Paris: Champs-Elysees holiday treat

By Meg Zimbeck
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">Anne Lazarevitch/Flickr</a>

I'm not normally a big fan of the Champs-Elysées. This avenue is lined with quintessentially Parisian buildings and—frustratingly—international chain stores. What visitors find here looks a lot like what they left at home: a McDonalds, a Sephora, a Nike store, and so on.

At this time of year, however, I make an exception to my grumpy rule. The Champs-Elysées during the holiday season is magic.

Until January 15, the avenue shines with fairy lights. Between the Arc de Triomphe and the place de la Concorde, 400 trees are wrapped in strands containing more than a million lights. Even an anti-Champs Scrooge like me is powerless to resist the twinkling charm.

To complete the experience, vertigo-free visitors should stop at the giant ferris wheel in the place de la Concorde . La Grande Roue Brille (big shiny wheel) provides an unmissable view upon the 2 kilometer avenue, not to mention the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and other nearby monuments. It turns slowly every day from 10:30 a.m. to midnight and costs 10€ ($15) for adults, 5€ ($7.50) for children, and is free for kids younger than three.


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Galileo, in bits and pieces

Galileo left a lot to posterity: The telescope, the laws of motion, and our understanding of the nature of planets and their satellites all owe some debt to his genius. But if you want still more from Galileo, now there's more. In 1737, while Galileo's body was being prepared for a move to Florence's Basilica of Santa Croce, various anatomical relics were pried from the corpse. The New York Times reported that "enthusiastic admirers" made off most notably with a few of the astronomer's fingers. (I hope my admirers are less enthusiastic, when the time comes.) One withered finger, a ghastly-looking thing that bears more resemblance to a twig than to a proper digit, eventually found its way into a display at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence. Other body parts went missing, but were recently recovered after a collector purchased them at auction and subsequently verified their authenticity. So Galileo's long-lost thumb, finger, and tooth will join the museum's collection in the near future. For those of you counting at home, that will unite three of the scientist's fingers, all from his right hand. I can find no definitive news on the condition of the newly recovered body parts. Galileo is perhaps most famous for his run-ins with the Catholic Church, largely over his contention that the sun was at the center of the universe, a notion that ran contrary to biblical understanding. Unwilling to fully distance himself from his heresy, he was tried by the Inquisition and served 8 years under house arrest. What gives a guy such chutzpah, such backbone? You can view a piece of his vertebra at the University of Padua&mdash;the last of the known body parts removed in 1737&mdash;and come to your own conclusions. Note: The museum's website says that it is currently undergoing renovations, though a "significant selection" of the permanent collection is still on public display on the ground floor. Renovations should be complete by Spring 2010, about the time the recovered body parts will go on exhibit.


Literary Paris: A lesson in pictures

Shakespeare &amp; Company, the legendary left-bank English-language bookshop, has long been a magnet for literary talent. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and George Orwell all frequented the store. So did the sultry Ana&iuml;s Nin, along with her lover Henry Miller who described the place as "a wonderland of books." The shop even published James Joyce's Ulysses when no publisher would touch it. New portraits of these and seven other Lost and Beat Generation writers were recently unveiled at Shakespeare &amp; Company, thanks to the pen of a young English artist and blogger who calls herself Badaude. Her series winds up the very narrow staircase leading to a library where customers can sit and read for free. This is the same space where, after hours, young writers can sleep in exchange for work. To read more about the inspiration behind these portraits, check out Bomb magazine's recent interview with artist Badaude/Joanna Walsh. And for more information about Shakespeare &amp; Company, including free English-language events like the one we described here, check their site. Shakespeare &amp; Company, 37 rue de la B&ucirc;cherie, 5th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-25-40-93.


Iconic Italian designs on view

Even as fewer things are made there, Italy remains a persuasive lifestyle brand&mdash;a shorthand for effortless style and timeless quality. A new exhibition in Rome, Disegno e Design, sheds light on Italy's reputation and the design process by bringing together sketches, advertising clips from the RAI archives, original patents, and products dating from the early 1900s to the present. A Moka Bialetti espresso maker, a 1940s Vespa scooter, and a Ferragamo shoe are among the best known. The exhibition will stay open through January 31, 2010 at the Ara Pacis Museum (&euro;6.50/$9.65), which is an example of modern design in its own right. Architect Richard Meier unveiled the glass-encased home for Ara Pacis, an ancient Roman temple, in 2006. You can pick up a made-in-Italy souvenir from the museum's gift shop. I'm a fan of the clever Rome-inspired products from Tre Tigri, founded by two industrial designers in 2008. They just so happen to make iron-on graphics of Vespa scooters and Moka espresso makers (which you could apply, say, to a T-shirt or throw pillow). ELSEWHERE IN ROME... The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, conceived by Zaha Hadid, opens to the public this Saturday, November 14, for a two-day preview. (It's slated to officially open in early 2010.) MAXXI gets a rousing review from NYT architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who guesses that Pope Urban VIII would have been equally ecstatic. Ouroussoff writes: "The completion of the museum is proof that this city is no longer allergic to the new and a rebuke to those who still see Rome as a catalog of architectural relics for scholars or tourists."


Readers' best nighttime photos

You wowed us with submissions of varied nighttime scenes from around the world. We've narrowed it down to 19 fantastic shots, including the illuminated Temple of Luxor, the deep blues of nightfall over a Michigan lake, the twinkling lights of San Francisco's Bay Bridge, and late-night diners in a Roman piazza. See for yourself in our slide show. RECENT READER SLIDE SHOWS Rainbows | Sunsets | National Parks STILL IN SEARCH OF... Photos from your dream trips! The best submissions will be published online and in our 100th issue in March 2010. Upload your photos by December 1.