some of the book suggestions. I have read Edith Wharton and love her. I am reading some Hemingway (again) in preparation for my Hemingway tour with Paris Walks.

I don't want to distract from your wonderful trip report, but I see so many good reading suggestions. What books have you read in preparation for your travels to France? I am also looking for a well-written fiction or non fiction about Marie Antoinette. Perhaps you have some suggestions.
kelsey22 is online now  
Old Jul 3rd, 2012, 05:26 PM
  #120  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,989
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Sue,

Thank you for your lovely entry. Indeed, we are kindred spirits. I read most of Henry James’s A LITTLE TOUR OF FRANCE on line – charming. Above I mentioned James’s THE AMBASSADORS when describing Notre Dame. Love that book. Hadn’t read it for decades but got the audio version from the library last summer. Of course, the culmination of the novel involves a little side trip to the country by Strether at the end – similar to what James describes in his “Little Tour.”

No doubt, James is a reach but wow!

Love Edith Wharton too. I also read EDITH WHARTON AND HENRY JAMES, A Story of Friendship by Millicent Bell. Their relationship was not without its strains. Sometimes Wharton overpowered poor Henry with her visits and demands that he join her in her travels. Also, he did not have the means to keep up with her extravagant life style at times.

Good for you to tour so much of France solo and driving! I recently read PARIS TO THE PAST: Traveling Through French History by Train by Ina Caro, a follow-up to her first book that you read. She describes so many destinations for day trips from Paris with good suggestions for lunch. She and her husband Robert Caro (now on NY Times best -selling non-fiction with his last book about Lyndon Johnson) are real Francophiles, n’est ce-pas?

Sue where would you go next in France and do you speak the language with ease?

Again, thank you for your interest.
latedaytraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -