the parisians refuse to have their love of life taken away.
A stroll through the streets of Paris is like a rendezvous with the past and the future. The city’s history is also part of the country’s history. It began 40,000 years ago when the first people settled down at the banks of the river Seine. The Latin inscription on the red-and-blue coat of arms hints at the powerful mariner and merchant guilds that dominated the trade and carriage of goods even under Roman rule. “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (“Tossed but not sunk”) remains the city’s motto to this day. Since last November’s terror attacks, this motto is more topical than ever. The Parisians refuse to have their love of life taken away – their love of the nightlife, of their culinary land of plenty and their adoration for their city in any season of year.
In recent years, spectacular architectural projects have reshaped the cityscape without replacing the old, the traditional face of Paris. The city can rightfully pride itself in revealing at least one architectural stunner per year. One of them is the new Philharmonie de Paris, which came with a 380 million euro price tag and is located in the Cité de la musique. Popular tourist attractions include the newly refurbished Picasso Museum and the Fondation Louis Vuitton by American star architect Frank O. Gehry. The “glass cloud”, as Gehry describes his creation, is constructed of steel, timber and glass; its completion took eight years. Currently a private museum, it will be gifted to the city after 50 years.
Another architectural novelty was inaugurated only a couple of weeks ago by Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo: the Canopé des Halles is a massive roof over what was once Europe’s biggest construction site on the old market halls square, also known as the “Belly of Paris” as coined by author Emile Zola. A number of public and private institutions join the ranks of interesting renovations: the Museums Picasso, Rodin and Zadkine, the Palais de Tokyo, the Grand Palais, the Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design and the Monnaie de Paris, the old mint on the left bank of the Seine – not forgetting the new luxury hotels such as the Peninsula, the Shangri-La and La Réserve. None of these masterpieces, however, come close to the popularity of the iconic Eiffel Tower or the Notre-Dame Cathedral, this Gothic jewel that, to this day, remains the city’s most visited monument.
Art and Cuisine
Lovers of contemporary art appreciate Paris’ unmatched pluralism of artistic expression, ranging from new galleries, important art salons and exhibitions to wonderful retrospectives of the great masters in the national museums. Still, good food is without a doubt the Parisians’ deepest passion. In addition to starred chefs in their gourmet temples, traditional bistros are currently experiencing a new popularity, while young inventive chefs surprise with novel creations. Every quarter has their own market, radiating Mediterranean flair, where, after the long years of the “bread-makes-you-fat” mentality, people are queuing up again to buy their beloved crunchy baguette. The terraces of the myriad of cafés are crowded with residents and tourists alike. This is the quintessence of “savoir vivre”, the art of living. When in 1964 Ernest Hemingway’s autobiographic novel about his life in 1920s Paris was posthumously published in 1964, it was given a most fitting title: “A Moveable Feast”.
Five questions for Stéphane Lissner, Director of the Paris Opera
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