Man with a long beard, sunglasses and hat
Paris,  Sunday Stills

Going back to Paris, and to the Place Dauphine

We’ll always have Paris

Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca

Never go back, they say. And it’s a rule we tend to follow when it comes to travelling, but we make a few exceptions. And prime among those exceptions is Paris. It’s a city we both love and it’s easy to get to – easier now, with Eurostar, than some UK cities.

We spent the first part of our honeymoon there, recently celebrated our fortieth anniversary there, and in between those two trips have visited together on five other occasions. And that doesn’t include a visit each back in our even more ancient and separate histories!

Terri’s Sunday Stills theme this week is Going Back, and with our latest anniversary trip so fresh in my mind, a look back at previous visits to Paris seems apposite. But not to Paris as a whole, just one particular corner.

When we got married we didn’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on a honeymoon (we had just bought our first home); and we were young and used to budget travel. So we chose a downmarket hotel, the Hotel Henri IV, in a rather upmarket location, the Place Dauphine. Of course back then it wasn’t that upmarket, or it would not have harboured that hotel! But it was very central, rather pretty and in my favourite area of Paris, by the Seine; on the Île de la Cité in fact.

Henri IV

The Place Dauphine was developed under Henri IV to fill in the triangular space at the point of the island, following the building of the Pont Neuf in 1606. This ‘new’ bridge is in fact the oldest in Paris. It just catches the tip of the Île de la Cité as it crosses the river. At that point is a dramatic statue of the king, added in 1614. He is looking downstream as if at the prow of a boat, albeit on horseback.

Photos from 2017

The Place Dauphine

At the rear of the statue is the narrow entrance to the Place Dauphine, which was completed in 1616. The buildings were originally just three storeys tall, consisting of two ground floor shops in each unit, two floors of residential space and a small attic. Over time most have been heightened and extensively remodelled, but the square’s general layout has remained unchanged. Another rare feature is that the buildings here were built for merchants and commoners rather than the elite. In this they differ from other architectural developments of the period such as the Place des Vosges.

Open square with trees, cars and buildings
The Place Dauphine in 1981, with the Hotel Henri IV centre-shot ~ and you might just make out the statue of Henri IV in the distance, far right

We loved our stay in this quiet corner at the heart of the city, and have made a point of revisiting the Place Dauphine on most of our subsequent visits to Paris. In 1995 and in 2005 the hotel was still there and looked much the same from the outside. Online reviews however indicated that it had been slightly smartened up. It has since closed and been turned into what look like rather smart (and no doubt expensive) apartments.

In 1981, 1995 and 2005

The square itself has changed little over the years; each time we visit we are transported back to that first stay.

Open square with autumn trees
The Place Dauphine in 2005, looking towards the Palais de Justice

When we were there in 2017 it was around lunchtime. A small group of locals were playing pétanque, watched by the man in my featured photo; look closely and you’ll see the square reflected in his sunglasses!

Photos from 1995 and 2017 ~ me walking in the square and an old bookbinding premises at #16 (now closed)

Going back

More recently a number of restaurants have opened there. For our 40th anniversary dinner we chose one very near where the hotel used to be (in fact partly in the same premises as the former bookbinders’ above)

We had a wonderful meal at a table outside on the pavement, with a great view of the square. Locals were again playing pétanque beneath the trees, long after it seemed too dark to be able to see the boules, while others walked small dogs and stopped to chat to each other.

Square with trees and people playing boules
View from our restaurant table in 2021, with the Palais de Justice in the background

The restaurant was busy, as was the one on the opposite side of the square, and the atmosphere couldn’t have felt more Parisian! It was the perfect place to celebrate, proving that going back can be a very good idea.

Dinner at Le Caveaux du Palais in 2021

I visit Paris often, most recently in 2021; these photos were taken on several trips, as dated in the captions


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