Saturday, 23 February 2013


I have decided to do some initial research on Paris, even though I'm aware that the topic in general is probably too broad.  I want to look into different aspects of Paris, Parisian culture etc. to see what area I want to focus on more.


A behemoth of a museum, the Louvre has galleries and wings so vast you could easily spend a day feasting your eyes on treasures like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Egyptian mummies - not to mention on the building itself, which sports sumptuous architecture erected and remodelled over the centuries by the rulers of France. When cultural overload sets in, take a breather in the Café Mollien at the top of the grand Mollien staircase. Great for a restorative sandwich, its terrace also offers one of Paris’s finest views over the Louvre’s Tuileries gardens. 

Musée d'Orsay
The old Belle Époque Orsay train station was converted into the Musée D’Orsay in 1986 to house one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art. Aside from works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, you'll find a dapper collection of decorative arts from the Art Nouveau era and a wide range of 19th-century sculpture. Digest it over coffee in the café behind the museum’s giant transparent clock. And don’t miss the classical music concerts in the Auditorium. The performances are consistently top-notch and usually involve world-famous musicians. 
Quasimodo certainly had good taste: the views from Notre-Dame cathedral’s towers are nothing short of stupendous, especially on a cloudy day, when the skies spin a moody hue across the River Seine and on towards the Eiffel Tower. From the top you also get the best view of the cathedral’s famous gargoyles - cheeky little chimeras whose ugly mugs watch over the city below. Unbeknown to most, they’re not originals; architect Viollet-le-Duc added them in the mid 19th-century when he restored the cathedral to its former glory. 

Arc de Triomphe

Power up your legs and climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The views sweep in geometric splendour between the arc of la Defense and the Louvre. It’s also a plum spot for observing Parisian driving techniques: the unmarked traffic island creates speedy anarchy with cars nipping around invisible lanes like beetles with a death wish. In fact, have an accident here and it’s automatically 50/50 on the insurance claim, no matter whose fault it is. Back on solid ground, spare a thought for the Unknown Soldier whose grave sits solemnly in the centre of the arch. 

Les Passages Couverts

More than just olde-worlde shopping malls, Les Passages Couverts around the Grand Boulevards are atmospheric old covered passages that date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Glass-roofed and utterly charming, their second-hand bookshops, tea-rooms and gift boutiques make fun alternatives to stores elsewhere in Paris, and some of them wouldn’t look out of place as the setting for a Sherlock Holmes mystery – especially the Gallerie Vivienne and the Passage Jouffroy, which houses the Musée Grévin, Paris’s answer to Madame Tussauds. 
The most famous edifice in the world, the Eiffel Tower, was originally erected as a temporary exhibit for a World Fair. Thank god it wasn’t pulled down! It provides heart-stopping views over Paris and is visible from most vantage points across the city. There’s also a panoramic champagne bar on the 3rd floor, a brasserie, and the Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant where Alain Ducasse creates elaborate dishes. At night, cross the river to Trocadéro to watch Eiffel’s girders sparkle like fairy lights on a Christmas tree (every hour, on the hour). 
Centre Pompidou
As cutting-edge as ever, the ‘extra-skeletal’ Centre Pompidou is home to modern art treasures by (amongst others) Braque, Dubuffet, Matisse and Ernst, plus ever-changing temporary art exhibitions that ensure that no two visits are ever the same. Get there early when the queues are bearable, or arrive at 6pm and stay until closing time at 9pm, after which Georges, the Pompidou’s trendy rooftop bar-cum-restaurant, serves moreish cocktails in a futuristic setting with panoramic views over the city. 

Palais Garnier

The 'wedding cake', as the Palais Garnier is nicknamed, wows a highbrow crowd with some of the world’s best ballet and the occasional opera. The building is an ode to opulence, dripping in marble and gold leaf. It’s also rather fascinating, with the underground lake that inspired Gaston Leroux to write Phantom of the Opera (now used by the fire-service for diving training), and beehives on the roof which produce the honey on sale in the Boutique de l’Opéra. To make a night of it, opt for dinner in the Restaurant de l’Opéra - an avant-garde, red and white affair set in the Palais Garnier’s former horse and carriage quarters.

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