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City of light, city of love, unsightly city, invisible city---Paris somehow manages to do it all. From alleys that shelter the world's best bistros to broad avenues flaunting the highest of haute couture, from the old stone of Notre Dame's gargoyles to the futuristic motions of the Parc de la Villette, from the relics of the first millennium to the celebration of the second, Paris presents itself as both a harbor of tradition and a place of impulse. You can't conquer Paris, old or new, in one week or in thirty years---you can get acquainted in a day, though, and in a week, you may find you're old friends.

Food and Film Noir
Follow the mist from the Seine that drifts into the city just before dawn, clinging to bridges and lampposts---start early to capture Paris at its famed black-and-white best. Begin your day with a visit to the neighborhood bakery that spins out warm, flaky treats each morning, and enjoy these tasty delicacies all day, or lunch on a sandwich of apples, brie, and sweet walnuts at the zoo in the Jardin des Plantes. Spend a rainy afternoon (you're sure to have at least one) taking tea in a salon de thé and then while away the evening in a piano bar, sipping a whiskey and listening to Piaf impersonators. Or, you might try lunch at a bistro---you won't be disappointed; beautifully trimmed with brass, these neighborhood locales serve up well-sauced plats and fine red wines. Paris will still be there waiting for you after your meal. Europe's capital of culture, the city has more movie theaters and film festivals than any other on earth.

Love, Gilt, and Revolution
The soul of Paris is rooted in a 2000-year history filled with controversy, revolution, passion, and another revolution. You couldn't ignore the past here if you tried. Monuments seem to grace each and every place, and Roman ruins mark the heart of today's Quartier Latin. Perhaps it's time to hit the hall of mirrors at Versailles if there's not enough of you to go around. Or, if history's not your bent, enjoy Paris as the shopping mecca that it is today. For those who feel the need to repent their capitalist cravings, Paris is full of churches and cathedrals where you can do penance. But perhaps the best cure for one too many hours at Galeries Lafayette is an afternoon in the green of one of the city's many parks.

The Louvre, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Musée d'Orsay display some of the most inspiring and well-known artwork in the world ---but depending on your mood, culture could just as well be hidden in an independent gallery, an air-conditioned movie theatre on the Champs-Elysées, or in a portrait painter in Montmartre's pl. du Tertre. No matter where you stroll, you will be following in the footsteps of someone who came to Paris in search of inspiration. A generation of hungry intellectuals was lured to Paris by the call of academic and artistic freedom (not to mention warm croissants) during and after World War II, and under the influence of potent espresso, and even more potent red wine, they set the dramatic tone for the artistic community that prevails in Parisian cafés today.

Trip to the Future
An afternoon among the high-rises of La Défense or high noon at the Centre Pompidou's famous fountain are both ways to jet into Paris's 21st-century future. Paris's forward-looking tendencies are embodied in its architecture. Parc de la Villette is a postmodern express train to the year 2500 (and a park, too). Other revamped institutions like the Opéra Bastille and the Institut du Monde Arabe de Paris prove that Paris has her eye on the cultural horizon. But you should not have to look far to behold the new---from Paris's now-bustling multicultural communities, to the city's break-neck circulation (traffic) and the beautiful bodies gyrating in the discothèques, Paris is undoubtedly the fastest city this side of the channel.


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