Posted by: reecejharley | October 10, 2009

What’s this all about?

A few years ago, while rifling through the shelves of a second-hand bookstore I came across a well-loved, slightly yellowing and stylishly-simple guide to Paris.

“Nagel’s Paris”, published in 1950 (just one of in a long series of the now world famous ‘Les Guides Bleus’ (The Blue Guides)) is a real delight to hold in your hands. Gold embossed lettering printed onto dark blue cloth, bound around light and fragile pages. The dense text (devoid of the glitzy photos which swamp modern travel guides) is straightforward in parts:

“The Place Vendome, a rectangle with cut corners, 240 yards long and 136 yards wide, surrounded by uniform Corinthian-order facades, presents an admirable architectural unity of the Louis XIV period (1687-1720)” pp131

And generously descriptive in others:

“Although the cinema has become a habit, and a week does not pass when a Parisian does not go to see at least one film, the theatre has never ceased to hold a very important place in the literary and social life of Paris. The capital of France remains a dramatic centre where reputations are made and broken, and the fame of of its consecrated works spreads throughout the provinces and abroad.” pp62

Instantly my mind wandered to thoughts of Paris in the 1950’s. The bustling elegance of Boulevarde St Germain, the conversations overheard in Cafe de Flore, The Jadin de Tuilleries filled with wide-brimmed hats, men in their waistcoats and the excitement of post-war freedom still lingering in recent memory….. Did my idealised vision of Paris come close to resembling reality? Perhaps this guidebook would help me better understand an iconic city which has since slipped into history? What cafes, restaurants, parks and museums would remain true to the descriptions of George Monmarche` when he visited them, taking detailed notes for Nagel’s Guide?

School Children in Parc Mountsour with a view to the Arc De Triomphe

School Children in Parc Mountsour with a view to the Arc De Triomphe

I am arriving in Paris again (my third visit) in January 2010: Exactly 60 years on from the Guidebook’s publication, and this time i’m on a mission; a mission to find what’s left of Nagel’s Paris of the 1950’s

This blog is a meandering journey through the ageing pages of Nagel’s Guide to Paris and through the streets of Paris itself!

Follow my travels, as I follow the advice of Nagel’s Guide to Paris, 60 years on…


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