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Posts Tagged ‘paris travel guide’

Paris – Montmartre

Posted in Europe  by admin on October 5th, 2009

Montmartre is a fascinating mixture of old and new, seedy and sacred, bizarre and blasé. Within this section of Paris, technically the 18th arrondissement, there is everything from Moulin Rouge and Musée d’Erotisme to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. There are several art shops, a Dali museum and even a winery.

(Note: An ‘arrondissement’ is a district, laid out around Paris clockwise, with the 1st at the center of the clock face.)

There are steep hills in parts, so be prepared for a hike, particularly up to the Basilica. But there are cobblestoned streets, too, with antique shops and ‘bistros’.

The word ‘bistro’ comes from the Russian meaning ‘quick’. It was first imported in the early 19th century by Cossack occupiers who wanted to be fed immediately. Everything from frogs legs to Tarte Tatin is served at spots as old as 1793 in the Place du Tertre.

At the Espace Montmartre one can view an original Dali etching and browse to the glares of the staff. The museum houses Dali sculpture, lithographs, drawings and even some furniture pieces.

For a different art experience visit the Musée de Montmartre. This 17th century house holds apartments once occupied by Renoir, Utrillo and other famous names. Renoir’s Galette, sold at auction in 1990 for $78 million, was finished here. Among other works, there are several original Toulouse-Lautrec posters on display.

And while you’re thinking of Lautrec, don’t forget to visit (at least the outside of) Moulin Rouge. Very pricey ($100 or more), with a floor show garnering mixed reviews, the windmill on the exterior is a photo-op not to be bypassed.

About 20 minutes walk from the Sacré Coeur Basilica, there are several other nightclubs in the area, as well. Beware the Pigalle neighborhood, though. It constitutes one of the seedier areas around.

By contrast, the Montmartre cemetery located in the eastern part of the district, is a pleasant park nearby. Tree-lined and festooned with flowers and dotted with benches, there are tombs and mausoleums galore.

And if you visit in mid-October you might even be able to catch the Grape Festival not far away. Hosting the only vineyard in Paris, Clos Montmartre (at 12 Rue Cortot) was planted in 1933 and has 2,000 vines under cultivation. Most varieties grown in France are represented and the wine lover won’t be disappointed.

For those who like a hike, start at the Abbesses Metro. Take a few minutes to enjoy the Art Nouveau awning and the mosaics around the door of the Eglise St Jean l’Evangéliste.

While you’re nearby, visit the crypt in the Chappelle du Martyre (at 9 Rue Yvonne-Le-Tac). The first Bishop of Paris, St Denys, is laid to rest here at the site where Loyala, the founder of the Jesuits, took his vows. (Open only on Friday.)

Most will want to finish their visit with a trip to the Sacré Coeur Basilica at the top of the hill. Whether standing on the white steps or up in the dome, the views are spectacular. Go early to avoid the crowds and the heat.

Montmartre is accessible via several metro (subway) lines. M12 (Lamarck-Caulaincourt) or M4 (Chateau-Rouge), Blanche station, etc. Anything which leads to the 18th arrondissement.

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Paris – The Seine River

Posted in Europe  by admin on September 10th, 2009

Whether seen by a long, leisurely walk or from one of the many excellent tour boats, the view along the Seine in Paris is a delight.

The river flows nearly 800km (480mi) from Dijon through Paris and into the English Channel. But even the short section through the city provides enough sights to satisfy the most discerning traveler.

La Tour Eiffel can be seen changing shades from cocoa to gold as dusk fades to dark. The lights along its four pillars melding into the spire are only one of the many sights not to be missed.

Joining the left and right banks (the ‘rive gauche’ and the ‘rive droit’) along this ancient river are bridges themselves no stranger to time.

The oldest extant is Pont Neuf, ironically called ‘the new bridge’, whose first stone was laid by Henry III in 1578. Continued during the reign of his successor Henry IV in 1598, the construction was an enormous undertaking for the time. Finally completed in 1607, the bridge itself is, in a sense, older than France. At the time, the country was still split into fairly independent regions, such as Burgundy, Champagne and Normandy.

One of its newer cousins is the Pont d’Austerlitz constructed from 1854 to 1885. Comprised of five cast iron arches with a span of 32m (105ft), it rests on four piers and two stone abutments. (Abutments are the supports for the ends of a bridge.) The bridge has been widened twice from its original 13m (43ft) to the present 30m (98ft).

But not only youth and age are represented along these shores. Elegant beauty, in the form of the Alexander III, is also here. Opened in 1900, the bridge connects the Grand Palais on the right bank to the Invalides on the left. With pillars decorated by a gilded bronze Pegasus and large lampposts encircled by cherubs and nymphs, the Alexander III is among Paris’ most artistic public works.

The many tour boats provide another way to see the sights. Some are small, others larger, but they all offer a relaxed way to see the bridges and parts of Paris from another point of view.

The visitor can enjoy a glass of wine as the lights come on along the Montparnasse. The larger boats even offer lunch or dinner. From the uncovered flat boats tours are given in English and French. Several glide as far as past the Eiffel Tower and back past Notre Dame to Quai Henri IV.

Accessible from the center of the Pont Neuf, just walk down to the tip of the island, du Vert Galant.

Once you’ve completed the boat tour, don’t forget about the other attractions. From the exit it’s just a short walk to many other things to do and see.

Just down the bank is one of the finest art museums in the world, the Musée d’Orsay. And there are several small galleries and shops along the way. Be sure to walk down the stone steps to the river itself and see the bridges from underneath as well.

Enchanté!

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