If you happen to be in France this year for the 14th, or just have an interest in revolutions, here’s a good “revolutionary” walking tour that starts in our favorite neighborhood and ends at the Madeleine. That makes it a “bonne trotte” as the French would say, but doable in good shoes and with a good walking partner.
I’d also recommend
Seven Ages of Paris, my favorite history book on Paris.
To understand France and the French, you need to get to grips with the Revolution. As July 14 approaches, Anthony Peregrine transports us to a Paris where the tumbrils still roll.
Start your tour in Rue St André-des-Arts, which remains as narrow and dense as it was at the time of the Revolution
This year, as you will have noticed, is the 40th anniversary of 1968. You will have noticed particularly if you have been in France recently. There they have treated the riotous events of May 1968 as if they were of Earth-shattering import. Oh dear. As revolutions go, May 1968 was playtime – and so inflated with self-importance that you feel like slapping it.
So let us ignore 1968 and turn instead to the real French Revolution, the one of 1789: the one that overthrew an absolute monarchy, turned France upside down and set the template for revolutions (and totalitarianism) to come. In consuming most of its leading perpetrators, and thousands of others, the 1789 revolution was also an early indication of the disparity between abstract theory and human reality – and of the blood that most often fills the gap.