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Reasons to love France | Paris is always a good idea

Montmartre Paris at night in rue de Chevalier de la Barre

Paris is always a good idea says author Mark Pryor as he shares his reasons to love Paris…

Mark’s best selling Hugo Marston mystery sellers are set in Paris including The Bookseller, The Sorbonne Affair and The Paris Librarian.

Why Paris is always a good idea

True story: a year ago I ran into my friend David at the courthouse where I work in Austin and as we talked, he shook his head ruefully. “I bought my wife The Bookseller,” he said, “and now she wants to go to Paris. Insists on it.”

I shrugged. “So take her to Paris.”

“Yeah, that’s cheap. Plus I don’t have a passport and I don’t speak French. And I hear they hate Americans.”

I sighed. “Take her to Paris.”

Six months went by and I didn’t see David until I ran into him in the courthouse again.

“Oh, my goodness,” he gushed. “We went to Paris and now we’re doing everything we possibly can to move there. We’re in love!”

I was happy, am always happy, to share my favorite city in the world, but I wasn’t surprised. The city of light, of love, has that effect on people.

That’s why I always smile when readers ask me why Paris, what the city means to me, why I set my books there. And it’s certainly true that I get asked those questions more than any other. In truth, and as corny as it may be, it comes down to that one word: love.

In love with Paris

Waiter at the Deux Magots cafe in ParisVictor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “If you ask the great city, ‘Who is this person?,’ she will answer, ‘He is my child.’” Yes. As soon as I land or step off the train, Paris wraps herself around me, sometimes like a parent and sometimes like a lover, enveloping me with the sights, sounds, and smells that are its own. The sullen, sexy Seine nudging its barges against the bank, the commanding palace of the Louvre with its leisurely gardens, the wide boulevards overseen by elegant stone buildings with their petite balconies and red-blooming window boxes. It’s the oddest and most wonderful combination of relief that I’m home, and exhilaration that I’m back to explore.

And think about this for a reason to love Paris and Parisians: the Cathedral of Notre Dame was saved by the author I just quoted. Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame when he found out it was to be torn down, wrote it to raise awareness and money, and now look at it. A humble book inspired lasting love for a beautiful building. Where else could that happen?

In every sense, Paris is a perfect fit for me. I love to eat, I love to watch people, and I love to walk. On our last trip, researching The Paris Librarian, my wife and I averaged seven miles a day, our longest stroll was from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre and back. And the thing is, it’s no struggle. Every step is a pleasure because Paris unfurls before you like a seductive woman, casually spilling a gaudy, touristy layer to reveal sleek, cream-stone buildings in more residential areas, before turning up the heat with her lithe, winding streets that lead you to the ultimate view of Paris at the Sacré Coeur.

Paris is full of surprises

And the reward for all that walking is the food. We ate at New Jawad one evening, on Avenue Rapp, finding for ourselves better Indian food than we’ve ever eaten in England or America. And the service was the opposite of that which my friend David would have expected: full of smiles and jokes, a free drink when I told them I was a writer, and one for my wife, too.

But the ultimate meal, and it was good enough for me to send my characters Hugo and Claudia there on a date, was at Il Vino on Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg. The best because the vegetarian meal they prepared for my wife was as good as, if not better, than my own fabulous four courses. And again, fun service with the waiter taking great delight in making us guess each of the different wines he served us with each course.

Paris is more than food and the famous sights we all know about (and the wonder of them all being so close, so walkable!) The thing about Paris is that you can find havens of peace amid the pomp and glamor. Step one way and be in the mix, eyeing the stunning Louvre before walking five minutes to a place of peace and quiet like the Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sens, where you can sit on a park bench and watch the pigeons, and the clouds.

Even places like the American Library in Paris can surprise. An unassuming frontage, yes, the usual rows of book shelves, of course, but did you know, the place has a secret door? Oh yes, and it’s to be found in the basement, a place that has its own delightfully eerie ambience.

There is one secret magnet in Paris for me, though, the place my wife and I know to meet if phones are lost and rendez-vous missed. It’s a spot that gives us a choice of two cafés, a place where three beautiful streets come together, funneling tourists and locals past as you watch and sip coffee. I won’t tell you where exactly, except that it’s in the Sixth Arrondissment, I can’t because it’s mine. Ours.

Well, maybe I will if you see me one day and ask nicely. After all, Paris is love, and love is for sharing.

Read our review of The Paris Librarian

Mark Pryor is a British mystery writer and Assistant District Attorney for Travis County, Texas. He is best known for his mystery novels featuring Hugo Marston, a former FBI agent from Texas, and now head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, find him at: www.markpryorbooks.com

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