When Siobhan Wall’s publisher asked me to review her new book on Paris, Quiet Paris, I did not hesitate for a minute. This is not a classic guide book to Paris. This reference is specifically targeted at the visitor who prefers the off-the-beaten-track Paris, at the seasoned Paris traveler, and even at Parisians themselves. Don’t miss the special offer below!
Wall argues in the introductory chapter that despite the tremendous influx of tourists in this geographically small city, there are still undiscovered and other peaceful corners in which to enjoy the city’s atmosphere. I fully agree. So I was eager to discover, through this text, some quiet corners new to me.
She divides her recommendations into twelve categories; for example, Museums, Parks and gardens, Restaurants and Places to stay. There is also an index by arrondissement.
What do I think of Wall’s suggested locations? For most of the categories, I think she does an excellent job at offering up suggestions you may not have thought of or read about in other guides. For example, her compilation of library and cultural center addresses is something I have not seen in elsewhere.
Her Parks and gardens section includes a few spots that are only slightly off the regular tourist route, but also a number of places that are a bit more hidden. I did not know about the Jardin Atlantique before reading this guide. I will be making a trip over there soon!
As for the museums, on the other hand, I would hope visitors would pick museums to visit based on the content and quality of the museum and not just on how quiet or uncrowded they may be. I would not necessarily recommend sticking closely to her suggestions there.
For the restaurants and cafés, of course we understand that these are personal recommendations; certainly Wall did not try all the restaurants in Paris before coming up with this list! My restaurant guides are no different. But what I would have liked to hear, before following her suggestions, is a bit more about Wall herself. I had the same feeling about the Places to stay section — how did she choose these spots? Does she have some connection to the owners of the hotels and apartments listed? A specialized guide such as this depends on readers having a certain level of trust in the author. And that is hard to achieve when there is no information about Siobhan Wall herself and her link to Paris, beyond what we can glean from her style of writing in the introduction. Does she live in Paris? Had she lived here for some period of time? I did learn a bit more about Siobhan Wall from the publisher and I have included her bio below.
One aspect of this book I am quiet fond of is that there is one page for every site and a photo for each as well. I am a very visual person, as I imagine many of you are. I might have gone even further and made the photos more of a focus, so the book could serve as a true souvenir and not just a guide.
This book cannot replace a classic guide, but that is not the point. As a supplementary reference, the book is quite user-friendly and certainly offers at least a few suggestions for locations that even a resident Parisian would not yet know. So grab your copy today — it usually sells for £12.99 or $19.95 from Frances Lincoln Publishers. *BUT* for Paris Weekender readers, order Quiet Paris at the special offer price of £10.00 by calling Bookpoint at +44 01235 400 400 and quote the code 46PARIS.
Have you ordered your copy of Quiet Paris? What did you think? What do you think makes for a top guide to Paris?
Siobhan Wall is a writer and artist. Siobhan has worked as a senior lecturer, teaching photography, cultural studies, video production and fine art for over ten years at universities in London and Oxford. The author of numerous articles on contemporary art published by international journals, more recently Siobhan has curated group exhibitions for British museums and galleries. Her paintings have also been included in group shows at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and the ICA, London and she has two works in the permanent collection of women’s art at New Hall, Cambridge.