An Unstructured Flash-Visit

photo: l'as fallafel
Fallafel or falafel, it is pretty much the same thing.

One-Tenth of the Marais in 1797 Words

Paris:- Friday, 24. July 1998:- It has been slightly over a quarter-century since I was first in the Marais. I really do plan to visit it someday.

The first time I went to it, I never heard of it. I had a time and a place for a meeting there, so it was just a place I had to find in Paris. And that particular time, might have been the first time I was on the Right Bank, looking for an address.

For the next several years, I went often to the address in the rue des France-Bourgeois. I would get out of the métro at Saint-Paul and go along the two blocks and the twophoto: le roi falafel half-blocks on the rue Pavé to Francs-Bourgeois, turn left to find the place and have my meeting. When it was over, I'd go back the same way I came.

The rue des Rosiers, as seen from Jo Goldenberg's terrace.

I did all my 'sightseeing' this way for more than ten years; by going to places by the shortest route and coming back the same way. Well, this is not exactly true. Sometimes I'd stop in Montparnasse for a drink on the way home, and sometimes this took the rest of the day and maybe some of the evening - but mostly, I was like my own little railroad.

This is how it was, after 19 years, I did some 'sightseeing' on the Champs-Elysées one day, and this is how Metropole came to be.

If it is the first time you are on it and you are allowed to really pay attention, you can get a lot out of the Champs-Elysées in an hour. You can't do this with the Marais. It isn't one street; it is like a whole town full of things to see, things to do.

Although I am a somewhat leisurely tourist, even Michelin's Guide suggests giving to Marais a whole day rather than a couple of decades. Or, the guide proposes four 'walks,' or seeing just certain buildings - mostly 'hôtels' or townhouses. I think if you try all of Michelin's proposals in a day, you'll have to speedwalk.

With some precision, I can say that the Marais was not entirely within Paris at the time of the security wall ordered built by Philippe Auguste, which he had started before he took off for the third Crusade in 1190.

Traces of this wall can still be seen, behind a chain-link fence, from the rue Charlemagne, near the corner of the rue des Jardins.

When king Jean 'the Good' was captured in 1356 after the battle of Poitiers, Etienne Marcel decided it was time to fix up the old walls in case 'les Anglais' got the idea of coming to Paris.

The construction of this new wall continued under Charles V and was completed in 1383, when Charles VI was king. Nowphoto: kosher pizza the Marais was entirely within Paris, even if there was nothing much more than swamp and the hôtel de la Mouffe north of the rue Saint-Antoine.

I don't what it is, but I'll try it sometime.

The 'quarter' of the Marais is ill-defined. Roughly, it is to the east of rue de Lobau and rue des Archives, north from the Seine to the rues Pastourelle and Debelleyme, and west of the boulevard Beaumarchais and the Bastille.

This corresponds to just about all of the present third and fourth arrondissements, excepting the last 300 metres on the west of these.

There are about 40 important hôtels and churches, plus the place des Vosges within this area.

Take the rue du Temple for an example. This is actually one block west, and not in the Marais, but it is where I start anyway. In 1300 it was called alley or rue Gentien, after Jean and Jacques Gentien who lived here before they were killed in 1302, at the battle of Mons-en-Puelle.

At numbers 14 and 16, there was a hôtel, bought in 1259, to serve as the Paris residence of the Abbots of Bec-Hallouin. In 1396 it was taken over by Jean Bertault, secretary to Charles VI, and transferred to Tanneguy du Châtel in 1415. The hôtel was subdivided in 1456 and reunited in 1538, when Jean Luillier took it over.

I pass the tower at the corner of the rue Sainte-Croix-de-la- Bretonnerie, built in 1610, that is attached to the restored house of the treasurer, Le Boulanger, who lived here in 1620. He was followed in 1635 by Turpin, the doctor of Louis XIII's brother. Charles Turpin, his son, lived here until 1685, when it was taken over by another doctor, Jolly. Four years later, Rousseau the wine merchant moved in.

At number 41, because I am on the same side of the street, I do not notice the Auberge de l'Aigle-d'Or, which is supposed to be the last Paris coach house - the Paris station of a coach line running out to the provinces. Supposed to be visible, is the stairway that descends to the underground stables, where the horses and coches were kept.

For no particular reason I turn into the rue des Blancs-Manteaux. This started out in the 13th century too. Before it got its present name in 1289, it was Petite-Parcheminerie or Vielle-Parcheminerie, and again for a while in the 15th century, it was rue des Parcheminers - on account of the parchment makers.

Its other name came from some beggar-monks, who wore long, white coats. These were suppressed by Gregorie X in 1274 and were replaced in 1297, by authorization of Pope Boniface VIII, by the Saint-Guillaume hermits from Montrouge, who Parisians are supposed to call 'Guillemites,' although I've never heard this before. These wore long black coats, but Parisians have stuck to the old name anyway.

For some reason, these Guillemites were allowed to poke a holephoto: yiddish deli through the Philippe-Auguste wall in 1334, to form the beginning of the rue des Francs-Bourgeois. Despite protests in 1618, they were ordered to join the reformed Benedictines of Saint-Maur, regardless of the colors of their coats.

The very tidy, Yiddish deli.

Where I start, is the Crédit Municipal. This is also known as the 'Mont-de-Piété,' which was a pious foundation started in Italy, to combat usury. It was widespread in Europe in the 18th century and was introduced in France by Louis XVI in 1777.

This was suppressed, as a monopoly, by the Revolution and reinstated in 1797. In 1860, it had 18 branch offices in Paris. From what I can gather, it is, or was, the municipal pawn-shop.

It has been a long time since I pawned anything; I have heard of wealthy people pawning their furs in spring and repossessing them in the fall, after the pawn-shop has kept them in careful storage throughout the summer.

Okay, after it there is the Notre-Dame des Blancs-Manteaux church. The original convent-church was built facing east-west and fixed to face north-south in 1685. It was closed in 1790 by the Revolution, sold in 1797; and bought by the city in 1807 - for the 'religious needs' of the neighborhood.

At the rue Vielle-du-Temple I turn south. Unlike a lot of streets around here, this one's name - since 1270 - has changed little. It is from the Templars - founded about 1118 in Jerusalem - having their first place in Paris in the rue Lobau.

The first major building I do not see is the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, which belonged to a Breton gentleman named Jean de Rieux in 1395; who was a pal of both Charles V and VI, and was made a maréchal of France in 1397. A long time later, in 1638, Denis Amelot bought it.

His son had the architect, Pierre Cottard, fix it up in 1660. It stayed in the family for 39 years. After that it had a lot of different owners until Louis Le Tellier bought it in 1759.

He rented it in 1776 to Caron de Beaumarchais, who founded the Rodriguez, Hortalez Company, which was subsidized by the French government - for the purpose of financing aid to the Americans in their struggle with the English crown.

Beaumarchais lived in the house 12 years and married his girlfriend, Marie-Thérèse Willer-Mawlaz. He also wrote the 'Marriage of Figaro' here in 1778, but it was only performed six years later.

It is unclear why this building is called the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, which was only first mentioned in a street guide published in 1745. There never was a Dutch Embassy here, although there were traces of Protestants.

In fact, the Michelin Guide calls it the Hôtel Amelot de Bisseuil, which goes back to 1638. But Parisians do not much care for facts or edicts, so if it is still the 'Blancs-Manteaux,' who were long out-lived by the 'Black-Coats,' then I guess it is okay to be the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande.

About here is where I turn into the rue des Rosiers. In 1230 this street was inside the Philippe-Auguste wall. Until 1848, it turned right into the rue des Juifs, which was renamed as Ferdinand-Duval in 1900, due in large part, to the Dreyfus Affair.

From the 12th century this was a Jewish neighborhood, but it was turned out at the end of the 14th century. By the eve of the Revolution, the quarter was somewhat reconstituted; at the end of the 19th the place Saint-Paul was commonly called the 'place aux Juifs.'

In the 20th century, the Jewish population has been raised by immigration from Russia and Poland, and later, from Germany. Today it is obvious that this old community has been reinforced by arrivals from North Africa - andphoto: marais boulangerie on a day like today with the sun pouring down in the neighboring rue des Ecouffes, I get this Mediterranean feeling.

Bread, pasteries, and neat tile-work, in the rue des Rosiers.

Together, the more reserved Ashkenazim and the outgoing Sephardim, make this one of the Marais' most lively areas if not one of the more livelier in Paris.

While many of the narrow streets of the Marais are lively with visitors, it is pretty much like a big, outdoor museum. The rue des Rosiers area in contrast, feels like a living neighborhood in the here and now. Every time I come away from it, I can feel ordinary Paris begin as things get quiet again.

All those years ago, I used to pass the rue des Rosiers almost weekly, on my way to the Francs-Bourgeois. One day I took some time off from my habitual scurry, and went into Jo Goldenberg's for a corned beef sandwich. It wasn't the best I ever had, but it was the first I had in Paris, and the first I'd had in Europe.

The Marais is like a city of its own. You can take a guide book and 'do it' in a day. You can take the same book and do four one-day tours. Me, I think you could move into it, and not see it all in a couple of years.

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