Travel by the Books

Before the Reading (Upstairs at Shakespeare & Co)

Hello all,

I’m pleased to report that my interview with writer Janet Skeslien Charles that first appeared on this blog was republished in a neat online literary journal called Travel by the Books.

Literature + travel. What could be better?

Feel free to check it out again if you’d like.

Speaking of travel and literature, it’s my last full week in Paris before flying off to the States for a full month. So I’m leaving my hermitude behind for a bit and getting out and about the city before I leave.

Notre Dame and Blue Holiday Tree

Tonight my friend Christine Buckley read at Shakespeare & Co, along with Michael Scott Moore, who wrote a book on the history of surfing. And guess who I sat next to? Janet Skeslien Charles! Paris is starting to seem very small – in a very good way!

The creative crew pointing to the chalkboard announcing Christine's reading. These are all fabulous women.

This was a really great evening that gave me warm fuzzies (wow, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually used that term before!) for just that reason: I feel more and more like there is a community of creative folks that I’m getting to know. I love showing up to events and knowing people, meeting friends of friends, and then we all become friends.

 

After those first few years of struggle, it’s so wonderful to feel that I have a place here. Paris can be a lonely city. Beautiful, but lonely. When you cross over though, and really start to find your people, everything changes.

The reading itself was interesting. I can’t say I’m much of a surfing aficionado, but the first author took us behind some of the cultural history of the movement in France, Germany, and Cuba. (Who knew? Apparently France has the biggest surf scene in Europe).

Christine then read part of her essay in the Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 anthology and an excerpt from her memoir-in-progress about her Vietnamese family. (She has also co-authored the book Slave Hunter: One Man’s Global Quest to Free Victims of Human Trafficking).

Christine is a hoot. Her essay about finding herself in the middle of Vietnam when she spoke barely any Vietnamese was hilarious. With an old dictionary in hand, she surmised that her Vietnamese name either meant “beautiful velvet” or “lovely young antler.” The misunderstandings continued from there.

I should clarify that Christine is a born and bred New Yorker. When she was 8, her parents adopted two Vietnamese boys who were boat people. Christine later lived in Vietnam and speaks fluent Vietnamese (and French!) now.

Her language skills came in enormously helpful when six of us went out for dinner after the reading at a tiny, tasty Vietnamese restaurant on a side street off the main tourist drag.

Pho 67. Yummy resto!

The staff loved having Christine, this white Western woman, order food in fluent Vietnamese. The kitchen staff was Vietnamese, but the host Chinese. He spoke to our Chinese friend Leona in Chinese, Christine in Vietnamese, and the rest of us in English and French. His command of all of the languages was amazing. I am really jealous of people who speak so many languages!

We seemed to be a hit at the restaurant (which also only has 16 seats, so we did take up nearly half the place). We all shared dishes that Christine ordered for us; I always defer to expert opinion. (Also, I’ll try just about anything.)

Rue Galande

By the end of the night we were being sung Vietnamese lullabies (gorgeous!) and we promised to come back.

But it was the warm conversation above all that made the night. My friends Jenny and Dani are great photographers who have done a lot of traveling themselves. I originally put the two of them in touch. But I met Jenny first through Christine. And it turned out Dani knew Christine through another friend.

It’s that small world feeling again, which I so love. Rounding out the dinner was Leona, a reporter, and Molly whom I just met tonight. She’s originally from Oregon, but finished her studies to be a midwife in France and now has a job here in a maternity ward. I give her major kudos – not only to come to a foreign country, but to learn a new skill and start a new career.

Then again, I guess all of us kind of do that in a way. We reinvent ourselves. In many respects, we have to start from scratch.

Which is why it’s that much sweeter when you realize that you’ve built something here, that you continue to build and grow. Look at these amazing people in my life! In this amazing city! We’re all making it here, in our own way, on our own terms.

Hmm. I should probably get out of the house more often and celebrate.

Pho 67
59, Rue Galande
75005 Paris, France
+33 1 43 25 56 69

Boulevard Saint Germain

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22 Responses to “Travel by the Books”


  1. 1 Buffy December 7, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Hello,

    It sounds like you are much happier than you were last month, and that is wonderful! Have a great time back here in the states. If you are anywhere near DC/Northern VA let me know if you would like to get lunch or dinner. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

    • 2 paris (im)perfect December 7, 2010 at 4:40 am

      Hi Buffy. Yeah, I guess this blog kind of tracks my mood swings, huh? I’ve been riding a gratitude wave of late. I am also so, so excited to be going home, too. It’s always a whirlwind, but so wonderful to be amongst family and friends I see so rarely. Another reason why it’s so great having friends in Paris, so far away. It’s now home! Happy holidays to you, too!

  2. 3 Forest December 7, 2010 at 11:35 am

    couldn’t agree more…there are some really cool, creative people in this town and it’s fun and inspiring getting to know them.

    Have fun in the US!

  3. 5 Katia December 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Sounds like a fascinating reading!
    And I try to go to Pho 67 at least once a week. The owner is just ADORABLE.

    • 6 paris (im)perfect December 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

      Oh, he *is* adorable, isn’t he? I can definitely see making that place a go-to resto. It’s not the most convenient for me to get to (I am such a Right Banker), but I go to so many readings over there, I see Pho 67 in again soon in my future!

  4. 7 Sweet Freak December 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Yay! I’m like you, Sion – it takes a normal but amazing moment with friends to realize that a) there are so many cool women out there and b) I need to break out of my shell a lot more often. I’m glad you had a wonderful night and know 2011 will bring you more inspiration, friendship and success. (And I hope to see you this week before you go!) xo

  5. 9 Ann December 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    What a great post! I’m so sorry I missed the reading, but happy to know it was a success. I love how international your evening sounds — with at least four languages and cultures at the table. It’s one of the best parts about living overseas, n’est-ce pas? Bon voyage and happy holidays, Sion!

  6. 11 Tina December 7, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Sounds like you’re creating a wonderful community! Thanks for spreading the word about the journal, too. Always looking for new submissions. Enjoy Paris, enjoy the States, enjoy the residency!

  7. 13 Kristin December 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Sion,

    Along with Ann and the others – would have loved to have been at this event. Heck, I would have loved to be part of that “creative crew” photo (in front of the Shakespeare window… only no more room… perhaps one could be lowered into the frame, by her feet?). Thankfully one did not have to be present to share in the joy of the evening. It is, indeed, a small and warm and wonderful world after all. Happy holidays.

  8. 15 Kind Reader December 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Sounds like it was an enchanting evening with remarkable women. Thanks so much for sharing the spirit of the night. I also really admire people who can speak a number of different languages. Enjoy your time at home…America home and Happy Holidays.

  9. 16 The Lady D December 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Enjoy your trip home. I’m looking forward to attending your first book reading in Paris! I’m rooting for you.

  10. 18 Kind Reader December 8, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    …forgot to add…I really enjoy how you illuminate the beauty in the everyday things whether they have been joyful or difficult, each seem to hold a unique treasure. I loved this piece and its great energy and inspiration. I too look forward to reading your book.

    • 19 paris (im)perfect December 9, 2010 at 2:16 am

      Thanks for both of your comments, Holly. I really appreciate it. I do think there is so much to be mined from just our everyday lives. There is beauty everywhere! I am grateful for both the joy and struggles. Happy holidays!

  11. 20 andrea December 9, 2010 at 9:50 am

    fascinating account, and as a librarian i am drawn to books! and i will hopefully meet janet for the first time next week!
    small world indeed!

  12. 22 Res December 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I’m so happy to be back online and reading you! I missed you! This post inspired me; perhaps I will find my people in Switzerland eventually? Hope to catch up with you soon :)


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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