Meet Me in the Marais
Bonjour, Paris! I say, throwing open the windows to find the street deserted, the city sleeping late. It's Sunday in the Marais, and the city's disinclination to rise-'n'-shine offers this visitor a rare chance to wander the streets alone, doing not much more than enjoying the quiet and watching the shadows edging down the buildings.
But 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. Something of a rarity. After a day of hoofing it around Paris, exploring one museum in the morning and another in the afternoon, nothing beats a frosted margarita to take the edge off things.
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, dating from the 14th century.
A sign indicates that in 1607, the owners were made to cover the wooden timbers with plaster, as a precaution against fire hazards.That's how the building remained intact until 1967, when during a restoration the architect removed the plaster revealing the original designs. Every visitor going by stops to take a picture, so most likely it's all of the guide books. But to think that the building has anchored that corner for more than 500 years is astonishing.
Île Saint Louis
From here it's a easy walk across the Louis-Phillipe bridge to Île Saint Louis, the very 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 that's 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
After you enjoy a delectable lunch in gregarious company (my wish for you!), cross the tiny Saint Louis bridge, which will bring you onto the neighboring Île de la Cité with a fabulous view of the cathedral of Notre Dame. Island-hopping in this way, you can reach the Left Bank from the Right in minutes. Five, if you push it. But why hurry when there’s so much to see?
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, when I was island-hopping, there was the June bride with her photographer...the groom nowhere in sight.
What's a flâneuse?
All of 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. To observe the hints and clues in the doings of others that may go unnoticed by those less discerning'. Flânerie is the art of strolling, of being a witness to urban life, to the class tensions and the estrangement—while standing apart from it. A flâneur was usually a well-dressed man, so what does that leave me? Une flâneuse? Mais oui!
Place des Vosges
Then, too, you want to find a favorite hideaway. Mine is in the Marais, the Pavilion de la Reine on Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. One oft cited as the most beautiful square in the city. And like most squares, it's lined with restaurants and shops. On Place des Vosges you will find the 'grande dame of haute cuisine' L'Ambrosie at No. 19. And across the way at No. 6 Place des Vosges is where the writer Victor Hugo lived for sixteen years (1832-18). What's more, the square is fringed with stunning art galleries housing fabulous finds. It's been a long time since I've found so many works that I’d actually like to own. Such as the fascinating construction to the left below, the face consisting of wine corks! It might sound gimmicky, but I assure you it's not. And in the same gallery, there was the casually-clad Aphrodite (right.). And if that's not enough for one day, the musee Picasso is a few blocks away.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags. The Marais (click here for you tube video), which had been the thriving Jewish quarter of Paris, is once again a hip place to hang your hat.
What's your preference? Do you like staying in a different area each time you visit a city? are you more inclined to return to the same hotel time and again? havce you a favorite hotel in Paris? Nothing tops the five-star hotel Bristol, with its grand rooms, fabulous rooftop pool, and memorable views of the rooftops of Paris. But if the Marais is the area in which you want to stay, you could not find a more comforeting place than the charming Pavilon de la Reine.
That's all for this week, mes amis. À bientôt.