As I woke up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I focused on the most delightful sight on the ceiling above. Beautifully colored images floated demurely on the mural above my bed. Where am I? For a moment I was slightly bewildered, though fully experiencing the delightful beauty all around me. Having arrived late the night before, I practically collapsed in bed, having no idea of my surroundings. The room, decorated with antique furniture was small but stunning. My suitcase sat unopened on the rack, having my pajamas and toiletries conveniently in my backpack.
I was comfortably ensconced at a room in the Hotel St. Jacques, a small little-known treasure in the heart of the Latin Quarter in Paris. I never had a chance to experience the City of Lights at my leisure, and this was to be my first real exploration trip, with plenty of time to spend at: The Louvre, Musee D&rsquoOrsay, The Eiffel Tower, Montmartre (birth place of artistic innovation and Bohemia). In addition, I was excited to visit the Champs Élysées, Notre Dame (images of Quazi Modo and the gargoyles, how delightful!) and braving the steep climb (300 stairs to the top) of the Sacre Coeur. BTW, for the less athletically inclined, the funicular will give you a fast and comfortable ride. Lastly, I allocated time for some serious exploring the &lsquoPletzel, the Jewish quarter in the fourth arrondissement (neighborhood) located at the Place Saint Paul.
After a quick shower, I slipped into white summer clothes and went down to the reception. The housekeepers gave me boiled eggs and half a block away I stumbled into the most exquisite outdoor fruit and vegetable market, selling produce so fresh it made my mouth water. Equipped with a bottle of cool Evian, I was ready to tackle the Paris of my dreams. My tummy full, sun shining i had to make a decision what to do first. I decided on the Louvre wishing to see The Mona Lisa and the treasury of expressionist art at the magnificent glass building, with it its glass pyramid entrance, built extravagantly inversée and spectacular to behold, creating controversy unlike any other in Paris history.
I happened to go on a day which took me to the entrance in about 5 minutes, no lines or a mob of tourists to fight. One of the most popular museums in the world, the Louvre used to be a royal Palace, housing Napoleon&rsquos courtyard, it attracts millions of visitors each year because of treasured, extraordinary it art collection. I started from bottom to top, visiting the Egyptian artifacts, which included the famous sculpture of the Seated Scribe surrounded by a a huge collection of the best in ancient Egyptian art.
Moving on, I spent a hour staring at The Venus de Milo, armless yet beautiful and Dianna of Versailles, all from the greek and Helenistic periods.The awe inspiring loveliness, being face to face with these Masterpieces, really studying them close, made me giddy with delight. And then I saw the brilliant &ldquoShip of Fools" and some other pieces by Hieronymus Bosch, one of my favorites, the brilliant, imaginative mystic. For what seemed like hours I stood, studying his technique, almost invisible brush strokes and strange figures. Caravaggio, Leonardo de Vinci, Jacques Louis David were next. Raphael’s work mesmerized me with his use of color, Rubens with the curvaceous beauties and Vermeer, with his use of light and shadow. I realized they all drew on mythology as well as the the bible using their contemporaries as models. Finally, the most magical piece of all – the Mona Lisa with her mysterious half smile and perfect execution. The crowd was gathering around it, yet you could get close enough to see the genius of Leonardo de Vinci.
It was afternoon when I managed to wrench myself away, deciding to soak in some Parisian atmosphere. I took the Métro to Champs Elysee, and tried on a dress by the House of Channel. I felt like a fairy princess and was sorry to disappoint the sales staff (who must have thought I’m a potential customer, by the amount attention they heaped on me). The Arc de Triumph was next. Then I was ready to return to my gorgeous room and absorb the miracles of the day.
The following morning, I rushed to Musee d’Orsay and was touched deeply by the multitude of works by Van Gogh. I thought about his tormented life and that he never sold a painting or was exhibited until after his death.There were some pieces by August Renoir, delicate and so very different in temperament from Van Gough. Romantic pastels as opposed to something so deep and emotional, a style that made you want to be there and comfort him.
Next, I indeed climbed the 300 steps and felt very accomplished, though tired with a stitch on my side. Now it was time for the Eiffel tower and the spectacular view of Paris and the Seine, some buildings of such magnificence they took your breath away. I felt hungry for cooked food after 3 days of munching on raw veggies and fruit and was fortunate to find a magnificent Kosher restaurant called Bozen, just around the corner from the Tower.
At night I went to see a ballet performance of the &ldquoLady with Camellias&rdquo at the Opera National du Paris with a happy full tummy (I had Sushi which was incredibly prepared). I sat there mesmerized by the beauty of the Opera house at the Fabourge Saint d&rsquoHonore, and the breathtaking performance of the dancers.
I decided to take advantage of the city’s nearly a 100 kosher restaurants, some of them Michelin quality establishments.
The next day had breakfast at the wonderful L&rsquoInté Cafe, a kosher dairy restaurant, followed by a walk along the Seine&rsquos banks, the Jardin des Toullerie and browsing amazing little shops and boutiques.
After my last night at Hotel St Jaques, I rushed through the Musée Marmottan Monet, packed my bags and headed to the to Pletzel.
I arrived at the rue des Rosiers, or the street of roses, which was called &rsquothe street of the Jews,
The narrow street had Jews working and creating intellectual and artistic prodigies since the 11th century.
Most of the Jewish establishments in Paris are located in the Pletzel. Here you will find shops offering discounts on fashion and beauty products, kosher restaurants, butcher shops and bakeries.
The Pletzel is located on the site of the 13th century ghetto of Paris, known as the Juiverie. The most well known street is the rue des Rosiers, the street of rose trees, once called "the street of the Jews."
In the Pletzel Jewish newspapers, radio and tv networks were established and they reach all French speaking Jews in the country and elsewhere. The plethora of Jewish day schools,community centers and any kind of Kosher ethnic food imaginable is found in this district, located on what once was the site of the 13th century ghetto, the Juiverie.
The French Jewish community is the third largest Jewish community outside of Israel and the fourth largest Jewish community in the world. There are French Jewish newspapers, magazines, and even Jewish radio networks. France has dozens of Jewish day schools and numerous community centers featuring Jewish classes, lectures, clubs and folk dancing. You can get Kosher Pizza in the Jewish section and kosher pastries galore and fresh hot French kosher bread. There are even kosher Chinese restaurants in The Pletzel.
There has always been a Jewish presence in France.From the days of the French Royal Court and Napoleon, members of the Jewish community contributed to the cultural treasury of France and the world at large
Many French Jews have achieved world wide acclaim. Great artists like great Chagall, Pissaro, Soutine, Modigliani Bonheur, and Pascin, contributed to contemporary artistic magnificence, drawing on the special influences of their upbringing.
The Rothchilds had a massive influence on the countries finances, and three Jewish Prime Minister led the helm of the country. This fact is unprecedented anywhere else in the diaspora, making Pierre Mendes -France, leon Blum and Rene Mayer, all Jewish- French an example to other nations. Simone Veil was president of the European Community, and Henri Bergson and ReneCassin were Nobel Prize winners.
It was here at the pretzel where Theodor Herzel wrote his book that motivated jews the world over to create a state which belonged to the Jews, Israel. france was also the first country to grant full citizenship to it&rsquos jewish population. I bid goodbye to this amazing city as I boarded the train which was to take me to Barcelona., where I was going to board the ship I was to board the ship for the Mediterranean Kosherica cruise. Just as a bit on info, I bought a pass with Rail Europe, (150 EU), which was got me to my destination in 6 hrs 20 mins.
It was a trip I&rsquoll never forget, and would advise anyone who can spare the time before taking a kosher cruise to spend a few days in Paris.
Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others. Sarity