Only In Paris: a guidebook to the city's other Minor Sights. (Book Review)

AS YOU WILL have figured out by now, at Minor Sights we’re all about discovering the not-so obvious attractions that are overlooked by tourist hordes and guidebooks alike. 

Take our home city, Paris. Millions of people are attracted each year by the likes of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees, but the City of Lights has plenty to offer to those willing to dig just a little deeper (sometimes literally…)

We recently came across a brilliant guidebook to Paris that takes the exact same approach (really, they could have called it ‘Minor Sights of Paris’ and we could have packed up and left.)

The author of this nifty little book, Duncan J.D. Smith, worked for many years in the publishing industry, selling other travel writers' books. In 2003 Smith decided he could do better and started writing his own books. Now a self-styled ‘Urban Explorer’, he’s published a range of guidebooks to the, for want of a better phrase, Minor Sights of several European capitals. Smith recently released the second edition of his ‘Only in Paris’ guidebook, and it makes a great companion to anybody looking to get a little deeper under the skin of Paris.

'Only In Paris' contains almost 100 short chapters, each covering a particular sight, or sometimes a group of closely related ones. Smith’s tastes are eclectic and diverse, and run from the macabre (‘#43, A Curious Crystal Skull') to full-on kitsch ('#58, The Cabaret at Gill’s Rabbit').
Only In Paris #3: Passages Vivienne
Minor Sights readers will be familiar with suggestions like the Cité des Fleurs and the Musée des Arts Forains, but there are plenty of other options, including obscure religious communities (discreet Armenians, Ganesh-worshipping Hindus, and onion-domed Russian Orthodox churches), lots of bones (including those of Louis XVI and empress-cum-saint Helena) and the Original Crown of Thorns (yup, that one!)

Whilst in the Louvre, Smith takes you to see that other Da Vinci painting (the one everybody ignores on their way to Mona L). He proffers you the Chateau de Vincennes instead of de Versailles, and he pulls out enough churches to make even the most avid church lover forget about Notre Dame. 
Chateau de Vincennes, not de Versailles.
The sights are grouped, as they should be, by arrondissement, making it relatively easy to string a bunch of them together for casual strolling and exploring. My only beef would be that sometimes sights are clubbed together based on themes, like a collection of medieval cloisters scattered across the Right and Left Bank, which interrupts the otherwise gentle flow of a neighbourhood stroll. 

Still, in the end 'Only In Paris' manages to impress with its extensive knowledge and the author’s erudition, making it a welcome companion for those wishing to escape the crowds whilst retaining a sense of wonder and discovery. It's added a few more places to our ever-extending wish list, and has broadened our knowledge about some places already visited. 

'Only In Paris' is available through the usual suspects, like Amazon, or can be bought directly from OnlyInGuides.com. 

To discover our own take on Paris, see our overview here.


Only In Paris

Publisher: The Urban Explorer ISBN: 978-3-9503662-9-7
Edition: 2 (2016); first published 2013 Brandstätter Verlag
Specification: PB, 240 pages, 200 colour photos & two fold-out maps, 13.5 x 21cm
Price: £16.95, €22, US$ 22.95



2 comments:

  1. Many thanks for a positive review of my book "Only in Paris". A celebration of the city's minor sights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Duncan, you're more than welcome. it's a great guidebook and i hope you will continue with the series.

      best

      Delete

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