From Here You Can't See Paris

Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant

From Here,You Can't See Paris is a sweet, leisurely exploration of the life of Les Arques (population 159), a hilltop village in a remote corner of France untouched by the modern era. It is a story of a dying village's struggle to survive, of a dead artist whose legacy began its rebirth, and of chef Jacques Ratier and his wife, NoŽlle, whose bustling restaurant -- the village's sole business -- has helped ensure Les Arques's future.

I set out to explore the inner workings of a French restaurant kitchen but ended up stumbling into a much richer world. Through the eyes of the whole family, one discovers the vibrant traditions of food, cooking, and rural living, and comes to know the village's history. Whether uncovering the darker secrets of making foie gras, hearing a chef confess his doubts about the Michelin star system, or absorbing the lore of the land around a farmhouse kitchen table after a boar hunt, life in Les Arques turned out to be anything but sleepy.

Praise for From Here, You Can't See Paris

"Sanders renders the restaurant's workday as cannily as he does the village's moments of abrupt dislocation from the present, when the air suddenly seems to hold a thousand years of history in it. A good and leathery year abroad, an honest and deeply enjoyed experience that avoids skimming off only the fruity bonbons while neglecting the ruck of daily life."

--Kirkus Reviews

"From Here, You Can't See Paris is a wonderful book that captures rural France."

--Portland Oregonian

"A mouthwatering story."

--Dallas Morning News

"Sanders' account is so lovely, and Les Arques so sensuous and ripe with magic."

--Publishers Weekly

"A delightful, sympathetic, and revealing journey into the heart and stomach of the new provincial France. More enjoyable and instructive than a recipe book or a travel guide."

--Theodore Zeldin, author of The French

"From Here, You Can't See Paris is a delightful tale of how an American discover le pays, the little France where the roads on the Michelin map are the thinnest of lines. It is the story of a young couple's restaurant and the ancient French village that it brings back to life. Rather than idealize what he sees, Michael Sanders' report is all the more remarkable for its clear-eyed honesty."

--Patrick Kuh, author of The Last Days of Haute Cuisine

"Michael Sanders provides a truly intimate, in-depth, and eloquent portrait of rural life in a beautiful part of southern France. Rather than the familiar rosy sentimentalism that characterizes many other books in this genre, his caring and warm admiration for the villagers of the Masse and Lot valleys and his understanding of their arduous lives and time-honed skills adds a refreshing dimension of authenticity to this intriguing and evocative work."

--David Yeadon, author of Backroad Journeys of Southern Europe

"Michael Sanders, in his extraordinary tale, has weaved a complex, rich textural tapestry of everyday life in the Lot that is honest, funny, and endearing. I have a summer home there and it all rings true to me. He writes with warmth and affection as well as precise, keen observation. This is a book for anyone who loves France or wants to travel there."

--Ken Hom, BBC-TV presenter and author



All material ©2005 Michael S. Sanders