Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday, 17th October – Paris

Our last full day in Paris, and we decided that we would not try to “do” or “see” anything but rather just “be” in Paris. We caught a bus to the Place de la Bastille. The Bastille of course was destroyed in 1789 (the original Bastille Day) but you can see the outline of where it was on the street. From there we wandered through the Marais, the area described by Rick as “Paris at its best, with the body of yesterday and the pulse of today”. We had breakfast on the Rue St Antoine, once one of the grandest streets in Paris. We passed through the courtyard of the Hôtel de Sully in to the Place des Voges. (Hôtel means mansion). Apart from the cars and TV antennas it’s easy to imagine the graceful elegant lives of those who built these mansions (at least for the ‘upstairs’ folk, anyway). In the centre of the Place des Voges is a delightful garden, with a statue of Louis XIII on horseback in the centre, lovely trees, fountains and (of course) lots of benches. We parked ourselves on one of those (after a detour to a boulangerie, as you do) and just enjoyed the moment.

One of the houses on the square holds an apartment where Victor Hugo lived and died. As a museum it was mildly interesting (especially if you couldn’t read the French labels on everything) but we enjoyed having a peek inside one of the mansions. Nearby is another mansion (a very grand one) which is now home to the Carnavalet Museum of French History. Again in French, but we spent a pleasant hour there, picking up what we could, and enjoying being away from the tourist throng.

Still in the Marais, we walked through the Jewish area. There was a distinct change from designer jewellery shops & boutiques to suddenly find ourselves in a completely different culture. The streets were narrow and cobbled, and free (mostly) of traffic, with little delis, cafes, and bookstores, and families strolling. We stopped for a traditional Falafel for dinner, and though it was getting late the shops were all still open and the streets were lively. A really enjoyable day, and we felt we achieved our aim of just appreciating being in Paris and experiencing the romance and beauty of one of the world’s great cities.