Join me for a virtual tour of paris Taking in The locations in my novel, HOTEL DÉJÀ VU.
In 2012 , I fell in love with the 5th arrondissement, The Latin Quarter. I was strictly a Right Bank girl before that, but, on a ‘girls’ trip, I was lucky enough to stay in this area, in a beautiful bed and breakfast on rue de Bièvre, called Maison d’Anne. I will never forget how wonderful it was to arrive at this gorgeous door after a 24 hour flight from Australia. I pressed the intercom and Anne buzzed us up. Waiting for us on the enormous farmhouse dining table (which also features in the novel) was a delicious breakfast of all kinds of bread and pastries, fresh squeezed juice, and COFFEE! My first novel Hotel Deja Vu was born during this two week stay. Below is a picture of the real ‘blue door’ that faces the pretty laneway.
“She could either walk around the block via the quai or through the busy Sunday market to get to the front door, the old carriage entrance that now served as the entry to the house. Deciding to brave the quai rather than the crowded marché, she hesitated in the alleyway, surveying the crowds of people strolling along under the plane trees. Completely forgetting her bed-sheet skirt, she stood staring at the crowded street. Had the war ended overnight? Had the explosion somehow caused the enemy to turn tail and go back east? Confusion gave way to joy as she smiled at the happy people. It was delightful to see Paris as it should be – teeming with tourists and locals enjoying the beautiful city. She tore herself away from the glorious vision and turned towards Rue du Bièvre, and home.”
All roads lead to Montmartre
Rachel’s tour group converged on Montmartre for dinner on their first night in the city. Montmartre is like a magical village perched on top of Paris.
“All roads led to Montmartre that evening. Sunday in Montmartre is magical, and each small group made their way in search of some of that famous magic, and perhaps some champagne. Sam, Ingrid and Paula bumped into Georgia and Judy, chatting and getting to know each other better on the journey. They stopped the taxi near the Pigalle Metro station and went hunting for the gelato store Georgia had raved about. Strolling in the late afternoon heat, licking their ice-creams, Judy spied Wendy and Carole waiting at the Funicular.
‘Yoo hoo,’ Ingrid called, waving her arms around to the delight of the elderly gentleman walking towards them. He hesitated in front of her and smiling, took her hand, kissed it and continued on his way. They all stopped in their tracks and stared after him. Ingrid put the hand up to her heart.
‘Only in Paris, eh?’ Sam said, nodding her head in the direction of the elderly gent.”
“Lying back down on the sofa she opened the text and found herself hoping it was an invitation for dinner but already worried she would be forced to enjoy herself. The guilt brought on by enjoying herself wasn’t worth the effort. It wasn’t an invitation. It wasn’t like any message she had ever received from Marie. It simply read, “Have a lovely day with your American group, my dear friend. Remember to take your umbrella.”
Rachel stared at the unusual text. It was odd and the more Rachel thought about it, the odder it seemed to get. In more than ten years of knowing Marie, she had never given her a weather report, nor shown anything other than cursory interest in her groups. She stared at the screen. It was kind of her friend to wish her a happy day…
‘What are you up to?’ she said out loud, staring at the phone.”
The Champ de Mars is the location for the picnic in the (almost) last chapter of the book. The true last chapter of the book gives Paula a chance to make everything right…
“The group walked under the trees catching little glimpses of the Eiffel tower through the lush green foliage. Emerging into the bright sunlight they stood and watched some tourists playing Boules. No one seemed to know the rules and they had already lost the jack, so they simply bowled the balls from one end of the open space to the other between sips of wine directly from the bottle. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. Alex and Sara stood under the trees ahead waving to the group.
When they caught up, Rachel handed the basket to Alex. He bent to kiss her. The group gave a little cheer, then followed the pair through the trees to a long trestle table. It was set with a pale-yellow tablecloth, mismatched white crockery and glasses, and simple wildflower centrepieces.
‘Your picnic awaits,’ Sara said, as Claudine began placing crusty baguettes on the table. Long platters of charcuterie, simple salads and breads, bottles of wine and tall bottles of sparkling water dotted along the table.”
Home in Paris. Karen and Peter were lucky to stay with Agnes’ parents when they first arrived in Paris but eventually they wanted a space of their own…
“Trawling the flea markets all over Paris and taking Jan’s van to brocantes further afield, they managed to furnish the studio in their preferred vintage style. They loved the apartment, relishing the feeling of independence and although Peter missed his passionate food-oriented conversations with Georges, Agnès’ father, neither of them missed the constant mildly intimidating presence of the secretary, who regularly reminded them of their luck at having such generous hosts.”
“One by one, the women emerged from the salon cocoon as beautiful butterflies to stand in front of the photographer. They were awkward at first, but within minutes each lady was smiling and relaxed, striking poses that would make a supermodel proud. Fabien and his team had outdone themselves this time, Rachel told him. He begged her to let him ‘have his way with her’ and winked. She knew he meant he wanted to style her. She winked back but declined, promising that next time, she would let him do whatever he wanted. Fabien loved a bit of innuendo. In fact, innuendo was one of his favorite English words.”
“Sara walked with her mother, topping up champagne and making introductions. Marie typified French elegance even while cooking breakfast or sweeping the foyer and as her eyes finally arrived on Paula, she blanched visibly.
‘The car will arrive in five minutes, perhaps everyone should finish preparing for the evening?’ Marie spoke to the room, but everyone knew the comment was meant for Paula.
‘Well, I’m ready. This ensemble is a la mode, very in, according to my personal shopper at Galeries Lafayette,’ Paula said sweetly, looking Marie directly in the eye.
Smiling her most charming smile, Marie shook her head ever so slightly. ‘Yes, it is very in at the moment, for the young girls, but not really intended for ‘les femmes d’un certain age.’
Paula feigned shock. ‘Clothes have an age? Betty would disagree! I couldn’t afford clothes like this when I was young. I’m slim and have great boobs that cost a fortune, so why shouldn’t I enjoy them?’
Heads nodded all around and Marie put her hands up in defeat.
The elevator dinged softly, and the doors slid back. Betty emerged in a stunning white pants-suit and black patent stilettos, a huge crystal at her throat and a gold Chanel clutch. Her eyes scanned the room to ensure Janet was there, happy, drink in hand, and she walked forward smiling at Marie, arm outstretched in greeting. Having shaken their host’s hand, she turned and gave Paula a once over while everyone held their breath. ‘Chop, chop, girls,’ she commanded. ‘Paris isn’t going to paint itself red!’”
Versailles is a special place for Rachel. As a tour guide she loves the history and grandeur of the chateau but it is bittersweet for her after Alex… and before… has she met him before in this life, or another?
Heat was radiating from the cobblestones by the time they reached Versailles and it wasn’t even nine. Emotions were running as high as the temperatures as the tired, mostly hungover group reached the entrance, all trying to push through to get out of the sunlight. Recent terrorist activity had tightened security at Versailles, restricted vehicular access to the palace forcing the over-dressed party to sweat their way to the cool of the security check point.
‘Can we get a cold drink before we start, Rach?’ Georgia begged, to a chorus of nodding heads and groans of agreement.
‘We will be starting our visit to the Chateau de Versailles with morning tea at Ore, the Ducasse restaurant,’ Rachel said to the relieved group, who obediently followed her to the gloriously cool space.
Rachel made sure everyone was seated and had ordered and then sat quietly to one side and took out her phone. As usual for this stage of the tour, the conversation was subdued and many of the women were deep in thought. Paula was standing at the bar with an espresso and after drinking it, tucked her headphones in her ears and left the restaurant without looking back. Rachel sighed. The phone buzzed in her hand, startling her.
It was a text from Wendy. ‘Can we have a chat about coming back to Paris?’
Rachel’s head snapped up and she found Wendy in the busy dining room. Wendy smiled and tapped her watch. Rachel nodded. She knew exactly what Wendy wanted to talk about.
Dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant on the eiffel tower.
“As they made their way to the elevators, Judy stopped to look out over Paris as the silent tears slid down her cheeks, but she smiled regardless. To be standing here on the Eiffel Tower, on her fiftieth birthday, dressed to the nines with her daughter, dinner at the world-famous Jules Verne restaurant. It was a real bucket-list moment. As tactless as Paula could be, Judy had found Wendy’s poise inspirational. If she could handle that conversation with such dignity surely Judy could handle a thoughtless text from Grant. Pulling a tissue from her clutch she daintily dabbed the tears while her daughter mocked her, mimicking the dainty hand movements. They both burst into laughter, the wind plucking the tissue from her hand, it disappeared into the inky black Paris night.
‘See mum, Paris is telling you that you don’t need to cry anymore!’ Georgia said hugging her mother. Judy pushed her now windswept hair behind her ear.”
Traditional dinner in a cute bistro
Based on a tiny restaurant I visited in 1994, the ladies eat at a traditional family-run restaurant opposite the University.
“The restaurant glowed like a welcoming farmhouse. It was tucked away near the university, between a green-grocer and a tiny wine shop that was like something out of a Harry Potter book. A lone figure stood outside the restaurant looking down at her phone. Paula. Sara had told her she would be missed if she didn’t attend the dinner but had completely left it up to her to get there. The little bit of tough love had worked, and she smiled a thin-lipped smile as she looked up to see the group approaching. Rachel empathised with how hard it would be to show her face with the group again, but Paula’s resilience and strength had shown through. Or it could have been a complete lack of self-awareness. Teflon Paula, Rachel thought, as the group welcomed her with hugs.
The brothers Milo and Pierre welcomed the group to take their seats, both making a great show of their affection for Rachel, her face blushing crimson as they both dropped to one knee to propose, a playful fight broke out when she placed both gaudy, plastic rings on her finger. Marie and her husband Gerard appeared at the door.
The food arrived immediately as a set menu paired with wines was to be served. Conversation and wine flowed, smiles and cameras flashed. The night went by in a whirl with the two brothers flirting and singing, pouring wine and serving at table, their love for their restaurant obvious. The night was winding down and half the group wished to go dancing, the other half wished to go to bed, Milo offering to join those who wanted to dance, while Pierre volunteered to join anyone in bed to a laughter and a sea of waving hands.
They began the slow walk back along the quai. ‘A perfect day,’ Rachel said to Marie.”
Reviews and comments about Hotel Deja Vu
And the comment below – A fan of Hotel Deja Vu commenting on my second novel, Alia Henry and the Ghost Writer.
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