Thirza recommends

Books
Around and About Paris
Volume 1 (old edition)
Around and About Paris
Volume 2
Around and About Paris volume 3 Around and About Paris
Volume 3

Around and About Paris
Volume 1 (NEW edition)
romantic paris Romantic Paris
Averyron, a Bridge to French Arcadia Aveyron, A Bridge to French Arcadia
  A Little Bit of France / Sempé
  France from the Air / Yann Arthus-Bertrand
  Madame de Sévigné; / A Life and Letters
  The Sun King / Nancy Mitford
  Memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon
  Madame de Pompadour / Nancy Mitford
  A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy / Laurence Sterne
Travels Through France and Italy / Tobias George Smollett
  A Tale of Two Cities / Charles Dickens
The Hunchback of Notre Dame / Victor Hugo
  Les Misérables / Victor Hugo
  Le Père Goriot / Honoré de Balzac
  Sentimental Education / Gustave Flaubert
 
In Search of Lost Time / Marcel Proust
The Claudine Novels / Colette
  Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation : A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties & Thirties / Noel Riley Fitch
Down and Out in London and Paris / George Orwell
  Paris Was Yesterday (1925-1939) / Janet Flanner 
  A  Gourmet Tour de France: Legendary Restaurants from Paris to the Côte d'Azur / Gilles Pudlowski
  Patricia Welles At Home in Provence. Recipes Inspired by Her Farmhouse in France / Patricia Welles
  My Life In France / Julia Child
  Suite Française / Irène Némirovsky
  And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris / Alan Riding
  Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 / Robert Paxton
  Vichy France and the Jews / Michael Marrus, Robert Paxton
  Is Paris Burning / Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
  Wine and the War : The French, the Nazis, & the Battle for France's Greatest Treasures / Don Kladstrup
  The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris / David G. McCullough
  Paris to the Moon / Adam Gopnik
  Atget, Paris (Taschen 25th Anniversary Edition) / Eugène Atget
  France On The Brink: A Great Civilization Faces a New Century / Jonathan Fenby
   
   
   
   
   


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 
Thirza's articles


Discovering the Aubrac by Thirza Vallois
July 6, 2011

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, on the southern edge of the Auvergne, lies the wild, green plateau called the Aubrac—remote, pristine, timeless. It's a tiny, volcanic territory, just under a thousand square miles, but it seems to stretch to infinity under everchanging skies. 
The enchantment peaks in spring, when the plateau is a riot of myriad species of flowers, hundreds of which have been collected in the botanical garden in the village of Aubrac, which takes its name from the plateau. In March the landscape is covered with carpets of daffodils, in May with the inebriating narcissus that will supply the fragrance industry of Grasse in Provence. It was the extraordinary aroma of the Aubrac pastures and the luminous quality of its sky that inspired the late Annick Goutal to become a perfumer, and create the scent called Eau du Ciel.  >>Read more


La Camargue by Thirza Vallois  
June 22, 2011

Spreading across the triangle formed by the two branches of the Rhône and the Mediterranean, the 360-square-mile Camargue delta is for the most part a lonely barren plain of rough pasture, grazed by black bulls and white horses, and salty wetlands inhabited by a diverse community of waterfowl, the most famous of which are pink flamingos—although the first time I spotted them, they were disappointingly white. When a local resident explained that they must have found no shrimp for breakfast, I thought he was joking, but it turns out that they do indeed get their color from the carotene contained in crustaceans and algae—a rosy sign of good health that makes them seductive to the opposite sex.   >>Read more


Paris: Bracing For Change by Thirza Vallois ... 
April 21, 2011

"The shape of a city, alas, changes faster than a mortal heart," bemoaned Charles Baudelaire, who lived through Haussmann's transformation of Paris. Victor Hugo gave vent to similar grief in a lament, The Fateful Years. Yet time and history proved both poets wrong: a mere glance at the scale model of Paris on display at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal suffices to take the measure of Haussmann's genius and vision, and to admire the splendid, coherent and harmonious urban fabric he masterminded.   >>Read more 


The Discreet Charm of the 9th Arrondissement by Thirza Vallois ... 
April 3, 2011

Although the 80-mile stretch of sheer cliffs between Dieppe and Etretat, in upper Normandy, is mirrored by those of the English coast of Dover, pointing to their shared geological origin, no other section of the French shoreline resembles the unique breathtaking seascape of La Côte d'Albâtre—the Alabaster Coast. The section around Fécamp also goes by the poetic name of le Pays des Hautes Falaises (high cliff country) conjuring up the flavor of salty air and the shrieks of circling gulls. Unsurprisingly, the coast attracted a plethora of famous painters and writers in the 19th century, especially the Impressionists, who were captivated by its ever-changing light.   >>Read more 


Normandy's White Cliffs by Thirza Vallois ... 
April 2, 2011

Although the 80-mile stretch of sheer cliffs between Dieppe and Etretat, in upper Normandy, is mirrored by those of the English coast of Dover, pointing to their shared geological origin, no other section of the French shoreline resembles the unique breathtaking seascape of La Côte d'Albâtre—the Alabaster Coast. The section around Fécamp also goes by the poetic name of le Pays des Hautes Falaises (high cliff country) conjuring up the flavor of salty air and the shrieks of circling gulls. Unsurprisingly, the coast attracted a plethora of famous painters and writers in the 19th century, especially the Impressionists, who were captivated by its ever-changing light.  >>Read more 


Intriguing Bastides by Thirza Vallois ... 
March 16, 2011

During the 11th and 12th centuries in France, a small community huddled for protection at the foot of a fortified feudal castle was known as a castrum, or bourg astral, or castellan. A settlement clustered around a church or monastery was called a sauveté—a place of safety. But in the early 13th century a new kind of village appeared on the scene, particularly in the southwest, known as a bastide.  >>Read more 


Ancient Paris: Looking for Lutetia by Thirza Vallois ... 
February 12, 2011
Had Georges Eugène Haussmann not undertaken to tear up chunks of old Paris, much of the city's very early history would have remained hermetically sealed beneath its medieval layer, forever lost.
During the 11th and 12th centuries in France, a small community huddled for protection at the foot of a fortified feudal castle was known as a castrum, or bourg astral, or castellan. A settlement clustered around a church or monastery was called a sauveté—a place of safety. But in the early 13th century a new kind of village appeared on the scene, particularly in the southwest, known as a bastide.  >>Read more


L'Enclos des Gobelins by Thirza Vallois ... 
January 15, 2011

 Although his name may suggest otherwise, Jehan de Gobelin was no tapestry-maker but a dyer. Because he rightly suspected that the water of the small river Bièvre would allow him to obtain a much prized scarlet dye, he moved to Paris from Bruges or Reims (no one knows which for sure). In 1443 he bought a house by the riverside, in what is now in the 13th arrondissement, where he settled with his wife and 13 children. Prosperity followed, together with the prestigious status of teinturier en écarlate—scarlet dyer—which made jealous tongues rattle that he had contracted a pact with the Devil.  >>Read more


Walking the Latin Quarter by Thirza Vallois
January 23, 2011

There is something reassuring about the 5th arrondissement. Although it has lost much of its student life in recent decades, somehow its deeper core has remained pretty much unchanged. Its northwestern fringe has been overtaken by mass tourism, but a short walk away the perennial Latin Quarter still echoes with the chimes of the Sorbonne's chapel bell, and on the corner of Boulevard Saint Michel and the Place de la Sorbonne the statue of 19th-century philosopher and early sociologist Auguste Comte reminds passersby that this is a stronghold of the thinking world.
>>Read more


Good Saint Nicolas by Thirza Vallois ... 
December 25, 2010

There is something reassuring about the 5th arrondissement. Although it has lost much of its student life in recent decades, somehow its deeper core has remained pretty much unchanged. Its northwestern fringe has been overtaken by mass tourism, but a short walk away the perennial Latin Quarter still echoes with the chimes of the Sorbonne's chapel bell, and on the corner of Boulevard Saint Michel and the Place de la Sorbonne the statue of 19th-century philosopher and early sociologist Auguste Comte reminds passersby that this is a stronghold of the thinking world.  
>>Read more


The Santons of Provence by Thirza Vallois 
December 22, 2010

In Provence the holiday season belongs to the colorful world of santons—santous or santoùos in Provençal, "little saints" to the rest of us. A wrinkle, the shining dot of an eye, a graceful pose, the tilting of a hat, a lace bonnet, a weary back stooped by toil and age, a smile of contentment, an ample fold in a garment—since these clay figurines are often no bigger than Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina, you will not be surprised that 85% of the cost goes to labor, a far cry from the modern mass-production Christmas industry. The making of a santon is a labor of love.
>>Read more


A Few Favorite Small Museums by Thirza Vallois ... 
December 17, 2010

Paris has some 150 museums and exhibit spaces, among them many lesser-known and less-crowded gems that are a delightful refuge on a chilly day and a welcome relief from long lines at the Musée d'Orsay or the bedlam beneath the Louvre's glass pyramid.  >>Read more


Autumn in Sologne by Thirza Vallois ... 
October 18, 2010

When a stroll through Paris's Luxembourg Gardens on a crisp fall morning brings to mind the damp smells of the forest and the rusty hues of a Ralph Lauren photo shoot, I know it is time for an escapade in Sologne—the largest forested area in France and the stag's last French bastion. 
>>Read more


Fabulous Diaghilev's Ballets Russes by Thirza Vallois ... 
October 18, 2010

On May 19, 1909, just arrived in Paris from Russia, Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company, with dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, "fell like some great flaming comet" into the Théâtre du Châtelet and took the city by storm. The following spring, the second "Russian Season" was held at the Palais Garnier, arguably the most prestigious venue in Europe at the time. Le tout Paris was present at the premiere on June 4, 1910, including its greatest literary observer, Marcel Proust, who described the event as "a prodigious orgy of gleaming colors, rhythms and contrasting movements. >>Read more


Meandering in Montmartre by Thirza Vallois ... 
July 19, 2010
Montmartre scarcely needs an introduction. Enthroned above Paris, the Basilica of Sacré Coeur is as much a part of the city's skyline as the Eiffel Tower and surpasses it in terms of visitors—10.5 million in 2008 compared to 7 million for the Eiffel Tower, and surpassed only by 13.6 million for Notre Dame. What with the Moulin Rouge and Toulouse-Lautrec, the Moulin de la Galette and Renoir, Le Lapin Agile, the Bateau Lavoir, the paintings of Van Gogh, Utrillo and Toulouse-Lautrec, and more recently the fabulous world of Amélie Poulain—Montmartre embodies the mystique of Paris, a fact well exploited by the film and tourist industries over the years. 
>>Read more


B&B (Bed and Breakfast) In Paris by Thirza Vallois  
February 11, 2010

Even adventurous visitors who wander into the byways and side streets of Paris seldom manage to find access to the world behind the building facades and the portes cochères, the big carriage doors. Once upon a time they could at least explore the city's countless courtyards and, at worst, be shooed off occasionally by a grumpy concierge. Today it's almost impossible to breach the barrier of unyielding digicodes.  >>Read more


Saltwater and Seaweed in Britanny by Thirza Vallois 
September 25, 2009

With 1,600 miles of coastline, France is a perfect location for the seaside spas that practice thalassothérapie, its name derived from thalassa, the Greek word for sea. As many as 55 thalasso resorts dot the French shores of the English Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, including a few on Corsica and Ile de Ré, an island off the port of La Rochelle. The sea-blue eyes and shapely bodies displayed on their brochures conjure up images of hedonistic pleasures under sunny climes, so you might feel somewhat disconcerted on your first visit—a French thalasso spa is by no means the equivalent of a California beauty farm.  >>Read more


Pack a Paris Picnic by Thirza Vallois 
September 16, 2009

The other day, while soaking up the breathtaking view over the Parc Montsouris from the vantage point of my balcony, I noticed a bunch of friends settled on the lawn enjoying a Manet-style picnic. Notorious Paris weather permitting, the picnic alternative to restaurants and cafés has caught on everywhere lately, reflecting a slight shift from Parisian café life to the outdoors, a trend that points to an environmentally conscious age, a back-to-nature craving and possibly a financial pinch. Some picnic fans even carry their own tables and chairs down to the quays of the Seine or the banks of the Canal Saint Martin.  >>Read more


Remembering May '68 by Thirza Vallois 
May 1, 2008

In the pre-RER regional railway days of spring 1968, the University of Nanterre was light years away from the Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter in Paris. No one would have chosen to spend their student years in that bleak no-man's wasteland of concrete northwest of the city. But if your residential district was affluent western Paris, too bad: You were shipped off to poor suburb of Nanterre where you were bound to feel alienated, despite any ideological adherence you might have had to the principle of social equality.  >>Read more


Pere Lachaise: The Communards Wall by Thirza Vallois
Although Parisian cemeteries are at their most atmospheric under gloomy skies, it is in springtime that le Père Lachaise calls me, more specifically to a section of its wall situated on its southeast corner, le Mur des Fédérés or the Wall of the Communards.
For the record, the Federates (Communards) were the people of Paris who took over the city in 1871 following the debacle to the Prussians. Twenty thousand Communards (some claim many more) were massacred during la semaine sanglante (the bloody week) of May 22-28. The last act of the tragedy was played out among the vaults of the cemetery when 147 men, women and youths picked at random were lined up against the aforementioned wall and shot by a firing squad before being thrown into a common pit with 871 other victims shot in the vicinity. The wall has become the emblematic memorial of The Commune and the shrine of left-wing causes. In the nearby 97th division is the grave of Edith Piaf, a befitting place for this native of Belleville who no doubt would have espoused the ideals of the Commune, proof if need be, of her vibrating rendering of the revolutionary chant, Oh, ça ira! Other monuments to victims of oppression are also situated in this area.  >>Read more


Georges Brassens: Exhibition at Cité de la Musique by Thirza Vallois
Poet/composer/singer and modern-day troubadour Georges Brassens has been rated by many, me included, as France's greatest artisan of la chanson française. As such he unavoidably made his way into my books, painstakingly and impossibly translated into English. Much of my life has been played out to the songs of Brassens, before being passed on to my offspring, readers and public. Even my baby granddaughter, hailing from London, now sways to his rhythms. For like St-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince, Brassens' songs are loved by all generations.
It turns out that I am in good company: Brassens is revered not only by his French fellow poets, composers, singers and actors, all of whom place him in a firmament of his own, but even by prestigious foreigners, not least Gabriel García Márquez, recipient of The Nobel Prize in Literature, who considers Brassens the greatest French poet of his generation.  
Allow me to agree.  >>Read more


Normandy Impressionniste Festival – June-September 2010 by Thirza Vallois
What does architect Antoine Grumbach have in common with Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro? For the record, Antoine Grumbach is one of the ten architects invited by President Sarkozy in 2009 to come up with projects for a future "Grand Paris". Remarkably, his "Grand Paris" is a blueprint of the territory the Impressionist artists had carved for themselves, cutting deep into Normandy, along the Seine, past Rouen to its estuary at Le Havre, the natural port of Paris, Grumbach claims.
If Grumbach's boundaries of Paris are debatable, so is the birth place of Impressionism, usually situated in Paris, in 1874, the year of their official grouping and first independent exhibition at their friend and photographer Nadar's studio, on the Boulevard des Capucines. This is also when they were first designated as Impressionists, inadvertently, by Louis Leroy in his deriding review in Le Charivari, alluding to Monet's painting Impression, Soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise).  >>Read more


Letter from Paris Plage by Thirza Vallois
Although many in the Parisian media praise wholeheartedly Mayor Bertrand Delanoë's initiative to have turned a section of the Right Bank quais of the Seine into a summer beach, and although one of London's hotels has decided to follow suit and install a "plage" in its main lobby come summer, I personally have my reservations about spending any of my leisure time on any spot of the narrow strip of Paris Plage. I have never found crowded places an attraction, unless the place or the event attached to it is intrinsically tied up with big crowds, like, right now for example, the Olympic Games and their opening ceremony last night, which millions of us watched on TV last night, and would have enjoyed even more in situ, within that human ocean.  >>Read more


Aveyron: the Larzac Wilderness by Thirza Vallois
 All roads lead to other roads and the road of Paris led me, paradoxically, to la plus profonde de toutes les Frances profondes, read, the Aveyron. I first wrote about the Aveyron for Bonjour Paris back in Spring 2002. At the time I was wondering whether it was a good idea to push the experiment further and turn my superficial interest into a book, which is what the Aveyronnais wished me to do. Those who know my other work are aware that I don't like slapdash jobs, so if I did decide to get involved in such an overwhelming project, it would have to be a full commitment. All my shilly-shallying, and how the project came into being, is recorded in the introduction to this new book, now in the making, so I'll spare you a potential repetition. What I shall say is that my one-time focus on Paris has now expanded, and over and above my routine shuttling on the Eurostar between Paris and London, I find myself these days also shuttling to the Aveyron at an average of once a month.  >>Read more


La Rentrée by Thirza Vallois
For some reason the season of renewal in Paris turns out to be autumn rather than spring. Spring is about budding flowers, leaves and romance, but autumn is when the city gets re-energised at the prospect of la rentrée - an untranslatable multi-layerd term, the first ritual on the French calendar, offered you wrapped up in subtle gold and yellow foliage, and more often than not an Indian summer. Admittedly, spring can show off its Paques, 1er mai , 8 mai, Ascension and Pentecôte, not to mention Mother's Day and Father's Day, but by then an air of disintegration hovers over Paris, as everyone is getting ready to pack up and desert the city on those never-ending long weekends ("ponts"), dress rehearsals of sorts for the real vacances d'été. La rentrée on the other hand, is about home-coming, about sympathetic retrouvailles with the beloved city after a long absence, this exasperating Paris which one is always in a hurry to leave, but always in a hurry to come back to.  >>Read more


Letter from Paris - September in Conques, Aveyron by Thirza Vallois
It would have been more accurate to title this piece "Letter from the Train", except that by the time I send off this note, I will have alighted at the Gare d'Austerlitz, headed home, having spent a golden weekend in "Conques the Magical", in the department of Aveyron.  I have seen Conques at all times of year, by now, and under every kind and colour of sky - from hopelessly soggy and grey to brilliantly luminous, under mist, under snow, under pouring rain, and during scorching canicules, but never before had I seen it dipped in melted gold so unreal, that as Monsieur le Maire drove me into the cobbled village on Saturday afternoon, I thought I was Alice driving through a blown-up medieval illumination.How considerate on the part of the Heavens to have staged such glorious light effects to welcome into the open air the 10th century golden reliquary of Saint Foy (or Fidès, or Faith, or Fé...), for her annual celebration, which takes place on the first Sunday following October 6, and to whom the early 12th-century abbey church of Conques is dedicated.  Lying at the bottom of a depression, the pink-stone village climbs in amphitheatre up the slope in the shape of a conch (hence Conques), surrounded by an awesome, wooded wilderness which helped protect its fabulous medieval treasure (the only one to have survived in France in its entirety) from the clutches of the Revolution.  >>Read more


Letters from Paris: Marché Parisien de la Création by Thirza Vallois
There are some corners of Paris that never make it to the headlines and are never brought to the attention of the world. They are no more than provincial villages, where genuine Parisians go about their daily business, but, as far as I am concerned, they are often what Paris does the best. One such place is Boulevard Edgar Quinet, where a chunk of the old toll walls of Paris used to run prior to 1860.  Today's boulevard runs perpendicularly to the naughty sex-filled rue de la Gaîté (then known as rue de la Joie, as it was filled with both prostitution and entertainment) which deserves a chapter of its own, and is largely expanded on in my books Around and About Paris. Boulevard Edgar Quinet also bounds the Montparnasse Cemetery to the north, areawise a modest house of eternity compared with Le Père Lachaise, but home to the same kind of celebrities and thereby worth your attention just as much. To the west rises shamelessly the Tour Montparnasse, an eyesore and a white elephant whose only justification is the unique view afforded from its 56th floor.  >>Read more


My Best-Kept Paris Secret: The grave of Louis XVII by Thirza Vallois
Paris has lots of secrets, many of which are literally under your nose, and thereby all the more astonishing. All it takes is pushing a heavy porte cochère and hoping that it will yield: If it does, you will be gratified with a fairytale enchantment as you step into another land, at once light years away, yet round the corner from contemporary Paris. I don't have one best kept Paris secret; I have many, but since I am asked to give you but one, I have picked out the one that moves me most. It also fits in well with Bastille Day, which is now in the offing. Go to rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine at the Bastille (11th arr.) and head east. Take a right turn at rue Saint-Bernard and keep walking. Ahead is the picturesque church of Sainte Marguerite, with its pretty slate bell-tower framed charmingly by a cluster of trees. If you want the full amazing story,... >>Read more


Modigliani and His Artist Friends by Thirza Vallois
A narrow entrance at no. 9 rue Campagne-Première, paved with bumpy cobblestones and lined with pot plants, leads to a courtyard with an unexpected fig tree. Built of materials salvaged from the 1889 Universal Exposition, the building was divided into more than 100 studios, responding to the needs of the neighbourhood in those days. Here only the song of birds interrupts the stillness, and the church bells chiming the quarters.  >>Read more


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 


DVDs
Children of Paradise / Marcel Carné, Jacques Prévert
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Gervaise
Nana / Jean Renoir
Quai des Orfèvres
L'Hôtel du Nord
Casque d'Or
La Traversée de Paris
Is Paris Burning?
Monsieur Klein
La Rafle (The Round-up)
La Guerre est finie
Stavisky
Monsieur Verdoux
Bob le Flambeur
Elevator to the Gallow
French Cancan
An American in Paris
Gigi
Love in the Afternoon
'Round Midnight
  Moulin Rouge / Nicole Kidman
Zazie dans le Métro
Breathless (A Bout de Souffle)
Paris Vu Par
Amelie
Midnight in Paris
La Haine
Entre Les Murs (The Class)
  Caché (Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche)
  Daguerreotypes / Agnès Varda
  Les Plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès) / Agnès Varda