Whenever I travel anywhere I look for things to do that might be not be obvious additions to any itinerary. You will not find any of these events on the “Top 10 things to do in Paris” lists, but I contend that these kinds of things should be on the list if you really want to experience this wonderful city. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about some of those events I have attended that have really added to this adventure. “Ici C’est Paris” or “This Is Paris” is the battle cry of the Paris St Germain Soccer team and a fitting title for this post.
One of the first things I did when I arrived in Paris was to head for the Foire De Chatou or the Chatou Antiques Fair. It is a twice annual event that covers 12 days in mid March and again in late September. It is held on an island in the Seine in Chatou only a 20 minute train ride from central Paris. I have known about this fair for a while, but this is the first time I have been in Paris when it was happening and I was not about to miss it. This was the 92nd version of this fair that brings together 700 antique dealers in one place and that in itself would always be entertaining, but the hidden treasure in this fair is the food. When you get hungry don’t bother looking for a corn dog or some nachos, but if you are craving a Fois Gras sandwich and a dozen oysters you won’t have to look far and the cured ham and sausages from Corsica and Lyons and cheese from Savoy are abundant and everywhere you look there is Champagne and wine.
The most interesting thing to me about this place has nothing to do with antiques or food. This little island in Chatou was a favorite hangout and painting site of the impressionist and a couple hundred yards from the fair you will find the Fournaise House and Restaurant. In the late 1870’s this was a hangout for writers like Maupassant and artists like Renoir out from Paris. This is where Renoir painted his masterpiece, “Luncheon of the Boating Party” on the riverside deck of the Fournaise House. I took the photo of the 51″ x 68″ painting shown below where you can see it at the Phillips Museum in Washington, DC.
A friend once told me if I ever had a chance to see a performance at the old Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier, I should do it. I went on my last trip to Paris and was moved by “The Italian Woman in Algiers”, a comic opera by Rossini and I decided to do it again. There was a unique performance of Iolanta/The Nutcracker playing and I got a ticket. The facility and the performance did not disappoint. Most Opera’s and Ballets in Paris these days are held in the new Opera Bastille. That is not a bad thing, but the Palais Garnier with it’s old 1875 domed ceiling painted over (on panels) in 1964 by Marc Chagall is unforgettable and I would highly recommend you check to see if something is playing there when your in town. If not a tour of the building is worthwhile. Be sure the performance is in the main hall and be forewarned tickets are not cheap, but worth every penny.
Many of my friends know that I am a big soccer/European football fan. I played the sport until I was 42 and only quit when some young punk slid into me and severely broke my ankle and I still follow it closely. One of the best teams in the world is Paris Saint Germain or PSG as it is known and I was excited to discover that they would be playing a home game against rival Nice in the Parc des Princes stadium while I was in Paris and I quickly got on line and got a ticket. The star player for PSG is the Swedish National team’s captain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Go ahead, you can say it. It is pronounced just like it looks.) and he is on anybody’s top 10 list of the best players in the world. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi from Argentina and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Rinaldo from Portugal have been fighting back and forth for number one for a few years. I have always found it interesting that the United States is the only country in the world where the average sports fan cannot name most of the players on this top 10 list, but TV coverage is starting to change that. It was an exciting night as PSG won 4-1 and Zlatan did not disappoint by scoring three of the four goals.
Ici C’est Paris!