For the last decade, I’ve had a summer job in the heart of Paris. This year, of course, is different. I miss Paris as I would an old friend. Reading The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs, by Elaine Sciolino, helped me feel like I was there.
Sciolino is the former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times. She’s lived in Paris for nearly twenty years, first in the elegant 7th Arrondissement and now in the much more working-class 9th. When I start my summer job, I try to arrive a few days early to get over my jet lag before plunging right in. Twice, I stayed in Sciolino’s neighborhood to spend time in a different part of the city before I was basically tethered to the area around the Luxembourg Gardens. But I don’t think I spent much time on the Rue des Martyrs. I’ll remedy that on my next visit. In fact, I feel like I already know the street and its colorful residents, thanks to this book.
Sciolino figuratively walks the reader up the street, and I followed along, checking out each address on Google’s Street View. Yes, indeed, there is her cheese shop, and here’s where she likes to go for coffee. Yes, the vintage advertising murals really are there. Here is the fabulous designer second-hand boutique where she shopped for bargains with Arianna Huffington. We finish our journey at the restaurant where Sciolino threw a party to celebrate the people and street that she loves.
Part memoir, part history book, part travelogue, part human-interest, and part comedy, Sciolino conveys deep respect for those in her neighborhood. It’s no wonder that they took her into their hearts and loved her right back. If you, too, have a Paris-shaped itch, this book will help to scratch it.