Paris, France:  Exactly 28 years after my last visit to Paris (http://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris  and www.rendezvousenfrance.com,), I recently soaked up the experience again of the French capital with all it has to offer.

Seven months before we even left for France, we began the challenging task of looking for a hotel. Upon recommendations from friends we targeted Les Jardins du Marais (www.lesjardinsdumarais.com). Located only blocks away from the famous Marais district, this beautiful hotel has 263 rooms and suites, an intimate restaurant and bar and excellent customer service. It is part of the Preferred Hotel Group (www.preferredhotelgroup.com). Our package included a beautiful and spacious deluxe suite. It had a king size bed with a solid sliding door leading to a living room and a most comfortable sofa bed. We had an extra sink, microwave oven, a dishwasher, a pantry cabinet, a stovetop burner, a working desk, a hairdryer, a minibar/fridge, a small table and very comfortable chair

The lobby extends to reveal a dramatic 1,500 square metre backdrop of courtyards and gardens. You can only reach this exclusive and exotic locale after crossing the extremely secluded threshold of 74 Rue Amelot. The gardens are encircled by seven historic buildings containing the 263 rooms. They include 86 superior and 120 executive rooms that offer guests unparalleled tranquillity in the middle of Paris.

The Saint Sébastien Froissart station on Line 8 of the metro is a two minute walk from the hotel and it will lead you to any place you wish to go.

For our first night in Paris, we opted to experience the Bateaux-Mouches (http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en). Their fleet of nine boats are all enclosed in glass and bathed in light to cast off and accompany you on a journey through time. There are daily departures throughout the day and in the evening. We sat upstairs in the beautiful open air. In the first day or two of your trip be sure to proceed to get tickets for the famous hop-on, hop-off bus tours (http://eng.bigbustours.com/paris/home.html. allows you to explore the city’s top tourist attractions at your own pace. Throughout the ticketed period, you can hop-on and off the buses at any of the Big Bus stops.

Notre-Dame de Paris (www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/), a masterpiece of faith, art and history, is the cathedral of the Catholic archdiocese of Paris. It is one of the best-known symbols of the French capital. Access to the cathedral is open and free of charge every day of the year, during the opening hours.

Located at one end of Paris’s most famous avenue, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe Paris (www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en/) is something you can admire from below at the ground level – either on foot while you’re window-shopping on the Champs Elysees – or by automobile. Kids and teenagers, aged 17 and younger, get free admission to climb to the top. The Centre des monuments nationaux has almost 100 historical monuments all over France open to the public. Log on to www.monuments-nationaux.fr/en.

Venus de Milo statue at The Louvre

Venus de Milo statue at The Louvre

Everyone told me not to leave Paris without at least taking a tour of the Palais Garnier (http://visitepalaisgarnier.fr), a magnificent 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. The cost is 10 and 6 Euros for adults and children/students respectively. You can also rent an audio guide, which comes on an Ipad and is good for two people. We were mesmerized by what we saw.

The LouvreMuseum (www.louvre.fr), a former residence of the kings of France, has for two centuries been one of the biggest museums in the world. Its collections are spread over eight departments: Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, and Prints and Drawings dating from the Middle Ages to 1848. The Louvre in figures: 35,000 works of art in 60,600 square metres of rooms devoted to permanent collections, with 2,410 windows, 3,000 locks and 10,000 steps. The Louvre is open every day except Tuesday. More than 20,000 people were there the day we visited. On your first visit to the Louvre you will want to see the museum’s three great ladies — the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and Mona Lisa.

Internationally renowned for its rich collection of impressionist art, the Musée d’Orsay (http://www.musee-orsay.fr) also displays all western artistic creations between 1848 and 1914. Its collections represent all expressive forms, from painting to architecture, not forgetting sculpting, decorative arts and photography. You’re sure to be dazzled by the beauty of the place: a palace-like station, launched for the 1900 Universal Exposition. At the end of 2011, the museum reopened all of its entirely renovated spaces as well as some new rooms: an additional 400 square meters for the Pavillon Amont, post-impressionist artists at the heart of the museum, the restructuring of the Galerie des Impressionnistes, a new space for temporary exhibitions, and a new aquatic decor in the Café des Hauteurs, designed by Brazilian designers, the Campana Brothers. The museum is open every day but Monday. You can check out a 90 minute guided tour for those aged 13 and up. We rented three Ipods for five Euros each. Through a very simple system one needs only to punch in the number of selected paintings and an interesting commentary will be provided.

Stay tuned for more on Paris next month.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com and on Twitter @mikecohencsl.

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