Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Visit The "Little Taj Mahal of France"

I learn something new about Paris nearly every day. It is an ever changing, steeped-in-history city.

An historical building in the Parisian suburb of Courbevoie, most recently used as a gardener's "shack", was nearly destroyed and sold in pieces. Fortunately, it was rescued and has now been restored to its former glory. It is referred to as the "Little Taj Mahal of France" but officially it is the Pavillon des Indes (Pavilion of India.)

The Pavilion of India
The Pavillion housed in the Exhibition hall in 1878
This "Pavilion of India" was originally housed in a huge exhibition hall as an attraction during the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1878. It stood where the Eiffel Tower is now.

The future King of England (King Edward VII) wanted to showcase the precious objects and jewels he'd brought back from a trip to India in 1876.
Pavilion of India
The Pavilion of India in the turn of the century neighborhood
Later it was bought and moved to Courbevoie by Prince Stirbey for his step-daughter, artist George Achille-Fould. It was put onto land adjacent to the Castle Becon (now the parc Becon.) He added a brick structure in the back for the artist to use as her workshop.

Now, this historical property has been renovated at a cost of 2.5 million Euros. The pavilion's director, Emanuelle Trief-Touchard explains “It’s a vision that we had of India, of the far-east, at that time. We’ve freely mixed the styles, forms and colour to give an idea of the exoticism at the end of the 19th century.”

The Pavilion of India
The Restored Pavilion of India 
The small building features beautiful carved wood, painted ceiling panels, amazing windows, colonial era paintings, and most noticeably domes covered with 10,000 gold foils. The brick addition once again houses an artist in residence and her works.

If you want to visit this piece of colonial history, you must reserve a place as only 15 people at a time are allowed to tour the building. To do this, call 01 71 05 77 92.

For more information, here is the official page (at the moment): It's in French so you may want to translate it.

You'll find the schedule for visits as well as amazing photos and a video (in French) about the renovation project.

Need more information about planning your trip to Paris, visit ParisMadeSimple.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Scam Free Paris

I love Paris almost more than my kids! OK, not quite that much, but I sure love it enough to go back there as often as possible. The minute I've said my thank you's to the apartment owner or manager and run over to the windows to listen to "my" city, I breath a sigh of relaxed contentment. It's the city that makes me feel, as the expression from French translates, "Comfortable in my own skin." That says a lot.

But it is a big city! And with an average of 70,000,000 visitors each year, there's bound to be people looking to profit from them - and not just from selling cheap souvenirs. Yes, there are people who attempt to make a living by scamming you.

I don't like to think about this side, but most big, bustling cities have the same issue. When I ran across this article yesterday (link below,) I thought it was a "cold sore" on my favorite city that I needed to share.

When I read the article, I realized I had seen some of these tricks, but my strict "city" policy of not speaking to people who approach me (except for directions) kept me un-scammed. Here's a quick summery of some that are used.

1. Sometimes, people approach you with a "petition" to sign. They always seem nice and the cause seems legit, but apparently the long text about the "cause" contains "agreements" that you will pay them a large sum of money - I presume to make them go away.

2. There are people who make a pretty friendship bracelet while you stand and watch them craft it for you. Unfortunately, they make it so tight that it cuts off your circulation and you are extorted to got to the ATM and give them your money to get the blood flowing again.

3. You look down and find a ring and being a good person, pick it up and try to find it's owner. Unfortunately, someone is there to tell you the ring is yours - for a price! They might also try to convince you it's a ring of good fortune.

4. Ooops, did you drop something? There's a sound like you've dropped something and when you look all around to see if you did, you are distracted enough for someone to snatch your wallet.

My advice is always to look as little like a tourist as you can. But this can be hard when you are speaking to your travel mates in your language and while you are awestruck by the monument or site that has just taken your breath away.

I'm thinking that the most likely spots for these people are:
  • Around the Eiffel Tower
  • Around the Arc de Triomphe
  • In the Latin Quarter, especially around Place Saint-Michel
  • On the Parvis de Notre-Dame (the cobbled stone area outside of the cathedral)
  • In front of the Louvre, especially in the Tuilleries Gardens
  • On the steps of Sacre Coeur where people hang out
  • The area around the Pompidou Center
This is in no way a complete list.

Nor is it a reason not to visit those areas.  Simply put off people who approach you - just walk on by, say "Non, merci," keep your attention on your wallet and bags, and enjoy!!

Looking for more advice on how to enjoy this great city? Please visit Paris Made Simple information about planning your perfect Paris Vacation!

Original Huffington Post Article