France: Sights and Developments

France is a land for the senses, if ever there was one. Seeing fabled structures, hearing opera in a 2,000-year old amphitheater, sampling fine cuisine and wine, and enjoying the scents of flower-filled gardens or the perfumeries of Grasse are just some of the experiences that will engage clients' senses. Here is a sampling of some of the sights.

Paris Museums
Most of the nation's great artists and authors have at least one museum devoted exclusively to their work. In addition to the expected collections devoted to fine arts, archaeology and French culture, others showcase marionettes, horses, forgery, magic, fairgrounds, eyeglasses, locks, even devices of torture. And of course, wine museums abound.

The big news is that the bulk of a 15-year project to restore and enlarge the Louvre has been completed. In December 1997, the refurbished Denon and Sully wings in the old parts of the palace along the Seine were inaugurated. The entire department of Egyptian antiquities has been reorganized, resulting in a 60% increase in exhibition space. More than 5,000 Egyptian works are displayed in 30 rooms, including the papyrus manuscript of the Book of the Dead.

Some 4,500 exhibits fill the Louvre's new Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities rooms, including reliefs from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, which had not been on view for some time. The entire 19th-century Grande Galerie is once again accessible, highlighting Italian paintings from the 13th to 16th centuries. The Fashion and Textile Museum has reopened in the Rohan wing.

A complete interior reorganization is under way at the Georges Pompidou Center, resulting in its closure until the gala reopening scheduled for New Year's Eve 1999.

Housed in the Hotel de St. Aignan, one of the grand mansions of Paris' Marais district, the Museum of Jewish Art and History, slated to open this fall, will delineate the cultural and artistic heritage of the nation's Jewish community. Also new, the European Photography Center in the Hotel Henault de Cantorbe joins other museums occupying this historic district's 17th-century buildings. These include the Picasso Museum in the Hotel Sale, the Victor Hugo House in the Place des Vosges and the Museum of the History of Paris in the Hotel Carnavalet.

At La Villette, in the city's northern reaches, the recently opened Museum of Music presents concerts and a collection of over 4,500 musical instruments from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Interactive terminals and other high-tech gadgets guide clients through the history of music.

Museums Outside Paris
In Alsace, the Mulhouse Museum of Fabric Printing has been completely restructured for the 250th anniversary of Mulhouse's textile industry and a new museum devoted to textiles and fashion has opened in Wesserling, 18 miles away.

In September, the Museum of the Hunt and Animal Art opened at the Loire Valley's Chateau de Chambord. Incorporating myths and legends, it exhibits feature paintings, tapestries and sculptures of animals.

The country's only museum devoted to one couturier, the Museum Christian Dior, was inaugurated in June in Granville, where the master of haute couture spent much of his youth.

A $34-million project, begun in 1991, has culminated in Lille with the reopening of the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Gallery space has almost doubled and a collection generally considered the most important in France outside the Louvre is displayed to advantage.

Chateau Fort de Sedan in Champagne-Ardenne has a new interactive audio-guide system called Historium, for self-guided tours around this fortified castle built on seven levels.

Paris Attractions
Many sights that clients love have been spiffed up and an entire new neighborhood awaits exploration.

The 17th-century Tuileries Gardens and the 12-acre Carrousel Gardens, both located along the Royal Road which begins at the Louvre, now more authentically duplicate the original design of Le Notre, gardener to King Louis XIV.

The golden dome of Les Invalides has a new luster, while the Palais Garnier Opera House has been renovated and features new stage facilities. Even the sewers, part of which clients can explore, received a $330 million face-lift.

Bercy Park, once the site of wine merchants' warehouses, boasts a recently completed international business center, Bercy Expo. A pedestrian bridge will connect it with a second new neighborhood, Paris Seine Rive Gauche, housing the National Library.

Even the Champs-Elysees sports a new look. Parking has been moved underground, allowing wider sidewalks and more trees.

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Following are phone numbers for museums and attractions mentioned throughout this guide:

Amora Mustard Factory: 33-3-80-44-44-52
European Photography Center: 33-1-44-78-75-00
Grasse: 33-4-93-36-03-56 (tourist office)
Historium at Chateau Fort de Sedan: 33-3-24-27-73-75
Lille Musee des Beaux-Arts: 33-3-20-06-78-00
Louvre: 33-1-40-20-53-17
Mulhouse & Wesserling museums: 33-3-89-45-68-31 (tourist office)
Musee du Champignon: 33-2-41-40-20-60 (tourist office)
Museum Christian Dior: 33-2-33-61-48-21
Museum of the History of Paris: 33-1-42-72-21-13
Museum of the Hunt and Animal Art: 33-2-54-50-40-18
Museum of Jewish Art and History: 33-1-40-29-94-65
Museum of Music: 33-1-44-84-44-84
Picasso Museum: 33-1-42-71-25-21
Victor Hugo House: 33-1-42-72-10-16

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