If You Have But One Day in Paris
If you have but one day in Paris, I'd recommend you take yourself over to the Pantheon, a magnificent Neoclassical building with soaring Corinthian columns and a stunning underground crypt. Here is where the great and 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'd suggest you go across the street to one of France's sacred spaces, the Medieval church of St-Etienne-du-Mont housing the shrine of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. Also entombed in this stunning edifice, parts of which are Gothic, parts Renaissance, are the literary giants, Racine and Pascal.
And since you are now in le cinquième, 'the Fifth', what better way to spend an afternoon than mingling with the thousands of students attending classes at the nearby Sorbonne. Something I have always wanted to do. And something students have been doing since the founding of the school in the thirteenth century. Originally, all the classes at the Sorbonne, 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.
At the Grand Palais
But should you be fortunate enough to have more than a day in Paris, you could do what I did and visit the Grand Palais, a few steps off the Champs Elysees at rue Franklin D. Roosevelt and directly across from the Petit Palais. The enormity of the Grand Palais allows them to schedule not one art show, but two or three exhibits at the same time.
The day we visited, for instance, we started with a spectacular and wide-ranging Velazquez exhibit consisting of more than 350 paintings. After which we walked around the block to another entrance to see The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Before reaching Paris, this critically acclaimed exhibit had been seen by over one million people around the world. But rather than tell you about it, as the show closed a few months ago, I'll let 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 that afternoon and the lifelike talking mannequins, it was a feast for the eyes. But as it was now growing late in the day, something more than visual stimulation was called for. Next up on the schedule was 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. Paris in summer is a musical festival, with programs scheduled in totally magnificent churches spread throughout the city. Most notably, at Sainte Chapelle and at L 'Eglise de la Madeleine. But first, there was dinner to be had with our charming hosts at Chez Monsieur. She is so French. Just look at that skin.
After a fine meal that began with the amuse bouche of crusty bread and 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 Church of the Madeleine, built in the style of a Greco-Roman temple, to find the concert already underway.
At the Madeleine
As it was well-attended, we took seats midway in an awe-inspiring building to find the acoustics were fabulous. It's hard to understand why they have never been able to get the acoustics right at the former Avery Fisher Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic. That evening, had a violinist dropped a bow, we would have heard it. The program was Vivaldi's "Les Quatre Saisons," The Four Seasons, plus a few short pieces by Mozart. The orchestra, 'Les Violins de France', was superb, as was the violin soloist Frédéric Moreau. It was a wonderful top note to a wonderful day.
One Day or Two: It's 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. Thanks for dropping by, for bopping around Paris with me. Before you go, would you take a second to share this post? It means a lot to me. Remember...sharing is caring.