Sunday, 27 July 2008

Flower and bird market

The flower and bird market in Paris is a different experience seen with Danish eyes, though so typical for the French and especially for Paris. Here are buildings for a permanent market, and each day between 8 and 19:30 can you find pots and plants suiting any taste. The bird market is open on Sundays and then you can find many rare and special birds, as well as cages, fodder and everything you might need.

When you walk around Paris you can't avoid to see how serious the Parisians take their balconies and the plants and flowers on them. Often you'll find every windowsill and every balcony filled with flowers in bright colours, adding life and charm to the city. If you look a bit further up, you'll notice that many roofs have been made into what seems like small parks. What they lack of gardens on ground level they have compensated for by using balconies, roofs and windowsills. So there's a lot of sale in flowers and pots, for the French males love to play gardeners.

They don't only come to the market to buy flowers and birds, but also to speak to the many vendors who provide good advice about gardening. Potted outdoors flowers is a passion in Paris and at this market you can find experts who're more than willing to share their knowledge with anyone interested.

Marché aux fleurs et aux oiseaux de Paris is located at Ile de la Cité on place Louis Lépine and Quai de Corse, not fra from Notre Dame and la Congerigie. It's located centrally next to the metro station Cité. The market has been in this location since 1808 and is easily recognized by it's metal pavalions.

Practical information:
Open all days from 8 am - 7:30 pm
Metro: Cité, line 4.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

La Conciergerie

When you wander along the Seine in Paris you'll pass one impressive building after the other. One that especially is outstanding is "la Conciergerie"; probably most well known as being the prison where Marie-Antoinette was kept prisoner while awaiting beheading. The place is part of a large series of buildings known as "Palais de Justice", where juridictional functions still take place.

The place was originally a Roman-Gallic fortress which over the years was expanded and later became the seat for the kings and their governments. The building is unique and clearly shows traits of it's history. It is a prime example on Gothic architecture. So if you're interested in history and old buildings, then you'll have to drop the place a visit.

There are four interesting locations to visit in "la Conciergerie". The first is the "Salle des gens d'armes", the room of the armed men (where the French word for policeman, "gendarme" comes from). The great hall was built in the 14th century in Gothic style. The arches are 8,5 metres high and gives a strong impression of the greatness of the palace then.

Then there's the kitchens which certainly are much larger than our modern food preparation localities. They cover two floors, where the king had his meals at the upper floor and the bottom floor was assigned to the King's household.

Continue and advance a few centuries into history by visiting the prisons which were used during the revolution. The prisoners lived under miserable conditions, a large change for many compared to their rich and noble backgrounds. In the beginning the most rich would pay fortunes to improve their circumstances, but later under the "Reign of Terror" everybody were treated equal and no more special treatment to anyone.

Finally there's the women's yard, which still looks like it did during the revolution. There is a small garden in the middle of the yard and a fountain in the corner which was used to wash laundry. At the gate the women could speak to the men on the other side.

Practical information:
Opening times summer:: 9:30 - 18:00
Price: Free under 18, adults 6,50€, discounts for students and youth.
Metro: Cité
The fun part: Two Gothic halls can be rented for events and large dinners.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Centre Pompidou

You can't avoid noticing a very characteristic buidling between the elder ones when you wander around in the area around Chatelet in Paris. Clearly modern with steel tubes and glass facades, it stands in stark contrast to the surroundings. It is Centre Georges-Pompidou, a famous poly-culturel centre which is the third most visited sight in Paris after the Eiffel tower and the Louvre.

The centre has one of the two most famous collections of modern art in the world with an exhibition from Museum of Modern Art in New York. As if that isn't enough, there's also a cinema, several temporarely exhibitions, one of the best public libraries in Europe, as well as a centre for musical and accustic studies and research. There is also a stage and a dedicated debate fascility. There is also an exhibition for the children with various shows and themes. It is in truth a place dedicated to cultuer.

The building itself is rather interesting. It was designed by the architects Renzo Piano (Italy), the couple Richard and Sue Rogers (England), the structure engineers Edmund Happold (England) and Peter Rice (Ireland). the project won a competition and the result was announced in 1971. It's said that the design turned the architectonic world upside down. The building was completed in 1977 and was opened to the public the same year.

Practical information:
Entry: The museums are free for people under 18 and every first Sunday in the month. The price for adults is 12 euro during high season.
Opening times: All days except Tuesdays from 11 am to 10 pm.
Metro: Rambuteau, Les Halles
RER: Chatelet - Les Halles

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Party in Paris, Bastille day

Are you into partying. What about visiting Paris in the middle of the summer and experience a party that's comparable with New Years eve in Copenhagen or 4th of July in Boston!

There is a grand party over all of France during the evening the 13th of July. There's life and joy on every street and in Paris thousands of people are gathered to celebrate all night. There are big firework shows, events and happenings which certainly are worth experiencing.

14th of July is France's national day. They celebrate the storm of the Bastille in 1789 which marked the beginning of the French revolution. The day is celebrated all over the French speaking world and you can even see parades and events in places such as San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and many other places.

The largest and most famous parade takes place in the morning on the Champs-Élysèes in Paris, where the military displays all their might before the French precident and his guests. The entire army is represented, from the infantry, the foreign legion, students from the military schools, the navy, the police, the firemen and what not. The hangovers from the night before are challenged when the airforce performs their grand displays with noise, smoke and colours. During the later years it has become custom to invite France's allies to participate in the parade.

This year the president of Syria, Basha al-Assad has been invited to view the events with president Sarkozy.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Église Saint-Eustache

In the middle of Paris you'll find the beautiful cathedral Église Saint-Eustache. It is located by the entrance to the old markets of Paris (les Halles) and at the beginning of the famous "rue Montorgueuil". It is yet one of Paris' Gothic gems and was built between 1532 and 1632.

The church is an example of Gothic architecture which had renaissance details added. It's an impressive building. It is 105 metres long and insider the ceiling is 33,45 metres above you. Outside the cathedral displays a beautiful mixture of Gothic and renaissance styles, which a front sober and heavy and a backside filled with classical details and decorations.

Within the cathedral is the largest pipe organ in France, greater than those found in Notre Dame and Saint Sulpice. The organ was originally built by Ducroquet and was later changed by Joseph Bonnet. There are 8000 pibes.

 The cathedral has been quite famous during the years and both Louis XIV, Mozart, Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau, Marie de Gournay, Madame de Pompadour and many other have used the cathedral or been burried here.

It is certainly worth a visit, especially due to its architecture, it is very impressive. And while you're in the area, you might as well visit the large underground mall beneath; Forum les Halles.

Practical information:

Metro/RER stop: Chatelet / Les Halles

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Noisy le Grand

Noisy le Grand is a suburb to Paris about halfway to Disneyland on the RER A. The suburb is 15 km east of Paris' centre and it takes about 20 min on the RER to get out there. The name means walnut groove and the town has traces back to before the Roman age. The town has over 60.000 residents which makes it a bit larger than Randers, Denmark. Of course, since the entire area is one big suburb, you'll barely notice leaving one town for another.

I Mont d'Est, a newer part of Noisy le Grand, is a large mall called "Centre Commercial des Arcades". Here you'll find a broad selection of shops, a big supermarket, several restaurants and a cinema which quite often also have VO (version originale) movies which means that there are French subtitles instead of dubbing.

This is also where you can find some rather unique architecture. "The Theatre" is drawn by the famous Spanish architect Ricard Bofill i Levi and not far from there in another part of Noisy le Grand, Pavè Neuf, you can find "Les Arènes de Picasso" drawn by Manolo Nuñez-Yanowsky. The area has quite a lot of new buildings with offices and great glass façades. And as something new an international school is being built, which according to plan should be completed in 2012.

In the old part of town you'll find the mayors office which is a very typical French mayors office building. The town centre was renovated four years ago and is now beautiful with fountains, a small park like thing, running water, peace and quiet. There are a few old streets with shops where you still get the feeling of stepping into a small countryside town and not be in the middle of a metropolis. The marketplace is of course next to the city hall, and rather atypically there is no church next to the marketplace. Also here you'll find a lot of new buildings, and another mall with cinema is almost completed.

Noisy le Grand is a good suburb to use as base for the exploration of Paris and surrounding areas. It's easy to access, and the hotels are cheaper than you'll find them in Paris itself. There are good restaurants and shopping. And then there's the Marne river boarding the town, which is always worth a visit and stroll especially in the warm summer evenings.