Unexplored Paris

As all habitués know, Paris is a world unto itself, an endless labyrinth that never seems to exhaust the curious. No surprise then to find that there is a publisher, Editions Parigramme, that survives by producing nothing but books on the city. They’ve been doing it for more than a decade now and show no signs of slowing down; this year alone has already seen the appearance of more than twenty new titles, on topics as varied as poems about Paris, the city’s best bars/bakers/gardens/walks/restaurants, being a young mother here, design, contemporary art, excursions with small kids… Alas, for the hardened Anglophone, they are all in French, though a wonderful guide like Les Patisseries de Paris shouldn’t cause too many problems to anyone with a true love of éclairs au chocolat and palmiers and a basic grasp of the language of Molière and MC Solaar.

That said, Parigramme does translate some titles, praise the Seigneur. Just off the presses is one of their best recent offerings, Unexplored Paris by Rodolphe Trouilleux, with photographs by Jacques Lebar (19E , also available in French as Paris secret and insolite). A Palladian pavilion, a carving of two rats nibbling a hole in the wall, a chocolatier-pharmacist, a gothic parchment, a pagoda, telescopic street lights, a black virgin, a 230-year-old double spiral staircase, a surrealist sundial, bas-reliefs in honor of Louis XIV, a mysterious caryatid, an imperial bell, 19th-century greenhouses, stalactites in a grotto: it’s an arrondissement-by-arrondissement guide to little-known oddities of the city, 238 in all. Every one gets a brief text and at least one colour photo. No maps, hélas, but addresses and metro stops and so on to help the curious flaneur. It’s a wonderful way to pique the curiosity and get you out exploring the city.

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