Monday, August 20, 2018

Old Paris, for real

August 20, 2018 -- A fleamarket surprised us when we popped up out of the subway at the Maubert-Mutualité station in the 5th arrondissement.  I would not have been surprised to see an open air market with produce, meat, cheese, wine, and cheap clothing, because that routinely happens on three mornings of each week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday).  But this "brocante," or fleamarket, was a special occasion on this Sunday. 

Elaborate carvings above a beautiful doorway on the Rue Saint Louis en-l'Ile.
We needed none of this stuff, but we looked around for a few minutes anyway, just to be polite and because we were mildly interested.  One thing I like about this kind of fleamarket is that it serves the locals; tourists generally don't frequent them.  There in the 5th and 6th arrondissements, too may tourists clog the sidewalks routinely.  Too much English is spoken.  After spending several hours over there, I am always happy to come home to our less touristy, more French, neighborhood in the 15th.  Tourism represents only 14 percent of the economy in Paris.

Great old doorways on the Rue de Bievre.  "Bievre" is an old fashioned name for
"beaver."  It was the name of a small river that flowed through this area, into the Seine.
What is left of the Bievre river is now underground, a part of the Paris storm sewers.

The fleamarkets focus on home furnishings and old costume jewelry -- not exactly what tourists are looking for.  We, however, are always looking at oriental rugs and "artwork," so we happily mixed with the locals on the Place Maubert for a short time.  (Tom and I dream of having the opportunity to furnish and decorate an apartment in Paris.)

Then we crossed the Boulevard Saint-Germain to the other side of Place Maubert where, for the first time in that place, I did NOT immediately recall that this is the place where Protestants were burned at the stake in the 16th Century (see my blog entry from September 2, 2013).  The reason I was distracted from this disturbing thought is the construction barriers that were set up here and there in the Place.  It just looked so different.
New plexiglass and metal railing has been installed on the Pont de l'Archeveche
to thwart the vandals who keep attaching "love locks" to Paris bridges (and

We continued walking up the Rue de Bievre -- a charming medieval-looking street.  We had the street almost to ourselves, in spite of the crowds on the Boulevard Saint-Germain behind us, and the crowds around Notre Dame de Paris, ahead of us.

Tom loves walking around in this ancient part of Paris.  I do, too, when it is calm, like the Rue de Bievre.  But I do not like big crowds of tourists.  I'm the same way at home, on Sanibel Island.  When tourists clog the roads, we locals are not happy.

When we reached the Seine, we saw that Notre Dame is looking as beautiful as ever.  No wonder the whole world wants to see her.  We crossed the Pont de l'Archeveche to the Ile de la Cité and the Pont Saint-Louis to the Ile Saint Louis.  Buskers were entertaining on the bridge, as usual.

Still, tourists vandalize with their "love locks"
whereever they can.

The Ile Saint Louis is so charming and ancient that it is worth walking up and down it, again and again.  Ile Saint Louis is so charming that you almost think you are in an ersatz, Disney-like experience.  But no, it is really real.  And some real Parisians actually live there. 

We braved the crowds of tourists back on the Ile de la Cité until we reached the Rue Chanoinesse, where we veered off to the right, leaving all those people behind us.  The ancient and calm Rue de la Colombe took us back to the edge of the Seine.

As we walked by the Rue de l'Arcole, Tom wondered aloud, "What is an Arcole?"  Well, it was a battle fought between French and Austrian forces in 1796, near Verona.  Appropriately, there are Italian restaurants near here.

We walked along the Quai de la Corse to the magnificent clock tower at the Quai de l'Horage.  That street led us to the Place Dauphine, one of those classic neighborhood squares with almost nothing but boules courts (gritty sand) and trees (no grass or flowers).  This distinguished square is surrounded by very old buildings, some of them 17th Century buildings; it was a real estate project initiated by King Henry IV.

We rested and watched the boules players until it was time to walk toward home again.  We made it as far as the Rue Saint Guillaume and the Boulevard Saint Germain when we gave up and hailed a taxi.

At home we flung open the balcony doors and enjoyed a "picnic" dinner in the breezy apartment while the sunset skies softened the city.

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