Le Marais, Discovering the Secrets of Old Paris


If you find yourself in Paris you should take a walk in the neighbourhood of Le Marais. If you want to experience it like a local and learn all the intriguing details that will capture your attention then you have to take the walk with a Localer

 

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A WALK IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF LE MARAIS

It is not a coincidence that the neighbourhood of Le Marais is known as the “old Paris”. Narrow labyrinthine alleys leading to hidden yards and windows weaved with ivy. You stand to hear the buzzing and the sounds of the city but you hear nothing. It feels as if you are somewhere isolated instead of right in the heart of Paris.

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Buildings with a special architectural structure magnetise the eyes. Smaller or bigger shops are everywhere selling antiques, clothes or even teas of different varieties and aromas that make you lose your mind. At the same time, your nose is tickled by scents coming from the bakeries: freshly baked baguettes and the fluffiest croissants you have ever tasted.

THE HISTORY OF LE MARAIS

Small details take you back in time. Like the cones of cement that were once used to be right next to the street in order to protect the corners of the buildings from the wheels of carriages passing by.

Or the curving right in the middle of the cobblestone road that, as Corey explained, it was used to help the effluent thrown from the windows flow away.

 

 

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The house lady was supposed to shout 3 times from the window before emptying her bucket. She thus gave enough time to the passengers by to protect themselves by standing with their backs to the wall. It is said that the rule of the streets imposed that every time a rich and a poor man were walking side by side, then the poor had to walk on the inner side of the road leaving the rich man closer to the wall for obvious reasons. The Same rule applied for the occasion of a man walking side by side with a lady. The lady had to walk near the wall at all times leaving the centre of the road to the gentleman.

 

THE PRESENCE OF THE JEWISH IN LE MARAIS

At another point, we noticed some plates with dozens of names written all over them and we learned that those were the names of the Parisians who helped, hid and risked their lives offering shelter to the Jewish during the years of the Holocaust of Auschwitz. During those years the presence of the Jewish community flourished in the neighbourhood with strong participation in all activities and in commerce.

In honoring memory of those who died those years the road has been renamed and one can still see on the wall the old sign with the previous name and right below it the sign with the new name of the road.

THE CATHEDRAL OF LE MARAIS

Cobblestone narrow alleys lead to hidden church entrances like the cathedral where -as we learned- Victor Hugo himself used to visit. In this same cathedral also his daughter got married. As a token of his gratitude for a beautiful ceremony, he offered to the cathedral a big shell that its two parts decorated in gold have been placed on the entrance and are used to hold the holy water.

 

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Inside the very same church, we admired an amazing painting of Delacroix portraying Jesus on the Mount of Olives

 

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while we listened with great interest the stories about the ghost living in the church.  Corey pointed out to us on a wall of the church the phrase “French Democracy or Death” that was written then since the era of the French Revolution. No matter how hard they have tried to erase it with different cleansers, the phrase “emerges” again on the wall and cannot be forced to disappear.

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THE MANSIONS OF LE MARAIS

Imposing mansions with enormous cobblestone entrances and artisan gardens. Homes decorated with statues. Homes that behind their walls they hide secrets and stories of love, passion, hatred and  betrayal.

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Beautiful squares and parks, smiling faces, friendly and happy people. Tiny bistros, antiquity shops, the most amazing macaroons and the most delicious falafels. Everything is here in Le Marais.

 

 

Here the past is weaved artfully with the present and history comes alive in every step. This is the place where along with the couple walking past you on the road debouches right from the next corner of the street Jean Valjean holding Cosette by the hand.

I want to cordially thank the Localers and especially Corey for a most interesting tour. Readers who plan on traveling to Paris may use the code ICONS10 to receive a 10% discount in all guiding tours as an offer from the Localers and Eikones & Psithyroi.

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Localers

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