Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World


John Baxter's The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris was so much fun to read. I am going to Paris for a week in July and, in typical fashion, am spending my time before the trip reading up on the city.

The book is less a guidebook than a series of short essays, each of which focuses on a particular spot (restaurant, theatre, park, etc) or slice of history (often literary) or a cultural quirk (absinthe drinking, for example) and all of which impart a feeling of what it is like to roam the streets and boulevards of Paris, stopping for a coffee, window shopping, enjoying the light, and relishing the feel of the city.

Baxter has a lovely way of writing that I quite enjoyed...
“Paris metro stations sometimes resemble women’s handbags, filled with colorful but often puzzling objects, many of dubious utility.”
Lest you think the book is only about the beautiful buildings, exquisite food, or lovely parks, Baxter also talks about the gritty aspects that characterize all cities, regardless of  how well their tourism offices spin reality.  I absolutely loved reading about the two side-by-side cabarets in Montmartre (circa 1900), Le Ciel (heaven) and L'Enfer (hell), as well as les apaches (street gangs) from the 1920s.

And, to top it off, the front of the book contains a marked map with all of the restaurants, markets, and sites.

This book was a great way to kick off my Paris reading and whet my appetite for cafe au lait and croissants.

12 comments:

  1. The flood news in Paris is quite remarkable and distressing for many, espec those running the Louvre. As I'm sure you have seen. They said it rained every day in December, and not just a little shower. How sad for those who booked a holiday in the City of Lights during this period. Hope you have better weather conditions when you go!
    All that aside, the book sounds lovely and very useful! Enjoy the anticipation!

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    1. Yes, I've been reading about the flooding in Paris. Very distressing. I'm assuming that things will be dried out and back to normal when we go there this summer.

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  2. Essays about journies, both long and short can be so fascinating, educational and enlightening.

    I think that my wife will really like this book as she likes most things Paris. I will recommend it to her.

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  3. What a lovely way to prepare for your trip! Do you have a reading list, or are you looking for books along the way?

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    1. I have a tentative list--mostly classics--so I'm looking for ideas and inspiration along the way.

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  4. I have no travel plans to Paris in the foreseeable future, but his book sounds like the next best thing!

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  5. What a great book! (Of course, I'd say that pretty much about any book set in or about Paris.)

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  6. Do you speak French Jane? I do not, but it seems you have a good head start on the city. I think my husband & I pass thru Paris in late June so I'll see if this book is at the library. thx for the tip. I like the long walks there!

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    1. French really intimidates me--I look at the words, and I have no idea how to pronounce them. However, I have French for Dummies and am working my way through DuoLingo (an app) so I am trying to get some French under my belt before my trip.

      Hope you make it to Paris this summer as well :)

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  7. Yes to Paris reading! Glad you enjoyed this one!

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  8. This book sounds wonderful. Paris is a fascinating city and one I need to visit again (I only spent a few days there). I hope you have a great time there!

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  9. Ooh, this sounds like a delightful book to read before actually going to Paris. I always enjoy reading books set in places I'm familiar with, but I haven't done much reading about places before visiting. It seems like a good way to get a little more than the typical, shallow level of understanding a city that a tourist can easily achieve on a short visit.

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