VENICE DURING THE BIENNALE

Venice is always magical whether it’s a Biennale year or not.

We revisited Venice a few weeks ago for the first time since COVID shut down the world for travellers.  Venice has been one of our top favourite cities for many decades, and this was to be our 4th Biennale, so we were interested to see what changes had occurred to La Serenissima since our last visit.  Would it still be magical, or a crowded nightmare now that the world has re-opened for travel?  We were keen to find out.

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THE MAGNIFICENT BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE HAS FINALLY RE-OPENED

The spectacular Reading Room, with its Byzantine-inspired multi-domed ceiling.

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!

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THE MYSTERIOUS KNIGHTS TEMPLARS AND THE ORIGINS OF THE MARAIS DISTRICT –

A depiction by Hoffbauer of the Enclos du Temple in 15450. Photo, Alamy

This district of Paris is one of the most historic and fascinating in the city.  Nowadays, it’s known for hip boutiques, quirky art galleries, great cafes, restaurants and fresh food, a couple of delightful squares, and some of the best museums in the city.  Although its origins were far from auspicious, it’s a place we always head to for all these attractions and much more.  It’s an enticing melange of ancient and traditional plus contemporary and slightly quirky, making it one of the most interesting areas in Paris.

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LE MARCHÉ BASTILLE-RICHARD LENOIR—A GUARANTEED CULINARY ADVENTURE

The Marche Bastille – Richard-Lenoir. Photo, Alamy

There are dozens of outdoor markets in Paris, at least two in each of the city’s 20 arrondissements.  Probably the largest, and many argue the best, is the fantastic Marché Richard-Lenoir—more commonly called the Marche Bastille, held Thursdays and Sundays along the grand Boulevard Richard Lenoir, just north of the Place de la Bastille.  The focus is the wonderful range of foods grown by local area farmers, quite a few of which are certified organic growers.  As though that were not enough of an attraction, there are beautiful flower stalls, and vendors with a wide range of merchandise, ranging from small kitchen gadgets to African artefacts and fashion.  Most of the crowd will be eager local shoppers with shopping trolleys and dogs in tow, rather than hordes of tourists.

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TRAVELS WITH YOUR NAVIGO: A PERFECT DAY IN PARC DE SCEAUX – ONE OF THE BEST KEPT SECRETS NEAR PARIS

The Chateau de Sceaux.

If you’re looking for a very pleasant and interesting day trip from Paris, and you’ve already visited the big headline sites such as Versailles or Fontainebleau, the charming town of Sceaux is certainly one that offers everything you could wish for.  Known for its rich architectural heritage, its picture-perfect château, museums, 13th century church, and magnificent parks, it’s hard to believe that Sceaux is less than 10 kms south of Paris.

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