Meet Me in the Marais


Paris 085 Bonjour, Paris! The city sleeps late on Sunday in the Marais. This disinclination to rise and shine offers a visitor a rare chance to wander the deserted streets without doing much more than tracking shadows edging down the sides of the buildings.

Paris 096But where's my croissant? At the corner of rue Francois Miron and rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, the elegant bakery that had been doing a landslide business last evening is closed -- the baker nowhere in sight.

Across at La Perla, a cheerful Mexican bar and restaurant, the outdoor tables are  empty. After a day on hoofing it around Paris, exploring one museum in the morning, another in the afternoon, nothing beats a margarita cum guacamole &  chips to take the edge off things.

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Should you find yourself in this non-touristy part of town, don't miss the side-by-side Medieval timbered buildings at 11  rue Francois Miron (map) which date from the fourteenth century.

A sign  indicates that in 1607, the owners were made to cover the wooden timbers with plaster, as a precaution against fire hazards. Which is how they've  managed to survive intact until 1967 when,  during a restoration, the architect removed the plaster thereby revealing the original designs. Every visitor going by stops to take a picture. It must be in all the guide books.

rue Francois Miron

Île Saint Louis

Berthillon - Paris, France. Mandarin and Strawberry

From here it's a easy walk to the Seine where the pont Louis-Phillipe brings you onto Île Saint Louis, the  center of old Paris. Here you will find many popular brasseries, including the lively Brasserie de L'Île Saint Louis as well as Berthillon, a glacier world-famous for its ice creams and long lines.  During the day, the island swarms with tourists, but I have it on good authority, that should you decide to stay in one of its small hotels, it's as quiet as a tomb come evening.

Île de la Cité

Crossing the tiny pont Saint Louis ( a hop, skip  and a jump) brings you onto the neighboring Île de la Cité, where you will have a fabulous view of the cathedral of Notre Dame.  Island-hopping in this way, you can reach the Left Bank from the Right in a matter of minutes. Five, if you push it. Why hurry  when there’s so much to see?

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For isn't that the charm of Paris, that there’s so much of interest—from the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, to the grand squares and boulevards lined with shops and cafes. Then, too, there's the June bride with her photographer, a brasserie opening for the day. Ah, there's my croissant!

What's a flâneuse?

Which is why Paris gave birth to the flâneur, that casual wanderer whose pleasure it is, in the words of Baudelaire, to stroll the streets, “amid the ebb and flow” of life.  One free to observe the hints and clues in the doings of others, things that may go unnoticed by the less discerning. Flânerie is the art of strolling, of being a witness to urban life, class tensions and estrangement -- if standing apart from it. A flâneur was usually a well turned out man, so what does that leave me...a flâneuse? 

Place des Vosges

Then, too, there's the hotel Pavilion de la Reine on Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris and the one most often cited as the most beautiful square in the city.  And that it is, lined  with restaurants, including the  "grande dame of haute cuisine,"  L'Ambrosie at No. 19, and the surrounding sought after apartments.  At No. 6 Place des Vosges, is where the writer Victor Hugo lived for sixteen years (1832-1848).

Paris 088What's more, the square boasts stunning art galleries housing fabulous finds. and it's  been a long time since I've  found so many works of art I’d like to own.

In the fascinating assemblage to the right, the face is actually made up of wine corks! It might sound gimmicky, but I assure you it's not. And then there's the casually-clad Aphrodite below. What's more, the must-see musee Picasso is right up the block.

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So what are you waiting for? Have you packed your bags? If so, the Marais (click here for you tube video) , which had once been the thriving Jewish quarter of Paris, is, again,  a hip and happening place to hang your hat.

But what's your preference? Do you like staying in a different area each time you visit a city? Or are  you more inclined to return to the same hotel time and again? What's your favorite hotel in Paris? For Woody Allen and me, nothing beats  the five-star Bristol, with its grand rooms, fabulous rooftop pool and memorable views of the rooftops of Paris. But if it's a four-star hotel you're looking for, take a look at the charming Pavillon de la Reine.