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

Overview



Part adventure story, part cultural history, Paris to the Pyrenees explores the phenomenon of pilgrimage along the age-old way of Saint James
 
Driven by curiosity, wanderlust, and health crises, David Downie and his wife set out from Paris to walk across France to the Pyrenees. Starting on the Rue Saint-Jacques, then trekking 750 miles south to Roncesvalles, Spain, their eccentric route takes 72 days on Roman roads and pilgrimage ...
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Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James

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Overview



Part adventure story, part cultural history, Paris to the Pyrenees explores the phenomenon of pilgrimage along the age-old way of Saint James
 
Driven by curiosity, wanderlust, and health crises, David Downie and his wife set out from Paris to walk across France to the Pyrenees. Starting on the Rue Saint-Jacques, then trekking 750 miles south to Roncesvalles, Spain, their eccentric route takes 72 days on Roman roads and pilgrimage paths—a 1,100-year-old network of trails leading to the sanctuary of Saint James the Greater. It is best known as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela—“The Way” for short.
 
The object of any pilgrimage is an inward journey manifested in a long, reflective walk. For Downie, the inward journey met the outer one: a combination of self-discovery and physical regeneration. More than 200,000 pilgrims take the highly commercialized Spanish route annually, but few cross France. Downie had a goal: to go from Paris to the Pyrenees on age-old trails, making the pilgrimage in his own maverick way.
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Editorial Reviews

The San Francisco Chronicle
Beautifully written and refreshingly original. Curious and attentive to detail, Downie is appreciative yet unflinching in describing his adopted home.— David Armstrong
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Downie is a saunterer, wandering down narrow ancient streets and picnicking in storied graveyards like Père-Lachaise. He captures the sort of people and places missed by those jetting from starred bistros to hotels with showers.— Dan Rubin
Frances Mayes
“Downie’s adroit, learned, and ambitious book reinvigorates my sense of travel, taking me back to the happy knowledge that the world is still large, and history unfathomably deep.”
G. Y. Dryansky
“Bristling with knowledge and often with the insights of good fiction, Downie takes you on a trip that is as much a compelling intellectual journey as it is a rich revelation of place. It’s a hard book to put down.”
Sandra M. Gilbert
“Richly textured, meticulously detailed, a compelling, picaresque narrative of adventures on the road and a sophisticated meditation on the past,
present and future of France.”
Anton Gill
“Brilliant, witty and stylish.”
Imogen Robertson
“A wonderful book: historically, culturally and spiritually fascinating, refreshingly honest without being self-aggrandizing, full of humor and sharp observation of the people and the landscape. Downie is a great companion on the road.”
Andrew Riggsby
“David Downie’s pilgrimage/anti-pilgrimage has two things no one else does. One is his inimitable wit. The other: he travels not just in space,
but in time, creating constant delightful surprise and reassuring familiarity.
An atheist who starts the Way of Saint James necessarily sees the world with a certain irony. One who finishes the trail from Paris to the Spanish border won’t let that irony consume him. It is the conversation between the two that makes this such a special book.”
From the Publisher
“Past Praise for David Downie”
Jan Morris
“Perhaps the most evocative American book about Paris since A Moveable Feast.”
Michael Ondaatje
“David Downie is the master of educated curiosity. I have walked some of the city’s streets with him, and reading this book is just as tactile an experience.”
National Geographic Traveler - Don George
“Evocative and moving… Downie’s quest is unconventional in tone and spirit as well as route. A lively wordsmith, Downie brings a deep and impassioned knowledge of French history, culture, and language to this pilgrimage. He also brings something more, a longing that he himself can’t pin down at the beginning… they encounter a memorable succession of taciturn, deep-rooted local farmers and gregarious, transplanted-from-Paris innkeepers. They also encounter the multi-layered, interweaving pathways of French history, commerce, religion,and spirituality—and manage to tuck in a few sumptuous celebrations of French food and wine, too. The result is an extraordinary account that illuminates France past and present and casts a light on something even greater: the truth that, however we choose to label our journey, we are all pilgrims on a common quest, to answer why we wander life’s question-paved path.”
Don George - National Geographic Traveler
“Evocative and moving… Downie’s quest is unconventional in tone and spirit as well as route. A lively wordsmith, Downie brings a deep and impassioned knowledge of French history, culture, and language to this pilgrimage. He also brings something more, a longing that he himself can’t pin down at the beginning… they encounter a memorable succession of taciturn, deep-rooted local farmers and gregarious, transplanted-from-Paris innkeepers. They also encounter the multi-layered, interweaving pathways of French history, commerce, religion, and spirituality—and manage to tuck in a few sumptuous celebrations of French food and wine, too. The result is an extraordinary account that illuminates France past and present and casts a light on something even greater: the truth that, however we choose to label our journey, we are all pilgrims on a common quest, to answer why we wander life’s question-paved path.”
Janet Hulstrand - Bonjour Paris
“Richly illustrated with Alison Harris’s color photographs, it is not only a fascinating journey through France on foot, with illuminating glimpses into French history from prehistoric times to the present. Downie also shares his idiosyncratic observations and provocative musings about connections between the Roman and American empires, the character of
Francois Mitterrand, and the shadow of both Nazi collaboration and the
French Resistance. It is also an intimate, personal journey, the author sharing his candid ruminations. There are moments of comedy, many grins and even some laugh-out-loud moments. A word of advice? Don’t peek!
Every page of this book is worth reading, and in order to understand the ending, you’ll have to have been there for the whole journey.”
James Martin - About.com Europe Travel
“A great writer and a very interesting trail, what more could you want?”
National Geographic Traveler
“Evocative and moving. Downie brings a deep and impassioned knowledge of French history, culture, and language to this pilgrimage. The result is an extraordinary account that illuminates France past and present.”
Jackie lyden
“An entertaining read. David Downie is fabulous company!”
Jackie Lyden - "All Things Considered
“An entertaining read… fabulous company!”
Library Journal
Here Downie (Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light) details his 750-mile, 72-day trek from the Rue Saint Jacques in Paris to Roncesvalles in northern Spain. With his photographer wife, Alison Harris, he passes along Roman roads and storied pilgrimage trails, stops at hundreds of churches, chats with natives, and justifies his consumption of rich French meals with abundant exercise. Early on, the book is marred by condescending descriptions of people Downie encounters, along with heavy-handed reminders of the author's atheistic views. Fortunately, the author's tone changes as he gets deeper into the journey, growing humbler and more introspective without sacrificing his blunt honesty and occasional dark humor. A seasoned food and travel writer, Downie seamlessly interweaves his personal experience and reflections with a wealth of historical and mythological knowledge. Harris's candid photographs, taken throughout the trip, capture natural and human-made beauty, along with assorted weirdness. VERDICT Though Downie's commentary would appeal most to left-leaning skeptics, many scholars of world cultures, religion, and art history will enjoy and learn from this insightful travel memoir.—Christina Spallone, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Beset by the crises of middle age, an author and his photographer wife walk from Paris to the Pyrenees along the Way of Saint James. Just before he turned 50, food and travel writer Downie (Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, 2011, etc.) discovered that his gluttonous ways had finally caught up to him. Doctors told him that he had become "in essence, a walking foie gras" and was in imminent danger of liver failure. Disillusioned as well by "the forced cleverness of corporate magazine writing," Downie decided to take time off to recover his health and rejuvenate his world-wearied spirit. A few days before Easter, he and his wife set off down the Rue Saint-Jacques, which marked the start of the route medieval pilgrims took from Paris to the shrine of St. James in Spain. Downie's desire to trek across France had little to do with any need to find God. "I hadn't escaped the gurus and drug culture of California to wind up Catholic in France," he writes. His journey--most of which would take him along old Roman roads and pilgrim routes that wound through the Burgundy countryside--was one he hoped would re-inspire him to ask the "big questions" that had once fired his imagination. Along the "maverick way" the couple followed (and which he documents with photographs), Downie was drawn to the way Celtic and Roman history intermingled in the landscape, architecture and people. He came to understand that however modern France appeared to be, it lived "simultaneously in the past and present." More profoundly, he realized that he was ultimately no different from the pilgrims who had walked "The Way" before him. His pilgrimage, like theirs, was "both the question and the answer" and a means to heightened awareness. A witty and intelligent spin on the spiritual-journey motif.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781453298633
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 244,155
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author


David Downie has called Paris home since 1986. He has written for over fifty publications worldwide including Bon Appetit, the Los Angeles Times, Town & County Travel, the San Francisco Chronicle, Epicurious.com, and Salon.com. He is the author of Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light; three Terroir Guides; and several cookbooks and crime novels.
 
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Recommended with reservations

    While I enjoyed reading this book, I became weary after a while trying to visualize the trek. I googled the towns they were in and even found some of the inns where they stayed. That helped. I did enjoy the author's wry sense of humor, but would be hesitant to recommend it except to people who would love ancient history's connection to modern France.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Seldom do I want to read a book twice, but this book is definitely going to be read again. I enjoyed it so much.
    There is a lot of history here as well as getting to know the author and his wife. Plus the pictures!!!
    Had to buy the book for a friend. She wanted to borrow my book and I wasn't willing to give it up!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Heard the author on NPR, read the book, wonderful! Quirky is a w

    Heard the author on NPR, read the book, wonderful! Quirky is a word that comes to mind. Original is another. Loved it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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