First Morning in Paris. What To Do?

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Many American visitors to Paris arrive at the crack of dawn, with their hotels still unavailable and horrific jet lag setting in. Lately, though, I’ve managed to get flights from the West Coast that arrive in Paris in the evening — typically a Friday evening — letting me grab a quick dinner and crash before launching into my first full day. What is it that I do on my first morning in the City of Light? Coffee and croissants in the Marais! Continue Reading →

Quirky Musee de la Poupee Focuses Solely On Dolls

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Paris is the global leader in the number and quality of museums that are open to the public (many for free). There are almost 250 musees and galeries in the City of Light, including some of the best-known museums in the world. But there also are many small, unusual halls and salons in Paris that appeal to very specific demographic groups or focus on what can charitably called obscure objets d’art. Any of these unconventional museums make for enormously interesting visits. But one of my favorite off-beat institutions provokes an interesting array of emotions among attendees, from puzzlement to absolute delight—the Musee de la Poupee, a museum devoted entirely to dolls. Yes, dolls. 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 →

Try the ‘Guimauves’ at Delightful Pain de Sucre

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Visitors to the Pompidou Center should most definitely take a two-block detour to check out one of the most interesting patisseries in the Marais–Pain de Sucre. The award-winning shop was founded in 2004 by pastry chefs Didier Mathray and Nathalie Robert, both of whom honed their craft at Paris’s Michelin three-star restaurant Pierre Gagnaire. Unusual flavor pairings are the hallmark of Pain de Sucre and appear in many of the shop’s avant-garde tartes and cakes. Believe it or not, though, marshmallows (guimauves) are the patisserie’s specialty, and are prominently–and artfully–displayed in the boutique’s window. Continue Reading →

A Hidden Marais Garden Open Only On Weekends

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One of Paris’s most delightful parks—the Clos des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais–is definitely one of the City of Light’s most hidden treasures. Many visitors stumble across Clos des Blancs-Manteaux by complete accident. And that’s entirely because they’re in the right place at precisely the right time. Why is timing so important? Because this lush three-tiered park is open only on weekends due to its location in a courtyard shared with an adjacent preschool. But it’s definitely worth a special weekend trip. 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

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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 →

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 →

Desserts Rule at Le Loir dans la Theiere in the Marais

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The amazing Le Loir dans la Theiere in the Marais is among my very favorite dessert spots in all of the City of Light. This funky, gay-friendly tea room offers a daily changing menu of homemade tarts and cakes, usually with five or six choices available for €8.50 and discounted to just €6.50 after 4 p.m.—if any are left. There’s usually at least a couple of desserts remaining, but if you don’t want to take a chance on missing out, show up around lunchtime when the selection is abundant. Delicious! Continue Reading →