Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light


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 “Beautifully written and refreshingly original… makes us see [Paris] in a different light.” — San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Swapping his native San Francisco for the City of Light, travel writer David Downie arrived in Paris in 1986 on a one-way ticket, his head full of romantic notions. Curiosity and the legs of a cross-country runner propelled him daily from an unheated, seventh-floor walk-up garret near the Champs-Elysées to the old Montmartre haunts of the doomed painter Modigliani, the tombs of Père-Lachaise cemetery, the luxuriant alleys of the Luxembourg Gardens and the aristocratic Île Saint-Louis midstream in the Seine.
Downie wound up living in the chic Marais district, married to the Paris-born American photographer Alison Harris, an equally incurable walker and chronicler. Ten books and a quarter-century later, he still spends several hours every day rambling through Paris, and writing about the city he loves.  An irreverent, witty romp featuring thirty-one short prose sketches of people, places and daily life, Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light ranges from the glamorous to the least-known corners and characters of the world’s favorite city. 

Photographs by Alison Harris.
“I loved his collection of essays and anyone who’s visited Paris in the past, or plans to visit in the future, will be equally charmed as well.” —David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris
“[A] quirky, personal, independent view of the city, its history and its people”—Mavis Gallant
“Gives fresh poetic insight into the city… a voyage into ‘the bends and recesses, the jagged edges, the secret interiors’ [of Paris].”— Departures

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307886088
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 04/05/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 650,982
Product dimensions: 5.02(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

An American journalist based in Paris since 1986, David Downie has written about European culture, food and travel for magazines and newspapers worldwide. He was a Paris correspondent for, Departures, Appellation, and Art & Antiques, and has contributed to, and many other websites. Currently he is a European correspondent for, the popular literary travel site.
The author of a dozen works of nonfiction and fiction, Downie’s writing has also appeared in many anthologies, among them The Collected Traveler Paris, Southwest France and Central Italy;’s Wanderlust; Travelers’ Tales: Adventures in Wine Country; By The Seat of My Pants; and A Moveable Feast. Please visit David Downie’s website

Read an Excerpt

It's the Water: The Seine

Excerpted from "Paris, Paris"
by .
Copyright © 2011 David Downie.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Photographs xi

Foreword Diane Johnson xiii

By Way of Introduction 1

Paris Places

It's the Water: The Seine 7

A Day in the Park: The Luxembourg Gardens 17

A Lively City of the Dead: Père-Lachaise Cemetery 25

François's Follies: Building Afresh in a Museum City 34

Island in the Seine: Île Saint-Louis 46

Montsouris and Buttes-Chaumont: The Art of the Faux 55

Going Underground 63

Place des Vosges 73

Belly Ache: Les Halles Redux (Again) 83

Hit the Road Jacques 97

Paris People

Coco Chanel 111

Les Bouquinistes 120

Midnight, Montmartre, and Modigliani 129

The Boat People of the Seine 139

Meeting Moreau 148

The Perils of Pompidou 156

Keepers of the Craft: Paris Artisans 165

Dear Dead Vincent van Gogh 176

Beaumarchais's Marais 187

Madame X's Seduction School 195

Paris Phenomena

In the Spring 205

La Ville Lumière: Paris, City of Light 212

Of Cobbles, Bikes, and Bobos 221

Philosophy au Lait 230

Sidewalk Sundae: What Makes Paris Paris 236

Vie de Chien: A Dog's Life 245

Why the Marais Changed Its Spots 256

Night Walking 267

Grave Situations 275

The Janus City, or, Why the Year 1900 Lives On 283

Life's a Café 295

Acknowledgments 305

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Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David Downie shows us that Paris is more than its monuments and museums in “Paris, paris Journey into the City of Light”. Each chapter is a story unto itself about something quirky about Paris or a little known fact about its people or places or a different perspective on the subject. Some examples are the chapters on Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, the Boat People of the Seine, and the physical, philosophical, artistic, social and political aspects of what makes Paris the city of Light. He helped me to think about and look at Paris in a different way when I visited it. I recommend reading the book.
JohnPearce More than 1 year ago
Every frequent visitor to Paris is by definition a fan, but it will be hard to find a bigger fan than David Downie, whose "Paris, Paris" does a beautiful job of pointing even the knowledgeable visitor to unsuspected nooks and crannies, both around the city and in its past. Someone besides me must recognize this, because the book has just been reprinted for the umpteenth time. Long may it wave. From the fact-filled chapter on the Luxembourg Gardens near the front to the atmospheric essay titled "Night Walking" in the back, "Paris, Paris" is a treasury of little-known facts and fresh descriptions of well-known corners. Downie is obviously very fond of the Île Saint-Louis, and he has little use for many of the public works we owe to the Pompidou administration. As someone who once ate a pigeon after midnight at the old Halles, before it was evicted to Rungis, I thought he got it just about right. Downie's writing is elegant and graceful. Alison Harris enriches the book enormously with more than two dozen black-and-white photos. I haven't read a book that expanded my knowledge of the city so much since last year's "Parisians, an Adventure History of Paris," by Graham Robb. Now I'm going to go back through some of my favorite chapters and mark them for next year's visit. Highly recommended.
DaisyWhitney More than 1 year ago
Paris, Paris is a portal into the city. It's hard not to be transported to the City of Light in Downie's collection of essays, so vivid is his writing and depictions of the city. Paris seems to come alive, from the underground to the river to the cobblestones. This book is a tour guide and you're right there with the author as he walks through Paris sharing details of the city now and from many years ago, capturing the history, the quirks, the nuances in chapters on cafes and cemeteries, dogs and people, lovers and locals. A rich, swirling journey into a city so many love.
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