A stroll through the Marais
The Marais is one of the loveliest and most fashionable districts of Paris. The name means ‘marshland’ because the original village here was built on a marsh, but there are no signs of that these days! Instead there are elegant buildings, pretty squares and of course the Parisian staples of great little cafés.
On the final morning of our recent visit, with our train home not booked until late afternoon, we had time for a lovely wander here, which I’m sharing for Jo’s Monday Walks. Rather than concentrate on the area around the elegant Place des Vosges, which we’ve visited many times before, we took the Metro to Temple and started our walk there.
We soaked up the special atmosphere of this quarter, took lots of photos and enjoyed a leisurely drink at a neighbourhood pavement café: Paris at its best. Here are some of the highlights.
Église Sainte-Élisabeth de Hongrie
I had never heard of this neighbourhood church but it proved an unexpected delight, albeit difficult to do justice to in photos. There’s a beautiful fresco in the dome and some striking stained glass.
But most fascinating of all, to me, were the hundred carved oak bas-reliefs tucked away in semi-darkness in the ambulatory (behind the altar). These were originally commissioned in 1623 for the Abbey of Saint-Vaast in Arras and moved here in the 18th century. They depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Unfortunately it was nearly as difficult to make these out as it was to photograph them, but I did spot Jonah and the Whale and the Garden of Eden. Here’s a very poor photo of the latter, which was right at one end and therefore slightly easier to see. Maybe the church could consider some sort of temporary light switch such as I’ve seen in Italian churches by their greatest works of art?
Square du Temple-Elie Wiesel
This pretty little square is dedicated to a Nobel Peace Prize winner and clearly beloved of locals. We saw a yoga class in progress, games of ping-pong and a group of (I think) Chinese elders sitting on the benches for a chat.
Rue des Archives
Leaving the square we had time to kill, as we were heading to the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson which doesn’t open until 11.00. So that’s where the aforementioned café came in handy, on a busy corner near the square. It offered lots of people watching and a friendly dog.
Once the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson opened we strolled along the Rue des Archives to see a great exhibition showcasing some of his landscapes from around the world. I’d seen a poster for the exhibition a few days before on the Metro and we were both so glad we’d heard about it as we’re great admirers of his work and the photos here were ones we’d never seen. The gallery has changing exhibitions, so we’ll be back again for sure.
Meanwhile the Rue des Archives itself was a really fruitful street for our own photography. There were some beautiful building details and some fun street art on the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
The Jewish quarter
The narrow streets around the Rue du Marché des Blancs Manteaux and Rue des Rosiers, part of the former Jewish quarter, are dotted with sad memorials to deported families. I noted with interest that these acknowledge the complicit Vichy government.
These memorials sit alongside present-day happier scenes of queues outside the most popular falafel vendors. There were shoppers browsing the mainly independent boutiques and others just out for a stroll, as we were. There was also a good selection of street art for me to photograph.
I wondered afterwards if the pink rabbit was simply a lost toy, as I took it to be at the time, or if someone had left it as a poignant reference to the book ‘When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit’, by Judith Kerr, which tells the story of her own family. They fled Nazi Germany when she was eight years old, leaving behind her favourite pink rabbit toy, and settled first in Paris, later England. But maybe I’m reading too much into it!
We finished our walk near Saint Paul and took the Metro back to Saint Germain des Pres to have a light lunch of galettes in a creperie near our hotel. There was time for an ice cream too before collecting our bags and heading to the Gare du Nord, and home. See you again soon, Paris!
Love the squirrel and cat! Moved by the park in honor of Elie Wiesel, author and Holocaust survivor, and other remembrances in the Jewish district. Didn’t know Paris had these memorials.
Yes, in this part of the city the Jewish legacy is strong and there are a number of such memorials
This must have been a lovely stroll … so much to see and admire! The stained glass in the church is beautiful and the sculptures interesting. The teddy bears are so much fun to look at (and I like your theory about the pink rabbit).
It was! This is such a lovely area, I’d like to stay here on a future visit to Paris in order to get to know it better 😀
Thanks for an excursion in nostalgia. We lived in the Marais for half of our five year stay in Paris so I could pinpoint several of your images on a map. I’m sure I’ve seen those bears before but last time they were the other side of the river! https://beyondthewindowbox.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/a-parisian-year/
How wonderful to have lived in the Marais – exactly where I’d want to live if I were to live in Paris (there or near Luxembourg, I can never decide!) The bears started off on the Left Bank, in the 13th (see the links I shared with Jo below, in particular https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/paris-teddy-bears which tells the story of their origin). They’ve now spread all over Paris – we saw some near Les Halles last year. Off to check out your Parisian year now …
I feel very privileged to have lived in both the Marais and in the 5th. For the last year and a half of our stay, the Jardin du Luxembourg was pretty much our local park – you’ll find it features prominently on my blog from 2017 to 2018.
Thanks for the link about the bears. I came across them near Gobelin in 2018 when they were just starting on their adventures.
pink rabbit is probably a forgotten toy. great images. I enjoy all of your Paris posts, might not comment them all but I sure like them:)
Quite probably but if so it’s a neat and apposite coincidence 🙂 Glad you’ve been enjoying Paris with me!
Enjoyed your Paris series, Sarah. A lovely stroll through this special place.
Thank you Amy, glad you enjoyed the walk 🙂 A couple more Paris posts to come before I concentrate on our next trip!
Just simply a city which keeps on giving, no matter how many times you visit.
That is so very true – hence we’re already planning to go back next September!
I’ve enjoyed this walk very much, Sarah. I hope you are right about the pink rabbit, it would be such a wonderful reference to the book and the historical events. I would love to visit the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.
I do recommend that gallery if ever you’re in Paris. In addition to the great photographs we found it a lovely environment in which to view them and just the right size 🙂
Mike and Kellye Hefner
This looks like a place where I could stroll for days! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos, Sarah!
It is indeed that sort of place. If I were lucky enough to be able to live in Paris, I’d love to live around here!
Beautiful tour of this beautiful city! I love all the art and architecture 🙂
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the walk 🙂
What a wonderful walk Sarah, a few sad stories there. But everywhere looks so pretty. Love all the detail in the photos
Thank you Alison 🙂 Yes, the stories are sad, especially that school full of children. But today it’s such a vibrant area and with so much to photograph. I hope to go back next year to explore some more streets around here 🙂
What a lovely stroll. I find Paris is best when you amble around the different places. If I lived closer to London I would be there a lot!
Yes, it’s perfect for an amble, especially when you’ve been several times and ‘ticked off’ the major sights. Having said that, we usually try to mix it up with a visit to one or two of them, a gallery or two and plenty of meandering around 🙂
An enticing tribute to a favourite spot, and one I don’t know: I’ve visited Paris surprisingly rarely.
If you get back there I definitely recommend this area 🙂
Sarah, Seeing your photos made me want to jump on a plane and hop over to Paris and walk the streets of the Marais myself! Hope it won’t be forever and a day.
Ah, if this persuades anyone to visit Paris then I have done my job 😀 Thanks Annie!
Funny how some places speak to us, isn’t it? The bears made me smile, start to finish. We stayed not far from the Marais and it certainly had loads of character. Many thanks for sharing, Sarah!
Have you heard the story behind the bears Jo? I think I shared it when we saw some last year but if not, here’s a piece about the original project in 2018: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/paris-teddy-bears. It then spread to other districts during Covid as cafes saw it as a fun way to ensure social distancing, blocking off certain tables: https://www.solosophie.com/teddy-bears-in-parisian-cafes/
No, I hadn’t, Sarah. What a lovely idea.
Last Tuesday I went on a guided Jewish walking tour of the Marais district — will do a post on it soon.
Do share, Nemorino!
Thanks Don, I’ll definitely look out for that 🙂