D.C. Transforms Into ‘Paris on the Potomac’

Posted February 9, 2005 at 3:47pm

For the past four years Washington, D.C.’s restaurants, art centers and tourism organizations have collaborated to showcase the city’s diverse flavor. This year’s theme, “Paris on the Potomac,” will feature the city’s French connection through the arts, cuisine and celebration of its landmarks.

The event, which runs from Valentine’s Day to Memorial Day, is meant to bring the city together thematically to form a louder and stronger voice, said Victoria Isley, vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp., which, along with the American Experience Foundation and Cultural Tourism D.C., is hosting the event.

There will be no official kickoff or end to the event. Some events are already going on and a few will go beyond Memorial Day.

Some of D.C.’s many museums are getting into the spirit of the event. At the Phillips Collection, visitors can enjoy works by French impressionists such as Renoir, van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Cézanne. The museum on Feb. 26 will open an exhibit showcasing the work of Amadeo Modigliani, an Italian-born artist who lived in Paris. The Phillips is at 1600 21st St. NW.

In March, the National Gallery of Art will open an exhibit featuring the works of Toulouse Lautrec and Montmartre. That exhibit will run from March 20 to June 12.

Hotels, too, are taking advantage of the theme. Diana Bulger, director of public relations for Fairmont Hotels, said of the event, “We always love to partner with the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation. … It benefits all of us — the hotels, restaurants, museums and cab companies.”

The Fairmont Hotel of Washington’s contribution to Paris on the Potomac is its “French Poodle package,” through which guests can stay in a deluxe guest room, sip on pink “Poodletinis,” view French paintings with two tickets to the Phillips Collection, and enjoy a French-inspired continental breakfast in the hotel’s new restaurant, Juniper. The package starts at $259 for two. The Fairmont Hotel of Washington is at 2401 M St. NW.

The Willard Intercontinental is also taking part in the celebration, offering both a “romantic Parisian” restaurant menu for Valentine’s weekend that includes a stroll on “lovers’ lane,” as well as a “heart to heart” hotel stay package that is available through Feb. 28. The Willard is at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Despite the implication of romance, there are also family events that celebrate the French culture. An example is the ongoing play “Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood,” taking place at the Imagination Stage at 4908 Auburn Ave. in Bethesda, Md. The play is a Red Riding Hood tale with a Cajun twist that occurs in the bayous of Louisiana, and is being staged through April 3. On Sunday, theater-goers can meet the author of “Petite Rouge,” Mike Artell.

The French Embassy’s La Maison Française will offer several events during the four-month-long celebration. Guests will be entertained with jazz, opera and cabaret. For more information, see www.la-maison-francaise.org.

The four-month-long theme is both for locals to appreciate the city’s French culture and a promotional tool to attract the hundreds of visitors who come to D.C. in the spring, said Isley. From the National Archive’s “Americans in Paris” exhibit to the French Embassy’s La Maison Française events, both locals and guests will have access to both touristy and private destinations in the District.

For more information and a complete list of events, see https://www.washington.org/parisonthepotomac.