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North-central Paris consists of four bustling arrondissements, the ninth to the twelfth. We start in the ninth and work our way east. The Olympia is Paris's oldest music hall and one of the world's most famous. Famous Olympia performers include Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and Jeff Buckley. The nearby mid Nineteenth Century Folies Bergere has hosted the singer-dancer Josephine Baker and Maurice Chevalier. The Neo-Baroque Paris Opera seats 2200 opera fans and its stage accommodates 450 artists. Visit this splendid building with its statues and busts of famous composers. It inspired the French novel The Phantom of the Opera and the famous Broadway musical. Department store fans will appreciate the Nineteenth Century Galeries Lafayette with its beautiful Art Nouveau staircases. Down the street is the Printemps with a great Art Deco stained-glass cupola.

Pigalle centers around Place Pigalle that strides the ninth and the eighteenth districts. Largely a red-light district its famous nightclubs include the Moulin Rouge with an imitation red windmill on the roof and a turn-of-the-century decor. This club inspired 1952 and 2001 movies, both nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. The area attracted world-famous artists including Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and van Gogh.

The tenth arrondissement has recently become quite trendy. Start your tour at the three-mile long Canal Saint-Martin that was built for Napoleon Bonaparte. This canal starred in the 1938 movie Hotel du Nord and the 2001 movie Amelie. The nearby streets are car-free for parts of Saturday and all day Sunday. The Gare de l'Est (East Station) is one of Paris's largest and oldest railway stations. It's a magnificent building with lovely artwork. The Gare du Nord (North Station) is the busiest station in Europe, and has appeared in several French and American movies.

The eleventh arrondissement has become bohemian and trendy with a lot of nightlife. It is home to scads of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and galleries. The Winter Circus was built over 150 years ago. This unique twenty-sided building served as a circus, a concert hall and an early Parisian cinema. It has been featured in a famous Seurat painting, a celebrated Avedon fashion photograph, and the 1950s movie "Trapeze".

The twelfth arrondissement completes our short tour. The Bastille, built to defend Paris, became a prison mostly for political prisoners. On July 14, 1789 it contained only seven inmates. A nearby park displays one tower's. The Bastille square often hosts political demonstrations, and the area hums at night. The Bastille Opera was designed to replace the old Paris Opera but evidently Paris can support two (actually more) opera houses.

The Promenade Plantee is a long elevated park built over an abandoned railway viaduct. It includes pedestrian and cyclist routes and arcades. The Paris-Bercy All Sports Palace hosts many sports and pop concerts seating up to eighteen thousand spectators.

The Vincennes Woods is an English-garden type park almost three times as big as New York's Central Park. Once a royal hunting preserve, it became public in 1860. Don't miss the Chateau de Vincennes where the famous spy Mata-Hari was executed and served as the military headquarters for the unsuccessful defense of France against the German invasion of 1940. The Bois de Vincennes is also home to a small zoo and four lakes.

Over the years Levi Reiss has authored ten books on computers and the Internet but simply prefers drinking fine Italian or other wine, with the right foods. He teaches a variety of computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel website which includes information on Italian wine and food.

Article Source: A Quick Tour Of Paris - North Central Paris

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