The Most Beautiful walk in the world by John Baxter

Source – Review copy

John Baxter is an Ex-pat australian writer that has lived in Paris for a number of years ,he is also well-known for writing Film biographies of people such as Steven  Spielberg and George Lucas to name two .He currently gives guided Literary tours of Paris and has done so for a number of years ,this book is a collection of thoughts memories and information he has gathered in doing this for the past few years .He has also written two earlier books on Paris .

Now the books the most beautiful walk in the world is set up in short chapters each a little tale about the city and the people who have lived there .One main area’s John touches on is the 20’s the swinging paris of Hemingway , Fitzgerald ,Joyce and Gertrude Stein .He evokes the Spirit of these writers books as he describes ,Joyce’s Ulysses being published by Sylvia Beach the owner and publisher that ran Shakespeare and company in the 20’s ,Now that great shop keeps cropping up ,you sense John’s love for it history and how much it has touched writing  and writers in the past .Elsewhere we get the darker side of paris ,opium dens ,Underground attractions that were scary and popular in late 1800’s .He also tells of his and his families connection to the city christmas there ,meeting people and just the everyday ebb and flow he experiences .Another thread of chapters is of course food and cafes ,from how important the right tin of sardines can be to a french man to the great cafes of the twenties and how they have faired through to the present day .

Connetable produces a “vintage” sardine that retails for $14 a can.Buyers are advised to “put down” these like wine for a few years ,turning them occasionally to spread the flavour .

“what really threw me “,tim said later “was the fact you didn’t bat an eyelash .I thought it was some sort of practical Joke.”

He should have realized that the french ,serious at the best of times ,become positively reverent when it comes to food .

John buying sardines ,this made me laugh at how serious the french can be !!

I m so please I picked this from the e-mail I get from time to time from Harper perennial .It was one of the best travel books I ve ever read John’s love for paris just drips of the pages and like a good Bordeaux ,slowly gets you drunk with the city your self ,he breathes life into the figures you know that lived there ,but he makes the spirits still seem part of the fabric of Paris today .The short chapter and constant flow of little nuggets of info make you want to continue turning the pages ,he flies from places to places keeping the reader interested from page one to the end .I wanted to jump on the next flight with My darling wife and spend a week reliving this book Visiting the Various sights and sounds he described ,trying sardines at $14 dollars ,having a coffee in a famous cafe ,seeing Gertrude Stein favourite garden  .I ve had a brief visit to Paris a number of years ago and this has made me want to return more than ever to breathe up more of this wonderful city  ,but also pick up his two earlier books also about Paris .John has a website ,you can e-mail him to maybe try a walk in Paris with him ,if I do get to go there I may well do that and bring this book along !!!

What cities do you love ?

Have you been to Paris what did you enjoy ?

June 2011
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