Tuesday Paris Reading Rec: WITHOUT RESERVATIONS

If you know Alice Steinbach, it's likely because you live or lived in Baltimore (where she was a longtime Sun columnist), or were once assigned her essay, "The Miss Dennis School of Writing," in school once upon a time. But please get to know her via her other work as well, especially her later travel books, starting with WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (2000).

Its premise is the stuff of gray Tuesday morning dreams: her sons are grown and graduated, their father by now her longtime ex-husband. Her career has gone swimmingly (including a Pulitzer), but still, she wonders: what now?

 Among the many things Steinbach is entirely right about: hotel room first impressions.

Among the many things Steinbach is entirely right about: hotel room first impressions.

This book, which charts her peripatetic, no-rush, better-part-of-a-year trip through France, England and Italy. So yes, this isn't purely a Paris book--but the Paris section is purely delightful. What's so wonderful--and so rare--about this Paris memoir is the time it takes to take in everything going on around her. It's restful, even languorous, and the ease with which friends new and old come and go from her travels (and the text) is almost enviable. 

Do pick up this book. Don't give it to a close friend or family member, though, unless you're willing to risk having them hop the next Air France flight to CDG.