Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Travel Tuesday: Paris

Today, Fiona Harper falls in love with the most romantic city in the world – Paris.

I’ve been to Paris a number of times, but it was only last year when my husband and I had a weekend away there that I got to visit it again, this time wearing my writer’s hat. I could ramble on about the major tourist attractions or give you a run down of my trip. But I’m not going to. I’m going to pick out my favourite Paris moments – give you a little bit of a taste of what made Paris memorable for me this time around, a very personal look at the magic of the City of Lights.

Songs have been written about Paris in the springtime, but even in chilly winter the city looks fabulous. Without leaves on the trees to provide vibrant shocks of green, everything takes on a muted tone in the dull winter light. Most cities would look drab at this time of year, but not Paris. It just looks wonderfully elegant in all the varying shades of washed-out yellow, grey and blue.

You can’t talk about Paris for long without turning to the subject of food. Yes, I had croque monsieur and crepes and coq au vin, but the edible things that really caught my attention this trip were the pastries. They’re not just sweet, sticky things to stuff your face with – they’re works of art! Take a look at this lot:

Multi-coloured macaroons in every colour of the rainbow. Éclairs and mille fuille slathered in dark chocolate and topped with flecks of gold and silver leaf. Bright green pistachio bombes and miniature tartes filled with custard glazed and fruit…

It was almost a shame to eat something so pretty. Almost. I wish I could say I left the double chocolate éclair I had at Angelina to be admired for posterity, but I’m not that saintly. I scoffed the lot and washed it down with one of the legendary chocolat chaud des Africans – hot chocolate made with real melted chocolate and infused with spices.

My other favourite Paris food moment was a plain ham baguette and bier blonde at an outdoor café in the Jardin Touilleries. The bread was crunchy and fresh and the beer bitingly cold and, if I close my eyes and think back to that chilly March day, I can still taste it. Heaven.

Funnily enough, my most vivid Paris memory was of some trees. Doesn’t sound very exciting or very romantic. does it? Read on.

Near the Louvre on the banks of the Seine, where wide grey stone quays line the river, are a line of silver birches. They looked kind of lonely in the cold March light, naked and shivering. I’d bet they look spectacular in early summer when their leaves are new and bright. However, without leaves to draw my attention, I noticed their trunks instead.

On every tree, on every available bit of bark there are carvings – the initials of lovers the world over who have come to Paris and sought a way to commemorate that moment forever. There were alphabets and characters in languages I couldn’t even recognise and I thought it was a wonderful little romantic detail. In fact, it stuck in my head and I ended up using that very setting in my May 09 book “Blind-Date Baby”, where the hero and the heroine honeymoon in Paris. I decided this idea would make a wonderful romantic ending to the book. I cried when I wrote it. I even reduced an editor to tears, which is always a good sign!

I'm finishing up with a few more of my favourite pics from my recent trip:

Fiona's upcoming book, Blind-Date Baby, features some of these romantic locations! It's part of the Blind-Date Brides mini-series that will be launching in Harlequin Romance this April with Nine-to-Five Bride by Jennie Adams. Fiona's book is out in May, and the trilogy finishes in June with Melissa McClone's Dream Date with the Millionaire.

Three women, three countries, three exciting love stories...


  1. oh...you would have to include photos of pastries...

  2. Of course I did! I should have taken more pictures as I was waiting in line to be seated, but I didn't want to be *too* much of a tourist.

  3. It is not fair to tempt us with cakes, especially just after Christmas! But Paris looks wonderful, colour me green...
    All best