Archive for April, 2011
We’ve just sponsored a post on The Paris Blog:
The high season blockbusters have just opened in Paris museums. From a private home frozen in time at the Nissim de Camondo museum to the must-see Louvre, there are exhibitions to sate any sort of interest.
Can music make a museum show? The title of a current show at the Musee D’Orsay suggests oui. On the 100th anniversary of the Austrian composer’s death, “Exhibiting Mahler” plays Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4” as a soundtrack, but the visual realm is rich, too. Paintings, sculptures and photographs from the pre- and early Modernist period create an environment that fleshes out the Austrian composer’s world and inspirations. Through May 29.
Read the rest on The Paris Blog
A study of both the banks of the river Seine tells a story about the city’s transformation, and how the focus has shifted from one bank to the other over time.
For instance, there was a time when the Right bank was thought to be the place to visit and stay, because this was where the wealthy people lived. And though the creative soul of Paris lived and worked on the Left Bank, it was thought to be more chaotic. But that changed with time as the real estate values of properties started to skyrocket on the Left Bank too. Fashionable boutiques, businesses, and cafes started to be set up here. The Right bank lost some of its fame.
Most guidebooks even today say that it is the Left Bank which is the more fashionable part of the city. But that has changed again. Many a Parisian trendsetter have quit the Left Bank in recent times and moved to the Right side of the river. Perhaps this is due again to demographic shifts in favor of cheaper rent attracting the creative crowds and the new hubs of nightlife and intelligentsia springing up as a result.
The Left Bank, however, continues to be known as the “La Rive Gauche”, and even today, it is referred to as the artistic section of Paris. Though the word “Gauche” is also associated with anything that is unsophisticated and awkward, the fact is the Left Bank is anything but. The Left Bank was once the home of Hemingway, Matisse and Picasso. It was also the home of many starving artists, many of whom were extraordinarily talented, and could have left their own mark easily. If you are in Paris, you won’t want to miss the Left bank.
Perhaps the Left Bank is more significant to what Paris is today, and why it has grown to become such a popular city among tourists who come from all over the world. Life here still reflects so much of Paris’ bygone years, and so, this is where many people are able to connect with the past, the history of the city.
On the Left side of the river you will find some world famous attractions such as: the world famous Eiffel Tower and the Musee d’Orsay, the Latin quarter, Boulevard Saint-Germain, the Musee de Cluny, the Odeon Theatre, Montparnasse Cemetery, Musee Rodin, the Saint-Sulpice Church, the Luxembourg Gardens and many others.
The Metro and RER
The Paris Metro is one of oldest and best systems in the world. It can take you from one corner of the city to another quickly. It runs from 5 am to 1:30 am everyday, and allows you to hop in and out of any station with a single ticket. There is also the special Le Paris Viste ticket for tourists that covers 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 5-day journeys. You can also get a week or month long Carte Orange ticket that will allow you to travel anywhere in the city on the Metro or omnibus.
Download the Paris metro map. (right-click, “save link as”)
There is also the suburban line RER train system that can take you to the suburbs. The trains serve a few in-city stations too. There are 4 distinct RER Lines – each serve different suburban areas. Line C will take you to Orly Airport, Line B to Charles de Gaulle, and Line A is marked for Disneyland.
Bus and Taxi in Paris
The same metro ticket also works for the bus (and can also be used to transfer from either). It is also possible to buy a ticket when you board the bus. Paris buses commence service at 6:30 in the morning, and close down by 8:30 in the evening. But a few run to midnight. There is also the open-top hop-in-hop-out bus, which is a great favorite among tourists.
Taxis are always available in Paris. And the cost is relatively cheaper than many other cities too. You can hail a taxi on the road, or ask your hotel concierge for one. But beware, the taxi drivers here are notoriously fast in driving their vehicles across congested city areas.
Many Parisians prefer commuting by boat. Known as Batobus, these boat-cum-buses ply up and down the river Seine, stopping at six different points between the Eiffel Tower and the Quai de l’Hotel de Ville. The service is available for commuters from mid-April to mid-October.
Cruise the Seine
Have you considered the Seine cruise? You can get around easily and quickly, and avoid the road traffic too. On top of that, you might be glad to know that quite a few of the famous sights of the city are located on the banks of the river. This includes the Louvre, the Notre Dame, Palais de Chaillot, Orsay Museum and the Eiffel Tower. On both sides of the Seine there are old quays and lovely bridges that can make this cruise truly memorable.
Also, a word of advice: You can move around in Paris comfortably, but it would be better if you know the language. Unlike New York or London, the taxi drivers may not be that comfortable speaking a second or third language. The same applies to pedestrian traffic. So it is best that you pick up at least a few French words.
Yes, it is true that there are plenty of charming little neighborhoods in this beautiful city. And it’s also true that you cannot possibly see everything in just a single trip. But let’s take a moment to extoll the virtues of one of Paris’ most popular little neighborhoods, le Marais. If you want to see medieval Paris, and yet a city that is fashionable and moving with the times, this is the place.
Our recommendation is to take Metro line 1 (yellow) to St Paul, and to work your way north through the neighborhood. Serendipity will be your friend here. You cannot help but encounter some great boutiques and cafes along the way.
You’ll be fascinated with the impressive facades and ornate ironwork; the small, crooked lanes from the medieval times; the cafes, restaurants and bars; the old world bread shops; the wine shops; the hip designers; fashion boutiques; and the museums and art galleries, all cramped into one small quarter. Once you have seen the Marais, you are sure to return home with wonderful memories of your time in Paris.
The Marais of yesteryears
It is quite a wonder, really, because what is the Marais today was in the past just a swamp. Actually, “marais” is the French word for marshland or swamp. There was nothing here before the 12th century. But this was the time when different religious communities began to come up in the area. The first real activity happened when the Jewish people started to settle in the Marais around this time. Their community was further bolstered when in the 19th century they began arriving from Easter Europe.
It grew again when the la Place Royale was constructed, known today as the as Place de Vosges (don’t forget to visit the Maison de Victor Hugo at number 6 while you are here). The Marais neighborhood however suffered during the World War II as the Nazis attacked the place because of its Jewish connection. However, large scale rehabilitation work was taken up after the war came to an end. In 1962, regulations were changed to allow for much-needed renovations, giving the Marais a face-lift.
The Marais of today
Today, the Marais has emerged as one of the most unique and attractive neighborhoods of Paris. It is home to the most fashionable restaurants, art galleries, trendy boutiques and cafes. The nightlife here is very active with countless cabarets, nightclubs and shops. Marais is also known for its lively gay community, and to this day the Jewish community still thrives here alongside a multicultural atmosphere.