Travel To Relax – Paris Regal and Intimate

Paris Regal and IntimateHi, 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

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

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. 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.

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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 diversity. 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 these. 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.

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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 ruins. 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.

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 flag. 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 beckons. 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.

]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

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 Voil  a people’s museum. The statue of Winged Victory seems to declare
that the Louvre’s ancient collection is Europe’s finest.

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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, Franois 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:

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
kings…So 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

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 party…So 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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