There were 200,000 French citizens, almost all of them Jews, deported by the Vichy government during World War II. If you’ve visited Notre Dame, you’ve walked past the memorial without knowing it’s there, underground, at the rear of the cathedral, at the tip of Île de la Cité. It couldn’t be simpler: a long, narrow corridor, with light shining through 200,000 glass crystals on the walls, a bright light at the end, and small rooms at both end to symbolize cells. You can hear tourists laughing outside; here all is silence, reflection, and tears. This sacred space is considered one of the world’s most significant memorial buildings, and if, having read this, you don’t go there when you’re in Paris, shame on you.


Dylan freaks recognize the name — she was the wife of Albert Grossman, Bob Dylan’s manager, and in 1965, she appeared, lounging in a red outfit, with Dylan on the cover of “Bringing It All Back Home.” She died this week, at 81, and the New York Times obituary ended with this:

Ms. Grossman had a special place in her heart for an order of religious singers from Bengal known as the Bauls, whom she encountered in the 1960s. She created a digital archive of Baul music. Deborah Baker, author of “A Blue Hand: The Beats in India” (2008), wrote about Ms. Grossman and her connection to the Bauls in a 2011 essay in the magazine the Caravan. “Despite all the famous musicians and bands who once passed through her life,” Ms. Baker wrote, “she found it was the Bauls she missed the most from those years.”

Sally Grossman had impeccable taste. As this under-two-minute clip testifies:


Am I the only one here who didn’t know to squeeze kitchen sponges after you use them, lest bacteria grow? And to put them in the dishwasher once a week, for the same reason? Apparently, and I caught holy hell for not knowing. I polled the Martha Stewarts in my crew and learned that sponges are so last century. What the well-dressed kitchen sink wears now is a cellulose-and-cotton sponge cloth, made in Sweden. It washes dishes. It wipes tables. It does anything a sponge or cloth can do, and you can clean it in the washing machine and use it 50 times. When you’ve exhausted it, the Swedes say, toss in your compost pile. (The Swedes think we all have compost piles.) The clothes are 8 inches by 6.5 inches. You get ten — white for dishes, colored for cleaning — for $19. [To buy EcoGurus Swedish Dishcloths from Amazon, click here.] You may also want its scrubbing partner from Poland. Skoy is 98% cotton, and yet it scours as well as Brillo. Unlike Brillo, you can clean it in the top rack of your dishwasher. [To buy 2 5 inch by 6 inch Skoy scrubbers from Amazon for $6.00, click here.]


I was sitting, as I have sat here for the last year, having not a single thought about travel when “A Table in Paris: The Cafes, Bistros, and Brasseries of the World’s Most Romantic City” arrived. The descriptions were brief, the author accompanied them with quick sketches, and I thought I’d spent a few minutes skimming it, just to see how many of my favorites were included. A lovely hour passed. [You can play this game too. To buy John Donohue’s book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Cold hard fact: I don’t want to go anywhere, given the uncertainties. If I wanted to take some armchair trips, I’d pluck Travel Anywhere (And Avoid Being a Tourist): Travel trends and destination inspiration for the modern adventurer off the shelf and dream away an evening. But every third day here it feels like spring, and I do think about breakfast at the Marly, reading in a cafe all morning, lunch at the Rotisserie du Beaujolais, going downstairs at the Louvre to buy the tickets that let you skip the line, losing all sense of time at a classical music concert in the little church by the Seine, swooning over the twice-cooked pork at the Coin de Gourmet on the Rue Dante, and after, though it’s too corny to admit, setting sail on a Bateau Mouche and sneaking a kiss.

If you have ever done these things, or want to if and when the world is sane, perhaps you’d like some specific armchair reading.

Parisians’ Paris

Bill Gillham, an English academic and child psychologist who has made dozens of trips to Paris, had a brilliant idea: See less — that is, make a visit that’s locally based. How? Choose “one of the many village-like communities that make up the city,” then venture out occasionally to the major sights. What a radical idea. Don’t visit Paris. Live there.

Paris Chic: A Style Guide

This is like a visit with a friendly, clear-eyed woman you trust immediately. It’s the best kind of guidebook — you not only get information, you get it in context. At 230 pages, published in nicely bound soft covers, with whimsical illustrations and terrific photographs, Inès de la Fressange’s book is the best guide to personal style — and to Paris — I’ve ever seen. If I were a woman and had any relationship to Paris, I’d memorize it.

Quiet Corners of Paris

It’s hard to imagine that a book with this title would be a shocker, but you’ll be shocked — and thrilled — by what’s in these pages. Many tour books promise to deliver “secrets” and never do. This one does. Many times. Its secret: It does not stick to the four or five arrondissements where tourists congregate. Instead, it draws on the entire city — and thus challenges you to leave your literal “comfort zone” and get out to neighborhoods where real Parisians can be found. And more: really quiet zones: villas, gardens, courtyards, fountains and passages.

A Half Hour from Paris: 10 Secret Day Trips by Train

A genius concept for a travel guide. Annabel Simms is a Brit who moved to Paris and developed a deep knowledge of the fifth arrondissement. Business took her to the modern, soulless inner suburbs. Then an urge “to get into the countryside, any countryside” led her to discover France’s excellent network of commuter trains — and what she was looking for. The 21 day trips of this book, which has been revised and updated several times, are the happy result.

Paris: Made by Hand: 50 Shops Where Decorators and Stylists Source the Chic & Unique

You wander a city, skipping the establishments you know well. Soon your eye spots what you’ve overlooked. One find leads to another. Before you know it, you have a collection of shops that are one-of-a-kind and out-of-time — restored objects and furniture, fabrics not seen for decades, paper you’d never put in a Hewlett-Packard tray, vintage jewelry and more. And you have a list of workrooms that specialize in unlikely services. Umbrella repair, anyone?

Paris Patisseries: History, Shops, Recipes

This book is 160 oversized pages of exquisite food porn. Recipes? Twenty-five of them are sandwiched in the back of the book, in smallish type. Preparation? There’s not a single shot of a cook whipping batter or pouring chocolate. Text? A history of desserts and baking in France by Pierre Hermé, a well-known pastry chef. It’s pleasant. Informative. And altogether optional. Photographs? Ah, Christian Sarramon’s big, close-up shots of ready-to-serve desserts are the glory of the book. There are some double-page spreads, lush as centerfolds. There’s even a shiny domed individual cheesecake, topped by a raspberry, explicit (say I) in its sensuality.

Paris and her Remarkable Women: A Guide

Lorraine Liscio profiles sixteen women closely associated with Paris, in neat mini-profiles that end with a sprinkling of kibbles — information about their residences and gravesites, books and movies. Camille Claudel, for example. As a 12-year-old, she found her grandfather’s kiln and started working with clay. “From that time on, she forced friends and family members to pose for one another and habitually missed meals to devote herself to her work,” Liscio writes. Soon she made her family move to Paris. At 18, she became Rodin’s student; he quickly promoted her to assistant and then to model and lover…

And then there are books set in Paris….

Mission to Paris

The first paragraph of Alan Furst’s novel should convince you:
In Paris, the evenings of September are sometimes warm, excessively gentle, and, in the magic particular to that city, irresistibly seductive. The autumn of 1938 began in just such weather and on the terraces of the best cafés, in the famous restaurants, at the dinner parties one wished to attend, the conversation was, of necessity, lively and smart: fashion, cinema, love affairs, politics, and, yes, the possibility of war—that too had its moment. Almost anything, really, except money. Or, rather, German money. A curious silence, for hundreds of millions of francs — tens of millions of dollars — had been paid to some of the most distinguished citizens of France since Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933. But maybe not so curious, because those who had taken the money were aware of a certain shadow in these transactions and, in that shadow, the people who require darkness for the kind of work they do.

Between Meals

In 1926, A.J. Liebling had graduated from college and had bungled his first job as a reporter in Providence, Rhode Island. It seemed to his father that this was a good time for him to study for a year in Europe. Liebling pretended to protest. “I’m thinking of getting married,” he lied. “Of course, she’s ten years older than I am….” The story of his romance — which was utterly fabricated — worked like a charm. His father, eager to help his son avoid a disastrous marriage, not only bought him a steamship ticket, he gave him a $2,000 line of credit. And Liebling went to Paris and began to eat.

Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.

Photo: Screenshot

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