Eat, Walk, Write by Boyd Lemon – Book review

The full title of this book by retired lawyer Boyd Lemon is ‘Eat, Walk, Write – An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany’. But even this long title understates the scope of this book. Although most of the action – and I think that is the correct word to use – is in Paris, and to a lesser extent Tuscany, the author also describes his visits to the South-West France, England, Amsterdam, Provence and the Riviera, Brittany, Northern Spain and Portugal.

Book cover
Book cover

This is not a travel guide, although the detailed descriptions he gives of places, people and restaurants – particularly the latter – are highly informative, rather it is a story about someone who sees retirement as a great opportunity. His plans may not always work out  – often they don’t – but he adapts to what happens and is always his own boss in deciding what to do next; the true freedom of retirement.

Initially he planned to spend two years in Paris, learning French during the first few weeks. Unfortunately the French course he enrolled on was not well suited to him and he found, as many have, that Parisians are not very helpful to those learning their language. He decides to concentrate his time on the culture and art of Paris realising that fluency in the language was not an attainable goal: “My difficulty in learning French was hard to take. I had to understand that I was 70, not 16 or 18 or 20. Neither my memory nor my hearing was as good as then.”  My own attempts at learning Hungarian make me very sympathetic to this view!

“Eat, Walk, Write” as a title was chosen carefully by the author in order to sum up his experiences. There’s much detailed information about the restaurants that he visits and the variety of ways that his favourite meat, lamb, can be cooked. There is also useful information for anyone interested in walking around Paris and experiencing the different neighbourhoods “the posh, the working class and the tough (in the daytime)”. The “Write” part of the title refers to Boyd’s interest in developing a writing career in his retirement and indeed this book is well written and very readable.

Les Deux Magots restaurant
Les Deux Magots restaurant

His short visits away from Paris and Tuscany provide interesting insights into how this American views the world, as indicated by the chapter title “Jolly Old England and Daring Old Amsterdam”. He manages somehow to avoid the “greasy food” in England and is very appreciative of free entry to the National Gallery in London.

The author’s visit to Tuscany finishes when his wallet is stolen in the street, but rather than getting upset by this, he uses it as an opportunity to reassess his travels and realises that the time had come to return home to America.

Unfortunately there are no photographs in the book even though the author frequently mentions taking photographs. It would be interesting to see pictures of some of the more out of the way places that he visited and maybe of some of the diverse people he met, although I appreciate that this massively increases production costs.

This book is highly recommended for anyone planning to visit Paris, particularly those who wish to sample the real city, and will also appeal to anyone who enjoys good food and restaurants. Travellers in general will find this book a fascinating read, and will be inspired to see what can be achieved by a Senior who sees retirement as a starting point and has the flexibility to adapt to unexpected circumstances.

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011 (ISBN 146801143X) and can be obtained from Waterstones with free UK delivery.