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A Literate Abroad

Lacey went to Europe and annoyed her husband by stopping at every bookstore she could find.

A Literate Abroad

About 15 years after I fell in love with the idea of Paris (thanks, Amélie!), I finally got to meet her IRL. And she is sooo pretty.

My husband, Jake, and I spent the greater part of September traveling: we flew in and out of Zurich, rented a car, and drove up to the Swiss Alps, down through Milan to Antibes (a beautiful coastal town near Nice), over to Aix-en-Provence, up to Lyon and Paris, and then back to Switzerland. It was as great as it sounds, PLUS I got to learn a bunch of cool things, like how you get free alcohol on some airlines! Know before you go.

So even though the plane booze tried to make me too sleepy to read, I persevered, duh: I packed five YA novels, after all. And still I felt the need to search for more. Our first few days were spent traipsing through the mountains like the Von Trapp family singers, so it wasn’t until Day Four that I found a bookstore. (Although I did spend a bit of time in a tiny town in the Alps following the signs for “bibliothek” until I found myself in an elementary school--they must have had a library there? Whoops. I quietly scurried out past the backpacks and classrooms of baby Swiss Germans before anyone noticed me. Phew!) So when we got to Milan and I found a big bookstore, I was excited. I saw a bunch of Italian Harry Potter books ...

... and then Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. And I absolutely squealed “Maggie!” because I felt like I had found a friend so far from home. 

Jake says, "Can we go yet?" HA! Nope. Alas, none of the YA covers were all that exotic or different. Maggie's books were exactly the same, in fact. But you guys, look at the last line of the last page of The Raven Boys in italiano. Apparently,  "chainsaw" in Italian is "motosega." How fun is that name? Also fun: European <<quote>> marks.

I found a French version later, but it had the same cover art. And why fix what's not broken? All The Raven Cycle books had fantastic covers, almost. But please imagine how delighted I would have been to find the French cover looked like this:

I spotted this fancy little thingamajig (clutch?) through the window of a boutique I was too scared to enter. (You guys, I am woefully ill-suited to even walk around in such fancy places as Milan and Paris. I am seriously considering a monthly clothing subscription to up create my style game. Suggestions welcome.) Anyway, I think the boy on the left totally looks like Adam Parrish. And oui, tous les hommes sont beaux ("all the men are beautiful").

I do need to say one other thing* about Milan: I found a book I hadn't heard about before (How To Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo) with a cover I recognized! Ah, the inglorious stock photo. The Italian cover is actually the US cover of Shuffle, Repeat! Did they think we wouldn’t notice?! (Well, they were kinda right. We only noticed because we went to an Italian bookstore and made our husband pace back and forth for like an hour while we shopped.)

*You thought I was going to say something actually interesting and historical like we visited the Duomo, didn't ya? (Well, we did, but who cares about the most beautiful church in the world when you've got a stock photo debacle to discuss?!)

We spent the majority of our trip in France, and most of our France time in Paris. We stayed at an Airbnb in the 6th arrondissement, in a neighborhood steeped in literary history, because we're obsessed with Ernest Hemingway. I'd been waiting my whole adult life to find out what an eau de vie tastes like (Hemingway's characters are always having them and a million other alcoholic drinks), so we sat on the terrace of Café de Flore and ordered some. And now I know: they're disgusting. (But gorgeous.)

Then of course I had to see Hemingway's apartment where he and his first wife Hadley lived when they moved to Paris in 1922. It was a cheap flat with no running water, back before he became super successful and turned into such a meanie-head. Back when he and Hadley were "very poor and very happy," as he famously proclaims in his memoir, A Moveable Feast. So I saw it, but only from this view (I have no idea which apartment was his). Still, I was pretty stoked.

Enough classic lit ... more YA! There was one Parisian bookstore I ducked into on our way to a late dinner (sorry Jake!) that was actually more like an art gallery. I found this huge book full of glossy images of the cast of The Hunger Games​ first movie. Gigantic. Turns out it's a behind-the-scenes portrait collection by photographer Tim Palen, Chief Marketing Officer of Lionsgate. Legit! Although, don't you feel like this book could be alive, as if suddenly Haymitch's eyes are going to open wide? I do, too!

Speaking of The Hunger Games, I saw all three books at a service station on our way out of France. Now I think Catching Fire is a fine title, but the French word here, l'ambrasement, actually means something more like “ablaze” or “unrest," which is so revolutionary and I love it. Bonus: Can you see the public service announcement book directly above? I didn’t notice it at the time, but it says, “Stopping smoking is actually possible!” (I am very skeptial of this claim. The French adore their cigarettes, and my lungs were very happy to return to Colorado.). 

Highlights of my trip not pictured: new friends, buttery pastries, rich espresso, practicing my French, driving through wine country, etc. Oh, and I did get to visit the café where Amélie's character works, but one side of it was under construction and the other side had a big, gaudy poster from the film, so I didn't get any good pictures. Highlights of the trip for Jake? Beautiful mountains, famous sculptures, eating duck for the first time ... and finally boarding the plane so he wouldn't have to stop at anymore bookstores. Oh, he kids! What husband could be annoyed when they're hanging out with a view like this? Aw, Europe. Je t'aime.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.