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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
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
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
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
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
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 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
struggle reverberate with the French people to this day
France's national holiday is July 14... Bastille Day. That's today and that means a big party
as all of France indulges in a patriotic bash. In Paris that means lots of flags and lots
of parties. Everyone's welcome to join in.
Like towns and villages all over the country, each neighborhood here hosts parties until
late into the night. The local fire department's putting on this I guess it doesn't
matter if the fire marshal drops by.
Traditionally, crowds pack the bridges and line the river for a grand fireworks display
over the Eiffel Tower.
Traveling here I realize I could come back to this city for the rest of my life and never
get enough of what to me, is the cultural capital of Europe-Paris. I'm Rick Steves.
Until next time, keep on traveling. Au revoir!
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Paris: Regal and Intimate

4908 Folder Collection
稲葉白兎 published on November 1, 2014
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