The Eiffel Tower in Paris. (Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/Getty Images Photo / April 15, 2009)

There's a cookbook called "The French Bistro: Seasonal Recipes" that I give out to friends, all about the French bistro experience. It focuses on the tables, tablecloth, chalkboard, the smells, the ambience, the aromas ... the whole experience. They get it.

Any regular rituals in Paris?

I always go to Galeries Lafayette [the department store] and have a glass of champagne [at Bar à Bulles]. I also love Galerie Lorelei. It's on a side street not far from the d'Orsay. It's an eclectic mix of couture accessories; scarves, jewelry — even sometimes a piece of sculpture. It's just the owner, and she selects everything. Whenever I come back and someone says, "Ooh where'd you get that?" it's usually from her.

What time of year do you prefer to visit?

I like to go in late June or early July because you can sit outside without a jacket. And July is when everyone in Paris has their twice-yearly sales — everything is on sale for two weeks!

Can you share a special memory?

It was when the librarian invited us to visit the bookshop in its original location, a small neighborhood. They took us to dinner, the entire menu is in French. And aside from frites, I couldn't figure out much of anything on the menu. So they ordered everything, and it was just wonderful because it was a local place. We just felt completely immersed in where the people actually live.

What is the one thing you won't travel without?

A book. I can stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning reading — I've got the lights from the Eiffel Tower coming through the window. Paris is where I read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" — I stayed up all night. I like e-readers because I don't have to worry about carrying so much.

Do you have a favorite travel bag?

I'm working on that. We're getting to one bag and one carryon, with expandable sections. It's really most important to have a few good pieces, good walking shoes. And not worry so much about what you're wearing. You're there to look at them!

Any recommended reads on Paris?

"Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France," by Vivian Swift. It takes you beyond Paris. She did the illustrations herself. … And when I really need a fix, I read the Cara Black mystery series. It all takes place in Paris.

What's on your nightstand?

I have a wall of books, and a different basket for categories of books. I like to think of it as living in a treasure chest. I don't know if e-readers can totally replace that. I also keep a basket of paperbacks in my guest rooms and tell them, if you start a book you can't finish, take it with you.

Where to next?

Venice. Several people have said, "It's my favorite place ever," and when people say that, you think, "Oh, OK, I've got to see it." I like to go with my mom; she's still mobile. She says, "We should do this while I still can."