Sunday, July 1, 2012

For Erin... an Excerpt from Paris My Sweet

Erin... loving this book! It reminds me a lot of Julie & Julie, by which I mean, it draws you in immediately. Here's the prologue...

I guess you could say my story began with a bicycle and some bonbons. At the time, it just seemed like a fun summer vacation: it was 2008, and I did an apartment swap with someone in Paris. I had already visited earlier that year, but what can I say? When the invitation to spend time in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) comes knocking, my first response is “pourquoi pas?”
I’ve just always been one of those girls. I spent a college semester in Paris, and it was then I fell in love with the city’s beauty and grace—and Nutella street crepes. When I returned to the States, I wore silk scarves and a black beret; the only thing missing from my clichéd uniform were the Gauloises cigarettes.
I binged on French films, schooling myself in nouvelle vague directors, falling especially hard for Eric Rohmer, before contemporary movies like The City of Lost Children and Amélie seduced me. I studied the Lost Generation, reading Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Janet Flanner, and built a mini-library so I’d never be far from Paris. I had books about cats in Paris, dogs in Paris, expats in Paris; Parisian interiors, Parisian gardens, and Parisian cuisine, organized by neighborhood; bistros of Paris, pâtisseries of Paris, and shopping in Paris. I became a regular at a café in my neighborhood in San Francisco simply because it served café au lait in little bowls instead of mugs, and I had more Eiffel Tower tchotchkes than I am comfortable admitting.
I was just another Francophile, like you. Until that summer of 2008.
That trip was the first time I was in Paris during the summer, and it was absolutely amazing. I loved that it was light out until after 10:00 p.m., giving me several extra hours to roam back-alley streets and sit by the Seine. I was excited to discover new neighborhoods like Bercy and Canal Saint-Martin and new “bistronomy” restaurants like Le Verre Volé and Le Comptoir du Relais. I got sucked into the semi-annual sales, les soldes, and hooked on Vélib’s, the public bike-sharing system.
And then there were all the chocolatiers.
By that time, I was just as obsessed with sweets as I was Paris. I had a column in Metro newspaper called “Sweet Freak” and a blog by the same name. I knew every bakery, dessert bar, gelateria, tea salon, and chocolatier in New York City. When I traveled, I built my itinerary around a town’s must-visit sweet spots.
So naturally during that week in Paris, I researched the city’s best chocolatiers, mapped out a circuit, and then Vélib’ed between eight of them. It was exhilarating and exhausting, not to mention decadent. It was a chocoholic’s dream ride. I wrote about my Tour du Chocolat for the New York Times, and it went on to become a top-ten travel story for the year. As I was secretly plotting a way to spend more time eating chocolate in Paris, the in-house recruiter of the ad agency where I worked casually walked into my office one day and asked if I wanted to move to Paris. I was getting transferred to write copy for the iconic fashion label Louis Vuitton. It all happened so suddenly, and seemed so magical, that I had to ask: was Paris my destiny or sheer force of will?
I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while. Here’s what happened when I did.


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