Hannibal native pours 3 years of research into travel, information book detailing Paris destinations

One steeple.

Joyce Graham, of Hannibal, was mystified by a steeple that towered over adjacent buildings as she looked through hundreds of photos she took during her trip to Paris, France, about five years ago.

There was something special about that one scene in the stack of photos. Graham said she was singularly focused on finding out the story behind that steeple. That one landmark led to three years of painstaking research for Graham that turned into a tour and guide book for one of the most visited cities in the world.

Graham wrote her “Paris Info & Tour Book” to show travelers how the city is arranged in a circle of districts called arrondissements, and what attractions and opportunities were located in each one — as an easy-to-use alternative to existing travel books.

“That’s what inspired me,” she said. “Why can’t there be a simple book with pictures and some of the best things in Paris and information about them?”

When Graham returned to Paris a few years later, she finally witnessed what she had learned about the elusive steeple. The landmark sat atop the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, built in the 13th century and highlighted by Gothic architectural cues and 1,113 towering stained glass windows. She said the seemingly endless array of statues, the colorful beauty of the windows and the chapel’s history were overshadowed by a powerful feeling.

“I walked in there, and within just a matter of minutes, this real calm, serene feeling came over me,” she said. “I’m looking around, and I just feel so good. And I’m looking around at these other people, and you could see the expression on their face that they were feeling something. That little steeple was calling to me.”

Graham said she always loved history, and she ended up with a packed binder of information as she researched each Paris landmark — leading to other chapters of Paris’ history. For example, the Sainte-Chappelle sits behind the Conciergerie, a Medieval palace that later served as courts and a prison beginning in the 14th century. Marie-Antoinette’s former prison cell site became a commemorative chapel during the Restoration. Graham said she enjoyed including interesting stories with several of the destinations in the book.

She said the 186-page book covers important topics for travelers, including safety tips like which areas to avoid at nighttime and the police-issued tags to look for when selecting a cab. Her book includes a map of all of the city’s districts, but she recommends purchasing an inexpensive map at a newsstand and a weekly paper detailing activities throughout the city.

Graham said she strove to show a variety of dining options, from five-star to budget friendly selections. She also included information like free attractions, entertainment for families as well as adults, the best way to get from the airport to your hotel and destinations including a sprawling zoo, castles, parks and gardens.

Thanks to her 401K investments — which Graham referred to as her “dream money” saved during her career at Missouri Farm Bureau, along with extra work on the weekends — she was able to travel to places including Italy, Greece, Germany, Spain and Portugal. She said she cherished each country, pointing out that you don’t have to know a country’s official language to communicate and connect with people — body language and gestures can be universal. But she said no place quite compared to Paris with its array of things to do and see.

Graham said her book sales could help her fulfill her dream of visiting Paris for a month, staying in a bed and breakfast in the seventh district and visiting the city each day, book in hand.

“I’d be in heaven,” Graham said. “That would be the end of my bucket list.”

To learn more about Graham’s book, visit http://www.lulu.com/shop/joyce-e-graham/paris-photo-info-tour-book/paperback/product-23457030.html or email her at joycetravelinfo@gmail.com.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com