Exactly 28 years after my last visit to Paris, I recently soaked up the experience again of the French capital with all it has to offer. We began planning for this trip to the City of Lights seven months earlier by booking flights and hotels. That was followed by the rigorous process of trying to fit an endless array of activities into only seven full days. Websites like http://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris and www.rendezvousenfrance.com, which via its Atout France French government Tourism Office in Montreal, served as a big help. So was any human being I knew who has ever been there.
I am providing a guide of the itinerary we followed so that hopefully it will save many travelers the endless hours of research we put it in. When you are in Paris for a week, you cannot do everything so one must prioritize when planning and be prepared to drop some intended activities if necessary.
WHERE TO STAY: Seven months before we even left for France, we began the challenging task of looking for a hotel. Upon recommendations from friends we targeted Les Jardins du Marais (www.lesjardinsdumarais.com). Located only blocks away from the famous Marais district, this beautiful hotel has 263 rooms and suites, an intimate restaurant and bar and excellent customer service. Hats off to front office manager Nady Hatem and his team.
This is part of the Preferred Hotel Group (www.preferredhotelgroup.com), which if you check out their website you will see has quite a nice collection to choose from around the world. Our package included a beautiful and spacious deluxe suite. It had a king size bed with a solid sliding door leading to a living room and a most comfortable sofa bed. We had an extra sink, a hairdryer, a microwave oven, a minibar/fridge, a dishwasher, a pantry cabinet, a stovetop burner, a working desk, a small table and very comfortable chair.
The story of this hotel all began in 1987 when the owner was wandering through the oldest part of the city and discovered a little alleyway surrounded by buildings and studios home to famous sculptors and artists in the 1960s. He was instantly captivated by the place’s quaint ambiance and 18th and 19th century historic landmark exteriors. And so was hatched a wild idea to turn this magical place into a charming hotel so thousands of guests could enjoy the same dream.
From Mitterrand and Sarkozy to Jerry Lewis and Johnny Hallyday, countless celebrities have since joined other tourists who are mad about Paris and revelled in the setting steeped in history that has been transformed with a modern and sumptuous touch into a glamorous trendy spot that is above all oh-so Parisian. Originally opened as the Home Plazza Bastille, this exclusive site was fully renovated in 2004, earned its fourth Michelin star and became Les Jardins du Marais.
Les Jardins du Marais has been branded a “Great hotel of the world” and become a one-of-a-kind lifestyle hotel. Carefully shaping the hotel’s destiny, the general managers wanted to give the hotel back its radiance and contemporary flair. They decided to breathe new life into this exceptional locale in the Marais district by bringing their love for contemporary art into the hotel. Your eyes will be astounded before you even reach the lobby. When you open the historic carriage doors to a mind-blowing display you will see the largest open-air hotel gardens in Paris. The lobby extends to reveal a dramatic 1,500 square metre backdrop of courtyards and gardens. You can only reach this exclusive and exotic locale after crossing the extremely secluded threshold of 74 Rue Amelot.
Nestled in the heart of Paris, the hotel transcends you through time the moment you step inside. Innovative use of space and light tricks create an extraordinary setting that approaches intimate sophistication – this is the opposite of flashy opulence. Gardens reminiscent of the Mediterranean and outdoor lounges ringed with palm trees genuinely entice you to relax, enjoy the change of pace and the brief sensation of being in more exotic climes. The hotel further delights its guests with a collection of contemporary art.
The gardens are encircled by seven historic buildings with the 263 rooms. They include 86 Superior rooms and 120 Executive rooms that offer guests unparalleled tranquility in the middle of Paris.
In the über-hip Marais district, from shops and restaurants to museums and monuments, you are at the footsteps of Paris all its splendour. A stone’s throw from Place des Vosges and the Bastille Opera, the hotel is perfectly located near trendy spots, leisurely activities and tourist attractions.
The Saint Sébastien Froissart station on Line 8 of the metro is two minutes on foot from the hotel and it will lead you to any place you wish to go. There is also a direct connection to the Paris airports on the RER B and you are only 15 minutes away from Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est on metro line 5. A private car service is available for guests as well. They will also order a mini-van to bring you to the airport.
Free Wi-fi is available in all rooms and common areas. There is a workout room and even in-room massages upon request. Just a short walk from the front desk is a Carrefour grocery store.
THE MARAIS: Long the aristocratic district of Paris, the Marais hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. It spreads across parts of the third and fourth arrondissements in Paris. At the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th, the district around the rue des Rosiers, referred to as the “Pletzl,” welcomed many Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazi) who reinforced the district’s clothing specialization. But, during World War II, the Jewish community was targeted by the Nazis who were occupying France. The rue des Rosiers is still a major centre of the Paris Jewish community, which has made a renewal since the 1990s. Public notices announce Jewish events, bookshops specialize in Jewish books, and numerous restaurants and other outlets sell kosher food. We took a walk there and saw a very lively area. The synagogue on 10 rue Pavée is not far from rue des Rosiers. It was designed in 1913 by Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard, who designed several Paris Metro stations.
THE PARIS METRO: Considered a leading tourist attraction in its own right, the Paris Metro system is absolutely superb and so easy to navigate. I must admit that I was intimidated by the prospect of getting around the city before I left, but there is no need here to take taxis. Almost every square block you walk there seems to be a station. They are kept clean and you feel safe because of the large crowds, even late at night.
The first line of the underground subway system (still called Line 1) began operation in 1900 and today the Paris Metro has grown to include 14 lines that connect Paris via its subterranean tunnels. With over 300 stations, it’s easy to travel anywhere within the city limits.
Make sure to purchase a Paris Metro Pass, something you use at the turn styles to gain entrance to the metro or the buses. It begins its validity the first time you use it, then works for the next consecutive one, two, three or five days after that. All you choose is the validity period and the zones in which you would like to travel!
BATEAUX MOUCHES: For our first night in Paris, we opted to experience the Bateaux-Mouches (http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en). Their fleet of nine boats are all enclosed in glass and bathed in light to cast off and accompany you on a journey through time. There are daily departures throughout the day and in the evening. You can choose the dinner or simple tour options. We chose the latter and did so on a gorgeous evening. The experience allowed us to discover all of the magic of the banks of the River Seine, which are enhanced, in no predictable order, by the most prestigious monuments which have marked history.
BIG BUS TOUR: In the first day or two of your trip be sure to proceed to get tickets for the famous hop-on, hop-off bus tours (http://eng.bigbustours.com/paris/home.html), operated by the Cars Rouges. This allows you to explore the city’s top tourist attractions at your own pace. From the breath-taking heights of the Eiffel Tower to the historic grounds of Le Louvre, no visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the city’s sights by bus and via the two day package we chose. The Big Bus sightseeing tour took us to iconic buildings such as Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. We also discovered a myriad of other historic sites, which could easily be a centrepiece in any other city. There was ornate, elegant architecture at every turn, but what we found most impressive was the way striking landmarks were connected and aligned through wide boulevards and open spaces, delivering some magnificent views. Throughout the ticket validity period, you can hop-on and off the buses at any of the Big Bus stops. A third of their fleet has wheelchair access on the lower deck, and they try to run these vehicles evenly throughout the service. It is best to buy your tickets online, but you Can also do so on site at any bus stop from a uniformed agent.
NOTRE DAME: Notre-Dame de Paris (http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/-English), a masterpiece of faith, art and history, is the cathedral of the Catholic archdiocese of Paris. It is one of the best-known symbols of the French capital, and the most-visited monument in France, ahead of the Eiffel Tower. The cathedral is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and attracts 13 million believers, pilgrims and visitors each year. It is stage to major celebrations for the diocese and the French republic. Access to the cathedral is open and free of charge every day of the year, during the opening hours. Parts of the cathedral are accessible to reduced-mobility individuals: the nave, side aisles and transept, more than two-thirds of the building. There are three steps to access the choir and the Treasury. There is a small step at the entrance portals to access the main floor.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE: Located at one end of Paris’s most famous avenue, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe Paris (http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com) triumphal arch is older than the Eiffel Tower, but is somewhat new in the tradition of building arches to celebrate victories. The Romans did it much earlier. In fact, the Arch of Titus had inspired Napoleon to build this 19th-century tribute to his “Grande Armee.” The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added in 1921. The ‘eternal flame’ is re-lit every evening at 6:30 p.m. You can admire the arch from below at the ground level – either on foot while you’re window-shopping on the Champs Elysees – or by automobile if you’re lucky enough to get caught in the swirl of traffic that plays dodge around its base. If you choose not to brave the crowds visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is a great alternative. It’s also less expensive if you’re traveling with students or children. Kids and teenagers, age 17 and younger get free admission. The top can only be reached by climbing up its 40 stairs. But before you get to the stairs, you have to get to the monument itself (which isn’t as simple as you’d think). Do not try crossing the traffic circle. There is an underground tunnel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the circle. You can access this tunnel from the Wagram exit of the Metro. This structure was built between 1806 and 1836. Even though there were many modifications from the original plans, reflecting political changes and power struggles, the Arch still retains the essence of the original concept which was a powerful, unified ensemble. The Arc de Triomphe stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as the “Place de l’Étoile.” It is located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The arches whole decorative style is entirely of the tradition of sculpture from the first half of the nineteenth century. The triumphal arch is in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Centre des monuments nationaux has almost 100 historical monuments all over France open to the public. Its properties include Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, Château of Azay-le-Rideau, Arc de Triomphe, Sainte-Chapelle, Pantheon and Abbey of Thoronet. The diversity of sites, from abbeys to châteaux, prehistoric caves, and archaeological sites, and more, is testimony to France’s incredibly rich heritage from all eras. With nine million visitors, 400 events per year, the Centre des monuments nationaux is a unique operator in the cultural tourism sector. Log on to www.tourisme.monuments-nationaux.fr/en.
THE WORLD FAMOUS OPERA HOUSE: Everyone told me not to leave Paris without at least taking a tour of the Palais Garnier (http://visitepalaisgarnier.fr), a magnificent 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. We visited on a Saturday afternoon. The cost is 10 and six Euros for adults and children/students respectively. You can also rent an audio guide, which comes on an Ipad and is good for two people. We were mesmerized by what we saw. This is said to be the most famous opera house in the world, partly due I am told to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, of course its subsequent adaptations in films and musical stage productions. This facility also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library-Museum). Although the Library-Museum is no longer managed by the Opera and is part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the museum is included in unaccompanied tours of the Palais Garnier.
THE LOUVRE: The Louvre Museum, a former residence of the kings of France, has for two centuries been one of the biggest museums in the world. Its collections are spread over eight departments: Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, and Prints and Drawings dating from the Middle Ages to 1848. The Louvre in figures: 35,000 works of art in 60,600 square metres of rooms devoted to permanent collections, with 2,410 windows, 3,000 locks and 10,000 steps.
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays you can go until 9:45 p.m. This place is gigantic and takes a long time to visit. It is best to do your research first so you have a game plan.
The museum collections are grouped into eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Islamic Art; Paintings; Sculptures; Decorative Arts; and Prints and Drawings.
On their first visit to the Louvre, people often want to see the museum’s three great ladies — the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and Mona Lisa.
The Louvre is universal both in terms of the wealth of its collections and the great diversity of its visitors. Of the nearly 10 million people who visited the Louvre in 2012, 69 percent were of overseas origin, with 15 percent from the United States of America, seven percent from China, and six percent from Brazil. To adapt to the diverse nature of this public, the Louvre continually strives for greater accessibility. To this end, its initiatives include the progressive widespread use of labeling in two or even three languages to describe the 38,000 artworks exhibited; the revamped numbering of exhibition rooms; the development of a new, more user-friendly floor plan; and the fostering of art education. In addition, the Louvre website (www.louvre.fr/en) offers various visitor tips on planning a visit, gaining in-depth knowledge, and teaching art history to children.
More than 2,100 people, including 166 curatorial staff and 1,200 security officers, work on a daily basis in service of the collections and visitor reception. In addition, there are many external players (including technical maintenance, external monitoring, laboratories, conservation professionals, and cultural contributors). Furthermore, the Louvre has thoroughly modernized its financing methods and developed its own resources. In 2009, the museum created an “endowment fund” styled on English and American models, to finance its long-term projects. In 2012, the Musée du Louvre revenue amounted to 216 million euros, 116 million euros of which were state subsidies (54 percent) and 100 million euros self-funded. These self-funded resources can be broken down as follows: 58 million euros from ticket sales, 16 million euros from sponsors, and 15 million through the enhanced visibility and profitability of the Louvre offering as a whole.
The Louvre also manages the Musée Eugène Delacroix (as of January 1, 2004) and the Tuileries garden (as of January 1, 2005). Over the years, the Louvre has remained true to its missions of promoting encounters between art collections and the public. More than just a meeting place, it is now clearly a forum for sharing, open and generous, where the exceptional is accessible to all. You can pre-search the entire collection online, including the famous Mona Lisa. This portrait was doubtless painted in Florence between 1503 and 1506. It is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo – hence the alternative title, La Gioconda. However, Leonardo seems to have taken the completed portrait to France rather than giving it to the person who commissioned it. It was eventually returned to Italy by Leonardo’s student and heir Salai. It is not known how the painting came to be in François I’s collection.
The history of the Mona Lisa is shrouded in mystery. Among the aspects which remain unclear are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo worked on the painting, how long he kept it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection.
The portrait may have been painted to mark one of two events – either when Francesco del Giocondo and his wife bought their own house in 1503, or when their second son, Andrea, was born in December 1502 after the death of a daughter in 1499. The delicate dark veil that covers Mona Lisa’s hair is sometimes considered a mourning veil. In fact, such veils were commonly worn as a mark of virtue. Her clothing is unremarkable. Neither the yellow sleeves of her gown, nor her pleated gown, nor the scarf delicately draped round her shoulders are signs of aristocratic status.
The Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait. The painting is generous enough in its dimensions to include the arms and hands without them touching the frame. The portrait is painted to a realistic scale in the highly structured space where it has the fullness of volume of a sculpture in the round. The figure is shown in half-length, from the head to the waist, sitting in a chair whose arm is resting on balusters. She is resting her left arm on the arm of the chair, which is placed in front of a loggia, suggested by the parapet behind her and the two fragmentary columns framing the figure and forming a “window” looking out over the landscape. The perfection of this new artistic formula explains its immediate influence on Florentine and Lombard art of the early 16th century. Such aspects of the work as the three-quarter view of a figure against a landscape, the architectural setting, and the hands joined in the foreground were already extant in Flemish portraiture of the second half of the 15th century, particularly in the works of Hans Memling. However, the spacial coherence, the atmospheric illusionism, the monumentality, and the sheer equilibrium of the work were all new. In fact, these aspects were also new to Leonardo’s work, as none of his earlier portraits display such controlled majesty.
The Mona Lisa’s famous smile represents the sitter in the same way that the juniper branches represent Ginevra Benci and the ermine represents Cecilia Gallerani in their portraits, in Washington and Krakow respectively. It is a visual representation of the idea of happiness suggested by the word “gioconda” in Italian. Leonardo made this notion of happiness the central motif of the portrait: it is this notion which makes the work such an ideal. The nature of the landscape also plays a role. The middle distance, on the same level as the sitter’s chest, is in warm colors. Men live in this space: there is a winding road and a bridge.
There is free and priority access for disabled individuals and an accompanying person upon presentation of written proof. For the visually impaired, there are touch and descriptive tours, information in Braille and audio guides. The Touch Gallery is designed for the blind and sight impaired. It allows all visitors to share a touch perception experience. You will discover 18 moulds of Antiquity art work from the 19th century, giving you an idea of the different ways childhood was represented over the centuries. For the hearing impaired, tours in French sign language, lip reading or cued speech are offered.
For more information about adapted activities in the Louvre as well as an accessibility guide, visit http://www.louvre.fr/accessibilite. The contact number for disabled visitors is +33 (0)1 40 20 59 90. You can email: email@example.com
MUSEE D’ORSAY: Internationally renowned for its rich collection of impressionist art, the Musée d’Orsay (http://www.musee-orsay.fr) also displays all western artistic creations between 1848 and 1914. Its collections represent all expressive forms, from painting to architecture, not forgetting sculpting, decorative arts and photography. You’re sure to be dazzled by the beauty of the place: a palace-like station, launched for the 1900 Universal Exposition. At the end of 2011, the museum reopened all of its entirely renovated spaces as well as some new rooms: an additional 400 square meters for the Pavillon Amont, post-impressionist artists at the heart of the museum, the restructuring of the Galerie des Impressionnistes, a new space for temporary exhibitions, and a new aquatic decor in the Café des Hauteurs, designed by Brazilian designers, the Campana Brothers. The museum is open every day but Monday. You can check out a 90 minute guided tour for those aged 13 and up. We rented three Ipods for five Euros each. Through a very simple system one needs only to punch in the number of selected paintings and an interesting commentary will be provided.
There is free entry for disabled people and an accompanying person on presentation of written proof. Adapted activities and workshops take place and wheelchairs can be loaned. There is priority access without queues at entrance C. The museum is entirely accessible and the auditorium designed to welcome up to three people in wheelchairs. For the visually impaired, guide and assistance dogs are allowed around the collections in the museum and exhibitions. The museum does not have tactile walk ways All year round, there are visits available in sign language and the auditorium is equipped with a hearing loop.
Bookings can be made at http://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/espace-particuliers/particuliers/visiteurs-handicapes/bienvenue.html and by calling + 33 (0) 1 40 49 48 14
When we visited, the Carpeaux exhibition was on. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux was the son of a stonemason and a lace maker from Valencienne. He built an exceptional career closely linked to the “fête impériale” of Napoleon III’s reign. Standing out vividly in the artistic milieu of his time, he was also one of the most perfect embodiments of the Romantic idea of the artist cursed by the brevity and brilliance of his career, concentrated into around 15 years, and by the violence and the passion of an unrelenting struggle with subjects chosen or commissioned (the Pavillon de Flore in the Louvre, The Dance for Charles Garnier’s Opera). The sculptor of smiling subjects, painter of movement, outstanding portraitist, familiar artist of the Cour des Tuileries, attentive observer of the realities of street life and also a sensitive admirer of Michelangelo, Carpeaux was constantly immersed in sombre melancholy, using broad brushstrokes from his earliest days, for the tragedy of Ugolin eating his own children, and, later, for the ghostly flashes of a religious feeling imbued with anxiety, the violence of shipwreck scenes and for sorrowful self-portraits.
The first retrospective since 1975 devoted to his works as a sculptor, painter and illustrator, this exhibition will explore the varied work of a major figure of French sculpture in the second half of the 19th century who, according to Alexandre Dumas, was “more alive than life itself”.
MOULIN ROUGE: I did go to the Moulin Rouge (www.moulinrouge.fr) 28 years earlier and there was no question that a return trip was in order. Established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge is quite simply the most famous cabaret in the world! Located in the Monmarte District, it was immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec and was the cradle of the music hall with the famous Mistinguett. Since it opened in 1889, it has dazzled the whole world. The room is magnificently decorated in belle époque style and red velvet, with typical burlesque frescoes. This is a wonderful place to enjoy gourmet French food by the Maison Dalloyau, served with champagne – the official drink of the cabaret. But show only options are also available and that is what we opted. We did get a fresh bottle of bubbly to our table upon arrival. And what show! This is a “can’t miss” stop for any Paris visitor. You will be entertained by a troupe of 80 artists, including 60 Doriss Girls recruited world-wide; 1, 000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones and sequins, made in the most famous Parisian workshops; sumptuous sets in shimmering colours, uniquely designed by Italian artists; and outstanding international acts. On the night we were in attendance, a male and female acrobatic team astounded the audience and there was also the most marvelous and humorous ventriloquist. When one of the dancers dropped into a swimming pool which emerged from the floor and began to swim with snakes, the packed room applauded loudly. This revue, called “Féerie,” is performed twice a night.
Elegant attire is required (tie and jacket not necessary), but no shorts, short-pants, sport shoes or sportswear. The dinner and show package starts at 7 p.m.: the first show at 9 and the second at 11. It is recommended your arrive around 30 minutes prior. When we departed, there was a massive line to get in for the second presentation.
The Moulin Rouge’s Brigade consists of 120 maître-d, headwaiters and waiters. The legendary hall accommodates up to 900 guests. A team of 25 cooks prepare the meals while champagne is the official drink, with 240 000 bottles opened a year!
THE KOFF DINING OPTION IN MONMARTE: I must have spent hours looking for just the right restaurant to “sandwich” in before the Moulin Rouge and the Koff Delicattessen (www.koff-paris.fr) at 15 Rue la Vieuville won out.
I would strongly recommend Koff. The husband and wife team of David and Jade designed this place like a New York deli. The menu features bagels, burgers, quesadillas, nachos, sandwiches, smoked salmon, Ashkenazi specialties, Russian dishes and a nice variety of salads. It is open for lunch and dinner. The Sunday brunch includes coffee or tea, orange juice, muffins, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage and smoked salmon. I must say that I very much enjoyed the pastrami club sandwich, accompanied by delicious hash browns. Friendly servers Matlilda and Marvin offered us their homemade cheesecake or banoffee pie for dessert, but we were full form the main course. Koff is just one minute’s walk from Abbesses métro station (line 12). The décor here is very American, in terms of canvases, signs, metallic advertisement placards and other paraphernalia. Each of the chairs represent an iconic American figure (real or fictional) staring back from the seat such as Bugs Bunny, Batman or Marilyn Monroe. There are even some kosher items on the menu, identified with a big “K.”
BREAKFAST IN AMERICA: Here is one more unique restaurant you will want to try. First off, Breakfast in America (http://www.breakfast-in-america.com) does not take reservations. There are two locations: in the heart of the historic Latin Quarter, not far from the Sorbonne and Notre Dame and in the Marais district, near rue des Rosiers, the famous Jewish quarter. It is owned not surprisingly by an American, Craig Carlson. We experienced the Marais locale known as BIA2, with charming manager Julien Chameroy and floor manager Sarah-Rose Giudici (from Chicago).
Originally from Connecticut, Carlson first came to France as a student and instantly fell in love with the country. It was in Paris — thanks to the numerous art house cinemas — that he developed his love for film and decided to pursue it as a career. After attending USC film school in Los Angeles, he worked as a screenwriter and short filmmaker and then landed a job in Paris working on a TV show. During this time, the only thing he missed while living in Paris was a good ol’ American breakfast. Realizing the only thing the French knew of American cuisine was fast food, Craig became convinced that the time was right for an authentic American diner in Paris.
After nearly two years in the making, BIA finally opened its doors in January 2003 (BIA 2 opened in February 2006). Thanks to his friends in the film industry who came on as investors, Craig was able to bring together two of his loves under one roof – the cinema and diners. Some of BIA’s supporters include the director of the film “Runaway Jury,” (starring Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman), the writer of “Con Air”, a director of “Friends”, the director of “Invincible” (starring Mark Wahlberg) and French animators working at Dreamworks Studios in California. All of them can’t wait to find an excuse to come to Paris where they know a steamin’ stack of pancakes and a bottomless mug o’ joe are always waiting for them…
Breakfast in America is famous for breakfast, but also known for being one of the best places in Paris for burgers! What dishes are the most popular? At BIA, some favorites include: blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, the Connecticut omelet, two by two, locally-baked bagels, their own “BIA Burger” and “Super BIA Burger,” California chicken wrap, vegetarian wrap, home-made chili con carne, club sandwich, cheesecake, real milkshakes and much, much more! There are toasters at each booth.
Another familiar restaurant for North Americans is the Hard Rock Café (http://www.hardrock.com/cafes/paris) at 14 Boulevard Montmarte.
The Hard Rock Cafe Paris offers more than just great food and service. The café is a museum of popular culture, with authentic memorabilia from rock ‘n’ roll legends covering our walls, 21 screens showing videos, and an unbelievable sound system. In our restaurant and famous cocktail bar all is done to give our international clientele an American experience.
The Hard Rock Cafe Paris is centrally located next to the Opera and the Grands Boulevards, not far from famous places such as Musée Grévin, les Etoiles du Rex or the Theathre of Varietes. Hard Rock Cafe Paris offer its guests the finest all-American food and great music. There is also a retail store where you can purchase limited edition and collectible Hard Rock t-Shirts, jackets and souvenirs.
DINING ATOP THE EIFFEL TOWER: On May 15 1889 the Eiffel Tower (www.tour-eiffel.fr) opened its doors to the public, several days after the inauguration of the Universal Exhibition, of which it was the undisputed star and the most spectacular attraction.
Unquestionably the Eiffel Tower represents a “must” on every tourist’s list, notably for its remarkable view over Paris. The opening times vary according to the time of year. It is open every single day of the year, from 9 a.m. to midnight from mid-June to early September and from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. the rest of the year. During Easter weekend and Spring holidays, there are extended opening hours to midnight. The ticket office at the foot of the Eiffel Tower is open every day, but I strongly recommend you purchase your tickets online and do so at least six months in advance if you want to gain immediate entry and go all the way to the top. You can also climb the stairs to the second level, which must be quite the exhausting experience.
Without advance tickets, prepare to face a lineup as long as two hours. The electronic ticket, which you can print out at home or save on your mobile, means that on the date and the time you’ve chosen, you can go straight to the queues for people with tickets. We did not know about this, but found a way to reach the second level quickly and enjoy a memorable dining experience with the view of a lifetime. This was all made possible by securing reservations at The Jules Verne Restaurant (http://www.lejulesverne-paris.com). This is part of the Alain Ducasse culinary empire (http://www.alain-ducasse.com). Not only did we enjoy a five course meal, but we had a private door to enter and exit the viewing platform whenever we wished. Upon arrival at the South Pillar, we gave our names to the host who sent us up on a private elevator 125 metres above. While regular patrons had to wait seemingly endlessly to go back down at the end of the night, we did so in minutes. In order to get the window table we had, one needs to reserve at least three months in advance. We could have bought tickets from there to go to the very top, but frankly take my advice – it is really not worth the long wait.
There is now a “tasting” menu, allowing you to experience the full Jules Verne sensation. For dinner it is 185 euros for five courses (meat or fish) or 230 euros for six. It takes you on a journey of discovery and surprises, in a voyage of five or six dishes depending on your desires. We chose the former and it included Bellevue Style blue lobster, with gold caviar; preserved duck foie gras; roasted marinated baby artichokes; seared sea bass or free range chicken fricassee; and some delicious desserts. There are a number of servers per table.
In late 2006, SETE, which operates the Eiffel Tower, selected L’Affiche (Groupe Sodexo) and Alain Ducasse Entreprise to modernize the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant services. Champion of the offering, Le Jules Verne was unveiled on December 22, 2007.
Le Jules Verne’s unique location makes it the Parisian venue par excellence. The wine list at Le Jules Verne, created by Gérard Margeon, chef sommelier of Alain Ducasse Restaurants, features a selection of the finest French wines from the country’s greatest regions, with long-standing names sharing the limelight with young winegrowers who symbolize the dynamic nature of contemporary French wine-making. The opening of the “new Jules Verne” was the accomplishment of an incredible adventure. It was also a real challenge due to the highly symbolic nature of the venue, but also for very concrete reasons: space on the second level of the Eiffel Tower is limited, and the weight of all the materials and equipment used had to be monitored with painstaking exactness, not to mention the safety constraints involved. Renovation works also took environmental issues into account, all within a tight 120-day schedule.
The place and name set the tone: the Eiffel Tower, a universally recognized icon, and Jules Verne, the visionary novelist. For someone like Alain Ducasse, who wants his restaurants to tell a story, one couldn’t dream of a better point of departure. They brought in the best experts in the field and their teams rallied together with exceptional enthusiasm.
LIVE MUSICAL THEATRE: I strongly recommend an evening at the Mogador Theatre (http://www.stage-entertainment.fr/theatre-mogador). Founded in 1913, the Mogador is a performance venue of 1,00 seats located a few steps from Paris’s department stores and Palais Garnier Opera House. It has a number of facilities for the comfort of the audience: lounges, foyers, bars, and eating areas. Since 2005, the place has been run by the Stage Entertainment group and the eclectic program favours musicals: The Lion King (1,300,000 spectators), Mamma Mia! (2011 and 2012), Sister Act (2013) and most recently the French version of Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et La Bête). We were fortunate to see one of the final shows of the latter’s highly successful nine-month run. First of all, we of course knew the storyline already. However, coming from Montreal we had no trouble understanding the dialogue. I would recommend that every tourist – even those who do not understand French – check out one of their presentations. Chalk it up as a good cultural experience. The theatre itself is lovely and located near a lot of trendy places to eat. Next on the agenda will be Le Bal Des Vampires (http://www.lebaldesvampires.fr) , starting in October For Montrealers who do speak and understand French, it seemed logical for us to seek out a production en Français. Five spaces are reserved for individuals with mobility issues.
VIATOR TEEN SHOPPING EXPERIENCE: As we were planning this trip it became abundantly clear that a company named Viator (www.viator.com) could really come in handy when booking certain tours and excursions. Their team of travel insiders are obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere folks travel. From Paris to Phuket to Perth, from traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, they have something for every kind of traveler. They have been around for 17 years now. From their offices around the globe, a team of travel insiders handpick the best local tour and activity providers. Viator officials pre-vet them all to make sure you always have an exceptional experience.
Over three million people have traveled with Viator and they have opinions you’ll want to hear. With Viator you can get the royal treatment, including behind-the-scenes access, private viewings, VIP tours – with no lines and no crowds! If you want to pre-book your trips at home from a laptop or do so on the go, with Viator you get insider access.
Viator has evolved from its founding in Sydney in 1995 as a technology company building websites for other travel companies, to emerge as the leading insider resource for researching and booking destination activities around the world. At the time when other companies were honing in on airline tickets, hotels and rental cars, Viator focused on an untapped niche in the young online travel market—destination activities—or the “things you do when you get there.” Today, Viator is the industry leader in the tours and activities space, with an unprecedented portfolio of thousands of hand-picked tours and activities, and unmatched relationships with a global network of local tour operators.
Viator is not a paid listing or advertising site nor a simple aggregator. Viator’s team of travel experts around the world has built close relationships with local tour operators over the past 10 plus years. Each operator is pre-vetted for quality and service so only the best and most memorable experiences are featured on the site, and the steady stream of verified customer reviews (500,000 and counting) keeps them honest; providers that don’t meet expected service levels are removed. Through a collection of more than 60 consumer-facing websites, mobile apps and mobile sites, Viator reaches more than nine million travelers a month. Its global affiliate network of more than 2,000 active partners expands the company’s reach to even more travelers through affiliate sites like American Airlines, British Airways, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and AAA.
For the youngest member of our travel party, the Teen Shopping and Fashion Accessories Tour in Paris ended up being the first choice. For girls who are you looking for something that just screams “I got this in Paris,” this is a great choice. Make your best friends green with envy when you arrive home from your trip to Paris with the latest, funkiest fashion. You’ll visit places known only to the savviest Parisian teenagers, and find the hippest French brands on this three-hour shopping tour. It’s no wonder this tour is such a hit with teenagers and moms!
Sandra Hoyois, from Not A Tourist Destination Tours, leads this Paris shopping tour and shop for fabulous bags (everyday handbags, dressy handbags, funky handbags, backpacks, side packs), terrific shoes (tennis shoes, dressy shoes, flat shoes, heels, boots, sandals) and the greatest jewelry ever (delicate necklaces, unique earrings, funky bracelets, gorgeous rings) in the world’s most stylish city. Noted American actress Angeline Jolie and some of her kids were part of a past tour, during which you discover the favorite leisurewear of thrifty Parisian teenagers on a budget, and attend sample sales where the most fashionable brands sell last year’s collections at discounts of up to 70 percent.
Sandra is qualified to work with teenagers and carries a cell phone at all times. Parents are more than welcome to join the fun of this shopping tour…and usually book the tour for themselves! Our tour began and ended at a centrally located Starbucks Paris café. You can book this online or do it by the telephone via a toll free number. You will then receive a voucher by email, print it out and make sure to reconfirm your booking a few days in advance. Often a smaller number of tour members ensures a more personalized experience.
THE ORIGINAL GRÉVIN: While there has been a Grévin (www.grevin.com) at Montreal`s Eaton Centre since April 2013, this place is the original. In fact, only one other exists in the world – in Prague, Czech Republic. This is a fabulous wax museum, with a specific French feel in terms of many of the actors and historical figures featured. I nonetheless got to pose with the likes of Elton John, Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Cage, Barack Obama and many other familiar faces. Your visits starts off with a unique sound and light show. I am now ready to visit the museum in Montreal. Aurélie Gombert, the communications director in Paris, said that plans call for a new Grévin to open every year or so. I would think that the United States would be next on the list, not to mention places like Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.
Amidst the crackle of photographers’ flashes, the celebrities in the headlines all meet at the most Parisian of addresses. Discreet atmosphere and evening dress mandatory for a cocktail party with the stars of showbiz, top international singers and the piano at an impromptu jam session, or a relaxed environment to share a friendly glass at the brasserie with the big names of the French cinema industry; the Grevin creates the illusion of an interactive meeting in its new decor. During the visit, a fashion show podium, a dance studio, or a box at the theatre give visitors a unique opportunity to meet their favourite artists and to glimpse the Spirit of Paris.
From the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, with the Renaissance and the Second Empire along the way, the Grevin conjures up the great events of History. Joan of Arc burning at the stake, Louis XIV and his court in Versailles, or the assassination of Henri IV, are some of the all-important historical events that visitors are invited to experience. The 20th Century is shown as a sequence of snapshots, like 3-D photographs; from the first step on the moon to the fall of the Berlin wall, each picture is a part of history. There is an Italian style theatre, constructed in 1900, with a slew of wax figures spread about.