In April 2013 I had a very unique tour client, author Mark Sullivan researching the latest detective crime thriller in the "Private" series he co-authors with James Patterson. Almost exactly three years later, Private Paris finally launched on March 15th and is already a New York Times #1 bestseller. Now that I can finally share a bit of the behind-the-scenes preparation that went into the novel, I spoke with Mark over the phone to get his take on how on-the-ground research made a difference in the final result.
I was with some tour clients last week, and as we crossed from the Avenue George V and across the Place de l'Alma to drive along the Right Bank, one of the kids asks, "What's that golden Hershey Kiss?" "Oh, that's a replica of the Statue of Liberty Flame," I reply, explaining how it was a gift from the International Herald Tribune to Paris for its 150th anniversary back in the 1980s. "It's become a sort of memorial spot because Princess Diana's car crashed in the tunnel beneath it."
Not this one, a replica of the Statue of Liberty flame seen peeking out over the Pont de l'Alma on the Right Bank.
The girl's grandfather then says, "Not that one, the big thing that looks like a gold dome across the other side of the bridge?" I turn around to see what they're talking about, and suddenly remember talk of the new Russian Orthodox Cathedral being built there. It has been an enormous construction site for the past few years, but last month they placed the first of five golden onion-style domes -- typical of Russian Orthodox churches -- that will grace the final monument housing a bilingual school, church and cultural center. As it's just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, it will be hard to miss this gilded addition to the Parisian skyline. And yes, before they added the cross it did indeed look like a giant golden Hershey Kiss.
From the architect's website Wilmotte & Associés; the Russian Orthodox cathedral being built on the Left Bank. Only the largest dome is currently in place.
Back in the fall Parisians welcomed a rather unique vessel on the Seine, the three-masted schooner La Boudeuse, constructed in Holland in 1916. The 46-meter ship with 13 sails has explored all seven of the world's seas and has a fascinating history:
"La Boudeuse » is one of the rare French three-masted schooners still in use and the only one to sail on long journeys on all the seas around the world. It is dedicated to the pursuit of discovery, adventure and science, in the spirit of the great maritime and land expeditions of the Enlightenment. For this reason, a certain number of writers, philosophers, painters, scientists and photographers are part of the crew.
The captain of « La Boudeuse » and the project initiator is Patrice Franceschi, sailor, writer, explorer, member of the French Society of the Philosophy of Science and Honorary President of the Society of French Explorers…"
La Boudeuse was in Paris for the COP21 Climate Change conference, meant to leave in January for a new adventure. But for the moment it's still moored along Les Berges of the Rive Gauche in the Port du Gros Caillou (aka Quai d'Orsay, 7th), and the general public is welcome to visit for free every Saturday (unless noted on their website), hourly tours are conducted from 10am through 4pm.
There's a new machine at the Place de la Bastille that promises to take you on an immersive virtual reality trip into the past to see the square as it looked in the 15th and 18th centuries when it was still dominated by the Bastille fortress. If you've got a working internet connection to pay the €2...
The winning baguette for 2016 might have come from a bakery in the 6th arrondissement, but not only are 80% of the winners on the Left Bank (go Rive Gauche!), the largest number of them, three out of ten, are from the 13th arrondissement. My neighborhood!
It’s hard for today’s American expatriates to fathom the lives of our forbearers who lived in France before the internet, commercial airlines, the telephone, or even the telegraph, completely cut off from their homeland for months at a time. When I first arrived in Paris as a student in 1995, France’s communications industry was suffering from a full blown identity crisis. They seemed both behind and ahead of the US, determined to modernize but only on their own Gallic terms.