I Love Touring Paris - The Seventh Arrondissement

The seventh arrondissement is located on the Left Bank of the Seine River. It is home to several major government institutions and some very important tourist attractions. This district occupies about 1.6 square miles (slightly over 4 square kilometers) and has a population of almost 57 thousand people while hosting over 76 thousand jobs.

Some of the best jobs in this arrondissement are in the Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly), the lower house of the French Parliament which consists of 577 elected members known as députés (deputies), each elected to represent a single-member constituency. The official seat of the National Assembly is the Palais Bourbon (Bourbon Palace) on the banks of the Seine River as well as some neighboring buildings.

The Eiffel Tower is perhaps Paris’s best-known landmark, recognized all over the world. This thousand foot (three hundred twenty meter) building, as tall as an eighty-story building, annually attracts over six million paying visitors. Once the tallest structure in the world it is now only the fifth tallest building in France. And yet year in year out more visitors pay to see it than any other monument in the world.

I Love Touring Paris - The Sixth Arrondissement

The sixth arrondissement of central Paris is located on the Left Bank of the Seine River. Its area slightly exceeds a square mile (over 2 square kilometers) with a population of 45,000 and slightly fewer jobs. Like its neighbor the 5th arrondissement, the 6th is often known as the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter) although it's been a long time since many have spoken Latin in either district. Its best-known part is the famous Saint-Germain-des-Pres, which in the years following World War II was the intellectual center of the world; home to philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Later on we'll talk about the district's world-famous cafes that they frequented.

On the subject of intellectuals, this arrondissement is home to l'Academie Francaise (the French Academy), the watchdog over the French language. For what it's worth I'm a strong believer in keeping the French language French and avoiding Franglais. The Academy was founded in 1635 by Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu. It was suppressed by the French Revolution but brought back by Napoleon. The academy is an advisory body with no power to punish the many people and institutions that disrespect the French language. It holds only forty seats, some of which may be vacant waiting for a candidate acceptable to the sitting members. Normally membership is for life but some malfaiteurs (wrong doers) have been expelled; for example, given their association with the collaborationist Vichy regime during World War II.

I Love French Wine and Food - A Red Côtes du Rhône

Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions the Rhône Valley ranks second in acreage. The region extends 125 miles (200 kilometers) along the Rhône River. This region is actually composed of two parts, the north and the south whose wines tend to be quite different. The northern Rhône Valley is quite narrow. The major red grape variety is Syrah, while the major white variety is Viognier. The southern Rhône Valley produces about 95% of the Rhône Valley wines. This is the kingdom of grape blending. For example the famous Châteauneuf-Du-Pape AOC wine may be made from up to thirteen different grape varieties. The better wines are clearly defined as coming from the northern or the southern part of the Rhône valley. We will be reviewing some of these wines in later articles.

The site of Avignon was probably settled by the Celts. It was a flourishing city in the time of the Ancient Romans. But it is best known as the home of seven popes between 1309 and 1377. Who would have thought that when Pope Clement V chose this southern French city for the site of his Papacy, it was ruled by the King of Sicily, albeit through the house of Anjou, in the opposite corner of France? Avignon and the surrounding area remained more or less papal property until the French Revolution. The major tourist site is the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace), which unfortunately is missing many of its original furnishings. But there is a lot more to see including several churches and museums, the beautiful hilltop garden Rocher des Doms (Rock of the Domes), the opera house, the Clocktower Square, and of course the Pont-St.-Bénézet (St.-Bénézet Bridge) made famous by a children’s song Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the Avignon bridge). Parts of this bridge are said to date back to the Twelfth Century. And you’re only a little more than ten miles (less than twenty kilometers) from the village of Châteauneuf-Du-Pape.

I Love Touring Paris - The Fifth Arrondissement

The 5th arrondissement is on the Left Bank of the Seine River in central Paris. It is often known as the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter) although it's been a long time since many have spoken Latin there. Its population is slightly under sixty thousand and the district provides almost fifty thousand jobs. It is fairly small; less than a square mile (about two and a half square kilometers). This is one of the oldest districts in all Paris and offers some attractions dating back to the time of the Romans who never called it the Latin Quarter. The Roman town Lutetia was built in the First Century BC.

The Arenes de Lutece (Lutetia Arena) once held at least fifteen thousand spectators and considerably fewer gladiators. It was built in the First Century AD and included the longest Roman amphitheater. The 135 foot (over 40 meter) long stage hosted plays as well as gladiator fights. There were probably animal cages as well, surely not for the plays. The upper level held the poor, the slaves, and women while the lower level was reserved for the big shots. In case the spectators got bored they had a great view of the Seine River.

The city was sacked in barbarian invasions of the year 280 and some of its stone was removed to build up the defenses. The arena was subsequently transformed into a cemetery, and then filled with the construction of city walls in the early Thirteenth Century. The arena was more or less forgotten; nobody knew where it was but neighborhood kept its name. The arena was rediscovered in the 1860s with the construction of a streetcar depot on the site. The famous Nineteenth Century writer Victor Hugo played a major role in preserving these ruins. The area became a public square in 1896 and is open to the public daily and evenings in the summer.

I Love French Wine and Food - A Burgundy Chardonnay

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Maconnais area of the Burgundy region in eastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Chardonnay.

Among France's eleven wine-growing regions Burgundy (with its neighbor Beaujolais) is fourth in vineyard acreage. Partisans, and they are many, claim that Burgundy is really the number one or number two wine-producing region in France, if not in the world. The wine reviewed below comes from the Maconnais area of southern Burgundy, whose wine production is almost 90% white, almost exclusively Chardonnay. While this area produces three times as much white wine as the other areas of Burgundy, is not very well known.

If you are visiting the Maconnais area, and you really should, make sure to stop by the village of Cluny and its medieval abbey, once the largest church in all Europe. Today the site lies in ruins, as it has been since the French Revolution, but what ruins. This site includes a horse-breeding center which was founded by Napoleon using stone from the abbey. You'll also want to see the Musee Ochier, a Romanesque lapidary museum. Don't forget to tour the town of Autun once called Augustodonum, city of Augustus. The original name refers to Augustus Caesar who modestly described it as "the sister and rival of Rome itself." Avoid disappointment, don't expect Rome II. But do visit Autun's Portes (Archways) and the Theatre Romain, once the largest arena in Gaul (Roman France) with room for 15,000 spectators. Every August (could that be a coincidence?) traditionally costumed locals put on a period piece. Talking about Napoleon, he and his brother studied at the local military academy, where at age nine the future Emperor first learnt French.