Our flight touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 6.40 am. We had pre-booked a private room in a hostel at the Marais neighbourhood, a 5 minute walking distance from the St Sebastian Froissart metro station. We arrived at the hostel around 7.50 am and the owner let us leave our bags in the storage room as the check-in time is from 2 pm onwards. We decided to explore the neigbourhood.
We walked north along rue de Turenne to Place de la Republique, a square with a monument and a small fountain. The surrounding area and roads leading to the square saw little traffic. Feeling hungry we stopped at the nearby McDonald for breakfast. The breakfast set comprising a mini croissant, a danish and a muffin with tea or coffee tasted so good that we ordered another one. From here we decided to back track and explored the narrower streets. We could see the architectural styles of Medieval and Renaissance-era Paris in the area are well preserved. We passed Musee Picasso (Hotel Sale) on rue de Thorigny before stopping at Museum of the History of Paris on rue de Sevigne. The museum is housed within the walls of two Renaissance-era mansions, the Hotel de Carnavalet and the Hotel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau which was built in the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum’s permanent collection traces the history of Paris, highlighting various periods of the Parisian heritage in over 100 rooms. My favourite was its exhibits on the French Revolution and the beautiful courtyard garden. Entrance to the museum is free.
From the museum, we continued walking west along rue des Francs Bourgeois until we reached Place des Vosges, arguably Paris most beautiful square. The square has served as royal stomping grounds. Originally it housed the royally-owned Hôtel de Tournelles where Charles VII and Louis XIII had both lived in. In the early 17th century, Henri IV’s instructed the construction of the Place des Vosges, and then called the Place Royale. The square is occupied by fine art galleries and pricey restaurants. I find the square a wonderful place to unwind, stroll, and dine.
It was 3 p.m. when we decided to head back to the hostel. But on the way we did make a short detour to rue des Rosiers, the main thoroughfare of the Marais historic Jewish quarter. Walking down on this street you will see facades scrawled in Hebrew and French. The area is also known as the Pletzl, which means square in Yiddish. There was a commemorative plaque stands at the boy’s school indicating that 165 students from this school were deported to concentration camps during WWII. I can’t help but wondered what happened to those boys and whether they had survived the ordeal. The street is dotted with bakeries selling delicious Middle Eastern and French specialties and we stopped at one of them for takeaways and again we were not disappointed.
The Marais had a much different flavor. Combined with its fascinating history, well preserved architectures, artisan boutiques, and fine art galleries, plenty of museums to choose from, dazzling quarters, lavish and beautiful squares are all worth exploring. I was glad that we had chosen the Marais as our base for our 10-day holiday in Paris.
After a 12 hours flight and 9 hours walking tour, we checked into the hostel and called it a day for a much needed rest.