French Easter ~ Your French Easter Basket Saturday, Mar 26 2016 

This past week in France has been la Semaine Sainte (Holy Week) in the Christian tradition. The culmination of the period of Lent or le Carême, it started off last weekend with Palm Sunday, le dimanche des Rameaux, and has continued on to le Vendredi Saint. In France on Good Friday, faithful Catholics often attend Good Friday prayer services and participate in the “Way of the Cross” liturgy. Of course, Notre Dame in Paris is a majestic place to be part of French Holy Week and Easter.

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But further afield, one of my favorite places in all of France to experience le Chemin de la Croix is in the breathtaking cliffside town of Rocamadour in Southwest France. A major pilgrimage stop on a key pilgrim route leading down to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Rocamadour is full of history and worth a visit at Easter or any other time of the year. And its stunning Way of the Cross path zigzags up the cliff to arrive at the 14th and final station hewn out of the rock, highlighting the spiritual culmination of Easter.

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On a more secular note, Easter in France also makes a splash at pastry and candy shops across the country. Colorful displays of chocolate eggs, chickens, chicks, rabbits, fish and more tempt shoppers of all ages. You’ll also see lots of chocolate bells both in chocolat noir and chocolat au lait. The presence of candy bells in France harkens back to the legend that on Maundy Thursday, all the cloches (bells) in French churches would fly away to Rome for the culmination of Holy Week. Then on Easter Sunday, they would fly back to France dropping chocolats and bonbons for the children on the way back. But whether you prefer the story of the Anglo-Saxon Easter bunny or the French cloches, they all make darling additions to Easter baskets. You can see the lovely array of French Easter treats below for just a sampling of items to add to your French Easter basket!

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French kids also love to go on Easter egg hunts to search for eggs and candy. In Paris, there are numerous options for the chasse aux oeufs across the city on Easter Sunday. This year, over 20,000 eggs will be hidden at the Champ de Mars park by the Eiffel Tower, an event sponsored by the French children’s charity Le Secours Populaire. In addition to the egg hunt, there will be lots of other activities including face painting, games, sports and dancing. The event lasts from 10am to 5pm, and the 5 euros per child supports a great cause.

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There are a couple of other important things to note about this Easter weekend this year. The French change their clocks for daylight savings time tonight – so everyone in France will be moving their clocks forward one hour. And Easter Monday is an official holiday so many businesses and official entities are closed on that day.

Wishing you a wonderful Easter – Joyeuses Pâques!

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Paris will always be Paris Sunday, Nov 15 2015 

Our French culture article for this week will have to wait. We’ll get back to all the wonderful things that make France the beautiful country that it is. But the terrible events in Paris on Friday have left us sad and in shock. Thank you to all those who have called and written – I am currently safe in the U.S., just back after two months working in France including Paris. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy and to all the French.

This weekend, France has been top of mind. I have been on the phone and on email with my Paris colleagues and friends to see if all are ok. Thankfully, so far, so good. And I was interviewed by a local Dallas television station as events were unfolding late Friday. As I mention in the clip, France is experiencing its own sort of 9/11 moment. Yet despite the tragedy, the French are incredibly strong – and Paris will bounce back better and stronger than ever. (To see the interview, click on the video below or you can click this link.)

It has been encouraging to see France and countries across Europe mobilize quickly to get on top of this terrorist threat. French president François Hollande immediately offered stern words about ISIS and confronting such barbarism. French police and military forces were deployed almost instantly. And when the French get serious, they are very serious.

Security threats in the French capital and the French response are not new. When I was living in Paris for graduate school in 1990-91, the First Gulf War broke out. Rumors spread like wildfire that enemy missiles were going to hit Paris. Anxiety was palpable. To prevent any terrorist attacks and to keep order, the French government deployed hundreds of police and national guard troops in the streets of Paris. At the time, I happened to be living across the street from the French Defense Ministry in the 7th arrondissement. For weeks on end, French troops were posted right in front of my building. Anyone passing through the area was required to show official ID to the military. So to reach my building’s door each day, I had to show my passport. It was surreal. But I was very glad for those soldiers out there day and night. Paris was secure.

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La France – America’s oldest ally – will recover from this tragedy. Its democratic motto of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité will stand firm. The City of Light will burn brighter than ever. Again, prayers for Paris’s recovery, for the world’s response and for peace globally. Paris, see you soon. And long live France - Vive la France!

Paris’s Best Kept Garden Secret Friday, Sep 4 2015 

It all started with a bet. French queen Marie-Antoinette wagered her brother-in-law that he couldn’t build a château on his large property west of Paris in less than three months. Famously, the Comte d’Artois won. Sparing no expense, he had his petit château built in a record 64 days in 1777.

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To celebrate the completion of his folie known as the Bagatelle (or ‘little trifle’) the Comte d’Artois threw a housewarming party in honor of his brother king Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Unfortunately, he was able to keep his pleasure abode and its beautiful gardens for only a few years as he was forced give up the property during the French Revolution. Miraculously the Bagatelle château and park survived the revolutionary mobs and several owners in the ensuing years.

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In 1905, the City of Paris purchased the Bois de Boulogne property to save and maintain this architectural and bucolic jewel. In addition to keeping harmony and beauty of the preceding garden designs, it also set out to turn the Bagatelle into a botanical paradise. Special gardens showcase peonies, irises, clematis, perennials – plantes vivaces, in French – and roses. Today, I think the Bagatelle is one of the best kept Paris garden – and château! – secrets as many visitors to the French capital don’t even know it’s there.

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Come warmer weather, one of my favorite Bagatelle garden views is the fluffy clouds of white wisteria…

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The Bagatelle’s hundreds of blooming peonies are a also must-see in Paris in the spring…

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And the irises! Beautifully trimmed hedges surround the iris garden, giving it the feel of an outdoor ‘iris room’…

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But the Bagatelle park’s pièce de résistance is the magnificent rose garden, renowned for its more than 10,000 rose bushes comprising 1200 different species. Every June the Bagatelle hosts one of the most famous international rose competitions in the world. Of course, to really understand what these roses are all about, I find it helps to organize a visit with a premier English-speaking French garden expert in Paris – who also happens to be a Bagatelle rose competition judge!

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In addition to the floral and botanical riches of the Bagatelle, there are many other wonderful garden features including grottoes, rocks, bridges, waterfalls, ponds, peacocks, and a 19th century Chinese pagoda. A beautiful orangerie also graces the grounds.

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To keep the gardens looking their best, Bagatelle patrons are gently reminded de ne pas piétiner les plantes de bordure – not to walk on the border plants…

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Or on the grassy areas where bulbs come up in spring!

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So how does one visit this fabulously romantic garden getaway practically a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées? Located in the Bois de Boulogne, the park is open to the public every day from 9:30am to 5, 6:30 or 8pm, according to the season. Entrance is free unless there is a special exhibition going on at that moment. The easiest transport to the Bagatelle is by taxi. Or for public transportation, you can take the 43 bus direction ‘Neuilly-Bagatelle’ to the stop ‘Place de Bagatelle.’ Alternatively, you can take the metro to the stop ‘Porte Maillot’ on line 1 and then catch the 244 bus direction ‘Rueil Malmaison RER,’ and get off at the stop ‘Bagatelle – Pré Catelan.’ From the bus stops, it’s a short walk to the park grounds.

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It is good to know that while the gardens are open every day, the exquisite château is not. Guided visits of the gardens and château take place every Sunday and major holiday at 3pm from April 1 to October 31 for 8 euros per person. Or if you want to treat yourself to an extra special Paris experience, French Affaires can help organize your own private guided visit of the gardens and château according to guide availability.

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Last but not least, as if the gardens and little castle weren’t enough, you can enjoy the Bagatelle with music. Every summer, the Chopin Festival takes place at the Orangerie of the Bagatelle. This year’s festival marked the 32nd anniversary of the piano concerts that take place over three weeks in June and July.

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There is also a lovely chamber music series in late July and August. And right now, classical music lovers can head out to the Bagatelle for the charming ‘Solistes à Bagatelle 2015.’ This festival celebrates young up-and-coming piano talent from all over Europe. The current concerts go on through September 13th, 2015. Enjoy!

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For your own lovely copy of the Parc de Bagatelle brochure, please click here to download. (Note that it’s in French!) It includes a detailed map of the gardens and also a wonderful guide to when the various flowers are in bloom each year. The brochure is available at the Bagatelle as well for a nominal fee.

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75016 Paris

What to do when it’s 104 degrees in Paris Tuesday, Jul 7 2015 

You may have heard about the heat wave engulfing much of Europe for the past several days. Last Wednesday, Paris hit a near-record high of 39.7 degrees Celsius. That was a sizzling almost 104 degrees Fahrenheit – whew. It was the hottest July 1 recorded there since 1947 when the thermometer reached 40.4 degrees, or nearly 105 degrees F. I found that while we all were melting and uncomfortable, it did lead to a good amount of camaraderie and commiserating about la canicule (heat wave of three days or more where temps surpass 30 degrees C. during the day and don’t go below 20 degrees C. at night).

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Intrepid tourists on the go in hot Paris last week wearing hats, shorts & good walking shoes

Most Parisians I talked to were doing their best to combat la grosse chaleur (the sweltering heat). Public service announcements were reminding the French to drink lots of water, avoid heavy physical activity outdoors and call the heat wave hotline in case of questions or needing help. Since the terrible période caniculaire of 2003 when thousands of people perished across Europe, governments and municipalities now organize alerts and huge efforts to check on the elderly and frail quand il fait trop chaud (when it gets too hot).

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One Parisienne sharing her water mister with another on the hot Paris bus last Wednesday

Since air conditioning is not a given in the French capitale, there are some common-sense practices Parisians follow when it’s burning up outside. First, they do as little as possible. Second, they open apartment windows in the morning to let in the cool air and then shut them for the rest of the day to keep the hot air out. However, if they do have to go out, they avoid standing in the hot sun and look for any sliver of shade. In addition, they sometimes skip the stuffy buses and metro cars and spring for air-conditioned taxis. And last but not least, they wear light cotton clothes and use hats. Most Parisians I saw were dressed in summer attire, but I did notice a few wearing strangely heavy clothes including an older gentleman in a wool herringbone tweed jacket. I figured he must have put it on out of habit!

This all might be good for residents, but what to do if you are visiting Paris and want to enjoy the incredible sights despite the heat? Here are a few recommendations to keep handy the next time Paris warms up un peu trop (a little too much) when you’re there:

1) Make sure your Paris hotel room or apartment is air-conditioned: Be sure to ask up front if your lodgings are climatisés. You never know when une vague de chaleur (heat wave) might hit the city.

2) Visit a Museum: Most Paris museums are air conditioned, if not for patrons then for sure to keep the artworks in good condition. I took advantage of the cool temps inside the Petit Palais museum on the Right Bank. The lovely permanent collections as well as the gorgeous 1900 building offer visitors a terrific cultural experience, heat or no heat outside.

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3) Go Shopping: The big Paris department stores such as Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Le Bon Marché are all air conditioned, making it a great excuse to go shopping when the heat is too much. Many smaller boutiques are as well but it’s more hit or miss. I opted to check out the big Hermès sale that started July 1 at Paris’s Palais des Congrès (convention center) near the Porte Maillot. (Note that it’s never held at the luxury retailer’s flagship.) Though you had to stand in line to get in, it was blissfully cool there and the incredible markdowns on scarves, clothes and shoes made it worth the wait!

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4) Head for the Movies: If you don’t speak French, then choose an American or British film being shown in V.O., or version originale, and enjoy the cool, dark cinema.

5) Sit in a Café and Drink Cool Beverages: Paris cafés were doing a brisk business last week despite the heat, or maybe because of it. Awnings and misters on terraces provided welcome relief from the hot sun. I chose to sit inside at this Left Bank café where it was even cooler. First on my order were sparkling Perrier and Orangina with lots of glaçons (ice cubes). Then I decided on the cool plat du jour for lunch – melon, cured ham, tomatoes and mozzarella, and salad. It was the perfect hot day meal, and I bet the chef was sure happy not to fire up his kitchen for this dish.

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6) Cool Off With French Ice Cream: Even though the Italians are famous for their gelato, the French do some great glaces as well. There are good ice cream shops around the city but my favorite is Berthillon on the Ile St. Louis.

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7) Take a Boat Ride on the Seine: Take advantage of cool breezes with a boat ride on the Seine river. You can choose the Bateaux Mouches or the Vedettes du Pont Neuf for your cruising pleasure, amazing views of Paris included.

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8) Enjoy Paris from the Top of a Double-Decker Bus: It’s also breezy up top on the double-decker buses that offer great tours of the city. History buffs will love that Paris had both double-decker buses and horse-drawn omnibuses way back at the turn of the century too.

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The other alternative would be to get out of the city and go park yourself on a beach somewhere as France has so many great ones. Seriously, Paris can still be fun on hot days. Just take it easy, find the cool spots, drink lots of water and know that A.C. is waiting for you at your hotel or apartment at the end of the day!

Paris Antique Finds Friday, Mar 13 2015 

Last week in Paris, our Paris Antiques Trip group hit the antiquing jackpot with loads of great finds and an abundance of great weather. Wonderful sunshine was ours as we wandered the various flea markets, antique shops, consignment stores and fairs in and around la Capitale. At the end of each day, everyone was loaded down with beautiful French treasures. Decorative objects, paintings, mirrors, furniture, linens were just some of the pieces scooped up by our intrepid antiques lovers.

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Highlights of our trip were the big Paris flea market at St. Ouen/ Clignancourt and the bi-annual foire à la brocante at Chatou just west of Paris. St. Ouen is the world’s largest marché aux puces, or flea market, with everything from bric-a-brac to museum quality pieces. You could spend several days there alone as there are many different sub-markets spread out over the sprawling complex.

On the other hand, Chatou is one of my favorite Paris markets perhaps because it doesn’t happen all the time. Running for about 10 days each spring and fall, the fair showcases several hundred antiques vendors from all over France. It is a a collector’s dream - café au lait bowls, confiture jars, regular silver, hotel silver, pottery, china, pewter, paintings, portraits, chairs, tables, chests…it is all there. And bargaining is a definite must at this market. In fact, the negotiating was so good this year that dealers routinely dropped their prices almost without our having to ask!

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One great find for the portrait lover in our group was the antique oval frame to go with the lovely portrait acquisition above. It was quite a coup to come upon a frame that would actually fit an existing painting – and an oval one to boot.

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Another superb purchase was the beautiful painted chest below. One of our group had a ‘coup de coeur’ as soon as she saw it, she was so taken with the piece. We all agreed it was the prettiest chest at the fair.

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Incredible sconces and mirrors were everywhere at Chatou as well. Trip-goer and interior designer Lisa Henderson spotted the amazing pieces below. I walked away with some nice sconces myself – but the desired mirror in the right size didn’t materialize. Tant pis – too bad!

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Lisa also had a good eye for blue and white porcelain. Here are her purchases on display at the hotel later that night… 

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Blue and white is a lovely motif that shows up often in her interiors – and on her website as well:

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All in all, it was a great week of antiques and decorative arts fun in Paris, and French Affaires is on track to do our 4th annual antiques trip next March. We’re still waiting on final dates for some of the antiques fairs to set our trip plans - but for sure, it will be the first or second week in March 2016. If you’re interested in joining us for this fabulous time of antique and brocante finds, you can pre-reserve your spot by emailing us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . Of course, we’ll let you know the definitive trip info prior to signing up. Our annual “Paris Antiques Trip” is a wonderful way of seeing Paris in a whole new light!

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Insider Paris Trip This October! Friday, Feb 6 2015 

“Paris Then & Now: An Insider Tour of the City of Light”

October 3 to 10, 2015

Join Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz of French Affaires for a stunning insider week in Paris. We’ll experience the City of Light as you’ve never done it before – taking in both old and new Paris with the help of several top experts, engaging local guides and charming Paris residents. We’ll enjoy special private tours and deeper visits to museums and cultural icons including the Louvre, the Orsay, the Marmottan, the Carnavalet, the Quai Branly, Versailles and more. We’ll see the spectacular new Fondation Louis Vuitton with its signature modern architecture by Frank Gehry. Noted Paris gardens and walks are part of our rich itinerary. And we’ll taste and dine our way around Paris with a special Marais food tour, great restaurants and expert presentation on current French culinary trends. Afternoon tea and a champagne cocktail party at private Paris homes will top off our fabulous French Affaires’ Paris sojourn. All in all, it will be an unforgettable week of French life, culture, history, art, architecture, cuisine, people and fun in Paris!

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A few highlights from our Paris Then & Now” trip…

Six nights at our beautiful Left Bank hotel including breakfast

Special guided tour of ancient and modern Paris with local expert

Deeper visits into key cultural icons including the Louvre, Orsay, Marmottan, Carnavalet & Quai Branly Museums

Versailles-Like-You’ve-Never-Seen-It with our amazing expert

Tour of the brand-new, ultra-contemporary Fondation Louis Vuitton

Afternoon tea and art talk with a current Parisian artist at her Paris home

Wonderful French lunches and dinners with wine at noted Paris restaurants

Special foodie tour of the Marais and French food trends talk by Paris culinary experts

Champagne cocktail party at the private home of Paris residents

Personal hosting and guiding by France expert Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz

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 A special note from Elizabeth: “Our wonderful week in Paris will be completely authentic and personal, as if we’re visiting French friends and family rather than making the typical tourist visit. This insider trip is so unique that it’s perfect for seasoned Paris visitors as well as first-timers to the City of Light. We have so many incredible activities lined up – and our group will be small (just 12 participants) to make the most of this marvelous opportunity to experience Paris in a whole new way!”

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Part of our trip includes a visit to the spectacular new Fondation Louis Vuitton which is the talk of Paris. We’ll see famous architect Frank Gehry’s fantastic architecture up close and get a feel for the best of very modern Paris…A big merci to French Affaires’ friend and reader Bill Carr for these fabulous Louis Vuitton Foundation photos!

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For the complete ”Paris Then & Now” itinerary and details, please email us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com.  We have a few signed up for this wonderful trip already and there are a few spots remaining. Merci et à bientôt!

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Vive la France ~ Your Opinion Please Wednesday, Jan 14 2015 

Our heart goes out to Paris and to the families of those whose lives were lost in last week’s terror attacks. But the City of Light will rebound. It will renew itself. And Paris’s beauty and spirit will shine through. Prayers for all involved.

A recent, very Paris photo from French Affaires’ friend and reader Kathy Boyett captures the enduring spirit of the city…

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Mindful of this tragedy but hopeful for the return of the regular rhythms of daily French life, we kick off 2015 here at French Affaires. We are excited for another year full of French events, classes, culinary offerings, insider trips, personalized travel planning, and more. We’ll also continue to share a variety of articles and insights about France and French culture via French Affaires Weekly. A propos, we’d love your input on French topics you like and what you’d like to see more of. Is it French food and wine? Is it fashion? History? Art? Museums? Films? Gardens? Antiques? People profiles? Holidays and festivals? Open-air markets? Daily life and culture? Or are you interested in travel tips? Language tips? Other?

Please take a quick moment to send us your thoughts. You can use the comment section below or feel free to email us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . We have some great topics already in the works and would like to add your ideas to the mix. As always, feel free to peruse the French Affaires Weekly archive for previous postings that might interest you.

We also are working on some fun French giveaways to go along with French Affaires Weekly postings this year. Stay tuned for your chance to receive special France-related treats.

Do drop a line. We look forward to hearing from you. And vive la France!

Paris With a View Thursday, Oct 2 2014 

There is no shortage of beautiful sights in Paris. Almost everywhere you look merits a picture or postcard moment. But by far the most arresting views in the city are the ones with altitude. From the top of the Arc de Triomphe to the dome of the Pantheon to the towers of Notre Dame, there are numerous vantage points where you can see the city from incredible angles. 

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In this week’s post, I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite Paris panoramic spots – some well known and some off the beaten track – including whether they are accessible by stairs or elevators. You have to know what you’re getting into after all. I’ve also noted the ticket cost – a couple of them are even free – and whether the site is included in the Paris Museum Pass (PMP). So I invite you to check out these exceptional ways of discovering Paris from above and maybe put a few on your Paris to-do list the next time you’re there. One of these days, I am going to visit them all in the space of a month and dedicate a photo album to “Paris vu d’en haut” (Paris Seen from Above). Bonne visite!

(listed in order of arrondissement)

Tour Jean Sans Peur, 2nd arr: The Tower of John the Fearless is the last vestige of the Parisian palace belonging to the powerful Dukes of Burgundy. Hand-carved stone steps lead to the top of this medieval jewel. 5 euros. www.tourjeansanspeur.com/

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Notre-Dame, 4th arr: For climbing the 387 steps to the balcony on the western facade of Notre Dame, you get a double bonus – seeing the cathedral’s towers and gargoyles up close as well as enjoying the superb views of Paris. 8.50 euros or PMP. Tower entrance at the northwest exterior corner of the church. www.cathedraledeparis.com

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Centre Georges Pompidou, 4th arr: Whether or not you like the mod architecture of the Pompidou Center (some days I do, some days I don’t!), the viewing deck from the top floor is outstanding. 3 euros panorama ticket or included with regular museum entry fee or PMP. www.centrepompidou.fr

Panthéon, 5th arr: Built on Mount St. Genevieve in Paris, the Pantheon is a must on any walking tour of the Latin Quarter. In addition to the great views from the dome (via stairs), several French notables are buried in the crypt including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marat, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, Louis Braille and Marie Curie. 7.5 euros or PMP. Note: Due to ongoing renovations, access to the dome may be limited.  www.pantheonparis.com

Tour Eiffel, 7th arr: The most obvious place to get a good look out over Paris is the Eiffel Tower. It’s also an intriguing spot weather-wise – I once visited when it was raining at the bottom only to find it was snowing when I reached the top! 15 euros for elevator access to the summit or 5 euros to climb the 704 steps to the second level. (Definitely buy any tickets in advance online as the ticket queue there is always way too long.) www.tour-eiffel.fr  

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Musée d’Orsay, 7th arr: Accessed via stairs or elevators, the rooftop terrace at the Orsay Museum is one of my favorite venues in the city. You’re right in the center of everything – it feels like you could reach out and touch the Louvre or wave to folks on the Bateaux-Mouches on the Seine. And seeing Paris through the massive clock window is not to be missed! 11 euros or PMP. www.musee-orsay.fr

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Arc de Triomphe, 8th arr: The Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysées puts Paris in perspective – literally. From the 12 broad avenues radiating out from the Arch to the stunning axis running east to the Louvre and west to the La Défense Arch, Arc de Triomphe’s terrace (stairs only) offers views day or night like no other. 9.50 euros or PMP. To reach the Arch, don’t try to cross the traffic circle above ground – use the underground passageway.  www.arcdetriompheparis.com

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Galeries Lafayette and Printemps Haussmann, 9th arr: In addition to all the fabulous shopping, the famous French department stores have great rooftop views of Paris. You can take the elevators, escalators or stairs to the 7th floor at Galeries Lafayette and the 9th floor at Printemps to reach the “terrasse panoramique.” Free. www.galerieslafayette.com, www.printemps.com

Institut du monde arabe, 13th arr: Located on the eastern end of Paris, the Institut du Monde arabe overlooks the Seine, Notre Dame, the Ile St. Louis and the Marais. The rooftop terrace on the 9th level (elevators) is open daily Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Entrance is free. www.imarabe.org/terrasse-panoramique

Tour Montparnasse, 14th arr: Parisians joke about how ugly the black Left Bank skyscraper la Tour Montparnasse is. The even bigger joke is how fantastic the views of Paris are from the Tower’s 56th floor viewing deck – especially because while there, you can’t see the Tour Montparnasse itself! The 360 degree views are accessible 365 days of the year, with the regular viewing deck reachable by elevator and the very top terrace by additional stairs. 14.50 euros.  www.tourmontparnasse56.com

Parvis du Sacré-Coeur, 18th arr: The Basilica of Sacré Coeur floats on the hill of Montmartre on Paris’s northern edge. The view from the square in front of the church is wonderful, but the outlook from the top of Sacré Coeur’s dome is sublime. Note that there are 300 steps to reach the top! www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

Grande Arche de la Défense: Inaugurated on July 14, 1989, for the bicentennial of the French Revolution, the great arch of La Défense symbolizes the modern business district west of Paris where it is located. The unique perspective towards the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre is truly amazing. Access to the roof via glass elevator. 10 euros, 5 euros on Tuesdays. www.grandearche.com

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NB: Weather conditions may affect accessibility to some of these sites.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

The famous French photographer, reporter and environmentalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand has specialized in aerial views of magnificent sites and sights all around the world. Click here to see a gorgeous video he did of Paris a few years ago. It will transport you straight to the City of Light!

French Onion Soup in Paris Thursday, Sep 4 2014 

Sometimes you just have a French craving. For me in late May, it was French onion soup. Unfortunately my Paris lunch cantine (regular neighborhood restaurant), the Café Varenne in the Rue du Bac, had just taken it off their menu until the cold weather came around again. I suppose it was too hot and too filling for the summer. Still, Paris weather in May was a bit cool so I was determined to find some good French soupe à l’oignon.

Then I remembered the classic Paris brasserie where French onion soup is always on the menu – the legendary Au Pied de Cochon.

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Located in the Les Halles area of the city, Au Pied de Cochon opened in 1947 and has been a Paris institution ever since. As you might guess from its name, the restaurant’s specialty is everything about the pig. For example, one of their star dishes is “Le fameux Pied de cochon grillé, sauce Béarnaise, pommes frites” (the famous grilled pig’s trotter with Bearnaise sauce served with French fries). While I am always tempted to try chef specialties in France, I’ll stick to steak with my sauce Béarnaise, thank you very much, which the restaurant offers along with plenty of other good non-pig brasserie dishes. (Click here to check out the Pied de Cochon menu in French; for the menu in English, click here.)

But I was on a mission to enjoy Au Pied de Cochon’s traditional French onion soup and it did not disappoint. It came piping hot with the right combination of onion and beef broth flavors. And the golden crust of toasted emmenthal cheese (the key to great French onion soup) was perfect topper. At 8,50 euros, it made for a great – and filling – meal and a bargain for lunch in Paris!

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Truth be told, I had not been to Au Pied de Cochon in years thinking it a bit too touristy for my taste. What a pleasant surprise to find it overflowing with French patrons. And the warm, personable service was the biggest treat of all.

You can’t however talk about Au Pied de Cochon without mentioning the decor. The bright, authentically French atmosphere is a big plus. The white cloth napkins are lovely. But it’s the pig paraphernalia everywhere that catches your eye. From the cochons on the zinc bar to the pig’s trotter door handles, the pig is the guest of honor. It could easily seem corny or tacky but it all works – and wonderfully so.

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To wrap up this nice lunch, I ordered un express (expresso coffee) which is de rigueur for the French after their meals. Often in France it comes with a small square of chocolate. At Au Pied de Cochon, it is served with a darling pair of meringue cookies – in the shape of the pig, bien sûr!

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NB: Au Pied de Cochon is open “jour et nuit” (day and night) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In essence, it never closes. So if you end up with a French onion soup craving in Paris on any day at any hour, think about heading to this classic Paris venue!

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Au Pied de Cochon

6 Rue Coquillière

75001 Paris, France

www.pieddecochon.com

 

Rethinking Modern Paris Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 

Bonjour! After a brief working sabbatical to gather new ideas for forthcoming French newsletters, programs and trips, I am sending out this latest French Affaires Weekly article on the development of modern Paris. More interesting topics are to come including “The French Coffee Table Book of the Decade,” “Luscious French Drawings” and more. Bonne lecture (happy reading) and as always, please send us your comments and thoughts on anything French!  Elizabeth New Seitz, French Affaires 

Rethinking Modern Paris

As visitors to the French capital know, Paris today is an amazing combination of beauty and charm, history and modernity, creativity and tradition all in one place. The city never ceases to attract huge crowds wanting to sample its many pleasures and sights. Such is the draw of Paris that it is tempting to take its legendary tourist status for granted.

But historical records tell us this wasn’t always so.

When then did modern, iconic, visitable Paris come into being?

Conventional accounts credit Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-1800’s with the development of the modern French capital that we know today – the grand boulevards, the public works, the parks and gardens, the 19th century apartment buildings. In reality, the development of modern Paris goes back much further. Professor Joan DeJean’s wonderful new book How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City recounts how Paris became a model of urban development back in the 1600’s and in so doing, it revolutionized the way people thought about and engaged with cities moving forward. This very readable volume highlights not only Paris’s road to physical modernity but also the evolution of its reputation into the mythical city it is today.

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This summer, I had the chance to sit down with Dr. DeJean (pronounced DAY-Jahn) in Paris and interview her about her new book. We met at one of her favorite hangouts, La Tartine, in the Marais where she lives when she is not teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

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ENS: How did you get the idea for your latest book?

JDJ: “How Paris Became Paris” started as a French history and culture course for my students at UPenn. I called it “The Invention of Paris.” I got tired of hearing that Baron Haussmann had invented modern Paris. He didn’t all of a sudden make Paris modern in the 1850’s and 60’s. He didn’t invent the big boulevards as so many claim. He was an agent employed by Napoleon III to update Paris, not an original urban thinker. The real boulevard got its start in 1676 under King Louis XIV and was actually called a “street” at first. It was 120 feet wide which is quite something when you think about that time period. It then morphed into an “avenue” or “boulevard,” two terms often used synonymously today.

ENS: Were other world capitals undergoing modernization in the 17th century as well?

JDJ: London probably could have gotten there but then the Great Fire of 1666 and also the plague decimated things for some time. These two events were greatly responsible for holding London back. London only becomes more populous than Paris after 1750. Likewise, Amsterdam’s population doesn’t keep growing so the city doesn’t move forward like Paris does. For the French capital, it was a fortuitous combination of timing, luck, money, a willing population, and a king – Louis XIV – who lived a long time.

ENS: What most interested you in all your research for the class and ultimately the book?

JDJ: I was fascinated by the notion of the boulevard and what it meant for Parisians’ physical and social space. I spent a lot of time doing research in libraries, archives and museums in Paris. The trend of painting cities started in the 17th century. For example, visitors to Paris would buy souvenir paintings to show their families back home what this splendid place called Paris looked like. So I pored over paintings of Paris showing boulevards and other urban projects.

The other thing I loved delving into was how happy the people of Paris were at these urban developments. Parisians were thrilled by the opportunity to socialize in public spaces, especially after long years of civil wars that kept them mostly indoors. They liked walking and strolling along the boulevards and on bridges. The new bridges were a huge commercial success – they cut down travel time across the capital – and they also provided a focal point for various social activities, including strolling, enjoying views of the river, theatrical performances, vendors, etc. It’s amazing to think that a bridge could so change a city as was the case with the Pont Neuf.

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ENS: Can you say more about what the Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) meant for Paris at the time?

JDJ: Instituted by King Henri IV in the early 1600’s, this new, wide bridge of stone replaced wooden bridges that were narrow and didn’t last. Now, two wagons or carts could cross at the same time without causing a traffic jam which was a major practical advance. This also meant that the speed of urban life just took a big leap forward. In addition, the planners wanted to make sure that pedestrians had a dedicated space to walk across so they made raised sidewalks. As such, carts and horses stayed on the road and didn’t crowd those on foot. And wonderfully enough, this bridge included small balconies spaced along the entire width of the bridge so people could pause and look out over the river. Prior to this time, the river wasn’t seen as something to view or enjoy; it was a conduit for commercial activities. You can see that the bridge revolutionized how people interacted with the city. Taking pleasure in the view became an attraction in and of itself which was quite a novel idea at the time. These dynamics just snowballed with multiple projects all around the city, so much so that Paris developed a reputation greater than the sum of its parts.

ENS: Do you see the same spirit of modernity and development in Paris today?

JDJ: Yes, there are always interesting projects going on in Paris. The recent opening of ‘Les Berges de la Seine” shows great creative thinking in how to use the spaces along the edge of the Seine river for public enjoyment and interaction. This sort of idea goes back to the 1600’s when sidewalks were developed and the Seine’s riverbanks were paved and shored up. One 17th century painting even shows a sort of ‘beach’ on the banks of the Seine where people could go swim.

ENS: An early version of today’s ‘Les Plages de Paris’!

ENS: How did you make France and French your career?

JDJ: I grew up in Louisiana so French was all around me. It seemed like a natural fit. And too, I love to teach and bring France to life for my students. This past spring, I taught a course on the French Enlightenment. And this fall, I will be teaching a course entitled “Marriage and the Novel” which is a fascinating topic.

In my opinion, How Paris Became Paris” is an engaging read and one of the best new books out on things French. In addition to the chapters on Parisian boulevards and bridges, Dr. DeJean describes many other modern advances in Paris that date back four centuries, including town squares, parks, street lighting, bus service, fashion, pocket guides to the city, and more. Reproductions of 17th century paintings, drawings and maps of Paris help illustrate her points. Reading her book puts the French capital in a whole new light – you’ll never think about Paris the same way again!

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City (March, 2014) – Available through major booksellers and amazon.com.

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

ISBN-10: 1608195910

ISBN-13: 978-1608195916

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For an even more in-depth experience on the development of modern Paris, I’ll be teaching a new class “How Paris Became Paris: The Development of the Modern City We Know Today” for the SMU Continuing Studies program in Dallas this fall. Below is the course description – registration opens on August 5, 2014 at http://www.smu.edu/CAPE. Make plans now to join us for the two-session series!

Paris continues to be the most visited city in the world. This iconic metropolis fascinates everyone from first-time visitors to regulars and begs the question – how did Paris become Paris? While some people are familiar with the modernization of the city that took place during the 19th century, many are unaware that Paris’s modern urban development actually began two centuries earlier with the efforts of such kings as Henri IV and Louis XIV. Join France expert Dr. Elizabeth Seitz for this captivating course which will explore the various facets of Paris’s 17th century remaking through illustrated lecture and lively discussion. The new book “How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City” by French scholar Joan DeJean and other sources will accompany our class sessions. You’ll walk away with a whole new understanding of Paris – and plenty of travel ideas for your next trip to the French capital!

Date: Two Mondays – November 3 & 10, 2014
Time: 7 to 9pm
Cost: $99 per person early registration. Advance sign-up through SMU Continuing Studies program – please click here to register.
Location: SMU main campus – Dallas, TX 75205. Classroom & parking information provided by SMU upon registration.

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