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July 12, 2014 By Andy Ross

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Paris

Paris is, well, Paris. There is nowhere else quite like it.

We spent a long weekend in the City of Light marvelling at the architecture (how is this for Art Nouveau right? An iron, glass and brick building in Rue Reamur.) , drinking coffee and eating fantastic cakes including frozen eclairs (left). But it is was the art we went to see and armed with water - it was 26 degrees when we arrived - we took off into the city to see what we could find.

The new displays in the Natural History Museum are amazing. With a flair for the artistic, mounted animal specimens march through the Great Hall of Evolution and swim through the display cases. Whale skeletons dive between floors and monkeys climb up  iron frames. Whatever you think of taxidermy, these long-dead specimens have been put to a new use and are much loved by the Parisian schools judging by the numbers of young people sitting enraptured by the displays while being talked to by lecturers and teachers.

A short stroll away from where we stayed are the passages (right) that lead down to the Seine. Beautiful glass-covered and shop-lined, the passages are fun places for shopping for pictures and books. Needless to say we bought a book for the studio library Textiles - the Whole Story from here.

Our next adventure was to the newest of Paris' museums - Musée du quai Branly - the anthropology museum. As befits a museum dedicated to the study of the peoples of the world there were exhbitions of the Plains Indians from the USA with amazing beadwork and pictures drawn on skins, as well as a temporary show of 1950's nostalgia which looked at the rise of the Pacific themed bars and hotels in the US; escapism from the demands of business and the stress of modern living for Americans. The Museum hovers above a lush green planting of garden and the main body of the building houses articles from each area of the world, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. Each area has exquisite and powerful pieces displayed sensitively, my favourites being a half-man, half-fish statue from the Dahomey people in present-day Benin, and a funeral statue (pictured left). 

Of course, it being Paris, we walked everywhere so it was a great relief to be able to walk across the river to Palais de Tokyo to see more art in the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. Thanks to the wonders of the internet we can now relive the favourites through the museum's website which has some of the collection catalogued and more being added as rights are negotiated.

Fleamarkets called. A day spent in one of them was great fun and we saw many beautiful (and some not so beautiful) things that we could have happpily spent money on. The French tapestries from the 1950's, 60's and 70's were favourites and this massive embroidery of circus performers is still calling my name. Perhaps one day...

No visit to Paris would be complete without romance. A birthday present for me was a trip along the river under the bridges, past a fantastically glowing Eiffel Tower and drifting alongside futuristic buildings looking like something out of Thunderbirds. Paris must surely be the most romantic city in the world.

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