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Bienvenue a Paris

For many, Paris is about museums and monuments; for others, it\’s about
wining and dining; for still others, it\’s about shopping (even if only
gazing through the windows). As a frequent visitor to Paris, I usually
try to do a bit of everything, but truth be told, unless there\’s a
special exhibition I want to see, I generally skip the major sights
such as the Louvre. You don\’t need me to tell you what the must-sees
are in Paris—especially on your first trip—any guidebook can do that
for you. So here instead is a list of some of my personal
favorites—some I return to every visit, some were new to me but will be
on the must-see/do/eat list in the future. I hope they become some of
your favorites too.

• OK, it may be kind of touristy, but when the weather obliges, one of
the first (or sometimes last) things I do in Paris is almost always
take a boat ride on the Seine. When the weather\’s warm enough, I sit
outside; if not, the big glass windows offer an ideal view. I\’ve done
this ride during the day and at night, when the City of Light truly is
a sparkling display. There are guides who offer commentary on what
you\’re seeing, but the idea is just to enjoy the ride. There are
several companies providing these tours, including Bateaux-Mouches (www.bateaux-mouches.fr) and Bateau Parisiens (www.bateauxparisiens.com).

• A French institution, Laduree, on the Champs Elysees (no, 75), was
Paris\’ first tearoom. In the 1950s, the pastry chef there invented the
French macaron—two lighter-than-air cookies filled with a flavored
cream (chocolate, lemon, pistachio, green tea…the flavors defy
imagination). This was one of my favorite mid-afternoon breaks…order a
small plate of cookies along with Laduree\’s chocolat chaud,
served in a silver pitcher, and get your energy back for the next round
of sightseeing.

• When you want ice cream in Paris, Berthillon is where you head. Once
only available at its original location on the Ile St. Louis, you can
now find Berthillon glaces et sorbets throughout the city (including
the Champs Elysees). A small boule of glace au chocolat is rich and
deeply chocolatey. French scoops of ice cream are much smaller than
what we find here, but you won\’t mind in the least because the flavor
is that intense. One of my other favorite flavors here is gianduja, a
somewhat lighter chocolate flavored with orange, containing slivers of
orange peel.

• I\’d been wanting to go to the Musee Jacquemart Andre (158 blvd. Haussmann, www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com)
for several years and finally made it on this visit. This 19th century
mansion was once the home of business magnate Edouard Andrew and his
wife Nellie Jacquemart. The museum houses a truly stunning collection
of furniture and art, including works by Italian artists Mantegna,
Uccello, and Botticelli. There\’s also a wonderful gift shop where you
can find reasonably priced souvenirs for yourself or to bring home.

• Near the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris (also a must if you\’ve never
been there before) on the Square de l\’Ile de France, is a small, somber
site I return to every year—the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation.
This tribute to the 200,000 Jews, Communists, homosexuals, and
Resistants who were deported to concentration camps from France during
World War II, which opened in 1962, never fails to move me. Descend the
staircase to the river level, where simple chambers are lined with tiny
lights and the walls are inscribed with thoughtful quotations as well
as the names of the concentration camps. A stark iron gate looks out
onto the Seine while all you can see above you is the sky.

• When walking down the Champs Elysees toward the Rond Point (the
opposite end from the Arc de Triomphe), I came across Artcurial (7 Rond
Point du Champs Elysees). This gallery/café/art bookstore is a treasure
trove for those, like myself, who love books on art, photography, and

• You don\’t have to love opera to love the Palais Garnier (Place de
l\’Opera), the Paris Opera House. Both the interior and exterior are
brimming with opulence, with colored marble, molded stucco, gilt, red
satin and velvet boxes, and a false ceiling painted by Chagall. You can
take in an opera or ballet here, or you can just spring for the 6 Euros
and tour the magnificent building. There\’s a small, but well-stocked,
gift shop to the right of the entrance (you can go to the gift shop
without paying the entrance fee).

• Just across the square from the Opera Garnier is the Café de la Paix
(12 boulevard des Capucines). When the weather\’s frosty outside, you
can sit in the heated, glass-enclosed terrace and watch the world go by
while you indulge in one of the cafes legendary pastries. (Try the

• As a writer, one of the things I love most about Paris is that it\’s a
city of readers—which means it\’s a city of bookstores. From the
bouquinistes along the Seine, with their used books (and increasingly,
souvenirs and chatchkes) to the bookshops that seem to appear at every
other corner, there\’s no shortage of reading material in this city. If
you want to stick to English-language books, walk along the rue de
Rivoli and stop in at both Gallignani (no. 224) and W.H. Smith (no.
248). Gallignani specializes in art and design books and literature in
both French and English; the books are stacked high on mahogany shelves
that make you think you\’re in an old-world library. W.H. Smith is a
branch of the British chain and in addition to two floors of books,
offers an extensive magazine selection. Best of all, it\’s open on
Sundays. One of my other favorite bookstores is on the other side of
the Seine, on the Rive Gauche (or Left Bank). The Village Voice (6, rue
de Princesse) has a great selection of the latest English-language
fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and literary magazines. The store also
hosts book signings/readings and is a great place to meet both French
and American/British booklovers too.

• I just discovered this intimate, and extremely attractive, new museum
in the St. Germain area of Paris. The Musee des Lettres et Manuscrits
(Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, 8 rue de Nesle) provides a glimpse
of history traced through more than 2,000 documents and letters from
such notables as Mozart, Freud, Napoleon, and Einstein. There are both
permanent and special exhibitions and a small gift area.

• Finally (I could go on and on but let\’s save some suggestions
for another visit), Paris is a city of breathtaking views. Most people
make their way to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a view of the city.
There\’s only one problem with that—once you\’re at the top, you can\’t
see the most recognizable landmark in Paris…the Eiffel Tower itself!
Instead, take a trip to the top of the Tour Montparnasse (33 ave. du
Maine, www.tourmontparnasse56.com).
In just 38 seconds, the high-peed elevator will take you to the 56th
floor where you can visit the panoramic café-lounge and also find
orientational diagrams that let you in on what you\’re seeing. For a
completely unobstructed view, however, climb up two more flights of
stairs, stand in the white target painted at the center, and marvel at
the sight of Paris spread out before you. My favorite time to go—at
dusk when you can not only watch the sun set but see the lights come on
all over the city.

Carol Sorgen Columnist, Writer, World Traveler

Carol Sorgen is a nationally recognized writer, editor, and public relations consultant. Her articles—on subjects as diverse as travel, health care, education, architecture, interior design, the arts, and business—appear in both print and on-line publications including The Washington Post, DC Style, Resort Living, The Baltimore Sun, European Homes & Gardens, Decorating Spaces, Chesapeake Home, WebMD, Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week…to name just a few.

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