We had been walking past this enormous complex for years speculating about when it might re-open, wondering if we’d ever get to visit it one day. Imagine our surprise and delight when we saw the enormous posters announcing its re-opening in the metro stations on our first day back in Paris! It was still closed on our earlier visit in April, with no hint as to when it would re-open. This is arguably the most important, and certainly largest, of the numerous new projects in the city that have been completed since COVID hit. No longer dark and rather gloomy, the newly renovated library buildings are a triumph of light and welcoming spaces. There’s such a wealth of wonderful new sights to discover in Paris, and the historic Bibliothèque Nationale de France is surely the jewel in the crown!
If you’ve been to Paris more than once, very likely you have been past the Hôtel de la Marine. This is not a hotel in which you stay, but a hôtel particulier of epic proportions. A “real” hotel, the historic, luxury Hôtel de Crillon, is adjacent. These opulent 18th century buildings are a perfectly balanced pair facing onto Place de la Concorde. Fortunately, during its long and illustrious life, from the reign of Louis XV through the centuries housing the Navy Ministry offices, it has never sustained damage or serious changes that would have compromised its presentation of fine French craftsmanship and as an expression of power.
La Samaritaine has finally re-emerged, like the phoenix rising, if not from the ashes, from a long hibernation of neglect and deterioration that left a gap on the city skyline between the river Seine and the busy rue de Rivoli. Its recent re-opening was a much anticipated event. After 16 long years of closure, renovations, and some controversy, this historic icon is the ultimate grand magasin. Definitely a must-see on your next visit to Paris!
Over the last two years, despite the severe COVID restrictions, Paris somehow managed to work on a number of extraordinary cultural projects, most of which have now opened. These were not small-scale ventures by any means. As I’ve mentioned previously, two of these were the complete refurbishment of the enormous Musée Carnavalet, now re-opened, and the massive restoration of the Grand Palais, which is still ongoing. Last post, I looked at the new Christian Dior museum, La Galerie Dior. This time I’ll explore a huge project, the Bourse de Commerce, and next time another: La Samaritaine department store.
Near the top of our list of must-sees on our recent visit to Paris was the Christian Dior museum, La Galerie Dior, which I briefly mentioned in the last blog. I had read about its official opening, just 3 weeks before we hit town. A good friend of ours, the manager of the beautiful Zegna menswear boutique on Ave. George V, urged us to make a visit a priority, as word was spreading fast. This was also a great sign that things in Paris had re-opened, and that COVID was well and truly behind them. The museum is located in part of the original couture headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne, in a magnificent Haussmann-era stone building.