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Cool Idea: Le Petit Paris

Gerard Brion took up the challenge of building a miniature model of Paris 15 years ago. With 18,000 hours of painstaking work logged, he has crafted a miniature city, known as Le Petit Paris, in his garden in Vaissaic in the South of France out of salvaged items like old concrete blocks, baby food jars and soup tins. 150,000 visitors a year experience over 40 Paris monuments, such as the Champs Elysées, Montmartre, the Seine River, and the Eiffel Tower on a 1:130 scale set in a French-style garden planted with 400 bonzais. Year-round, the miniature city keeps up with the times, too: a miniature military-parade along the Champs Elysées on Bastille Day; Easter Eggs in the Bois de Boulogne in April; a true French Cancan show in Little Moulin Rouge featuring animated dolls; and demonstrations and traffic-jams along the little Paris boulevards keeping with typical French social unrest. After Princess Diana's car crash, Brion even smashed a miniature Mercedes car with a hammer and exhibited it under the Alma Bridge. In 2004, Brion opened the Little Louvre Museum, exhibiting 100 pieces of his own work and personal collection, including paintings, drawings, models. The small capital, open to the public on weekends and holidays, takes an hour to visit. How about that for backyard décor? Only in France . . .

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