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Historic Paris Walks (Historic Walks) Paperback – 6 Jun 2006
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About the Author
Leo Hollis is the author of Cadogan's Historic London Walks. He studied history at university and is now part-time history editor at Constable Publishers. He is currently writing the story of the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666 (to be published in 2007). He lives in London.
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Being extremely familiar with Paris, I always look forward to new books on this utterly fascinating city, partly to bring back memories and partly to pick up new ideas on where to go on my next visit there. "Historic Paris Walks," edited by Leo Hollis, certainly worked out in both aspects, although with substantial reservations.
Consisting of a series of 10 walks, the book takes you on meandering walks through Paris, starting with the "Many Origins of Paris" and continuing with walks tied to certain parts of the history of Paris. Each walk gives you a starting and an ending point as well as the distance of the entire walk in both kilometers and miles. It introduces you to the sights along the way, as well as the people, events and ideas linked to the era as well as the area. The little black-and-white map at the beginning of each chapter gives you an idea of the area that it will cover and each chapter starts with a short introduction of the walk, which then continues with the step-by-step instructions and descriptions.
At the beginning of the book there is a 16 page photo essay by Tim Mitchell, which certainly gives some color to the book, but would have probably been much more useful if interspersed with the text in the appropriate chapters.
As fascinating as this book is for somebody who already knows Paris, I found it quite confusing for a possible first time visitor. The lack of a comprehensive map of Paris as well as tiny print on the maps of the walks would hardly make it handy as a walking companion for somebody who is still finding his or her way around the city. The absence of a comprehensive map also makes it difficult to decide which walk to take next and how they might be connected. Although the step-by-step directions are quite precise, I would have found it useful to be given some measure of how far to go in a particular step, either in terms of distance and time. "Continue on the rue Princesse, then take a left onto the rue du Four and walk until you arrive back at the rue Bonaparte. Turn right and head north, crossing the Boulevard St. Germain." As detailed as this description is, I fear that I'd spend more time looking at the street signs than at the sights if I were to follow it precisely. An estimate of how long each of the walks might take would also be useful for somebody who'd want to plan their day better.
The description of the sights along the way is often minimal in some parts of "Historic Paris Walks," but I found the commentary on the people and events shaping the city very enlightening and often delightful. The part that I liked best by far was the added "Information" in each chapter, listing the author's favorite eating places, opening times and changes, bookstores and recommended further reading. It would be worth to buy this book just for the information compiled in those sections.
I would definitely recommend this book for a savvy traveler who is already familiar with Paris as well as any armchair traveler who needs more food for thought. Any first time visitor to Paris would be better served with an ordinary guidebook and a good map of Paris, unless they have the luxury of a really long stay in Paris ahead of them. As for myself, I plan to take "Historic Paris Walks" with me on my next visit for sure.
Received book free of charge.
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