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Paris, France

By Lisa Nevard

Paris. The city of light. The city of love. The city of…an infamous underground sewer system? Well, maybe it’s not all romantic. But for visitors looking to find a city where the fiction meets reality, where frog legs meet the common baguette, and where 1789 meets 2002, Paris is the place to be.

You’ve seen it on TV, read about it in your history books, and studied its culture in your art class. And can successful movie-makers really be wrong? (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor fell in love there in Moulin Rouge; the Griswolds bumbled their way through in European Vacation; and hottie Matt Damon stole our hearts and kept us on the edge of our seat in The Bourne Identity. ) So, get in on the good stuff.

From sun up to sun up, Paris could be the European “city that doesn’t sleep.” Wake up with a fresh croissant and a chocolate chaud. Then jump right into Paris’ history and culture: visualize yourself swinging from the rafters of Notre Dame with the Hunchback, attending a glamorous affair or signing a peace treaty at Versailles, or accompanying Napoleon to the Arc de Triomphe.

Getting hungry? One could feast on French breads and pastries all day, but why limit the palate when gastronomical delights await? Be brave and chow down on frogs’ legs (grenouilles), snails (escargots), pâté, and wine. And if you’re really on the trail for something very French, stop by Le Marais for a falafel so great Lenny Kravitz stops by when he’s in town, followed by the best apple strudel you’ll ever taste!

Take a break. Have a seat next to The Thinker, Rodin’s most famous sculpture, or immerse yourself in a 360-degree view of Monet’s entrancing water lilies at l’Orangerie on the grounds of the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa waits with her coy smile. Not into the art thing? Then put your feet up in one of Paris’ multitude of sculptured gardens or face skyward for an architectural view so challenged by only a few cities in the world. The building you are looking at might be over 200 years old.

That 200-year-old bastiment of history may only be rivaled by a modern-day work of art.  Take the Louvre, which began its reign of glory as a city fortress in 1190, and had the finishing touches -- the ultra modern glass pyramids -- added in the late 1980s. Or how about the Museé d’Orsay, an old-world train station transformed into a modern museum housing some of the worlds’ most precious Monets, Degas and van Goghs. Or, my fave, the crepe vendor in la Place de la Bastille who stands on almost the exact spot where thousands of French citizens lost their heads to the guillotine (you may be familiar with Les Miserables).

And when you’ve had enough culture for one day, hit the one (or more) of the wild, no-holds-barred clubs and cabarets. The nightlife goes until dawn. Ooh la,la. Vive la France!