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Honeymoon in Paris. ``It's too obvious,'' said the bride-to-be, but this couple decided to head for the touristy spots anyway - and found a lot that was new

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 3, 1987


SOME people need to be convinced that Paris is perfect for a honeymoon. ``It's too obvious,'' said my bride-to-be. ``It would be like heading for, well,... Niagara Falls.''

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The only counter to such an unsupportable comparison is that secret weapon of male reasoning: reverse logic.

``There comes a time in the life of every travel-lover,'' I said, ``when he/she must not only beeline for le grande enchilada of tourist destinations, but once there, head for the unabashedly obvious, the brazenly conspicuous, the truly undisguised.''

``Don't tell me,'' she said. ``The Eiffel Tower, Mus'ee de Louvre, boating on the Seine?''

``No less,'' I said. ``And in the spring.''

The rationale has to be defended at the outset, perhaps, because the natural inclination of the experienced traveler is to avoid the beaten path for the little-known gems to the side. But Paris is so full of famous art, architecture, history, mystique, romance, and ambiance that it almost defines the beaten track. Those people who coyly stalk the fringes can miss part of the point of being there.

At least this is the rationale my wife and I came up with for honeymooning in the ``City of Light,'' smack dab in the midst of peak season. Undaunted, we pursued the clich'e honeymoon. We came back with no regrets - we had a blast.

So besides the Eiffel (with three observation levels, two with restaurant), river cruise (at night with floodlights), and museum (``Mona Lisa'' and all), we made a list of must-sees: the Lido (Paris's largest cabaret), Champs 'Elys'ees, and Rue de Rivoli for shopping, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Fouquets (a caf'e on Champs 'Elys'ees), Fauchons (a gourmet food store), Notre Dame, and Les Invalides.

Those who have avoided Paris for two seasons - because of hijackings or bombings in the French capital - will find that much has changed or is in transition. Six major projects costing a total of $4 billion are under way. By the end of the decade, they will give Paris a new opera house, two big music halls, and two new museums.

In December, for example, the Mus'ee D'Orsay, on the Left Bank, opened within the rococo walls of the old Orsay train station. It houses the state's entire collection of late 19th-century art, from Eugene Delacroix to Henri Matisse, featuring all the Impressionists once displayed in the Jeu de Paume.

Other projects are more controversial - gleaming steel structures that critics say will destroy the city's architectural harmony. The Arab World Institute on the Quai St. Bernard will confront parts of the Latin Quarter, and La T^ete Defense, a massive futuristic arch to finish off (critics say block off) the eastern end of the Champs 'Elys'ees, has been proposed.

Even the venerable Louvre is being redone. The Finance Ministry, which occupies the left wing of the former palace, will eventually be moving out to open up 72,000 square yards of space. American architect I.M. Pei has designed a new entrance to the museum's central courtyard - framing it by a 66-foot sleek glass pyramid.

And the Eiffel Tower, the city's most universally recognized symbol, underwent a $27 million renovation in 1983, and on New Year's Eve 1985 inaugurated a brilliant new lighting system.

``It's unquestionable: Paris is regaining the artistic prestige it lost a long time ago,'' the weekly magazine Le Point said in an article about changes in the city's architecture.