Book Review: Journey through Paris without leaving your couch
David Downie's recent published work Paris, Paris, takes readers through a colourful journey along the streets, sewers, cemeteries and beauty of this French capital. Reviewed by Anne Jacqueline.
This is a book for the wanderer and the curious of mind. David Downie has travelled Paris extensively, and Paris, Paris is a recollection of his discoveries, searches and thoughts.
Starting from the time when Paris was but a sandy island between two branches of the Seine, inhabited by ferocious fisher folk - the Parisii - Downie will walk you to Paris places and people, mixing present geography and history.
The Seine is really the centre of Paris flowing into the English Channel, so this is where you'll start. You will visit the beautiful Buttes-Chaumont Park, a true decor created so that the workers in the Second Empire (XIX century) could enjoy a few hours out of the city, and thus come back to work with more energy.
You will travel to the Père-Lachaise cemetery, which is now a popular destination for tourists and the Parisians alike, that started off relocating celebrity corpses such as Molière's or La Fontaine's to attract new clients.
Ever wondered what lies behind the wooden doors of old buildings? Downie has pushed some for you. You will even go underground and visit the city sewer system and the catacombs that have their bizarre own community.
You will take a look at Le Louvres Pyramid, and the Parc de la Villette -- both parts of President Mitterrand's projects to make the city enter the present and, of course, leave his mark on it. You will see Les Halles in the center of the city, one of the major architectural projects of the next few years.
But even better, Downie has also spoken with some of the Paris people. Meet the bouquinistes, the second-hand booksellers along the quays of the Seine who, day in, day out, sit by their green wooden boxes and sell books, gifts and postcards.
Discover the harsh universe of the Paris boat people, who live and work on the floating world of the barges. Meet the craft workers, some of whom work for Vuitton, Cartier or Hermes. Go to Mrs X's school of seduction. Spend a day in the Luxembourg gardens and observe kids with their grandparents, and boys and girls meeting.
Have a coffee. Have several coffees actually, and observe the city moving while you rest. And meet some popular Paris figures of all time, like Coco Chanel, Vincent Van Gogh and Modigliani.
This book is a great way to discover Paris, whether you already know the city or not. The popular tourist attractions are not forgotten, but the city is also seen from a human point of view: Souls. Dreams. Work.
There are many ways to read this book, but on your sofa, with a good cup of tea or a glass of wine is a good start. Read, discover, and dream.
Anne Jacqueline / Expatica
Anne Jacqueline has previously worked in acting training, managed a French-American drama school and co-founded a training centre for acting on camera. She is the current manager and artistic collaborator for French artist Yasmine Modestine. You can read more and contact Jacqueline via yasminemodestine.free.fr.
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