Saint-Michel Fountain: Well Worth a Short Detour

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Just a stone’s throw from the Sainte Chapelle church is one of Paris’s most glorious “monumental” fountains that is surprisingly not as popular among tourists as other sights in the area—the Fontaine Saint-Michel. Although many guidebooks include the fountain in their sight-seeing recommendations, it usually doesn’t fall on traveler’s “must-see” lists for the City of Light, particularly for first-time visitors. And that’s a shame, because a less-than-five-minute stroll from either Sainte-Chapelle or equality popular Notre Dame puts you directly on the charming Place de Saint-Michel, which is dominated by the gorgeous (and extremely photogenic) fountain at its southern end. 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 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 →

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 →

A Salute to Louis XIV at Place des Victoires

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A little-visited but still quite scenic—and historic—site in Paris’s 1st Arrondissement is the Place des Victoires, a circular “square” that was created to honor King Loius XIV. Place des Victoires is a short walk from the more popular Palais Royal, but few tourists make their way to this locale. And that’s mostly because aside from a large statue of Louis in the center of the circle, there’s no real “sight” to see. That’s a shame, because the circle has delightful 17th century architecture and, for history buffs, roots stretching back to the French royal House of Bourbon, and links to the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Continue Reading →

Hotel de Sens: A Marvelous Medieval Marais Mansion

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Paris is nirvana for lovers of art and architecture. It seems like every new street corner unveils another marvel, some totally unexpected. This is one of the true joys of visiting the City of Light—suddenly stumbling upon a beautiful old building, statue, park or street art that warms the heart and sparks the spirit. One of the best of these surprises is when wandering the streets of the Marais near the Seine and suddenly catching a glimpse of the gorgeous stone mansion Hotel de Sens—what can only be described as a stately medieval castle, complete with turrets, spires and grand stone arches. And it is accurate to depict the Hotel de Sens as medieval, as its construction as a private mansion began in 1475, the tail end of the Middle Ages. In fact, the Hotel de Sens is one of only three medieval residences remaining in all of Paris. Continue Reading →

Rue Quincampoix: A Perfect Medieval Parisian Street

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One of the most enjoyable experiences in Paris is to wander along a medieval, cobblestone lane lined with ancient stone buildings and massive arched doorways that is so narrow that is seems barely able to accommodate a Smart Car, much less any other modern mode of transportation. Yes, you can certainly meander the City of Light’s many streets—particularly those in the twisty, turny Marais—to find your own favorite byways to stroll. Actually, one of the most popular tourist experiences is “getting lost” in Paris’s charming neighborhoods and stumbling across that perfect Parisian street on your own. But there’s a quaint, ancient lane that’s literally within a stone’s throw of a major tourist destination that somehow escapes most visitors’ attentions—and yet delivers wholly on that medieval Parisian experience: the tiny Rue Quincampoix just west of the Pompidou Center. And it’s well worth a visit. Continue Reading →

Quirky, Kinetic Fountain Honors Composer Stravinksy

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In addition to visiting Paris’s futuristic Pompidou Center, many tourists also enjoy the next-door Fontaine Stravinsky (Stravinsky Fountain), a quirky, kinetic public fountain designed to honor composer Igor Stravinsky, a Russian composer—later a naturalized French citizen—considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. The Paris fountain that honors the composer was created in 1983 by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, known for his kinetic-art pieces, and his wife, French sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle. The 580-square-meter basin is ornamented with 16 pieces of sculpture and water-movement installations that represent 16 of Stravinsky’s works, including those from his best-known ballet “The Rite of Spring.” Continue Reading →

Paris Is Home to Europe’s Largest Science Museum

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Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie, one of the biggest museums in Paris—and, in fact, the largest science museum in all of Europe—is rarely visited by tourists, likely due to its location on the very outer edge of the distant 19th Arrondissement and the fact that there’s not much else to see in the blandly residential district. But that’s a shame, because the museum is terrifically entertaining and even offers occasional IMAX films and planetarium presentations in English (or with English subtitles). And more than 5 million annual visitors can attest to the universal appeal the sleek, modern and highly informative science center has for both adults and children alike. Continue Reading →

A Serious Museum Examining Sex and Sexuality

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Paris is bursting at the seams with museums and galleries. And among the City of Light’s 175 public and private museums are several unconventional collections, including the Musee de l’Erotisme (Museum of Eroticism). And let’s set the record straight: This unusual seven-level exhibition space in Paris’s Pigalle district is a serious museum, not a prurient tourist trap. The artifacts on display, amassed since the 1960s by cultural anthropologists Alain Plumey and Joseph Khalifa, date back to the 1st century A.D. and provide a fascinating examination of the roles that sex and sexuality have played in numerous cultures and civilizations during the past two millennia. Continue Reading →