My 7 Fave Books About Paris

America is my country


Paris is my hometown.

Gertrude Stein

“I don’t like reading!” must be the only chorus my two younger teens agree on. They usually bicker like cat and dog yet form a united front on the topic of books, stubbornly glueing their noses to the computer. If it’s any consolation for a mother, at least, their older brother in college actually values the occasional recommendation, discussing his insights and revelations when we talk on the phone. He says this may simply be a function of age and how the book resonates with his current life journey. I say one out of three kids is not a bad average, yes?

In honor of this blog’s favorite French fan’s birthday, here are  stories set in Paris you’ll want to chill with on or off the beach this summer:

The Flaneur by Edmund White. Because meandering strolls with no particular destination is so very Parisian, observing the everyday theater on the city streets.


Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik (2001): What would it be like to raise children in Paris? An American writer shares his adventures starting a new career and family abroad.


Almost French by Sarah Turnbull.  An Australian’s memoir of her giant leap, moving to Paris and marrying into a different culture.


The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain.  Would you marry a struggling writer much younger than you? Could you be friendly with your husband’s mistress? A story told from the point of view of Hemingway’s first wife.


My Life in France by Julia Child.  How did the student become the master? Julia tells of her move to Paris with her husband before she figured out what she wanted to do when she grows up.



The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. A bookseller helps heal wounded hearts by prescribing the perfect story for them to read, eventually mending his own.


Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. shares her 20 style secrets learned while living in Paris.


Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what’s on your summer reading list.  Stay cool and tres chic!


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Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

A Kiss for Rodin


Like the great sculpture Auguste Rodin, dance and movement inspire me.   Throughout his career, Rodin produced several interpretations full of sensuality or eroticism, seeking to express emotion through muscular movement and saying, “The sculptor must learn to reproduce the surface, which means all that vibrates on the surface: soul, love, passion, life.”   

The passionate love of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta portrayed in Dante’s Divine Comedy was the theme behind Rodin’s The Kiss, a blend of eroticism and idealism in the form of two lovers emerging from the highlights and shadows.  Because he adored nature, Rodin turned to women as his main subject of observation. Depending on the young women who posed for him, he chose postures likely to give her body the most expression.  I love that Rodin’s approach to sculpting women was a tribute to bodies, not just submissive to men but as full partners in ardor.  My photography pays homage to his quote:

 I do not create.  I see.  

And it is because I see that I am capable of making.


My favorite piece in the Musee Rodin in Paris is this small but eloquent La Valse (The Waltz) by Camille Claudel, Rodin’s much younger student, muse and then mistress.  When he left her, she destroyed many of her works and eventually died alone in a psychiatric hospital.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share one good reason why a (talented) woman should lose her head over a man?  Sigh!




© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother



Scene on the Seine

It’s good to do uncomfortable things.

It’s weight training for life.

Ann Lamott

Mark III (my camera) and I are off on another European honeymoon, photographing who and what make us happy.  Friends who have never traveled or dined solo ask, “How do you do it?”  I say it’s my fun version of silent meditation, time to play voyeur–like watching reality TV without the TV, listening in on conversations in a variety of languages I don’t understand.  It’s about curiosity and freedom in solitude.  Even if you don’t travel for work, every mom should leave their adorable cutiepies home at least once a year and give herself the gift to go wherever she wants, wake and sleep when she feels like it, and pay attention to her own pleasures.

First stop, Paris!

With all the walking up and down countless staircases in buildings and metros, gym membership is unnecessary here despite the baguettes, croissants, and frites. Getting lost is the perfect excuse to ask for directions and practice speaking French–I’m just amazed that some locals don’t understand their own language?! 😉  Today I felt like I won the megamillion lottery finding someone off the street who spoke English and knew the train transfers to get me to a little known destination for which I had mapquested the wrong address.

And you know what’s so great about  traveling when it’s still chilly?   Your toes are too numb to feel how much they hurt from all the walking!

Paris Travel by Sharon Birke

What I love to do in this town:

Tear up (or snore) listening to live classical music at the glorious Sainte Chapelle

8 Boulevard du Palais 75001 Paris
01 53 40 60 80

Paris Saint Chapelle by Sharon Birke

Drool over well heeled desserts…

French high heels in chocolate by Sharon Birke

…and chic Pariseinnes!

Paris Travel by Sharon Birke

Dine fancy like

the Cristal Room at the Baccarat Museum

11,Place des Etats Unis

(Ok, this one’s not that close to the Seine)


Gape at the architecture

Notre Dame at night by Sharon Birke

Stroll through the Tuileries and walk for miles and miles


Catch some Louvre

or my favorite is it’s petite neighbor, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs

107 Rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris
01 44 55 57 50

Paris Travel by Sharon Birke

Do a little dance at

Le Caveau de la Huchette for swing dancing with the locals and a live jazz band–it’s a cave of a wine cellar below street level.

5 rue de la Huchette

Barrio Latino for salsa (not next door to the Seine)

46 Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine

Paris Salsa Barrio Latino by Sharon Birke

Travel back in time and read some at Shakespeare & Co. while someone may serenade you on the old piano.

37 Rue de la Bucherie 75005 Paris
01 43 25 40 93

Paris Shakespeare & Co. bookstore by Sharon Birke

Glimpse my future European mansion

Paris Hotel de Sully by Sharon Birke

Stay away from the Eiffel–

except when it glitters at night

and toast it with fresh squeezed orange juice and Salad Chaillot at Cafe du Trocadero.

8 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre 75116 Paris
01 44 05 37 00

The Trocadero is where you get the best view of the Eiffel.

Paris Sightseeing by Sharon Birke

Without the Eiffel, wonder what else might be Paris’ icon?

Paris Vespa by Sharon Birke

Stalk a mystery Frenchman 😉


And pose for a self-portrait

(You know I mean my reflection on the glass window, yes?)

Paris Travel by Sharon Birke

An early Happy April Fool’s and a bientot!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what thrills you in the City of Light.


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


Romance and Fools

Life Is Too Short–So Kiss Slowly,
Laugh Insanely, Love Truly,
And Live With Passion.

Andy Vogt

Paris Romance Portraits by Sharon Birke

If there is truth in Oscar Wilde’s line that men want to be a woman’s first love while women want to be a man’s last romance, where does this leave a woman who discovers she isn’t?  I laughed and cried through If I Were You, a film starring Marcia Gay Harding as a long married woman who serendipitously saves the life and career of her husband’s mistress.  They agree to do what the other says (including pretending that she, too, is having an affair) and they end up starring in a Shakespearean production with Marcia as King Lear and the mistress as the  King’s Fool.

Lear’s Fool is a blend of wit, shrewd innocence, wicked glee, truthful humor and devotion.  It represents our freedom to challenge assumptions we hold dear about justice, the nature of humanity, and the rules of society.  Lear blames everyone and everything for his sorrow (except himself, of course) until he is caught in the middle of a storm stripped and alone.  “Is man no more than this?,” he asks over and over, “Who am I?” then for the first time, places his Fool’s comfort before his own.  Losing everything we hold dear and losing our wits clear the fog of petty pretenses, false virtue, ambition and indifference to what truly matters.

Click on “Leave a Comment” above left to share how you romance your own Fool.


Paris Romance Portraits by Sharon Birke

Paris Romance Portraits by Sharon Birke


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Paris Romance Portraits by Sharon Birke


Where to Stay in Paris: 2 Jewels

There ain’t no surer way to find out

if you like people or hate them

than to travel with them.

Mark Twain

Solo travel is a privilege and an education.  Once or twice a year, I take a “mommy’s vacation”–preferably somewhere I’ve never been before.  This is one of the ways I expand my comfort zone, open my eyes to inspiration and possibilities, and feed my joy.  I take time off from catering to everyone else’s needs, preferences, and opinions and pay attention to my own: when I want to wake up or sleep, where I want to go, what I want to do or not. I love traveling light with just carry on luggage and my own agenda–though “traveling light” is relative with my darling Mark III (aka, camera.)

If you’ve never traveled alone,  what better destination for a first solo expedition than Paris?  Like jewel boxes of delightful surprises, these are two hotels that I would be very happy to return to.  Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add to your favorite places to stay in Paris and other destinations you recommend for easy solo travel.

Hotel Le Notre Dame (1, Quai Saint-Michel 75005 Paris +33 1 43 54 20 43) is a tiny gem updated by Christian Lacroix with a view of–guess what?–the Notre Dame.   Being in the center of the City of Light, there is no quiet moment if you keep your windows open, however, its interiors and view are like no other.  An easy walk to the Latin Quarter, St. Germaine des Pres and the Marais, this hotel let’s you trace the Seine to reach the Louvre and the Tuilleries, too.  On your walk back, stop by another jewel box with stained glass windows, the Saint Chappelle, to experience live classical music in a setting that moves me to tears.  On a rainy day, you can people watch at the brasserie downstairs while enjoying the biggest escargots in town.  The Saint Michel neighborhood is chockfull of restaurants and bars with a hopping nightlife for locals and tourists alike.  The metro and RER B train to/from the airport are right across the street.

In the cozy lobby of Hotel Le Notre Dame…

…Grab a velvet seat for a corner “office on the road” with a view.

Be the master of the stairs (because the elevator is tiny)

Room 31 at Hotel Le Notre Dame

For a more quiet and luxe retreat, Hotel Saint James (43, Avenue Bugeaud 75116  Paris +33 1 44 05 81 81) is the only chateaux hotel in Paris.  Tucked away west of the Arc de Triomphe, its water fountain welcomes you before its charming and elegant staff.   The lobby of bold black and white, velvet furnishings, and vibrant wallpaper throughout the 48 distinctively decorated rooms/suites are a feast for the eyes.  (Tip:  Request a room facing the fountain.)   And what’s not to love about their massage room with gilded mirror and chandelier?  The Champs Elysee and the Eiffel are about 15 minutes on foot.  A few steps outside the hotel’s gate is a metro stop I didn’t investigate, preferring to explore this city mostly walking, bathing in its renowned light.

Hotel St. James Paris by Sharon Birke

The view from Room 306 facing the fountain.

Hotel St. James Paris by Sharon Birke

Hotel St. James Lobby

Hotel St. James Paris by Sharon Birke

Whimsy on the back stairs

Hotel St. James Paris by Sharon Birke

Waiting room at the spa

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


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