Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Whet your appetite for Paris?

 Ça va? Like so many of us, my travel plans went on hold last March. I’m feeling nostalgic for Paris, wishing I was there right now. 

Riding my bike
Trying out a new resto 
At the market buying cheese!

You, too?

Normally at this time of year,  I would have been doing research and staying with my friend, Anne-Françoise, in Paris. It's March and not quite spring. Soon, the buds in the rose garden in Jardin du Luxembourg will start to blush pink, yellow and antique white, the leaves on the trees surrounding the boat pond will begin to shimmer with silver and green. Soon, at least in a normal year, people will gather and play boules by the puppet theatre or hit the tennis courts. I’d be with Anne-Françoise under the budding trees. In that soft filtered light, we’ll be chatting on the green benches, watching children on the swings. The café’s would be open,  crowded tables spilling over the sidewalks with Parisians non-stop talking, drinking and meeting friends. 

I would be leading a walking tour of places featured in my book, Three Hours in Paris, set in 1940. But of course, I’m not. I’m at my desk in San Francisco, where I have been for the past year, dreaming of colour and light. But now more than ever – when we are all imagining elsewhere – we can still visit other places in the pages of a book.

The old Paris, by this I mean 1940, is everywhere.  Sometimes you have to dig and go literally underground which I’ve been lucky to do in my research. Underneath the Jardin du Luxembourg's grass, the gravel paths, and the tree-lined alleys lie the tunnels with shelters full of German graffiti and a rusted Nazi toilet! The high school, Lycée Montaigne, at the end of the garden, was the Luftwaffe barracks.

Every day, with notebook and my old maps, I’d set out to discover the Paris my characters would have discovered. As writers, we must be detectives and archaeologists, always seeking to find the hidden history of the city beneath our feet, behind the walls. Layer upon layer.

I’ll pass the remnants of a medieval wall, reach the Seine on the oldest bridge in Paris, the Port Neuf. Below on the river, bateaux mouches glide sharing space with barges.  There I'll meet up with Natftali.

During World War II, Naftali, a young Polish emigré boy wore a yellow star and lived in hiding in the countryside. He returned to Paris and became a Résistant at 14. Now he’s 90 + years and loves driving at night - yes he still has a license! Later, we'll pick up Lydia, his girlfriend - she’s in her 80’s. They met online.  During our night drives he points out his hideaway next door to Shakespeare & Co bookstore, his old school, the boulevard where as a young boy he watched the German soldiers march in. It’s time travelling to the 1940’s through his eyes. Naftali’s always up for finding me a ‘new murder spot and corpse locations, for my books, too. It’s always good to do this at night, he says, so I don’t get arrested.


The scent of spring will fill the air and the almost palpable energy of new exhibitions, fashion shows and art openings. I’ll have a list of research to do, flics to take to dinner, archives to visit, a walking tour to lead for readers, and meeting retired homicide detectives from la Crim’ over apéro’s.

It’s still March and I am still in San Francisco. But in my mind’s eye, it’s April again. There will be a riot of daffodils in the flower market on the quai de la Messagerie. The bells of Notre Dame will be working again and ringing. And, for a while at least,  I think I can see the lights on the bridges over the Seine coming on, bridge by bridge, as dusk falls over Paris.

Yet, as Simone Signoret, the iconic French actress said in her autobiography of the same name, ‘Nostalgia Isn’t What it Used to Be’. My nostalgia will fade when finally, I can return to Paris. It’s a moveable feast as Ernest Hemingway said. Or as Rick tells Ilsa in Casablanca ‘we’ll always have Paris’. 

N’est-ce pas? 

Cara - Tuesday 


  1. I think everyone is awash in nostalgia.

  2. ...and your post brings it hope so strongly! Hopefully, this year you will be able to visit your beloved city again.

  3. Oh, Cara, what a wish list. I will be thrilled to get back to just walking around, looking at the buildings.in the store windows, seeing what’s on at the Louvres. Being in Paris. Just being there is enough.

  4. WELCOME BACK, CARA, will soon be resounding all across Paris! It misses you as much as you miss it all.