When I was a pre-teen, I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables and her quest for kindred spirits. When I read Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History by Train, by Ina Caro, I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit – someone who loves France as much as me, adores all the spicy tales of intrigue, and loves a good meal at the end of a satisfying day of touring châteaux.
Caro’s premise is that a better way to understand the sweep of French history is by visiting key monuments that represent each era chronologically. This makes it easier to see the changes in architecture as a reflection of what was going on in the country. Using Paris as a hub and taking the train and subway to make day trips throughout history, Caro guides readers from the 12th to the 19th centuries.
Each chapter begins by explaining which train station to start from (Paris has several, each serving a different part of the country), the length of the journey and any particular potential pitfalls to avoid. Then she explains the human drama behind each castle, cathedral, or even a crumbling wall. And she never forgets to share a recommendation for where to enjoy a memorable meal.
I usually pass books on once I have read them, but this is a keeper. I even want to go back to places I have visited before, Caro’s book in hand, and look for the details that I didn’t take in before. And maybe I’ll find my kindred spirit in the seat opposite me. All aboard!