With “Da Vinci Code” fans mobbing the Louvre, aficionados of Sophia Cappola’s new “Marie Antoinette” film tracing the tragic queen’s haunts from the Bastille to Versailles, and art fans mobbing the controversial new Musee Quai Branly and the reopened Orangerie, Paris is a tourist mecca more than ever, but also it is thriving as a major force in the global economy.
The leading industrial center of the country, the city and its Ile de France environs with a population of 11.3 million generate about a quarter of the country’s wealth. Ranked as the 20th largest metropolitan population in the world, the region’s $457 billion 2004 GNP was fifth, exceeded only by Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and Osaka.
From farming to fashion, the region’s economy is diverse. A quarter of France’s manufacturing is concentrated in the metropolitan area, principally producing advanced technology devices, machinery, vehicles, chemicals and electrical equipment. Publishing and high fashion clothing and jewelry also play a role. Tourism is a factor, and as a leading host of conferences, the municipality attracts 42 million visitors a year. Agriculture still plays a role: Half the area is farmland.
But it is the service sector that provides four-fifths of the work. Most of the country’s key services are centered in Paris, with jobs for workers in banking and finance, professional and technical services, administration, and commerce. Growth has been fastest in engineering, consultancy and insurance. Many employees commute to the new economic centers that have sprung up on the outskirts. With more than 100 buildings — 865 acres of office space — La Defense, the central business suburb, is the largest business district in Europe. Air France, BP France, Yoplait and ComputaCenter are among the 15 leading French companies in the area.
Through such organizations as the Regional Economic Development Agency, the city attempts to attract multinational headquarters. Their “Ten Good Reasons to Invest in the Paris Region” include access to the European market, talented and trained men and women, superior telecommunications and “a supremely attractive region.” General Motors, 3M, BP, Yamaha and Dassault are among more than 800 international companies — mainly from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan — strategically located here to take advantage of Europe’s second-largest airport capacity and high-speed TGV train links to major capitals.
Despite pending changes of government and unrest over unemployment and immigration that resulted in riots in autumn 2005, the much-serenaded “I Love Paris” is positioned to remain a market presence in the growing global economy as well as a premier tourist destination.
Noted Chef Guy Savoy dreams up the menus in this open and airy storefront restaurant with creamy yellow tablecloths and a wall of mirrors reflecting views of the Seine. The soothing modern decor is an appropriate setting for such contemporary food combinations as spring vegetables and sage doughnuts served with marinated duckling fillet, and fresh cod accompanied by an eggplant and mushroom tian and cold tarragon and shellfish butter. $$$
53, quai des Grands-Augustins
tel 33 1 43 25 45 94, fax 33 1 43 25 23 07
ZE KITCHEN GALERIE
Next door to Les Bouquinistes, the more casual, pared-down bistrot Ze Kitchen Galerie has a loftlike setting, with an open window to the kitchen and changing art exhibits. Although the menu changes every month, diners (and Laura Bush was a recent guest) are apt to find grilled skatefish with a yazu citrus fruit condiment or milk-fed lamb confit with lemongrass and kumquat juice. $$$
ZE KITCHEN GALERIE
4, rue des Grands-Augustins
tel 01 44 32 00 32, fax 01 44 32 00 33
For those who want a “real French” fix, this bright brasserie on a corner near the Sorbonne is straight out of central casting: red leather banquettes, mirrored walls, open coat racks, potted palms, stacks of Le Monde, and neat waiters in black suits with crisp white aprons. Daily specials include braised beef and cassoulet, but locals sigh over the specialty, sauteed foie de veau poele. $$$
49, rue des Ecoles
tel 01 43 54 13 67, fax 01 44 07 14 91
No sign is needed to mark the popular local haunt that relies on hearty word of mouth “Il faut connaitre,” the maitre d’ advises.True Parisians crowd into fewer than 10 tables for specialties of Italy’s San Remo region: gnocchi au gorgonzola, and ossobuco alla cremolata. $$
10, rue de Sévigné 75004
tel 01 42 71 37 08
LA FONTAINE GAILLON
Whether outside on the plaza beside the huge stone fountain, downstairs among the plush purple velvet banquettes or upstairs with views through artistically bowed windows, this 17th century Hardouin-Mansart-designed hotel offers wonderful settings for meals in a cozy corner near the Opera. Fresh fish “purchased yesterday for today” is the specialty with several preparations of oysters and the popular entree “merlan de ligne colbert,” a whole fish served with tartar sauce. Actor Gerard Depardieu is one of the owners.
LA FONTAINE GAILLON
Place Gaillon 75002
tel 01 47 42 63 22, fax 01 47 42 82 84
PARK HYATT PARIS-VENDOME
Just three years old, the sophisticated Paris-Vendome is the newest of Hyatt’s three hotels in the city, and was created from a former office building just steps from the Ritz and the toney shops of the Place Vendome. Madonna, Catherine Deneuve and Tommy Lee Jones are among recent guests drawn to the serene contemporary rooms and vast, hushed lobby with a burning fireplace, mahogany bar, a modern art collection and orchids everywhere. Full spa and fitness facilities are provided, and five restaurants include the grillroom set in a dramatic peristyle rotunda. $$$$
PARK HYATT PARIS
5, rue de la Paix 75002
tel 33 1 58 71 12 34, fax 33 1 58 71 12 35
A boutique-style hotel furnished with tapestries and cupid frescos and nestled in the left bank a few blocks from the Seine, the D’Aubusson offers a chance to experience the authentic French lifestyle updated with fax, satellite TV, towel warmers, air conditioning and 24-hour room service. Wireless Internet access in the wood beamed Grand Salon allows guests to work on computers beside the gigantic limestone fireplace within access of the central garden courtyard or the popular lobby bar where artists and novelists liked to meet in the 1690s. $$$$
33, rue Dauphine 75006
tel 33 1 43 29 43 43, fax 33 1 43 29 12 62
HÔTEL DE LA TRÈMOILLE
Just a block from the Georges V and modish Avenue Montaigne, this comfortable Preferred hotel has 93 traditional rooms and a soothing gray bar and restaurant designed by Sir Terence Conran. Cool jazz plays in the neat, updated lobby which retains a traditional wrought iron staircase and boiserie. Meeting rooms accommodate 10 to 20 people. There’s a fitness center and the beauty salon offers massages, depilation, and face and skin care for both men and women. $$$$
HÔTEL DE LA TRÉMOILLE
14, rue de La Trémoille 75008
tel 33 1 56 52 14 00, fax 33 1 40 70 01 08
Despite friction that resulted in the facetious renaming of “French” fries and “French” toast, American-French boosters are actively promoting interaction and friendship between the two countries. Organized by Chicago’s Terra Museum, paintings by Edward Hopper, James McNeill Whistler, George Caitlin and other American artists constitute the Louvre’s first-ever installation of American art (www.terramuseum.org). North of Paris where Monet painted in Giverney, the Terra has installed a collection of works by Winslow Homer (www.maag.org).
Visitors to Versailles are invited to visit the majestic Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, a garden-within-the-garden spectacle of rocaille and waterfalls restored to Louis XIV’s original specifications with funds raised by the American Friends of Versailles, a group currently promoting restoration of Marie Antoinette’s “Pavillon Frais” near the Petit Trianon (www.chateauversailles.fr). Interested Francophiles also can join cultural exchange trips to historic sights and private homes organized by the American Friends of the Louvre.).
INFO TO GO
Paris’ two major airports (www.aeroportsdeparis.fr) accommodate both international and domestic flights. It is important to note the terminal and airport — Orly (ORY), south of the city with Orly Sud and Orly Ouest, and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG), north of the city, with Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Public bus service connects both to various locations in the city at a cost of about $10 for tickets sold on board. Taxis charge around $65 for the same journey, but the fare can be much higher due to delays caused by the city’s legendary traffic jams. The rail system is a more reliable alternative. The line RER B serves both airports from city stations including Gare du Nord, Chatelet-les-Halles, St.-Michel, and Denfert-Rochereau. At CDG, passengers can walk to the train from Terminals 2 and 3; a regular shuttle connects the train to Terminal 1. At Orly, a shuttle runs passengers to the RER rail connection. Trains, spaced around every 15 minutes, operate between 5 a.m. and midnight. Tickets are about $10.
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