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Paris, Paris Tour with Mr. Night

Look at the left-hand portion of this map and you’ll see the wall of Philippe Auguste, one of our destinations. The other image shows the Hotel de Sens.

Last night we braved the snow and ice and gave one of our night-time tours of the Ile Saint-Louis and Marais to noted author Paul Bogarde, a leading expert on light pollution. He’s researching a new book about light, and asked me to share my insights about the City of Light–the history of Paris lighting, the secrets of why Paris got its nickname, the reality of light in the city today…
We cruised the island, enjoying the night-lighting of various bridges, and I showed Paul where many literary salons had been held, and pointed out the road where Retif de la Bretonne, the famed writer who invented the genre of night-time prowls, lived in the 1780s, near the Seine.
Then we did the Marais, best known nowadays for fashion boutiques and museums, but actually one of the city’s best neighborhoods for night-time strolls. Paul had read in “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” about the Place des Vosges and other Marais spots, and had enjoyed my descriptions of them in the chapter entitled “Nightwalks”.
But first I took him to the Hotel de Sens, one of the city’s last “medieval” townhouses (see image–pretty much rebuilt in the 19th century, but what the hell…), and the 12th-century city wall built by Emperor Philip Augustus.
Nearby it we trolled one of Paris’ darkest, most atmospheric streets, and walked down one of the narrowest medieval alleys left in town. It was a magical walk. I’m looking forward to reading Paul’s book–in a couple of years.

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  1. I’m flattered, and look forward to giving you a nighttime tour of Paris. All best, David

  2. I am a Paris lover. There’s nothing to be done about it. It’s in my blood and no other city I visit ever lives up to Paris.

    So when I read David Downie’s “Paris by Night” a month or so ago, I loved the familiar feeling as I followed his characters through streets that felt like old friends. It’s not that Paris is not beautiful under any light; it’s not that I haven’t seen Paris with the Eiffel Tower sparkling on the hour and the Champs-Elysées lined with Christmas lights. Downie shows a different side of Paris, a sort of “underside”, which only someone who knows it inside and out can show.

    David’s intricate knowledge of history and place, accompanied by his wife Alison Harris’ finely tuned sense of aesthetics and knowledge of architecture (she’s a renowned photographer), make a stunning combination for someone who wants to discover the “light” in the City of Lights not only from an insider’s point of view, but from a Paris lover’s point of view.

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