Joyeuse Saint Valentin - Happy Valentines Day

     Just in case you didn't know it, Parisians -along with the rest of France- celebrate Valentines Day.  As a matter of fact, the origin of the holiday is debated and claimed by both England and France.  One undeniable fact is that the first recorded Valentine card survives today and was sent by the French Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was a prisoner of the British in 1415 after the battle of Agincourt.  
     It certainly doesn't help that the Catholic Church lists two different men with the name Valentinius. The legends, folklore and myths have intertwined until there is no clear history of the facts.  There are churches and chapels in several countries with relics of Saint Valentine.  In France, there is actually a town called Saint Valentin.  It's not, however, one of the towns which houses Saint Valentine's relics.  The town of Roquemaure in Centre, France houses relics in their reliquary.  It's important to remember that southern France was once home to the Popes.  The Papal palace is still a historic museum in Avignon Provence.  The influence of the vatican was great and the Catholic kings of France spent huge sums of money to obtain relics of martyrs and saints.   Saint Valentin was no exception and his mark is seen in France as in the rest of Europe.
     Although the village of Saint Valentin makes the most of it's name recognition each year on Valentine's Day, the town of Roquemaure also celebrates Saint Valentine's day in a big way.  They have a festival and take full advantage of their reliquary claims.  Throughout the rest of the France, just as in the USA, it's become a day for AMOUR.  The practice of celebrating love on Valentine's Day is certainly well practiced in France.  They've been at it since at least the 1400's,  so now you have an idea why the French have a reputation where romance is concerned. 
     You'll see signs, menu boards and store windows reminding Parisians to celebrate their loved ones on Valentine's Day.  The florists will sell tons of flowers, the wine shops will sell cases of champagne, the restaurants across Paris will have special Valentines drinks and desserts on their menus, and Paris will live up to it's reputation.    It's often said that Paris is for lovers.   It certainly is on Valentine's Day.
I hope you have a great one, and maybe one day soon you can be in Paris to celebrate it in style.
Louvre Pyramid

Warm Activities In Cold February

     With winter hanging around and dropping some snow every once in a while, it gets pretty uncomfortable in Paris.  The past week has been no exception.  Sure, it would be easy to stay inside and eat rich, fattening French food and avoid the cold, but with all the options for fun and entertainment in Paris, why on earth would you opt to stay inside?
     February might be cold, but that doesn't mean that the museums, stores, live shows, theaters and a hundred other venues aren't open and waiting for you to visit.  It's especially easy to lose hours in the Louvre. I don't really know how to express how large the Louvre is.  It's almost like going to a city and expecting to see all of it in one visit.  There is no way to see and appreciate all that the Louvre has to offer in just one visit or, frankly, in many visits.  Don't forget, there are permanent collections in all museums, but there are also visiting collections that are on loan from other museums around the world. The louvre, like any large museum has plenty of visiting collections throughout the year. It is also such a massive museum with incredible funding and endowments that it is able to purchase or inherit more art than could ever be displayed at one time in one place.  As large as the Louvre is, it still has to rotate some of its collections in order to share it with the public.  There are also Louvre-owned collections which are on loan to musems around the world for short exhibits and there are collections that go on tour like rock stars.  There is always enough art rotating through the Louvre that you won't see it all.  If you get bored with the building and the crowds, there are so many other museums and galleries around Paris that I haven't even seen a fraction of them yet.   Museums like the Louvre and the Orsay keep me coming back, so I need to make myself visit some of the more obsure museums.
     You'd be forgiven if you stuck with the easy choices like the large museums and famous tourists sites, but every month there are expositions, conventions, trade shows, salons and fairs in Paris.  February is no exception.  Very near the entry to the Louvre is the Louvre Carrousel.  The Carrousel is an underground shopping complex with its own entry to the Louvre.  Inside the Carrousel, besides a food court and shopping mall, there is a large exhibition and convention center.  The Carrousel convention center hosts a fantastic book fair on which bibliophiles anxiously await each year.  There are antique and rare books on display or for sale.  Collectors, buyers and sellers of books come from all over the world to attend the annual Paris Bibliophile Fair.  It's a great opportunity to see books that are nothing less than fine art.  There will be books that have lasted for centuries and are loved and protected like the crown jewels.  If you love to read, you'll be impressed at the obvious importance that books held in the days before computers, television, movies and radios.  It's interesting that some of the same books which were only available to rich men of centuries past are now so valuable that, again, only wealthy buyers can afford to own them.
     Ok, books are great.  Some of them even become better when adapted into movies, but unless you are a collector, or you live in Paris full time and are just curious, something tells me that a book fair probably isn't high on your list of must-see events.  So let's get to the real event.  It's no coincidence that I'm writing about the Louvre and the Carrousel.  In the same location as the book fair, there is a highly anticipated, yearly fair.  For some people it's considered an artistic event, although some would consider it culinary or agricultural. To the hosts of the fair, it's all about science, artistry, a lifestyle and, at times in French history, it has been the financial salvation of France.  I'm talking about wine.  The Great Wines Fair of Paris introduces attendees, both novice and professional, to the finest wines from around the world.  If you love wine, this is an event to experience.  It's not about the prices of the bottles, but the taste of the wine.  You'll get the chance to taste wines that have been chosen specifically because of their quality.  The Great Wines Fair is an oenophile's dream come true.  You'll meet vintners, sommeliers, collectors and plain old wine enthusiats.  I'll let you guess which one I am.  I'll give you a hint:  the wine is unbelievably good and there is plenty to taste.
     So there you have it.  I've barely scratched the surface of things to do in Paris during the cold, sometimes snowy, month of February.  I didn't even talk about food this time, unless you count the one mention of the food court at the Carrousel.  Personally I don't count that because there is a McDonalds in the  food court.  That disqualifies it in my book.   Fast food among all that fine French cuisine.  More's the pity!    I'll stick with the wine...