WHAT: Delicious Days in Paris by Jane Paech, published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books, $A35. It comprises 14 walking tours to explore the city’s food and culture and where to buy the best goodies. Each chapter is named according to Jane’s favourite foods and drinks – for example Chapter 4 is called Mousse au Chocolat, so expect to find the best of that! She urges you to visit the tiny and legendary Chocolat Chapon, 69 Rue du Bac, which used to be a butcher’s shop in a past life. In the chapter Champagne & Truffles, she lunches at Les Tablettes de Jean Louis Nomicos, near the Champs Elysees, which is only 58 euros for five courses including wine – exceptionally good value. The signature dish on the à la carte menu is macaroni with black truffles and foie gras. By the way – Paris goes on holiday in August and many places are closed for that summer month, so you have been warned!
WHO IS JANE? Jane grew up on a farm in South Australia where her lifelong love of food was born. Living in New York further ignited her passion for both food and travel, and when an opportunity to live in Paris with her family arose, she turned from a career in nursing to travel writing, unable to resist documenting all the wonderful sights, smells and tastes she discovered. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her two daughters, but also spends time in France.
WHY: Guidebooks can be as dreary as road maps. Why would you buy an Australian’s guide to Paris? Because Jane lived there for years, adopting a thoroughly Parisian lifestyle with all its delights and foibles. She’s also mindful of what visitors would like to discover, beyond the usual tourist stuff. Jane has created a meticulous, passionate and visually stunning book, stimulating all the senses and energy you need for exploring the City of Love. It’s almost in blog format – informal and chatty. Each chapter has a detailed index.
WHERE: The first edition has sold out already (it was launched six weeks ago) and it’s being reprinted at the moment. You will be able to buy Jane’s book online or at your favourite bookstore.
Q & A with Jane
Q. As soon as I picked up Delicious Days in Paris, I thought this was the perfect compact size to tuck into my bag. Travel guides are seldom, if ever, this stylish. What were the technical challenges in producing such a visually-appealing book in a smaller format?
A. It was a challenge for the team at Lantern to work in such a compact format, featuring a huge amount of photographs and doing them justice in a small space. In designing the book, we wanted it to work both as a guide and as a narrative, which meant a balance of shots that were both informative and inspirational. The team felt having many of these collaged was an effective way to give the viewer a taste of the quintessential Paris environment without having to sacrifice the amount of photographs in the book.
Q. Do you have any exceptional favourites among the 14 walks?
A. Each chapter has a distinct character and flavour, and I chose these particular walks because they all appeal to me in different ways, and fulfil different desires. Perhaps, however, if I had to pick just one favourite it would be Salted-Butter Caramels, a stroll that transports you to a magical area of Paris through a warren of nineteenth-century passageways. Coated with a patina of old-world charm, it’s a realm of quirky curiosity shops, toy stores, and confiseries crammed with bonbons from an old-fashioned French childhood.
Q. Which walks would you recommend to a first-time visitor to Paris who is there for only a few days?
A. To soak up the full splendour of Paris, I would recommend Rose and Jasmine Macarons. This chapter is set in the heart of the Right Bank and is an elegant introduction to ‘Classic Paris’. Dominated by the Louvre Palace, a patchwork of elegant squares and sweeping, formal gardens, here you will find stunning vistas, gorgeous architecture and lashings of glamour. Terrine Studded with Pistachios would also appeal to the first-time visitor. This chapter starts off with morning tea at a café with an Eiffel Tower view. The reader then tags alongside me as I navigate one of my favourite open-air produce markets in Paris, a delightful way to sample a bounty of the fresh, seasonal produce packed in the city’s hamper. Laden with goodies, it’s time to spread out a picnic, and then perhaps visit a small museum or two.
Q. What would be your suggestions for the top five foods, that visitors to Paris shouldn’t miss?
A. Raw milk cheese slathered on a crusty artisan baguette; a crispy confit de canard; a rainbow-coloured plateful of macarons; a beautifully caramelised Tarte Tatin (a rather subjective list!).
Q. In your first book, A Family in Paris, you wrote about divided cultural loyalties and the challenges in loving two cultures so different from each other. Do they continue to shape your life today, and the lives of your children?
A. Absolutely. There will always be a pull both ways. The two cultures and lifestyles satisfy different parts of me. Australia represents roots, family and an easy, carefree lifestyle, while Paris satisfies something at a deeper level that is quite inexplicable. The sheer beauty and art in everyday life tugs at my heartstrings, along with the overwhelming sense of history and old-world traditions. Loving two places can be bittersweet, and perhaps it’s easier never to have left your own shores. When I am in Paris I feel acutely Australian, but when I’m in Australia I don’t feel like an Aussie at all. It can be difficult to have a real sense of belonging. My girls, too, continue to gravitate towards Europe; there will always be a strong bond.
Jane’s first book, A Family in Paris, reveals the ups and downs of navigating a new culture so completely different from her Australian one. Like me (who was born in New Zealand, lived in Greece for over a decade, now live in Sydney and am now mostly at ease with my permanently-divided cultural loyalties) , she battled homesickness and found the transplant a huge mental challenge. But ultimately it was a rewarding education. A Family in Paris is also published by Lantern.
You can read more about Jane on her blog Knife & Fork in the Road
and details on her books at Penguin Books.