I can remember reading books by Irving Wallace, The Man, The Prize, The Pigeon Project and such. I was in awe of his descriptions of places far flung. I learned that Mr. Wallace actually travelled to those exotic places and waked the streets taking notes and snapping photos. The reality of his locations gave his writing an authenticity adding to his amazing prose. I, and most writers do not have the luxury or the wherewithal to do that type of travel, but there is a way to come close.
A free download to your computer called Google Earth can take you to a million exotic locations, and down onto a street view that puts you anyplace on earth. It needn’t be a famous location that tourists travel to, but a simple Paris street where you have set a scene.
As an example, I wanted to set scene at a popular Paris bistro. Too bad I do not know any. I typed into Google “popular Paris neighborhood bistros”. I selected one called Le Baritan. The address was given as 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve.
I then opened my Google Earth App. A world globe appears with a place at the top of the page enter the address. A click, and the globe starts to spin, stopping at a satellite view looking down at 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve. A side control allows me to zoom in close.
On the side control panel is a moveable icon (a little person) that can dragged to 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve. Wait for the blue lines to appear on the street. When you release you mouse the overhead satellite view changes to a street level view and, Voila! You are there.
Le Baritan has green façade with wooden, windowed doors. The street appears to be One-Way with cars parked on either side. There are apartments above the bistro with flowerpots in the window. Le Baritan’s street ends in a T with a four-story apartment house at the other end of the street. The bistro is in a residential neighborhood.
You can now go back to Google and learn anything you wish about the restaurant and even see some of the dishes as well as customer revues plus information on music the place may offer and on which nights. Now, with all that information you can insert you characters and have them do whatever your story dictates.
I believe that this level of authenticity can give your writing that spark you may have missed with generic descriptions of Paris bistros, or what you think Paris neighborhood bistros look like. Of course, you could always book a flight to Paris, take a cab to Le Baritan, and snap a few shots.