The Holy Chapel

Sainte-Chapelle, which means Holy Chapel, is a gorgeous gothic-style church located in the heart of Paris on Ile de la Cite. King Louis IX commissioned the church to be built in 1239, and it was completed in 1248 and is the last remaining building of the Capetian Royal Palace. The original intention of its construction was to be a treasury for a collection of holy relics owned by King Louis IX. Included in this collection was the crown of thorns, a piece of the “true cross”, and 30 other odd pieces.

The chapel played an important role during the reign on King Louis, as it was not only used as a place of worship, but also played an important political role by displaying the King’s artistic and architectural abilities, thus contributing to his position as the highest powered monarch in western Christian kingdoms. A large reason that the Sainte-Chapelle was considered such a triumph, and a point King Louis was sure to point out, was its major resemblance to Chalemagne’s temple. Another unique aspect the king enjoyed was the ability to quickly and secretly travel from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.

Throughout the years, and especially during the French Revolution, there was significant damage done to the chapel. Some of the relics were also lost or moved elsewhere, such as to the Notre Dame de Paris. Between 1803 and 1855 restorations began, however, and were considered exemplary in their careful execution under the lead of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The Sainte-Chappelle is considered a true masterpiece of its time and is one of the greatest examples of “Rayonnant”, or gothic architectural style, the world has ever witnessed. The stained glass featured in the chapel is regarded as some of the most beautiful in existence. Only about two-thirds of the stained glass you see today is original, but the replacements pieces are expertly crafted.

So remarkable is the chapel, that in 1323 a local scholar Jean de Jandun, paid tribute to the building he considered one of the most beautiful ever built in his writing ”Tractus de laudibus Parisius”. His excerpt about the Sainte-Chapelle is as follows: “That most beautiful of chapels, the chapel of the king, most decently situated within the walls of the king’s house, enjoys a complete and indissoluble structure of the most solid stone. The most excellent colors of the pictures, the precious gilding of the images, the beautiful transparence of the ruddy windows on all sides, the most beautiful cloths of the altars, the wondrous merits of the sanctuary, the figures of the reliquaries externally adorned with dazzling gems, bestow such a hyperbolic beauty on that house of prayer, that, in going into it below, one understandably believes oneself, as if rapt to heaven, to enter one of the best chambers of Paradise.”

Today, you can visit the Sainte-Chapelle, located near the metro station Cite in the heart of Paris. Admission for individuals is about €5.50, and group tours are about €4.50 per person.

Paris Opera

The Paris Opera, founded in 1669 by Louis XIV, is a cornerstone of Paris’s long history of being a giant in the arts and music community. Originally, the idea for the French opera was that of Pierre Perrin’s, whose intention when presenting it to the king was to debunk the common thinking at the time that the French language was “unmusical”. This false idea has certainly been tossed aside over the years, as not only do some of the most beautiful opera’s take place here, but the classical ballet as it is known today rose out of the Paris Opera.

The Palais Garnier (shown above) is mainly used to host the Paris Ballet, and is more widely known than any other opera establishment in the world. Decorated with the best marble, gorgeous columns, chandeliers, and bronze busts of notable composers, the Palais Garnier is the revered in the architectural community. It’s actually the setting for one of the most famous novels of all time – The Phantom of the Opera, which was eventually turned into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Paris Opera Library-Museum is also here.

The Opera Bastille, an opera house built in 1989 with a more modern design, is home to the Opera national de Paris currently. Here you can experience classical French opera and concerts performed by only the most talented musicians, singers, and performers .You can view the line-up for this year’s performances here. You’ll find the line-up for this season to be phenomenal, featuring Operas written by classical musician greats such as Richard Strauss, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, and much more.

Paris in March 2012

Paris in springtime – plenty to see, do, and eat. There’s also no small amount of local activities and unique Parisian events you can experience during March. Here’s our list of local happenings this month you should check out while in Paris.

Foire du Trone

If giant amusement parks are your thing, this is a must-visit. Held on the lawns of the Pelouse de Reuilly, this fair begins at the end of March and runs until the end of May. It actually dates all the way back to A.D. 957 from when farmers and merchants gathered to trade their goods. Acrobats, ferris wheels, fire eaters, carousels, and much more make this a pretty entertaining hotspot for a few months.

Banlieues Bleues

A jazz festival taking place between March 16th and April 13th that features an assortment of telented musicians from around the world. You won’t want to miss these smooth sounds!

Dancing Through Life

This is a wonderful exhibition that is being held at The Centre Georges Pompidou. It will feature influences shared between dancing and visual arts. Held through April 2nd, seeing the comparison of art and dance is a truly unique experience everyone can enjoy this spring!

Trompe l’oeil

Directly translated into “Tricking the Eye”, this is a show that opened in February of this year and runs until November of 2013. This exhibit has over 400 paintings, sculptures, and textiles that were crafted specifically to trick the eye. It’s being held at the Paris Arts Decoratifs museum.

Festival of the Imagination

Held on the boulevard Raspail and running from March 19th – June 17th, you can come explore cultural revolutions from the world over expressed in dance, music, and traditional displays. This is truly a unique festival for Paris, and anywhere for that matter. Something you won’t want to miss!

Salon Vivre aurement bio et nature 2012 trade show

Paris’s “go green” trade show! This is held at the Parc floral de Paris from March 16th thru March 19th.

La Bonheur Show

Presented by the Lido revue, this is a show that consists of 4 scenes: “La Femme” celebrating women and love, “Paris je t’aime” celebrating Parisian fashion and nightlife, “L’Inde Legendaire” celebrates Shiva and Indian culture, and “Reves d’etoiles” celebrating classic film and cabaret. Catch dinner while watching this unique Parisian show happening from January 1st through March 31st in the Chams-Elysees/Louvre district.

Tim Burton at the Cinematheque Francaise

Tim Burton lovers won’t want to miss this! Held March 7th through August 5th, this is an interesting look at this beloved filmmaker and director’s work through the years. Over 700 drawings, sculptures, models, film excerpts, and costumes featured!

The Iron Lady of Paris

The Eiffel Tower, or the Iron Lady as it’s sometimes referred to, is a 1,063 foot tall radio tower that soars in the Paris skyline.  The history of the tower is a big part of what makes it such an important landmark. It was originally built in 1889 as the entranceway to the Worlds Fair, after which it was supposed to be torn down once the permit held by its designer, Gustave Eiffel, wore out. The city saw that it could be of some use as a communication device, though, and thus it remained up and served a significant role during the First Battle of the Marne. What’s interesting here is while the City of Paris saw the tower as an asset, most Parisian citizens saw it as nothing more than an eyesore – especially the arts populace. Local papers even received angry letters criticizing the tower and its continued presence in the beloved city.

Throughout the years, the Eiffel Tower played a significant and interesting role in Parisian history. For instance, during World War II when the Nazi party occupied Paris, the French actually cut the lift cables on the tower in an effort to prevent Adolf Hitler from easily making it to the top. Hitler’s soldiers had to climb all the way to the top to hang the swastika flag, which initially flew off due to the high wind and had to be replaced with a smaller one. Interestingly, Hitler never made it to the top of the tower, which Parisians will recall fondly that Hitler may have conquered France but he couldn’t conquer the Eiffel Tower. After the city of Paris was freed from the grasp of the Nazi party, the lifts to the tower were restored within a matter of hours.

While the Eiffel Tower is probably France’s biggest tourist attraction, it still maintains its role as a radio tower, with two radio stations broadcasting their signals from the top. When visiting the Iron Lady today, there are a number of things you can view that really give you a unique perspective of the tower and its rich history. The top of the tower is host to a small apartment that Gustave Eiffel l used at one time to host parties. The apartment can still be seen today and provides an interesting glimpse into the towers history. You can even catch a meal, or two, on the Eiffel Tower at one of its TWO restaurants – Le 58 tour Eiffel on the first level and Le Jules Verne on the second level. The latter of the two restaurants even has a Michelin Star! Another unique piece of history you can view is the engraved names of the seventy-two people that helped design and contribute to what the Eiffel Tower is today. Included are inscriptions of scientists, engineers, and even Gustave Eiffel himself.

You can also learn about a few very unique events in which the Eiffel Tower starred while you are here. For example, in 1912 an Austrian named Franz Reichelt attempted to jump 60 metres from the first floor using a home designed parachute. Sadly, he failed and fell to his death. Interestingly, this would be the first of many daredevils jumping from the Eiffel Tower. You can also learn of a more recent odd fact – the Eiffel Tower is apparently married? That’s right! In 2007, Erika Eiffel, married (or as much as one can marry a steel tower) the Eiffel Tower.

Visiting this landmark that is truly a Paris, and a global, icon is a definite must see for any Parisian tourist, especially if you want to get a remarkable glimpse into the history and greatness of Paris. Plus, the view from the top, where you can see all of Paris, is just breathtaking. Make it your first stop, or make it your last stop, just as long as you stop by!

Map of Disneyland Paris

Map of Disneyland Paris, Paris France

Disneyland Paris: Magic in Paris!

If you’re seeking family fun while in Paris, spend a day at Disneyland Paris! Only about half an hour outside of Paris by train, visiting this Disney theme park is well worth it. You may be thinking that there is a Disneyland in the US you can already visit, so why would you make this one of your stops while in Paris? Well, there’s actually several different reasons!

First on the list: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While there is one of these in the US, the version in Disneyland Paris is actually longer and a much more daring ride. Sharing the spotlight in the Frontierland area of the theme park is The Phantom Manor, which includes a western town, unlike its US counterpart The Haunted Mansion. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, located in Adventureland, is also worth checking out among others!

Another neat aspect to visiting Disneyland Paris is many of the resorts are actually immediately outside of the park! For instance Disneyland Hotel – right at the gates of the park! Imagine only a 3 minute walk to the park from your hotel – not only is this convenient but makes it much easier when traveling with children. Not to mention the hotel is absolutely beautiful and offers its very own magical Disney flair!

One day tickets start at only 81 USD for adults and 73 USD for children ages 3 to 11. Children under 3 are free! You can book online at www.disneylandparis.com.

Moulin Rouge: Where Cancan is Queen

The Moulin Rouge was established in 1889 during the height of what was Paris’ most unique periods of history. At the start of the industrial revolution an interesting thing happened in Paris – social boundaries were dropped and fun, exuberance, and frivolity were in abundance. This was a big change from the former uptightness of the classicism period. In the midst of this exciting era, the most famous cabaret the world will ever know opened its doors to anyone who wanted to come.

An extravagant and wild atmosphere that no one had seen before was offered at the Moulin Rouge – including the Cancan, made famous by the Moulin Rouge. The Cancan dancers here were like none the world had ever seen. Each night when the doors opened at 10pm a fleet of young girls entered stage and threw their legs high in the air in a wave of frills and black stockings. Some of the most famous Cancan dancers were Jane Avril and Yvette Guilbert, the latter of the two going on to become a famous fortune teller.

Today, you can still visit the Moulin Rouge in all its glory and catch an exciting burlesque show. You don’t need to wait until 10pm, though. You can make reservations for a meal and a show as early as 1pm. With a history as rich and exciting as the Moulin Rouge’s, and its traditions still being upheld, don’t leave Paris without experiencing it!

Louvre Museum

The Louvre, originally a palace but now one of the largest and most visited museums in the world, is a must-visit for anyone with a slight interest in art. Some of the museum’s most famous works of art are the Mona Lisa and the Venus of Milo.

Originally a royal palace, the Louvre became a public museum at the end of the 18th century. It is located in the 1st arrondissement, in the heart of Paris.

Venus of Milo, Louvre Museum, Paris

Venus of Milo
There are about 35.000 objects on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has a diverse collection ranging from the antiquity up to the mid 19th century. A large part of the collection consists of European paintings and sculptures. Other rooms contain Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Oriental art. There is also a section with ‘Objects d’Art’, where objects such as clocks, furniture, china and tapestries are displayed.

Some of the most famous works of art in the museum are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

History of the Louvre
Musée du Louvre

Louvre seen from across the Seine
The Louvre was created in several phases. Originally built as a 12th century fortress, it was converted into a royal palace in the 14th century.

Its current appearance goes back to the 15th century, when the original fortress was demolished and the wing along the Seine river was built. The palace was extended during the 16th century by architect Pierre Lescot, who expanded the palace into a complex with two courtyards. A decade later Catharina de Medici added the Tuileries palace to the west of the Louvre. Construction on the Louvre was halted for some time when king Louis XIV decided to move to the Versailles Palace.

In the 19th century, during the Second Empire, the Louvre was expanded again with the addition of the Richelieu wing.

East Wing, Louvre Museum

East Wing
The Louvre now had four symmetric wings surrounding a large courtyard. This would not last long, as the Communards burned the Tuileries palace in 1871, opening up the west side of the palace.

The collection of the Louvre Museum was first established in the 16th century by King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting. The collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the private royal collection opened to the public.

Louvre Pyramid

Louvre Pyramid

The most recent addition to the Louvre was the construction of the glass pyramid, which functions as the museum’s main entrance. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to come in on the underground floor.

The modern addition originally received mixed reviews, as it contrasts sharply with the classical design of the surrounding buildings, but today it is generally accepted as a clever solution which has given the museum a spacious central entrance without the need to touch the historic patrimony.

Champs-Elysèes

Orientation

This impressive promenade stretches from the Place the la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, the site of the Arc de Triomphe. At its western end the Champs-Elysées is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafés and luxury shops. Near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées, beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern side and the Elysée at its northern side. The latter has been the residence of the French Presidents since 1873.
Celebrations
The Champs-Elysées is used for all the major celebrations. This is where Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve and where the military parades are held on the 14th of July. Historic national events, like the Liberation at the end of the second World War or the victory in

Champs-Elysees street name sign
17th century – The Elysian Fields
In the 16th century this area was nothing but fields outside the center of Paris. In 1616 Marie de Medicis decided to create a long tree-lined path going east from the Tuileries. The route was redesigned in 1667 by renowned landscape designer André Le Nôtre as an extension of the Jardins des Tuileries. The promenade, now called ‘Grande Allée du Roule’ or ‘Grand-Cours’ had become a fashionable place but was still isolated from the city with few buildings surrounding the area. 27 Years later the promenade was renamed to ‘Champs-Elysées’, or Elysian Fields in English. The name was derived from Greek mythology where ‘Elusia’ is a

Champs Elysees seen towards Arc de Triomphe
place where heroes come to relax.
18th & 19th century – Further Development
In 1724 the Champs-Elysées was extended all the way to the Chaillot hill (now known as l’Etoile, the site of the Arc de Triomphe). Its current form took shape in 1838 when French architect Ignaz Hittorf – who was redesigning the Place de la Concorde – created the Jardins des Champs-Elysées. He also installed sidewalks, gas lamps and fountains. The Champs-Elysées started to attract more and more restaurants and hotels, especially after 1900 when the Paris métro line nr 1 reached the Etoile station.
Current Design
The lastest redesign of the prestigious avenue was done in 1994 by Bernard Huet. The side lanes were converted into pedestrian zones, an underground parking lot was created and new trees were planted. Cars now only occupy half the width of this grand avenue.

Parc Monceau: An English Garden in Paris

Charming Parc Monceau draws parents, children, lovers and artists

The millions of tourists pouring into this city will almost immediately make a pilgrimage up Avenue des Champs-Elysees, squeezing through crowds while gawking at the showrooms of some of the most expensive luxury goods stores in the world. No one leaves before having their photo taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

Few know they can easily escape the crowds, expenses such as $20 glasses of beer, and stifling Paris summertime heat by taking a detour to one of the most beautiful, tranquil and unique parks in Paris.

Parc Monceau, a short stroll straight down Avenue Hoche from the Arc, has for centuries drawn parents with young children, strumming musicians, lovers young and old, and artists ranging from Claude Monet to the makers of the 2006 film, Paris, Je T’aime.

The park’s genesis dates back to 1769 when Louis Philippe II, the Duke of Chartres and later the Duke of Orleans, bought a plot of land to create an English-style park.

An anglophile, he wanted Britishstyle winding pathways and randomly placed gardens and monuments. Among the monuments he installed that are still standing is a small pyramid, which my son is fond of climbing, and a breathtakingly beautiful pond partly encircled by Corinthian columns.

Things didn’t quite work out for Louis Philippe, a cousin of King Louis XVI. Despite his known sympathies for the French Revolution, he was executed by guillotine in 1793.

But his park blossomed after the city purchased the land in 1860 and then sold some of the land surrounding the park to create space for luxury apartments.

Napoleon III’s brilliant civic planner, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman, preserved and enhanced the rest of the park for the use of the public.

Parc Monceau isn’t short of important historical moments. In 1797, Andre-Jacques Garnerin made the world’s first silk parachute jump, leaping from a hot-air balloon to the park, where a cheering crowd greeted him.

In 1870, it was one of the grim public areas where authorities took the so-called communards, anarchists and communists who briefly seized control of Paris, for execution during La semaine sanglante — “The Bloody Week.”

Today the park, even on relatively frigid (for Paris) days, is populated by joggers, strollers and parents bringing their kids to the playground, the swings, a roller blade/scooter oval, and the small carousel. At lunchtime, the population soars as Parisiens flood in to have their lunches, leaving garbage cans spilling over with packaging.

And on sunny weekends, Parc Monceau often resembles a summer folk festival, with families picnicking on the grass, lovers cooing on the benches, and kids trying to play soccer or climb trees while avoiding whistle-blowing security guards shouting: “C’est interdit!” — It’s forbidden!

There are more than 40 parks in Paris: the two woodland parks book-ending the city, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, as well as smaller parks and gardens such as my colleague Keith Spicer’s favourite, the spectacular Jardin du Luxembourg, which faces one of Paris’s most magnificent structures, the Palais du Luxembourg that houses France’s Senate.

You shouldn’t come to Paris, especially in the warmer months, without spending some time drawing a few deep breaths inside these wondrous combinations of natural and man-made beauty. And Parc Monceau has to be high on your list.