Paris: The Rough Guide

Overview

Introduction
It's little wonder that so many wistful songs have been penned over the years about France's capital. What city experiences could be more seductive than sitting in the gardens of Notre-Dame beneath the drifting cherry blossom, strolling the riverside quais on a summer evening, sipping coffee and cognac in the early hours to the sound of the blues, or exploring the ancient alleyways and cobbled lanes of the Latin Quarter and Montmartre? Paris has no problem living up...
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Overview

Introduction
It's little wonder that so many wistful songs have been penned over the years about France's capital. What city experiences could be more seductive than sitting in the gardens of Notre-Dame beneath the drifting cherry blossom, strolling the riverside quais on a summer evening, sipping coffee and cognac in the early hours to the sound of the blues, or exploring the ancient alleyways and cobbled lanes of the Latin Quarter and Montmartre? Paris has no problem living up to the painted images and movie myths with which we're all familiar.
Nor does Paris falter in its reputation as a great hive of artistic and intellectual stimulation. World-class art collections at the Louvre and Muse d'Orsay, as well as the great many smaller museums devoted to individual artists and collectors, underscore an impressive roster of talents linked to the city - Delacroix, Ingres, Seurat, Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Braque and Gris are but a few. The new National Library, open to all, embodies a cultural attitude that both proclaims Parisian cleverness and invites you to share in it. And it is only the latest in a line of grand and often ground-breaking modern buildings - the Pompidou Centre, the Arab World Institute, among others - that assert modern architecture and design.
For the greatest work of art has to be the city itself. Two thousand years of shaping and reshaping have resulted in monumental buildings, sweeping avenues, grand esplanades and historic bridges. The fabric of the city has been fortunate throughout its history, spared the ravages of flood and fire and saved from Hitler's intended destruction. And it survives with a sense of continuity and homogeneity, as new sits comfortably against a backdrop of old, old against new - the glass Pyramid against the grand fortress of the Louvre, the Column of Liberty against the Opra Bastille. Time has acted as judge as buildings once swathed in controversy - the Eiffel Tower, the Sacr-Cur, the Pompidou Centre - have in their turn become symbols of the city. Yet for all the tremendous pomp and magnificence of its monuments, the city operates on a very human scale, with exquisite, secretive little nooks tucked away from the Grands Boulevards and very definite little communities revolving around games of boules, the local boulangerie, charcuterie and caf.
Some highlights
The backdrop of the streets is predominantly Neoclassical, the result of nineteenth-century development designed purposefully to reflect the power of the French state. But each period since has added, more or less discreetly, novel examples of its own styles - with Auguste Perret, Le Corbusier, Mallet-Stevens and Eiffel among the early twentieth-century innovators. In the closing decades of the same century, the architectural additions have been on a dramatic scale, producing new and major landmarks, and recasting down-at-heel districts into important centres of cultural and consumer life. Beaubourg (the Pompidou Centre), La Villette, La Grande Arche, the Opra Bastille, the Louvre Pyramid, the Institut du Monde Arabe and the new National Library have all expanded the dimensions of the city, pointing it determinedly towards the future as well as enhancing the monuments of the past.
Paris' museums and galleries number among the world's finest, and, with the tradition of state cultural endowment very much alive, their collections are among the best displayed. The art of conversion - the Muse d'Orsay from a train station, the Cit des Sciences from abattoirs, and spacious well-lit exhibition spaces from mansions and palaces - has given the great collections unparalleled locations. The Impressionists at the Muse d'Orsay and Marmottan, the moderns at the Palais de Tokyo, the ancients in the Louvre, Picasso and Rodin with their own individual museums - all repay a visit. In addition, there's the contemporary scene in the commercial galleries that fill the Marais, St-Germain, the Bastille and the area around the Champs-lyses, and an ever-expanding range of museums devoted to other areas of human endeavour - science, history, decoration, fashion and performance art.
Few cities can compete with the thousand and one cafs, bars and restaurants - from ultra-modern and designer-signed, to palatial, to traditional and scruffy - that line every Parisian street and boulevard. The restaurant choice is not just French, but includes a tempting range of cuisines that draws from every ethnic origin represented among the city's millions and caters to every pocket.
The city entertains best at night, with a deserved reputation for outstanding film and music. Paris' cinematic prowess is marked by annual film festivals. Music is equally revered, with nightly offerings of excellent jazz, top-quality classical, avant-garde experimental, international rock, West African soukous and French-Caribbean zouk, Algerian ra, and traditional chansons.
If you've time, venture out of the city to one of the worthy attractions detailed in Part Four of the guide. The region surrounding the capital - the le de France - holds cathedrals and chteaux that bear comparison with anything in Paris itself - Chartres, Versailles and Fontainebleau, for example. An equally accessible excursion from the capital is that most un-French of attractions, Disneyland Paris, which is covered in its own separate chapter.
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Editorial Reviews

Mobi
...In-depth coverage of what to see and do in the City of Lights...
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781858284071
  • Publisher: Rough Guides, Limited
  • Publication date: 6/1/1999
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition description: 7th Edition
  • Edition number: 7
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Not Sure What To See First?
Check out our authors' picks of must-see sights, local hangouts and unforgettable activities.

Eiffel Tower
If you go up the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon, you get two views for the price of one and the queues aren't as long. Paris looks fantastic all lit up at night.

The Louvre Pyramid and La Défence
The wonders of architecture in Paris are not confined to the past. There are plenty of contemporary landmarks, such as La Grande Arche - a 112-metre hollow cube - and the Louvre pyramid.

Beaubourg
The square outside the Beaubourg (Pompidou Centre) is a fine place to stop and watch some street entertainment, and the colourful moving sculptures and fountains by Tinguely and Nicky de St-Phalle.

Web Bar
Check out Paris's Internet café, the Web Bar, where you can do more than check your e-mail. There are films and videos, as well as story-telling and chess, on the menu.

Place des Vosges
Relax on the grass of the place des Vosges in the Marais while classical musicians busk under the arcades of the imposing buildings that surround the square.

Chartres
The focal point of a day-trip to Chartres is the magnificent rose window of the Cathédral Notre Dame.

Rodin Museum
The sculpture garden at the Rodin museum provides a wonderful environment for appreciating the sculptor's larger masterpieces.

Ice Cream
Walk across the Pont Marie to Ile St Louis and buy the best ice cream in Paris from Berthillon. There are plenty of quirky little shops in Rue St Louis en Ile to stroll by and window shop as you savour flavours like rhubarb and peach.

Sacré Coeur
Climb or take the funicular up to the Sacré Coeur, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole of Paris.

Museum Card
Buy a museum card - after only about three museums it pays for itself and then you'll feel free to visit many of the smaller, more bizarre museums and sights, such as the spooky catacombs.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Part One Basics
Getting there from Britain
Getting there from Ireland
Getting there from the US and Canada
Getting there from Australia and New Zealand
Red tape and visas
Health and insurance
Disabled travellers
Information and maps
Costs and money
Post and phones
The media
Business hours and holidays
Festivals and events
Women's Paris
Gay and lesbian Paris
Racism
Trouble and the police
Work and study
Part Two The City
Chapter 1 Introducing the city
Chapter 2 The Islands
Chapter 3 Along La Voie Triomphale
Chapter 4 Financial Paris, the Passages and Les Halles
Chapter 5 Beaubourg, the Marais and the Bastille
Chapter 6 The Left Bank
Chapter 7 Trocadro, Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides
Chapter 8 Montparnasse and the southern arrondissements
Chapter 9 Montmartre and northern Paris
Chapter 10 Eastern Paris
Chapter 11 Western Paris
Part Three Listings
Chapter 12 Accommodation
Chapter 13 Eating and drinking
Chapter 14 Music and nightlife
Chapter 15 Film, theatre and dance
Chapter 16 Shops and markets
Chapter 17 Daytime amusements and sports
Chapter 18 Kids' Paris
Chapter 19 Directory
Part Four Beyond the City
Chapter 20 Day trips from Paris
Chteaux
Museums
Chapter 21 Disneyland Paris
Part Five Contexts
Paris in history
The political present
Books
Language
French and architectural terms: glossary
Index
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