Book: The Coral Thief

I just finished reading The Coral Thief. I’m not entirely sure how to classify this book. It’s not a thriller, it’s not just historical fiction, and it’s certainly not a mystery or even a love story. Well… it is a love story of a kind in which the author clearly loves Paris.

The plot is fairly simple: boy meets woman on a stagecoach, woman robs boy, boy falls in love with woman. The rest is fairly boilerplate and would be a dull slog if not for the fact that the writing is compelling, the characters at times rise above average, and the historical setting of post-Napoleon Paris is enchanting. At times the characters are cliché – the tough French inspector (Javert apparently), the mysterious stranger, the ex-royal now turned thief, etc. You’ve seen these characters before. But the story holds together for all that as it’s stitched with lovely images of Paris before the Paris you know now. You will still know the Marais, but now instead of a tourist-thronged mess it was a warren of thieves and beggars. You will be amazed to hear of people washing clothing in the Seine.

I recommend seeing “Midnight in Paris” before reading this book. It will help set the right tone.

I miss Paris.


Jean Cocteau met Serge Diaghilev in 1909 and illustrated the poster for the Ballets Russes production of “Le Spectre de la Rose” at Paris’s Théatre du Chatelet in 1911.

via NYTimes

Le Grand Pan

I posted a review on Yelp as well.

Absolutely lovely restaurant! I’d give it 5 stars if it weren’t located in the middle of nowhere (okay, the 15th).

Friendly staff greeted me for lunch, seated promptly. My friend was running very late to lunch and the host brought me a nice glass of dry white wine to sip on while I waited. They serve wine “tonnelet” here which apparently means from the cask, i.e. not-bottled. This makes for some tasty and inexpensive wine.

For the entree I had poached eggs in a lovely cream sauce covered with shaved truffles. I love poached eggs and I love truffles and this dish was perfect.

And then we moved on to the bouef blond d’Aquitaine which is served for two people. The waitress helpfully pointed out I could have my side saignant (rare) and my buddy could have his a point (medium rare). And the meat was great. And the handcut fries were great.

When I am stuck in the 15th, this is my new favorite restaurant. And in fact I’ll go out of my way to get back.

Thank you until the next time

God what a run we had!

We are on our way to Iceland for a short decompression before we go home. What a hell of an adventure!!! We left Seattle on October 19th 2007 a whopping 1223 days ago. We intended to spend a year or two in Zurich. Instead we spent less than a year there and now over two years in Paris. I look back on my post from our first day in Zurich and just think how amazingly hard that move was, how different landing in a strange world for us, and how well everyone adapted and even thrived. When we moved the kids were still little boys; now as we return neither boy could be called little. Susan earned her Master’s Degree while in Europe. Some of us failed spectacularly in learning German or French but hey, better to leave something undone for the next time around.

We have done a lot in our time here. We have skied all over the Alps, we have vacationed in the Calanque, we have visited Italy numerous times. During our time in Zurich we hiked the hills and walked all over that lovely little city. In Paris we have feasted both on food and on the sites and the energy if this amazing, wonderful, stunning city. We have taken weekend trips to London, Dublin, Sardinia, Rome, and the French countryside.

But most of all we have met so many wonderful people. We were welcomed into the communities in which we worked, went to school, and socialized. We have friendships we’ll carry with us wherever we go in this world. And we have learned so much about different cultures and the way people go about living their lives. We could never have done any of this without the friends we’ve made. So for everyone we have met and who helped us through this journey, thank you so much. And to all the friends and family back home who cheered us on, supported us from afar, dealt with weepy Skype calls at odd hours, we love you all and will see you soon.

Some photos here, they can never capture the entirety.

With much love,

Susan, Paul, Liam, and Kellen

Ah, my favorite French dish, cassoulet. This version is meatier than I tend to make but very good. Paired with a lovely house red (bio/organic) it’s an ideal lunch.

Rabbit rillette at Waknine


I really enjoyed the food and service at Waknine. The atmosphere might normally be very congenial but today our table was impacted by two people having a very loud, almost aggressive conversation next to us. The next time people complain about loud Americans I will respond about very loud French businessmen. Wow.

But let’s talk about Waknine and assume the tables aren’t always like this…. we were seated on this rainy day promptly and ordered drinks. I had a glass of the red wine of the month and it was surprisingly nice. Often I think the wine of the month is what’s left over from last month but at Waknine it was really perfect for lunch. I was remiss in not writing it down though.

For entrees I had the house-made rabbit rillette (more or less pate). And it was good, very good. Often rabbit terrine has an odd flavor, my wife calls it cat food. But this had a nice texture well mixed with spices and my wife liked it and thought maybe it had a hint of ginger. This plate came with a small salad of field greens.

For the main course I had lamb and my wife had the scallops. Both plates were pretty to look at, well-designed but without being too fussy. The lamb was nicely cooked rose. The lamb was served with fried carrots which I loved, a welcome change from normal potatoes.

For lunch for two it was a little spendy (92 euro for 2 entree, 2 plats, 3 glasses of wine, 2 coffees) but I would definitely go back.

I cross-posted this review to Yelp as well.