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Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James [Paperback]

David Downie
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 7.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; Reprint edition (6 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605985562
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605985565
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 14.1 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 794,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous travelogue 22 Jun 2013
By Mr
This is one of the wittiest and shrewdest bits of travel writing I have read in a long-time. A must for all Francophiles and an ideal summer read - and even worth following in Downie's footsteps, as he is the perfect guide!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Paris to Pyrenees 2 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Disappointing account of the author's walk through France; I know Downey can do better than this. Full of clichés and banal comments about the great food, nothing much on the spiritual dimension. Why do this walk if you're not motivated?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this book. 25 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a thoroughly delightfull jaunt through the French countryside with a touch of the 'why are we here' questions interspersed with historical fact. Also it was laugh out loud funny in some parts. I very much want to do this walk myself now - I wish the author would produce a book with maps of the actual walking routes. I can't find very much information on line.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bok to amble through? 17 Jan 2014
I ambled through "Paris to the Pyrenees", by David Downie and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm going to miss it.
I don't "do" travel books but this was a different cup of tea. I liked the way people, past and present , seemed to pop out of the pages..... and the scenery and weather appeared in my mind's eye.... It seems that the Romans had a huge influence in Burgundy as wel as Britain.
I'm not an adventurous type by nature... i did once take on the Slave River in spate in a canoe but the locals wouldnot let me go tackle rapids... but perhaps I should get out my walking boots and "do" a bit of England.

Thanks for a really good read. I'm trying to isolate my youngest son to share Parker Barrels with him. He works in the wine trade and would really love that idea.....
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  111 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walking in the Past to Understand the Present 8 April 2013
By Oz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Paris to the Pyrenees masterfully combines history and memoir. Downie is a true scholar whose breadth of knowledge about the succession of settlers and conquerors in the lands along the path of his pilgrimage illustrates how unchanged the human story has been over multiple millenia. And the personal background and yearnings that lead Downie to attempt such a potentially grueling quest,accompanied by his wife Alison, add a catch that integrates all of our individual journeys.The beauty of the land they traverse is vividly portrayed by Downie's words and Alison's photographs. Weaved throughout is a tender narrative of seasoned love between Downie and his wife that provides a framework for a pilgramage that, like life itself, defies absolute resolution.
81 of 96 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I guess "Vezelay to Macon" wasn't as sexy a title 15 May 2013
By Carol in SoCal - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The writing was lovely and evocative, but the author did not walk from Paris to the Pyrenees in the pages of this book, he walked from the Tour Saint Jacques to the Peripatique, took a train to Vezelay, walked from there to Macon, and gave us a short summary of his walk from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Roncesvalles. While I enjoyed what he wrote, it was truly a disappointment that we weren't able to follow his entire path, most notably because during the course of the book he hated encountering pilgrims, so seeing him on the portion of the route when he actually had to deal with them would have made a much better story. Oh, and the Kindle version does not have the lovely photographs, so be forewarned.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have book for traveler, dreamer, and bibliophile 30 Jun 2013
By AGAlexander - Published on
When I first heard about this book, I thought that it would be just another Camino de Santiago book (of which there are many). But I bought it anyway, because the book's title intrigued me.
I took the book with me on a month-long trip to Argentina. While there, I re-read the book many times. In fact, I'll be reading it again in the future!
The book is a compelling tale of the author and his companion, who decide to walk part of the Way of St. James, which is one of the many "Ways" to the final destination of Santiago, Spain. One of the main things I loved about the book is that the route they walk is not commonly traveled or written about. It's not an easy route to travel, in the sense that there aren't lots of other travelers doing the same thing. It's a glimpse into traveling off the beaten track, but doing it with a bit more style as well as a intimate view of the French countryside.
I've walked this "Way" myself some years back, and this author captures the experience perfectly. He doesn't waste a lot of time with packing lists, complaining about blisters or talking endlessly about church after church. That's all there, but it's understood that the walk isn't an easy one and that discomforts are part of the journey. Instead, he experiences the journey itself, moment by crystalline moment, allowing you to feel that you are walking beside him. His writing allows you to be not just a reader or observer, but a companion to his journey which becomes your own. While the author calls himself a skeptic in the title, by the end of the book he doesn't seem skeptical at all. He seems to have a deeper understanding of his connection to all things and to see that his path in life is an important one. No doubt his book will touch many people and change many lives, perhaps propelling many readers to be courageous enough to voyage out on their own journey of self discovery.
Some of the other reviewers complained that Downie talked to much of history--I wholeheartedly disagree. I found his sharing of historical facts along the way a fascinating in depth look into this part of the world. In fact, I would say that any book about a pilgrim walk does an injustice to it's readers without a historical viewpoint. You can't really understand the Way of St James without understanding the politics and historical events that created it and changed it.
Beautiful photographs, as well. Not just pictures of countless yellow arrows pointing you in the right direction, or of the author smiling beside countless other pilgrims..but of the real, modern day Camino, complete with it's graffiti.
Many of us who have walked the Way of St James (or who plan to) walked it for deeply spiritual reasons. But this book is a very nice bridge between those who walk it for religious reasons and those of us who walk it for sport or for our own inner pilgrimage. The literature of the Way has been severely lacking in books which appeal to both groups, and finally this beautiful book has appeared: a book for the Pilgrim of Life, skeptic and believer alike.
I would suggest this book to anyone who has an interest in the Camino/Way of St. James, but I'd also suggest it to anyone who recognizes that they are on a journey of their own, where ever they are at in life. An inspiring and brilliant book.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book 3 April 2013
By marie pasanen - Published on
This is a beautifully written, cleverly constructed book that explores whole regions of France while describing their inhabitants. David Downie takes you on a unparalleled journey through space and time along which essential questions about life are raised. Sociology, history, geography are conjured up and guide you as you walk the Way of St James with David and his (wonderful) wife Alison, giving the book a multi-layered reality that makes it unique. Sitting in your armchair, you have the feeling of becoming a traveller yourself as the narrative (and Alison's photos) reveal people, landscapes, serendipitous meetings and discoveries of all kinds. You find yourself wishing this journey will never end...
25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for hikers - not from Paris to the Pyrenees 5 May 2013
By Danielle Bernstein - Published on
I bought the book because I am going to walk from LePuy to the Pyrenees. A map shows that the book was going to be about this walk.
Instead, the author spends almost the whole book describing the history and some current day culture of a small section of the Burgundy region. Even then,there's little about the actual walk. I had to deduce that their main luggage was transported.
Then when I get to the end of the book, he bails out north of his first stretch because of physical problems. What?? What happened to the major section from LePuy?
He says that he and his wife went back a few months later to walk the rest.
He rushes through the most popular 440 miles in an epilogue, spending most of that talking about his climb over the Pyrenees.
Very well-written but very disappointing.
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