Further afield – Paris

I have mixed feelings about what is many people’s favourite city. Been there three times. At first was ambivalent, then rather liked, but pretty over it by my most recent visit last summer. Found it filthy, and overwhelmingly busy to the detriment of enjoying the place. It is one of the world’s great cities though, home to some impressive sights, mostly best visited first or last thing, taking advantage of online advance ticket buying where possible.

Musee du quai Branly
The highlight of my last visit, this museum is home to a huge collection of non Western art, housed in a very well designed and evocative building close to the Eiffel Tower. A pet project of Jacque Chirac, it is really an Ethological Museum, and one of the best (of many) I’ve been to around the world.

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Arc de Triumph
From the top of it is a good place to watch the sun set…

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Sacré-Cœur
An impressive church, some rather dodgy locals (watch your belongings), and stunning views over the Paris skyline. Makes you appreciate how relatively low-rise Paris is, though pretty much all the buildings are still five or six stories high (huge by New Zealand standards, tiny by New York standards), making it one of the densest cities in the world (18th according to Wikipedia).

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Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
Highlight of my second visit, probably helped by the Star Wars exhibition on at the time, this is the largest science museum in Europe. I particularly liked the 1950s submarine dry docked out back.

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The Lourve
The only thing I really remember from my first visit to Paris as a kid. Obviously a must see but isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience, at least if you try to cover it in one day. Similar issue to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in that there is just so much, set over such a vast area, that it’s a pretty exhausting experience. Feels similar in scale to the British Museum, National Gallery and Tate Britain under one roof, and seemingly busier than all of them combined. Still difficult not to be impressed by the Egyptian and Renaissance collections.

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Musée Picasso
Primarily formed of Picasso’s own collection, acquired in lieu of inheritance tax after his death, this is probably the best single place to fully appreciate his genius. Every decent art gallery (including Auckland Art Gallery, they have eight) will have at least a few Picasso’s but this museum does the best job of covering his entire career, from childhood works through to his reinterpretation of past masters toward the end of his life.

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Musee d’Orsay
The world’s best collection of Impressionist paintings house in an impressive former railway station but again a victim of its own popularity.

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Musee de l’Orangerie
Another good building reuse, turning a home for oranges into a home for Monet’s huge water-lily paintings and all the better for being relatively small, allowing better appreciation of each.

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Les Invalides
The national war museum, complete with a huge tomb for Napoleon.

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Pompidou Centre
Another great art gallery, more contemporary than the others, housed in a classic piece of modern architecture.

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Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
Small but very powerful memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

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Eiffel Tower
Obviously an icon but never actually been up it. Still pretty impressive even from the ground.

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