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Paris Essentials

Home to more than 10 million people, the “City of Lights” is majestic in its architecture and artistic heritage. More than a destination of pleasurable externals, bourgeois absolutes and just-baked baguettes, Paris is great sightseeing, incredible shopping, and leisure dining that always comes with desserts in the form of delicate trays of the finest chocolates and macaroons.

Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and the Louvre. This trip, stroll the Marais and shop along rue des Francs Bourgeois or walk under the arches of the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges. Take time to explore the Latin Quarter to see the church of St. Severin, the Sorbonne and rue Mouffetard — not just because it’s where Joyce, Orwell, Balzac and Hemingway once lived, but also for the rows and rows of fresh food glistening like bouquets of colorful gems under the street market’s faded French blue-striped awnings. Stop by the booksellers’ stalls along the banks of the Seine around Notre-Dame for antique and second-hand books, comic strips, postcards and posters at great prices.

Saint Germain-des-Pres and the stately Church of St Sulpice’s beautiful Delacroix murals are a must-see this trip — as is the St. Germain Church, the city’s oldest church — before heading down the neighborhood’s enchanting streets, through the old squares and artists’ studios that surround it. Don’t forget to leave time to head up to the little village of Montmarte and the old cobbled streets where Renoir, Lautrec and van Gogh lived and worked; there are wonderful views of the city.

Paris is basically divided twice, first into 20 municipal quarters called arrondissements and second by the Seine, which divides the city into the Right Bank to the north and the Left Bank to the south, linked by 32 bridges. Two of those bridges connect to two small islands at the heart of the city: Ile de la Cite, the city’s birthplace and site of Notre-Dame, and Ile St-Louis, a moat-guarded oasis of 17th-century chateaux. The quarters spiral out like a snail, beginning with the first arrondissement. Included in these 20 “neighborhoods” are well known areas like Montmarte, Montparnasse and the Marais.

The best way to find an address is by checking out the arrondissement first. This is indicated by a number followed by “e” or “er,” which in English means “th” or “st” (i.e., 7e, 1er). It’s also indicated by the last two digits of a postal code (i.e., 70007 = the 7e).
What to See
What weighs 7,000 tons and has 1,665 steps and 10,000 light bulbs? The Eiffel Tower! This breathtaking landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel (did you know he designed the framework for the Statue of Liberty?) for the 1889 Universal Exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution and was opened by the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII of England.

louvre paris pyramid blue sky The Louvre is the world’s greatest art museum — so it really doesn’t matter if you’ve been here before since there’s no chance you’ve seen it all. Collections divide into Asian antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, sculpture, objets d’art, paintings, and prints and drawings. Obviously, the top attractions (and most likely the ones you’ve seen) are the “Mona Lisa” and the 2nd-century “Venus de Milo.”

Note: Avoid the never-ending lines to enter through the Pyramid. Instead, come in from the Carrousel de Louvre mall on rue de Rivoli or, even better, through the Louvre’s Metro stop.

Moulin Rouge has been putting on its famous show since 1889. Of course, being immortalized by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and known for the risque can-can didn’t hurt either. It’s still fabulous with plenty of feathers, sequins and of course, gorgeous semi-naked showgirls. It’s open every night.

The 164-foot Arc de Triomphe was planned by Napoleon to celebrate his military successes, but wasn’t finished for another 20 years after he took a trip to Elba. It has some magnificent sculptures, and the names of Napoleon’s generals are inscribed on the stone facades. There is a small museum halfway up the arch devoted to its history (you can actually climb to the top). France’s Unknown Soldier is buried beneath, and the flame is rekindled every evening.

Although it’s probably easier to take the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can also climb 387 steps up to the north tower of 12th-century Notre-Dame for a nice view of the city. It was here in 1804 that Napoleon crowned himself emperor and then crowned Josephine as his empress. When planning your visit, keep in mind that the cathedral is open year-round from 8 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m., but the towers and crypt are operated by the National Monuments Centre and have more limited opening hours.

Musee d’Orsay is in fact a magnificent 1900 railway station that now houses a superb collection of Impressionist art from 1848 – 1914, including major works from Degas, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Gauguin. If you don’t have lots of time, browse the Upper Level to see the enormous railway clocks in addition to some of the museum’s best exhibits.

There’s little left of the Bastille, and its remains are pretty much surrounded by a neighborhood filled with an array of popular cafes, clubs and the Opera Bastille, completed in 1990. The Colonne de Juillet dominates la Place de la Bastille, marking the site of the prison that was stormed at the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

Entire Article: IndependentTraveler.com

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