Summer Trip to Paris? Don’t Miss the Tuileries Garden

Tuileries 5

Travelers to the City of Light definitely should not miss a chance to visit one of Paris’s many parks during the summer when then weather is warm and sunny, the trees are lush and rustling in the breezes off the Seine, and Parisians show up in force for picnics, sunbathing and to just stroll through and relax in these urban oases. One of my favorites is right in the heart of “Visitor’s Paris”–the Jardin des Tuilieries, which connects the Louvre with the Place de la Concorde. Continue Reading →

Tea Time? Head to Mariage Freres in the Marais

Mariage Freres 6

Most people naturally associate tea with England, where indulging in afternoon tea is practically a national pastime. But the tea trade also became a vital part of France’s economy and part of its aristocratic culture in the mid-17th century when entrepreneurs and explorers began to seek out and import exotic foreign goods, including teas. One of the best-known tea emporiums in France—Mariage Freres—has its roots in this global exploration. Brothers (freres, in French) Nicholas and Pierre Mariage became experts in the tea trade in the mid-1600s, and passed that knowledge on to successive generations of Mariages. Today, the family operates more than 30 tea shops and salons (including sales counters in luxury department stores) around the world, including it’s flagship emporium in Paris’s Marais district that is the perfect setting for a delicious dessert and a spot of tea. Continue Reading →

A Fascinating Study of France’s Military History

World War I tank

One of the most fascinating museums in Paris is one that probably turns off a lot of people just from its name—the Musee de l’Armee (Army Museum). But France has such a long history—including centuries as the dominant power of Europe, and the French military has played a significant role in the building of the nation through the ages (and it’s downfall at certain times, including Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo that ended his rule). And because much of both World Wars were fought on French soil, visiting the Musee de l’Armee is as much a lesson in world history as it is a glimpse at the weapons, soldiers and warfare of the past half century. Continue Reading →

Royal History at Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church

St German des Pres 2

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 →

A Salute to Louis XIV at Place des Victoires

Place des Victoires 5

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 →

Off the Beaten Path: The Historic Square du Temple

Square Du Temple  9

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 →

Rue Quincampoix: A Perfect Medieval Parisian Street

Quincampoix 2

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 →

Golden Statue Near the Louvre Honors Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc 1

Visitors to the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens are often surprised to stumble across a glittering gold statue of a soldier on horseback, seemingly guarding the posh Hotel Regina that overlooks the area. And many snap pics of the equestrian sculpture without ever really knowing that they’ve captured the likeness of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), a peasant from northeast France who became a commander in the French military and led several victories over the invading English forces during the Hundred Years’ War. Today, Jeanne d’Arc is a martyr of the Catholic Church and one of the nine patron saints of France. Continue Reading →

Popular Paris Square Has a Dark Revolutionary Past

Concorde 8

Place de la Concorde, one of the most popular squares—and the largest in terms of sheer size—in the City of Light, may be beautiful and picturesque today, but at one time it witnessed dozens of bloody executions during the French Revolution. In fact, it’s the exact site where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were made a foot shorter on top via the guillotine. Visitors today, enamored of the square’s gilded fountains, soaring Egyptian obelisk and unfettered views of some of Paris’s most iconic sites, are probably unaware of the area’s decidedly grotesque past. Even the square’s name today—essentially The Place of Harmony—belies its dark history. Continue Reading →

Parking Lot Project Unearths Ancient Artifacts

Notre Dame archaeological crypt 8

In far too many cities, the classic song lyric “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is sadly accurate. But in Paris, ironically, it was the building of a parking lot that unearthed a wealth of archaeological treasures, including some that date back to the Gallo-Roman era that began in the year 52 B.C. And even more surprising is that this historical treasure trove literally lies at the feet of every tourist who visits one of Paris’s iconic sites. Continue Reading →