My Favorite Museum Guidebooks

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Museums worldwide are doing a fabulous job of keeping us entertained, informed and connected through their online programs and exhibits. It’s a wonderful diversion during these troubling times, that’s for sure.

Am I the only one who loves to purchase museum guidebooks after a visit? I don’t do it for every museum, just for those very special museums.

Here are three of my favorite museum guidebooks. Be sure to share your favorite museum guidebooks in the comments.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I could live inside the Met. Since that’s not possible, their website has countless exhibits, paintings and articles to enjoy, such as this fun online exhibit about their new British Galleries. The Met is amazing for many reasons. One reason is that it represents 5000 years of art. Blows my mind.

The guidebook I bought is like holding the museum in my hands. It’s filled with paintings, decorative arts, photographs and articles to explain each object. Plus it’s a beautiful book.

I bought my book a number of years ago with an introduction by a previous Met director, but a quick glance online shows me that the guidebooks have been updated with a new introduction by the Met’s new director. In case you care about such things, the current director is Max Hollein. He has been the director since 2018 and hails from Austria. I digress, if you could buy only one museum guidebook, it should be this one.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is pretty special. It was created because of a major donation from Andrew W. Mellon. He was Secretary of the Treasury under four US presidents and firmly believed that the United States should have a national museum devoted to art, just like the European capitals. Mellon purchased 21 spectacular masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum in Russia and in 1937 donated them to the Federal Government with the aim of opening this museum. History aside, this museum has one of my favorite paintings by Da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci. I look forward to visiting her again when Covid-19 is far, far behind us. It appears that my guidebook isn’t for sale anymore (it’s a very old copy), but this is their newer version.

Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum needs no introduction from me. It has pieces dating back to 8000 BC and I cannot comprehend that, it’s so incredible. In five visits, I have yet to see everything.

I’m sure there are a gazillion different guidebooks for the Louvre Museum, but I own a thin copy bought many years ago during my first trip to France. It holds a special place in my heart because I love Paris and the Louvre Museum so much. For a smallish book, it’s quite comprehensive and satisfies my desire to read a little bit about everything. I don’t think my book is for sale anymore, but I believe this is a similar version with an updated cover.

I hope you enjoyed a tour of my three favorite museum guidebooks. Have a great weekend (whatever a weekend is anymore)!

xoxo, Jane

New book: The Little(r) Museums of Paris by Emma Jacobs

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After hearing about The Little(r) Museums of Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Hidden Gems on the Tea and Tattle podcast, I had to buy it. I don’t impulse buy anything, ever. But this was too charming to pass up. Pages and pages of gorgeous illustrations, lovely descriptions of lesser-known Parisian museums – I can’t wait to dig in.

If you are so inclined, I recommend listening to the Tea and Tattle podcast featuring the book’s author, Emma Jacobs.

And since we can’t be in Paris right now, maybe we should try to discover a lesser-known gem in our own neighborhoods (when we’re not in quarantine, that is.)

Have a great week-end! Stay safe.

xoxo, Jane

A very short history of The Lutetia Hotel in Paris

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They say that old mansions and grand hotels are haunted by ghosts. If that’s true, then the Lutetia Hotel in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is the most haunted of them all. 

If ghosts exist, then the corridors of this storied hotel must be filled with the spirits of cabaret singers, artists, writers, Josephine Baker and Nazis.

Built in 1910, during France’s Belle Époque, this architectural gem hosted James Joyce where he wrote parts of Ulysses. Josephine Baker and Picasso were regular guests, as was Ernest Hemingway. 

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A young Charles De Gaulle stayed there for his honeymoon. And it was this fortuitous visit that would change the course of the hotel’s history.

During the occupation of Paris, the Nazis requisitioned the hotel to house and feed their officers and French collaborators. 

After the war was over, hundreds of thousands of former prisoners and Holocaust survivors began to make the trek home to France. The now General Charles de Gaulle remembered his luxurious stay at the Lutetia and demanded that the hotel house the survivors of the Holocaust because he wanted them to be housed in comfort after the horrors they suffered.

And this is how it came to be that the grandest hotel in Paris opened its doors to displaced persons and Holocaust survivors. The first survivors arrived at the hotel in April 1945. They received food, shelter, money and clothing.

The hotel also became the Paris headquarters for those searching for loved ones or waiting on Red Cross updates of family members sent to camps. An entire wall of the hotel was filled with photographs of missing persons. Relatives desperate for reunification with loved ones regularly stopped by to see whether missing family and friends had arrived from the camps. 

The last displaced person left the hotel in September 1945. Soon thereafter the hotel reopened its doors for business as usual and celebrities once again flocked to the grandest hotel in Paris. 

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The Lutetia closed in 2014 for renovations and reopened in 2018. The old-fashioned decor was replaced by chic, contemporary pieces. The dark paneling was removed to make room for a marbled lobby that boasts an airy, light-filled space. Once again, celebrities and the well-to-do made the Lutetia Hotel their home away from home.

As for the ghosts, they probably still roam the halls. 

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Note: If you want to learn more about the Holocaust survivors who stayed at the Lutetia Hotel, please search for “Lutetia Hotel” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

Four Books Set in London

Who doesn’t love a literary walk through London? Now that summer is slowly coming to an end, let’s talk about books that make for perfect fall reading.

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Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans by Jane Green

Jemima J was the very first book I ever read by Jane Green way back when. This book is an oldie (Hello, 2001, I’ve missed you) but such a goodie! It’s a charming story about a Londoner, Jemima. She is overweight and bullied by everyone around her because of it. When Jemima meets a handsome Californian, Brad, over the internet, she quickly re-invents herself as JJ, a sexy, thin, and glamorous girl. But then of course Brad insists on meeting JJ and that’s when the fun and misadventures begin. I think the story held up really well over the years.

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Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

I enjoyed reading Belgravia so much that when it ended I hugged the book. It’s set in London (specifically, a newly-created Belgravia) and follows the destinies of two British families. One family is newly rich and the other family is “old money.” Something happens (I can’t give it away as it will ruin the story for you) that forces the two families to intertwine with each other, much to the disdain of the “old money” family. It’s funny, heart-warming and fun to read. It really should be adapted for TV. I think the best part about this book is that Belgravia is a main character.

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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is the first book in a series about a private detective set in London. Since this is the first book in the series, it introduces us to Maisie’s present and to her past. In her present, she tries to uncover a horrible secret involving veterans of the Great War. In her past, we learn that she herself is a veteran of the war. She worked as a nurse in the trenches of World War I. We have vivid flashbacks of her nursing days in the trenches. I must say, I’ve read lots of stories set in the trenches of World War I, but this is the only book where the scenes jumped out at me. I could actually visualize Maisie’s blood-soaked dress hems. If you are looking for a new mystery/detective series, with a witty female protagonist, then please start here.

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Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Was this the book that started the “chick lit” genre? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it was crazy enjoyable to read. It also made me fall in love with this type of story (single, living in a big city, job problems, guy problems, happy ending). Just like the title conveys, this book is written diary-style over the course of one year. Bridget writes about her dreams and desires, her weight issues, her guy problems… It’s really hilarious! Highly recommended!

Do you have any favorite books set in London? xoxo, Jane

Also, four books set in Paris.

xoxo, Jane

Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott is the first book in her Madame Chic series. I previously wrote about the third book, Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic, and was recently inspired to re-read the first book in the series.

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Description:

Inspired by Paris, this lighthearted and deceptively wise contemporary memoir serves as a guidebook for women on the path to adulthood, sophistication, and style. Jennifer Scott’s self-published success is now a beautifully packaged and fully illustrated gift book, perfect for any woman looking to lead a more fulfilling, passionate, and artful life.

What I love

I love that the book is so inspiring and uplifting. One of the ideas Jennifer advocates for is the ten-item wardrobe, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Core items are limited, but then you can have plenty of extras (extras are handbags, scarves, outerwear, formal wear, active wear, etc). Of course, your core items don’t need to be just ten (mine are around 30), because the point is that it helps you define your style and stops you from spending frivolously. The book walks you through all the steps needed (as does Jennifer’s blog).

If you follow the ten-item wardrobe you end up saving more money, having less clutter and having a refined signature style. I totally love this!

I also really enjoyed the lay-out of the book. Each lesson was divided by chapters with lovely illustrations throughout.

What I don’t love

Nothing, actually. It’s a fun book. It’s not judgmental either. As the reader, I decide which lessons I want to incorporate in my life. That’s the beauty of living your life. You are in charge of it!

Do you have a ten-item wardrobe? xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Désirée)

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is a novel based on real events as recounted by one woman, Désirée Clary. It’s an epic, fictionalized biography of Désirée, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon. (I very briefly talked about this book here.)

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Désirée lived a very interesting life through some turbulent times in France. She began life as the daughter of a silk merchant and ended her life as the Queen of Sweden.

After Napoleon broke her heart to marry Josephine, Désirée moved on by marrying the tall and dashing Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a decorated Marshal in Napoleon’s court.

Through her marriage to Bernadotte, Désirée became Queen of Sweden because Sweden picked Bernadotte as their next king. Bernadotte reigned as Charles XIV of Sweden. (Talk about the ultimate get-over-him plan. Ladies, next time a guy breaks your heart, marry a king!)

This part isn’t in the book, but Napoleon hoped that Bernadotte would enact Swedish laws that favored France. Much to the anger and dismay of Napoleon, Bernadotte refused to be a puppet king. He even used his personal fortune to pay Sweden’s national debt. (As an aside, the illustrious Bernadotte line continues to reign in Sweden today.)

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Désirée Clary, 1807. Wikimedia Commons

The book is completely engrossing and written entirely in the form of diary entries. It’s a mixture of historical fiction and historical gossip sessions. Désirée is completely relatable even though it’s nearly impossible to relate to a young, rich French socialite. I think her diary entries (her gossip rants, her worries, her funny anecdotes, her undying devotion to her child) make her endearing to the reader.

Also, Paris is very much a main character in this book (before the move to Stockholm, that is) and her diary entries are sprinkled with Parisian locales and addresses. Of course, the book was made into a movie. Marlon Brando played Napoleon.

Laduree Tea

I think the perfect tea for this book is by Ladurée. Ladurée is a decadent Parisian tea and Désirée, for her entire life, loved everything Parisian. I think Désirée would approve of this pairing. You can take the girl out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the girl.

What do you think of this tea pairing?

xoxo, Jane

PS. In case you feel like going down a rabbit hole, my other posts in this series can be found here.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Paris: Through A Fashion Eye by Megan Hess

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Description:

Paris is an illustrated guide to one of the world’s most-loved fashion cities by one of the world’s most-successful fashion illustrators. In the second of her series of books on classic fashion destinations, Megan Hess takes you on a super stylish adventure through the French capital, showing you the best places for a fashionista to eat, sleep, shop and play – all illustrated in her inimitable, elegant style.

Megan’s tour reveals where fashion icons such as Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfield, Chistian Dior and Louis-François Cartier worked and played, the top restaurants, hotels, boutiques and sites to visit, as well as Megan’s own personal favorite places to shop. This is a must-have insider’s guide to Paris for any fashion lover or Francophile.

What I love

I am falling in love with Megan Hess’ work. Paris: Through A Fashion Eye is beautiful and a happy distraction from the worries around me. This book is an illustrated guide of the most fashionable spots in Paris and it has got to be the most beautifully illustrated guidebook on Paris.

I love that the book is organized in a fashionable, yet coherent manner. It’s divided by the following sections: Do/Play, Shop, Sleep, Eat/Drink, Listings. And the best part is the illustrations! They are not a disappointment. They are gorgeous and elegant.

I love that I learned about the history of the hotels, the luxury designers and the most fashionable dining spots. I’m probably never going to be able to walk into Dior (30 avenue Montaigne) and purchase a handbag, but I love that I know the history of Dior’s (and all the other luxury hotspots) building.

Don’t be fooled by this book. It may be cute and uber chic, but it’s loaded with historical tidbits.

I love, love, love mixing fashion with history. If you feel the same, then this illustrated book might be your cup of tea.

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What I don’t love

The only thing I don’t love about this book is that it ended. I could have used about 700 more pages.

If you’ve read this book, please let me know your thoughts!

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #8 (Paris Edition)

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If we can’t be in Paris, then at least we can read about Paris. Happy Reading!

The redesigned Hôtel De Crillon in Paris. Wouldn’t it be nice to stay here?

A few books that are set in Paris.

What to pack for Paris.

Royal Albert tea set. This is the set I own. Very Parisian, non?

This is an older article, but I went searching for something like this because my husband mentioned he wants to go to the stamp market next time we are in Paris.

Fashionista’s Insider Guide to Shopping in Paris.

All the real life locations from Midnight In Paris (my favorite movie, ever).

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The Truth Behind Chanel No. 5.

The Best Classic Perfumes of All Time.

Twelve Historical Events That Shaped Paris.

A Perfume Devotee in the Land of French Fragrance.

xoxo, Jane

My Favorite Cookbooks

‘Tis the season to cook and be jolly! Let’s talk cookbooks.

There are two types of people in this world (ok, slight exaggeration here). Those who love to cook and those who cook because they love to eat. I fall in the latter category.

I don’t like owning an abundance of cookbooks and I never buy celebrity chef or celebrity (actors/actresses) cookbooks. But I do own a few favorite cookbooks that have stood the test of time for me.

The Complete Book of Greek Cooking – The Recipe Club of Saint Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral This book has been in continuous print since 1990. It’s my go-to cookbook for my favorite Greek dishes. Opa!

Barefoot in Paris There is no one greater than the inimitable Ina Garten. I love her and I love this cookbook. My favorite recipes from this book are Lentil Sausage Soup, Scallops Provencal and Tomato Rice Pilaf. This cookbook was also on my list for books set in Paris.

Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook This cookbook was a wedding present from a dear friend and I use it all the time. It’s filled with food facts, cooking tips, menu ideas, beginner recipes, advanced recipes and so much more. In fact, if you own just one cookbook, then it should be this one (whether you’re married or not).

Do you have any go-to cookbooks? If yes, please share!

As always, thank you for reading. xoxo, Jane

PS. You can also find me on Pinterest and Instagram. Come say hi!

Arts and Culture 2017

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Last year I really wanted to make arts and culture a priority in my schedule. So I made a goal of doing something at least once a month and I kept a list of what I did. (I love list-making.) I know we’re well into 2018, but I just came across my list while organizing and the memories made me smile.

Here’s my list:

January: January was cold, dark and dreary, but I entertained myself by watching almost all of Rick Steves’ travel documentaries and day-dreaming of warmer weather.

February: My husband and I jetted off to Paris for a week so we took advantage of everything the City of Light had to offer.

March: Hillwood Mansion and Museum – Washington, D.C.

April: U. S. Army War College Library and Archives – Carlisle, PA

May: The Walters Art Museum – Baltimore, MD

June: Maryland Lavender Festival

July: National Museum of American History – Washington, D.C.

August: I watched several operas on YouTube

September: Visited Eastern Market – Washington, D.C.

October: National Gallery of Art and Hillwood Mansion and Museum – Washington, D.C.

November: November was busy and super fun! I went to the Library of Congress, Trabant Parade at the Spy Museum and visited various museums in London, UK. I also saw the The Mousetrap in London.

December: I explored the sights and sites of Israel and then paid another visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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All in all, it was a productive and fulfilling year. I was really lucky that I visited Paris, London and the Holy Land within one year.

Do you keep lists too?

xoxo Jane

Trinket Tuesday: Baedeker’s Paris

Today’s trinket is my 1913 copy of Baedeker’s Paris. It is in fragile condition, but the maps still look brand-new. I wonder why the previous owners didn’t use the maps during their early 20th century jaunts through Paris…fullsizeoutput_7fdI teased my husband that I’d walk around Paris with the Baedeker in my hands, but we both know that the book will not travel with me and, instead, will live quietly on a bookshelf in my study.

fullsizeoutput_800Links for your enjoyment: Karl BaedekerWikipedia’s list of Baedeker Guides.

Trinket Tuesday is where I share some of the lovely things I discover during my travels, research or around town. All pictures are my own (unless I state otherwise). I hope you enjoy!

Once upon a time at the Eiffel Tower

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I took this picture during my very first trip (and solo trip) to Paris more than ten years ago. I didn’t own a camera and used a disposable Kodak camera to snap this picture of the Eiffel Tower.

It’s a terrible picture, but such a wonderful memory.

xoxo, Jane