One Day in Paris
If you have but one day in Paris, take yourself to the Pantheon, a magnificent Neoclassical building with soaring Corinthian columns and a stunning underground crypt. Situated on the Left Bank, this is where 'the great and the good' of France are nobly enshrined. Luminaries such as Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.
And after you've walked among the dead for an hour or two, I suggest you cross the street to visit one of France's sacred spaces, the Medieval church of St-Etienne-du-Mont where lie the remains of the patron saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve. Likewise entombed in this stunning edifice that's part Gothic and part Renaissance are the literary giants, Racine and Pascal.
And since you are now in le cinquième, 'the Fifth', what better way to spend an hour than mingling with the thousands of students attending classes at the nearby Sorbonne? Studying at the Sorbonne would have suited me perfectly, as it did (and does) the students who have been doing so since the founding of the school in the 13th century. That was a time when all classes at the Sorbonne, now the seat of the University of Paris, were conducted in Latin, which is why this area is also known as le quartier latin, the Latin Quarter. A time when the student would pay a small stipend to the master conducting the class.
At the Grand Palais
After visiting with 'the great and the good' and mingling with the students, take yourself to the Grand Palais, a few steps off the Champs-Elysèes at rue Franklin D. Roosevelt and directly across from the Petit Palais. The enormity of the Grand Palais allows them to schedule not one exhibition, but two or three at the same time. You are certain to find something of interest.
For instance, after seeing a spectacular and wide-ranging Velazquez exhibit consisting of more than 350 paintings, simply by walking around the block to another entrance we gained entrance to The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Before it arrived in Paris the critically acclaimed exhibit had been seen by over one million people around the world. But rather than tell you about it, I'll let the M. Gaultier, the enfant terrible of the world of fashion, speak for himself.
Give the video a few seconds to load and then sit back and enjoy the antics of the iconoclastic fashion designer, with English subtitles provided. Click here.
Between the enchanted crowds and the lifelike 'talking' mannequins, it was a feast for the eyes and the ears, but as it was growing late in the day, something more than visual and aural stimulation was needed. We headed for dinner at Chez Monsieur, a charming restaurant on a quiet street, a block from the Church of the Madeleine.
At Chez Monsieur
We were dining early that evening, as we had tickets for a concert beginning at 8 PM at the Madeleine. In the summertime Paris is a musical festival, with numerous programs scheduled in magnificent churches throughout the city. Most notably, at Sainte-Chapelle and at L'Eglise de la Madeleine. After a fine meal at Chez Monsieur , one the began with that amuse-bouche of delicate radishes paired with a mustard dip, we bid our hosts a fond goodbye, promising to return soon—à bientôt! At which we made a mad dash for the Madeleine, built in the style of a Greco-Roman temple, to find the concert already underway.
As the concert was well-attended, we took seats midway in this cathedral-sized edifice to discover, much to our delight, that the acoustics were excellent. It's hard to understand why they've never been able to get the acoustics right at the former Avery Fisher Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, when the Greeks and the Romans centuries earlier created amphitheaters where those in the uppermost reaches could hear as well as those in the front rows. And so it was at the Madelaine: had a violinist dropped a bow, I feel certain we would have heard it.
The program that evening was Vivaldi's 'Les Quatre Saisons,' The Four Seasons, along with a few short pieces by Mozart. The orchestra, 'Les Violins de France', was superb, as was the violin soloist Frédéric Moreau. It was a perfect top note to a fabulous day. Upon awakening each morning I pray: Étonnez moi, Paris! And Paris does surprise me...time and again.
a Moveable Feast
My fondest wish for you is that you should always have more than one day to spend in Paris, for one is never enough to sample all that Paris has to offer—a sentiment best put by Ernest Hemingway, who worked as an expatriate reporter in Paris in the 1920s: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
That's it for today, guys and gals. I hope you enjoyed your day in Paris. I know I did. Before you go, would you take a second to share this post? These little things mean a lot to writers. And you mean a lot to me! À bientôt...