Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Traveling Through French History by Train

by Ina Caro

Pub Date: June 27th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-07894-7
Publisher: Norton

In this sequel to Caro’s The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France (1994), the author discovers that with today’s high-speed trains, she doesn’t need a car to visit historic France.

One single Paris Metro line can take you through a dazzling panoply of history: the Chateau de Vincennes, Charles V’s 14th-century fortress; Francis I’s Hotel de Ville; the Place de la Concorde, constructed by Louis V in the mid-18th century; the Palais-Royal, fashioned by Philippe Egalite in the late 18th century; and the 21st-century neighborhood of La Defense. Take another Metro line, Caro discovered gleefully, and you can descend to the period of the Romans, on the Ile-de-la-Cite, then arrive glamorously in the 19th century, at the Opera Garnier. Moreover, you can manage day trips to sites as far away as Tours (90 minutes by TGV) in one day, returning to Paris. In this cheerful, logical, easy-to-follow narrative (which includes favorite restaurants and hotels), Caro builds on previous trips to France and presents her timeline through history chronologically, from the 12th-century Basilica of Saint-Denis, where nearly all of the French kings and queen are buried, to the Gare d’Orsay, now fabulously converted into a museum of 19th-century art. Though the author’s selections aren’t new or off the beaten path, she offers a lovely, fresh take on why we keep going back to France’s gorgeous, well-preserved treasures.

A nicely organized, reliable companion for touring by train from Paris.