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Paris travel guide

No one has to be told that Paris has everything for everyone. Its hotels are good, its restaurants, of course, out of this world. You can have a wonderful time in this famous, gay old city, not only during the summer season but also in winter and early spring when there are even greater attractions in theater, music and art. Other parts of France are awaiting you, too. The Riviera, with its long stretch of fashionable and magnificent beaches, its casinos, its luxurious hotels, is ready to help you to have a wonderful time, as are the Chateau country, Normandy and Brittany. The people are cultivated, witty, and charming. They are also worldly-wise and sensitive to criticism. Tourism is one of France's greatest sources of foreign currency. Visitors from abroad are generally appreciated and treated with special courtesy. Paris is the city for the art lover, the museum goer. Begin with the Louvre, of course. See the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory. Visit the Musee d'Art Moderne, the Rodin Museum, the Musee de L'Homme, the Jeu de Paume (impressionist painters), the Palais de Chaillot, Cluny, with sculptures, and exhibits of the Middle Ages, L''Ecole des Beaux Arts, Gobelins for tapestries, Musee de L'Armee for arms and armor.

The beauties of Paris hardly need retelling. It is a city of gentle light, with noble buildings and broad, tree-lined boulevards. It is built in layers, spreading outwards from its ancient centre like the circles that denote the age of a tree. Each century has left its new style, which somehow finally blends with the rest. Today Paris is divided between the administrative city within the gates, which has an unchanging population of fewer than 4,000,000, and the sprawling suburbs with 5,000,000 more. Paris is changing rapidly, and, though the central part of the city is not being torn down and rebuilt at as great a rate as other cities, in the suburbs the changes are remarkable.
There is a sharp difference of mood between the Left Bank and the Right Bank of the Seine - the two phrases have become bywords for `intellectual bohemia' and `smartness', though today parts of the Left Bank are no less smart. The best times of year to visit Paris are spring or autumn: in August most theatres and many restaurants close, Parisians go away, and Paris is not itself.

The city is divided into twenty arrondissements, or districts, the numbers spiralling outwards from the centre. The First District, on the Right Bank, takes in the massive art museum of the Louvre, the formal Tuileries Gardens, the Palais Royal, and the lovely Place Vendome with the Ritz Hotel. To the E., in a quarter of narrow old streets, is Les Halles, Paris's main food market, chaotic and colourful, especially at night, but now being torn down and transferred to the suburbs. The Second District, to the N., has the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Bourse (Stock Exchange). It is mainly a commercial area; so is the Third, stretching towards the Place de la Republique. But the Fourth, down
by the river, has many beauties. It includes the historic quarter of the Marais, now being renovated, the elegant 17th-cent. Place des Vosges, and the Hdtel de Ville. It also takes in the two islands: the Ile de la Cite, the heart of Paris, with Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palais de Justice; and the Ile St Louis, with its romantic old stone quays and graceful houses - an oasis of quiet in this restless city.

The Fifth District, over on the Left Bank, takes in the University or Latin Quarter, with the Sorbonne and the Pantheon mausoleum - an exciting district of old, narrow streets, pullulating with student life. The Sixth, next door, also has many students, but is more dignified, and is adorned by the graceful Luxembourg Gardens and the Church of St Sulpice. It is the intellectual and artistic stronghold of Paris: it includes St Germain-des-Pres and part of Montparnasse, both of them overflowing with literary cafes, bookshops, art galleries, and amusing restaurants and night-clubs.
The Seventh is a large, wealthy district of ministries, embassies, aristocratic houses, and monuments. Here you will find the National Assembly; the H&tel des Invalides, with Napoleon's tomb; the Eiffel Tower; and the UNESCO Headquarters, with works of art by Picasso, Moore, Mire, and others. Here, too, is the Invalides.

The Eighth, back across the river, is the quintessence of the Right Bank, a region of smart shops, cinemas, and offices. It takes in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, and the Are de Triomphe, the Elysee Palace (where the President lives), and the Madeleine Church. Tucked in one workaday corner is the Gare St Lazare. The Ninth has the Opera at one end and the Place Pigalle atthe other; in between is another commercial area. The Tenth has little but the Gare du Nord and the Care de 1'Est; and the Twelfth, the Care de Lyon. Here the district numbers have spiralled out to a monolithic working-class and industrial sector.
Back across the river, the Fourteenth includes the charming Pare de Montsouris and the Cite Universitaire, and the Fifteenth has some striking new urban development near the Gare de Montparnasse and along the Seine. The Sixteenth, on the Right Bank again, is the main upper-bourgeois residential stronghold of Paris. It borders the Bois de Boulogne, the city's main park, full of lakes and beautiful trees, but rather too full also of people and cars. The Eighteenth contains the hill of Montmartre, crowned by the white Church of Sacre Coeur - a quarter today devoted more to instant folklore than to real art, but still quite charming when not too crowded. In the Twentieth, the curious Pare des Buttes Ghaumont is worth a visit.

The Paris inner suburbs on the North, East and South are mainly working-class. To the West are well-to-do places such as Neuilly and St Cloud. Billancourt houses the huge Renault car works. Beyond Neuilly, one of the most ambitious urban projects in Europe is located at La Defense - a skyscraper ensemble of offices and flats amongst gardens, with the road all below ground, on six levels. Further out, you can visit scores of post-war residential suburbs - austere, as at Sarcelles, or rather more gracious around Malmaison and Meudon. St Denis has a fine cathedral; Mont Valerien contains a moving memorial of French patriots shot here during the war

THEATERS:The Comedie Francaise, one of the most famous theaters in the world, is open all year except in July and August. Grand opera may be heard all year except during August at the Opera. The Opera Comique has light opera. The Grand Guignol, which features horror plays, is certainly worth a visit. The Folies Bergere is the mecca of many Americans and there are numerous music halls offering variety shows which you can enjoy without understanding French. Buy your seats from a broker, it saves wear and tear.

SPECTATOR SPORTS :Horse racing goes on almost all year at one track or another near Paris. Soccer is popular at the Parc des Princes and at Colombes Stadium. Tennis tournaments and championship matches take place at Stade Roland-Garros in the Bois. Boxing matches are frequent. Basketball games during the winter.

TRANSPORTATION There are plenty of taxis but somehow they are not always easy to get. It is advisable always to notice whether the taxi you hire has a meter. Unmetered cabs often charge exorbitant rates.Consult your driver before you go anywhere, because at night clubs and theaters fixed-rate cabs are waiting. There are stands for cars for hire near most of the hotels. These are more expensive than ordinary cabs. Travel by Metro (subway) at least once. It runs from 6:00 A.M. to 12:45 A.M., and it is unlike any subway you have known. There are buses all over Paris running from 6:30 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. You must queue up for these and there are pads of numbers on posts near bus stops which you take, thus giving yourself an assured place in the line.

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2007 travel guides