Writing a book that begins and ends in Paris is a bit of intimidating task. It’s a like trying to speak French in Paris, knowing that you are inevitably going to screw it up a bit and make the natives cringe.
As I was finishing We’ll Always Have Paris, a mother-daughter memoir, which follows my daughter Katie and my travels through 12 European cities, I was chatting with a French journalist about the book. I asked if he’d like to take a look, and in that way only a Frenchman call pull off, he was charming in his blunt refusal. “Oh no, no, my dear, please do not take offense, but I don’t think I could possibly bear another American musing about Paris,” he said.
I can understand where he’s coming from. As an American, I can never see Paris through the same lens as a native. And while I might write about the magic of seeing the Eiffel Tower light up the evening sky, a Parisian may roll his eyes that I’ve picked the most cliché image of the city.
Ultimately, though, writing about Paris is a privilege because it means you get to be there and experience the city. We are lucky to experience Paris, even when we hit bumps along the road. I wrote about spending the night at the Shakespeare & Company Booksellers on the Left Bank at the edge of the Latin Quarter. Although it was a crazy night where my daughter slept on a door that was set on two file cabinets with a yoga mat, and I woke up to see three rodent turds on my blanket, we were still so fortunate to have the experience of sleeping at the famed Parisian bookseller.
Writing about Paris is like doing anything else in or about Paris. It’s lovely, magical, and intimidating. And it’s just a little bit better than writing about anywhere else because it is, after all, Paris.