As mentioned in an earlier post, I downloaded Andrew Harper’s Paris, a free iPad app (it’s not available on iPhone). I finally got round to reading through all of it and found a couple of interesting ideas. It is not the traditional guide so if you are looking for a guide to the main tourists’ attractions, this is not the app for you. I suggest you look at Triposo’s Guide for Paris instead. But if you’ve done most of the tourist attractions and are looking for some other interesting experiences, do check this out. I find his recommendations for walking tours and favourite small museums especially interesting.
I recently discovered a lovely bookstore about 15 minutes away from home. The store is set out to resemble a private library with stacks and ladders and is overflowing with books covering a wide variety of topics. Having grown used to the sterile set-up at Border’s this was a refreshing change. In my mind, this is the way a bookstore should be. After spending over an hour browsing in the Travel section, I picked up a book by John Baxter – The Most Beautiful Walk in the World : A Pedestrian in Paris. The introduction to the book piqued my interest. “Thrust into the unlikely role of professional literary walking tour guide, an expat writer provides the most irresistibly witty and revealing tour of Paris in years.” Reading on and finding out that the expat is an Australian author, who lives in 6éme, literally around the corner from the apartment we will be renting in September, I thought this would be a good book to read to help with our trip planning for this year.
Boy was I disappointed! The author, John Baxter, and his publisher Harper Perennial should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this book to even get to print. Instead of providing interesting anecdotes and glimpses of Paris through the eyes of a local, the book is a continous rambling of a pompous, arrogant and deluded man whose sole interest lies in name-dropping and derisive descriptions of tourists and fellow colleagues (mate, you’re not that different from them yourself!) While some of the stories about Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and co. are interesting, stories of alcoholism, drug use and the womanising ways of writers and artists only have a finite entertainment value. His sprinkling use of french words is sadly misguided as he ignores one of the fundamental rules of French grammar – the use of definite articles, and his advice for visiting Paris is laughable. His five star hotel recommendation is the Crillon and his gourmet dining recommendation is La Tour d’Argent or Arpège. His recommendation for travel is the worst. He recommends the carte orange for the metro. (The carte orange was replaced by the Navigo pass in Feb 2009.) This book was published in May 2011. I think someone didn’t do their homework.
I never thought I would ever read a book about France that I didn’t enjoy. Well, I now know differently. Overall, a waste of 20 dollars. The only thing I got out of the book was some interesting stories on Hemingway and Fitzgerald that my dad might appreciate when we pay a visit to one of the cafés in the area.
On the subject of walks, I remember a walk I enjoyed on our trip last year. It was bright and early in the morning when we left our hotel. We crossed rue de Rivoli, stopping by at our local boulangerie to grab some croissants and our local fruiterer to grab some pêches (hubby loved them). The French peaches have a different shape to the ones we are used to here in Australia. We strolled down Pont Marie towards Île St. Louis in the early morning sun. The streets were still quiet and it felt like we had the whole of Paris to ourselves. Crossing the bridge, we looked down the river Seine. It was beautiful. I remember we looked at each other and thought to ourselves ‘We are in Paris!’
We traversed the Île St. Louis, walking along its quiet streets lined with quaint shops. The peace and quiet was startling. Here we were right in the middle of Paris and it was so tranquil. We walked down rue du Cardinal Lemoine just as the street was waking up from its night’s slumber.
We made our way to Square St. Medard and made our way up rue Mouffetard. Rue Mouffetard is a quaint market street. Yes, it is a little touristy, but to me, it has not lost any of its local charm. Many locals still do their shopping down here. It was the perfect spot for a leisurely morning stroll, while picking up some picnic supplies for a picnic lunch.
Hubby and I still reminisce about this particular walk. Because we had limited time in Paris last year, we took the metro a lot to save time with travelling. Paris is a city built for walking and one can see so much more of the city by walking. This year, we plan to do just that, to become ‘les flâneurs à Paris’.