Lifestyle ColumnistsNeil McKenty
Into the light of beautiful sites: Paris
by Nancy Snipper
It’s 10 pm and the furthest thing from my mind is darkness. Before me, twenty-thousand stars are twinkling on the Eiffel Tower (thanks to sparkling star-shaped light bulbs.) Dazzling and indomitable, the three-tiered metallic structure is 324 metres high, a luminous beacon of might made graceful. I didn’t attempt its 1,655 steps, but millions have — ever since it was built 107 years ago for the Universal Exhibit. And to think, the writer Guy de Maupassant wanted to have it torn down!
Light continues along the sumptuous Champs Elysées, one of 12 impressive avenues radiating out into a star pattern with the Arc de Triomphe nobly poised above. I loved the gleam of its friezes, but a pair of binoculars would have come in handy to fully appreciate the 17th Century scenes marking Napoleon’s victories. Nearby, the marble and gold of Opera Garnier grabbed my attention.
Going for the gold is easy in Paris; the color dots the horizon at several crowning landmarks. The stunning Pont Alexandre III boasts four golden winged horses striding Corinthian columns. Built in 1897, this bridge connects to Les Invalides. Its five museums are dominated by a dome covered in 550,000 leaves of the precious metal. Under it, the ashes of Napoleon rest in six different coffins, moribund yet a must-see for history buffs. More gold glistens on the triangular top of the obelisk — a gift from King Mohammad Ali in 1831. Called Place de la Concorde, it’s hard to believe that 1000 heads were lopped off here during the French Revolution, including those of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Always present is the Seine’s matrix of 36 bridges bordered by palaces that shed light onto elegant Belle Époque buildings and those of a far older Paris: Notre Dame de Paris and the Louvre — 800 years of history!
Less frequented but far brighter than that of Notre Dame is La Sainte-Chapelle. A blazing kaleidoscope of 15 enormous stained glass windows depicting biblical history greeted me like an explosion of fireworks. A miracle of sorts, these 13th Century windows survived the enormous pillaging of its chapels and walls during the Revolution. Moreover, the Crown of Thorns and a remnant of the Holy Cross are secured here — thanks to Louis IX who paid dearly to obtain the priceless relics. This is the church to see!
I lingered far longer in Sainte-Chapelle than I did in the Louvre, where, picking up a map of the palatial labyrinth, I headed straight for the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Surprisingly, I stood a mere foot away from da Vinci’s masterpiece, and the bedazzling Coronation Crown of Louis XV. I didn’t know they could make diamond rings and pins the size of small boulders, but once you see these jewels, you understand why there was a Revolution.
As for museums, Orsay and Orangerie feature the Impressionists. The Rodin Museum’s serene grounds are as aesthetically pleasing as the 500 Rodin sculptures and paintings housed inside this lovely mansion, where the sculptor once lived. Another favourite was the Guimet - within walking distance from a historical treasure: Hotel de Sévigné, named after the Marquise de Sévigné who died in 1796. Staying in this hotel, I learned that she wrote descriptive letters about life in the aristocracy of the 17th Century. Orphaned, she was raised by her grandmother who founded a convent on the very street of Hotel de Sévigné. Later on, she lived in Les Vosges apartments and a nearby palace, now the city’s history museum.
Her charm resonates in the hotel’s five floors — each named after a particular relative or residence that figured in her life. Her grace is felt in Hotel De Sévigné’s lovely owner, Mme Marie Boileau and her personable staff. I felt as if we were being welcomed by the Marquise herself. Like the palace, the hotel has thirty airy rooms, which embody a slice of life under Louis XIV. Mine had a large desk, and I could well imagine the Marquise writing one of her letters here. My quiet room featured an intimate balcony for superior viewing of surrounding mansions. Part of the Parisian experience is sleeping in a cocoon where history meets comfort. Located near the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, this hotel’s three stars underestimate its quality. Fortunately, the price matches the rating — a treat considering it’s positioned in the most exclusive area of Paris where palaces are as common as the light is brilliant. Air Transat flies you into la Ville des Lumières.
Autumn in Vermont
Planning a trip for Fall? Why not consider Vermont. Within driving distance, this US neighbor offers beautiful scenery, family events and activities, intriguing exhibitions and top-notch music and performance art. The following is just a selection of the many happenings that make Vermont a wonderful vacation destination in the autumn.
October 14, Palettes of Vermont Auction & Artists' Reception offers food, merriment, and the chance to meet artists and purchase some original art. This event features some of the area's finest artists and most promising students, who have donated their work to be auctioned off. Proceeds benefit Pentangle's educational and community-oriented arts initiatives. The reception is 5:30 – 8 pm at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock. Info: 802-457-3981 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manchester Music Festival's resident Manchester Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ariel Rudiakov, welcomes 2005 Van Cliburn Piano Competition Finalist Davide Cabassi in concerti by Bach and Mozart October 15 at 3 pm. The MCO will also perform Vittorio Giannini's Concerto Grosso and Tchaikowsky's Serenade for Strings, Op.48. The concert is at the Riley Center for the Arts in Manchester. Admission is $25. Info: 1-800-639-5868 or log on to: http://manchestermusicfestival.org.
The Pumpkin & Apple Celebration at the Billings Farm & Museum October 14 and 15 features hands-on activities and educational programs. The event offers apple and pumpkin displays, apple tasting, trivia contests, cider pressing, pruning and grafting demonstrations, an apple scavenger hunt, pumpkin races, horse-drawn wagon rides and cooking with apples and pumpkins. Admission is $3 to $10.
The farm is also hosting A Family Halloween October 29. This safe and wholesome celebration, designed especially for young children, features pumpkin carving, historic games, Halloween tales, horse-drawn wagon rides and costume parades around the farm. Children in costume accompanied by an adult admitted free. The Billings Farm & Museum is located 1/2 mile north of the village of Woodstock. Info: 802-457-2355 or log on to: www.billingsfarm.org.
As part of their 2006-2007 Masterworks series, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra performs works by Haydn, Beethoven and Shostakovich 8 pm October 21 at the Flynn Theater in Burlington. Info: 1-800-VSO-9293 ext. 10 or log on to: http://www.vso.org.
October 22, Sean Redrow of Boston Conservatory gives an organ recital on Woodstock’s famous Thayer organ, 7:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church inWoodstock. Info: 802-457-3981 or log on to: http://www.pentanglearts.org.
One of the best-known Lakota Hoop dancers and Northern Plains flute players in the world, Kevin Locke and his Native Dance Ensemble perform The Spirit of Music and Dance 7 pm, October 23 at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. Info: 802-457-3981 or email: email@example.com.
The Frog Bride, an adaptation of the classic Russian fairy tale The Frog Princess at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre November 17 traces the journey of a dreamy youth into manhood, and is set to the music of Prokofiev, plus jazzy new composition and animated close-up projections of works by Russian painter Kandinsky. The show is at 7 pm and admission is $15. Info: 802-457-3981 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until November 1, the Associated Press brings together some of its most famous photographs of WWII in Memories of World War II, a collection of 121 photos ranging from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor to the triumphant American-British march through liberated Paris. The exhibit is on at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. Info: 802-362-1405 or log on to: svac.org.
The exhibition Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur provides a lavish look inside the art and culture of Sumeria, the world's first civilization. Showcased are nearly 200 ancient treasures—magnificent jewels, weapons, stunning art objects and other everyday The free exhibition is on till December 10 at the Middlebury College Museum of art in Middlebury. Email: email@example.com or visit
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