|Subject: Paris: Marais apartment , Place des la Vosges & gypsy jazz|
Paris, day two in the Marais
We are staying in the Marais district in the 4th arrondissement (district.)
Until the early 1600s, the Marais was no more than a marsh outside the city walls. The highlight are the apartments that would come to be known as the Place des la Vosges. This was the fashionable address for aristocrats until the court moved to Versailles. It is one of the most beautiful and historic squares in all of Paris and is surrounded by 36 symmetrical houses with large dormer windows around its square perimeter. There are arcades on the ground floor occupied by expensive galleries and shops, and cafés filled with people drinking cups of coffee. "Impoverished" street musicians gather under its arcades. We were lucky to catch a gypsy group and purchased their wonderful CD, "Original Paris Swing."
It blocks out the noise of the city while guarding an elegant grassy park of trees, fountains and a children's playground.
We visited the house at No 6 that Victor Hugo lived at from 1832 to 1848 and now is a municipal museum.
The Marais of the 17th-century was a very spacious suburb. The Marais (arr 3 & 4) is a quarter of narrow streets untouched by Baron Haussman's reconstruction of Paris under Napoleon 3rd in 1869, which is the Paris we know today. It seems like a village with its little paved streets and secret passages filled with architectural treasures. For information, including the fact that this is the old and still lively Jewish section you may want to go to http://tinyurl.com/62bz3
Our hotel, the Jean d'Arc, was a mere two blocks off the hubbub of fashionable Rues de Rivoli with its chic boutiques where my wife purchased a fabulous pair of shoes from a exuberant Italian. The Marais is the boutique shops of Rue Des Francs Bourgeois, the bagel and deli vendors of Rue des Rosiers, the antique dealers of Rue St-Paul, the Musee National Picasso, Place de la Bastille, Brasserie Bofinger and a shop for gift-food, Flo Prestige. It is more like a maze than a real quarter. It was fun to wander about stumbling upon small shops, art galleries, craftsmen, fashion boutiques, chic beauty shops, etc. This is truly the way to experience Paris. This was our first visit and we found we delighted in the experience so much that we missed quite a bit of what the normal tourist visits. I guess we were travelers, just moving about the city.
The residents of le Marais are referred to as Bobo's, (bohemian bourgeois) multicultural with savoir-vivre. It has a large historic Jewish community around rue des Rosiers and has one of the biggest Gay communities in Europe around rue Sainte Croix de Bretonnerie, and more artists and creative people than in any other district of Paris. It reminded us very much of the Lakeview area of Chicago we live in. Diversity and restoration.
As we stepped out the door of the Jean d'Arc, to the left (west) was the market Sainte-Catherine Certes. The buildings date from the 18th century, but the organization of this charming little square is typical of the Middle Ages. There are only two entrances. It used to be an old market, now there are relaxing chic restaurants with couples sitting outside even in the fall chill. We sat on a bench and I snapped a mini drama of a couple, enraptured unto themselves. She sat astride his lap caressing with his hair, oblivious to the rest of the world. Not a day went by that we didn't see lovers openly affectionate with one another...of all ages, of all persuasions. Observing the other diners was fun also as they were absorbed in their conversations. The "market" would be difficult to locate unless we were staying at this hotel. Here is a link to a so-so photo of the square. http://www.parislemarais.com/visiter/rp_catherine.php
On a wall at the north entrance of the market place was a stencil graffiti of a street walker in sexy pose, hip askew, wearing twenties style hose with the seam up the back and a very short skirt. It was one of a series to found on the walls of Paris.
Paris Day 3
We walked up St. Antoine to Bastille Circle and shared a breakfast
As we walked on rue Pavée, a street first paved in the 14th century, at number 10 we came across Agudath Hakehilot, the largest synagogue in the Pletzl. It had been designed in 1913 by Hector Guimard, the Art Nouveau architect famed for his curvy organic green metro entrances. His wife was an American Jew so they came to the United Stated before the war. On Yom Kippur 1940 the Germans, dynamited the synagogue but it has been restored and is now a national monument.
Services had just let out. I went across the street to grab a shot of the structure, not the people, and immediately was pounced upon by two militant Jews in suits speaking French. I kept telling them I was Jewish, to no avail. Finally a very tall Jewish guy came over to explain to me that it was the people that did not want to be photographed. There has been a long history (the Vichy government's collaboration during W.W.II) and continues to be anti-Semitism and terrorist activity directed at Jews and synagogues in all of France. I never went back and got the shots. Typical, get it then or you'll forget to return. If you do return the light or weather will be lousy, a delivery truck will be in the way or you'll just forget or not have the time. This really got under my skin. Damn terrorists.
We continued to walk back to the Place des Vosges. As we walked the colonnades, we came upon an excellent Hot Club of Paris/Grapelly style group minus the fiddle/clarinet player. They were in front of Max Spira's Antique shop on the north side of the Voges. I purchased a CD, Original Paris Swing, they had in an open guitar case. We played it often on a JVC mini stereo in the apartment we are staying in. One of the two guitarists was Ramon Galan. They are a very well known group in Europe and appeared at the Festival du Jazz Django Reinhardt at Samois-sur-Seine in 2002 and appeared there in June of 2003 for the 50th anniversary of Django's death.
Today we moved to our garret apartment at 10 rue Aubriot, only six blocks due west of the hotel.
The apartment is near the Hotel de Ville metro station. It is owned by Jim Tisserand. firstname.lastname@example.org Rue Aubriot is a block long street between rue des Blancs/Manteaux on the north and rue Sainte-Croix/del la Bretonnerie, two blocks north of rue de Rivoli. We had to be careful not to trip over the high sill when the heavy door is finally released and we stepped into the 18th century courtyard with a contemporary sculpture of a flock of birds in flight. Of course I documented it to add to my sculpture series.
Our garret is up ninety-six (96!) well worn steps to the fourth floor! The view is only of the inner "courtyard" of our building, surrounded by roofs, chimneys, windows and a church tower with a large bell. It is everything I had hoped it to be. Sunday, I tape recorded the "symphony" of the church bell mixed with surrounding bells from other churches. Every morning we awakened to the sound of that bell.
This tiny studio apartment is in a building built in 1705. About 80 years before the French Revolution! The Bastille was only about ten blocks from this spot. We can only imagine what July 14 must have been like on the streets right here! Not on the left bank, but here on the right bank across the river from island with Note-Dame on it. Imagine it, we can touch the buildings, see the details - brick and iron gates, door knockers, locks, carved wood and stone figurines that looked upon the action that day! This is the neighborhood of the last king of France. We walked along streets and past mansions that were built in Medieval Times.
It is a single medium sized room that has two single beds that make into a comfortable sofa with cushions, Cable, a JVC stereo system with a CD player, and a telephone that accepts incoming calls only. Calling cards can be used for local or long-distance calls. The compact kitchen area has an oven, microwave oven, a range top with 2 electric rings, fridge, coffee-maker, tea maker & a toaster. The cabinets have all the basics needed to have snack or dinner including salt, pepper, sugar, coffee, tea. The room has a small 24" diameter marble pedestal table and 2 chairs & a large wardrobe. The bathroom has a shower, a sink & a toilet, hairdryer & a hidden safe that accommodated camera equipment & a few other items. Linens & towels were provided. It cost a modest #390 ($375/week or $54/day in November of 2002 and was current in August, 2004.) See http://tinyurl.com/5hqae
As the days went by we really feel like we live in Paris, living more like Paris residents, than tourists. As we get to know the neighborhood, Susan and I have been shopping in different food shops: a Boulangerie [bakery] or Patisserie for out of this world croissants and to die for desserts, a fromage shop for dreamy creamy cheeses, a number of open-to- the street fruit and vegetable stand markets and meat markets. The restaurants we eat in no tourist will ever discover. Maybe it is because it is November, but we rarely come across tourists, most everyone eating in the restaurants or shopping are Parisians, residents of the area.
Stef in sunny Chicago