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Paris 2024: The real Race is on – for NEW Sightseeing!

While Paris is enveloped in new sporting spaces for the Olympics,

the continuing race for even more great cultural sites picks up momentum. Next year the Paris Olympics will be a thing of the past. But the new great cultural sites, specifically opening for the Olympic year, are here to stay. And there are many in the running.


The 21st century has expanded one of Paris’ great parks, the Bois de Boulogne, not in acreage, but in attractions starting with the addition of Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation in 2014 – more than just a “foundation” – a museum, deluxe restaurant and great site unto itself paving the way for its Olympic year Bois de Boulogne neighbors.


A must-see attraction in the Bois de Boulogne is a chateau most renowned for two people who never lived there – Marie Antoinette and the brother of her ill-fated husband, Louis XVI. I’ll make a bet that you’ve never visited the chateau that actually resulted from a bet – the bet Marie Antoinette made with Louis XVI’s brother, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X , that a chateau could be built in 100 days. Besides later losing her head, Marie Antoinette also lost that bet. It was built in just 63 days.


As long as I can remember, the Chateau de Bagatelle was so petite you could almost bag it – “Bagatelle it.” In September for the first time since the 19th century you will be able to visit the interior. (Strange coincidence – New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art just reopened its European Paintings galleries and for the first time, you can see Hubert Robert’s six panels he painted for the interior of the Chateau de Bagatelle together at last.) I can’t wait to travel from the Chateau de Bagatelle’s beautiful gardens to its front door – and then through it to the other side – the interior. In the past 100 years, the Chateau de Bagatelle has come full circle – it served as the setting for an equestrian event for the Paris Summer Olympics of 1924.


While we’re in the Bois de Boulogne – let’s visit yet another new site opening this year, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – home in exile of the former British monarch King Edward VIII, who gave up his throne for the woman he loved – Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Soon, for the first time you’ll be able to visit the many “thrones” of the Duke and Duchess – the “thrones” in the many bathrooms in their Bois home. Fans of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, when you tour the Loire Valley, you can also visit the chateau where they were married, the Chateau de Cande. Maison Windsor opens in the Fall 2024. Besides having a British connection, the Maison Windsor also has a French connection After the Liberation of Paris during WWII Charles de Gaulle lived in the Maison Windsor


Speaking of Charles de Gaulle, my first visit with my parents to Paris was when, believe it or not, Charles de Gaulle lived somewhere else – the Elysees Palace — and I lived at home with my parents while attending grade school. Then my favorite museum was the Musee National de la Marine – (National Marine Museum in the Palais Chaillot) with the history of ships. That was when I enjoyed water sports for racing – not water sports that were racy. The Musee National de la Marine was the first major site to open even before this year’s Olympic Seine races. (It reopened last November after years of being closed for renovation.)


While I studied in Paris years later, I really didn’t get to know it as well as I do now until I read just one book years ago, a book written by Rachel Kaplan, who’s lived in Paris for 30 years. “Little Known Museums in and Around Paris” published by Harry N. Abrams. The only thing better than knowing Paris by reading Rachel’s books is taking one of her terrific tours as have Gerald and Betty Ford to Larry David. Since you can’t do that while reading my travel column, for the first time in almost 14 years the rest of this column will be supplemented by the one and only Rachel Kaplan, who is my own personal France sightseeing expert since the French Tourist Office, Atout France, is busy with three world-class events occurring during the first half of 2024 – The Olympics, the 80th Anniversary of D-Day and the 150th Anniversary of the first Impressionist Exhibition. For years Atout France has been directing me to great sites all over France. (Even though they’re the BEST, I fear that if I bother them with this column now, they may really tell me where I can go!)


Since we left off with the 150th Anniversary of the first Impressionist Exhibition, let’s visit the special exhibition in its honor this year in the world’s largest home of Impressionists – the magnificent Musee d’Orsay. While the special exhibition “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism” (now through July 14t) deals with art from the 19th century, its presentation includes 21st-century technology — virtual reality.


If you’ve ever wondered what became of Versailles after the French Revolution until the time of Philippe d’Orleans’ reopening of Versailles as the Museum of the History of France — a new Versailles exhibition covers it. The exhibition revolves around Napoléon’s ambitions, not in conquest, but in interior decorating. This exhibition, “Imperial Silks at Versailles” doesn’t roll out the royal carpet for Napoleon, it rolls out 50 miles of Lyon silk that Napoleon commissioned for redecorating Versailles — he had not been defeated at Waterloo (closing June 23).
Even though I was part of the 25th-anniversary celebration last year at Versailles for The American Friends of Versailles, I would have never known about that Napoleon exhibit until Rachel told me about it along with another new Versailles exhibition. The other exhibition, coinciding with the Olympics’ equestrian is “Majestic Horses at the Heart of Civilization” (July 2-November 3) highlighting the role of horses in civil and military society from the 16th century until the end of WWI. (And if you really like horses, a must see is “The Living Horse Museum” in Chateau de Chantilly’s spectacularly grand, palatial Imperial Stables.)


Before 2004 if you wanted to see paintings by Delacroix at the Louvre, you could visit my favorite Delacroix painting, his Portrait of Chopin. (And if you want to visit a place where Chopin and Delacroix both frequently visited, then you must visit yet another seldom-visited Loire Valley site, the home of the great female French author George Sand’s home, Nohant.)
However. the most famous Delacroix in the Louvre, and the entire world is, the gigantic painting “Liberty Leading the People,” which inspired Frederic Bartholdi’s famous “Liberty” – our Statue of Liberty.


Let’s visit a branch of the Louvre, the great Delacroix Museum in Delacroix’s recently renovated former studio and home which recently reopened with the exhibit “Delacroix and Ingres.” Ingres was the great portrait painter whose paintings of his subjects almost mimic photographs (if the female subjects really had knuckle-less hands.) No one painted fabrics more realistically than Ingres. (I wonder if Ingres painted any of Napoleon’s Lyons silk on display this year at Versailles?)


The Delacroix Museum, The Picasso Museum and the Gustave Moreau Museum are just three of the Paris’ great artist museums. There’s also another great artist museum near the Luxembourg Gardens, the Zadkine Museum which is representative of yet another category of Paris as an art capital —the center of another category of world-class artists – great Jewish artists. Besides Zadkine, many Jewish artists called Paris home, Modigliani, Soutine, Lipchitz and Chagall. And, thanks to Rachel Kaplan I discovered yet another artist who’s not only Jewish, but is also a woman, Chana Orloff, whose home and studio in the Villa Seurat can be visited by appointment – with, of all people, Chana’s grandson.


Even though I interned, created and led tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (including my current, “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That Met Museum Tour”), my other favorite museum in New York is the Frick. If you’ve been a long-time reader of this column, you’ll probably recall my column “The Fricks of the World.” The greatest compliment you can give a mansion/palace museum is calling it the “Frick of _______ .” (fill in the blank with your favorite city). (The latest was just this past January’s column, “The Sky’s the Limit – ChicGO!” with The Diehaus Museum, “The Frick of Chicago,)


“The Frick of Paris” — The Jacquemart Andre Museum – is one of my favorite museums, not just in Paris, but in the world. And the Jacquemart Andre Museum, just got even better after having been closed for extensive renovation, reopening in September with a special exhibition from the Palazzo Borghese (a “Frick of Rome”). Besides having its own fantastic painting collection from Rembrandt to Gainsborough, it also started a 21st-century trend back in 1913 – museum restaurants. While having a great tea is usually a British experience. Having my favorite tea has become my tradition in the elegant Jacquemart Andre Tearoom – an event to remember. Yes, you haven’t seen the best of Paris unless you visit the new. improved and reopening soon, Jacquemart Andre Museum – “The Frick of Paris Museums.” And if you don’t visit the newly renovated “Frick of Paris” – you’re “Fricking missing a lot!” . , , , ,


(And for France trips of a lifetime. Here’s Rachel Kaplan’s Website: https//frenchlinks.com)

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