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Secret Paris

Secret Paris

by Jacques Garance and Maud Ratton

2 Customer Review(s)


A priest who blesses animals, wine-producing firemen, a tree in a church, an inverted phallus at a famous entrance, an atomic bomb shelter under the Gare de l’Est, a real Breton lighthouse near Montparnasse, unsuspected traces of former brothels, a patron saint of motorists, royal monograms hidden in the Louvre courtyard, the presentation on Christ’s crown of thorns, a prehistoric merry-go-round, a sundial designed by Dali, war-wounded palm trees, bullet holes at the ministry, biblical plants in a priest’s garden, a mysterious monument to freemasonry at the Champ-de-Mars, a solid gold sphere in parliament, a Chinese temple in a parking lot, the effect of the Biere river on Parisian geography, a blockhouse in the Bois de Boulogne…

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Extracts From The Book
Secret Paris: A Prehistoric ride Secret Paris: For those mad about trainsSecret Paris: A Museum of Skin DiseasesSecret Paris: Flower Tower

A Prehistoric ride

Secret Paris: A Prehistoric ride Set up in 1992 in the middle of the Jardin des Plantes, this 1930’s-style carrousel was specially conceived for this location around the theme of animals that have now vanished or are threatened by extinction. It thus gathers together members of rare or extinct species, such as the famous dodo from Mauritius, the Tasmanian wolf, the sivatherium (an elk-like precursor of the giraffe), or the triceratops (one of the last dinosaurs).

Although children are not always aware of the history of the animals they’ve climbed upon, they seem to be delighted to ride in a gondola carried by a panda, in the shell of a horned tortoise, or on the back of a Madagascan aepyornis (the biggest bird ever recorded).
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For those mad about trains

Secret Paris: For those mad about trains Founded in 1929, the AFAC is housed
in the amazing underground space beneath the Gare de l’Est. Upon entering, one is warmly welcomed by the various members operating the model train layouts. You will probably be invited to stand in the middle of one of these immense networks to understand the complex ensemble of rail signals, level crossings, marshalling yards, platforms, etc. – each reproduced in scale detail.

The Association occupies two rooms. In one is a 1/87 scale model, whilst in the other are two layouts (one to a scale of 1/43.5 and the other 1/32). Lovingly created by the AFAC members, these three rail networks can accommodate a number of trains, with traffic being handled with all the rigour of an actual rail system. Louis Armand, a former chairman of the SNCF (French State Railways), was so impressed by the visit he paid here that he commented that the Association was in some respects ahead of the SNCF itself! Each of the members can run their own trains on these layouts, provided of course that they are compatible. This is one of the privileges
you will enjoy if you become a member – and listening to the advice of
your fellow members you may even learn how to build your own trains and carriages.
This is a must for children!
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A Museum of Skin Diseases

Secret Paris: A Museum of Skin DiseasesUntil recently reserved exclusively to doctors (due to a confidentiality clause that has now expired), this Museum of Dermatological Casts is, quite literally, extraordinary. Set up by doctor Alphonse Devergies in 1865 as a ‘Museum of Skin Diseases’, it received its first wax cast in 1867 (the work of Jules Baretta).

The hospital also initiated the study of dermatology, so this collection was intended for teaching purposes, with almost 5,000 wax casts of heads or limbs showing the symptoms of skin diseases. Produced over the period 1867-1958, these casts are exhibited in glass display cases against a black background and show the effects of such things as leprosy, gangrene, syphilis, naevus, scabies, dermatitis, eczema, shingles and pustules. Materials added since 1958 have been in the form of photographs.
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Flower Tower

Secret Paris: Flower Tower Occupying what was wasteland attached to the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Hautsde-Malesherbes gardens were opened in March 2005. The project coordinator was the famous architect Christian de Portzamparc. Amongst the various astonishing features of this contemporary addition to Paris and perhaps the most surprising is what looks like a building of plants, the Flower Tower.

The work of the architect E. François and the botanist P. Blanc, each side of the structure is covered with large white plant holders overflowing with greenery and shrubs, creating the very real impression of the building being one huge flower. P. Blanc is the botanist who also created the plant walls at the Musée du Quai Branly and at the Hôtel Pershing. Opposite the Flower Tower, the garden opens onto a stretch of the old Thiers city walls.
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Customer Reviews (2)

Secrets of hidden Paris are revealed in a Paris guidebook that takes visitors walking off the beaten path to find the oldest house, the site of the guillotine and more.

Secret Paris, published by Jonglez in September 2007, is the real thing. It delivers on its promise to take Paris visitors 'walking off the beaten track.' Written by Paris experts Jacques Garance and Maud Ratton, with excellent photographs by Stéphanie Rivoal, it provides almost 400 packed pages of Paris's hidden treasures.
By: Mike Gerrard


While I've been going to Paris on and off for almost thirty years, I never feel that I know it completely. This feeling is reinforced by this wonderful book. There are old favourites (which proves I haven’t been going around with my eyes shut all this time!) and plenty of new places to explore. All are accessible, although some visits need to pre-arranged.

I bought books purporting to show ‘secret’ Paris before. In the most part they fail to satisfy –not so this handy volume listing some 400 places. The result of five years work on the part of the authors, the locations are grouped by arrondissments and there is both an alphabetical and theme index which makes it great for designing days out or just picking an area and exploring – particularly as the write ups to many locations highlight others near by.

With maps showing their general position in each arrondissment (although for some locations a separate larger scale map is advisable), plenty of illustrations this pocket-sized book will be worth its weight in gold.

And if in your travels one finds other hidden gems we are urged to contribute these to the publisher to enhance future editions.
By: Richard Maddox


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