Pompidou Center Who wants to see its guts?
The 4th arrondissement located on the Right Bank of the Seine River is one of the smallest in Paris at slightly over 0.6 square miles (1.6 square kilometers). Its population is about thirty thousand but the district provides more than forty thousand jobs. The Ile de la Cité (Cité Island) was already inhabited in the First Century B.C. by a Gallic tribe known as the Parisii who gave their name to the city. Our first stop is world–renown, tasty, not very high in calories, and won’t cost you a lot of money. It’s on the magnificent Ile St-Louis one of the two Parisian islands in the Seine.
Berthillon makes great ice cream and has since 1954. It believes in natural ingredients and flavorings and uses no preservatives or any of that junk. It is usually closed during the last two weeks of August.
Centre Georges Pompidou (Georges Pompidou Centre), often called Beaubourg was built in 1971–1977 near Les Halles (the Halles Market) and the Marais. It contains a library, the Musée National d'Art Moderne (National Modern Art Museum), a center for music and acoustic research, and an industrial design center. You either love the building or you hate it because of its very distinct (ugly) architecture with pipes on the outside. Even if you can’t stand this building you may enjoy the art museum with it collection of painters including Kandinsky, Matisse, Miró, and Picasso.
One can only imagine how hard it is to run the city of Paris. Maybe that’s why its Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) has been in the same Fourth Arrondissement location since the mid-Fourteenth Century. The present French Renaissance structure was rebuilt in the 1870s and is said to be inspired by castles in the Loire Valley. Its site was a well-known gathering place, in particular for public executions. The local specialty was burning heretics at the stake.
In the early Sixteenth Century King Francis I decided rebuild Paris’s city hall. At that time Paris was the largest city in Europe and the entire Christian world. Building the Renaissance city hall worthy of Paris took about a century. During the French Revolution the city hall lived up to its site’s history; a representative of the ancien regime (pre-Revolutionary government) was killed there the day that the Bastille was stormed. Several years later on this same site the revolutionary leader Maximilien François Marie Odenthalius Isidore de Robespierre usually called Robespierre was shot in the jaw and his followers were arrested.
Paris’s City Hall played a role in the revolution of 1870 and the Paris Commune of the following year; first it became the revolutionary government headquarters and subsequently was burnt to the ground when surrounded by enemy troops. The rebuilt building has a split personality: its exterior is a copy of the Sixteenth Century Renaissance building but the interior reflects the luxury of the day, the 1880s. Charles de Gaulle spoke from City Hall on that great day of August 25, 1944 when Paris was liberated.
Étienne Marcel, the most important pre-mayor of the city was lynched in 1358 by a crowd which felt that he wanted too much power. And the current mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, the first elected left-wing major of Paris since 1871 was stabbed during a party open to the public. After recovering he converted his private apartments to a nursery for the children of municipal workers. Tell me, do you know of any other City Hall with such a history?
The short Rue des Rosiers in the Marais is somewhat a center of Paris’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe. Jews have been living here for six hundred years when they were expelled from Paris; at that time the Marais was outside the city limits. As often when a street becomes very popular it changes its character and Jewish butcher shops and delicatessens are giving way to upscale fashion houses. Be sure to visit the rue des Francs-Bourgeois and its many fashion stores, one of the rare Paris streets that is open on Sunday.
In the middle of the Twelfth Century, so the story goes, Maurice de Sully, the Archbishop of Paris, unhappy with the present cathedral had it demolished and sketched in the dirt its replacement, Notre Dame de Paris, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Construction took almost two centuries, and frankly was worth it. This French Gothic church is located on the Île de la Cité and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. During the French Revolution, many of its treasures were either destroyed or plundered. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food. The statues of biblical kings of Judea (thought to be kings of France) were beheaded. Many of these heads were found during a 1977 excavation and are now display in the Musée de Cluny located in the fifth arrondissement. Notre Dame’s organ was been computerized, requiring three local-area networks. If you like touring churches, this district is home to several other historic ones, but if you ask me none of them are in the same league as Notre Dame de Paris.
Of course you don’t want to be in Paris without sampling fine French wine and food. In my article I Love French Wine and Food – An Alsace Pinot Noir I reviewed such a wine and suggested a sample menu: Start with Flammekueche (Tart stuffed with Bacon, Onions, Cream Cheese, and heavy Cream). For your second course savor Coq-au-Riesling (Cock cooked in Riesling wine). And as dessert indulge yourself with Quetschelkueche (Plum Tart). Your Parisian sommelier (wine steward) will be happy to suggest appropriate wines to accompany each course.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would
rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods.
He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink
what he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His central website is
www.wineinyourdiet.com devoted to the health and nutritional aspects of wine and its place in your weight-loss program. Visit his global wine site www.theworldwidewine.com and his other websites devoted to Italian wine, Italian travel, and Italian food.
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