October 15, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn
Nonfiction/Travel Memoir
2014 Sourcebooks, Inc.
Finished on August 13, 2014
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

How her daughter and her passport taught Jennifer to live like there’s no tomorrow.

Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. So she decides to save up and drop everything to travel with her daughter, Katie, on a whirlwind European adventure before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, Jennifer is determined to jam her daughter’s mental photo album with memories—just in case.

From the cafés of Paris to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Jennifer and Katie take on Europe one city at a time, united by their desire to see the world and spend precious time together. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped vanquish her fear of dying… for the sake of living.

When my daughter was 10, I took her to London for two weeks while my husband stayed home and slaved over a hot computer (his choice, mind you). I’ll never forget one of my girlfriends remarking on how brave I was to travel overseas by myself with a fairly young child. It never occurred to me to be afraid. And, it wasn’t as if I was going to be completely alone. At the time, one of my best friends was living in London and not only did she and her son join us on several excursions in and around London, but she also supplied me with all the pertinent information I needed in order to travel by bus and train to see Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury, Windsor and Hampton Court Palace when she wasn’t able to accompany us. We did just fine and it was truly a lovely and memorable holiday.

(Squinting in the hot sun!)

Two years later, after receiving a small inheritance from my grandmother (who adored traveling just as much as I do), I asked Amy to pick another destination for a Mother-Daughter adventure. We had already gone skiing in Breckenridge and spent a long (albeit chilly!) weekend shopping, playing tennis and lounging by the pool at the Hyatt Regency in in Scottsdale, so I was curious to see what she would pick for our next getaway. A fashionista in the making, she chose New York City! And again, a friend exclaimed that I was “so brave!” to travel to the Big Apple without my husband, let alone with my 12-year-old daughter. I wasn’t worried. I have a great sense of direction (as does Amy), our destination didn’t require learning a new language, and we didn’t have to worry about looking the opposite direction while crossing the street. How dangerous could it be? It turned out to be another wonderful vacation filled with 10 days of sightseeing, museums, shopping, Broadway shows, fine dining, long walks (from the Guggenheim Museum down to Battery Park), and pampering in a beautiful hotel. We both had a blast!

So when I came across Coburn’s memoir in the travel section at Barnes & Noble, I was immediately drawn to the colorful cover art (as well as the subtitle), and decided it was not only the perfect choice for the Paris in July reading challenge, but one which would also appeal to my insatiable wanderlust. Amy spent some time in Paris while studying Fashion Merchandising at TCU, but I have never been. Last year, I devoured Paris in Love by Eloisa James and was looking forward to another book filled with travel anecdotes, as well as one that could provide me with specific recommendations for restaurants and hotel accommodations. While not terrible, We’ll Always Have Paris was nowhere near as good as Eloisa James’ memoir and I wound up with far less than half the Post-It Notes marking pages of beautiful passages or travel information for future reference. While both writers delve into their personal histories, sharing their thoughts on death and struggles with grief, James’ writing is tender and lyrical with a fine balance of humor thrown in, while Coburn’s is flat and, at times, whiney. I was surprised, the further I read, that Coburn’s book not only includes her trip to Paris and London in 2005, but also Italy in 2008, Spain in 2011, and Amsterdam and Paris in 2013. This, along with alternating narratives about her parents and her childhood may have been a bit ambitious for one book; the travel segments are glossed over and the transitions between narratives are anything but smooth.

Final Thoughts:

A fairly quick read, but not worth owning. If you must, get it from your local library. Or better yet, get a copy of Paris in Love by Eloisa James. That one’s a winner!


  1. Your friend must not be very daring! I traveled to France with a 5 year old by myself and had no issues. Too bad the book was a disappointment.

    1. I really felt quite safe in London (loved the ease of traveling on the Tube!) and NYC was comfortable, too. Of course, we stayed away from the seedy areas and didn't walk down any dark streets at night! Amy's quite the seasoned traveler, now. She's been to Italy, France, Germany, England, Ireland, Mexico, and she's about to head to China for two weeks (on business). I'm a bit envious. :)

  2. Loved reading about your travels, Les! Will skip the book though...

    1. Thanks, JoAnn. It was fun going back through my albums and re-living our adventures. I'd forgotten how hot it was when we went out to Stonehenge, Salisbury & Bath! It was late May/early June and unusually hot. I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't get very close to Stonehedge, as they now have it roped off from quite a distance. It was still very cool to see, especially having just read Sarum.

      Yes, skip the book. There are so many other wonderful travel memoirs. I'm working on a review for Paris Letters, which I adored!

  3. I love, love, love traveling with my girls! However, I didn't travel with them until they were adults. What special bonding times (and memories) for you two!

    1. I would love to do more traveling with her now that she's an adult. She's a much more seasoned traveler, especially overseas!


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