Pure Fun, but Lots of Learning Too, Even for those very Familiar with Paris
Reviewed in the United States on 28 May 2017
This moderately small book is packed with seemingly countless numbers of oddities, landmarks, signs and more. My wife and I have been visitors to Paris for 20 years, and there are so many things in this book that I've never seen or heard of that it completely caught me off guard. Jammed to the gills with fun facts, small color photos, and vignettes, you can learn so much about the City of Lights just by picking the book up and opening it to any page. The book is designed to support browsing just like that, just with you want to have some random fun, or have only a few minutes. The book is also arranged so that you can read it in order, starting from the front, if you want a more comprehensive intake of the information. Whichever way you do it, though, it is sheer fun, and as I say, learning, about the world's greatest tourist destination.
We've spent so many months there over the years to easily understand this is a city so endowed with history, so large, and so impacted (and impacting) with the outside world that one could spend a lifetime on it and still not know even the most of it. But this book still surprised me with sites and facts that I had no idea about, a testament to the writer for the enormous amount of work that went into its developement.
A real plus is that the many, many photos in the volume are in full color, but this is not a professional photography book. Many of the items photographed and displayed in the book are in obscure, high, or recessed locations: it's amazing that so many of them could be photographed at all. So, this is not a book you purchase to look at photos of Paris. There are many of these out there, with set/scene shots taken with full-frame, wide format Hasselblad cameras. This is a book about the CURIOSITIES of Paris, and the small color photos are there to support the narrative.
Now, the question is, can you use this book as a guide for the next trip to Paris? Technically, yes, you can, but you would have to work it out in advance because the book is not designed to easily locate each of these curiosities. Yes, the information is present to find them, but that again is not the focus of this book. If you are looking for a travel guide to the city, there are plenty of those, too, and many of them excellently done.
This is a book for pure fun, and if you have visited the city (or even live there!) and want to see these curiosities, this book knocks the ball out of the park. And the way that learning is built into the book simply adds to the fun (for example, what is the origin of the term "cul-de-sac"?: you'll find it in here). What a great book that will challenge the most ardent of Paris fans, and will keep you coming back for more and more. A huge five stars for this labor of love. That it is so reasonably priced in spite of being crammed with color photographs is just whipped cream on the parfait!
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