A little stroll through the Marais District, Paris

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This Saturday morning we had a coffee meeting planned with two of our former French teachers in central Paris. It was the perfect opportunity to explore the area between the Gare de Lyon and Les Halles stopping off at the Marais district for coffee and admiring its historic landmarks. Le Marais is truly beautiful with some lovely little cafés and interesting boutiques.


From Gare de Lyon to Place de la Bastille

After a fast 25 minute ride into Paris on the RER A, we emerged at Gare de Lyon (12th arrondissement) where we headed towards Place de la Bastille. Not very well known, the curious narrow cobbled street of Rue Crémieux is lined with colourful, terraced homes reminiscent of London’s Portobello Road. For a moment it’s as if we’re not in Paris anymore!

rue Crémieux Paris

Rue Crémieux, Paris © French Moments

rue Crémieux Paris

The colourful façades of the street © French Moments

The street was renovated in 1993 and pedestrianised. At the end of the street, grand Haussmannian buildings that line Rue de Lyon bring us back to ‘normality’.

Once we arrived at Place de la Bastille, the Column of July and the massive structure of the Bastille Opera House catch the eye and we wonder how many visitors notice this commemorative plaque of the infamous prison that used to stand there.

Our coffee rendez-vous was in a café we had never been to before: Fragments. Located at 76 Rue des Tournelles (3rd arrondissement) not far from Place de la Bastille and Place des Vosges, the café reminds us of endless hours spent sipping on lattes and cappuccinos in Sydney. They actually had normal height tables and  chairs with backs which made a nice change from the ‘trendy‘ high bar stools that seem to be popping up in similar establishments. Great news that the coffee scene in Paris is taking off and we’re gradually visiting all of them (more to follow soon!). The coffee was lukewarm but other than that was well made and flavour and milk texture were great. The blend today was from the Belleville Brulerie and hailed from Honduras before being roasted in Paris. A pre-heated coffee cup might have solved the temperature issue as it was a pretty chilly day. Would definitely return … the carrot cake looked amazing and will definitely need a second cup of coffee!

Walking down Rue de Béarn we soon arrived in the royal square of Place des Vosges. Here we are: Rachel, Pierre and our two former French teachers in Sydney: Thibaut and Martin. Our little girl ran off so didn’t make it into the photo! We were delighted to see them again. These two young men were much appreciated by our Aussie students and have become friends.

The exquisite Place des Vosges did not show any signs of Springtime coming soon… however it still felt magical.

In the arcades of the square, some musicians were about to start playing…

The roofs of Paris in Rue du Parc Royal:

The Méert Bakery in the corner of Rue du Parc Royal and Rue Elzévir had some tempting brioches exhibited in the window. The famous boulangerie-pâtisserie was founded in 1761, nearly two decades before the discovery of Australia by Captain Cook and Lapérouse!

The monumental façade of the Hôtel Salé, better known as the Picasso Museum:

A singular façade on Rue de la Perle:

For the first time we entered the gardens of the Archives Nationales where there is a fine view over the façade of the historic Hôtel de Rohan:

There are also other more intimate places to discover – just wait for spring to begin, this place will become a stunning green spot in central Paris:

This is the entrance courtyard of the Hôtel de Soubise, part of the Archive Nationales. This place is so solemn it could well be a presidential palace in place of the Élysée Palace!

The Marais is known as a district where there are many townhouses dating back to the 16th and 17th century, such as the Hôtel Thiroux de Lailly in Rue de Montmorency (love the red-coloured vases and the curious pediment!):

Rue de Montmorency (3rd arrondissement) is lined with some very old houses…

In fact, number 51 is believed to be Paris’ oldest house, known as “Maison de Nicolas Flamel“, with an inscription dating back to 1407.

Our walk had almost reached its end but before, there were still a few monuments and landmarks to discover, such as the medieval Tower of John-the-Fearless (Tour Jean-Sans-Peur) in Rue Etienne Marcel. The strong tower stands at odd surrounded by Haussmannian buildings from the 19th century.

The last street we walked through is the famous Rue Montorgueil, the ‘Rue Gourmande’ of Paris.

Odette where “choux” have become fashionable. They’re meant to be the new “macaron” in terms of being à la mode. At 1.90 euros each they’re quite an expensive bite but it’s a sweet idea (excuse the pun!)

Rue Montorgueil ends at Les Halles, at the corner with the chevet of St. Eustache Church. The dome of the Bourse du Travail can be seen in the distance:

The renovation work of Les Halles are going well. A new building inspired by nature (the Canopy – La Canopée) is taking shape and should be completed by the end of the year.

The first signs of spring near Les Halles with these daffodils…

And to end our 5 kilometre walk, what else could be more rewarding than two éclairs… and another coffee?

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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