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Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train

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In one of the most inventive travel books in years, Ina Caro invites readers on twenty-five one-day train trips that depart from Paris and transport us back through seven hundred years of French history. Whether taking us to Orléans to evoke the miraculous visions of Joan of Arc, to Versailles to experience the flamboyant achievements of Louis XIV, or to the Place de la Co In one of the most inventive travel books in years, Ina Caro invites readers on twenty-five one-day train trips that depart from Paris and transport us back through seven hundred years of French history. Whether taking us to Orléans to evoke the miraculous visions of Joan of Arc, to Versailles to experience the flamboyant achievements of Louis XIV, or to the Place de la Concorde to witness the beheading of Marie Antoinette, Caro animates history with her lush descriptions of architectural splendors and tales of court intrigue. Organizing her destinations chronologically from twelfth-century Saint-Denis to the nineteenth-century Restoration at Chantilly, Caro appeals not only to the casual tourist aboard the Metro or the TGV but also to the armchair reader of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Caro's passion for and knowledge of France—its soaring cathedrals, enthralling history, and sumptuous cuisine—are so impressive that Paris to the Past promises to become one of the classic guidebooks of our time.


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In one of the most inventive travel books in years, Ina Caro invites readers on twenty-five one-day train trips that depart from Paris and transport us back through seven hundred years of French history. Whether taking us to Orléans to evoke the miraculous visions of Joan of Arc, to Versailles to experience the flamboyant achievements of Louis XIV, or to the Place de la Co In one of the most inventive travel books in years, Ina Caro invites readers on twenty-five one-day train trips that depart from Paris and transport us back through seven hundred years of French history. Whether taking us to Orléans to evoke the miraculous visions of Joan of Arc, to Versailles to experience the flamboyant achievements of Louis XIV, or to the Place de la Concorde to witness the beheading of Marie Antoinette, Caro animates history with her lush descriptions of architectural splendors and tales of court intrigue. Organizing her destinations chronologically from twelfth-century Saint-Denis to the nineteenth-century Restoration at Chantilly, Caro appeals not only to the casual tourist aboard the Metro or the TGV but also to the armchair reader of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Caro's passion for and knowledge of France—its soaring cathedrals, enthralling history, and sumptuous cuisine—are so impressive that Paris to the Past promises to become one of the classic guidebooks of our time.

30 review for Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ginny

    The writer tries too hard to give every detail of what she has experienced and at times gets repetitive. The editor for this book should have done a better job and saved readers' time. While I did enjoy the background history of many of the places I have visited and come to love in France I would have enjoyed this book much more if there had been more pictures and illustrations to tie into the long descriptions of sights and a lot less text especially the end of chapter recounts of each sight sh The writer tries too hard to give every detail of what she has experienced and at times gets repetitive. The editor for this book should have done a better job and saved readers' time. While I did enjoy the background history of many of the places I have visited and come to love in France I would have enjoyed this book much more if there had been more pictures and illustrations to tie into the long descriptions of sights and a lot less text especially the end of chapter recounts of each sight she visited. The book is just too long and so dry in spots and even the most avid lover of French history and travel will find it hard to stay awake through this book. Maybe that is why she insisted on giving a recap at each chapter's end-- to remind the reader of the point she was trying to get across that we had already forgot by the time we labored through each chapter. On the other hand the redeeming quality of the book is to give readers ideas regarding their next trip to France and plan it around train use and along a historic timeline as the author did if one wants to spend time in Paris yet see sights outside of Paris with an understanding of where all the churches, chateaux, and other noteable sights fit in to the history of France.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    While the history of France is interesting, I don't think Ina Caro can take credit for that. She can take credit for being repetitive and rather elitist however--though she does render some stories very compellingly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I wanted so badly to like this book. I love history, I love France, and I'm going to Paris - this seemed like the perfect book for me. Unfortunately, for my reading tastes, it was just too dry. I fought through the book but the constant elitist snobbery and un-likability of the narrator made it very tough. I stomached the antic dotes where Ina can't imagine a life without white asparagus from France or when she faced "hell" in the form of tourists at Versailles but, just barely. The awkward inje I wanted so badly to like this book. I love history, I love France, and I'm going to Paris - this seemed like the perfect book for me. Unfortunately, for my reading tastes, it was just too dry. I fought through the book but the constant elitist snobbery and un-likability of the narrator made it very tough. I stomached the antic dotes where Ina can't imagine a life without white asparagus from France or when she faced "hell" in the form of tourists at Versailles but, just barely. The awkward injection of "Bob stories" (Ina's husband) was also another major dislike for me. I did give the book 2 stars, however, as opposed to just one because through all the negatives I found with this book, the narrator's passion and love of France is undeniable. Her enthusiasm is genuine for a country who's history I also love. The idea behind this book is great, the voice telling the story, I believe, will only appeal to a select few (for example, those who share a complete passion for French white asparagus!! Lol!) ;)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I am not the biggest fan of non-fiction but every once in a while I come across a book that I have to try. Being a huge enthusiast of travel by train, a friend thought this would be my kind of book and she proved to be right. Ina Caro takes you on a journey from the 12th century to the 19th century without ever leaving the comfort of her rented Paris apartment. It is pretty obvious that the author loves France, she gushes about the food, the tour guides, the buildings, the history and especially I am not the biggest fan of non-fiction but every once in a while I come across a book that I have to try. Being a huge enthusiast of travel by train, a friend thought this would be my kind of book and she proved to be right. Ina Caro takes you on a journey from the 12th century to the 19th century without ever leaving the comfort of her rented Paris apartment. It is pretty obvious that the author loves France, she gushes about the food, the tour guides, the buildings, the history and especially her favorite emperor, Napoleon III. I wasn’t interested in her restaurant suggestions but that is because no matter where I travel I stick to McDonald’s, much to the disgust of my friends and family. I really hate going on tours, the rest of the group and the forced stop and go put me off, so those suggestions are also not to my taste. The idea that you can take 25 different day trips with no more than a 90 minute train ride right from the center of Paris is fabulous. These trips take you to actual castles, cathedrals and palaces, which are always right at the top of any travel list I make, and they are described in detail with all the history surrounding their construction, re-construction and occupants. I now have some new ideas for the next trip to France, I'm so excited.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    As far as a book about traveling through France and learning about French history on the way - bravo! We explore many eras of French history via stories and landmarks, and the book also serves as a guidebook for any real trip you'd like to take: all of the stops here are train trips that are easy to organize from a central location of Paris. I had to rate it down a star because about 1/3 of the way through the book, I found myself disliking our tour guide, Ina Caro. She's kind of a complainer, an As far as a book about traveling through France and learning about French history on the way - bravo! We explore many eras of French history via stories and landmarks, and the book also serves as a guidebook for any real trip you'd like to take: all of the stops here are train trips that are easy to organize from a central location of Paris. I had to rate it down a star because about 1/3 of the way through the book, I found myself disliking our tour guide, Ina Caro. She's kind of a complainer, and hearing her whine about crowds and waiting in line irked me (like, it's famous landmarks in France. There are going to be lines). She even advises skipping the palace of Versailles altogether rather than waiting in a line or being crowded. Skip Versailles?! Pardon my French but what the fuck, lady. Her adoring (slavish?) devotion to her husband Bob is also tiresome to hear about after a while. For me, the parts of the book I came for (the French history and famous places) far outweighed my annoyance with Ms. Caro. You can make that decision for yourself should you choose to read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    This book combined three things I love: France, trains and history. And now I want to go and recreate the trip for myself! Much appreciated is the way she seamlessly weaves the back story into the locations she visits; of little relevance now, although might have been when the book was released, which restaurants they ate at. And it led me to purchase her first book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Therese

    Very enjoyable mix of travelogue and a series of train trips through the archeological and artistic history of France, as well as its history of kings, religions, politics, and wars. Many of the historical vignettes were just fascinating!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Quite interesting at times, but repetitive to be sure. If you are a lover of architecture from this period or french history though, it's a must read. Be sure to read with the internet close at hand so you can look up photos of allllll the places Caro mentions. Girl Xoxo Monthly Motif Challenge 2019 August: Mode of Transportation (Read a book where the mode of transportation plays a role in the story.)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Not a guidebook to take with you. Read before you go, or read when you're at home wishing you were in France. A good starter for ideas for day trips. A light pre-read. An editor could have made the author's voice more consistent: either an approachable history lecture tone, or an intimate/personal story tone. Either be a docent, or be a bubbly Sister Wendy. The book alternates tone, as if the author keeps interrupting herself. I read snippets here and there, not the whole book (or even half), so Not a guidebook to take with you. Read before you go, or read when you're at home wishing you were in France. A good starter for ideas for day trips. A light pre-read. An editor could have made the author's voice more consistent: either an approachable history lecture tone, or an intimate/personal story tone. Either be a docent, or be a bubbly Sister Wendy. The book alternates tone, as if the author keeps interrupting herself. I read snippets here and there, not the whole book (or even half), so I didn't pick up on any elitism. I just think the author's so genuinely enthusiastic that when she goes to Paris, she almost does expect to meet up with Henry IV. She also doesn't like to dwell on incidents like the St. Bartholomew's Massacre, incidents that aren't nice dinner conversation. A few photos would have been nice too. Here's one thing this author did that I haven't seen before: she describes the insides of landmark buildings in Paris that are open to the public only a few days a year. The Luxembourg Palace, the interior of the Palais-Royal. I didn't know about these Journees du Patrimoine, when everyone can go in and look around. So, I'm glad I skimmed this one. I personally wouldn't buy it, but I did learn a few things. I think for the author's next project, it would be interesting to do a collection about more recent Paris history. She's been visiting and living there since at least the 1960s, it seems. Her stories about how the city has changed since then would be a good read. No royalty, and perhaps more about the little villages and working class neighborhoods that are trying to keep their own identities.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    What a wonderful book - if you are fascinated by France of the present and its history, as I am. I had read Ms. Caro's equally wonderful book, "The Road From the Past", a number of years, ago and own the paperback version. That book traveled through French history, starting in Provence and ending on the Ile-de-France, taking history in chronological sequence. I thought that was a wondrous way to travel, and it still is. Now Ms. Caro and her fellow historian husband, Robert, have based themselves What a wonderful book - if you are fascinated by France of the present and its history, as I am. I had read Ms. Caro's equally wonderful book, "The Road From the Past", a number of years, ago and own the paperback version. That book traveled through French history, starting in Provence and ending on the Ile-de-France, taking history in chronological sequence. I thought that was a wondrous way to travel, and it still is. Now Ms. Caro and her fellow historian husband, Robert, have based themselves in an apartment in Paris and are traveling to historical sites accessible within a day's train ride. As the French train system is pretty extensive, and there are more high-speed trains added all the time, this is also a wondrous way to travel through history. I WISH this book had been published just one year earlier. Then I would have had it with me as we bicycled through France last summer. We visited many of the same sites that Ms. Caro does - Angers, Tours, Chantilly, Ile-de-France, Versailles (gardens only - chateau is closed on Monday!). Our visits to these sites would have been greatly enhanced by her fascinating presentation of the lives of the former residents. As well, we would have seen much more based on her recommendations. Oh well. We have to return :-) And as soon as this book comes out in paperback, I'm buying it for that return trip! Loved it. Thank you, Ms. Caro, for writing such a wonderful book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    Day Trip From Paris?... Look No Further! It’s a first hand account of the author’s travels through France, most sights and destinations are within a 90-minute radius from Paris, all accessible either by metro or train (regional train or fast train / TGV). The destinations are set up in chronological order in an attempt to educate the reader a bit about French History – it works! It’s a wonderful guidebook – although not the type you’d carry around with you. Perhaps it’s because I am planning a tri Day Trip From Paris?... Look No Further! It’s a first hand account of the author’s travels through France, most sights and destinations are within a 90-minute radius from Paris, all accessible either by metro or train (regional train or fast train / TGV). The destinations are set up in chronological order in an attempt to educate the reader a bit about French History – it works! It’s a wonderful guidebook – although not the type you’d carry around with you. Perhaps it’s because I am planning a trip to Paris for next spring and I am all ears when it comes to suggestions that I was so enamoured by this book, but I think anyone could benefit from the ideas presented. You can be sure this book will be a resource for every trip to France I ever make! The entire thing was interesting, but I really perked up when it covered places I’d already visited (most of Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chartres and Rouen) or the parts that cover things I plan to see and do on my next trip (more of Paris, Tours and Lyon). It was a great book, and excellent idea, and a lot of fun to read! Can’t wait to get over there and follow in her footsteps!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bap

    Take a trip with Ina caro with destinations within two hours of Paris by train. She loves France. Loves history. And loves the company of her husband Bob who wrote the Power Broker and the magisterial biography of LBJ. She divides her accounts by selecting the best places representative of the different ages of France from the middle ages to the Renaissance. And up through the two Napoleons. Thus the castle in Ankers is forbidding and clearly a defensive redout while the chateaus of the Loire ar Take a trip with Ina caro with destinations within two hours of Paris by train. She loves France. Loves history. And loves the company of her husband Bob who wrote the Power Broker and the magisterial biography of LBJ. She divides her accounts by selecting the best places representative of the different ages of France from the middle ages to the Renaissance. And up through the two Napoleons. Thus the castle in Ankers is forbidding and clearly a defensive redout while the chateaus of the Loire are devoted to pleasure rather than war. We share her affection for trains even though we were sidetracked today by a national strike which required us to take a cab from Chemoneau to Amboise. As for Bob, she reminds me of the writer Calvin Trillon who had his foil. His wife Alice who was forever a part of the overall narrative, a measure of good sense moderating the enthusiasms of his wife. Altogether a fun read which will make you want to ride the rails of France traveling through history. Just be careful of strikes.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I wanted to dislike this book. The elderly American author's breathless detailing of restaurants visited with her beloved Bob and self-satisfied tone almost had me flicking the 'abandon' switch. But perseverance allowed me to get caught up in Caro's love affair with French history - a weakness I share - and her well-considered itinerary through some fascinating towns and regions. Her enthusiasm is infectious, even if she remained to the end the slightly annoying person you have to sit next to on I wanted to dislike this book. The elderly American author's breathless detailing of restaurants visited with her beloved Bob and self-satisfied tone almost had me flicking the 'abandon' switch. But perseverance allowed me to get caught up in Caro's love affair with French history - a weakness I share - and her well-considered itinerary through some fascinating towns and regions. Her enthusiasm is infectious, even if she remained to the end the slightly annoying person you have to sit next to on a train...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Hopen

    To anyone familiar with French history and many of the sites featured in that extensive history, this book reads like a biography. The reader can literally envision the detailed features that Caro so richly develops. Her research to provide information on the planning and development of each of these historical sites allows the reader to savor them like sitting down to a wonderful 5 course French dinner. For travelers to France this book could serve as a guide book to understanding and appreciat To anyone familiar with French history and many of the sites featured in that extensive history, this book reads like a biography. The reader can literally envision the detailed features that Caro so richly develops. Her research to provide information on the planning and development of each of these historical sites allows the reader to savor them like sitting down to a wonderful 5 course French dinner. For travelers to France this book could serve as a guide book to understanding and appreciating each site going well beyond the general guide books on the market.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Leung

    It was fine. The content was very inconsistent from chapter to chapter: sometimes it was all history, sometimes it was gossip, sometimes it was her personal experience traveling, sometimes it was a detailed account of the objects at the location. If you're looking for places to travel by train from Paris, this is a solid book. If you're looking for anything more specific or comprehensive, it is hit and miss.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    It was okay. The concept was great. Day trips from paris to the different cities, cathedrals and castles of France in chronological order. Unfortunately, the writing was not very good and the editing was worse. You could almost see where the author left off writing for a break and then returned, as she picked up and repeated the previous information. In the hands of a talented writer, this book would have been 4 stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Fox

    Highly recommended for anyone visiting Paris with enough time to take day trips. Very helpful directions on which metro, train, bus to take to historical towns and sites. Ina Caro candidly discusses interesting and pertinent French history and its leaders, culture, architecture. As I am about as far from a history buff as one can be, I learned quite a bit and appreciated the perspective offered about what we saw as well as the practical approach to touring a day at a time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marie Livingston

    An excellent book! Actually used it as a guidebook when I traveled to Paris this spring. Would love to visit all the places in her book. Did go to Saint Denis, Chartres, and Rouen.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Time Traveling the Easy Way Paris to the Past is a travelogue detailing Ina Caro’s travels in France. But, it goes way beyond just a travelogue, since Caro writes to give the reader the best information available on quick and easy travel methods for those wanting to see the country in detail. And, she does go into great detail. If you like visiting museums and reading everything, looking at all the art, and you read up on the locales before and after visiting… then this is probably the book for y Time Traveling the Easy Way Paris to the Past is a travelogue detailing Ina Caro’s travels in France. But, it goes way beyond just a travelogue, since Caro writes to give the reader the best information available on quick and easy travel methods for those wanting to see the country in detail. And, she does go into great detail. If you like visiting museums and reading everything, looking at all the art, and you read up on the locales before and after visiting… then this is probably the book for you. Caro has made multiple trips to France, where she visits the Cathedrals, Castles, Chateaus, fortresses, and important sights of the major cities in chronological order via train, bus, and cab. My favorite was the Louvre. In this book, she lays out the best way to visit everything while staying in Paris. The only location she visits that is more than 90 minutes travel from Paris is La Rochelle. Most of the places can be reached in an hour, making it possible to never have to repack and unpack during your stay in France. She gives handy information on the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse, or “high-speed train) which is France’s intercity high-speed rail service. She also describes travel on both the RER (Reseau Express Regional) and the Paris Metro. She tells which lines to take for each day trip. She describes days and times to visit to avoid the crowds, and she recommends restaurants. She mentions her husband’s impressions of some of the places she visits as well, which gives a more rounded view. She travels seven centuries through Paris history like this, from the 11th Century, continuing architecturally through the 17th Century. Then from the 18th Century she remains in Paris, where she uses the Metro and the RER, because after the death of Louis XIV, the center of France moved back to Paris with Louis XV. From the Basilica of Saint-Denis with the first stained glass window, an example of gothic art, to the beautifully detailed stain glass windows at Chartres Cathedral, she carries you through the middle ages. With the art of a storyteller, she describes the history of French leaders and medieval gossip, like how King John kidnapped Isabella. She describes the Castle of Vincennes built by Charles V. The architectural and geographic descriptions help picture the historical events, whether you are riding the train yourself, or following along on Google Earth and Wikipedia. She enjoys giving the history of both Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte. From the many chateaus, to Fontainebleau, to the Palace of Vaux-le-Vicomte, to Versailles and its gardens, to the Place de la Concorde, to the Art Gallery at Chantilly, to the Opera Garnier where she ends with her visit to an opera of Mozart; she relishes in the beauty of France. And, she never fails to give her honest opinion of every visit. She explains, for example, that she has an “abhorrence of war” and was never interested in touring the Conciergerie, an important sight of the French Revolution where people were tortured. But she made an exception for this book and visited it, even though her husband wouldn’t go with her to see this ‘vast antechamber of death.’ She pointed out that it would be impossible to pretend the Revolution never happened, even though much of what she would have loved seeing was destroyed during the war. Myself, I am compelled to see these types of sights, because war and plague are as deep a part of humanity as religion, art, music, and architecture. “…to me the Revolution is the missing heads of statues once lining the facades… burned reliquaries and broken shards of glass that once were stained glass windows. It is the looted castles of the aristocracy and their missing furniture and all the things we can no longer see.” She admits that the twists and turns of the French Revolution and European history would have been easier to understand with a tour of the Conciergerie, and that decapitations were most often preferable to other medieval forms of punishment. I enjoyed the Audible format, narrated by Christa Lewis. Even though it was great hearing the correct pronunciations of the French place names, I would love to have a good hardcopy of the hardback of this book. It really would be a preferable way of seeing the names in print. But, Wikipedia does wonders with that. I read this for my stop in France on my Around the World in 80 Books Journey, and as part of my own collection of Train journey books. My next stop is Portugal.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Ina Caro has been traveling to France since 1974, and "Paris to the Past" is her recounting those trips while telling about the associated histories related to the locations in chronological order. Using the TGV (a French high-speed passenger train) she travels to various places of interest. She’s accompanied by her husband, the writer Robert Caro, whose "Working" I liked. Starting with the story of Abbot Sugar in 1140 (he expanded the Basilica of St. Denis, which the Caros visited) she moves for Ina Caro has been traveling to France since 1974, and "Paris to the Past" is her recounting those trips while telling about the associated histories related to the locations in chronological order. Using the TGV (a French high-speed passenger train) she travels to various places of interest. She’s accompanied by her husband, the writer Robert Caro, whose "Working" I liked. Starting with the story of Abbot Sugar in 1140 (he expanded the Basilica of St. Denis, which the Caros visited) she moves forward through French history, recounting the historical Louses, Charleses, and Henrys. The problem with the book is that it puts a lot of demands on the reader. The book comes without accompanying photographs or maps, so I was giving my Wi-Fi a workout. The web surfing shows the beauty of the places she visits. She writes of visiting Chartes Cathedral (https://www.google.com/search?q=chart...) which, she tells us, has 176 windows with 27,000 square feet of stained glass. She is amused by the nude sculpture of Clovis, the first Frankish king at the Gallery of Kings at Reims Cathedral (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reims...). She visits Palace of Versailles (https://www.google.com/search?ei=-erw...) and its Gardens of Versailles (https://www.google.com/search?biw=800...). She describes the castles that greet visitors to the Port city of La Rochelle (https://www.google.com/search?q=la+ro...). A visit to Chateau de Fontainebleau made me come across an image of architectural beauty (https://www.google.com/search?q=chate...) which has been around since 1157. It contains Benvenuto Cellini's nude sculpture of Diane de Portieus (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benve...) which gives you an idea as to why Henry II chose her to be his mistress. Other demands are made on the reader by her writing, which isn’t always all that clear. She throws around words like “dauphin” (the eldest son of a king of France), “donjon” (the innermost keep of a castle), and “Frondeurs” (rebel, malcontent) without telling us what they mean. When writing about Blanche of Castile: "She was thirteen when she was married to the son of King Philip Augustus." The son’s name isn’t mentioned in the sentence (it’s Louis VIII). She has passages in which she’s telling us about “St. Louis”, which we’re supposed to know is Louis IX. When writing about Marie de Rohan, she refers to her husband simply as Luynes, without telling us his full name (Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes). Names like Achille de Harlay (a president of Parliament back in the 1500s) and Madame de Sevigne (a French aristocrat) are dropped without explanation as to who they are. When she writes: "While it may have been Perrault who conceived the idea of portraying Louis XIV as Apollo" you’re supposed to know that she’s talking about Claude Perrault, who designed the east facade of the palace of Versailles. All this web surfing makes one come across various mistakes. She tells us "My route to the [Loire] River took me along the Rue Royale." I looked up the Rue Royal on Google maps. It’s nowhere near the Loire. The closest body of water is the Seine. She writes that Charles VII was the bastard son of Queen Isabella. His mother was Queen Isabeau. (By the way, Charles VI was the king. He sat on the throne for forty-two years, even though he was insane.) French history is distinguished by strong women, and Caro introduces us to them. Eleanor of Aquitaine was the wife of Louis VII, then went over to England to marry Henry II. Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII and Louis XII. And don’t get her started on Joan of Arc. Throughout are little tidbits on how to survive your visit to France. The walled medieval city of Leon is best visited on a sunny day. When in Loire, try the white asparagus. And never visit Versailles in August.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Ina Caro has written a different kind of travel narrative centered around exploring France and its historic buildings. Using Paris as her base, she explores the art and architecture of French history via day trips by train. Every destination can be reached by a train ride of less than two hours. She also includes many sites within Paris. Starting in the early middle ages with the rise of the Gothic cathedrals, she explains the significance of the buildings and places them within the context of F Ina Caro has written a different kind of travel narrative centered around exploring France and its historic buildings. Using Paris as her base, she explores the art and architecture of French history via day trips by train. Every destination can be reached by a train ride of less than two hours. She also includes many sites within Paris. Starting in the early middle ages with the rise of the Gothic cathedrals, she explains the significance of the buildings and places them within the context of French history. She also frequently throws in a recommendation for where to have a delicious lunch. The journey through history goes through the French Renaissance with visits to several of the magnificent chateaux of the Loire Valley and into the years of the Sun King, Louis XIV. She concludes in the 19th century with the rise of the great train stations that transformed Paris. The descriptions of the buildings are very detailed and made me long for photos or illustrations. I frequently stopped reading to find photos on the internet. Caro is not afraid to say when something may not be worth your while. She has done a great deal of research on the buildings and the people who built and lived in them. The historical details made the stories come alive. If you are going to Paris and have an interest in exploring beyond the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, this book would make an excellent companion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The places visited in the book and the history I learned about was very interesting. The format of traveling through history, from the middle ages on, was brilliant. There were times when the author would say something, go off on a tangent, then come back to the original sentence or idea using the exact same wording. It got repetitive and slightly annoying. Also, the author sometimes had a snobby, almost high and mighty air. How dare a popular, well-known, and easy to get to place like Versaille The places visited in the book and the history I learned about was very interesting. The format of traveling through history, from the middle ages on, was brilliant. There were times when the author would say something, go off on a tangent, then come back to the original sentence or idea using the exact same wording. It got repetitive and slightly annoying. Also, the author sometimes had a snobby, almost high and mighty air. How dare a popular, well-known, and easy to get to place like Versailles have a bunch of tourists! At stories about white asparagus or expensive tasting menu dinners that lasted five hours, I often had to roll my eyes. Overall, I enjoyed the history and exposure of certain places in France that I did not know much about before; however, too often the author's opinion poked through in a bad way. It felt like she was telling you what you should or should not enjoy based on HER interests, even though they may not be the same as yours.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Becki Iverson

    This has been on my list for ages and I thought it sounded so interesting. I was wrong. This is great if you want something that is very technical about castles. It may also be great if you're an expat living in Paris and are really interested in exploring historical sites and need help finding and navigating them. But honestly, this is just so dry and it really didn't teach me anything I couldn't have learned (and learned in a more interesting way) in an architecture class, from a guided tour o This has been on my list for ages and I thought it sounded so interesting. I was wrong. This is great if you want something that is very technical about castles. It may also be great if you're an expat living in Paris and are really interested in exploring historical sites and need help finding and navigating them. But honestly, this is just so dry and it really didn't teach me anything I couldn't have learned (and learned in a more interesting way) in an architecture class, from a guided tour or just plan figured out. This really gets into the nitty gritty of castle building and it just didn't capture me. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're sure you want to know a lot of mundane details about places you'll probably never visit!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Savannah

    I learned how France negotiated the balance of power between the aristocracy, the king, and the Pope back in the Middle Ages and how that lead to absolute monarchy centuries later. But beyond that this book was a tediously odd mix of travel, history and odd personal preferences (the author doesn't like war so didn't cover it...in a book about European history). Her husband was mentioned more than in passing but not enough to be a fleshed out character. And no pictures of these beautiful places s I learned how France negotiated the balance of power between the aristocracy, the king, and the Pope back in the Middle Ages and how that lead to absolute monarchy centuries later. But beyond that this book was a tediously odd mix of travel, history and odd personal preferences (the author doesn't like war so didn't cover it...in a book about European history). Her husband was mentioned more than in passing but not enough to be a fleshed out character. And no pictures of these beautiful places she's describing!

  25. 4 out of 5

    JUDITH KLAYMAN

    More of a travel guide than a history book. I doubt people will also actually want to take extended train day trips out of Paris, unless they are staying in Paris for an extended time. Most tourists would probably go to specific areas of France, rather than take a train trip of 1-2 hours each way. However, many of the described places are in Paris or nearby, and she provides an entertain historical context for the buildings she visits. I therefore enjoyed reading the book, but can't recommend it More of a travel guide than a history book. I doubt people will also actually want to take extended train day trips out of Paris, unless they are staying in Paris for an extended time. Most tourists would probably go to specific areas of France, rather than take a train trip of 1-2 hours each way. However, many of the described places are in Paris or nearby, and she provides an entertain historical context for the buildings she visits. I therefore enjoyed reading the book, but can't recommend it that strongly.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I read this in Paris, which was of course wonderful timing. This is a really unique idea and I learned a lot from the book and got some great suggestions for future France excursions. It's part guide and part travel memoir, so keep in mind that there are opinions interspersed throughout. Really needs a better editor, both in development and proofreading. There's no excuse for a giant publisher like Norton to have made so many typographical errors.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dru

    A great idea, following up on Caro's previous book--seeing France's history chronologically, on day trips from Paris (and sometimes in Paris itself). I learned a lot more about French history by reading this. However, the book could have used a more thorough edit; although I like Caro's voice, there's a fair amount of repetition in each story--sometimes the exact phrase is repeated a few paragraphs apart. Not to mention a few typos...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Craig Tobey

    Great book to bring with you on a visit to Paris. I used it on day trips around Paris and found it had enough info on history for me. You could always go deeper, but it gave me a sense of French history while I was walking around churches and riding some trains. Tours was a great town....I felt the medieval era there. St Denis was an amazing cathedral....the statue of Marie Antoinette looked like it was made recently...history did not feel so far away at all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This was a wonderful birthday gift from friends we made while living/working in Paris from 2016-17. Everything described is a daytrip from Paris, sometimes quite nearby using their extensive rail system. The historic sequence and stories are my favorite part, while I could do without the details about rail stations and local restaurants (I'd use a real travel guide for that). The only problem is that I learned about several things we didn't see when we lived there! Have to go back. :)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    3.5 stars for this unique book. If you love Paris, traveling and history then this is the book for you. Taking trains from Paris as day trips, the author and her husband take you back in time, chronologically to different places. You learn about cathedrals, castles. palaces, chateau and the people who lived and died there.

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