Wandering with David Downie

Jeremy Kressmann begins his review of David Downie’s Quiet Corners of Rome with an important clue as to the nature of wandering and wondering, and why you won’t find the concepts in the common guidebook:

Travel guidebooks conceive of the world as a series of obvious, important monuments.

This “connect the dots” tourism is perfect for the Rick Steves worshiper or trophy tourist, whose urge to satisfy his friends and relatives’ desire to see him mimic their own footsteps provides hours of travel planning fun, makes up the essence of the modern guidebook. “Go here. Do this. Think this way.” There should be a Fox affiliate for this kind of faux travel.

The meat, bones and sinew of a city are not in its overvalued and glittering jewels, but in the little things, the lopsided smile of a particular architectural detail lost in time, the pulsing synapse of quiet, public places centered around monuments to forgotten dreamers who’ve nudged city’s history forwards…or backwards.

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, another of Downie’s masterpieces, is comprised of just such things. Fleshy things. People places. It also shows off Downie’s intense curiosity as he slips into buildings whose access is forbidden to the public or finds his way into the offices and homes of interesting denizens of the City of Light. If you really want to get get past the glittering bracelets, platform heels, and diamond-studded nipple rings of a tourist city, then you need folks like David Downie to get you to the flesh and heart of them.

Others must feel much the same. According to David’s blog:

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, with striking photography by Alison Harris was reissued in a fully updated, expanded and redesigned edition in the Armchair Traveler series by Broadway Books (April 2011) and has gone into 5 printings in 6 months.

Get ‘em while they’re hot, before you go on Vacation:

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light | Quiet Corners of Rome

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