In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life-discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen's sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband's notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools-not to mention puberty-in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina's raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l'amour.
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April 03, 2012
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Excerpt from Paris in Love by Eloisa James
THE EIFFEL TOWER
One October day we picked up Anna and her new friend Erica after school and walked to the Eiffel Tower. The girls ran ahead, zooming here and there like drunk fighter pilots showing off. Alessandro and I tried to imagine why the French ever planned to demolish the tower after the 1889 World Fair. It's such a beautiful, sturdy accomplishment; destroying it would be like painting over the Mona Lisa because of her long nose. Smallish bateaux mouches, or tourist boats, moor in the Seine near the foot of the tower, or so my guidebook said. We wandered beneath the lacework iron, the girls skittering and shrieking like seagulls. Down by the water we paid for the cheaper tickets, the kind that come without crepes and champagne. With twenty minutes to wait, we retreated to an ancient carousel next to the river. A plumpy woman sat huddled in her little ticket box, shielded from tourists and the rain, although as yet neither had appeared.
Anna and Erica clambered aboard, but still the operator waited, apparently hoping that two children astride would somehow attract more. The girls sat tensely on their garish horses, their skinny legs a little too long. At ten years old, they'll soon find themselves too dignified for such childish amusements. But not yet.
Finally the music started and the horses jerked forward. A crowded merry-go-round on a sunny day is a blur of children's grins and bouncing bottoms. But as the girls disappeared from view, leaving us to watch riderless horses jolt up and down, I realized that an empty merry-go-round on a cloudy day loses that frantic gaiety, the sense that the horses dash toward some joyful finish line.
These horses could have been objets trouv�s, discovered on a dustheap and pressed into service. The steed behind Anna's was missing the lower half of his front leg.
They arched their necks like chargers crossing the Alps on some military crusade, battle-scarred and mournful. Every chip of gold paint dented by a child's heels stood out, stark and clear. With nowhere to go, and nothing better to do, the operator let the girls go around and around. Finally, though, the music slowed, the last few notes falling disjointedly into the air. I decided there is nothing more melancholy than a French carousel on a rainy day, and wished we had paid for champagne and crepes.
On the M�tro heading to school, Anna launched into a wicked impersonation of her enraged English teacher stamping her foot: "Shut zee mouths! Zit down! Little cretins!" The entire subway car was laughing, though Anna remained totally unaware of her captive and captivated audience.
Alessandro brought home a very successful makeup present after the non-flowers: a heart-shaped cheese, sort of a Camembert/Brie, as creamy as butter and twice as delicious. We ate it on crusty bread, with a simple salad of orange peppers, and kiwis for dessert.
I just came across a list Luca created on a scrap of paper. At the top of the sheet he wrote (in cursive) "The End."
The list is entitled "Several Problems":
-Can't write in cursive script
-Can't write in Italian
-Don't think I copied the math homework down correctly
-Screwed up on the Italian writing evaluation
-Have French essay for Monday
-Need my books by tomorrow
I feel terrible. What have we done, bringing him here? I have ulcers just reading the list.
My sister mentioned before we left for France that a relative on our mother's side had published a memoir about living in Paris. I'd never heard of Claude C. Washburn, who was one of my grandmother's brothers and died before I was born. But today the post brought Pages from the Book of Paris, published in 1910. From what I can gather, Claude was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and moved to Europe after getting his undergraduate degree, living in France and Italy. At some point after his year or so in Paris, he married a woman with the unusual name of Iv�. I'm not very far into the book, but so far he has characterized marriage as "an ignominious institution" and boasted of his "increasing exultation" at remaining a bachelor, steering clear of "the matrimonial rocks, that beset one's early progress, toward the open sea of recognized bachelordom." Iv� must have scuppered his vessel before he could steer clear of her rocks.
It started to pour while we were out for dinner, so hard that a white fog hovered above the pavement where the rain was bouncing. We ran all the way home, skittering past Parisians with umbrellas and unprepared tourists using newspapers as cocked hats, the water running down our necks, accompanied by an eight-block-long scream from Anna.