March 14, 2016

Book Review: Hidden Gardens of Paris by Susan Cahill

In a city that is the destination of millions of travelers every year, it can be difficult to find your way to its lovely, serene spaces. Away from the madding crowds, the gardens of Paris offer the balm of flowers, tall old trees, fountains, ponds, sculptures, with quiet Parisians reading Le Monde, taking the sun, relishing the peace.

These places are often tucked away, off the beaten tourist track, and without a guide they're easy to miss: The Jardin de l'Atlantique, out of sight on the roof of Gare Montparnasse. The enchanting Jardin de la Vallée Suisse, invisible from the street, accessible only if you know how to find the path. The Square Boucicaut, its children's carousel hidden inside a grove of oak and maples. Square Batignolles, the shade of the old chestnut trees an inspiration to the painter édouard Manet and poet Paul Verlaine.

Hidden Gardens of Paris features 40 such oases in quartiers both posh and plain, as well as dozens of others "Nearby" to the featured green space. It is arranged according to the geographic sections of the city—Île de la Cité, Left Bank, Right Bank, Western Paris, Eastern Paris—a lively and informative guide that focuses on each place as a site of passionate cultural memory.

There is never a time when I am not dreaming of my return to the City of Light, of finding a new cafe to ensconce myself in for hours, of walking its bridges and getting lost in its streets. Hidden Gardens of Paris speaks to my ever-present Parisian daydreams, with secret green spaces within its pages, waiting to be discovered on my next trip.  

Cahill has filled Hidden Gardens of Paris with parks and gardens, some known, others little known, accompanied by lyrical descriptions and some historical notes, as well as nearby places of interest.  

"Look inside the green heart of Paris and you will see the exquisite beauty of one of the world's most cherished places.  That beauty quickens the love of life and stirs our desire for more.  People - travelers- always want to come back to Paris again and again.  This book guides us to forty of its loveliest pleasures, the small squares and gardens, the thrilling open spaces bordered by architectural elegance, the parks and sprawling woodlands of Europe's crown jewel…"

This is the book to take with you when you want to escape the tourist hordes of this well trod city and find delight in an off-the-beaten-path place of quiet and beauty. I am certainly earmarking my copy and taking it with me on my next trip.

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