Where can you go for grand history, fabulous culture, unprecedented art, high fashion, a loaf of bread and a bottle of vintage wine? Why in Paris, of course!
For somebody like me, who likes anything French, I am very happy to say ‘Bonjour/ welcome to Paris!’ Just think, cheese and wine and shopping, what else could a girl want? Ah don’t answer that, we don’t want to set limits. So if you’re ready, ooh lá lá, let’s see Paris!”
Paris is so full of must-sees that you’ll have to decide on what to see now and what to come back for! It’s hard to see everything in one short visit, so I’m going to tell you a few of the highlights that I recommend. That way you can explore the sights you want to see, when you visit Paris yourself!
Let’s start out with some of the monuments and buildings that almost speak for themselves. There’s the Hotel des Invalides, where Napoleon is buried under the dome; the Palace de Royales, the old royal palace, and you can‘t miss the famed Paris Opera House, built on top of a natural lake, believe it or not. And, of course, the Grand Dame of Gothic Architecture – Notre Dame Cathedral…as in “the hunchback of…”
Museums are a big attraction in Paris. There’s the Musée Rodin for the “Thinking Man’s” art fans; the Georges Pompidou Museum, and Musée National Picasso for fans of Modern Art, and, finally, The Louvre – once the royal palace in France and now home to the Mona Lisa and the world’s greatest collection of masterworks.
We’ll round out the “Laura McKenzie Flash and Dash Tour of Paris” with its two most identifiable monuments: The Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his victories, has stood at the top of the Champs E’lysées as a symbol of French pride for nearly 200 years, and then, something no one should miss, the pinnacle Eiffel Tower. People laughed and called it Eiffel’s folly in the beginning, but you know what they say, he who laughs last! Since 1889, the Eiffel tower has attracted more than 200 million visitors to become the most well-known monument in Europe.
Ready for a break from all that site-seeing? Feel like chilling out? There’s nothing like a day at the beach. I just love the smell of coconut suntan lotion. But who says you have to go to the Riviera to find it? Each August, Parisian city officials open Paris Beach to the remaining locals who haven’t gone away on holiday. It takes 3000 tons of sand to convert a nearly two-mile stretch of paved riverbank into a sunbather’s paradise.
Parisians and tourists, alike, flock to this improvised beach every year. You’ve heard of fake or faux wall finishes, well this is faux Riviera! Swimsuit tops on, of course. Swimming in the Seine is prohibited, because it’s, well, yucky, but clever Parisians can always find a way too cool off. Sunscreen anyone?!
The Paris Beach is not the only place to have fun while spending a summer in the city! You think your kids are going to remember the Louvre? Probably not, but they are going to remember the Tuilleries. The kids just love the activities here. You’ve got to let them try the bungee jump. It’s so cool watch. The Tuilleries Gardens amusement park is open all summer, late into the evening. Not only does it have old fashioned carnival type rides and attractions, it also has old fashioned safety standards, so pay close attention and tag along with the younger kids. The Tuilleries do offer some more restful activities that are open most of the year. There’s a vintage carousel, a playground, pony rides, trampolines and rest spots to take a load off your feet!
Ok, refreshed and ready to go? Let’s get down to a serious sport…shopping… Paris is the place! The Champs Elysée is a good place to start, but there’re more than just a few boutiques here, you gotta look closer! Okay, the first time I was on the Champs-Elysée I totally missed the best shopping. That’s because the best shopping is not on the street, it’s in the arcades. There can be five or six arcades through one threshold here. On one street, I found forty boutiques. If you don’t know they are here, you’d miss out on some great shopping.
Credit cards? Yep, they take ‘em. And Euros are what we’re spending. Can’t figure out the exchange? Don’t worry! Be happy! The merchants will figure out the exchange for you! Just say, “How much in U.S. Dollars?” And then…you faint. But don’t worry…be happy! There’s another way!
When it comes to designer shopping, a girl’s best friend is a little European scheme called ‘de-tax.’ Basically if you spend enough, you get money back. You get 16% off and sometimes an additional 9%, so the savings can be considerable, basically tax free. The more you BUY, the more you save. Combine that with a designer discount outlet, now we’re talking.
A designer discount outlet is a store where you can find great things and all designer names at a cheaper price. The items are simply one season behind the current season on display in stores. We’re talking $3,000 Chanel designs for $1,500, or half price! They even do alterations and deliver the items right to your hotel.
Now if you want a little adventure with your shopping, check out the flea market! You know, all the guide books tell you to come to the markets early because the stuff is all picked over, but I found that if you come later, the vendors are more likely to cut you a deal. You can get some nice quality stuff at the market. Oh, don’t forget that European sizes are different from American sizes. T hey go by like size 38 instead of size 9 so know your European sizes. And do check out the very sexy French lingerie, Ooh lá lá! Parisian Flea Markets offer truly one-stop shopping. They’re department stores and grocery stores rolled into one!
Okay, I know you’re dragging, but no matter how tired you get after a full day in Paris, you have to see it after dark! While, I’m sure there’s a city somewhere that’s prettier than Paris, I just haven’t seen it yet, especially Paris at night. Whether you take a scenic boat cruise on the Seine or an after-dinner stroll through the parks, Paris is truly magical after sunset. Even the monuments take on a whole new presence at night. Ah, the beauty and romance of it all, c’est magnifique! After just one night in Paris, you’ll understand how “The City of Lights” got its name and why it’s one of my favorite cities in the world!
The Bohemian lifestyle originated in France, and has been immortalized in Puccini’s opera Lá Bohème, as well as the hit Broadway musical, Rent. Nowhere else is it more alive than in the Paris neighborhood of Montmartre. Legendary for its old village atmosphere, artist communities and cabarets, Montmartre is best discovered on foot. You’ll probably just see other tourists here, but the artists are the real thing, with plenty to see and eat, and if you like, most definitely buy!
>Check out the art, they have different mediums here: acrylic, oils, water colors, a little pen and ink. Some of the price will be marked, others will not. Do shop around, as the talent varies from good to terrible, but you could have your portrait painted on “portrait alley,” while you’re visiting.
Yeah, I know, your stomach is growling. One thing you have to do is learn a little menu French. Crepe you know that; glacé means ice cream, that’s a good one to know; sandwich, salade, you know those. Your nose will tingle with the cooking smells from the stands all around and the little cafés.
In a city of extremes, Montmartre is a testament to the French spirit of “C’est le vie!” While you’re here, don’t miss the real attraction! Perched on top of the hill is the magnificent, “Sacre-Coeur” or Sacred Heart Church. Its white Roman and Byzantine façade definitely stands out among the other sites, and continues to serve as both sanctuary and sacred site for holy pilgrimages. As the highest point in Paris, it also affords the best views in town with a 360o panoramic view of the entire city.
After the sun sets, head down the hill to the Pigalle area of Montmartre, where you’ll find entertainment for all tastes and temperaments. If you’re idea of Paris comes from a Toulouse Latrec painting, then here is where it all began. Pigalle…the infamously naughty part of town! From the seedy and the scandalous to the semi-civilized, Montmartre after dark is anything but quiet!
One of Paris’s most notorious nightspots is the world famous Moulin Rouge! Enjoying a recent resurgence due to the hit movie of the same name, the Moulin Rouge is something you just have to check out for yourself! The Moulin Rouge is as old as the Eiffel Tower, it was built the same year, 1889 for the Universal Exhibition, and since that time, it has always been in Place Blanche. It’s not exactly the same the same dance hall because the room burned down one time. That was in 1916 and then they had to rebuild it – it’s slightly different, but the place is the same and the formula with the dances and big shows, like the “Can Can” has never changed since that time.
The Can Can!! Ooo Lá Lá!! It was a kind of provocation, scandalous in a way, and it was also a way to rebel against the authorities. In the Can Can, you have different figures, one is expressing something against the church or the military or the police, or the government and now no one would even remember that, or notice that. The show today has been adapted to offer something for the entire family, they want the audience to feel excited and inspired with their taste of Paris and history. It is topless, but in a wholesome way, nothing vulgar or lewd. The legend continues in the 21st century, for another generation at least.
While in Paris, there are tourist attractions you might not have thought of. When it comes to history, don’t overlook the Grand Hotels, if the walls could talk, each one tells a story. In the early 1900’s, the Plaza Athenée was catering to the socially élite from the nearby Theater de Champs Elysées. Performers and audience alike were drawn to its luxury and style.
Then, in 1937, a certain Mr. Christian Dior opened his famous shop at the corner of Avenue Montaigne and Rue François Promenade. With this opening, a new era began for the hotel, because the famous guests, the famous ladies and everybody else were coming to shop on Avenue Montaigne, so the Plaza Athenée became the place to be in Paris.
Over the years, Plaza Athenée has seen its share of politicians and celebrities come through the door! Politicians like Nixon, the Kennedy’s, Onassis, all used to come here. Actors, as well, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson. Not to mention, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and many popular rock groups, have been through the doors. You’ll want to at least walk through the lobby if you’re in the area.
What happens when the traveler on the go, has to go while traveling? French ingenuity, never lets me down. If you use a public restroom, you’ll need a little bit more French. The word for free as in “not in use” is libre. It costs 40 Euros to open the door. Public restrooms are in service from 6 in the morning to 10 at night and kids under 10 have to be with a grownup. You might have an accident standing there trying to get the door open!
Now this will be something you won’t forget! They are kind of clean and the water runs, I guess so your sounds blend in with the water flow. When you close the door, the water fills up, and it goes, the toilet then cleans itself and blows dry for the next patron. Or maybe its supposed to blow you dry. I don’t know, maybe you can figure it out! Whether it’s nouveau water closets, discount designer clothes to fill your closets…or your inner showgirl coming out of the closet…Paris has something for everyone!
These things are exactly what you’ll want to see when you came to Paris, makes you wanna go out and buy a little French beret and a paint brush, doesn’t it? Paris is a destination that you must not only see but experience to get the full flavor of OOH LÁ LÁ!