Relaxing in Paris’s Charming Parks

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Paris memories: Today, I am thinking about all of the wonderful parks in Paris, from the huge, sprawling green spaces (Jardin des Plantes, Luxembourg Gardens, Tuilieries) to the tiny parks and squares throughout the city. They’re a delight at any time of the year, but in Spring they’re downright gorgeous! 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 →

Royal History at Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church

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If you’ve visited Paris’s chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood—and in particular either of the district’s historic cafes, Les Deux Magots or Café Flore—you’ve undoubtedly at least seen the Eglise de Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It was this very church—originally founded in the mid-6th century as a Benedictine abbey—that gave the name to Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Pres district as the abbey for centuries owned all of the Left Bank land in the area. Sadly, though, few tourists do more than admire the scenery or perhaps take a photo or two. And that’s a shame, because the church itself is well worth a visit if nothing other than for its rich history deeply intertwined with France’s Merovingian kings who ruled the nation for 300 years beginning in the middle of the 5th century. 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 →

Saint Etienne du Mont: A Gothic Gem

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There are many huge—and hugely popular—churches in Paris that make it onto most tourists’ must-see lists: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Saint Sulpice, etc. But the City of Light is home to more than 125 churches, and some of the most interesting and most beautiful are among the less-popular and out-of-the-way houses of worship. One that’s definitely worth a visit is Saint Etienne du Mont in the Latin Quarter just a block from the more-often toured Pantheon. Why should you add Saint Etienne to your sight-seeing itinerary? Not only does the church’s history stretch back more than 1,500 years but it also contains the shrine of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of the City of Paris. And it’s one of the rare churches in the world (outside of Italy) where two Popes have held Mass. Continue Reading →

Off the Beaten Path: The Historic Square du Temple

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On the northernmost edge of the Marais is a fantastic public park that is quite literally an oasis in the midst of urban Paris—the Square du Temple. Because the Square is a considerable distance from any major tourist site, the garden and park is used almost exclusively by locals, particularly families living nearby. The park also provides a splendid view of the ornate Mairie du 3rd Arrondissement, the municipal offices for that district of the city. And for history buffs, the park occupies the site of a former fortified monastery of the Knights Templar and the infamous Tower of the Temple prison that served as the final “residence” of King Louis XVI before his execution. It’s well worth visiting, and is a short walk from the Musee des Arts et Metiers or from the Place de la Republique. Continue Reading →

Saint Gervais, a Gorgeous Out-of-the-Way Church

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There are many huge—and hugely popular—churches in Paris that make it onto most tourists’ must-see lists: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Saint Sulpice, etc. But the City of Light is home to more than 125 churches, and some of the most interesting and most beautiful are among the less-popular and out-of-the-way houses of worship. One of my favorites of these less-visited sites is also one of the oldest churches in Paris (it’s roots going back to the 4th century)—Saint Gervais-Saint Protais, located just east of Hotel de Ville in the 4th Arrondissement. Continue Reading →