*The giveaway is now closed.
I’m delighted to welcome Christina Henry de Tessan, author of the new book Forever Paris, 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, Molière, and More as a guest on FTRB today!
The Ones Who Got Away
One of the most difficult parts of creating my new book Forever Paris was figuring out who to include. Not for lack of choice but for the very opposite reason: out of the hundreds to choose from, how do you determine the most influential figures who have called Paris home? So I came up with some perameters, threw myself into my research, and fine-tuned, massaged and tinkered until I thought I had a reasonably representative group of trendsetters and tastemakers in whose footsteps you could follow. Ultimately, I was after people who were definitively changed by the city, not just those who passed through town for a few brief months of late nights in cafes. But to work with my walks format, they also had to go out to places, see and be seen, interact with the city itself.
Because of these self-imposed limitations, there were some fascinating figures that didn’t make the cut. Gertrude Stein, for instance, seemed at the outset like an obvious addition. Although she was less influential as a writer than she may have liked, she was the beating heart of the expat scene during Paris’s golden age. She was instrumental in connecting people whose lives were changed as a result of meeting in her living room. Picasso and Matisse owed their lifelong rivalry-friendship to Stein, and she introduced Hemingway to Ezra Pound, among others. Her literary salon is the stuff of legend, and writers continue to flock to Paris in hopes of recreating that particular magic. The trouble was she didn’t seem to get out much. Much as I wanted to include her in the book, the quintessential destination in Gertrude Stein’s life was her own extraordinary living room, and there was no hope of getting a walk of out that.
Jean Moulin was another fascinating figure who was eventually omitted. As a World War II resistance fighter, he played a crucial role in uniting the numerous resistance factions in France into a single effective force. There’s an entire museum dedicated to his endeavors on the roof of the train station at Montparnasse. But the trouble was that he lived his life in hiding, so other than the museum, there was no place to visit on a walk.
Finally, it boiled down to this: I wanted to convey the sheer, staggering breadth of Paris’s influence. Few can lay claim to changing the course of fashion, literature, art, politics, food, and history the way Paris can. To make that point, I had to limit my choices to a few leaders in each field. I tried to focus on the ones whose influence was palpable in some way. Whose sources of inspiration are still visible on the city streets today? Whose influence can be tasted, observed, and felt? That’s how I got down to 25. Whose footsteps would you have liked to walk in and why?
Christina Henry de Tessan is the editor-at-large of the City Walks series, and the author of several travel books and decks on cities including Paris, London, and New York. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
For your chance to win a copy of Forever Paris, just leave a comment on this post. A comment will be drawn at random one week from today. Good luck! Sorry but US residents only.