I write about love between people, but I didn’t know until recently that you could fall in love with a place just as hard. When I went to Paris it was as though it was familiar to me. Like I’d walked down those cobblestoned streets before, craned my neck to take in the Eiffel Tower with the backdrop of dense grey skies. Every little detail caught my eye, and I knew when it came to write The Little Paris Collection I’d remember those small things because they touched me so much.
The gargoyles perched atop the Notre Dame with their piercing eyes, and open mouths, like they’re ready to pounce, sitting atop like sentinels for hundreds of years, made me catch my breath. Who else walked these very same steps as me, and felt a frisson of excitement that there was so much to see and do if you only took your time?
The little flower shops hidden down laneways, their shabby chic green façades the very thing people the world over try to recreate in their own homes. Pale pink petals littering the stones below, like confetti, the air scented sweet. I could have bundled up a bouquet of peonies, and cradled them like a baby, they were so perfectly pink, and lush.
The scent of the Seine, as you walk along the Left Bank, rich and earthy, and so utterly real. The Bouquinistes who sell antiquarian books outside, and have done forever, their stall owners bundled up in scarves against the elements, smoking pipes, reading a dusty yellow tome. Unapologetically, I’d pick up a book and sniff it, its pages swollen with time and the distant memory of its former owner.
The chatter at the food markets, much gesticulating; the secret stash of the freshest vegetables hidden, and pulled out discreetly when a regular customer arrived, speaking in rapid-fire French.
Cheeses! So many to choose from, different colours and textures, a mouthwatering sight. How could I not try them all? Forget restaurants we snacked as we walked and stopped in at bistros when the only thing we needed was to rest our weary feet and sip on a vin blanc.
Heading off to sight see and stumbling on an antique market set up along the Right Bank. Old books sitting solemnly, musky clothes throwing shadows to the ground, like they were waiting for another owner to make them new again. Cutlery, lots of faded silver knives and forks. Where did they come from? Had their owners passed away? I wanted to snatch it all up, and stare at it for hours, hoping that their history would become evident, and I’d know exactly where all these vintage pieces had come from, and why they were being sold.
And lastly, the piece of Paris that stole my heart now and forever: Shakespeare and Co. A little bookshop by the bank of the Seine. If you love books, and worship them, this is the place for you.
A bustling bookshop with rickety shelves, filled to the bursting with books, some old some new. You’ll find writers hutches; small spaces to hide and bash away at your laptop. Make your way upstairs through the throng of people, and you might be lucky enough to see someone playing the piano its haunting notes drifting lazily above. By the window, a bunch of people heads bent over a sketch book, making fluid strikes on their paper of the view of the Notre Dame in the distance. My heart really did skip a beat here, I wanted to stay forever! I wanted to wander around the bookshop when it was bereft of people, and see if any of its famous, long since dead writers spoke to me in the quiet of midnight. But I didn’t. I couldn’t stay. And the anticipation of one day returning, and clapping eyes on such disorderly beauty is enough for me for now. The memories, the scent of old and new, past and present, is what I have with me still.
Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is focusing on writing romance. She aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.