Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Want a Little Spook in Paris??

Halloween is upon us as ghosts, ghouls and goblins prepare  to trick or treat on this eve of All Hallows (All Saints) which in  French is called la Toussaint.   Halloween roots come from the pagan celebration of Samhain where on this day it was believed that the spirits of the dead rose to mingle with the living.  Traditionally, Halloween is not celebrated in France but since the 1990's there has been an increase in the number of  revelers due to marketing efforts by companies like Mc Donald, Disney, Coca Cola and others who generated awareness for the holiday among French consumers.  When visiting Paris,  here are three places where you can get a good dose of spook.

In damp and dreary underground tunnels, dug in former Parisian quarries lay the remains of six million Parisians. Skulls, tibias, femurs are compactly and decoratively stacked. This ossuary was created in the end of 18th century when bones from the overflowing Cemetery of the Innocents located in the Halles district were removed and relocated in these old quarries. The removal of the bones took place every night for two years (1786-1788) in a long and lugubrious procession across Paris.  Bones of famous historical figures such as Madame de Pompadour, Mirabeau, Rabelais are among the remains. (Metro: Denfert Rochereau)

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
This is the largest cemetery within central Paris and the most famous.  Strolling along the neat winding paths and leafy alleys you can visit the graves and mausoleums of many historical figures including Heloise and Abelard, Moliere, Victor Hugo, Proust, Chopin, Oscar Wild and Jim Morrison. (Metro: Pere Lachaise)

Sewers of Paris-
 In Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, Jean Valjean tries to escape through  the labyrinth of the sewers of Paris. The system dates back to the late 1300's and has been over the centuries enlarged to cover  a network of over 1300 miles of sewer tunnels.  A visit of the museum of the Sewers of Paris will let you explore the galleries with large displays explaining the history of the sewers, the engineering and how Paris handles waste water from elimination to purification and drinking water. It is interesting to know that each sewer street mirrors the street above.  (Metro : Pont de l'Alma)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paris Viewed by Hollywood

A few weeks ago, while in Paris I visited the exhibit Paris Vu par Hollywood (Paris Viewed by  Hollywood ). It is held at the Paris City Hall from September 18-December 15.  More than 800 Hollywood movies have represented Paris real or imagined.  Iconic Parisian spots frequently featured include: Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, the Ritz Hotel, Place Vendome, the banks of the river Seine and Montmartre.  In the Hollywood movies Paris has a certain allure representing sophistication, sex appeal and a certain "je ne sais quoi." Cliches abound about Paris in the early Hollywood movies.  Often you see people drinking Champagne, attending fashion shows and partying the night away in Parisian cabarets. Starting with silent movies, Paris was the setting for major historical epics such at the French Revolution and Notre Dame de Paris.  Then in the thirties, Paris was depicted as the high society's pleasure ground, refined and sophisticated; after  WWII,  Hollywood movies featured the Paris of the artists, bohemian life and French Cancan. In almost  every movie  romance is associated with Paris. Many of the early movies were actually shot in the Hollywood studios and only in the 50's did American productions companies come to film on location in Paris.  The Paris Vu Par Hollywood exhibit features film clips, photographs, costumes, scripts, small model of decors and  posters. Directors who used Paris as backdrop include Ernst Lubitsch who featured Paris in ten different movies; Minnelli, Blake Edwards, Hitchock, Donen, Huston, Woody Allen, and Sophia Coppola to name a few.

Here are  10 iconic Hollywood movies set in  Paris :

  • An American in Paris (1951)
  • April in Paris (1952)
  • Gigi (1958)
  • Charade (1963)
  • The Pink Panther (1963)
  • Irma la Douce  (1963)
  • Da Vinci Code (2003)
  • Devil Wears Prada (2006)
  • Marie Antoinette by Sophia Coppola (2006)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011)
Midnight in Paris

Paris Vu par Hollywood -Paris City Hall- 5 rue Lobeau.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tour de France 2013- A Celebration of France's Patrimony

2013 will be a milestone year for the Tour de France bicycle race as it will be its 100th run.  From 29 June to July 21, the race will be run exclusively in France.  It will begin in Ajaccio, Corsica , the first time ever the race is to run on the island and then move on to the mainland where it will cover over 3300 km. Runners, followers and viewers will be treated to some of the most beautiful landscapes of France some of which are classified as UNESCO World heritage sites.  Specifically, the race will cover the Calanche de Piana in Corsica, the Mont Saint Michel, Albi's Cathedral Sainte Cecile, the historic heart of Lyon and the Gardens of Versailles. Mountain stages will include the mighty Pyrenees, Mont Ventoux in Provence and the Alps where runners will climb up to the Alpe d'huez station twice.  The tour will end on the Champs Elysées for a first time ever arrival at dusk. To attend the Tour de France, I advise booking early in advance as traditionally hotels in the various stages of the tour get filled up quickly.

Calanche de Piana

Mont Saint Michel

Old Lyon- Renaissance Houses