Porte Saint-Denis: Once a Medieval Gate to Paris

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Not as large or well-known as the Arc de Triomphe, the Porte Saint-Denis is another massive arch in Paris that is well worth checking out. Technically a “porte” and not an “arc” since it marks the site of an ancient gate through ramparts surrounding Paris’s Right Bank, the Porte Sainte-Denise was designed by sculptor Michel Anguier and architect Francois Blondel in 1672 when the fortification was razed. The engravings and reliefs on the structure symbolize King Louis XIV’s military victories in the Netherlands and along the Rhine River. 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 →

Honoring Victims of War at Paris’s Anne Frank Garden

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Visitors to the City of Light who enjoyed today’s annual Armistice Day parade and the ceremonial placement of a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe might also wish to take a moment to solemnize the second World War, in particularl the millions of Jews who were murdered by Nazi Germany (including about 77,000 French Jews). What better place to honor them than with a visit to a serene city park dedicated to perhaps the most well-known of all the victims of the Holocaust—Anne Frank? The charming but difficult-to-locate Jardin Anne Frank memorializes the teenaged girl known worldwide for the diary she kept while she, her family and friends hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. But the quiet green space in Paris also more broadly memorializes all those who’ve lost their lives to war. 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 →

A Hidden Paris Gem: Palais-Royal Gardens

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One of Paris’s most serene public parks is one not often visited by tourists to the City of Light—the gardens of the Palais-Royal, directly north of the Louvre in the 1st Arrondissement. Why is it such a secret gem? First, the Palais-Royal itself is not commonly visited by tourists—or even Parisians themselves. The former royal palace today is home mostly to a host of French bureaucracies and administrative offices. And second, the garden—though very large—is part of an entirely enclosed courtyard in the center of the complex, making it nearly invisible to passers-by. And that’s a shame because its beautiful fountain, gorgeous landscaping and iconic double rows of perfectly manicured trees lining long promenades combine to create the quintessential Parisian green space. Continue Reading →

Lafayette Gourmet: An Epicurean Delight

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There are countless Parisian destinations that provide the highest-quality French food items and cooking products—even for us amateur home chefs—including G. Detou, Hediard, Fauchon, La Grande Epicerie de Paris at Le Bon Marche and scores of smaller specialty shops and boutiques throughout the City of Light. But one epicurean destination I keep returning to time and time again is Lafayette Gourmet, the high-end food hall operated by the venerable Galeries Lafayette department store on the Boulevard Haussmann. And it’s because 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 →