|| Local colour
Paris has hundreds of museums.
You'll find everything you like ! Among them :
- Musée de Cluny (Musée
National du Moyen-Age) : This is one of our favorite small museums
in Paris. Located right in the Latin Quarter, it contains the
oldest Roman baths and the renowned Lady and Unicorn tapestry
; a medieval garden has been designed around it ; 6 place Paul-Painlevé
- Musée Carnavalet: in the Marais, this is the museum of the
history of Paris. For a close look at the French Revolution and
the history of Paris throughout the centuries, this is the place
to go. ; 23 rue de Sévigné 75003.
- Do not miss the (newly refurbished) Musée Guimet
(one of the best, if
not the best, collections of Oriental Art in the world) ; 6 place
d'Iéna 75016. Try the restaurant. Do not miss the "Annex",
one block away on Avenue d'Iéna (the "Pantheon Bouddhique"
and its Japanese Garden).
Rodin : a very inviting museum, a charming garden and outdoors
café, with the most famous sculptures by Rodin (The
Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, etc..) ; do not miss
the sculptures by his mistress Camille Claudel ; 77 rue de Varenne
- The Music Museum
is part of the Cité de la Musique, in the Parc de la Villette
; it displays a collection of almost one thousand instruments
and you can hear their sound (221 avenue Jean Jaures 75019 tel
01 44 84 45 45)
- Read Little Known Museums...
(see bibliography) and visit
Muse, a great site for private guided tours of the city's
most famous museums.
If you have enough time, make several short visits instead of
a very long one to the Louvre and remember that the
entrance fee is lowered after 3pm ; the Carte
Musées Monuments pass gives you direct access without waiting in
line to 710 monuments and museums in Paris (one day 12 Euros,
two days 24 Euros,...).
Facing the Louvre Museum, on the Rue de Rivoli, a building called
" Le Louvre des Antiquaires " offers on three
levels around 250 antique shops which are so beautiful and offer
such a wonderful choice of antiques that it is almost a museum
may sound morbid, but we (and thousands of other Parisians) like
to stroll here on a Sunday. The cemetery features beautiful centuries
old trees and the tombs of the most famous people who ever lived
in Paris (Frédéric Chopin, Yves Montand, Edith
Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to name but a few). Héloïse
and Abélard are also buried there. The best guidebook
to the Père Lachaise and other Parisian cemeteries is
Permanent Parisians by Judi Culbertson & Tom Randall,
Chelsea Green, 1986.
Read "a walk in the Père-Lachaise" by Harriet and sign up for a tour of the cemetery.
- Eat a couscous ! This typical
Arabic specialty has become one of the most appreciated dishes
(by the French). It is a large portion of semoule, with
several different vegetables (carrots, egg-plants, zucchini,
chick-peas, etc...) and meat (chicken, spicy sausages, shish-kebab,
lamb, ...you name it) in a rather spicy sauce. You can find it
in many places in Paris, such as Chez Bebert, Place du 18-Juin
(in Montparnasse), Chez Omar, near Place des Vosges, Chez Wally
in the 9th arrondissement, whose real Saharian couscous, although
expensive, is by far the best in our opinion.
- A walk in the
old village of Montmartre, many tourists,
but it is always fun and you can have a sketch of yourself for
EUR 25. Watch out for pickpockets though!
- Les catacombes : this was
the Municipal Ossuary of Paris and is filled with the skulls
and bones of millions of ordinary Parisians and a few famous
ones such as Mirabeau and Rabelais. Claustrophobes may not warm
to the experience but it is a very unusual expedition underneath
Paris and young people generally love it. It's said (and it's
true) that at night young people enter the Catacombs clandestinely
and have "underground" parties. French cops are there
to arrest them - so better not try to join them. Click here for more
- Instead of going to over-crowded
places, try an "instead of"
- Read about architecture and
historical landmarks in Paris
- More later...
| Off the beaten path (some
|| Theaters, concerts etc...
- Basilique de Saint Denis (North, on
the metro line N° 13) : all the kings of France were buried
here and in spite of its location in a rather depressing suburb,
this basilica is breathtakingly beautiful and a rich historical
experience. We highly recommend it. Nearby, the largest (multy-ethnic)
market in Paris (Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays).
- For the young and/or the adventurous : cities of the first ring around Paris (Montreuil, Saint-Ouen, Le Pré-Saint-Gervais,...) have many small restaurants, sometimes with live music (like jazz manouche). Something like Brooklyn... Check on any city magazine and try for example La Grosse Mignonne in Montreuil.
- Le musée du Romantisme,
the Museum of Romantic
a very romantic garden off the street, this museum recreates
the atmosphere of the times of Georges Sand among others (see
Rachel Kaplan's excellent book, Little-Known Museums in and
around Paris, for more on this and other museums in Paris)
- A walk along the Canal Saint Martin
where you can watch boats
glide by, boats which you can take for an unusual tour from La
Villette to Musée d'Orsay through a series of locks (count
3 hours). Read about it in Paris
- Shopping along rue Rue Mouffetard. Harriet
used to live here ; she describes that experience in her book
French Fried and still
loves to go back to this wonderful market street to soak up the
village atmosphere which reigns here.
- Chez Paul
(30 Euros) 22 rue de
la Butte aux Cailles 75013 Paris Tel. 33-(0)1 45 89 22 11 : here's
a restaurant where you can eat all the weird things the French
eat (pigs feet, tripes, blood sausages, etc...). If you like
innards, however, you'll love the food, the red-checked tablecloths,
the friendly service, and warm atmosphere.
- You buy all your tickets for
theater, sometines at reduced price) at one of the two "Paris
Théatre" kiosks, one Place de la Madeleine 75008
(on the left side of the church), one just in front of the Montparnasse
- To attend a play in English,
check the English section in Pariscope.
- There is always at least one
major art exhibition going on in Paris : they take place either
at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais (down the Champs Elysées)
or at the Centre Pompidou (price : around 10 Euros) ; to avoid
queueing, reserve in advance through FNAC ;
is alive and well in
- Why not go to a horse-race
in Vincennes, Auteuil or Longchamp ?
- More to come
As you walk in the Quartier Latin, check the posters on the walls,
announcing the above-mentioned concerts.
DID YOU KNOW
THAT.....? It is a tradition in France : each President (and
before, each King!) builds a monument in Paris. For Jacques
Chirac, it was in 2006 the "Musée des Arts Premiers"
(devoted to primitive arts), for François Mitterrand several
"Grands Projets" (including the Pei Pyramid and the
new Louvre, the Grande Arche at la Défense, the Opéra
Bastille, the La Villette Science Museum, etc...), for Valery
Giscard d'Estaing the Musée d'Orsay, for Georges Pompidou
the Centre Beaubourg, etc... Nicolas Sarkozy (who was not re-elected...) was the first president who did not follow this implicit rule and his successor Francois Hollande was the second. It is remarkable to observe 1/ that both are much less cultured than their predecessors and 2/ that their terms were the worst in the history of France in the past 60 years. One may observe also that, although taxes
are very high in France, building a monument never raises any controversy by taxpayers
: there is a consensus that each president must beautify Paris.
- La mosquée : this is
one of our favorite places for mint tea and delicious cakes in
a real Arab mosque right in the heart of Paris near the Natural
History Museum (30 rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, 5005 Paris)
- The Parc de Bercy along the banks of the Seine, opposite
the new Bibliothèque Nationale, is a new creatively landscaped
26-acre garden with different "houses" devoted to exhibitions
of gardening and wine. Logical - the Parc is located on the site
of the former Paris wine warehouses. This is a good place to
come for a stroll, a drink at one of the "chais", and
perhaps a film at the enormous Ciné-Cité.
Parc de la Villette, a modern
park in the northeast of Paris, which houses the Conservatory
of Music with the carefully appointed and very interesting Music
Museum. These are but two of the edifices in this large and lively
park (there is also the Science Museum).
- Restaurant La Maison Fournaise
: a reasonably-priced restaurant
where the Impressionists did some of their most famous paintings
, very enjoyable in Spring and Summer (in the Ile de Chatou,
down the Seine, 20 minutes from Paris Tel.33-(0)1 30 71 41 91)
- See some unknown
spots in Paris...
- More to come...
DID YOU KNOW THAT.... ? The story of Héloïse
and Abélard is one of the most fascinating stories
of the French Middle Ages. In the XIIth Century, Pierre Abélard
was one of the most illustrious philosophers of the Western world
; he seduced one of his students, Héloïse, and married
her secretly. Her uncle had him emasculated. Separated, both
continued their lives as scholars, living in two different monasteries
as abbot and abbess and exchanging hundreds of letter over twenty
years. They are the symbol of absolute spiritual love. Their
remains were transferred into the Père Lachaise cemetery
in the XIXth century to give it a glamorous image....
: Stroll at night, it is safe (Place de la Bastille and around,
Notre Dame and nearby Latin Quarter and Mouffetard, ...) and
try to avoid the most obvious tourist traps (Pigalle sex "shows",
most restaurant in the Latin Quarter, Place du Tertre and its
artists, the little shops under the Eiffel Tower, ...)
DID YOU KNOW
THAT ...? The word "bistrot", which means a
Parisian "café" (and generally a "café"
serving food) comes from the invasion of the Allied armies after
Napoleon's defeat in 1814. The Russian Cossacks would rush into
French inns and scream "bistro" then rush out. In Russian,
"bistro" means : quick. Parisians kept the name and
that's why you can always get a quick bite of food in a bistrot
! More about "bistrots"
| Sometimes, you can experience a magic moment in
|| Outside Paris...
- A concert in the Sainte Chapelle : this is
a colorfully decorated thirteenth century church, with wonderful
stained glass windows. A concert there is a magical experience.
You can also attend concerts in the beautiful churches of Saint
Julien le Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris, and Saint Séverin,
both of which are in the Latin Quarter
- A dinner on a Bateau-Mouche
, a magnificent view of Paris
with a typical French meal. Click here for more
- Vaux-le-Vicomte, a castle
not to be missed on summer Sat. nights, when it is illuminated
by 2,000 candles! 17th-c. chamber music is played in the gardens
starting at 22h30.
- More to come (read a letter,
see our page Unknown Paris and
romantic places in
.... Two monthly magazines in English will give you invaluable
information on Paris.
FUSAC (France USA Contact)
: free, with thousands of classified ads about averything (including
employment, For Sale, housing, etc...) , available in most English-language
bookstores and restaurants frequented by the English-speaking
crowd Paris. FREE VOICE
: also free, lists coming events, ....
- Around Paris, 30 to 60 miles away, there is a whole ring of medieval or Renaissance (or both) cities, all picturesque and so different from the big city : clockwise from the West Saint Germain en Laye, Chantilly, Senlis, Compiègne, Provins, Fontainebleau, and several others. All of them are worth a day trip.
- In Chartres, you can take an informative tour of the
Cathedral with Malcolm Miller who has devoted his life to the
study of this twelfth century cathedral. For hours and rates,
call him at 33-(0)2 37 28 15 58 or fax him at 33-(0)2 37 28 33
03. Chartres is only a one-hour train ride from Paris, the city
is beautiful, and the cathedral is an absolute must-see.
- In the Loire Valley, Chambord is probably
the most impressive (440 rooms!) and the most beautiful Renaissance
castle ; right in front, the Hotel du Grand Saint Michel is wonderfully
located ; the hotel and the food (game) are very acceptable and
reasonably priced (Tel. 33-2 54 20 31 31)
- What about a whole day in Versailles, and not only in the castle?
It might help you to better understand France and the French.
- More to come.....
Some places mean something
particular for Americans : click for American
landmarks in Paris ! What to do ? Where to shop ? Click for
practical tips on life in Paris and visit
the Paris Diary page.
|To related pages : restaurants (#1) and other suggested
places (#2), links to American
- run businessesin Paris, etc...
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Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French.
Order her books :
- "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming
events, testimonials, etc..)
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