The Most Beautiful Walk in the World
– a pedestrian in Paris, by John Baxter, Harper Perennial
Reviewed by Ceridwyn Parr
What is the most beautiful walk in the world? For ex-pat American John Baxter who has chosen to live in Paris- sigh- the most beautiful walk is down his street.
His street happens to be Rue de l’Odean, in St Germain –des-Pres. This is where Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, where Gertrude Stein lived with Alice B Toklas, and where James Joyce published Ulysses. Ernest Hemingway visited friends in John Baxter’s apartment building. What an evocative environment for a writer to inhabit.
His literary knowledge populates the dim interiors with famous writers, artists, thinkers and socialites. We meet Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Napoleon, Man RAY, e.e.cummings and even Dr Guillotin.
However, this is not a guide book as such. It is the story of a very reluctant guide…
Horrified by the agony of tourists searching for the ‘real’ Paris, who are subjected to ill informed and over zealous guides, John Baxter is persuaded to take some small literary tours of his immediate neighbourhood. His clients loved his gentle local journeys on foot, accompanied by rich stories full of personal details , told with his delightful ironic tone.
The book would work as a guide book, once you have savoured it slowly. Itincludes a map identifying all the places John mentions in the stories. What a fantastic way to experience Paris. M
I will buy this book for my friend Roz – She has just come back from a brief trip to Paris and is already planning her next- such is the magic quality of that city. to take – it is small enough for any suitcase, and big enough for any dream.