Paris’s Elysee Palace: France’s White House

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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?

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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 →

A Visit to the Home of the Man Who Saved Notre Dame

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A great—and free!—way to spend a delightful and informative hour or two while in the City of Light is to visit the one-time home of one of the most famous of all Parisians: artist, poet and author Victor Hugo. Hugo lived in a 17th century mansion overlooking the gorgeous Place des Vosges in the Marais for 16 years, from 1832 to 1848. In fact, it was at his second-floor apartment in this very house that Hugo penned one of his most famous works, the novel Les Miserables. But perhaps his most significant work is the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame), a book that is credited with saving Notre Dame Cathedral from possible demolition. Continue Reading →

A Marais Must: Notre Dame des Blancs-Manteaux

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Everyone is familiar with the “big name” churches in Paris: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Sainte-Chapelle and so on. But beyond making specific trips to these gorgeous, well-known houses of worships, a terrific way to get a feel for Paris and its rich history is to simply wander the streets and visit the City of Light’s lesser-known neighborhood churches one finds along the way. One of my favorite discoveries is Notre Dame des Blancs-Manteax in the Marais. Continue Reading →

Musee Carnavalet to Close for 3 Years for Renovations

Musee Carnavalet

The Musee Carnavalet, which chronicles the unique and rich history of Paris from it’s founding in 250 B.C., is set to close in October for a three-year, 43 million euro renovation project aimed at restoring portions of the 17th century mansions that house the museum, improve the presentation of the museum’s collections, add new exhibits, and make the facility handicap accessible. The renovation is part of a larger 100 million euro plan to revitalize 14 city-owned museums between now and Continue Reading →

Remembering the Nazi Impact on Paris

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Straddling the eastern tip of Ile de la Cite just behind Notre Dame is the Memorial de la Deportation, a tribute to the more than 200,000 French men, women and children—including homosexuals—who died in Nazi extermination camps during World War II. The memorial is a poignant reminder of the role racism, antisemitism, homophobia and flat-out hatred played in the deaths of nearly 50 million people worldwide during WW II. Continue Reading →

Le Petit Prince de Paris: A Latin Quarter Gem

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One of the truly great Parisian restaurants is Le Petit Prince de Paris, a quintessentially French hideaway located in the midst of a warren of tiny cobblestone streets in the city’s Latin Quarter just a stone’s throw from the Pantheon. The only LGBT restaurant on the city’s Left Bank, Le Petit Prince de Paris is housed in a site that has served as a tavern and restaurant since the year 1450. That ancient building provides the restaurant with much of its yesteryear charm, including exposed ceiling beams, pale stone walls, plush draperies, antique furnishings and dozens of candles and chandeliers. Continue Reading →

Le Grand Palais: A Lot More Than Just a Pretty Photo

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Here’s a paradox that is very specific to the City of Light: One of Paris’s buildings that is among the most photographed by sight-seers is also one of the city’s facilities that is least visited by tourists. If you’ve been to Paris, chances are you’ve had a glimpse (and taken multiple photos) from Les Invalides, the Orsay Museum, the Champs Elysees or especially from the ornate Pont Alexandre III. Any guesses what it might be? Continue Reading →

Marais Museum Chronicles History of French Jews

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There are more than 150 museums in the City of Light, ranging from tiny exhibitions to huge world-renowned institutions like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. But many Parisian museums fall between the obscure and the famous, and one of the most interesting of these is the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme/MAHJ (Museum of Jewish Art and History). The museum, housed in an historic 17th century Marais mansion, chronicles the rich and sometimes very complex history of Jews throughout Europe and North Africa—with a specific focus on French Jews—from the Middle Ages to present day through its world-class collection of paintings, sculpture, religious objects, manuscripts, textiles and historic documents. Some of the most fascinating artifacts are nearly 800 years old. Continue Reading →

Place des Vosges: Paris’s Most Beautiful Square

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There are many beautiful parks, squares and “places” throughout Paris, each with its own special charm. But ask a Parisian–or even a visitor to the City of Light–to name Paris’s most beautiful square, and the answer is routinely the Place des Vosges. Continue Reading →