Parigi

ParisParis: The City of Light 

By Shannon Berg.

 

France’s capitol, Paris, is located in the center of northern France along the River Seine in the heart of the Ile-de-France Region.  It is one of Europe’s largest cities with a population of 2,153,600 within the city limits and about 12 million in the metropolitan area.  The inhabitants are made up of not only native Parisians, but immigrants from around the world, especially from France’s old colonies.  This cosmopolitan city is easy to reach by plane with three airports, the Charles de Gaulle and the Orly International Airports and the Beauvais Regional Airport, located just outside the city.   In addition, Paris boasts six major train stations with connections throughout Europe.  Buses also arrive daily from around France.  Once in the city, the public transportation system includes the famous underground Métro, buses and even boats that run along the River Seine.  Paris is also a great city to walk and bike through, and some Parisians even enjoy rollerblading around.  However you choose to get around this beautiful and romantic city, be sure to take your time and appreciate everything around you, as the natives would.Paris, like much of Europe was at one time a Roman settlement.  By 500 AD, however, it was already the capitol of the Frankish King, Clovis I.  This was when the first cathedral was built in the city.  Under the Carolingian dynasty in the 9th century, Paris was reduced to being just a feudal county center.  Then in 987 the Count of Paris, Hugh Capet, was elected King of France, establishing the Capetian Dynasty.  By the 10th century Paris had already become one of Europe’s principal cities, a consequence of its location along both land and water trade routes. By 1190 the Bourbon Dynasty was established under King Philip Augustus, who then founded the University of Paris, began construction of the Louvre and walled in the city.  During the Hundred Years Wars, Paris ceased to be the capitol of France, but in 1437 it was once again given the honor under King Charles VII.  For the next two hundred years Paris was the site of many rebellions and uprisings, such as the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, eventually leading the Kings to move their capitol out of the city to the nearby village of Versailles, where the royal family often went to hunt.  King Louis XIV made Versailles the royal home and governmental capitol in 1682 not only to escape the riots of Paris, but also to isolate the nobles thereby reinforcing his absolute rule of the kingdom.  A hundred years later, however, Paris was back in the forefront as the center of the French Revolution, with the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and the overthrow of the monarchy in 1792.  Under Napoleon’s rule Paris was once again the capitol and underwent major renovations to modernize and beautify the city.  During the 19th century, Paris was the center of the industrial revolution, but also a center for art.  In the 20th century, Paris escaped major damage during the wars, and continued to be the center for art and culture with Picasso, Dalì, Hemingway and Stravinsky among the hordes of artist flocking there. Today, the French capitol of Paris is still world famous for its art, cuisine, fashion and politics.  With the many art museums, including the world famous Louvre, Paris is an art lovers dream come true.  Parisian chefs are known throughout the world for their highs standards and innovation.  Walking along the Champs-Élysées, the Avenue Montaigne or the Faubourg Saint-Honore, one comes along the boutiques of some of the city’s most famous designers known throughout the world, including Dior, Hermés and Chanel. Paris has been at the center of international affairs for centuries, and visiting the city, one appreciates Paris’s rich history.  Walking through the streets, the various monuments attest to its amazing past, such as the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine sat during the French Revolution and where even today one finds the Egyptian Obelisk, the city’s oldest monuments. Paris is a beautiful and vibrant city that offers something for everyone, including an amazing night life, museums, sports, opera, and countless activities for the whole family.  Enjoy!

Main Attractions Notre Dame

This gothic cathedral was made famous in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was built along the River Seine on the site previously occupied by a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, and two other churches.  Louis VII commissioned its construction in 1163, but it was not completed until 1330.  During the French Revolution, Notre Dame was stripped of most of its treasures and even used as a warehouse.  In 1845 restoration began, lasting 23 years.  The cathedral was the site of many events in Paris, including the wedding of François II to Mary Stuart, and her crowning as Queen of France.  It was also here that Napoleon crowned himself and his wife Josephine in December, 1804. 

Saint ChapelleThis small gothic chapel is a jewel, with beautiful stained glass windows that fill the upper floor.  It was built in the 1240s under the orders of Louis IX to house the treasures brought back from the crusades including what was believed to be the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus and a piece of the True Cross.  Although not as well known as other sites in the city, it is worth a visit.  

ParisMusée du Louvre:

The Louvre was begun in 1200 by King Philip Augustus as a fortress along the River Seine.  Having undergone many additions, it later became the Royal Residence under the rule of Charles V, and remained so until Louis XIV moved his family and court to Versailles in 1682.  It is now home to one of the world’s most renowned art museums.  The collection within began with a dozen paintings by Titian, Da Vinci and Raphael acquired by King François I.  Under Louis XIII, the collection grew to about 200 works.  By 1715, there were about 2,500 pieces in the royal collection.  In 1793, after the Revolution, the Musée de la République was opened to the public in the Louvre.  Today, the museum holds over 300,000 pieces of art, rotating their displays regularly.  The collection includes the Mona Lisa, one of the dozen pieces collected by King François I, as well as the Venus di Milo, acquired in 1820, an enormous collection of Egyptian and Oriental antiquities, and European paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and objects d’art.  While in Paris, don’t miss this museum. Musée d’OrsayBuilt by Victor Laloux for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, this train station was closed in 1939.  It was opened as a museum in 1986, featuring a collection of art and historical documents that are important to the period from 1848-1914.  These include paintings, sculptures, pastels, photography, furniture, and objects d’art.  The paintings include pieces by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat and Auguste Renoir.

Musée National d’Art Moderne: This museum is dedicated to art and design from the 20th century and includes paintings, sculpture, literature, photography, and the decorative arts as well as the history of design.  The collection includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Miró and Kandrinsky.

Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie: Located on the edge of the gardens of the Parc de la Villette is one of the world’s largest and best science museums. It features interactive exhibits in four areas: Explora, where one can walk through a camera or travel through the inside of the human body; Argonaute, where one can explore a real submarine; Cinoxe, which has a flight simulator; and Géode, one of the world’s largest geodesic domes.  Throughout the museum one finds great hands on activities for children as well as adults, all that stimulate the mind and inspire curiosity.

Basilique du Sacré Coeur: This Romano-Byzantine styled basilica was actually commissioned after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.  It was designed by architect Abadie, and built from 1875-1914, but not consecrated until the end of World War II in 1919.  It sits atop Montmarte, the hill on which many early Christians were martyred.  Within one finds an enormous mosaic of Christ with outstretched arms.  The bell tower is known for its 19 ton bell, called Savoyarde. 

Tour Eiffel: This is by far Paris’ best known land mark.  It was built for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889 and designed by Gustave Eiffel.  There are 1,652 steps to reach the top by foot, and at 300 meters tall, it was the tallest building in the world until 1930.  The tower has three different platforms.  The top platform has a bar and a souvenir shop, while on the second there is a very expensive and exclusive restaurant, the Jules Verne, where reservations are essential.  From any of the platforms, the view of Paris is worth the wait. 

Arc de Triumphe: This triumphant arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to glorify himself and France.  It features four sculptural reliefs which pay tribute to the “Triumph of 1810,” the “Resistance, ” “Peace,” and “La Marseillance.”  The names of the victorious battles during the Revolution and under Napoleon are inscribed on top, and below is the Tomb of the Unknown- soldier.  Inside is a small museum that is dedicated to the history and construction of the arch, and the ticket price includes access to the top where there is a great view of the city. The easiest way to reach the arch is to exit the North tunnel at the Champs-Élysée. 

Palace of Versailles: Although technically not in Paris, it is a short trip by train to this royal palace that was once in a small village and now in a Parisian suburb.  This palace began as a hunting chateau begun by King Louis XIII in 1624.   In 1682, in an attempt to escape the riots of Paris, King Louis XIV moved his family and court and all the French government here. By obligating his nobles to spend part of the year at Versailles, he isolated them and prevented them from gaining regional power, and in this way assured his absolute rule of France.  Many additions were made to the palace, and by 1710 it was the largest palace in the world, and the most opulent.  This one time home of Marie Antoinette is worth seeing, just to understand the luxury in which the French monarchy lived.  The Galerie des Glaces, or Hall of Mirrors, features 17 arched mirrors which reflect 17 arched windows that overlook the royal gardens.  At that time, mirrors were one of the most precious and expensive objects in the world, made only in the Venetian Republic.  (The King actually had Venetian craftsmen brought to Versailles to make the mirrors, so he could boast that everything was made in France.)  The throne rooms, royal apartments and gardens are all spectacular and part of the tour, and worth seeing.

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