The long walks I alluded to last post obviously bring even more joy now.
In a bout of perfect timing, I also received a new guidebook that champions the wandering approach. The introduction to Siobhan Wall’s Quiet Paris has her musing: “walking around, I wondered whether we are now less familiar with losing our way and coming across places by benign accident rather than preordained design.”
Wall seeks the calmer side to cities, you see, places off the beaten track. Previously she has produced Quiet London and Quiet Amsterdam. But is it really possible to escape the hustle and bustle in Paris, the world’s most popular tourist destination?
I always approach anything promising a “secret” City of Light with a slice of skepticism. Luckily, this sweet little pocket guide soon swiped away any hesitation. It delivers.
While some old standbys certainly appear (the elevated leafy walkway known as the Promenade Plantee was packed this weekend, for instance; ditto, I imagine, Parc Buttes Chaumont), plenty of entries were new to me (the Musee Bourdelle in the fifteenth? The Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand devoted to French women and feminism?)
After the elegant intro, the guide is divided into 12 sections: museums, libraries, parks & gardens, places to relax, places to worship, shops, restaurants, cafes, bookshops, galleries, cultural centers, and places to stay. At the end is a handy index of places by arrondissement. There are more than 120 listings in all.
Each entry is composed of a tempting photograph, a few lines of practical information, and a one-paragraph description. A simple formula, but one that works.
Suddenly I’m wondering whether to check out silent meeting at the Centre Quaker International (I attended a Quaker college) or try out the Wednesday night mediation at the Buddhist Centre Kalachakra. I will of course visit all the parks & hidden squares. A friend actually pointed me to a lovely one in the Marais this weekend that I had never seen before and asked that I not share the secret too widely. I found it in the book.
Wall is a writer and artist who has lectured on photography, cultural studies, and fine art, so she’s particularly good on those fronts. The book offers addresses for tea shops to boutiques, reading rooms to flowery gardens. It’s nice to be reminded of so many possibilities. And to discover new ones.
Now to slow down and enjoy them.
WIN A FREE COPY OF QUIET PARIS! Just leave a comment by Sunday April 21, 4 PM EST, to be entered in the random drawing. Why not tell me your favorite quiet place in Paris? Or let me know what kinds of things you’d like to see me explore on the blog. (Will you send me on a quest to find all the squares?) Of course, you can simply say you want a copy of the book.
The publisher has also set up a discount offer for my readers in the UK. To order Quiet Paris at the special offer price of £10.00 including free UK postage and packaging (RRP: £12.99), please call Bookpoint on 01235 400 400 and quote the code 46PARIS.
American readers can find the book here.
And those in France here.
(Last two images are my own from a stroll today, not connected to the book. But I thought they fit!)
UPDATE! Congratulations to Nina for winning a free copy of Quiet Paris! Thanks to all who entered for your great comments!