Un tapis Smyrne (Smyrna carpet) in a Parisian stairwell

One of the most important elements of a Beauty and the Beast story is the rose that sets off the whole tale. And then of course there are the enchanted gardens.

So what do you do when your Beauty and the Beast retelling takes place in a typical 19th -century Parisian apartment building, mostly in the dead of winter, in a moment of history when gardens weren’t exactly a priority and public parks were often used as grazing grounds for the city’s stock of edible animals?

For Hearts at Dawn, my Beauty and the Beast retelling, I decided to use…


June 17, 2021

Imagine air so cold it takes the feeling from your fingertips. This is the kind of weather that always comes to mind when I think of Paris’s history museum, le musée Carnavalet.

When I was a student here in Paris, a friend and I often used to stroll around the beautiful Marais neighborhood. When we got cold in winter, the musée Carnavalet was a warm refuge for us. The seemingly endless permanent collection rooms were heated and free, and full of amazing, often very strange objects.

Housed in two old hôtels particuliers (mansions built in the 16th…


Which one of these two delicious treats was almost impossible to find during the Siege of Paris?

Here in France, the 1870–1871 Siege of Paris by the Prussians is largely forgotten — except for one thing: On a mangé du rat — “We ate rat.”

The Siege is notorious for the culinary boundaries it led starving Parisians to cross. But when you look into it a little deeper, you realize that it wasn’t just rat for lunch and some animal from the zoo for dinner.

Learning about what most Parisians ate during the four months of the Siege was a fascinating and unexpectedly touching experience for me. Instead of being an initiation to all the different kinds…


This morning, two unusual things happened:

1. My son woke up for school on his own, meaning I didn’t have to play the bad guy (I hate waking people up — sleep is a good thing!).

2. I received a message from Amazon that informed me that my novel Hearts at Dawn is now live!

So, bascially, a great way to start the morning, especially for a non-morning person like myself.

I went to bed the way I had been all my life and woke up…well, pretty much the same, only now there is a page on Amazon with my…


Montmartre is the same, but it’s harder to climb the stairs with a mask. I stop to catch my breath.

The whole city is holding its breath since yesterday.

What will they make us do tonight? What will end, shut down? What will be salvaged?

The owner of a fabric shop in the Marché St. Pierre is surprisingly optimistic: “Maybe it will only be a weekend quarantine.” I thought we were well past that. But like her, for a moment, I nod and hold my breath.

The once tourist-choked streets aren’t as crowded now. Some families leisurely stroll and enjoy…


Some surprising lessons from three old friends.

A few months ago, I posted about a book-induced existential crisis I was experiencing. After having read a few of my favorite book blogger, Sally Allen’s, recent posts, as well as having turned to a page of a delightful free downloadable fill-in journal by artist Adam J. Kurtz that asked me (well, whoever is filling in the journal) the title of ten favorite books, I was at a loss.

I know my favorite book — that would be A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. For me, that book was literally love at…


Reading a book is supposed to transport you. But can reading about reading books do the same? I would have said yes before, but now I’m proof: Three book-related things I’ve read recently have made me embark on a journey.

It all started back in December, when my favorite book blogger Sally Allen posted about a holiday read-a-thon she was participating in. The read-a-thon asked participants a few book-related questions, which Sally posted. And while I loved reading her answers, the post left me feeling uneasy because I couldn’t answer most of them, myself.

Like Sally, I’m a bibliophile. Reading…


Image source

“I’ve got some bad news. Your mother’s being held hostage.”

Hearing something like that, most people might gasp or react in an alarmed manner. But knowing my mother like I did, I wasn’t overly surprised.

I hadn’t talked to my parents in weeks, because of the snails, mostly.

Whenever my life gets too stressful, I cook. I’ve made some pretty challenging dishes in my time, and a few weeks ago (or maybe it was months by now) I decided it would be interesting to try to make escargot.

I started by gathering snails. With all the forests around here, and…


What’s true in an unreal time?

Last week, my five-year-old son discovered the question mark.

He’d seen it before, mixed in among the colorful letters, numbers, and assorted pieces of punctuation in the set of magnets we’d bought him years ago. But on this particular day, he decided to spell out his name and then finish with a decorative flourish, this charming curve with a dot at the bottom that seems almost silly, like an afterthought.

When he proudly showed me his work, I laughed and told him how that single symbol made the fact of his name questionable. He…


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Several years ago, on the now defunct, forever beloved blogging platform Open Salon, I wrote a post called “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had to Do.” The hardest thing in question? Waiting on line for nearly twelve hours in order to get the documentation I needed to be able to stay in France. By the end of it, I had black and blues around my knees, troubling memories of other people who’d waited as long or longer but weren’t as lucky, and a new hardness to me.

Recently, I was thinking about this post. The funny thing is, I realize…

Alysa Salzberg

is a writer & worrier. She lives in Paris with an eccentric Frenchman & a delightfully weird little boy. Besides them, she loves books, history, & cookies.

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