Paris Postcards: Short Stories by Guy Thomas Hibbert

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Paris Postcards: Short Stories by Guy Thomas Hibbert
Looking for a Paris-inspired summer read? We’d like to announce the publication of Paris Postcards, a brand new book by Guy Thomas Hibbert, a journalist and travel writer who serves as Editorial Director of France Media Group, including long-time favorites France Today magazine and BonjourParis.com. Hibbert has lived in France, and traveled extensively across the Hexagon, during the past 20 years. The unique sights, smells and sounds of Paris are the luminous backdrop to these eleven tales, whose colorful characters are lured to the City of Light and Love, like moths to a flame. In a sweeping time-span from the bohemian 1920s and 30s, through the traumatic war years, the new dawn of the 1950s and 60s, right up to current day; these are stories of yearning and longing where hopes and dreams are kindled by the powerful mystique of Paris. Here, for your reading pleasure, we’ve featured a short story excerpt from the book. Enjoy! Purchase Paris Postcards on Amazon here.  Les Bouquinistes Le Marais, present day A good start this morning. Finally got the knack of the rusty key and the weird upwards door handle to lock the apartment! Those stairs are dark and a bit creepy, but the hallway has some exquisite old patterned tiles. There’s a pungent smell of newly mopped wet disinfectant coming from the basement, so I don’t linger inside. The massive wooden blue door clunks shut behind and a bright Paris Spring morning is right here waiting just for me. A skip in my stride. Sparrows are chirruping in the trees and a very old man is strolling along the edge of the pavement. I can smell the sweet yet acrid aroma of his cigarette smoke, his funny little bulldog plods along behind him. Mouth-watering smells of baking as I pass the boulangerie and to a table at my “local” café. Dazzling reflections of polished zinc, aromas of freshly ground coffee masking traffic fumes and Paris drains. My new suede boots, impractical heels I know, but hey I’m walking the streets of Paris (how do these French women walk everywhere in heels?), and my new scarf, Longchamp… over one hundred Euros, ouch, but to die for and I deserve it, right? I feel good. I sip my coffee. I pretend to read Le Figaro. I’m in France. I’m fifty years old, but I feel alive. It’s all going to be OK. That was just this morning, so what changed? It’s like slipping or skating from one kind of consciousness to another. What seemed rock solid now feels fragile. I wanted to see the bouquinistes. You can’t go to Paris and not see the bouquinistes, they said. Even Luke had been to them (without me, on his “business” trip, but was it all business? Ha!) and anyway what does he know of books if they’re not about software and new business paradigms? Maybe I should not have Googled ‘Paris bouquinistes’ before I set off. You know, I think sometimes knowledge gets in the way. I mean, they’ve been here for literally centuries, since before the revolution even. It’s humbling. And it is so picturesque with the quay and the river and their old green stalls and all the book covers and the characters… it’s pure theatre. But thanks to the great God Internet, I had pre-conceptions, and they got in the way of my appreciation. Then I tried to take a picture and the vendor got shirty with me. ‘No photos’ he said, tut-tutting at me. What’s his problem? So then I figured I was just being a cheap tourist and I should put the camera away and just like, take it all in. And you know what? He did me a favour with his “No photos” rule. I relaxed. I loved it. Diane, you would love it too – all these fabulous vintage novels and Vogue covers and old comic book posters. There’s this smell of old paper and musty leather, like the books you once found in your grandpa’s attic. Some of the sellers are real types, they have this haughty attitude, sitting smoking Gauloises and generally ignoring the browsers. And guess what? You know Charlie is studying French literature… well I found an early volume of Proust, part of La Recherche du Temps Perdu, not leather, but a treasure of a hardback with gorgeous marbled inners and gilded edges. Sixty-five euros! Mon dieu! He probably ripped me off but who cares. So, I’m browsing in this one stall. You know how browsing books and vinyl records is one of those things that you do, and you can just lose yourself in it? Anyway, I become aware of this guy glancing at me and he says something like ‘I lurve zee old books’, but with a smoochy French accent of course! What is it with that accent!? Who am I talking to? Diane? Myself? My conscience? But I want to hold this thought for a while because, because he was good looking with his leather coat and his scarf. Only the French men can get away with the scarf like that and seem cool. And he had a kind of quiet, honest confidence, a weathered face and bright eyes. I get my phone out – time to share a moment. Hey all! As you can see, I’m here, it’s me, finalement in Paris. This bridge is called the Petit Pont right next to Notre-Dame. What do you think of my scarf?! Tres chic n’est ce-pas? SEND. My heart feels kind of achy – a disconcerting swell of ambiguous feelings. There’s a light breeze but you wouldn’t call it a breeze, it’s a waft. It seems to be carried by the river. What does it smell like? What would Proust say? Old wet stone, river weed and a touch of marine diesel? No matter, cos the air comes alive just for me, funnelling under the bridges and rippling over the waves. I let it…
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Lead photo credit : Credit © Paris Postcards, Guy Hibbert

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