Lafayette, we are here
The ninth arrondissement is located on the Right Bank of the Seine River. Its land area is slightly more than 0.8 square miles (about 2.2 square kilometers). While its population is about fifty–five thousand the area hosts over one hundred ten thousand jobs and is a business center of Paris.
The Olympia is Paris’s oldest music hall and one of the most famous in the world. It has also hosted circuses and the ballet. When business was slow it did a long stint as a movie theater. And in the 1990s it was almost transformed into a parking lot. Famous Olympia performers include Édith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and Jeff Buckley, but the list goes on and on.
A different sort of music hall the Folies Bergère north east of the Olympia was built in the mid Nineteenth Century as an opera house with the name Folies Trévise. But to protect his reputation the Duc de Trévise had its name changed shortly afterwards. Among its famous performers were the singer-dancer Joséphine Baker who wore a skirt made of bananas and the Maurice Chevalier, but nobody remembers what he wore.
The Neo-Baroque Palais Garnier, usually called the Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera) seats 2200 opera fans. Its stage can hold up to 450 artists. Even if you don’t like opera, you should visit this splendid building with its statues and busts of famous composers. Construction started in 1862 but was only completed in 1875. The building sits on a former swamp over an underground lake. It took eight months of pumping just to remove the water. In 1896 a counter-weight of its magnificent six-ton chandelier fell killing someone. This opera house is the inspiration for the French novel The Phantom of the Opera and the musical of the same name, the longest running and most lucrative Broadway show in history. The new Paris Opera, known as the Opéra Bastille is on the other, less opulent side of town. It was supposed to replace the old one, but did not.
Galeries Lafayette is a 10-storey department store dating from the beginning of the previous century. You might want to look at the building, its beautiful Art Nouveau staircases, and its wares even if you are not in a buying mood. This is the flagship store of an international chain. One branch even opened in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan but went out of business. What do you want to bet that somebody got fired?
The competitor Printemps (Spring) flagship department store is just down the street from Galeries Lafayette. It is also part of an international chain, and its only American branch, in Denver, Colorado instead of Manhattan also went belly up after only sixteen months and the building is now used as a medical testing center. The Paris store was founded in 1865. The building is known for an Art Deco stained-glass cupola that was removed in 1939 for obvious reasons. The cupola was restored in 1973 by its designer’s grandson with the aid of the original plans. The building’s façade and cupola are registered as national monuments.
Pigalle is centered around Place Pigalle, bordering the ninth and the eighteenth arrondissements. To a large extent it is a red-light district with some famous nightclubs including the Moulin Rouge, which sports an imitation red windmill on its roof. I am told that the building décor has that turn-of-the-century (no, not a 1999-2000) look. This club inspired a 1952 and a 2001 movie, which were both nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. The area attracted world-famous artists including Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and van Gogh. The area south of Place Pigalle is a center of the popular musical instrument trade.
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 Blanc I reviewed such a wine and suggested a sample menu: Start with Foie Gras (Goose or Duck Liver). For your second course savor Baeckeoffe (Meat and Potato Casserole). And as dessert indulge yourself with Gâteau Chasseur (Almond Cake with Raspberries and Meringue). 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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