"What do you get when you combine an encyclopedic command of subject matter, an artist's eye for detail and perspective, and an accomplished raconteur with a devilish (or mischievous) sense of history and humor? You get a walking tour with David and Alison Downie; an unquestionably rich and rewarding experience at the end of which you will feel as if you've taken an enchanting stroll with very smart, engaging, and delightful friends."—Marlow and John Peters
"David, thank you for an amazing day. As a couple who have visited Paris many times and thought we had seen it all, our day with you was a wonderful trip into the history, architecture, people and uniqueness of Paris. We learned things we never knew, saw things we had never seen and experienced Paris in a new way. I don't think we'll ever forget going underground in St. Germain to stumble upon remnants of Paris' medieval walls, adjacent to neatly parked cars of course. We both found ourselves re-reading your 'Paris,Paris' book reliving our day on the flight home. Thank you again and we look forward to our next visit!"—John and Karen Gerstel
“I’ve been to Paris many times, and taken private tours with many different tour guides. None of them come close to being as good as David. He brings the history of Paris to life, and he’s full of interesting and colorful stories, not simply what you could read in a guidebook or history text. Even my brother, who is a history teacher and a tough critic, loved David’s tours. I will pick a different neighborhood and tour Paris with David again on all of my future trips to Paris.”—Karol Mason
"Thank you for the great tour. Tom and I so enjoyed our time spent with you. The depth of your knowledge is amazing. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at French history in quite the same way."--Margaret Harding
“Our second trip to Paris. Read Paris Paris, twice. The next logical step… a tour with David Downie. On our first trip we didn’t have time to “do” the Marais, so that was our choice for a walking tour. David gave us a marvellous overview of the Marais, with its lovely old buildings, its history, the gracious Place des Vosges, and all the nooks and crannies. But David gave us a history lesson as well: the origins of Paris starting at the Seine and outward (those ever expanding city walls!), an irreverent and humorous look at the politics and politicians of Paris, Baron Haussmann (is he a good guy or not?), the social, religious, and cultural life of Parisiens, as well as recommendations for the best cup of coffee, and the best falafel on Rue des Rosiers. The three-hour tour more than exceeded our expectations, and we would recommend David’s tours to anyone interested in the real Paris. Thank you David!!”—Michele and Carol, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
"We learnt more about Paris spending a day with David and Alison than in twenty years visiting as ordinary tourists. The tour was brilliant, totally bespoke and full of treasures we'd never have found on our own. David and Alison have a huge fund of knowledge and enthusiasm about the city and its history. Thanks to them, today we feel like expert Parisians. Could not have been better."--Imogen Robertson
"My husband and I have been to Paris many times and are always seeking new and great adventures! My favorite book on Paris is “Paris Paris” by David Downie. He is an author and at times, if you are lucky, he will agree to be your guide. We shared an absolutely fascinating afternoon with David at Pere Lachaise Cemetery where the likes of Chopin, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde lie, along with many companions. David knows so much about so many Pere Lachaise residents. . . and brings each to life with his wonderful tales. I cannot wait to find another adventure to go on with David. It truly gives you the “insider’s look” into Paris, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who loves the City of Light."—Sandi Kallenberg
"We all loved the tour of the Marais; you're the man! I can't imagine a more knowledgeable, generous, and hospitable guide. Except maybe Alison!"--Laurie McAndish King
“We were a party of four from Seattle and Boston who met up with David on the Ile St Louis in a torrential April downpour. Damp but undaunted, umbrellas up, we set off with David to find some of the best food in Paris. We learned something about French life around every corner, down every tiny little rue. David is extremely knowledgeable about French history, French food, French culture, and French politics. And David is fun, funny, irreverent and insightful. We tramped all over the Latin Quarter, in and out of fromageries, patisseries, and boulangeries, sampling and buying cheese, pastries and bread. We held an impromtu taste-test of macarons from two different patisseries, while out on the street (the winner was Gregory Renard. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our time together was the instant affinity all felt toward David. He is a rock star!"—Dianne Davis, Seattle, WA and Sharon Potenza, Boston, MA
"David, you and Alison did a fabulous job with our motley group. We came for the food and devoured the history! We were dazzled by your encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Frankish kings to Frank Gehry's architecture. We will definitely be back for a second helping!"--Laurie Petersen et al
"Thank you for the incredible afternoon in the Marais with you and Alison. The two of you have a perfect view and share it so well that I feel I've known you for years. My time in Paris flew by, full and memorable each day."--Sandra Bracken
“We are very grateful to have experienced our one-day wander around the streets of the Maris with you. We learned so much about the people, politics, buildings, very old protective walls, narrow roads, churches, coffee, cafes, gardens and squares. I think one could walk for days with you and only begin to tap your wealth of knowledge that is delivered with that special edge we loved so much!”—Tracy Stilwell et al
“We all loved the time with you introducing us to the subtleties of the early history of Paris and the Marais.”—Joseph & Claudia Gold and family
"Paris is a city of many pleasures, known for its museums, landmarks, music, art, fashion and food. Visitors who come for their first few stays are generally still tied to their guidebooks, and only beginning to feel the real attraction of the city. There is a magnificent thread to be discovered here. A connection between history, politics, the arts and architecture of a place that is its culture. One could spend a lifetime observing and studying to understand and revel in it. It is a treasure waiting to be discovered and captured into life's experience. It was Maggie who found our key to the Paris treasure from the pages of his best selling book, "Paris, Paris," David Downie. We have enjoyed his company as our guide on our most recent two trips. David has walked us through this beautiful city opening windows of understanding through architectural relics, art and his knowledge accumulated through years of study, research and exploration. David makes each experience with him rich as a landmark in the events of another time and statement to the city's cultural heritage. He has shown us the former location of the Roman theater, the above and below ground remnants of the stone wall that once encircled the city as well as a quiet courtyard where the last of the old leaden hand water pumps stands soldierly tall and quiet. We have walked through the former home of a noblewoman who kept young men for her insatiable sexual appetite, and stood in the doorway where one of her "suitors" jealously stabbed another. We walked down the street that once ran red with the blood of sheep killed to perfect the guillotine as a more merciful way for the condemned to die. David shared the location of Sarte's residence and coffee houses where he and his contemporaries explored another point of view. We stood by the usual table occupied by Picasso, and then walked to view where he lived through the Nazi occupation, and where he created Guernica. We have learned more in a few hours of walking and talking with David than we did many previous years of travel to Paris. David has whetted our appetite for more of our own study as well as a quick return to explore more of Paris with him. However, in parting with him yesterday, Maggie and I agreed on a certainty. Once I too have completed his newly released book, "Paris to the Pyrenees," we won't attempt to duplicate his months of travel on foot. My feet are way too tender."—Tom Logsdon
“Thanks for a really nice walk and talk. More than seeing a few sites and learning a bit of history, I feel like I left with a different way of looking at cities. As my taxi drove me along today, I looked more closely at the buildings around me, the shape of roads, the positions of landmarks–always looking for hints about why things are the way they are.”—Jeff Patton
"A wonderful morning walk through Paris. I did enjoy every minute. Fascinating overview of architecture, urban design, markets and desserts. Thank you so much for your insight into unique Paris."--Phil Enquist
"Is there nothing David and Alison don't know about Paris? As an eighteenth century specialist, I was probably their idea of a nightmare client and my request for a bespoke tour of what remained of Revolutionary Paris was a tall order indeed. But David and Alison more than rose to the occasion. They showed me parts of the city I would have never found on my own. They opened doors to places otherwise inaccessible. Architecture, street signs, hidden details I would have never known about, were all revealed to me. It proved to be a totally fascinating and invaluable experience!"--Hallie Rubenhold
"Read the book (twice), took the tour with David and Alison and highly recommend both. Paris, Paris is a great, fun way to learn more about Paris. After several trips to Paris, I heard about Paris, Paris and bought the book. This led to a better appreciation of the city, its people and its history. So we decided to spend a day with David and Alison. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the day with them and learned so much more about the city of lights. David pointed out things about streets, buildings, museums that we never would have really 'seen' had we not been with him. Treat yourselves to a unique experience in Paris."--Jonathan Philipson
"Our full-day customized Paris walking tour with David and Alison was one of the most memorable travel experiences we've had. David and Alison spent a lot of time planning a unique tour that met our interests in art, literature and history. They made the city and its rich history come alive in ways that would not have been possible if we had done it on our own. Thank you, David and Alison, for making that day such a special one for us. We look forward to another tour the next time we visit Paris!"--Linda Markeloff
“Thanks for the great companionship and education you gave us. We now have our column types straight, know some serious things about Delacroix, got a sense of the rich history of the Marais, and the walk around St Germain des Pres and to St Sulpice was magical. All in all, a great trip and the time we had with you was the high point; we will do it again and hopefully soon.”--John A. Herfort
“With his deep knowledge of Paris, David can really bring the city alive with fascinating historic and modern stories.” —Susan A. Noonan
"My wife and I are American Francophiles who have made at least twenty visits to Paris since our first trip there together in 1974. I cannot recall ever hiring a guide before, but last month we came for four nights and I reached out to David (whose name I had noted in a Paris Notes article some years ago). We spent the most fascinating half-day with him in the neighborhood where he lives, the Marais, and only regret that we had not thought to contact him in the past as our previous visits to our favorite city abroad would have been so enriched. The previous day, his wife, Alison Harris, accompanied us to Versailles. The weather happened to be miserable but Alison had us concentrating on the magnificence of the place and regaling us with its history; the rain and wind became immaterial. We look forward to spending more time with Alison and David whenever we return to Paris and would entertain their suggestions for accompanying them to other places in Europe that they know and love."—Max Lebersfeld
“David helped us open doors in Paris that many tourists would never see. He has a passion for the French way of life that exists today and that is disappearing because of globalization. David can help you immerse yourself in Paris with the ease of an old friend. His approach is wonderfully low key but thorough and very much in depth. He can share with you an in-depth education and love for French food and wine like no other.”—Jerry Lane
“It was the highlight of our trip to spend the day with you.... Thank you a million times over for your insight, knowledge and patience! I don't know how you do it!!”—Courtney and Tom Kennaday
“Wine and cheese and the pairing of these two delights took on new meaning and excitement when presented interestingly and beautifully by Alison and David. Taking that home and then reading David’s exciting novel, Paris City of Night, made the experience wonderfully whole. Everytime I read a novel that includes Paris, I refer to their insights, tidbits and information about the Marais. All are a must!”—Kathy Stone
“My husband and I have been to Paris several times but we felt that when we saw Paris with David and Alison, we were seeing it for the first time. Off the beaten path, Paris is a whole other experience and it was nothing less than fascinating, fun and memorable. We felt very privileged indeed, and wouldn't go back, ever again, without them.” —Claudia and Robert Horton
“David and Alison know—and can introduce you to—the food, architecture, history, culture, life and people of Paris better than anyone. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a regular looking for new insights and new discoveries, you couldn’t have a better guide or better company. If Michelin gave stars for tours, David and Alison would have a whole constellation.” —Robert Tolmach
“I'm probably not the most adventurous traveler. I always go back to the same places again and again, then wonder why I'm bored! With Alison and David, seeing Paris through their very knowledgeable and expert eyes was a feast for the senses. I discovered the parts of Paris and their unique delights that I would never have seen otherwise. I'm now totally spoiled. If only Alison and David would give tours of Rome, Istanbul, the Cotswalds!” —Miriam Stanger (Thanks, Miriam! We do give tours of Rome!! Please join us, David and Alison)
“Travelling and exploring Paris and its environs with Alison and David is like taking a wonderful walk with your best friend, and visiting the places that only a native would know."—Raylene Burke
“With today’s mass market tourism, it is not easy to find an authentic travel experience – one that incorporates a depth of history with a shrewd knowledge of the current culture. David and Alison possess both in spades. They know how to find the places that still hold the mystery of Paris hidden in courtyards behind gates that others would never know about let alone have access to. They also know more about French wine and food than most other people on the planet. Those of us who have had the pleasure of traveling or working with them on their home turf in Paris and in Burgundy know that we have had the experience of a lifetime and that we are lucky to know them.” —Pamela Mercer, owner of Tuscany Tours
"The day we spent together was SPECTACULAR!. We saw and understood so much more than we ever would have if we had just wandered out on our own. You maximized the entire experience and brought the history and personality of Paris to life. Many of the special back-alley sights we never would have thought to visit, and with you we received treatment from everyone we met that had a special local touch. "Walking tour" is an understatement - boy did we walk!
We will never forget our special day in Paris and the passion that radiated from you. Being at your side and clearly hearing everything you had to say as well as having our questions answered personally is a unique and treasured opportunity. It would be my pleasure to speak to anyone that needs a gentle nudge to take advantage of your services. When Cindy and I return we look forward to a completely different experience in your company."—Carl Hyman
"Fun in a cemetery?? Adventure? Enlightenment? In a Cemetery?? Each, absolutely yours if you embark on your journey with David Downie as your trusted guide and purveyor of knowledge. On more than one occasion I had visited Paris's Pere Lachaise Cemetery, alone. Despite my being armed with maps and guide books I failed to find a) fully half the graves I searched for, Modigliani's off the beaten path grave site being a prime example; and b), passed obliviously by historical and important figures grave sites. My day with David changed all that. I provided David with a list of what sites I wanted to see. He appeared, seemingly from no where, which in and of itself was cool, fully prepared and ready. I saw what I wanted and, thanks to David, much I didn't know existed. Well, the occupants don't actually 'exist' any longer, still, you get the point. Fun in a cemetery? With David, it's absolutely yours for the phone call. I strongly recommend the adventure."--Jeffrey Kallenberg
"Susan Kelly and I enjoyed our walking tour with you in the rain in the Marais. We always enjoy learning about the history of Paris and plan to read more on some of the vital historical figures who lived in Place des Voges. It was great to meet an American in Paris after sightseeing for a week on our own. You provided a great tour with plenty of time for questions. We would join you again for a tour and will recommend you to our friends."—Deb Fleming
And here's one that wraps the book into the tour: as often happens the pages lead readers to the pavements of Paris, in our company...
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating book on the city of Paris, December 9, 2012
By L Murdoch - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light (Paperback) "A few days before our second trip to Paris in as many years, I woke in the middle of the night to the glow of the iPad from the other side of the bed. "You're not reading Paris, Paris again are you?", I said to my husband. "No, I was reading it" he replied, but now I'm on David Downie's website. Do you know that he gives personal tours of Paris?". We are not people who would normally take a private tour, but we had been so captivated by Paris, Paris that we decided after much passing back and forth of the iPad at 3 am to splurge. So what was it about this book that had us so captivated? The writing. It is clear and crisp and draws you in. Michael Ondaatje and Mavis Gallant, who are much better judges than I, have already praised it on this site. Although, there is definitely a point of view expressed, this book is not one of those "let me tell you about my exciting/funny/exasperating life in Paris/Provence/Tuscany". Paris is the central character here and Downie the keen observer of her infinite variety. This is a book that you, as we have, can pick up again and again, as each chapter stands on its own. Downie tells us the stories of the bouquinistes, whose green book stalls line the Seine and of the commercial barge owners who ply its waters. He takes us behind the scenes to meet the people who are responsible for lighting the City of Light and paving its avenues. Politicians and parks, buildings and bollards, in Downie's hands are fascinating subjects. Having read this book, you will not traverse the tourist routes from Notre Dame to the Louvre to the Musee d'Orsay without attention to all of the delights of the journey itself. You may even find yourself emailing Mr. Downie at 3 in the morning to arrange your own private tour of the streets of Paris."
And now for the most original testimonial of all, a poem, a paean to Paris... thank you, Jodi and Bill!
By Jodi Clark
Jan. 2, 2013
Not very long ago on a beautiful September morn
Our friends, Bill & Sandra, drove our bags and us to Travel Lambourne.
It was here we joined Dallas and the rest of our group
As he shepherded his cats on a bus to transport the troop
To LAX where Air Bus gave wings that carried us off to a city of dreams.
This trip, our third, to the City of Light was not like the last.
The tourist-checklist was long-since complete and lay in the past.
This trip was different and offered new promises and dreams.
With a view through the eyes of an American ex-pat, it seems
Our relationship was changing from intoxication to deeper respect.
Our memories remain oh so fresh and sweet deep in our minds.
Un-beckoned there arise within sights, sounds and smells of all kinds.
The boulangeries and fromageries call us back,
As do the Seine with all its ponts and the bouquiniste’s stack.
Ah, Paris memories, Paris memories, gently call us back yet again.