Alone, But Not Lonesome in Paris
Yesterday at Après Midi, author John Pearce walked us through the stories of each of his mysteries, Treasure of Saint-Lazare, its sequel, Last Stop: Paris, and his latest book, a “stand alone,” Finding Pegasus. It’s the third in the “Eddie Grant” series, in which his protagonist, and Eddie’s side-kick, Aurélie, deal with “the chaotic state of Eastern European politics, where long-term democracies now live in fear of Russia and of their own leaders.”
John’s books always involve Paris in some way, likely a result of his own affection for the City of Light, but each is set in other parts of the world: The Treasure of Saint-Lazare is set in Paris and Sarasota, Florida; Last Stop: Paris is set in Paris, Miami, Munich, and several parts of Eastern Europe and Finding Pegasus opens in Miami and rapidly moves to Paris, then to Budapest. Take a tour of the world along with Eddie Grant when you read John’s books.
John is also the author of a regular blog, “Part-Time Parisian,” to which you can subscribe by emailing John at [email protected]. He does interviews for his blog from time to time, and I was lucky to be among them — from September 4, 2014 — which just happened to be my 20th anniversary date living in France! Visit parttimeparisian.com/american-queen-paris-real-estate/ to see and hear 8-minute the interview in which he calls me “The American Queen of Paris Real Estate!” (I get a big laugh out of this overzealous title, but I loved doing the interview!)
Thanks to John for a very enjoyable afternoon with about 50 attendees from all over the globe. His books are a great read, so I encourage you to get your copies for perfect summer reading!
To learn more and see photos, visit our Après Midi page.
Stephanie Rosenbloom’s recent article in the New York Times titled “On Eating Alone in Paris“ inspired me to comment on the subject. Funny, but the café she highlighted is just a few blocks from my apartment and one I frequent from time to time, “Le Comptoir Turenne,” at the corner of rue de Turenne and rue Saint-Claude. She’s right, the view from the café may not be as exciting as others in the city, but it faces an apartment in which I taped my very first House Hunters International episode, so for me there has a personal affection for the spot. The food’s not great, but acceptable, they offer free wifi and a plug can be found at a couple of tables…plus the waitstaff is very pleasant, so it’s a good choice for a working spot, if not just a brief “repose.”
Stephanie says she’s “eaten by myself in France more than anywhere else, with the exception of my own country where, more than half the time when we’re eating, we’re eating alone.” According to her article, more than half of lunch is eaten alone by more than 30 percent of dinners. I’m not sure how to feel about these statistics, but I can remember, living in the U.S., that I wouldn’t have dared go to a restaurant and be seen in public dining alone. It simply wasn’t done.
Here in Paris or anywhere in France, not only do I not think twice about being alone at the table, but actually revel in the solitude of having it all to myself, working on my laptop or reading a novel (such as Finding Pegasus), and being a “voyeuse,” watching the world go by. Stephanie quotes the Euromonitor International as having reported that in South Korea, “it is almost fashionable.” “Mais, oui!”
She cites the café Les Deux Magots here in Paris, where a solo traveler can conjure the ghosts of former patrons like Simone de Beauvoir and Picasso — although they were more likely NOT alone — hobnobbing with other writers and artists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Julia Child, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright. I bet it wasn’t so fashionable then to dine alone.
There always seemed to be a stigma about dining alone in public in the U.S., or doing much of anything alone, like going to a movie, or attending a party. I have always felt that the U.S. was much more of a “couple’s society,” promoting being 50 percent of a unit, rather than 100 percent a whole person. Stephanie cites many examples that confirm this sentiment, quoting a scene from a 1984 Steve Martin film called “The Lonely Guy” in which he enters a bustling restaurant and tells the captain, ‘I’m alone.’ The captain replies, ‘Alone?’ — and the restaurant comes to a standstill. In other words, if he’s alone, he must be lonely. Do we go through life thinking that if we are alone we must be lonely, just because that’s what the culture and the media tell us to believe? Is that what makes us feel so self-conscious?
Here in France, I never feel that stigma, even as a woman. It’s actually quite okay to be single, “célibataire,” and not part of a “couple.” It’s a well-known concept that if you want to meet someone, the best way to do it is by sitting in a café, alone. Your chances of striking up a conversation with someone are pretty good…if that’s what you’re looking for. But, what if you really not only don’t mind being all by your “lonesome,” but prefer it?
Try being alone in Paris. Allow Paris to be your companion, your lover, your confidant. You may discover a whole new self, all 100 percent of you.
Special note: Stephanie remarks that when you enter a café such as Le Comptoir Turenne, “You don’t have to be escorted to a table. Pick one you like and take a seat.” I urge you not to listen to her advice. Culturally speaking, you’re in THEIR establishment, and regardless of whether you are alone or not, you should ALWAYS ask first before you take a table. You will be treated like royalty if you show them that little bit of respect. This is “Survival in France 101.”
A la prochaine…
(with John Pearce at Après Midi)
P.S. Roll up, roll up, pick up your summer reading at SOS Help! Another is summer coming along and they are holding their “bag of books” sale this coming July 7th. Come take as many books as you can get in a (standard) bag (normally about 15!) for 5€ in order to open up their storage and lighten their load.
Bag of Books Sale
5€ per bag!
Sunday 7 July from 11:30 am to 14:30 pm
Outside St. Joseph’s Church
50 avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris
Please understand they cannot accept book donations at this clearance sale
SOS, Emotional Support in France – we listen daily from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.:
01 46 21 46 46