When I lived in Paris, Notre Dame was a reliable landmark. When winding through the streets of the Quartier Latin in search of a bookstore, I could gauge my location by looking for the spire of the cathedral. With the tragic fire that started on Monday, that spire, as well as much more, including the roof, the main organ and the relics of St. Denis and St. Geneviève, are now damaged or simply gone. The damage to such an important historical, cultural and religious monument that stood as a symbol of French identity and faith comes at a tumultuous time for France. With the recent “Yellow Vest” protests, the communal uneasiness was exacerbated by the fire. However, Paris, and France at large, is still standing, a little worse for wear, but still holding many treasures for any visitor to behold. In the truly French spirit of resilience in the face of tragedy, here are other magnificent stops to visit the next time you find yourself in the City of Light.
Musée Marmottan Monet
A traditional empire-style townhouse tucked away in the Passy area of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, this museum is home to the world’s leading collection of works by impressionist artist Claude Monet. In fact, after walking through whatever is currently in the leading exhibit space (until September it will be host to “The Unexpected Dialogues Monet/Fromanger”) visitors can follow a staircase into a basement full of floor-to-ceiling Monet works. There is also a curved room filled with an evolution of his water lilies.
The newly opened Musée Picasso is nestled in its own private courtyard in the Jewish Quartier, a perfect location to be paired with a hot falafel sandwich (toujours avec des frites) and a little boutique shopping. The museum is the magnificent Hôtel Salé, one of the last great Parisian houses. It is five stories of grandeur with Picasso sculptures and paintings on every floor and wall. If you find yourself in Paris this summer, be sure to see the Calder-Picasso exhibit and make a point to check out the gift shop — it’s one of the best in Paris.
Another important church in Paris is Le Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre, which sits high above the city on its periphery. In fact, the basilica is the highest point in the city. If you want to reenact some scenes from Amélie, be sure to run up and downthe paths of the butte Montmartre and pay a euro or two to take in the whole city from a viewfinder stand. The area surrounding Sacré Coeur is also home to local artists, many of whom do portraits.
One of the most underrated, and quintessentially French, activities in Paris would have to be the many salons held each year. Pay an entry fee and join locals as they explore different stalls and exhibits. Some favorites include Salon du Vin, Salon du Chocolat and Salon du Livre. Be sure to check the official salon website for a more comprehensive list and to buy tickets in advance.
At the center of French culture is an impressive history of culinary arts. Paris boasts the best pâtisserie in the world, and fresh-baked goodies can be found at every corner boulangerie (bakery). If you not only want to eat like the French, be sure to sign up for the croissant class at Le Cordon Bleu. Or, if cooking is more your speed, take the market class at the English-speaking culinary school, Cook’n With Class. This is a unique activity that serves a double function — fun and a meal!