The elements of style: a traveler's guide to the pleasures of Paris
An American in Paris -- it still has some of the old ring to it. Going to Paris does something to residents of the New World. Even if you aren't normally chic, or a lover of food and the arts, Paris will inspire you. Stylishness -- fussiness, even -- is a virtue there, which is why the food is wonderful, everyone looks elegant, and the city is gorgeous everywhere you look.Skip to next paragraph
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This brings me to my first suggestion for enjoying your stay in Paris: pack your best clothes. Walking up the Champs 'Elys'ees clad in something drip-dry will not make you feel a part of things. You don't need much variety; do what the French do, and wear the same fabulous outfit every day. Timing can help
More than 1.9 million Americans visited France last year -- a 27 percent increase over '83, which was also a record-breaker. Still, ``you can count on August being a slow month in Paris,'' says Nora Brossard of the French Government Tourist Office in New York. The tourists may be there in droves in July and August, but so many Parisians are gone that the hotels and museums are less crowded than usual. (Many small restaurants, on the other hand, tend to be closed, and the city seems less lively.)
September and October are usually beautiful months, weatherwise. The places no one should miss
Most first-time visitors to Paris make a beeline for the delightful Mus'ee Jeu de Paume. And, of course, you won't feel you've been to Paris unless you have a hot chocolate in the Eiffel Tower, and perhaps another in the Place du Tertre in Monmartre.
But my favorite places are the ^Ile de la Cit'e, where the gorgeous Notre Dame Cathedral is located (the Caf'e Notre Dame opposite offers a good view of it); the ^Ile St. Louis (stop at Bertillon's for the best sherbet in the world); the Mus'ee Cluny (home of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries as well as a copy of Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berri); and the student quarter (for crepes and pommes frites to eat as you walk).
St. Chapelle, the Place des Vosges, and the Rodin museum should be saved for very sunny days. Savvy museum-going
One problem tourists have is coping with the Louvre. You won't just fall over the Mona Lisa; it took me six visits to find it without asking. Unless you have lots of time for repeat visits, you might want to take an English-language tour. These are offered every day except Sundays and Tuesdays, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ask at the information desk.
When I go to Paris, the first thing I want to know is: What's at the Grand Palais? This is a museum featuring special exhibits, and it's right off the Champs 'Elys'ees. This year, through April 22, there's a show of Impressionist landscape paintings. Beginning May 15, there will be what was described to me as a ``very important'' Renoir exhibit (through Sept. 2).
These exhibits are popular; go early in the morning. Remember, all major museums are closed on Tuesdays. The fashion houses
The Paris collections are shown in the first week of January and the last week of July. For some weeks after, many of the 25 or 30 fashion houses have video presentations you can watch. (Your hotel concierge might help arrange this for you.)
Christian Dior is at 30, Avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement (telephone 723-54-44). There a film is presented at 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, from the beginning of August to Nov. 16 and from the end of January to May 15.
Yves Saint-Laurent, at 5, Avenue Marceau, (telephone 723-72-71) offers a video every day in September and February. Balmain, at 44, rue Franois-1er (telephone 720-35-34) offers a fashion show every day for a month and a half after the collections. Chanel, at 31, rue Cambon (telephone 261-54-55), has a show every Tuesday and Thursday at 3.30 p.m. from Sept. 1 to mid-November and from the beginning of February to May. Chanel never shows to more than 10 people at a time; reservations must be made two weeks in advance. Tips for the serious shopper