What do you do when your great life-plan works out, and you're still unhappy?
Successful, but on the verge of burnout, Janice MacLeod saved enough money to buy herself two years of freedom in Europe. Days into her stop in Paris, she met Christophe, and her fate was sealed. Forced to find a way to fund her expat future, Janice created a painted letter subscription service, sending out thousands of letters to people who are hungry to receive something beautiful.
Paris Letters is the inspiring story of a woman who dared to discover a life she could love.
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About the Author
Janice Macleod creates letters about Paris, paints them, personalises them, and sends out monthly to adoring fans. She is married to Christophe, and for now they call the City of Love home.
Janice MacLeod is the artist behind Paris Letters. She creates letters about Paris, paints them, personalises them and sends them out monthly to adoring fans. After years as an advertising copywriter, she devised a strategy to finance her own sabbatical. Once she met her financial goal, quit her job and reduced her belongings to one suitcase, she travelled around the world. Along the way, she painted letters and mailed them to friends. Enamoured with this unique medium, she opened an online shop and has since sent letters to thousands of people around the globe. During her travels, she met Christophe Lik. They now travel together and live in Canada. The travel memoir of her journey, also named Paris Letters, is a New York Times best seller. This is her third book.
Read an Excerpt
We Met at a Café in Paris
"I'm in love with the butcher," I told Summer. We were sitting outside Shakespeare & Company, an English bookstore on the Left Bank, just beyond the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
"That was fast. I thought you were vegan?"
"I was. I am. But I'm in Paris."
Paris, it seems, was the beginning of letting go of who I was and grabbing hold of who I was to become. It was the spring of 2011. I had recently left my job and my life in Los Angeles and booked three months to traipse around Europe. Six weeks in Paris, three weeks in the United Kingdom, the rest in Italy.
"Is he in love with you too?" she asked.
"We haven't spoken." I hesitated. "But the other day when I ordered my coffee at the café across from his shop, we locked eyes. Yesterday, when I walked by, I said Bonjour and he said Bonjour back. And this morning, I said the same and he replied with Bonjour, mademoiselle."
"Progress!" She laughed and slapped my shoulder like she was my oldest and dearest friend, instead of what she really was, someone I met at the airport baggage claim at Charles de Gaulle a few days before. Summer had approached me and asked if I'd ever taken the train to the city center. I said I hadn't but I was going to figure it out. She grabbed her bag off the belt and said she'd follow me. After an hour on the train, we had decided to spend a few days navigating our way around Paris together during the week she was here. Paris was a big town, and it would be nice to have someone with whom I could get my bearings.
She had a loud, raspy roughness about her that made me wince, but even the ones you don't like, you like better in Paris. When you travel, you release the usual hang-ups because you need to cling together in the face of a foreign culture. Making friends on the road is a mix of sympathy and surrender. This friend looked like she had always been on the Blond Ambition Tour. Her long blond extensions fell perfectly down her back, her big blue eyes were topped with long eyelash extensions, and her lip gloss glistened in the warm spring sunshine.
"Why don't you talk to him?" she asked as we perused les livres on the sales rack outside the bookstore. She wanted to buy a book and get it stamped with the bookstore's famous logo as a souvenir.
"No way. What if he speaks French back? If he said more than ‘Bonjour, mademoiselle' to me, I'd stare back with my tongue in knots." I was required to take French in elementary school and high school in Canada, but I spoke French to other English-speaking students and we only read what was in our livre. Here in France, they could say anything, and I was not prepared for anything.
"What does he look like?" She was flipping through a French cookbook.
My butcher boyfriend bore a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig. He had light brown hair and the blue eyes of mystics and madmen. His striped shirt was rolled up past his elbows, revealing the beginning of a tattoo. Each morning, he would lift a spit of chickens from the top of the rotisserie and lean it against the table. He slid them off one by one with a long fork, piling them in a pyramid on the warmer. He and his sexy jeans would then bend down to stir up the potatoes that were roasting in drippings at the bottom of the oven. When that was done, he would stand up, lean against the wall, look my way, and smile.
I felt steam.
"So do I," Summer said, fanning herself. "Where is this café?"
It was on rue Mouffetard, the city's oldest market street. From there, I could watch the parade of people and pooches picking up morsels from each shop along the cobblestone street. In one direction, I spotted two wine shops, two fish shops, and a fruit market. In the other direction, two bakeries, two bistros, and another fruit market. And directly across from me, a butcher shop featuring a blue-eyed James Bond.
"I can't talk to him," I said. "I could hardly even order a coffee in French."
• • •
On my first morning at the café, the waiter came by to take my order.
"Café latte, s'il vous plaît," I sputtered.
"Café crème," he corrected.
I nodded and blushed. This would be my first of thousands of linguistic corrections in Paris. A café latte is about the same as a café crème, but this isn't Italy or Starbucks. Steve Martin once joked that the French have a different word for everything. And here, it's not latte. It's crème.
Sitting with my crème, I pulled out my journal to write. It was March 2011, and I had been keeping a daily journal for the last fourteen months. But on this day, for the first time, I had nothing to write.
I looked up at the butcher. He looked over at me.
I blushed. He did not.
I picked up my pen and began:
Dear Monsieur Boucher,
I wish I could speak French.
I would ask you many questions. How did you come to stand outside la boucherie all day selling chickens? Do your feet get tired? Your back? Your arms? How do you keep your mind occupied? How do you feel about everyone walking along and you staying in one spot? When you look down at your phone, are you looking for a text from a girl? Where do you go at the end of the day? Are you going to meet her? Has anyone ever told you that you look like Daniel Craig?
I imagine that you follow a sports team passionately and that the friends you have are friends you've had for life. I imagine they are good people. You seem like a good person.
I watch you smile at children. You lean down to hear little old ladies. You shake hands with men. You check me out.
I wish you could sit with me here at the café. You would speak French. I would speak English. We would not understand each other, but we would grin and offer up sheepish smiles.
We could take a lifetime to piece together a conversation. It would be nice.
Bonsoir, mon ami mystérieux,
"You wrote the butcher a letter?" said Summer. We were squeezing our way through the crowded bookstore. "Did you give it to him?"
I shook my head. Instead of giving him the letter, I had tucked it into my purse, paid for my coffee, and struck out for the day.
"Give it to him. You could score two weeks of kisses along the Seine!" she said. "Isn't that what you're here for? That's why I'm here. I'd love a little French romance on my Parisian adventure."
My plan here in Paris sounded lame by comparison. I was here to take pretty photos for my blog and to warm up my language skills. Three days in, I was able to order my crème with my waiter and say Bonjour to the butcher. Progress? I sighed. "We don't even speak the same language. It would end like it always ends."
"Or not," she said.
I hadn't considered that option before. That it could not end. I thought of my letter. I didn't know at the time that the letter full of questions for the butcher would lead to a lot of answers.
Books were piled to the rafters and in messy stacks along the stairs. Some were new, most were Gently Used, according to the sticker on the bindings. Sometimes, you could even pick up an old book and discover that it had been signed by the author to George Whitman, the original owner of the store.
George found himself in Paris after World War II. He hadn't been too eager to return to America, so he enrolled at the Sorbonne University to study French. During his studies, he had amassed a rather large collection of English books. If you've ever studied language in a foreign country, you know that you should immerse yourself fully and turn away from your mother tongue in order to get the new language to stick in your head. But what often happens is that you become even more eager to read books in your own language, find friends of your own language, and do all you can to rest your brain from the mental pushups of learning the new language. Eventually, George had amassed so many English books that he decided to open an English bookstore. He soon expanded to digs on the bank of the Seine where it sits today, welcoming rebelling French language students and English writers for over fifty years.
Summer bought a book about the history of burlesque in Paris. I thought back to the butcher and bought a French-English dictionary.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a non-fiction memoir that reads better than a contemporary romance. Janice Macleod ( insert "Highlander" reference here), burnt-out high end LA copywriter, figured out how to leave her job and do what she loves: traveling. After a year of scrimping, saving, downsizing and giving up "stuff", she's doubled her one year monetary goals, boarded a plane, and off she goes into her dream adventures. And straight into the arms of a French Delicatessian worker. Talk about changing your life! He proposes they share living space, they share lives. And when the money becomes tight, she figures out just how to.live where she loves, with who she loves doing what she loves. And then tells us how she did it
I read a lot of books about Paris. The place is really high on my bucket list. This one is all the more enjoyable because it's a true story; it makes one think that anyone can save money, quit their job, and go on an extended vacation that ends up being a new life.
This is a book about finding your bliss, creating a more enjoyable life and living your dreams. It has wonderful descriptions of landmarks in Paris. Their is a bit of romance too. Loved it!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. MacLeod is a talented and interesting writer and although I have not seen her drawings, it seems like she is a talented artist as well. (My eBook would not display the pages with the letter drawings, so I have decided to buy the actual book, I liked it that well.) “Paris Letters” to me had the same feel as Peter Mayle’s books about his life in Provence. MacLeod’s “Paris Letters” didn’t read like a blog but a very real and interesting story of her life after taking the plunge of quitting her job and traveling. It’s a true story and how many would have the courage and nerve to do that. If you enjoy reading interesting stories about real people, you will love this book. (I received the eBook for a limited time from NetGallery for my truthful opinion.) I loved it and hope she writes more!
Loved this book! So sweet, the young woman who wrote it and the love affair she experienced. So nice that she was able to change her life. My only reasons for granting four not five stars are the typo's and a bit o choppiness because the book emanates from the author's blog.
Enjoyed the story and characters very much.
Delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed this book especially how she learned to live Paris rather than tour it.
I loved the premise of quitting a job and moving to Paris!! Fun read about finding love and a fulfilling life
Janice MacLeod quits her job and moves to Paris. She travels through Europe but falls in love with the butcher in Paris. She tells of how she got there, what happened, how she fell in love, and the red tape to stay there and marry there. This is not a book to read all at once. It should be sipped and read leisurely to truly appreciate it. It was fun to see what she had to do to quit her job and move. I enjoyed her solution to a "job."
A Very Inspiring Story - What I thought about the book: I thought this was a good book. One of the things I liked was how the author decided she wanted to go to Paris and then found a way to do it. She did this by saving or earning $100 a day or tried to anyway. Her ideas for saving made a lot of sense and I wish I had the courage to do what she did. When she want to Paris she had no idea she would find the love of her life and all this while not really being able to speak the language. I thought her idea of letters from Paris was a great idea. I wish I had some of her letters. What I thought about the cover: I really liked this cover as it showed a nice view of Paris. Not just the Eiffel Tower but one of the many bridges and the town itself. I thought the cover was inviting that is one of the reasons I picked the book up.
A charming, enjoyable book to read!
"Love is a disease" on April 9, 2014