Discover Paris by Métro
June 2, 2012
A handy new guidebook turns the Paris Métro into a fascinating tour guide, revealing the city’s treasures and making them accessible in an intriguing new way. Arranged by Métro line, the guide has entries for 300 Métro stops, with history, famous monuments and museums, interesting architecture, out-of-the-ordinary boutiques, leisure activities like cooking classes, and numerous restaurant and café suggestions for each stop.
There’s lots of Métro history, including the story behind the construction of the individual lines, from the first (line 1), which opened in 1900, to the latest, line 14, inaugurated in 1998. Even the names of the stations—and the way some of them changed over time—provide fascinating insights into the city’s history.
There’s plenty of above-ground history, too. For example, in the Solférino station entry you’ll learn about the 1859 battle of the same name in Lombardy and the founding of the Red Cross as well as the backstory on the conversion of the Musée d’Orsay from railroad station to museum. In addition to the normal roster of museums and galleries you’ll find such surprises as the Petit Musée des Eclairages Anciens, a cache of fringed lampshades, crystal paraffin lamps and atmospheric gas lamps; and the lovely little Musée de l’Eventail, where the Hoguet family has been creating exquisite fans since 1872.
I especially liked the walks that are suggested: several literary walks (5th and 6th arrondissements), walks through history (the Ile de la Cité, medieval Paris, the remains of the Bastille), walks in the Russian and Jewish quarters, as well as in parks, including some seldom visited by tourists such as the Promenade Plantée and Parc Floral.
It was a brilliant idea to include “The Place for a Rendezvous” for each station, and the “Out on the Town” listings will satisfy night owls in search of a late meal, or those looking for lively places to dance or have a drink. The authors also included some terrific Paris curiosities: the world’s largest sundial, a gypsy caravan you can rent for the night, a restaurant in a former brothel built under Napoleon III that retains its lavish marble staircase and gilded ceiling.
Because the guide is so comprehensive, entries are necessarily brief, but the payoff is a book that’s small and light enough to carry with you. The format is user-friendly: sturdy double-page Métro maps serve as front and back endpapers; each line is color-coded on the page corners for quick reference; handy indexes at the end give alphabetical access to Métro stations, monuments and key places.
With its wealth of information, maps and hundreds of color illustrations, this is an invaluable guidebook for both first-timers and frequent Paris visitors.
Discover Paris by Métro Anne-Claire Ruel, Aurélie Clair, and Catherine Taret. Editions du Chêne, 2012. 384 pages, 580 color illustrations.
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