Exploring the Marais and Another Problem

Each time I come to Paris, I am amazed at how it is really made up of many small cities. Each neighbourhood has its own character, its own attractions and its own devotees. This year, I am staying in Le Marais, a Right Bank neighbourhood in the 4th arrondissement. My apartment is 10 steps away from the Place des Vosges, a lovely square surrounded by covered walkways.
I am living just past the iPhone sign which is paying for restoration of the building.

Surrounding the Place des Vosges are many little galleries, some restaurants, a school, and the house of Victor Hugo. As I keep repeating, museums of the City of Paris are free, so Hugo's house can be visited at no charge. I don't like crowds or lineups and have already visited the major museums several times, so I am always looking for a smaller special interest museum.

There are some interesting writings under the arches surrounding the  square.

In my neighbourhood, besides Hugo's house, are the Musée Cognacq-Jay and the Musée Carnavalet. I have not visited the Cognacq-Jay which is based on the  collection of 18th century art donated by Ernest Cognacq who founded the Samaritaine store, which is unfortunately now closed and awaiting redevelopment.  The Samaritaine was a lovely building in the belle-époque style with an observatory on the top level. The Carnavalet, the oldest of the city museums, is housed in un hôtel particulier(former home of an aristocrat) and depicts the history of the city. I never tire of visiting this gracious museum with its courtyard gardens and rooms that reflect the different periods of Paris history.

Flowers bloom and birds sing in the courtyards. Many are open to visitors.  I think I'll take my book to read.
As in every neighbourhood in Paris, the narrow streets of Le Marais are a delight to the flâneur. I love this word that means a romantic, passionate poetic individual who finds meaning through wandering the streets. 

Pour le parfait flâneur, pour l'observateur passionné, c'est une immense jouissance que d'élire domicile dans le nombre, dans l'ondoyant, dans le mouvement, dans le fugitif et l'infini. Être hors de chez soi, et pourtant se sentir partout chez soi ; voir le monde, être au centre du monde et rester caché au monde, tels sont quelques-uns des moindres plaisirs de ces esprits indépendants, passionnés, impartiaux, que la langue ne peut que maladroitement définir. L'observateur est un prince qui jouit partout de son incognito.  Baudelaire, Le croquis de moeurs

When we arrived almost a week ago, we had the problems of the lost suitcase and the broken camera. Both of these were resolved within a couple of days. Last night, Janet accidentally deleted all of the photos and videos that she had taken on her new camera. She leaves on Saturday morning and is, at this moment, scurrying around Paris in an attempt to replace some of her photos. Fortunately, she has visited me twice before and already has photos of the major attractions.

Gérard Mulot is across the street. I bought Janet a macaron to cheer her up.

A week in Paris passes so quickly! 


  1. Love that Baudelaire quotation. My 4th-year students have been working our way through a long poem by Canadian Meira Cook that features a flâneur (flâneuse, if such were possible) in a Winnipeg winter. . . so much different than having Paris as chez soi . . . .

  2. It is interesting because I just read a review of A Walker in the City and an interview with Meira Cook and she was talking of learning to walk in a new way. Certainly, I find that to be true in Paris where every street sign is a lesson in history, literature or science, not too mention my love of window displays. When I was writing, I thought of Janet Flanner. Have you ever read any of the articles that she wrote for The New Yorker?

  3. You are so widely read!
    No, I don't know Flanner's writing -- sounds like someone else I have to add to the list -- I just looked her up and I can easily imagine that she and Mavis Gallant might have known each other, had coffee together occasionally . . .

  4. Love the idea of being a flâneur in Paris. It is almost impossible not to become one if you start to really look around while walking there. Le Marais is also a favorite area to wander. I always stop in at the Fragonard shop on the corner of rue Vielle du Temple and rue Rambuteau to stock up on their beautiful soaps. The fallafel shops on rue des Rosiers are another favorite and the National Archives in the Hôtel de Soubise is beautiful too (also on rue Rambuteau).


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