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Paris Spotlight

Café culture, edifying sights, romantic walks – it's hard not to love Paris

By Elissa Richard

July 11th, 2006

Ahhhhhh, que la vie est belle à Paris. You're sure to be uttering words much like these (ahhhh, isn't life beautiful in Paris) after visiting this fabled European city that has inspired and mesmerized starry-eyed lovers, writers, artists, dreamers, and schemers for centuries. Inherently designed for romance and the sheer enjoyment of life – imagine lunching with exquisite wines on a charming terrace setting or strolling manicured fountain-filled gardens in the heart of the city – and for reveling in nighttime beauty – in the form of luminous bateaux-mouches on the Seine, the floodlit facade of Notre Dame, or the twinkling metalwork of the iconic Eiffel Tower – modern-day Paris is sure to bewitch both repeat and first-time visitors.

You could live a lifetime in Paris and still be left with more to discover, so don't expect to take it all in during the course of just one visit. Three days gives a hurried opportunity to take in the compulsory highlights – a Louvre visit; some strolling on the Ile de la Cité with its majestic Notre Dame; a cruise down the Seine; a trip atop the Eiffel Tower; a promenade down the Champs-Elysées to its crowning Arc de Triomphe; and perhaps a quick jaunt up to the old bohemian quarter of Montmartre with its white-domed Sacré-Coeur. Five days is considerably more ideal, allowing for more leisurely exploration of the diverse neighborhoods on foot, from the intellectual center of the Latin Quarter and the chic Marais to the up-and-coming artists' enclave by rue Oberkampf; you'll also be free to linger a bit in the quarters' abundant green spaces and antiquated squares. The added days may also permit you to indulge in a more thorough sampling of Paris' vast museum offerings – the d'Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Rodin, and Picasso museums are our picks for the crème de la crème of Paris' rich artistic offerings. A week will leave time for whiling away afternoons at atmospheric sidewalk cafés, picnicking in parks, and shopping.

As for the notion that the French don't like Americans or that Parisians are snobbish – pish posh. Current foreign affairs aside, it's worth remembering that cosmopolitan French and American cultures have long shared a discreet love affair. You'll be amazed at the reception you'll receive simply by using a few French words. A well-placed bonjour here and a merci there can truly work wonders with Parisians, who, for the most part, have a basic enough command of the English language to meet you the rest of the way. And with that, you're in for a bon voyage!

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