Paris and the Center of France
After our first few days in Picardie and Champagne, we drove into Paris for Matt's conference.
On the way into the city,
we stopped at the elegant medieval monastery of Royaumont.
It was built in the thirteenth century by Saint Louis (King Louis IX), but its church was torn down
during the French Revolution (except for one tower). It is now mostly used for music concerts,
but its remaining buildings, including a lovely cloister, have been featured in many French films
(clips of which were being shown on TV sets within the cloister).
Then it was into the heart
of Paris. We stayed at a nice (but noisy) apartment in the Marais district,
which is both the gay neighborhood in Paris and the orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
It was easy to get to much of central Paris on foot from the apartment.
There are squares and pedestrian
streets in much of central Paris, which makes it enjoyable
to walk around and watch all the activity, whether during the day or in the evening.
No trip to Paris would be
complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower!
We saw a very interesting museum of architecture in the Palais de Chaillot,
across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower.
The Seine, the Île de la Cité, and Notre-Dame Cathedral were all only minutes from where we stayed.
On the Left Bank is the Institut
du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arab World), a cultural space and museum
housed in an impressive building, built in the 1980s by architect Jean Nouvel--with metal and glass apertures
that let in different amounts of light at various times of the day and have the appearance of traditional tiles.
Also on the Left Bank is the
Montparnasse district, with Paris' only skyscraper.
(After it was built, restrictions on building heights were quickly put into place.)
Once a district of nightclubs and brothels, it now has many modern buildings.
One of the most interesting
buildings in the district is Notre-Dame du Travail (Our Lady of Work),
built to showcase the artistry of work with pieces left over from the 1900 Paris World Exhibition.
Naked steel girders serve as columns and arches, and Art Nouveau frescoes adorn the walls.
A delicious Parisian meal chez nous, prepared by Chef Joe!
An attractive Art Deco doorway.
In the 16th arrondissement,
the southwest corner of Paris, is a home built by the architect known
as Le Corbusier and open to the public. It is called Maison La Roche and was completed in 1925.
Much of the interior detail later became popularized, but when it was built it was very avant-garde.
Parc Monceau, in the northwest of Paris, is a quiet oasis in a bustling metropolis, complete with fake Roman ruins.
Typical Parisian buildings.
The Museum of Fashion, housed in an elegant nineteenth-century mansion, had a temporary exhibit on the 1950s.
The Jardin des Tuileries.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon
at the Louvre, not at the main museum but at the Museum of Decorative Arts,
housed in the end of the north wing. Displayed there were household items and furniture from the seventeenth
century to the present day. From the windows of the upper stories of the museum were incredible views.
After our time in Paris was
over, we drove south, stopping for lunch in the city of Bourges.
Bourges has another beautiful Gothic cathedral and a much rarer medieval sight:
the mansion of a wealthy fifteenth-century merchant, Jacques Coeur.