If you’ve been on a dessert-tasting tour of central Europe for 2 weeks, the dress shops of Paris don’t interest you. Over-crowded museums in summer heat are suddenly urgent on your agenda. Then I heard the siren song of this dress, vintage Herve Leger in nude, tags still on, swinging amid second-hand sequined tops and black lace blouses.My friends, French power shopper with inside game, Elaine, and Tracy, who can always throw a flag on a fowl shopping play, egged me on. The wily shop lady took charge and I heard the unmistakable and improbable sound of the zipper making its way up to the very top. “Oooo,” I said – broken French -“I think it is too tight.” With a shrug, she answered in French-salted English and squared my shoulders to the mirror. “No. I think you will not have this body forever.” Doink. That dress was SOLD to MOI, the aging matron still willing to suck it up and slither into a cocktail party in the not-too-distant-before-I-become-a-chunky-old-bat future. The French understand emotions as sales tools – fear, hubris, hope – they just know.
Much less painful to the ego and the wallet is the food. Earthy, oozy, fattening – everything a slinky dress will never be. We moved onto lunch and agreed to accept this Parisian paradox of food and fashion; excess and precision; rich and thin.
Many books have been written to guide you through the luxuries, the street foods, the patisseries, the markets, the vintage shops and the cafes of Paris. Here are my favorites.
Food Lover’s Guide to Paris by Patricia Wells
Markets of Paris by Dixon Long & Marjorie R. Williams
The Sweet Life in Paris by David Leibovitz
Born to Shop Paris by Suzy Gershman
Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan
And for literature to read on the train or in between cafe outings or in recovery from too many espressos, museums, and fromages:
Belly of Paris by Emille Zola
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
The Ambassadors by Henry James
The Ladies Delight by Emille Zola
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Paris Twilight by Russ Rymer
Planning my revisit days – I never get quite enough of you, paradoxical Paris.