Sacré-Cœur/ Montmartre (neighborhood)

It is pretty difficult to ignore the magnificent architecture of the iconic Sacré-Cœur which sits high stop the hill of Montmartre in the northern part of the city.  Sacré-Cœur beams like a beacon if viewed from the top of the Eiffel Tower (see below), but up close it's certainly even more impressive.  Architect Paul Abadie beat out 77 other designers to win the gig to construct the famous Romanesque-Byzantine basilica which began construction in 1875 and completed in 1914.  The dedication of Sacré-Cœur, and Montmartre in general is to Saint Denis, one of the city's patrons who was beheaded in the 3rd Century.  Whoops.  (Yes, you can go inside the multi-domed basilica and take a trip to the top.  It's certainly worth it if you are into mind-bending views!)


Of course, like many neighborhoods in Paris, there is more the story in Montmartre than meets the eye!  The quarter (bordered to the south by the saucier Clichy and Pigalle enclaves) was once the bohemian epicenter of a slew of artists "back in the Impressionist day."  Painters like Van Gogh, Matisse, Derain, Renoir, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec intermingled and competed here over many a glass of wine (or absinthe!)  In the wake of popular films like Moulin Rouge (2001) and Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (2002), the neighborhood up on the hill has seen a huge surge in tourism, yet, its inherent charm still remains.

The cobble-stone tree-lined streets twist and turn off all sides of the butte, which boast the last-surviving windmills in Paris.  (The windmill at the current version of the Moulin Rouge - see below - is a replica.)  Those looking for a truer glimpse into the "good ole days" of Fin de siècle Montmartre should check out the photographs of French lensman Eugène Atget.  On the flipside, it you're not generally into history, new and returning visitors alike should still make a trip to Montmartre to experience the tallest mug of beer we have ever seen... that is if you can stomach restaurant buskers wearing 1890's "French garb!"  Ooh-la-la!


Set of Drifters tip:  A stroll through the "sacred hill" of Montmartre is special both by day and night, though on Saturday, expect hordes of people camping out in the plaza just outside the Sacré-Cœur.  We were there in May of 2010 and it was a veritable mob scene, with both tourists and locals alike clamoring together for that amazing view of the city and the sparkling Eiffel Tower in the background!  You may want to avoid this Saturday night hysteria, unless you enjoy tip-toeing over the 12-packs of Heineken spilling out from all of the trash cans!

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre - 35, rue du Chevalier de La Barre, 75018 Paris, 011 (33) 1 53 41 89 00

http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/




Musée Carnavalet - Musée de l'histoire de Paris

We must admit, we have been to Paris several times in the past and neglected to check out this museum before.  Wow, what a mistake.  Not only is it free to gain entrance to the permanent collection, but its 140 rooms are packed so full of amazing historical objects and information, we will likely need to return for years to come in order to sift through all of the artifacts lying around in this great place.  Did we really just say "lying around?"  Well, in essence they are.  Throughout the Musée Carnavalet the history of Paris is laid out in chronological order, but presented in such a way that you almost feel as though you are living amongst the people of each individual time period.  We especially liked the paintings depicting the housing apartments that used to span the Seine River, and the tumultuous fires that eventually tore them down.


Located in the Marais, the museum was originally a duo of 16th and 17th century mansions that were later turned into a hotel, opened to the public in 1880.  This tremendous museum presents on rotation a collection of over 3,000 engravings, photographs, drawings, paintings and sculptures - plus coins, archeological finds, etc. etc. (A press agent let us know their total collection exceeds 650,000 pieces.)

There is so much to see in this place, we would recommend bringing a French speaking friend along to give you the fast-track of what not to miss.  (If you do not have any local French friends, we can rent you one.)  Anyone into French interiors will have a field day here, trust us!


There are also some beautiful gardens to stroll through to get from one building to another.  Closed on Mondays and holidays, the Musée Carnavalet otherwise is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.   While the permanent exhibition is FREE, the special featured exhibits do require an entrance fee of 8€ (about USD $10).




Musée Carnavalet - 16 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003 Paris,
011 (33) 1 44 59 58 58

http://www.carnavalet.paris.fr



Vedettes du Pont Neuf boat ride on the river Seine

So, are you in a hurry and need to see the cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the exterior of the Louvre all in one day?  Boat rides along the river Seine are a great way to "see" the historic monuments and check them off your list (from afar) - if you are into that sorta thing - all while relaxing and taking some time out from the usual hustle and bustle of travel.  We surmise that most of the companies that run the various boat trips are pretty much the same, give or take a bottle of champagne or a sit-down dinner.  On our May 2010 sojourn, we decided to pick the Vedettes du Pont Neuf outfit as homage to our good friend "Duvet Vedette."  We recommend you decide what type of boat ride you want depending on your mood and then just go for it on the fly.  (In other words, this is not the type pf attraction you should spend a lot of time planning or thinking about.)

After picking up a few Heineken's from the cafe/ bar at the dock, we headed out onto the boat proper.  Since the weather was fairly agreeable we decided to retreat to the back of the boat and enjoy the unobstructed views from reverse, and in relative peace.  (There is audio commentary on this and other tours, played softly over speakers in various languages.  We were having such a good time drinking our beers and checking out the sights that we entirely disengaged from the prerecorded information that was somewhat lacking in humor.)  The only issue with sitting in the back of the boat is that you end up right across from the large exhaust pipes; their carcinogenic fumes can sure sting your eyes after a few minutes!

A trip down the Seine is really something that is pretty difficult to deny.  It's just something everyone should probably do at least once in their lives.  There is something quite relaxing about handing over an hour of your life to a boat ride that begins and ends in the exact same spot, and the tour under the 37 magnificent bridges of the river is also a great way to get yourselves orientated to the city if you are unsure of where you are going.  Tickets cost €12 for adults (about USD $16) and €6 for children.  Departures leave from the Left Bank dock roughly every 30 to 45 minutes, which means that even if you do not plan ahead, it is unlikely that you will have to wait too long for the next boat.

Set of Drifters tip:   As we boarded, it was hinted that it might be best to use the restroom before the boat were to leave the dock.  Be careful and use the railings, as the dock itself was pretty wobbly.  It must also be stated that the bathrooms were not the cleanest.  If you have any aversion to "roughing it," you may want to use the loo elsewhere before boarding the boat.  Oh, and one last thing...  be on the lookout for the lovers smooching on park benches all along the riverbanks.  You could almost play a drinking game with the amount of couples you will see neck-nibblin'.

Set of Drifters video:  For video from this event, check out our YouTube channel!


Bateaux Les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf, Square du Vert Galant, 75001 Paris,
011 (33) 1 46 33 98 38

http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/







Montparnasse (neighborhood)

One thing that many first-timers to Paris don't realize is that there are many different neighborhoods and flavors on offer in the city - just beyond the famed banks of the river Seine.  Montparnasse, on the "Left Bank," is different from all the rest simply for the fact that it is the only neighborhood in Paris to have a skyscraper ("Tour Montparnasse")!  The high-rise was so despised by locals when it was erected in the early 1970's that a moratorium on similar sized buildings was soon put into effect!  (This may be changing these days now that housing and office space in the city is running out at an alarming rate.)


Back in the day, Montparnasse was better known for its roster of creative residents including authors Ernest Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, and artists such as Modigliani, Chagall, and Kandinksy.  (All escaped the neighborhood during the Nazi occupation of Paris.)   In happier times, Montparnasse was also the center for jazz music in France, and even today, visitors will still find a handful of great places to check out live music.  (Yes, Jazz is still le roi here!)

Montparnasse also hosts a variety of hip brasseries alongside some very utilitarian outlets like video shops, hardware stores, etc.   We visited to check out the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain and the Jardin du Luxembourg (see both below).  Of course, if that is not enough, the district just happens to be a stone's throw from the famous Cimetière du Montparnasse (home to the gravesites of musician and artist Serge Gainsbourg (see more below), saucy poet Charles Baudelaire, and Art Deco Surrealist photographer Man Ray!




Montparnasse - accessible via the beastly Gare Montparnasse station in the 14th arrondissement




Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain

Gardens grow on the sides of the glass walls at the the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in Montparnasse!   The museum, yes a patronage from the jewelry magnate, is housed in and edifice that brags an exquisite marriage between architect Jean Nouvel and landscape designer Lothar Baumgarten.  The Cartier Foundation has been going strong since 1984 with its committed support of artists from all nationalities.  Back in May 2010, we visited this extraordinary space to experience the insane "Beat Takeshi Kitano" exhibit. (Takeshi Kitano is a true "Renaissance man" - at times filmmaker and artist, at others comedian and daredevil.)  The exhibit centered on the Japanese artist's colorful paintings and Surrealist sculptures, and included many interactive portions where visitors could create their own Kitano pop masterpiece, the best being a module allowing adults and children alike to decorate pop-art magnets inspired by the music, sound effects or speech of a Kitano movie soundtrack.  (Very nice idea curators!)


Rotating exhibits at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain meander in and out between the building's impressive glass window viewports right out into the garden that faces an enclave for American art students.  If you are looking for an experience that is perhaps a bit more edgy than the normal Paris museum rigmarole, this might be your best bet!   (Oh, and the bookstore is killer!)

The Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain is open Tuesdays from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM and Wednesdays through Sundays from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  (Like most Parisian museums, this spot is closed on Mondays.)  Admission is €8.50 for adults (about USD $12) and FREE for children under 10.  Check the Foundation's website for the current featured exhibit as well as their policies on reduced student rates.


Fondation Cartier pour l'art  contemporain - 261, boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris,
011 (33) 1 42 18 56 50

http://www.fondation.cartier.com/




The Eiffel Tower

When you are visiting a city like Paris, it is virtually impossible to avoid all of the heavily-trafficked "touristy" spots that your "Set of Drifters" often deem as "cheesy."  (Those early '90s "London, Rome, Paris" T-shirts were not embroidered by under-age laborers in Indonesia for no reason.)  Paris is one of the "Top 3" tourist destinations for those making their inaugural cross-Atlantic voyage from America, and its "Eiffel Tower" is such a well known building that the image is synonymous with the city!  In the airport these days, vendors even sell cute souvenirs based on the landmark which say something akin to "I've been here."  The tokens are so simple, yet sum up the experience fairly well.  But let's try to get beyond the cliche, shall we?


Taking a trip up the top of the tower is an experience that really cannot be replicated.  Whether braving chillier temperatures at night and seeing the gorgeous lights that so often describe the city, or queuing up with the minions of tourists who visit during the day, a voyage up the three levels of the Eiffel Tower really is a "Parisian must."  Of course, "La Tour Eiffel" is named after its designer and engineer, Gustave Eiffel.  As the story goes, the structure was built as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair (and what an entrance it is)!  The structure took only two years, two months and five days to construct.  At the time of its construction, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world.  It was not until 1930, and the emergence of the Chrysler Building in New York, that its whopping height of 1,062 feet was trumped.

To get to the top, you must wait in a series of lines; the first of which is not so bad.   After purchasing your ticket from one of the four booths housed in the tower's "legs," you proceed up a slanted elevator to the first level.  (The massive moving lifts are very impressive if I do say so myself!)  From either of the first two levels, spectators can view much of the city as it unrolls out in front of them like a tapestry of tree-lined streets and sun-lit cement masterpieces.  Still, there simply is no equal to seeing the size and grandeur of Paris when one finally gets out onto the deck at the top level of the tower.

Unfortunately, the queue to take the elevator from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor is considerably longer.  (You have to remember that each year, over 7 million visitors brave these lines for a glimpse of this view.)  We believe the experience is certainly worth the wait - especially when there are flutes of pink champagne available to you once you get to the top.  (Who knew?)
  Set if drifters tip:  You can buy lift tickets on-line these days which will at least help you to avoid the queue for buying tickets!

The top level, a full 1,162 feet above the catacombs (see below), also features some folksy museum exhibits describing the architectural prowess of Mnsr. Eiffel, including a hokey "meeting" between a wax figure of the engineer and Thomas Edison!

During tourist season, the wait to get to the top can be over an hour.  Trust us, try to keep yourself busy with friends as you don't want to come all this way to just stop at the 2nd level!  Once you finally get to the top, you will realize why the landmark truly is the "symbol of Paris."


Ticket booths offer access from 9:30 AM to 11:00 PM, with slightly extended hours in the summer.  Passage to the top level is €13,10 for adults (about
USD $18), €11,50 for youths 12-24 and €9,00 for the disabled and people under 12.  There are stairs you ca take as well, but come on... are you kidding me?  Set of Drifters video:  For video from this event, check out our YouTube channel!



La Tour Eiffel - Parc du Champ de Mars, 5, avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, 011 (33) 1 44 11 23 23

http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/




Serge Gainsbourg house/ Paris' public art

One of the highlights from our most recent trip to Paris was a visit to the house of Serge Gainsbourg, arguably one of the biggest icons of French culture of the late 20th Century.  Singer/ Songwriter/ Actor/ Director, Serge represents many of the things that are typically "French."  He was cocky and, at times, lacked taste, but he was always a genius.  Your "Set of Drifters" are huge fans of Serge's music, particularly his partnerships with chanteuses like Brigette Bardot and Jane Birkin, and after reading a biography of his life, we decided to make a pilgrimage to his house to see where the legend had lived, partied, and created some of his best-loved tunes.  Of course, anyone who makes this pilgrimage will realize that they are not alone.   The front of Serge's abode on rue de Verneuil in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris is covered with personal messages to the artist who dies in 1991.


The house is still owned by his daughter, actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. Thankfully, she has allowed the tributes to continue. Covered in colorful, often humorous graffiti, Serge's abode is definitely worth a trip whether you appreciate Gainsbourg's artistic musings or not as it is simply a great example of public urban art.

And speaking of which... Paris is well-known for it's often stunning graffiti that seems to pop out in many "out of the ordinary" places. One such public project that we loved was the "8-bit collection," a street art concept that canvasses Paris and focuses on Atari video game heroes from the 1980's. Mosaic-tiled interpretations of such classic games as Q-Bert, Space Invaders and Pac-Man hide just out of view in plain sight. While visiting next time, be sure to look for the works on corners of buildings, under street signs and on sidewalks throughout the many arrondissements of Paris!

Of course, these two examples are just a sampling of the great street art that you may find while wandering the streets of this always-inspiring artistic mecca!



Serge Gainsbourg's house - 5, rue de Verneuil, 75007 Paris

http://www.parisgraffiti.com/






Place des Vosges

The Place des Vosges is one of the most beautiful squares in all of Paris.  Located in the charming neighborhood of the Marais, the well-manicured mini-park is actually the oldest urban planned square in the city, having been designed by Henry the IV between 1605 and 1612!   With its exquisite red brick homes, the setting makes for a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing or taking in the Parisian "pulse."


Of course, if sitting around is not your cup of tea (and believe us, you can have a cup of tea here if you want), Place des Vosges offers a few hidden gems for you to check out.  Why not visit the Victor Hugo museum located in the Les Misérables and Hunchback of Notre-Dame writer's former home?  (It's free and open Tuesday through Sundays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.)

If you happen to be on the southwest corn
er of the square, be sure to look for the "secret door" that is only open during the daytime.   This is a fabulous way to enter the lovely Hotel de Sully gardens!  Of course, another great way to experience the Place des Vosges is with the Parisian locals, hiding out at any number of cafes that line the square during a mid-afternoon rain sprinkle!

Fellow drifters, this is the true spirit of Paris - elderly ladies chatting on benches next to pigeons while cellists practice behind some random flowering shrub!  Grab a cafe au lait, and soak it all in!



Place des Vosges - accessible via the Saint-Paul Metro station in the Marais, also near the Bastille



Moulin Rouge

On our last visit to Paris in May of 2010 we sure packed a lot in.  There simply would be no rest for the wicked!  Even though we had already muscled through a considerably long day of sight-seeing, by nightfall, your "Set of Drifters" (and friend Honeymink joining us from Brighton) had to turn it around quickly, dolling ourselves up for a night at the "theatre."  (We use the term "theatre" loosely... and when we use the term "loose," we're really talking about the clothing.)  Yes, it was time to hit up the bawdy pleasures of the Pigalle, and a night of true "WTF?" entertainment at the legendary Moulin Rouge!


Purchasing the tickets online ahead of time, we had been told to show up 15 minutes before curtain.  However, once we arrived on the boulecard de Clichy, we were in for quite a shock.  The line to get in was clearly around the block! A sign on the side of the venue boasted the club as "La Machine!"  And yes, you could say that the famed Moulin Rouge is certainly that, chewing up and spitting out the many busloads of tourists for two back-to-back performances each evening.  Even though we stood in line for at least a half an hour, the show would not begin until all of us were dutifully seated.

Once inside, we were somewhat appeased by the rich opulence that one might expect from this historically over-the-top arena.  (The chandelier alone may have been worth the price of admission, and we certainly enjoyed spying the sassabone haunches while queueing into the theater like cows to the slaughterhouse.)  After the show started, it was hard not to keep our eyes off the stage (or the laughter from tumbling out of our lungs).   The Moulin Rouge is like nothing you have ever seen before.   It is said that the current show, "Feerie," is composed of over 1,000 costume pieces - which is weird, since the ladies are mostly nude throughout the two-hour show!  Sadly, cameras are not allowed inside the theater, so we were unable to snap images of the nude woman cavorting with snakes in a pool that rose above the stage, or the ladies wrapped up in what can only be described as bouncy tomatoes made out of ostrich plumes!  And unless you fork over the necessary euros to get inside, you will never be able to witness, the caravan of six miniature ponies that danced on stage alongside female performers wearing clown masks and only one pant leg!  (And don't even get us started with that florescent Scheherazade segment with harnesses - yikes!)

Full of champagne after all the poodles had pranced and all the feathers had flown, Ms. Honeymink figured this may have been the weirdest thing she had ever witnessed.  (For us, that honor may still go to the Simon Cabaret show in Phuket, Thailand.)  Perhaps you won't find Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, or even John Leguizamo here - but the legendary Moulin Rouge will absolutely offer you a spectacle that you just have to see to believe!   It was truly "ooh-la-la" on massive horse steroids!   Our only suggestion to the producers would be that, in these modern times, it's probably best to not wait until the final number to have the hunky men in the cast lose their tops, especially when the females are basically nude by the second lip-synched track!)

There are a number of different ticket options (some including dinner and/ or champagne, but please don't expect any special attention if you go for the higher-priced packages.  Expect to plunk down at least €80 to €150 (roughly USD $115 to $215) for this cabaret experience, but as they say, when in Rome... errr, Paris!

Set of Drifters tip: 
The Feerie show is broken down into at least four segments (only one of which presents the traditional French "can-can").  In between, expect some pretty oddball secondary acts (corny multilingual comedians, magicians with magnets, and potentially homoerotic gymnasts?)   You can chose to go to the bathroom at these times, but we have to admit, these performers were actually very endearing.




Moulin Rouge - 82, boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, 011 (33) 1 53 09 82 82, http://www.moulinrouge.fr/



Les Catacombes de Paris

Does the thought of thousands of skulls and femurs stacked one on top of another make you want to run for the hills?  Do narrow tunnels with wet floors and low-hanging ceilings spook the bejesus out of you?  Well, then perhaps the famed underground ossuary of the Paris Catacombs is not for you.  Make no bones about it though, this macabre attraction has on many tourists' to-do lists for centuries (even Napolean himself visited in 1860), and it certainly was on ours during our recent visit to Paris in May of 2010!


Entering from a nondescript door off the Denfert-Rochereau Square in the 14th arrondissement, visitors are swirled down a hypnotic series of stairs after paying their fare.  The ambiance is immediately set into motion with dark corridors, loose gravel and low lighting.  The first part of the catacomb tunnels actually belong to an old stone mill quarry.   (There are no bones here - at least that you can see!)  It is from these very quarries that early Parisians extracted the plaster used to build the original city (hence the term "plaster of Paris").  Early on, be on the lookout for a charming statue of fortress Port Mahon carved by Décure, a quarryman and veteran of the Louis XV's Army.  Many of the corridors here are blocked off to tourists, with some still undergoing renovations started in 2005.  Still, trespassing "cataphiles" get a rush getting lost in the over 200 km worth of ancient tunnels not opened to the public!  (Try it and get caught?  You're going to prison!)

As you descend further underground, the passageways get tighter and tighter, and the catacombs suddenly get a lot more interesting.  You see, once fully mined, the tunnels of this quarry were then suggested for a more "practical" purpose.  The idea of the catacombs came about as a result of complaints from Parisians about the the unsanitary conditions at the Cimetière des Innocents.   (You can imagine that this parcel of sacred land had eventually become quite a hotbed of infection for local visitors after having been in use for about ten centuries!)   It was decided that the decaying remains of the cemetery would be removed and buried in the tunnels of the old quarry.   The process of emptying out the remains of the Cimetière des Innocents began in April of 1786 with a horse-drawn procession of chanting priests.

Eventually, you will hit a wide open space with old photographs on the wall.  Here, it almost feels as though you have just entered an underground museum, which somewhat makes sense since the catacombs of Paris are part of the Musées de la Ville de Paris that also includes the Musée Carnavalet (see above).  Look for the pillars with black-and-white diamonds, and the sign that reads, "Arrete! C'est ici l'empire de la mort!"  ("Stop!  Here is the Empire of the Dead.")  This is where you are going to want to take a deep breath.  You are about to enter "l'ossuaire municipal" itself, where the skulls, femurs and humeri of over 6 million Parisians are carefully stacked in the most unusual 3-D puzzle you will ever witness.  It's almost like a ghoulish version of those space-saving plastic bags used to store your sweaters during the summer months!

The Pierre Tombale de Françoise Gellain display was perhaps the most disturbing in the whole place because it really allowed you to get more of a three-dimensional scope of the heaps of bones that line the walls.  Still, the strange thing is... it really doesn't feel that spooky down here, despite the somewhat grisly surroundings.  The distance of some 230 years certainly can wipe a slate clean.  (Some of the skulls even feature a polished glow thanks to decades of oily human fingers joyfully fondling them in the dark!)   It was our interpretation that there are no lost souls stuck wandering the tunnels.   The souls once attached to these bones would have never even made it to this location in the first place since the bodies that had previously housed them had already been entombed elsewhere long before.  And in that respect, the bones (which literally make up the pathways of the Paris catacombs) are really just that - having more of an archaeological feel you might experience in a museum.  In other areas, the skulls of the deceased have been arranged in almost an artistic fashion, forming crosses, hearts or even letters.  In the "crypt of the passion," skulls and crossbones are arranged around a pillar, giving the impression of a barrel made entirely of bones!

If you think about it, the Paris catacombs make for a nice juxtaposition against a trip up to the top of the Eiffel Tower (see above).  We recommend this exploration for those looking for something a little more gritty while visiting the "City of Lights."  The catacombs are open Tuesday - Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (with final entrance at 4:00 PM).   Ticket prices at a relatively cheap at €8 for adults (about USD $11).  Children up to the age of 13 are FREE!   (You can also get guided visits at an additional cost but call to book these ahead.)

Set of Drifters tip:   Be on the lookout for the cool inscriptions chiseled into many of the stone walls and cornices, either naming the various avenues of the catacomb labyrinth, or parlaying fitting passages of poetry written in Latin.   We spent a lot of time photographing them.   But the question remains... flash, or no flash?   In cleverly-lit underground tunnels that could potentially house the dead, it's best not to engage the light!  Oh and watch your step; the catacombs are slippery when wet!  Set of Drifters video:  For video from this event, check out our YouTube channel!



Les Catacombes de Paris - 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, 011 (33) 1 43 22 47 63
 
http://www.catacombes.paris.fr



Centre Pompidou

For those of you who are virgins to Paris, one place that might seem out of place, particularly while you are surrounded by classic French architecture, is the Centre Pompidou.  With its ultra-modern design and zany coloring, the edifice looks more akin to Blade Runner's apocalyptic interpretation of Los Angeles!  When it debuted in 1977, the public was certainly not pleased with Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers' hulking primary-colored industrial design.   Now over 30 years old, it appears the Centre Pompidou is here to stay, and very much a part of Paris's cultural offering.

Perhaps surprisingly, the complex houses the largest museum for modern art in all of Europe!  The Centre Pompidou also features a large public library, cinemas, and a center for music and acoustical research.   The latter may have inspired what is possibly the most recognizable aspect of the Centre Pompidou - the fabulous "Igor Stravinsky" themed fountain with scultupres by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle (1983).

Les Halles, a large shopping area, lies right along side the Centre Pompido (which is named after the French President of the same name). Check out the Centre Pompidou's many attractions Wednesday through Monday from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays)








Place Georges Pompidou (at Châtelet Metro station), 75004 Paris,
011 (33) 1 44 78 12 33

http://www.centrepompidou.fr/




Espace Pierre Cardin/ Musée Pierre Cardin

Your "Set of Drifters" are big fans of vintage Pierre Cardin design.  Most people associate the name-brand with either awful luggage or that terrible perfume that you might get spritzed with while passing through a run-of-the-mill department store on your way to the mall parking lot!  For those of you "retro-futurists," you probably know Pierre Cardin from a different angle, and celebrate his avant-garde 1960's and 1970's design aesthetic.

Born in Italy in 1922, Pierre Cardin is actually French and has been given the dubious credit of innovating "Unisex" fashion.  Aside from his cutting-edge space age fashions and furniture design, Cardin has also been involved in the Parisian arts scene for decades.   Espace Pierre Cardin, a venue conveniently located near Place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileres and the Presidential Palace, hosts art openings and concerts.  As passer-by's, we were instantly drawn in by the groovy tribal totems that adorn the building.  Check local listings for current events.

Set of Drifters tip: 
Looking for an in-depth expose of the history of Pierre Cardin's fashion?  We suggest the Musée Pierre Cardin, which hosts a plethora of the designer's groundbreaking clothing and objects "de Cardin."




Espace Pierre Cardin - 1-3, avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris, 011 (33) 1 44 56 02 02, http://www.pierrecardin.com‎

Espace Créatif/ Musée Pierre Cardin - 33, boulevard Victor Hugo, 93400 Saint-Ouen (north of Paris), 011 (33) 1 49 21 08 20,  http://www.pierrecardin.com/art_spectacle_en.php



Église Saint Suplice/ Game of boules at Jardin du Luxembourg

While making a jaunt between the adjacent Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse neighborhoods, we happened across the unassuming, yet stunning basilica of Saint Suplice.  Of course, if you are a fan of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, you may already know about this location.   The current version of St. Suplice church was founded in the mid-1600's.   (No wonder that in the spring of 2010 it was undergoing a much-needed renovation!)  It is here where the symbolic "rose line" makes its way, though the pigeons that hover all around could care less about Holy Grails or keystones.  Your "Set of Drifters" recommend you spend a few moments here gagging at the fashionista ladies as they traipse back and forth to the boutiques of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (see "goodies"), and then head on down rue Férou to the peoples' park, the Jardin du Luxembourg.


It was a Sunday afternoon and you can bet your bottom euro that the gentlemen were playing boules, or pétanque, the French version of Bocce ball (croquet minus the mallet).  Care to join in?  Wait your turn, and ask politely.  (This is the perfect time to attempt to use that limited French you learned on the plane ride over - see "essentials" below!)  The Jardin du Luxembourg also supports an apiary amidst its bounty of spring blossoms, multiple children's play areas and staggering amount of gorgeous copper statues, stone fountains and monuments!  Of course, the locals hanging out in the park may simply just be on the lookout for a sorbet and the latest Parisian gossip!



Église Saint Suplice - 50, rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris,
011 (33) 1 46 33 21 78, http://www.paroisse-saint-sulpice-paris.org

Jardin du Luxembourg - 5, impasse Royer-Collard, 75005 Paris, France, 011 (33) 1 40 46 08 88



Cimetière de Montmartre

It must be mentioned that there are many intriguing cemeteries to visit in Paris - if you are in to that sort of thing, and we typically are.  The most popular (and therefore, the busiest) is the Père Lachaise Cemetery in the Belleville district.  (This is where you can find the graves of Edith Piaf and The Doors' legendary front man Jim Morrison).   While we have not made it there yet, we have sauntered by the Cimetière de Montmartre during a day-trip to the nearby neighborhood which shares the name.   Here, aside from the grave sites of famed creative types like filmmaker François Truffaut and impressionist painter Edgar Degas, visitors will come in contact with some of the most hauntingly beautiful above-ground graveyards this side of New Orleans (natch!)


Entrance to the cemetery is free, and so is the "map," though expect to be somewhat dumbfounded by its lack of veracity.



Cimetière de Montmartre - 20, avenue Rachel, 75018 Paris, 011 (33) 1 53 42 36 30

http://www.montmartre-paris-france.com/