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Best Parts of PARIS

24 October 2007

Pic : http://www.10best.com

Paris, the fabled city of light – inextricably linked to Toulouse-Lautrec, Victor Hugo, and Edith Piaf – revels in its perception as the cradle of sophistication. As such, leisurely, measured meals are a tangible metaphor for the French approach to life: dedication to, and appreciation of, good, authentic pleasures. Such recurring instability was settled most recently when the country made the lengthy, tortured transition from monarchy to democratic republic.
Tourism ranks as the largest industry, followed by banking, business, government, and publishing. The city sits in a hollow depression, ringed by hills and traversed east to west by the River Seine, which divides Paris into the northern Rive Droite (Right Bank) and southern Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Through much of it, struggles between the rich and poor roiled, sometimes below the surface, sometimes in flagrant conflict.

Dining, in fact, is more than just consumption. It's this focus on sensual delight that travelers often find most striking in Paris – and most enviable. Skirting politics (which can be difficult in this opinionated city), Paris prides itself as the French locus of trade and style. Within the city, family-run enterprises produce luxury goods, while farther out, manufacture of machinery, chemicals, and electronics is common. The specter of high-brow edge, however, is ground down by Montmartre and la Rive Gauche, which temper luxury with bohemian ambience. But lest the city be seen primarily as flash, spectacle partners with substance in its world-class restaurants. But this dreamy image only hints at the city's riches. Not only do these, as a whole, sustain the city's growth, but they showcase it as a center of taste, fashion, and productivity.

The city, it's said, gets seated in the blood, forever transforming visitors with a beckon from the past and a seduction of the present. From that point on, the city's history becomes a convoluted affair, peopled by the Hundred Years War, Louis XIV, the 1789 Revolution, Napoleon, two World Wars, and Francois Mitterrand. In 486, the Franks took control, and Paris was Christianized. it's a daily event characterized by great food, drink, conversation, and socializing. Even so, the push towards globalization now brings challenging new issues: identity versus inclusion and independence versus unity.

In short, Paris virtually sings with a welcome, easy grace, a world capital enticed into urbanity itself. Refinement also makes a home in Paris, infusing each café and square with Continental charm. Mere mention of it evokes romantic strolls along the Seine, crusty baguettes shared in quaint cafes, plaintive accordion strains, intimate brasseries, and soulful croonings by sultry chanteuses. French cuisine reigns supreme, whether it's rendered sublime in breathtakingly ornate venues or served simply and without fanfare in casual cafés. Residents often prove disarmingly helpful to well-intentioned tourists.

For three centuries afterwards, it functioned as a Roman outpost, and its status as a trade center made great strides. And while baguette crumbs can be dusted away and wine stains fade with time, the allure of the City of Light haunts those who've made her acquaintance, hanging in the air like distant music or lingering like fog along the Seine.

In the midst of the river is the city's original birthplace, the Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame now stands. Landmarks run rampant in this haven of culture and of cool: among them, la Tour Eiffel, le Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame, and la Sorbonne. Paris – known then as Lutèce – first came to prominence when it was conquered by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. Moreover, the French reputation for disdain and snobbery reads as greatly exaggerated.

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