OU on the BBC: Paris - About the series

Updated Tuesday 19th June 2007

Art historian Sandrine Voillet reveals the tempestuous history, immortal beauty and bohemian soul of the city she adores in the BBC/OU series Paris.

French chef Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Taking viewers through several centuries of Paris’ cultural history, Sandrine celebrates the art, literature, music, films and design that have combined to create the spectacular ‘City of Lights’.

This is the tale of the lavish court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, and the sexual decadence of the revolutionary Paris; the crazy years of the early 1900s, played out in the Moulin Rouge and the Lapin Agile; the jazz explosion of the Thirties; and the Sixties heyday of hedonism, expressed through ‘nouvelle vague’, music and literature. Sandrine also discovers the cast of extraordinary characters who were inspired by the city, including the Marquise de Sévigné, the Marquis de Sade, Denis Diderot, Honoré Daumier, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker, Christian Lacroix and Jane Birkin.

Get ready to fall in love with the romance capital of the world – Paris, in the company of Parisian Sandrine Voillet, who is as chic, charming and engaging as the city she loves. Follow Sandrine into the ‘inner sanctum’ of Parisian life: join her at a local café, delight in the world-famous Grand Véfour restaurant, take a trip to the marketplace, and travel down unexpected turnings into secret courtyards where Parisian life really happens.

Sandrine also uncovers how the French language has been changed and shaped by events in Paris. The word “bistro” is from the Russian for “quick” – used by invading Cossack troops who demanded speedy service when they took Monmartre in 1814. And “flâneur” or “gentleman stroller” was born out of the Parisian habit of taking to the new wide boulevards constructed in the late 19th Century. As the writer and critic Désiré Nisard once wrote “L’image la plus exacte de l’esprit français est la française elle-même”. “The most precise image of the French spirit is the French lady herself.”

Surrounded by friends and fellow locals, Sandrine reveals (and revels in) the art, literature and music that are part of Paris’ immortal beauty. She explores the true soul of the city and uncovers its secrets – the blood-stained past, treacherous plots and illicit love affairs. This series offers a unique and intriguing mix of cultural history, travel guide and insight into contemporary Paris life.

If you'd rather listen to the programme in French rather than English, digital viewers can press their red buttons and enjoy Paris in the local language.

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