NOTICE: I will give this collection (which is priced at $45.00) to one reader chosen at random from those who comment on this post. American Resident, Over 18. (By Friday April 8)
Destination: Paris, France
Book: Paris from the Heart: Ultimate Walking Tours to Fun, Fashion and Freedom (November 2010) by Jan Dolphin
This beautiful little collection of travel guidebooks to Paris, Paris From the Heart, has been sitting on my shelf since last fall, when the author, Jan Dolphin, sent it to me. I looked at it from time to time, but didn’t know if I really would write about it, since I don’t generally do guidebooks at A Traveler’s Library. However, I decided to do yet another France on Friday today and tell you about a very different kind of guide to Paris.
The first way in which this guide is different, is that it has one general and five location-specific, separate, thin, paperback books. I love looking at the package. The author, an interior designer, has assembled this package with true artistic flair. All six books enclosed in a cardboard jacket, sport antique posters, gorgeous photography, and charming hand-drawn maps.
When I was looking at guidebooks for my trip to Paris, I bemoaned the fact that they generally are too large to lug around, pull out when you stop for a croissant aux chocolate. (Diversion: I recently learned from Alexandra, hostess at Chez Sven, the green B & B in Cape Cod, that chocolate crosssants originated with a traditional after school snack of a bar of chocolate between two slices of white bread. fin de diversion)
Since I would only be covering a small area of Paris, I only needed in-depth guides to one arrondissement (neighborhood) at a time, so I thought perhaps the Paris from the Heart collection would have served my purpose.
In addition to an Introduction booklet with essentials like packing tips and a little vocabulary, the Paris from the Heart collection covers walking tours of the Left Bank, the Right Bank, a walk along the Seine, Montmarte, and Day Trips–the essentials for a first time trip to Paris, so in theory, you could carry just the booklets you need for the day.
In reality, while this quirky guide might make an interesting travel companion, it will not substitute for a more detailed guide and accurate maps. Dolphin starts by telling us how she first became enamored with Paris.
Dolphin’s Proustian memory experience begins not with a pastry, but with the aroma of Evening of Paris perfume in its exotic sapphire-blue bottle. (Diversion: As a child, I wanted to buy one of those beautiful blue bottles as a present for my mother every Christmas. And I yearned to be all grown up and glamorous enough to wear a perfume with such a sophisticated ambiance. Although the blue of that bottle has always been my favorite color, I later realized that truly exotic perfumes are not generally available at the drugstore in downtown Killbuck, Ohio. fin de diversion) This initial trip down memory lane, sets the stage for the author’s presentation of her Paris.
The beauty and charm of such an intensely personal guide falls down if you want or need information about something the author has not chosen as HER personal favorite. She loves art, shopping, antique buildings. Her enthusiasm is underscored by liberal use of superlatives and exclamation marks. But she also invites you to create your own journal as you go. Each book leaves many lined blank pages where you can personalize the book.
I think it would be interesting for a first-time visitor to follow one or more of these suggested routes through Paris, and make liberal notes about the things she saw and experienced. A book gains value when someone writes in it, and what a lovely gift that would be from mother to daughter or granddaughter.
Anyone who yearns for a romantic Paris will enjoy looking at these beautiful little books. However, if you have your own ideas about what you want to see, or if you like to wander undirected and make your own discoveries, you definitely will need a supplemental guidebook for your travel library.
Photos: Most of the pictures here are from my own trip to Paris, and if you would like to reproduce them, please ask me about rights. The two Evening in Paris pictures are linked to the web pages from which they came.
How do you use a guidebook? Do you want one that gives you a specific route, or one that describes many places so that you can map out your own walk? Personalized guide or more matter of fact? (Some people had already commented before I added the offer to giveaway my collection–they are eligible. See Notice at top of post.)