Walking the #Marais District, #Paris #history

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Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille

For our last free day in Paris, Rebecca and I had decided to walk the Marais District, another of the historic sections of Paris. But first, we met our Gate 1 tour director in the lobby of the hotel and picked up our badges and lanyards for the tour of Northern France.

We took a cab to Place de la Bastille, a bit of a let-down as there is no trace left of the old castle and prison and the obelisk in the center of the place was enclosed in scaffolding for restoration. We then followed the walking tour in Rick Steves’s Paris guidebook. We passed this lovely Temple of the Visitation at 17 Rue Saint-Antoine and I had to take a photo. The temple was built between 1632-34 and is a smaller version of the Pantheon in Rome. The revolutionaries pillaged the church at the end of the 18th century, and later it became a Protestant church for a brief time.

Temple of the Visitation

Temple of the Visitation

This is a lovely old neighborhood with a mixture of buildings from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. I was esp. interested in the older buildings, as I’d been told this was a good place for my middle class heroine to live in my French Revolution story. I could see Anne-Marie living in this area, perhaps in one of the small, older homes above a bakery or another type of shop.

The walk suggested strolling through the courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, a former aristocratic home, now the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (Center of National Monuments) to get to the Place des Vosges. As it turned out, the Duchess’s apartments were open to the public that Sunday, and as you can see in this photo, there was quite a line of people waiting to get in.

Entry to Hotel de Sully

We didn’t have time to wait so we found another route to the Place de Vosges, a lovely large square surrounded by 17th century buildings called pavilions with galleries below. Originally, Place Royale, the square was built between 1605 and 1612 by Louis XIII. It was originally intended as a center for artisans, thus the galleries on the ground floor with living quarters above. Louis XIII donated the land but insisted on a costly, highly decorative style, appealing to rich investors.

So instead of bourgeois pavilions, the surrounding buildings became aristocratic town homes, and I suspect that the galleries were converted to carriage houses and stables. They are of the right size and shape to accommodate a carriage.

However, the open air central square has always been open to everyone, regardless of class. I loved this spot, finding it a haven of peace and quiet, esp. compared to the crowds we encountered the previous day around Notre Dame. A scene immediately came to me of Anne-Marie meeting her love interest in the Place des Vosges.

In exploring this area, we discovered the rear of Hotel de Sully and took pictures of the house, garden and orangery.

By this time, we got hungry and went looking for a restaurant where we dined al fresco, in the Parisian sidewalk cafe tradition. Our afternoon tour continues with next week’s installment of Tuesday Travels. It’s fun to revisit my travels on the blog.


Much of the information in this post came from a guidebook I picked up called The Marais, a special issue of Connaissance des Arts.

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