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Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  944 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
 “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 u
Paperback, 303 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published August 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 09, 2015 Chrissie rated it it was ok
On completion:
Who is this book for? I mention this problem below in a partial review. Maybe you want a book offering a little bit for everyone. I prefer a book that has a central focus. A book for weekend tourists, a book for expats and that for a reader seeking information on the city’s history will be three very different books.

I don’t know what you may be seeking from this book. I wanted to know interesting details about the city’s past. Some, but not enough, of the chapters did offer insigh
Lewis Weinstein
Jul 16, 2012 Lewis Weinstein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-general
I have decided to read this book because of my wife's enthusiastic review, as follows ...

... I have lived in the South of France each summer for the past 7 years, which also includes at least one month in Paris each year. I read about 6 to 7 books each year about Paris, my favorite city. David Downie's book, Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light is one of the best I have ever read. What a fun book to read. Downie takes some obscure things, i.e. the poles on the sidewalks to keep cars from
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
Gol-LY it took me long enough to read this. Because every chapter is an essay of its own, there were some I loved, some that were ok, and some that didn't capture me at all. I will say that having never been to Paris, or even France, some of what Downie talks about were hard to follow. One might appreciate this book even more if they were more familiar with the city. But I do hope to go someday, and I will definitely revisit this book when that day comes. It'll come. It has to come.
Dec 15, 2011 Karin rated it it was amazing
I read this book in April of 2011 -- it is the updated and re-released version from 2011 that I had and which I reviewed on my blog here:

And here is the intro to that post:
PARIS, Paris: Journey into the City of Light is a collection of 31 essays about La Ville Lumière in which historical and personal narratives enlighten readers about Paris’s present. Author David Downie has distilled decades of study and experience and blended it with his unique adventur
switterbug (Betsey)
I decided to read this, at a leisurely place, while I am reading novels, in preparation for my Europe trip in the spring, which includes the City of Light. I got this, as it was highly reco'd for us discerning readers and travelers who want to read about the places in Paris that are not as well known or understood, places connected to history that many would bypass.

" David Downie is the master of educated curiosity. With him we discover Paris, a seemingly public city that is, in fact, full of se
Sep 29, 2011 Graziella rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf
Prepped me to fall hard for Paris. Wonderful off-the-beaten path wanderings, beautifully-described discoveries in an already well-chronicled city. His chapters illuminate fascinating overlooked details of history, personality and architecture.
John Pearce
Jul 07, 2012 John Pearce rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Paris lovers
Reviewed yesterday on my blog, Part-Time Parisian

What a combination. David Downie is part flâneur, part hard-nosed reporter, part scholar — and all writer. Combine that with his eye for the common man and you get “Paris, Paris,” the indispensable guidebook for the curious visitor less interested in the overworked tourist sites than in the small nooks and crannies it’s difficult to find unless someone like him has already blazed the trail.
One of the best pieces of news I’ve heard recently is that
Craig Roorda
Dec 28, 2011 Craig Roorda rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. My wife and I traveled to Paris a year ago before we had read this book and wish we had read it prior to our travel. It gives you so much insight into the history of Paris and the uniqueness of the city itself. It goes into the less traveled areas giving you insight and stirring up a desire to walk the city to discover the "undiscovered" areas most Americans miss. My favorite chapter "A Lively City of the Dead" goes into detail about the many famous people buried there and the ...more
Mar 18, 2014 Joanne rated it it was amazing
It took me a couple of months to read this book, not because it wasn't good, but because I wanted to savour each essay. At first I dove in, approaching it like a linear travelogue, but I quickly realized that I wasn't giving enough attention to each topic. So I read a chapter at a time between other books, and really enjoyed each chapter.

I loved how much history and flavour the author offered for his topics. If I get an opportunity to return to Paris, I will carry this book and use his descripti
Dec 17, 2011 Carol added it
I have read this book before, just prior to our May trip to Paris and enjoyed it immensely. The details, especially about aspects of Paris, like the boat people, I knew nothing about, are amazing and David Downie layers the information, in splendid prose. Today I took the book to sit and read to a friend who is dying. Read aloud it is even more wonderful. We both felt so pleased and satisfied. If you love good reading and Paris you can't go wrong here.
Jun 15, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it
To a Francophile, this is a "must read". If you love Paris, you'll love this book. The author delves in detail into a variety of Paris locales, making one want to go check out these places. I'm looking forward to bringing this book with me on a future trip to Paris. The jeu de mots with the title is truly apt.
Oct 16, 2011 Kathy rated it really liked it
I like the way Downie writes. Will look for his other books. To enjoy this book, you need to be interested in Paris. Downie took me off the beaten path with his experiences in the many neighborhoods of the city. It is a history book and travel journal all in one.
Nov 08, 2016 Storyheart rated it it was ok
Shelves: paris
2.5 stars. It was okay but I got tired of the author's negativity.
Terri Jacobson
Mar 31, 2015 Terri Jacobson rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
A book of essays about the City of Light. A few gems, but for the most part I was bored.
Feb 23, 2017 Levi rated it liked it
If you really love Paris you'll enjoy this book. I really love Paris in a "been there a few times" kind of way. The author loves Paris in a "lived there for over two decades" kind of way. With that comes a certain degree of cynicism that a casual Paris fan might find off-putting. But it also comes with a depth of knowledge a casual travel writer might not posses.

He also writes with a wry sense of humor and addresses some less obvious aspects about Paris. The book covers everything from cafe' li
Jul 04, 2007 Writerlibrarian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2005, non-fiction
A series of essays by David Downie about Paris, the city and it's hidden treasures and not so hidden ones. The essay on Le Père Lachaise cemetery is exquisite. The book is a wonderful unusual guide to the city. If you've visited the city or are planning to visit it's a very nice way to plan your visit or to remember.
Oct 24, 2011 Deigh rated it it was ok
There were some interesting chapters in this book but I think unless you have a really good knowledge of the geography and layout of Paris so much of the descriptions of where things are and where he walked is meaningless and it just sort of feels like this guy is showing off. If you can read around all of that location information there is some interesting stories about the people of Paris.
Mar 18, 2016 Ken rated it it was amazing
This delightful series of tours helped prepare me for my first visit to Paris. Between David Downie's history lessons and his present day observations, I felt like I was in familiar territory and even impressed my daughter with some interesting tidbits. Definitely an enjoyable and informative read.
Sep 22, 2015 M rated it liked it
Not the most riveting book on Paris I've read, and once again suffers from the author's smugness. But then, if I lived in Paris I'd probably be smug too... Worth a read if you know the city fairly well, but not very useful otherwise.
Maureen M
May 02, 2011 Maureen M rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
An artful and intimate personal tour of Paris by an American who has lived there for 25 years, this book combines history, interviews and observations to help visitors better understand what they're seeing in the City of Light.
Dec 22, 2011 FiveBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful read. David Downie talks about Paris, Paris in the interview with FiveBooks and recommends his favourite five books on the subject: David Downie on Paris
Apr 28, 2015 Kim rated it really liked it
Wonderful book. I just discovered David Downie and I love his writing. I am lucky enough to have become FB friends with him and am meeting him in May. This book should be read on a tablet so that you can Google all of the places that he talks about. Now, I REALLY want to go back to Paris!
Nov 02, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
Liked this book. Enjoyed the writing style & sense of humor/observation. Very interesting prospect to write about the different neighborhoods of from a walker's point of view. After reading this little book, I became homesick for Paris even though we had just been there.
Dec 16, 2011 Lindsey rated it really liked it
An absolutely stunning read about Paris, appropriate for both dreamers and expats. Read an interview with the author, David Downie, on my site:
Sep 18, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing
I'm only on page 40, but the chapter on Père Lachaise is worth the price of the book. This one's going on my Kindle for my next trip to Paris. Beautifully written, too...
Aug 18, 2011 Mikael rated it really liked it
The best book to read before traveling to Paris. Wonderfully written!
Sep 20, 2011 J. rated it really liked it
Wonderful, colorful,informative, interesting short stories of places, people and phenomena of the City of Lights.
Jun 07, 2011 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Read my review of this book at my blog, Cindy's Book Club:

My Review of Paris, Paris
David Downie
Dec 04, 2011 David Downie rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I am the author and cannot review this book. For reviews please visit, or my website
Thank you!
Beverly Geer
Mar 17, 2017 Beverly Geer rated it it was amazing
I went to Paris for the first time last October. I did what I hope every person does before traveling to Paris. I read. I read a lot. I read about Victor Hugo, I read books written by Victor Hugo. I read a book from The National Geographic about Paris, and a book by Rick Streve. I read articles and history books.
I was trying to make myself like Paris. Paris was never on my bucket list of things to do. But then my husband bought your book, Paris, paris and I became interested. Two things especia
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