On our first morning in Paris, we visited Notre Dame cathedral, where one of us had a slight brush with vertigo after a warm-weather climb up the tower. Although the views were spectacular and I fell in love with the gargoyles, not everyone was having fun. Throughout the climb and descent, unhappiness ensued. When we reached the ground, I knew I had to come up with something to brighten her spirits, and revive all of us.
|Shakespeare and Company|
Fortunately for my book-loving family, we were only a few steps from the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookstore. The girls immediately fell in love with the book-lined walls and narrow aisles, and each quickly found a book and a little cubbyhole to browse in. Andrew discovered the piano upstairs and entertained customers with a sprightly Bach. And I relaxed in that way that mothers can when we know everyone in our family is happy.
|The best madeleines in France|
Full disclosure: I did not eat every madeleine in France.
When I found out we’d be staying half an hour from the summer home of Marcel Proust, my first thought was “I should read his collected works.” After counting the number of pages in his collected works, my second thought was, “I should visit his hometown and eat a madeleine.” Even non-Proustian scholars like me know about the madeleines that Proust so lovingly depicted in Swann’s Way. Showing remarkable restraint, we stopped at just two patisseries in Illiers-Combray, including the one pictured above. Fresh out of the oven, these delicately-flavoured little cakes melted in our mouths. Surely the best madeleines in all of France!
|The toast of Illiers-Combray|
To my disappointment, after searching at shops and the home of Proust’s Tante Leonie (now a museum), I wasn’t able to find an English copy of Swann’s Way. But the next day in Chartres I found a fantastic graphic novel version that I had to buy. My first Proust!
|Reading Proust in French! Are you impressed?|
Next week: The best of Normandy