Book review: “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light”

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light David DownieFollow the journey of footsteps in the vignettes of David Downie’Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light. They are perfect bedtime stories or café reading. In this updated edition of David’s travel book, his stories reveal his personal wit and tongue in cheek humor. This adds charm and brings out a smile as you read about his own Paris history and reflections in each vignette. After finishing this wonderful book, Paris, Paris I began the process of re-reading all of my little green post-it notes. With these notes tacked all over the book, I am ready to visit and re-visit parts of Paris off the wide Haussmannian boulevards.

Wander with David (and his wife, Alison) and see Paris in a new or different light through his words and her photographs. This is a travel book where a chapter can be read one day and inspire a discovery walk the next. For anyone who has traveled to Paris over the years, Paris, Paris is a verbal mini time machine whose words take you visually into the past and forward to the future. It brought back memories for me 0f the dynamic changes in Paris.

I recalled a trip to the Bastille area, and the Emmaeus second hand store near the metro stop, Ledru-Rollin, in 1992. I shudder to think remembering how dirty the buildings were, the negative vibrations walking into this industrial area and wanting to leave as quickly as possible. We ended up renting a very nice apartment around the corner six months later. The neighborhood had already begun to change.

David’s walks open up a gateway to curiosity in discovering Paris and his encounters with Parisians. After reading the chapter, “Meeting Moreau” and David’s trip into the past and present, I followed his story path to the museum, Gustave Moreau. I started this journey of encounters one passage earlier in the Passage Jouffroy then crossing the street to the Passage Verdeau.

Notre Dame de Lorette in the 9th arrondissement opened in 1836

Notre-Dame de Lorette 9th arrondissement (1836)-“graceless” on the outside; graceful ceiling inside

Along the way, searching out the landmark shops and churches, I ended up having my own encounters with Parisians asking about what had become of a certain shop. Later I was stopped by a Parisian wondering about the piece of paper in my hand (a photocopy of the “Moreau” chapter). Almost to the museum on the north end of Rue de La Rochefoucauld, I complimented and chatted with a painter of the saxophone shop’s store front on his clever ideas. Fifteen minutes before the museum’s closing, I stepped back into the same curious world that seems to have met David — just by entering and getting only as far as the postcard and guide book counter.

Paris has a certain glow, figuratively and objectively. There are numerous reasons related in the book’s chapters of why Paris is Paris and why it has this distinctive charm. In Paris, Paris David provides not just commentary in the chapter “La Ville Lumière…“, he references designers such as Pierre Bideau, whose current, updated Eiffel Tower lighting recalls the gas lighting of 1889. On the subject of lighting, I must find the relief patterns on lamp posts charming considering the quantity of my personal photos on the subject. There is a reason for my attraction to Paris “street furniture”, which he reveals in “Sidewalk Sundae….

Rather than say, “Turn left here or there” his is a walking commentary with landmarks. His reasons to notice the Spring season in other chapters, are springboards to reading  books by W. Somerset Maugham, Emile Zola or e.e. cummings. The spring flowers and where to see them, what to do or enjoy a view are things that David has seen on his treks through neighborhoods. He invites you to subtly follow his path.

The book is a lot of fun to read because of having lived here so long myself and watching the changes referred to by David. Like Victor Hugo who regretted so many drastic changes to Paris’ facade, I miss some things as well, neighborhood shops that have turned into wholesale warehouses and apartment buildings turned into offices. But as Alison, David’s wife, says referring to their favorite bistro’s Art Déco interior but mundane food, “It must be the atmosphere”. That’s what I can say for liking David Downie’s book, Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, “It must be the atmosphere.”

David Downie writes mysteries, food and wine books about Rome, Burgundy and the Italian Rivera/Genoa, and continues with his Italian roots in cooking the Roman way. Read more about books by David Downie.

Book Tour Schedule

NYC Event
Thursday, April 28, Rizzoli Bookstore, West 57th St, mezzanine, 5:30 – 7 pm.

SF BAY AREA/WINE COUNTRY Events
Monday, May 2 at 7 pm, Book Passage in Corte Madera
Tuesday, May 3 at 7:30 pm, Readers Books in Sonoma
Saturday, May 7 at 4 pm , Mrs Dalloways, Berkeley
Tuesday, May 10 at 6 pm, Mechanics Institute Library in downtown SF
Wednesday, May 11,  6-7 pm at Omnivore Books at 3885 Cesar Chavez St, SF

Visit the David Downie blog page for dates, times, places, themes, etc.:

Other books featured on the tour and already available: Food Wine
Burgundy, Rome, Italian Riviera & Genoa. Paris City of Night (a
thriller). Cooking the Roman Way (now an e-book).
Detailed info on all my titles: www.davidddownie.com

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  3 comments for “Book review: “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light”

  1. April 11, 2011 at 13:56

    Hi Beth, that sounds like a great idea! Thanks for reading the first edition… the new one has 3 new chapters, and has been totally updated, expanded, and redesigned… All best from Paris, Paris! David

  2. April 9, 2011 at 20:39

    Hi Beth, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Colleen

  3. April 6, 2011 at 21:46

    I have his first edition, looks like I must get his second now!

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