Adventures in Paris: the big screen and royal gardens

Paris obviously carries a reputation for glamour and glitz.  One aspect of the glitz we hear about in U.S. entertainment news are the Cannes Film Festival and movie premiers in London or Paris.  What better way to get a taste of this with a visit to the largest cinema theater in Europe, full of history, atmosphere, and art deco style!  Le Grand Rex, completed in 1932, seats 2800 people, and its 2700 square-foot screen is the largest movie screen in Paris.  Impressive, to be sure.  Especially impressive, though, when coupled with the twinkling stars on the ceiling and the host of movie stars and producers who have sat in the audience.

While a visit to the movie theater to actually watch a movie would have been nice (especially during the heat wave we experienced), we opted for the backstage tour, dubbed Les Étoiles du Rex—The Stars of The Rex.  The tickets were a bit pricey—10€ per adult and 8.5€ for kids—but it was a piece of Paris that everyone enjoyed and that brought a touch of modernity into our exploration of the city.

The automated tour lasts just under and hour, and while there’s a chance you’d land in a tour with others, we had the tour to ourselves and only saw one other group (another family) during our visit.  The tour included a visit behind the screen and visits to a full-size replica of the projection room, a sound stage, a special effects studio, and a few other rooms with interactive presentations.  The end of the tour included the showing of a new movie featuring the Wheelwright family with clips pieced together from recordings taken during our visit (available for purchase, naturally).  The boys LOVED it.

There were a few pretty loud parts—a tiny bit stressful to our youngest two—but all in all, it was appropriate for our whole family, and it would likely be interesting to pre-teens.  Teens might enjoy it, but they’d probably prefer to watch a movie inside the theater, instead.  Note, though, that many of the movies playing at Le Grand Rex are shown with French dubbing—even blockbuster US films that are shown elsewhere in Paris in their original English.  To determine whether a US film will be shown in English or French, watch for the indication Version Original (VO) (for English) or Version Français (VF) for dubbing into French.

After the tour, we stumbled upon a Chipotle restaurant about four blocks down the road—yes, the same one in your local strip mall.  Having been deprived of Tex-Mex food for several weeks, we Texans jumped at the chance to get a taste of home.  It probably cost almost double what it would’ve cost back in Austin, but everyone finished his meal, and we left feeling happy.

We then headed a few stops further on the Metro (line 8) to Place de la Concorde and entry into the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden).  These gardens date from the late 16th century when Queen Catherine de Medici decided to take up residence in the Louvre Palace.  At the time, the area adjacent to the Louvre was generally undeveloped, with the exception of some workshops where workers made tiles, or tuiles, for Paris’ rooftops.  Catherine initiated work on gardens, which retained the name of the area, becoming known as the Jardin des Tuileries.

Nowadays, the gardens contain a variety of sculptures, well-kept lawns (that you can’t walk on, a.k.a. pelouse interdite), a puppet theater (Marionnettes de Guignol), snack bars, a cafés, beautiful flowerbeds, the Musée de l’Orangerie (housing several of Monet’s Waterlilies), and of course, a carousel and a great playground.  Throughout the park, you’ll find metal chairs that you can sit in and relax or eat a snack or picnic—something we appreciated.  There’s also currently a smallish carnival in the section closest to Rue de Rivoli, including a large Ferris wheel and other rides.  We didn’t do the carnival (thankfully), but the boys had a great time at the playground.  This one had not one but TWO merry-go-rounds—one for the little guys (standard) and one for the bigger kids in the shape of a spinning disk that could double as a torture device.  The kids loved it!

At the far end of the Tuileries, you’ll find the Arc du Carousel and the approach to the Louvre’s famed glass pyramid.  Adding the Louvre to this day’s activities would have put our family over the edge, so we saved that visit for another day…

Photo credits: Tuileries 1 by Andrew and Tuileries 2 by Dave

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