Paris’s reputation as the arts capital of Europe is well deserved.
The city housed more influential painters in the last century than any other in the world and the very idea of the Bohemian artistic lifestyle is inextricably bound with Parisian life. Art and Paris go so hand in hand without art, Paris would be just another small, snobby European capital with wonderfully expensive shopping—and when the wind is in a certain direction, a distinct whiff of drains.
Art gives Paris its soul and its pedigree. This was where the French invented Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism and just about every other important artistic “ism” of the last century. Foreign artist like Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall, to name but three, came together as the legendary School of Paris between 1910 and 1940.
Now in the city of two million people, there are an estimated 10,000 artists who work, hoping their paintings will achieve the fame of the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre. I saw so much of Paris when I was growing up that I said I would never return. My younger sister was at university there, and my parents and I visited her twice a month to make sure she was eating.
With some six million visitors a year, all wanting to visit the Louvre, it is wise to make a list of what you want to see and plan your attack to try and avoid the long queues. Turn up at 8:55 a.m. (five minutes before the doors open) or at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday nights (open until 9:45 p.m.) and you will miss the long wait.
How to make the most out of Paris:
Avoid the first Sunday in each month. Many of the museums offer free entrance so there is always a long queue. Buying bulk saves money and hassle.
Get a Paris Museum Pass (Le Carte Musees et Monuments) which covers most of Paris’s main cultural attractions, valid for one to five days. You won't have to join a queue, the pass gets you immediate access.
If you want to avoid museum-itis, why not hire a guide who will take you through the collection of your choice in vivid detail? Both the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay do this.
All cultured out? Then go window shopping or better still, take a four-hour shopping tour with Chic Shopping Paris and don’t keep converting the franc (euro) into the dollar; you will get an ulcer.
Late-night taxis are elusive at best. Get the restaurant to ring one for you.
My favorite part is the l8th arrondissement, Montmarte and Pigalle. It gets more seedy every time I go but there are many great bistros and lots of artists selling their work at the Montmarte Cemetery.
The hotels I use offer our clients free breakfast, which is a nice bonus, because we are part of the Signature Travel Network.
Several favorites are Hotel de Crillon, Esprit San Germain, Plaza Athenee and Le Bristol. So many to choose from, but this is an exciting city to visit.
Maureen Jones is president of All Horizons Travel at 160 Main Street. Members of her staff are experts in business travel, cruises, and all types of leisure.