Bridges of Paris

I’m always very excited when I get to review a book and such was the case when I found the very beautiful book, Bridges of Paris, being delivered to my door. Like most people who know Paris, I love the bridges that cross the Seine. They add so much to the feel and look of Paris. I don’t think I am familiar with the bridges on the outskirts of Paris although I’m sure I have passed them all at one time or another. They can’t compare with the bridges of central Paris, so beautiful and unique. I think the fact that the Seine is a wide river helps too as we noted when we were in Dublin. The bridges there were more workaday too without that elegance and sophistication found in Paris. I loved looking though Bridges of Paris, at the stunning photograpy as well as the history of each bridge.
The author, Michael Saint James, a Californian, lived in Paris for a year going out each day visiting a bridge, rain or shine, in each season to find the best light and view. There are thirty seven bridges crssing the Seine and the author says he is reluctant to name a favorite but finally settles on the Petit Pont which sits on the site of the first bridge in Paris. It’s tiny but timeless.

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The cover of the book.

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Here’s a lovely photo of Pont Mirabeau. I remember the first time that I saw it I wondered why it wasn’t more famous as it is really lovely. One reason, of course, is that it isn’t central but a downstream bridge. Michael gives the interesting history of the bridge including information on a plaque found on the bridge with the first stanza of a well known French poem by Apollinaire named Le Pont Mirabeau. The plaque was pointed out to the author by a charming lady who crossed the bridge every day and who was proud to point it out to him.
So if you are a lover of all things Parisian or know someone who is, this would be a perfect gift, a coffee table book to grace your life. It’s full of history and interesting facts-I love things like that-and the photography is just stunning.

I See London, I See France

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I’ve been internet friends with Paulita Kincer a long time. I’ve even met her daughter when she was here in Paris and I’m sure that, one day, I will meet Paulita in person too. I just finished her newest book, I See London, I See France and enjoyed it very much. It has to do with travel, marriage, children, the French, along with Frenchmen, a Gypsy and the Loch Ness Monster. I was really wondering what the heroine was going to do and it kept me turning the pages. I think all of those women out there who like a good book and reading about France (and London and Scotland) will like this one. Here is an interview I did with Paulita:

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First, Linda, thanks so much for the invitation to do an interview on your blog. I’ve read your blog for years and am so inspired by your pictures and experiences. Thanks for sharing France with all of us. And thanks for reading and enjoying my novel. I hope your other readers will give it a chance too.

How did you come to love France so much?

I studied French in high school and college and took one of those student tours between my junior and senior year of college, but I didn’t fall in love with France until I worked as an au pair for an American family who sent me and their little girls to stay with their French grandparents for three months. We stayed at their Paris apartment for a month, at their house in Corsica for a month and in the family vacation house outside Bourges for a month. The beautiful sights are not what captured my imagination though; the lifestyle seems to be right, the focus on important things like family and education. Plus the good food and wine. I was captured and have managed to seduce my husband into loving France too.

I know you are happily married so how did you come up with the troubled heroine?

The character in my novel, Caroline, has a pretty typical marriage for someone with small children. Couples don’t really take time for each other because they focus on the kids. I definitely was guilty of this when my kids were younger. I was consumed and exhausted. I just took those feelings and extrapolated – what if the husband walked out? How would Caroline react? How would she find herself again?

I think every marriage has rough times and people could go either way – they could walk away or they could work on it. But each person has to figure out if what they built together is worth saving. Couldn’t we all use a trip to Europe while we figure out our marriages?

You have three children, a girl and two boys. How much are the children in your book based on them-even though your children are high school and college aged? I don’t think you could get three children at an older age to leave their friends and activities to go with you to Europe-agree?

I hesitated to use three children since that is how many I have, but I thought two children might be more manageable and four children were just too many. Three seemed to be the perfect number of children to overwhelm the mother.

I originally wrote parts of this novel when my children were younger. All of my kids had passions or specialties, like the children in the novel, but they were all different passions than the characters. I think young children do that, get really interested in one thing and fixate on it. Then they move on. My youngest son did have a fervent interest in dinosaurs at one point, but he outgrew it.

As teenagers, it would definitely be a different novel because the kids would be complaining about missing their friends, but I probably could have convinced my kids to come along on a journey like this for a few weeks, maybe a month.

Was writing the sexy scenes hard for you? That’s probably just one reason why I’ve never attempted fiction.

It’s a little uncomfortable writing the sex scenes. I always think less is more as I describe it. Everyone already knows what parts go where. I try to focus on the romance of a sex scene because I think that’s what we could all use more of. My husband is one of my proofreaders and he always thinks I should add more sex. He thinks my main characters should jump into bed with most everyone they encounter! That’s a male perspective.

Have you ever loved a Frenchman? Who did you copy your Frenchman on, if anyone?

I had a major crush on a Frenchman that summer I worked as an au pair. He was older and tutored me in the art of all things French, except love, sadly. It was an unrequited crush. I based my character Jean-Marc on this man. Many of the scenes in Corsica came from actual experiences we had together.

Why the Loch Ness Monster? Why a Gypsy?

The Loch Ness monster captures everyone’s imagination, right? I love the idea of believing in something even if everyone else tells you it’s not real. To have that passion and fervor to discover something. Caroline’s little boy wants to believe and she’s willing to give him that opportunity to explore it. Both the Loch Ness monster and the gypsies give the book a tiny mystical twist. The gypsy, Gustave, well, he’s hot. Even in a good marriage, we can have our fantasies. And a gypsy offered Caroline the chance to look at a very alternative lifestyle.

How did you come up with the title? (I think I know.)

The title comes from the old children’s rhyme: “I see London, I see France, I see someone’s underpants.” Of course, we put the name of the person where it says someone. I liked the idea of using the children’s rhyme because this book definitely includes Caroline’s children. And the family does travel to London and France. It seemed to fit and to give a lighthearted title to the novel.

Paris Quiz

Paris Quiz is the name of a new book coming out from The Little Bookroom Publishers who have put out quite a few books on Paris. This one is great for those who, like me, like obscure facts and trivia but with the focus on Paris it gets really interesting. The book is arranged by arrondissements and I enjoyed reading about the 12th where I live to see how much I knew.
An example: Until 1962, the entrance to the Bastille metro station was decorated with a kiosk built by Guimard, the shape of which evoked…
A-a frog
B-a dragonfly
C-a pagoda
The answer? C. Most of Guimard’s kisks evoke dragonfly wings, but two stations-Etoile and Bastille-enjoy particularly extravagant entrances. These veritable little pavilions include facades with panels of enameled lava, framed in cast iron jambs. The Bastille kiosk, with its multiple roofs set back from one another, took the form of a pagoda. It was destroyed in 1962.

Wouldn’t you love to have seen it?