Category Archives: Paris

plenty new for europhiles

With thanks to Jenna and her blog this is my happiness, I learned that Rick Steves has just published his highlights on ‘what’s new’ in Europe.

I have a real fondness for Rick. I don’t know him, but I feel like I do. “He” was with me when I traveled solo backpacking in my early 20s in Italy. His guidebook clutched in my hand, I marked phone numbers that led me to the perfect top floor apartment, little-known beach  or gelateria (I needed first to find a pay phone -yes, a pay phone). Directions were always easy to follow – even before online mapping tools – and restaurants both authentic and inexpensive. Pictures of him would be framed in the hostels I stayed in, demonstrating the close relationships he fostered with the locals he featured in his books.

I’ve grown up, as it so happens to all travelers, and have traded my backpack in for luggage, roughing it for a bit more comfort, and solo travels for family travel.  His latest article on what’s new in Europe reminds me again why he still is a wealth of good, practical information for those who want to experience real Europe and travel slowly – in whatever format you prefer using, hardback or app.

Paris' Picasso Museum renovation will be completed this June

Paris’ Picasso Museum renovation will be completed this June


Highlights for me include the re-opening of one my favorite museums in Europe – the Picasso Museum, Paris; Marseille’s facelift; a new gallery devoted to Michelangelo at the Uffizi in Florence; a new museum dedicated to Dante Alighieri in Ravenna; and Milan preparing to host the 2015 World Fair.

Read it, soak it in – Rick Steves: What’s new in Europe article here via sfgate. Europe still awaits even the most seasoned Europhile.


easy chic: a guide to paris street style

It’s no secret that France – or really Paris – is the center of style. When you visit and walk the streets, there is evidence of it at any age or shape. Well-tied scarves.  An understated, personal look. Sleeveless on women over  60. Great shoes on kids.  Timeless and practical, not trendy.  Natural and easy. Confidence. Today’s French style owes much to the inventions of Coco Chanel (read more about her influence here in a previous post).

So because I consider this style the holy grail of my fashion identity, I’m adding the newly-released  “Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic” to the other French guides collecting on my bookshelf on subjects ranging from parenting to eating well.


French fashion writers Isabelle Thomas and Frederique Veysset offer richly illustrated sketches and photos in this fashion guide and promise to ” help you cultivate an everyday style of timeless glamour.”

In addition, the book lists a series of fashion faux pas to avoid (no Converse after age 26, it’s reported, is one. Ouch.) and expert advice on getting your effortless chic style on. I’m there.

fine art photography for europhiles

Our home is a collection of old and new. When returning to the states after living in Europe, we shipped many of our favorite things that held sentimental value from our time spent there. Our yellow modern Italian couches and other furniture pieces, dishes, artwork such as framed antique maps, books, and, naturally, our Alessi favorites, as I describe in this past post.

But what had become a challenge was an update to our artwork. Over our modern Italian couches and near several framed black and white photographs, hung a fresco-like painting of Siena on canvas purchased in Italy. It held sentimental value but felt old-fashioned. In fact, much of today’s European and Italian design is more modern than those Americans promoting Tuscan kitchens would like to believe. Our Northern Italian friends have the latest in glass tile, and favor clean lines, modern art and appliances over a traditional look. While we have many traditional items in our home such as a large french-style kitchen pine table, it became clear it was time to update this piece of art on the wall. But how? How does a Europhile – lover of history and things old – accomplish this?

I found my solution last month, while perusing the shelves at our local bookstore downtown for Christmas presents. Above the books, I discovered artistic photographs displayed around the room. The art show was featuring the work of Northern California photographer Dee Conway.

"Room in the Louvre", Dee Conway

“Room in the Louvre” Dee Conway

Several sepia-colored prints from photographs featuring European  architecture that appeared to be near or around Paris caught my attention. (The photos are archival prints on watercolor paper from a film negative).


Dee Conway

Dee Conway

Dee Conway

One photograph in particular, shot wide angle by Conway from a circular window looking out onto the Louvre’s back courtyard produces a peaceful effect with its shadows, texture and clouds.  Quite large and framed in light wood, the photograph – for me – feels so familiar and represents why views like these in Europe never fail to catch my eye and keep me gazing; they fill my soul and spirit when I’m there. I never tire of it.

"The Louvre", Dee Conway

“The Louvre”, Dee Conway

One of her framed photographs has taken the place of the Siena fresco and, with the addition of a few Missoni-style, brightly-striped couch pillows, our room has been updated with the most perfect effect.

All photos by permission of Dee Conway photography at

rereading paris to the moon

Today I attended a university-sponsored lecture by The New Yorker staff writer, author, culture commentator and fellow ex-expat Adam Gopnik. From 1995 – 2000 Gopnik lived in Paris with his wife and son. During his time there, he wrote “Paris to the Moon”. I’ve included  him in past posts about favorite authors and books.


Mr. Gopnik gave a talk on food and his latest book, “The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food.” 

The book explores the history, evolution and culture of  food. A packed room of foodies gathered near the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science  to hear Gopnik discuss the book and what factors determine taste, like the relationship between taste and frame of mind and taste and social identity, or rather what he calls mouth versus moral taste (what does the organic carrot I’m buying tell you about me?). He suggests we see the irony and have the ability to laugh at ourselves about our tastes – which he easily does –  while at the same time have the confidence to recognize the pleasure and role it provides in our lives. None other than Ms. Margrit Mondavi provided his introduction. While I appreciate his intellectual curiousity on this subject, it’s taking me a bit to finish “The Table Comes First” so I will reserve my comments until later.

The real reason I wanted to hear Gopnik speak today is because I so enjoyed “Paris to the Moon” and “Through the Children’s Gate”  about his time living abroad in Paris and his repatriation to New York City.

So prior to attending the lecture, I flipped through my old copy of “Paris to the Moon” to remember exactly why this book and this author have stuck with me for so long (and why all of you expats, ex-expats and lovers of Paris should read Gopnik if you haven’t yet).

“Paris to the Moon” is written in a series of intelligent personal essays, at times knee-slapping hilarious and other times very tender.  (Not an “Almost French”, “Bringing Up Bébé”  or “Under the Tuscan Sun”.)  In the book, Gopnik describes his experience living abroad  –  the “New York-style” Parisian gym,  the separateness of the expat family unit , Christmas tree shopping, a father/son baseball bedtime story ritual, and a particularly funny exchange between heavily accented American father (Gopnik “as comic immigrant”) and son’s teacher (“with son shuddering at father’s words and father inadvertently shaming the ‘immigrant child’.”)

My favorite “Paris to the Moon” quotes include:

“There are two kinds of travelers. There is the kind who goes to see what there is to see and sees it, and the kind who has an image in his head and goes out to accomplish it. The first visitor has an easier time, but I think the second visitor sees more.”

“It’s true that you can’t run away from yourself. But we were right: you can run away.”

“Family life is by its nature cocooned, and expatriate family life is doubly so.”

“Barney is Bill Clinton for 3 -year -olds.”

“The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.”

And finally a quote by his wife that I’ve repeated since returning home:

“We had a beautiful existence in Paris, but not a full life,” Martha said, summing it up, “and in New York we have a full life and an unbeautiful existence.”

discovering expats of the 1920s

This summer I was stuck in 1920s Paris.  Not a bad place to be really. It started when I saw the movie Midnight in Paris, and next, reading the wonderful historical fiction book, The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway and expat Paris life through the imagined eyes of his first wife, Hadley Richardson Hemingway.

While it’s a welcome break from Renaissance Italy (see my previous post about my favorite books set in Italy ), I admit I  go completely crazy overboard have the slightest tendency to obsess when it comes to learning and reading about a particular period in history, especially when it 1)happens in one of my favorite European cities and 2) is filled with writers, cafes and expats.

So because I am completely intrigued by Hemingway at the moment (I know there must have been a sensitive soul behind the game hunting, boxing, and bullfighting), and I love his spare writing and consider myself a part of the expat community  (past and present), I’m reading anything I can get my hands on from him about  “the lost generation” – those expat artists and writers of the ’20s that changed American art and literature.

The expat lifestyle is charmed,  I think those of you who are expats (or ex-expats like me) would agree. You meet people you normally don’t. You do things and have special privileges you wouldn’t back home .I found myself playing croquet in all white, at a villa that belonged to Mussolini. (hello?) But present day expat life doesn’t hold a candle to what was going on in Paris in the 1920s. Picasso. Dali. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ezra Pound. Hemingway.  The Murphy’s Villa America in the Cap d’Antibes.They hung out in cafes and ate oysters, and wrote, and partied. Apparently, the American dollar went much farther in those days. They drank absinthe.

Here are some of my favorite reads and resources to start discovering fellow expats from the 1920s through the eyes of Ernest and Hadley Hemingway.

The Paris Wife

Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife (or “Paris” wife) was with him prior to publishing his first book, when they were poor, or as Hemingway says, before the rich arrived and everything changed. (she is in the middle of the picture). Through this book, we can imagine Ernest Hemingway as seen by his first wife, who adored him, but later was forced to let him go when he fell in love with another woman (how dare you, Pauline??).

The Moveable Feast

This book was written much later in Hemingway’s life as a memoir of sorts about his time in Paris in the 20s,  It is a series of sketches  about other famous writers, artists, and those in the Paris expat social scene from Hemingway’s point of view (and memory). It’s also tragic,  as it reads as a sort of love poem to first wife Hadley about a life he clearly idealized with her. Many years later he acknowledges he “wishes he died before he loved anyone other than Hadley.”  Note: There are two published editions. The most current is supposed to be the most accurate, since the book was not completed before he took his life (and his grandson believes the editor, Hemingway’s wife at the time, did not represent his work as he would have wanted). And if you only read one chapter, read the one when he first met F. Scott Fitzgerald and later they go on a road trip together outside Paris. It is hilarious.

The Hemingway Project (web site)

I found this web site when trying to research more about Hadley. You can listen to actual audio tapes of Hadley (as an older woman) talking about her life with Ernest Hemingway in the ’20s. Hearing her voice over the crackles of an old audio cassette, is thrilling, particularly after reading The Paris Wife. Other than this website and the book, I can’t find an image or other information about her following her marriage with Hemingway, which leads me to believe she  lived a very private life in her later years. (UPDATE** I have found two photos of Hadley as an older woman in the biography, Hadley, by Gioia Diliberto)

The Sun Also Rises 

 Published in 1926 and one of Hemingway’s first successes-  The Sun Also Rises is another book that allows you a peek into the lost generation, based on a 30-something reckless group of American and British expats (sound familiar?) traveling to Spain to watch bullfighting. The characters are based on real people and action based on actual events.

Midnight in Paris teases us about the very human tendency to be nostalgic for the past, with a gentle reminder to live in the present. I plan to do that. Right after I move on to Gertrude Stein.

3 reasons paris is on my mind

Lately things Parisian have been popping up around me. Three in particular. Woody Allen’s new movie “Midnight in Paris” (opening at my local theatre next weekend!), a travel memoir I just picked up set in Paris called Almost French, and an exciting new exhibit I can’t wait to see this summer at the De Young Museum in San Francisco called Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris – made possible only because this Paris museum is temporary closed for renovation.

1. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris  (photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics)opens next weekend at our local theatre and I haven’t been this excited about a movie since…I can’t remember? Thanks to re-subscribing to Netflix, I’ve become re-acquainted with the lovely, witty films of Woody Allen (Manhattan and Celebrity) and I’m thrilled to see what the latest from him brings. The reviews have been great and the ingredients – 1920’s golden, intellectual era, famous literary icons, artists –  sound almost too perfect for those who love expat life and any opportunity to be nostalgic about a romanticized past.

2. I received a copy of Almost French (Sarah Turnbull) – set in Paris –  for my birthday that I just started reading. Another twist to a travel memoir (adventure turns to love, foreigner ends up living in Paris, navigating the highs and lows of life there).  Sound familiar? Formulaic to the bone but I just don’t tire.

3. My very-knowledgeable-about-art-friend alerted me to a new Picasso exhibit opening this summer at the De Young in San Francisco. The collection comes on loan from the Musee National Picasso Paris  (a favorite museum of ours currently closed for renovation, rival only to the beautiful Museo Picasso de Barcelona, key to understanding Picasso’s formative years). I cannot wait to  see this exhibit at the De Young. When my husband and I were last in Paris  – we took the fast train from our home in Italy and met up with friends from Luxembourg – we spent a good part of a day at the Musee National Picasso taking in its wonderful collection of paintings and bronzes from a range of periods of his life. After seeing the painting, Enfant jouant avec un camion (1953) (ABOVE), we purchased a copied print of it that we framed and now hangs in our child’s room.  The exhibit will include masterpieces from his blue period (LOVE), rose period, expressionist studies, and include paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. I do hope Enfant jouant is included so we can see it live again!

Three wonderful ways to experience a piece of Paris this summer.  Wherever you may be.