Ina Caro is my hero! She has written two of the most perfect Cruisereader.com books ever. If you are traveling to France any time soon, pick up The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France and Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train as soon as possible. Your trip to France will be transformed. If you know friends who plan to travel to France, give them these books as gifts. They will thank you forever.
Ms. Caro is a French Medieval historian by training. After traveling through France, she was as frustrated by the task of keeping track of all those Louis’s, Charles’s, and Henry’s as the rest of us. The assortment of Roman ruins, fortresses, cathedrals, chateaus, and palaces was bewildering. She felt there must be a way for a tourist to follow the croissant crumbs of French history in some demystifying manner. We should all thank her for her perseverance, because we inveterate travelers are the beneficiaries of her efforts.
The single most revealing insight, Ms. Caro explains, is that the major attractions should be visited in rough, chronological order. She has laid this out for us in both books with a delightful enthusiasm and an historian’s relish of a great story. French history is a parade of powerful personalities and she connects these players with their times and places in an entertaining and engaging way.
In The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France, Ms. Caro takes on all of French history from the Greeks and Romans to Napoleon, as if she were leading a tour. Starting in the Riviera and the Rhone Valley, she shows us the roots of the Roman Empire in the foundation of France. For the Dark Ages, we move to Languedoc. For Medieval France and the Hundred Years War, the beautiful valley of the Dordogne in central France is our stage. Renaissance France takes us to the marvelous chateaus and cities of the Loire River. The Sun King, Louis XIV, shifts the focus to Paris and Versailles. Napoleon will take it from there.
In Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train, the game is to see how many centuries of French history can be explored within day trips from your Paris hotel. Again, Ms. Caro deserves huge kudos for providing the treasure map that could keep you ambitious amateur historians hectically busy for a month of expeditions, all without moving your luggage. It is a tour de force.
I was lucky to live and work in Paris for two years in my early career. I have been fortunate to have visited a majority of the sites and attractions described here. I can practically guarantee that these two books will become extensions of your arms as you mosey purposefully through two thousand years of art, history, politics, religion, economics, and culinary artistry.
If France is in your future, read The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France and Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train now. You could not ask for better planning tools. You will get so much more out of your trip.