The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. 2 lunches and 2 dinners are included in the itinerary where L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Paris - 9 nights
Day 1: Wednesday 26 September, Paris
- Musée de l’Orangerie
- Place de la Concorde and Tuileries Garden
- Welcome Drinks at champagne bar Dilettantes
Participants will be required to make their own way to their accommodation in Paris (check-in time is 3.00pm).
After checking in, we begin our tour with a visit of the Musée de l’Orangerie, a small yet spectacular gallery displaying Monet’s sensational series Les Nympheas. It also includes paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse.
The Musée de l’Orangerie faces the superb place de la Concorde, one of Europe’s most powerful expressions of urban planning, designed, like so much of the city, to establish Paris’ reputation as the world capital. We shall also walk through the nearby Jardin des Tuileries, an extraordinary open space surrounded by a magnificent architectural panorama.
In the late afternoon we walk back to the Saint-Germain quarter for a champagne tasting at the bar Dilettantes. (Overnight Paris)
Day 2: Thursday 27 September, Paris
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (exterior)
- Shakespeare and Company bookstore (exterior)
- Musée National du Moyen-Âge (Hôtel de Cluny)
- Walking tour of Saint-Germain-des-Prés
- Welcome Dinner at Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon
Between the Middle Ages and the 18th century, Paris was the largest Christian city in Europe. It enjoyed a unique ‘Royal’ status because, unlike other European peripatetic monarchies, French kings concentrated their courts in the city; only under Louis XIV did the court reside permanently at Versailles. Since 1789, successive governments have also concentrated power in Paris, which consequently dictates France’s national identity (i.e. ‘Frenchness’); large cities like Marseilles, Lyon and Toulouse occupy a secondary status.
This morning we explore the artistic and architectural heritage of Royal Paris. On the île de la Cité, medieval centre of Paris, we visit Louis IX’s (1214-1270) exquisite Sainte-Chapelle. Built in 1248 to house the precious relic of the Crown of Thorns, this chapel is conceived as a great, luminous stone and glass reliquary. Its stone structure is reduced to a light frame of thin piers and its walls are opened up into vast, rich sheets of stained glass through which coloured light floods this unearthly place. Its stained glass windows seem like the scintillating jewels adorning the small reliquaries that inspired it.
From here we stroll to Notre-Dame to view its exterior. Begun in 1163, this remarkable transitional Romanesque-Gothic structure, featuring some superb stained glass and stone carving, took nearly 200 years to complete . The Gothic style, evolved in Paris and the Île-de-France, expressed the intimate link between the Church and the monarchy. It fell out of favour during the enlightenment and Notre Dame suffered from neglect. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) made it the setting of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831) in a desperate attempt to save this wonderful building, by then in such a parlous physical state that some even advocated its demolition. It was consequently restored by Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.
Next, we walk though the Latin Quarter to the Musée de Cluny, past Paris’ famous English-language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. Founded in in 1919 by American Sylvia Beach, the store became a popular gathering place for literary expats. Sylvia published James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 and she and her successor George Whitman (great grandson of Walt) nurtured such writers as Henry Miller Ernest Hemingway, Anaïs Nin, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Durrell. Today the shop is run by George’s daughter Sylvia.
We continue our exploration of medieval Paris by visiting the Musée National du Moyen-Âge at the Hôtel de Cluny (1485-1498), Parisian palace of the powerful Abbots of Order of Cluny, and a fine specimen of late Gothic secular architecture. This museum holds a huge collection of medieval sculptures and tapestries and countless other objects: fine chests, stained glass windows, precious reliquaries and bejewelled ornaments. A highlight will be the extraordinarily rich Late Gothic Unicorn Tapestries, a lustrous expression of courtly power and grace.
After lunch, we take a walking tour of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter named after the Romanesque abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris’ oldest surviving church. It was originally part of a Benedictine abbey founded in 558 by Merovingian king Childebert I. Although it was partially rebuilt and much restored over the centuries, its nave and transept are from the 11th century.
Saint-Germain today captures the essence of Paris’ Left Bank: with charming streets lined with art galleries, bookshops and literary cafés, old squares, artists’ studios, the famous Paris Fine Arts school. It is cut through by the great boulevard Saint-Germain, the main east-west axis of the Left Bank and a perfect example of ‘Haussmanisation’. This term describes the great urban transformation by the préfet de la Seine, Baron Haussmann, for the Emperor Napoléon III, which altered Paris’s geography fundamentally in order to turn a city of crowded insalubrious medieval neighbourhoods into a modern, open metropolis of wide avenues, majestic vistas and great parks.
One way in which Paris changed the way we live was by ‘inventing’ the restaurant when aristocrats fleeing the 1789 Revolution left behind their chefs, who found an alternative outlet for their craft. This evening we shall dine at Le Train Bleu, the famous restaurant at Gare de Lyon. This luxurious Belle Époque restaurant was constructed for the great World Fair at the turn of the 20th century. (Overnight Paris) D
Day 3: Friday 28 September, Paris
- Opéra District
- Opéra Garnier (interior)
- Walking tour from the Grands Boulevards to the Palais Royal via covered arcades
- Afternoon at leisure
- Dinner & concert at the Philharmonie de Paris (subject to performance schedule)
This morning we shall cross the Pont-Neuf (‘New-Bridge’), ironically the oldest bridge of Paris, completely in 1607; it was the first stone bridge with sidewalks instead of houses on it. On the île de la Cité, we visit the place Dauphine, a triangular square whose hidden location inspired Surrealist writer André Breton in his novel Nadja.
Paris’ leadership as the world’s major entertainment centre rested in part on its fame for orchestral, opera and ballet performances, captured in Degas’ marvellous images of dancers, musicians and their audiences. In 1858 the Emperor Napoleon III commissioned a new theatre to house Paris’ opera and ballet companies. Charles Garnier (1825-1898) won a subsequent design competition and construction commenced in 1861; the building opened in 1875. This morning we shall explore the Opera Garnier precinct, and then take a guided tour of this monumental theatre’s sumptuous interior.
Next, we continue our walk along the Haussmann’s Grands Boulevards and then wander through Paris’ small arcades (passages), glass roofed streets linking the main avenues. Arcades such as the galeries Vivienne and Colbert fascinated artists and writers; Louis Aragon described his wanderings through them in Le Paysan de Paris.
We continue our walk to the Palais Royal, originally Richelieu’s Palais Cardinal, which passed to the Crown when he died. Surrounded by beautiful 17th century buildings, for four centuries this magnificent precinct has been a seat of power, focus of French leadership of the world’s intellectual life, and a place of recreation and pleasure; it is here that the world’s first purpose built restaurant opened. It is also the home to the Comédie Française. Its garden is now enlivened by contemporary sculptures by Buren and Bury and features flowerbeds designed by American landscaper Mark Rudkin.
The afternoon is at leisure; you may wish to explore the numerous designer fashion shops, art galleries and antique shops around the Palais Royal.
This evening, we plan to attend a performance at the recently inaugurated Philarmonie de Paris designed by Jean Nouvel. A pre-concert dinner will be served at the restaurant Le Balcon, located on the sixth floor of the Philharmonie and offering a panoramic view of Paris and the parc de la Villette. We shall then attend a performance in the Grande Salle which, despite its great size (it can host up to 2400 people), was designed by Jean Nouvel to create a special intimate atmosphere. The originality of the concert hall also rests on its versatility; its stage can be adjusted to offer the best listening conditions for diverse genres of music. (Overnight Paris) D
Day 4: Saturday 29 September, Paris
- Musée d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou
- Musée Picasso
- Place des Vosges
This morning we are particularly privileged to make a private visit to Europe’s most famous Modern Art museum, the Centre Pompidou, a magnificent collection of 20th century art which takes up where the Gare Orsay’s collection ends, with masterpieces from the School of Paris to the New York School. The marvellous view from the Pompidou’s rooftop looks across Paris’ rooftops to the Eiffel Tower.
There will be time at leisure for lunch and you may wish to further explore the Beaubourg district and the Halles area, which once housed the iron food markets of Paris. The initiation of a huge shopping area on the old market site, and the erection of Richard Rogers’ and Renzo Piano’s revolutionary Centre Pompidou (1972-7) , was attended by huge controversy. Today the ‘quartier’ is again undergoing a complete renovation. One of the main features was completed in 2016: a two hectare-glass canopy covering the entrance to the mall and train station where the Pavillon Baltard stood until the 1960s. Paris, along with St Petersburg, Berlin and New York, has a powerful history of the construction of grand, highly innovative, often challenging architectural statements. Often initially controversial, such great monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, eventually took their place in the celebration of the unique orchestration of period styles that is the city. Rogers’ and Piano’s building, an attack on the Beaux-Arts tradition, and totally at odds with the style and scale of the traditional architecture of its precinct, is now accepted by even its most hostile critics.
In the afternoon, we continue our exploration of Parisian modernism with a visit of the Picasso museum. The renowned collection was created thanks to a remarkable donation from Picasso’s heirs. More than 5000 artworks are housed in the beautiful 18th-century Hotel Salé.
A short walk away is the 16th/17th century Place des Vosges, a magnificent Renaissance square considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Its architectural harmony is matchless. Surrounded by lovely Renaissance brick buildings with stone dressings and quoins, and steep mansard roofs, this square was originally designed as a royal and aristocratic refuge from the densely packed, noisy city. (Overnight Paris)
Day 5: Sunday 30 September, Paris – Maincy – Paris
- Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy
- Fondation Louis Vuitton
This morning we travel out of Paris by private coach to the famous château of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s Superintendant of Finances built this great house in 1641. Fouquet’s grand Baroque château, with its splendid formal gardens created by André Le Nôtre, raised the jealousy of the king and Fouquet fell from grace. Louis XIV subsequently commissioned Le Nôtre to create an even greater vision at Versailles. Our visit will illustrate how the surrounding landscape was modified to achieve the perspectives of the magnificent formal garden. We shall also tour the sumptuously furnished apartments, decorated with beautiful furniture, paintings and tapestries.
Following lunch at leisure, we return to Paris where we spend the afternoon visiting the revolutionary Fondation Louis Vuitton for Creation designed by Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Vitra Design Museum, New York 8 Spruce Street). His contemporary art museum and cultural centre. Gehry has stated that the building was inspired by the glass dome of the Grand Palais. Using revolutionary, highly innovative structural techniques, the museum echoes the sails of a ship inflated by the wind. (Overnight Paris)
Day 6: Monday 1 October, Paris
- Musée du Louvre
- Afternoon at leisure
Today we visit one of the world’s most famous museums, the Musée du Louvre, which houses the world’s greatest art collection. It began life as a fortress, but over the centuries kings and emperors added new buildings. One of the most controversial additions was the glass pyramid, designed by I.M. Pei, which opened in 1989. The Louvre’s art collections have been a vehicle through which governments established and reinforced Paris’ status as the world’s art centre in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Our visit will take in selected collection highlights as well as exploring the building itself. Once the formal tour is concluded, group members will have the opportunity to further explore the museum’s vast collections.
The rest of the day and evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Paris)
Day 7: Tuesday 2 October, Paris
- Musée du quai Branly
- Lunch at restaurant Les Ombres
- Musée Marmottan
- Fondation Le Corbusier: Maison La Roche
- Trocadéro (time allowing)
This morning we depart by coach to the Musée du quai Branly, designed by Jean Nouvel. We shall view the Living Wall by Patrick Blanc, an extraordinary vertical garden rich in verdant textures. We shall enjoy an exclusive visit before the museum opens its doors to the public. Opened in 2006, it is dedicated to Indigenous art from Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, housing 370,000 objects, including Australian Indigenous paintings specially commissioned by Jean Nouvel as permanent installations. The spectacular rooftop features a painting from contemporary Aboriginal artist Lena Nyadbi that can be seen from the Eiffel Tower.
We shall lunch at the restaurant Les Ombres, situated on the Musée du quai Branly’s terrace. The restaurant’s decor, furniture and crockery are signed Jean Nouvel. A magical place, this restaurant offers an unforgettable view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Next we visit the Musée Marmottan, a fine art collection that occupies a mansion on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, which was owned by the collector Paul Marmottan. He presented his house along with his Renaissance, Consular and Empire collections of paintings and furniture to the Institut de France. In 1971, Michel Monet presented 65 paintings by his father, Claude Monet, to the museum. Part of Monet’s personal art collection has also been added, making the collection the largest corpus of the artist’s work in the world. The Musée Marmottan also has works by Berthe Morissot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Paris is especially noted for the architectural experiments of the founder of modern architecture, Le Corbusier. We visit Le Corbusier’s Villa La Roche (1923-5), which now houses the Fondation Le Corbusier. Designed for Raoul La Roche, a Swiss banker and collector of Avant-Garde art, the whole house is an art gallery. It also epitomises Le Corbusier’s notion of an ‘architectural promenade’ a progress through space that inspired many modern architects. The promenade leads you up and down staircases, through tight spaces, in-between balconies, open vistas, down ramps and into a beautifully lit library.
Time allowing, we shall also make a short stop to view the majestic axial view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro terrace, typical of Parisian urbanism. Paris’ diverse monuments are often linked in this way by axial views, like that which runs from the Louvre up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe and beyond to the Grande Arche de la Défense. The boulevards on these axes create sight lines linking the monuments visually across the city, giving Paris a sense of monumentality and completeness rarely experienced in other cities. (Overnight Paris) L
Day 8: Wednesday 3 October, Paris
- Musée d’Orsay
- Optional visit to the Petit Palais, City of Paris’ Museum of Fine Arts OR the Grand Palais (subject to exhibition)
This morning we explore the Musée d’Orsay, housed in a former railway station converted to a great museum by ACT Architecture (Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc and Jean-Paul Philippon) and the Italian architect, Gae Aulenti. It holds the world’s greatest collection of French Realists, Impressionists and Post Impressionists (1848-1914). Masterpieces include Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-3) and Olympia (1863), and Renoir’s Le Moulin de la Galette (1876). Such paintings document two poles of Parisian life, those of Bourgeois recreation, and the alienation of the individual in a burgeoning, crowded, ever changing, modernist city. Not only was Paris the city of spectacle, but it was also the city where modernism as ‘state of mind’ was invented.
The Grand Palais and Petit Palais were constructed for the Universal Exposition of 1900. The former often hosts internationally important art exhibitions whilst its smaller counterpart now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris). We shall visit the Grand Palais if it is hosting a major exhibition. If not, there will be time at leisure in which you may like to visit the Petit Palais collection. (Overnight Paris)
Day 9: Thursday 4 October, Paris – Saint-Germain-en-Laye – Port Marly – Paris
- Musée Rodin
- Farewell Lunch at the restaurant Pavillon Henri IV, St-Germain-en-Laye
- Château de Monte Cristo, Port-Marly
This morning we will visit the Musée Rodin. It is housed in the elegant 18th-century Hôtel Biron, Rodin’s residence from 1908 to his death in 1917. The Rodin collection in the sculpture garden and within the mansion itself is the most comprehensive Rodin corpus in the world.
We then drive to Paris’ elegant suburb Saint-Germain-en-Laye to enjoy lunch with a panoramic view over the city at the regal Pavillon Henri IV. The Sun King Louis XIV was born in one of the salons of the Pavillon and it has long been a favourite meeting place for aristocrats, artists and writers as well as important financial and political figures. Famous guests of the Pavillon Henri IV, which was converted into a hotel-restaurant in the mid 19th century, include Georges Sand, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Alphonse Daudet. Here, Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, and Offenbach composed some of the music to his famous operettas.
Our tour ends with a visit to Alexandre Dumas’ house, the Château de Monte-Cristo, named after his best-selling book. It was his “paradise on earth” and he spent a fortune on it. Too big a fortune, for only two years later he was forced to sell it to pay the debts. Here he wrote Adventures with my Pets which includes tales about his pet vulture; here he began his monumental Grand Dictionary of Cuisine; here he entertained Hugo, George Sand and his many mistresses. (Overnight Paris) L
Day 10: Friday 5 October, Paris
The tour ends today in Paris. Those returning to Australia will need to make their own way to Paris CDG airport (contact ASA for information on private transfers). Participants wishing to extend their stay in Paris are advised to contact ASA for information about extending their stay at the Appart’hotel Citadines Saint-Germain-des-Prés.