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  • Hi, I'm Rick Steves, back with more of the best of Europe. And this one of about a million

  • reasons that this place is called the city of lights. You got it... we're in Paris.

  • Thanks for joining us.

  • As we return for another visit to Paris, we're enjoying an intimate look at Europe's grandest

  • city. One of the great things about Paris is how, amidst all its grandeur, the little

  • joys of life are still embraced.

  • We'll feel the pulse of Paris... from village-like neighborhoods to a magnificent pipe organ

  • loft. We'll visit a megalomaniac's tomb, tour the world's biggest art gallery, and celebrate

  • the mother of all revolutions with a big patriotic Bastille Day bang.

  • Paris was born-over 2000 years ago-on this island in the River Seine. And many of its

  • highlights can be seen from popular sightseeing boats. There's the Notre Dame...and the Louvre

  • museum. And of course the Eiffel Tower, built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the

  • French Revolution. Paris glitters with history. Even the bridges-bestowed on the city by kings

  • and emperors-tell a story.

  • Beyond its glorious monuments and buildings, Paris is a city simply in love with life.

  • Delightful parks let commoners luxuriate like aristocrats. Here in Luxembourg Gardens there's

  • a tranquility, and refined orderliness-enjoyed by young and old. The gardens are impeccably

  • tended. And for generations, children have launched dreams on this pond.

  • To establish a foothold in Paris, I like to choose a neighborhood and make it home. Strolling

  • market streets like this, Paris has a small town charm. For those learning the fine art

  • of living Parisian-style, market streets like rue Cler are ideal.

  • With the help of my local friend Delphine Prigent, each shop provides an insight into

  • Parisian life. Delphine's planning a dinner party and she's taking us along.

  • Rick: Shopping on a street like this is just a delight, isn't it?

  • Delphine: It's very nice. We are very lucky to be able to walk on the street and have

  • all this very different shops which are very good for shopping.

  • Rick: Because in America there's one-stop shopping. We go to one big place.

  • Delphine: We have one street shopping here. Rick: One street shopping, it's like a market

  • street. Delphine: It's a market street, it is...I

  • think for the first course it would be nice to put some shrimps and mayonnaise. And so

  • you see you have different types of shrimps. You have like different colors, different

  • sizes as well. So I think we'll go for the moyenne, for the medium ones, which is very

  • flavorful. Rick: It looks very fresh.

  • Delphine: So we'll have some meat tonight, as a main course. And we knew the neighborhood

  • butcher. You know my mom used to come here. Rick: So you can trust the quality.

  • Delphine: You can trust the quality. You know that they give you advice as well. So I'm

  • going to have roti beuf and I'm going to ask the man for tips. [Conversation in French with butcher]

  • Rick: So what did he say? Delphine: He said like 25 minutes and for

  • six people 1,200 grams. Rick: 1,200 grams. For six. Big people!

  • Delphine: The dinner without the cheese course is not complete. So we have to go and pick

  • some cheese. Before dessert, after main course and we'll have some, an assortment of different

  • cheeses. Rick: So you create a variety.

  • Delphine: Yes. I create a small plate with different cheese. So we'll have some, this

  • one looks good, some good cheese and some bleu, some camembert and some hard cheese.

  • Rick: Good socially, I think. Delphine: It is very good because you have

  • more wine. Rick: More wine, more cheese, more wine, more

  • cheese. Delphine: So once we know what we are eating

  • we are going to choose the wine. Rick: Beautiful shop.

  • Delphine: Yes, it's really nice. Bonjour, bonjour. We are going to talk with the expert

  • and we are going to tell him what I'm going to have for dinner and he's going to pick

  • the wines for us.

  • In France with so many wines to choose from expert advice is welcome. He recommends a

  • white for the shrimp, a full bodied red from the Rhone valley for the beef and another

  • white, this time from the Loire Valley, for the cheese plate.

  • In France any good meal comes with fresh bread. And that requires a visit to the local boulangerie.

  • Delphine: So we'll have some bread for dinner. No meal without today's bread.

  • Rick: Today's bread. No bread, no party! Delphine: No fresh, no party! So we'll have

  • some baguettes and we will have some special bread as well, for the cheese.

  • Rick: Oh, so a variety of bread with the cheese course. Okay.

  • And the final touch? Flowers for the table

  • Delphine: It's very bright. And they're going to be beautiful on my table. It's great.

  • We're hopping the metro to visit another neighborhood. Paris has the most extensive subway system

  • on the Continent and it's clearly the fastest and most economic way to get around town.

  • Trains come frequently and the system is easy to use.

  • The Marais is another distinct Parisian neighborhood. I'm always impressed by how you can just sit

  • and savor Parisian street scenes like this. Once a mucky slum...Marais means swamp...

  • it was gentrified in the 17th century by King Henry IV.

  • With Henry's vision, Place des Vosges became the centerpiece of the finest neighborhood

  • in town. Stroll along its elegant, gallery lined arcade. The park-like square is a reminder

  • that Paris is not just a collection of world class museums. For millions of people, it's

  • home-a place to meet a lover, enjoy a relaxed retirement, or raise a family.

  • In the 18th century as Paris' high society moved elsewhere, immigrating Jews gradually

  • settled in the Marias. In the historic heart of this neighborhood you'll find Paris' Jewish

  • Quarter-with kosher eateries and falafel joints that draw an enthusiastic crowd.

  • Strolling its characteristic lanes, pause and observe. It's a celebration of cultural

  • diversity.

  • The Marais is also the city's gay district-much enjoyed for its lively cafes and clubs. And-straight

  • or gay-trendy Marais boutiques make for fun window shopping.

  • Paris' original neighborhood, the Ille de la Cite is well worth exploring. A church

  • has stood on this island since ancient times. But, the iconic Gothic cathedral we see today-dedicated

  • to Notre Dame or our lady- is "only" 700 years old.

  • You can brave the line for a look at its interior and climb to the top of its belltower. But

  • the church I like to visit in Paris, especially on Sunday mornings is St. Sulpice-to enjoy

  • its magnificent pipe organ-arguably the greatest in Europe.

  • For organ lovers, a visit here is a pilgrimage. After Mass, enthusiasts from around the world

  • scamper like 16th notes up the spiral stairs into a world of 7000 pipes.

  • Before electricity, it took three men, working out on these 18th century stairmasters, to

  • fill the bellows, which powered the organ. The current organist, Daniel Roth, carries

  • on the tradition of welcoming guests into the loft to see the organ in action.

  • As his apprentices pull and push the many stops that engage the symphony of pipes, a

  • commotion of music lovers crowd around a tower of keyboards and watch the master at work.

  • St. Sulpice has a rich history with a line of 12 world-class organists going back over

  • 300 years. Like kings or presidents, the lineage is charted on the wall. And overseeing all

  • this: Johann Sebastian Bach.

  • This sacred music continues to fill the spiritual sails of St. Sulpice as it has for centuries.

  • The good life in Paris-music, culture, an appreciation of its rich heritage and fine

  • architecture-is easy to take for granted. But today's freedoms and a government that

  • seems passionate about its people's needs didn't come to France without a struggle.

  • And the pinnacle of that struggle-an epic event that reverberates in the spirit of its

  • people to this day-was the French Revolution.

  • The symbolic launch pad of the French Revolution was a notorious prison called the Bastille

  • which stood on this square. In 1789 angry Parisians stormed it, released its prisoners,

  • and tore it down. It's one of Europe's great non-sights. There's nothing left to see.

  • While Parisian back lanes feel peaceful and content today, during times of revolution

  • they hid hotbeds of discontent. Before French political leaders learned the wisdom of subsidizing

  • the cost of baguettes, hungry peasant mobs would set up barricades in narrow lanes like

  • these.

  • Generals, like Napoleon, were fond of quieting the streets by loading chains and nails into

  • cannon and giving the malcontents what they called "a whiff of grapeshot."

  • Later, the government commissioned Baron Haussmann to modernize the city. He ripped up most of

  • medieval Paris and created the city's grand boulevards.

  • Great city planning... but really it was great military planning. Heavy artillery and grand

  • armies work better with long broad streets as battlefields. Paris was made easier to

  • rule...and more elegant.

  • Today, like a citywide game of "connect the dots," wide Parisian boulevards lead to famous

  • landmarks: like the Pantheon...the old opera...the Arc de Triomphe... and the Hotel des Invalides.

  • Built by Louis XIV in the 1600s as a veterans' hospital, this massive building now houses

  • Europe's greatest military museum. And, at its center, under a grand dome-which glitters

  • with 26 pounds of thinly pounded gold leaf-lies the tomb of Napoleon.

  • It's hard to imagine a building dedicated to a mortal that's more impressive. Gazing

  • at Napoleon's tomb, I love to ponder the story of the charismatic leader who took France

  • from revolutionary chaos to near total dominance of Europe and then, catastrophically, to near

  • ruins.

  • Just a humble kid from Corsica, Napoleon Bonaparte went to military school here in Paris. He

  • rose quickly through the ranks during the tumultuous years of the Revolution. By 1799

  • he was the ruler of France. After that, within five years, France had conquered most of Europe

  • and Napoleon declared himself emperor of it all.

  • As the head of France's grand million-man army, he blitzed Europe. His personal charisma

  • on the battlefield was said to be worth 10,000 additional men.

  • Imagine Napoleon the emperor-all of Europe at his feet. The laurel wreath, the robes,

  • and the Roman eagles proclaim him equal to Caesar.

  • As Emperor he worked feverishly to implement the ideals of the revolution into a well-designed

  • and modern society. Probably no single individual destroyed so much and yet built so much. To

  • this day, the French remember Napoleon for his legacy: infrastructure, education system,

  • and legal code.

  • But, ultimately, his megalomania got the best of him. Napoleon invaded Russia with the greatest

  • army ever assembled and returned to Paris with a frostbitten fraction of what he started

  • with. Two years later, the Russians marched into Paris, and Napoleon was deposed.

  • After a brief exile on the isle of Elba, in 1815 Napoleon skipped parole and returned

  • to France, where he bared his breast and declared, "Strike me down or follow me!" For 100 days,

  • the people of France followed him until finally, in Belgium, Napoleon was defeated once and

  • for all by the British at Waterloo. Exiled again, Napoleon spent his final years on a

  • remote island in the South Atlantic until he died in 1821.

  • The Arch de Triomphe was finished just in time for the funeral procession that welcomed

  • Napoleon's body home from exile in 1840. The arch is a memorial to France's many military

  • campaigns, and is particularly stirring on national holidays when it flies the French

  • flag.

  • It crowns the city's main drag. Europe's grandest boulevard is the Champs-Elysees. Built for

  • the queen in the 1600s, it originated as a carriageway leading away from the palace gardens

  • The population of France is becoming increasingly diverse and this is particularly true here

  • in its cosmopolitan capital. The largest immigrant group is from its former colonies in Africa,

  • especially Muslims from North Africa.

  • Paris' mosque is a reminder that, even though its colonial empire is long gone, cultural

  • connections remain strong. The challenge for both France and its immigrants is to assimilate

  • comfortably into an ever more multi-ethnic society. Welcoming visitors, the mosque's

  • tranquil courtyard provides a calm and meditative oasis in the midst of the hubub of Paris.

  • The adjacent Cafe de la Mosque provides an alternative to French cuisine. Parisians and

  • North Africans alike enjoy couscous, tagine, and a characteristic glass of sweet mint chai

  • with the ambiance of a Moroccan teahouse.

  • Nearby, stands the home of the Arab World Institute, a partnership between France and

  • 22 Arab countries. With a museum, art galleries, and library, its mission is to build understanding

  • between the Arab world and France. And from its rooftop terrace, the rest of the city

  • beckons.

  • The Palais du Louvre was once the palace of the ultimate king and the biggest building

  • in the entire world. Today the vast horseshoe-shaped palace, built in stages over eight centuries

  • with its striking 20th century Pyramid entry, houses the world's grandest collection of

  • art treasures.

  • These people are waiting not to get into the Louvre, but to buy a ticket to get into the

  • Louvre. With a city museum pass, I save money and, more importantly, lots of time. Anyone

  • with this pass can walk right in.

  • [55]Once inside, take a moment to enjoy the modern pyramid entry-a work of art in itself.

  • It leads to three wings. We'll limit our visit to the Denon wing. The huge Louvre collection

  • covers art history from ancient times to about 1850. It can be overwhelming. A key to enjoying

  • your visit: don't even try to cover it all. Enjoy an excuse to return.

  • Remember to look up for a sense of how, long before it was a museum, this was Europe's

  • ultimate palace and home of its mightiest kings. In fact, the collection includes royal

  • French regalia-such as the crown of Louis XV and the crown Napoleon wore on his coronation.

  • This museum is one of the world's oldest-opened to the public during the French Revolution

  • in 1793. I guess it just makes sense. You behead the king, inherit his palace and a

  • vast royal collection of art, open the doors, and Voilà-a people's museum.

  • The statue of Winged Victory seems to declare that the Louvre's ancient collection is Europe's

  • finest. Two centuries before Christ, this wind-whipped masterpiece of Hellenistic Greek

  • art stood on a bluff celebrating a great naval victory.

  • [] And just past her, stands an entourage of twisting and striding statues, each modeling

  • the ideal human form. Venus de Milo has struck her pose-like a reigning beauty queen-for

  • 2500 years now.

  • There must be more famous paintings here than in any other museum. The crowded Grand Gallery-while

  • a quarter mile long-displays only a small part of the Louvre's collection.

  • We'll feature a few paintings representative of three styles: Renaissance, Neoclassical,

  • and Romantic.

  • Francois the First, who ruled through the early 1500s, was France's Renaissance king.

  • His private paintings became the core of the Louvre's collection.

  • It was trendy for kings to have a Renaissance genius in their court. And one of Europe's

  • greatest kings, François I, got Europe's top genius: Leonardo da Vinci.

  • Leonardo's work epitomized the esthetics of the Renaissance and the Louvre's collection

  • of his paintings demonstrates his lasting influence.

  • His Virgin of the Rocks, illustrates his trademark sfumato technique-the subtle modeling of his

  • faces, and, in landscapes, how he shows distance by making it hazier and hazier.

  • And this portrait, Mona Lisa-believed to be of the wife of a Florentine merchant-is Leonardo's

  • most crowd pleasing masterpiece. With her enigmatic smile, she seems to enjoy all the

  • attention. Her body is solid and statue-like, a perfectly balanced pyramid angled back so

  • we can appreciate its mass. Her arm-level with the frame-adds stability and realism.

  • And again, Leonardo creates depth in Mona's dreamy backyard.

  • For me, this painting sums up the Renaissance: balance, confidence and humanism-the age when

  • the common individual-Mona Lisa-becomes art-worthy.

  • Like the museum, Napoleon was a product of the Revolution. One of the Louvre's largest

  • canvases shows Europe's grandest coronation: Napoleon's. The pope traveled from Rome to

  • Paris to crown Napoleon. But Europe's most famous megalomaniac, crown confidently in

  • hand, pretty much ran the coronation show himself. The pope looks a little neglected.

  • The French Revolution was all about ending kings...so Napoleon crowned himself emperor.

  • The politically correct art style of the time was Neoclassical.

  • Napoleon would approve of everything in this room. Greek, Roman, heroic, or patriotic themes;

  • clean, simple and logical-it's pure Neoclassical. This Parisian woman, wearing ancient garb

  • and a Pompeii hairdo, reclines on a Roman-style couch-perfectly in vogue.

  • Neoclassicism was an intellectual movement. After all, during the Revolution, everything

  • was subjected to the "test of reason." Nothing was sacred. If it wasn't logical, it was rejected.

  • The reaction to Neoclassicism? A Romantic Movement: Romanticism.

  • Romanticism meant putting feeling over intellect, passion over restrained judgment. Logic and

  • reason were replaced by a spirit that encouraged artists to be emotional and create not merely

  • what the eyes saw but also what the heart felt.

  • What better setting for an emotional work than the story of an actual shipwreck? In

  • Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, we see a human pyramid ranging from death and despair at

  • its base to a pinnacle of hope as one of the survivors spots a ship-which ultimately comes

  • to their rescue. If art controls your heartbeat...this is a masterpiece.

  • The Romantic Movement championed nationalistic causes of the 19th century. Delacroix's Liberty

  • Leading the People shows the citizens in 1830, once again asserting their power and raising

  • the French flag at a barricade in those troublesome back streets of Paris. This painting and that