‘He who does not visit Paris regularly will never be truly elegant’ wrote Honoré de Balzac in 1830 (Traité de la Vie Élégante). His assertion goes some way to explain the allure of Paris, even at a time of deep social and political turmoil, manifested in the July Revolution of the same year. Paris, whose streets were soon to be drastically re-envisioned by Baron Haussmann into the boulevards so recognisable today, was unquestionably the place to be and be seen. Not unsurprisingly, the dazzle of the Ville Lumière and the lifestyle of its inhabitants has endured, and Parisians remain the ultimate arbiters of good taste.
Never does Paris appear more elegant than at Christmas, inevitably conjuring up the festive atmosphere of Act II of Puccini’s opera La Bohème. Led by Patrick Bade, art historian, bon viveur and part-time Paris resident, MRT aims to offer just as much fun, together with a rich cultural feast, in considerably more comfort. What better location than the Hotel Édouard VII, former love nest of Queen Victoria’s son and heir, situated on the splendid Avenue de l’Opéra?
We shall be visiting the Musée Carnavalet, museum of the history and culture of Paris, newly reopened after lengthy refurbishment; the sumptuous 18th-century Hôtel de la Marine, the former royal garde-meuble and navy headquarters whose apartments and reception rooms have recently opened to the public; and the dream-like Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in a superb hôtel in the Marais.
Several major venues are yet to announce their exhibitions for the winter season; we will publish further details in the summer.
Music in the towering space of the 13th-century Sainte Chapelle on the Île de la Cité should be an unforgettable experience, as will be a performance in one of the world’s greatest opera houses.
Travel by Eurostar at c. 10.30am from London St Pancras to Paris, and continue by coach to our hotel on the Avenue de l’Opéra. In the afternoon, a short stroll to the sumptuous Palais Garnier opera house for a guided tour.
By métro to the Marais, a lovely district which is home to several outstanding museums. The Musée Carnavalet, with myriad collections devoted to the history of Paris, re-opened in 2021 after radical refurbishment, and the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature displays an eclectic collection in a fine ancien régime mansion.
Morning visit to the Louvre, which for the range and quality of its collections remains the greatest art museum in the world. A temporary exhibition displays masterpieces from the Capodimonte museum in Naples, including works by Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio. Afternoon programme to be confirmed, depending on exhibition schedules.
Day 4, Christmas Eve
The Musée d’Orsay is home to the world’s finest collection of Impressionism, and also to the contemporaneous academic tradition of painting and sculpture. You have tickets for the exhibition Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The Final Months. Evening concert in Sainte Chapelle (programmes not yet announced), palatine chapel and apogee of French Gothic architecture.
Day 5, Christmas Day
Opulent turn-of-the century home of a banking family, the Musée Jacquemart-André features many Italian Renaissance items among its varied collections. Matineé or evening performance at the Opéra Garnier (programme not yet announced). Lunch or dinner is in the hotel, depending on the performance time.
At the Musée du Luxembourg, a special exhibition celebrates the 25th anniversary of Picasso’s death, focussing on his relationship with Gertrude Stein. The 18th-century Hôtel de la Marine is one of the finest neoclassical buildings in Paris. Originally the royal garde-meuble that managed the furnishing of royal properties, it then served as a navy headquarters until 2015, and its apartments and reception rooms have recently opened for visitors following a major refurbishment.
Free morning to pursue your own interests before the Eurostar to St Pancras, where arrival is scheduled for c. 4.30pm.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,680 or £3,500 without Eurostar. Single occupancy: £4,320 or £4,140 without Eurostar.
Return rail travel (Standard Premier) by Eurostar from London to Paris; private coach for transfers; some travel by métro; hotel accommodation; breakfasts, 5 dinners and 1 lunch with wine, coffee, water; interval refreshments; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets to 2 performances are included, costing c. £230. To be confirmed in June 2023.
Hotel Édouard 7, Paris: comfortable 4-star hotel, located on the Avenue de l’Opéra, a short walk from the Louvre and the Palais Garnier. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
A fair amount of walking is necessary to reach the venues, as well as use of the Métro and standing around in museums. There are some late nights but starts are leisurely. You need to be able to lift your luggage on and off the train and wheel it within stations.
Are you fit enough to join the tour?
Between 10 and 19 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.
'What a great delight to go to the Opera Garnier on Christmas Day!'
'Patrick is a gem. Not only a vast knowledge of art, which he shared with great enthusiasm, but he also clearly loves Paris and made the walks and bus journeys fascinating and great fun. He treated all of us with kindness and respect. Most importantly, he was genuinely interested in us. I cannot speak highly enough of his performance as our guide and lecturer.'
'Patrick Bade is an excellent companion with an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and boundless energy and patience. Tour Manager Janice is, quite literally, adorable! Patient, cheerful but with a core of steel which makes entry to exhibitions, restaurants, buses running on time unquestionable. She and Patrick Bade make an entertaining (and formidable) duo.'