Only in Paris

Only in Paris by the urban explorer Duncan JD Smith is more than a guidebook or just another travel guide, it's also a series of essays on the city's attractions and secrets.

Here at Beyond London Travel we've written and contributed to several Paris guides ourselves, including writing Dorling Kindersley's Top Ten Paris. We know the city fairly well, so it's a delight to come across a book like Only in Paris, which is far more than just another guidebook to the city. It is a guide, of sorts, though not the kind where you'll find a list of night clubs or a map of the Métro. It's a very personal guide by the man who's carved out a niche for himself as the urban explorer, Duncan J. D. Smith.

The book's subtitle gives you more of an idea of what to expect: 'A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects.' The author has written short essays on 98 of them, each running 2-3 pages and accompanied by colour photos and the relevant addresses and nearest Métro station. Opening times are listed in an appendix at the back of the book. It's a delightfully mixed bag of topics, the only common factor being that the author finds them interesting... and we're sure the reader will too.

The first entry, for example, covers quirky shops in the 1st Arrondissement. These include the kind of shops that are definitely not covered by conventional guidebooks, like a pest control shop which has a fine collection of stuffed rats, and shops specialising in such things as pens, autographs, luggage and parasols.

The second entry (right) takes the reader on a tour of artists' studios. This goes way beyond the 'usual suspects' and includes contemporary artists living in legalised art squats.

The author divides Paris into five different areas, with almost half the entries in the Left Bank and Right Bank areas, and the rest split between Northwest Suburbs, Northeast Suburbs and Southern Suburbs. Every piece is an enjoyable read, and the range should appeal to anyone who really likes discovering a city rather than only doing the obvious. Some of the topics include:

  • The Bones of Louis XIV
  • Monsieur Hulot and Modernism
  • Hagia Sophia in Miniature
  • A Visit to a Hindu Temple
  • A School for Beekeepers
  • Cabaret at Gill's Rabbit

The Verdict

This is the first 'Only in...' guide we've seen, and there are a lot of them now in the series. It's one of the most enjoyable books about Paris we've seen in a long time, and highly recommended.

Buying Only in Paris

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