Nearly 80 years ago on a tarmac in Casablanca, Rick Blaine said four immortal words to Ilsa Lund: “We’ll always have Paris.”
This week — and perhaps for several weeks to come — you’ll probably stay close to home and practice “social distancing,” a phrase none of us had heard a month ago. Your plans to travel with Road Scholar may be on hold, but your dreams are still very much alive.
Fortunately, there are abundant resources for lifelong learning and virtual experiences on the Internet. We’ve researched and curated some of these resources, focusing on the French capital (we’ll do the same for other destinations in the weeks to come), and we think you’ll find that you can always have Paris, too.
Paris is a beautiful city, so we’ll start with a two-and-a-half minute drone video to remind us why we love the City of Light. The video features stunning footage of four beloved Parisian landmarks: the Cathedral of Notre Dame (damage from the 2019 fire is clearly visible), the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower.
The history of Paris began 2,300 years ago when the Parisii, a Celtic tribe, settled on the Île de la Cité. This extraordinary 13-minute animation presents a bird’s-eye view of six eras of Parisian history — that early Celtic settlement, Roman Paris, the construction of Notre Dame, the Louvre in its original incarnation as a royal fort and palace, the Bastille as it looked at the start of the French Revolution, and — finally — the construction of the Eiffel Tower for the Exposition Universelle of 1889.
Are you ready to step back and look at Paris in the larger context of French history? This video presents the entire history of France in 23 minutes!
That’s enough “classroom learning” for the moment. Paris is one of the greatest cities in the world for walking, and it’s time to get out and see this lively city at street level. This 26-minute, unnarrated video gives you a great feel for life on the narrow streets and in the sidewalk bistros of Paris’s lively Rive Gauche (Left Bank), ending along the River Seine. Hooked on the street-level view? Try this three-hour walk — also unnarrated — that takes you all over central Paris, or take a six-minute look at vintage film of Paris street life in the 1890s.
After all that walking, you’re probably hungry! Why not whip up a soft, buttery, French-style omelet, a perfect ratatouille, or Coq Au Vin.
Ready to head back indoors? Are you an art lover? Take this virtual tour of Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, where you can click on any piece of art and read a brief description and interpretation.
If Paris wasn’t already on your bucket list, we certainly hope it is now. While it’s not too early to enroll in one of Road Scholar’s Paris programs for the fall or in 2021, you might want to spend some time studying the beautiful French language before you visit. In 1987, Professor Pierre Capretz of Yale — in partnership with Boston’s public television station WGBH and others — developed a 52-episode French language learning television series called "French in Action." Each 30-minute episode presents part of an ongoing story about an American student studying in France, with classroom segments and other content to cement each lesson. Thanks to the Annenberg Foundation, you can watch all 52 episodes here.
Real and Relevant: France has struggled for centuries to assimilate immigrants into its society. Watch a video (in French!) on the history of immigration to France from the Musée De L’Histoire De L’Immigration.
We hope to see you soon on a Road Scholar learning adventure in Paris — or somewhere else in the United States, or around the world!
About the Author Peter Spiers is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Outreach at Road Scholar. He is the author of “Master Class: Living Longer, Strong, and Happier,” recently selected by The Washington Post as one of the best books to read at every age, 1 to 100 (Peter’s book was selected for age 70). Spiers holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard University, an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and a master of science from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Paris changed my life.
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