Golden Statue Near the Louvre Honors Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc 1

Visitors to the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens are often surprised to stumble across a glittering gold statue of a soldier on horseback, seemingly guarding the posh Hotel Regina that overlooks the area. And many snap pics of the equestrian sculpture without ever really knowing that they’ve captured the likeness of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), a peasant from northeast France who became a commander in the French military and led several victories over the invading English forces during the Hundred Years’ War. Today, Jeanne d’Arc is a martyr of the Catholic Church and one of the nine patron saints of France. Continue Reading →

Hotel de Sully: A Mansion in the Heart of LGBT Paris

Hotel de Sully 5

Paris’s Marais district, and in particular the areas around the Metro stations Hotel de Ville and Saint-Paul, is the heart of the City of Light’s thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. And while there are plenty of LGBT shops, bars, restaurants and sight-seeing destinations in this neighborhood, it’s also home to more than a dozen 17th and 18th century mansions, called Hotels de Particuliers, that once served as single-family homes to France’s wealthy aristocrats who wished to live near Continue Reading →

Paris’s Unique Street Signs

IMG_0435

An unusual thing that I love about Paris is its iconic green, blue and white street signs. At the top of each is the district (called Arrondissement, and there are 20 of them in Paris) in which the street is located. Then comes the street name. And for my favorite part, the bottom of the sign contains information about the person for whom the street is named, if applicable. You get a mini-history lesson on most street corners! Continue Reading →

Popular Paris Square Has a Dark Revolutionary Past

Concorde 8

Place de la Concorde, one of the most popular squares—and the largest in terms of sheer size—in the City of Light, may be beautiful and picturesque today, but at one time it witnessed dozens of bloody executions during the French Revolution. In fact, it’s the exact site where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were made a foot shorter on top via the guillotine. Visitors today, enamored of the square’s gilded fountains, soaring Egyptian obelisk and unfettered views of some of Paris’s most iconic sites, are probably unaware of the area’s decidedly grotesque past. Even the square’s name today—essentially The Place of Harmony—belies its dark history. Continue Reading →

Parking Lot Project Unearths Ancient Artifacts

Notre Dame archaeological crypt 8

In far too many cities, the classic song lyric “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is sadly accurate. But in Paris, ironically, it was the building of a parking lot that unearthed a wealth of archaeological treasures, including some that date back to the Gallo-Roman era that began in the year 52 B.C. And even more surprising is that this historical treasure trove literally lies at the feet of every tourist who visits one of Paris’s iconic sites. Continue Reading →

Unexpected Attractions In Paris

MontparnasseView_1 (1)

Visiting Paris, you can quickly get caught up in all the things you’ve always wanted to see and do. Famous buildings and monuments, charming cafes and legendary shopping areas are often among the main draws. But it’s a big city that seems to get more entertaining by the year—probably because it’s always catering to fresh waves of tourists. For that reason, there are a lot of attractions in town that you might not necessarily expect to come across or enjoy. These can be fun to put on your list, though, as they make the trip feel a little less like you’re simply meandering through the front pages of a Parisian guidebook. Here are a few things to think about doing. Continue Reading →

Le BHV: Parisians’ Preferred Department Store

BHV 14

There is no city in the world that offers better shopping than Paris. From charming little boutiques to immaculate florist shops to the most well-stocked pharmacies to the grandest department stores, Paris is nirvana for those whose motto is “I came, I saw, I did a little shopping.” Visitors to the City of Light tend to make a beeline for one of the city’s celebrated department stores, typically either Galeries Lafayette on the Right Bank or Le Bon Marche on the Left. But many Parisians prefer BHV Marais for it’s affordable prices, wide selection of merchandise and that fact that it is—and always has been—open on Sundays. Continue Reading →

Conciergerie: The Tears of Marie Antoinette

paris2009 051

Everyone who’s even a little bit familiar with French history knows that Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI, were made about a foot shorter on top during the French Revolution. And you’re probably also familiar with Marie’s alleged–and oft-disputed–statement “Let them eat cake!” when told the poor didn’t have bread to eat. But what happened to her between the time of her arrest and her execution? Most of that period was spent imprisoned in the Conciergerie, a sprawling, medieval fortress-like facility on the western tip of the Ile de la Cite. And you can pay a visit to the facility—and tour the very rooms where Marie Antoinette spent her final days. Continue Reading →

Paris’s Elysee Palace: France’s White House

Elysee Palace 9

Nearly every visitor to the City of Light pays a visit to the Champs Elysees, either to stroll the long, sycamore tree-lined boulevard or to visit the Place de la Concorde or the Arc de Triomphe that anchor the two ends of the elegant thoroughfare. But relatively few walk the two short blocks to visit France’s version of the White House—the Elysee Palace. It’s definitely worth the short detour! Continue Reading →

Have You Seen Paris’s Coat of Arms?

Coat of Arms 5

Chances are that most visitors to the City of Light have no idea that they’ve spotted the official emblem of Paris countless times. Paris’s coat of arms appears on well more than 100 buildings and other structures throughout the city. The reason you likely didn’t recognize that what you’re seeing is an official symbol of Paris is because its main image is that of an ancient merchant sailing ship—not something that most people would associate with France’s capital. Continue Reading →