Chapan Coats from Uzbekistan
I love visiting large cities. They offer the opportunity to walk through interesting neighborhoods, see many sights, and visit a wide variety of museums. My last Saturday in Paris found me back along the Seine, where I explored a 400 year old tradition, and then visited one of the newer museums in the city.
My walk started at the Hôtel de Ville. The building holding Paris’ City Hall and municipal offices was built in stages between the 1550’s and 1650’s. Today it is also where you will find the main Tourism Center and a municipal history museum. The plaza on the west side of the building is a meeting spot for friends, families, and a gathering place for walking tours.
I walked along the Seine towards Pont Neuf. The riverbank is lined with the stalls of the Bouquinistes, the booksellers of Paris. These vendors of used books and magazines have been an established market since the 1640’s. In 1859, the city established the rules that still govern the market today. The bouquinistes are allowed 10 meters of space along the railing for a minimal annual fee. The 240 sellers own about 900 boxes to store their books. They agree to open at least 5 days a week.
I crossed Pont Neuf onto Ilé de la Cité, and walked to the Notre Dame Cathedral. This visit I had more time to walk along the outside of the church, and was able to see many of the architectural features that survived the fire.
My final stop was at the Institut du Monde Arabe - The Institute of the Arab World. The Institute is a cooperative organization founded by France and 18 Arab countries in 1973. The museum opened in 1987, constructed on the “Grandes Projets” program of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. The mission of the Institute is to promote cooperation and the exchange of ideas between France and the Arab nations through conferences, lectures and art exhibits.
The permanent exhibition of the museum contains artifacts and art work of the Arab world that range from before the Muhammedan era through to contemporary times. They are arranged by themes, such as family or faith. The objects are on display in these thematic galleries, but they are in groups that the curators feel go together, regardless of their place of origin or the era in which they were created.
The Institute also hosts temporary exhibits. When I visited, “On the Road to Samarkand, Wonders of Silk and Gold” was on display. It was a show of traditional Chapan overcoats, caftans and accessories from Uzbekistan. While the tradition of these silk garments, embroidered in gold thread, dates back centuries, it received a huge boost from the late 19th through the mid 20th century.
This was the last day I was spending visiting museums in one of the best museum cities in the world. It had been a wonderful trip so far, but it was far from over. Next stop: Mont Saint-Michel!