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January 2012

Paris Arrondissements Eleven to Twenty

 Best Attractions & Monuments in 11th to 20th Paris Arrondissements

The best way to understand Paris is to learn about the different arrondissements or neighbourhoods that define the city.

Most Parisians refer to an area by its arrondissement, which is also displayed in the last two numbers of the 5 digit Paris postal code. These districts follow a clockwise spiral, starting with the 1st arrondissement north of the Seine River in the heart of the city, down and around ending with the 20th on the eastern outskirts. The Seine divides the city into the Left Bank on the south and the Right Bank on the north.

11th – Bastille

Formerly a working-class neighbourhood and location of the infamous jail, Bastille is now a trendy mix of bars, clubs and art galleries. Place de Bastille, a large, open square, touches three arrondissements, the fourth, eleventh and twelfth. The private Musee Edith Piaf, founded by a group of avid fans, is on Rue Crespin du Gast.

12th – Bois de Vincennes

Home to the ultra-modern Paris Opera House, Opera Bastille, loved and loathed by Parisians. The beautifully lush park Bois de Vincennes is on the south-east border of this district.

13th – Gobelins

This is primarily a residential neighbourhood. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France), designed to resemble four open books, is located here on the banks of the Seine. Stroll along Avenue de Choisy for a taste of Paris’s Chinatown.

14th – Montparnasse

Paris’s only skyscraper, Tour Montparnasse, is a landmark in this mostly residential neighbourhood. The Montparnasse cemetery and Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris anchor the north west and south east corners of this district respectively.

15th Arrondissement – Vaugirard/Grenelle

The north-east corner of this primarily residential arrondissement is appealing close to the Eiffel tower and a pleasant walk along the Seine.

16th – Passy

A more upscale neighbourhood with a lovely river side promenade, this arrondissement hosts a super selection of vintage clothing and accessory shops on Rue de la Pompe. The Palais de Chaillot, the Trocadero, (which offers superb views of the Eiffel Tower across the Seine) and the Museum of Modern Art (located in the Palais de Tokyo) are also here. The spacious Bois de Bologne park on the western edge features glorious gardens and lakes.

17th – Monceau

The seventeenth arrondissement is an upscale bourgeois neighbourhood, with quite good shopping along Avenue des Ternes. Restaurants catering to business travellers surround the Palais des Congres and Le Meridien Etoile Hotel.

18th – Montmartre

The landmark Sacré Coeur Basilica presides over this quaint artsy/touristy neighbourhood in the north of Paris. The Place du Tertre is the bustling main square. The Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali boasts a permanent exhibition of Dali’s art while the Musée de Montmartre features works by local artists. The only remaining vineyard in Paris is also here. Down the hill at Pigalle, the Moulin Rouge is still a draw and remnants of the area’s sleazier past remain.

19th – Chaumont/Belleville

The 19th and 20th arrondissements are sometimes referred to as Belleville, perhaps as the Rue de Belleville, a good location for ethnic food and produce, separates the two areas. A neighbourhood of new immigrants and the not-so-rich.

20th – Pere Lachaise

The famous Pere Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of luminaries like the Door’s Jim Morrison, writer Oscar Wilde and singer Edith Piaf. The statues and monuments of other not-so-famous people also make Pere Lachaise a pleasant place to meander around.

This article was compiled using information from L’indispensable de Paris, an excellent Parisian map book and during numerous trips to Paris. Please note that while some of the descriptive names of the arrondissements may differ, the numbers, locations and boundaries do not.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.

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Paris Arrondissements One to Ten

Best Attractions & Monuments in 1st to10th Paris Arrondissements

 The best way to visit to Paris or in fact, any large city, is to learn about its different neighbourhoods. Paris is divided into 20 districts, or arrondissements and many guidebooks and most Parisians refer to them when describing or discussing an area.

 From the 1st to the 20th arrondissement, these districts follow a clockwise spiral like a snail’s shell. The Seine River divides the city into the Left Bank on the south and the Right Bank on the north. Learn which one is home to haute couture or high finance, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter and the Left Bank.

1st – Louvre

The first is in the heart of Paris and includes the Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum), the Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), Musée de L’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens). The Palais Royale hosts France’s national theatre, the Comédie Française while Place Vendôme is one of the haunts of the wealthy with banks and lavish jewellery and designer boutiques showcasing names like Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Armani, Piaget and Bulgari.

2nd Arrondissement – Bourse

Just north of the first arrondissement, Bourse is the financial district, home to the Paris stock market or Bourse de Paris. The Bibliothèque Nationale is also here.

3rd – Temple

The Marais, Paris’s oldest district, was once the exclusive domain of Orthodox Jews. It is now a predominantly gay area, filled with stylish boutiques, art galleries, lively bars and fun places to eat. The National Archives, the Picasso Museum and Musée Cognaq-Jay are also in the third arrondissement.

4th – Hôtel de Ville

Swirling south of the Marais is the fourth arrondissement, where the Place des Vosges, a beautiful 17th century square is located. This area includes part of Ile-Saint-Louis, the island in the middle of Paris that is home to the Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou is known for its unusual high-tech exterior construction and modern art exhibits.

5th Arrondissement – Panthéon or Latin Quarter

This area became known as the Latin Quarter because the ancient language was once spoken by students attending the Sorbonne University. The fifth arrondissement features cheap places to eat and sleep. Also in the neighbourhood are the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle, (Museum of Natural History) and the Musée National de Moyen Age- Thermes de Cluny.

6th – Luxembourg – St. Germaine

Saint-Germaine-des-Près is a chic left-bank district of galleries, boutiques and cafes. The beautifully lavish Luxembourg Gardens are in this Paris arrondissement as is Musée Delacroix, situated in the artist’s former home and the French mint’s Musée de la Monnaie.

7th – Palais-Bourbon & Tour Eiffel

An elegant, moneyed Parisian neighbourhood where the Eiffel Tower and the large public park Champ de Mars can be found. Also in the seventh arrondissement is the Musée d’Orsay, a renovated railway station that boasts a fine collection of 19th and 20th century art, the best place to see the work of the Impressionists. Sculptures by August Rodin are displayed in the Musée Rodin.

8th Arrondissement – Elysée

HIgh finance and high fashion mingle in the eighth arrondissement. Traffic streams endlessly along the Champs-Elysées and around the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. Avenue Montaigne and Faubourg Saint-Honoré are the streets for haute couture and fine art while shops on Place de Madeleine serve up gourmet delicacies. Musée Jacquemart André hosts a superb collection of art and antiquities in a private mansion.

9th – Opéra

Besides being the home of the Paris Opera house, some of the city’s finest shopping can be found at the elegant department stores Galleries Layfayette and Printemps.

10th – Canal Saint-Martin

This eclectic neighbourhood received a boost in visitors after it appeared in the hit French movie Amelie. A fun artsy area, Canal Saint-Martin is rapidly being gentrified. Meander beside the canals that are still open, or picnic on top of the ones that have been covered. The upscale Musée des Cristalleries de Baccarat (Baccarat Crystal Museum) is in the tenth arrondissement.

 This article was compiled using information from L’indispensable de Paris, an excellent Parisian map book and during numerous trips to Paris. Please note that while some of the descriptive names of the arrondissements may differ, the numbers, locations and boundaries do not.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.

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And the Oscar goes to…me!

Hollywood, California —  I’m holding my first Oscar and I’m uncharacteristically speechless. The little gold man is heavier than he looks, but part of that sensation may be the short wire that secures him to the podium.  I smile radiantly, my partner Rick snaps two photos and I replace the statuette, ready for the next person in line to take his turn.

 It’s pre-Academy Award week in Hollywood and the town is buzzing with construction crews and security guards.  I’ve already tripped over Jay Leno and Sly Stallone, or at least their stars, on the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Blvd.

 Now I’m trying to reach Mann’s Chinese Theatre to gawk at celebrity handprints, footprints and autographs captured in the cement courtyard.  Traffic cones, fencing and temporary metal bleachers block the sidewalk.  We lean over the railing to see Kevin Spacey’s star buried under a thick coil of electrical cables and a crushed Starbucks coffee cup.

 Mike, a tall, gregarious writer/editor is making a few extra bucks as an Oscar security guard.  We tell him we’re visiting from Toronto, and he dishes some L.A.  observations with a smile. Work here is unpredictable and changeable.  Strikes are a common occurrence. Everyone is very insecure. And yet even unknown actors can earn over $750 a day, plus residuals. Mike says he’s looking for a real job, perhaps in software sales, outside of the Hollywood circus.

 He casually directs us to his buddies, who run tours of stars’ homes if we’re into that sort of thing, but we’re not. He points out some celebrity look-alikes ready to pose for a picture with us, if we’re into that sort of thing.  We’re not.  When he mentions we can have our photo taken with a real Oscar, my pulse finally quickens.

 Four flights of stairs bring us to the top of the Hollywood and Highland Center.  In the distance, the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign hovers over a smoggy green hilltop. Erected in 1923, the whitewashed 45 foot tall letters originally spelled Hollywoodland and advertised a new housing suburb. Ironically, this historic site is now threatened by real estate development.  (138 acres around the sign were purchased from Howard Hughes’s estate by a Chicago investment group in 2002. The land is zoned for up to five mega mansions. ) L.A. councillors and residents are outraged but may lose their battle to keep the view unobstructed.  I take a few photos, and hope the Hollywood sign gets its own Hollywood ending.

 After a 15 minute wait in line, we are allowed to enter a darkened foyer.  It’s taken almost four weeks to produce this year’s fifty Oscar statuettes. Sans engraving, they are exhibited inside several glass cases. A display shows how they are created. The base casting of the pewter-like alloy Britannium is electroplated with subsequent layers of copper to prevent corrosion and nickel to improve adhesion. Silver provides additional corrosion resistance as well as a shiny foundation for the 24K gold plating. A top coat of lacquer preserves the finish.

I move from this hushed shrine into a corridor where exuberant fans and screaming paparazzi compete for my attention.  It’s actually a film loop that simulates the red carpet experience but I pause to bask in the adulation.  Rick urges me onward. The long line to hold a real Oscar awaits us. 

We pass the time reading lists of this year’s nominees. The family of five ahead of us pushes their stroller and hyper-active child at a snail’s pace.  Some people are photographed in groups, others singly but at least the line is moving.  A photographer will take pictures of you with your camera if you’re alone or don’t trust your companion to adequately capture your moment of faux fame.

As we edge closer, I notice some people actually kissing the Oscar. Not an L.A. style “air kiss,” but a real, full-lipped wet smack.  What I don’t see is anyone wiping Oscar down after this show of passion.

My moment in the spotlight finally arrives.  I take off my jacket and drop my handbag.  If ever I deserved an Academy Award for outstanding performance, it’s now.  I fearlessly grasp the sticky statuette with gusto.   Smile. Flash. Smile. Flash.  

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my hand wash.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.

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Airplane seating tips for family travel

It’s hard when families are separated on planes, even on short-haul flights. Here are a few tips to help recify the situation:

Check in as early as you can

After seats are assigned and boarding cards are printed, passenger agents are unlikely to ask people to change. They’ll probably suggest that you ask the flight attendants for help. Online check in can help beat the airport crowds.

Swap your good seat for a bad seat

Passengers don’t usually want to give up aisle or bulkhead seats, especially if they’ve paid extra for them. Once onboard, if you can offer someone a better seat or location (front of plane), many will oblige. Remember, no one wants the middle seat.

Think creatively

Not everyone has to sit together in a row. If family members are across the aisle from each other or in the row ahead or behind, that should be close enough to reduce stress levels, especially on short-haul flights.

Ask your flight attendant for help

If people won’t budge, sometimes a crew member may be able to suggest alternatives. Remember that we can’t force anyone to move, but sometimes we can offer small incentives to passengers who help us out.

Sitting apart can be fun

For some kids, being separated from parents isn’t such a bad thing. Older children may enjoy feeling grown-up enough to sit by themselves or with another sibling, especially when Mom and Dad are only a few rows away.

Instant Karma

I once moved a helpful passenger to first class, though there were still empty seats in economy.  This was after 6 other passengers refused to move across the aisle. You can be sure I said “Follow me to First Class,” loudly enough for everyone to hear.

Another time, a cranky businessman was rewarded with a lapful of vomit from a 5 year old who was nervous because his mother was sitting two rows away. The flight was only an hour long but the mother asked politely and the man refused.  What goes around, comes around, even at 36,000 feet.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.

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