Like promised here’s a mostly photographic blog post about our Chase around Paris with 18th century French history blogger, Madeleine and friends from Maine.
It was a blistery cold March day, so cold I had to buy a new pair of boots just to keep my feet from turning into blocks of ice. Poor Chef somehow managed to make it through…guess he was preoccupied with the photo-taking. I’ve officially decided unless absolutely necessary, we will not visit Paris during winter. It was even colder than Maine!
Day 1 was about chasing just random places…from the old Cour du Dragon passage on rue de Rennes to the Temple Prison site.
We made our way down boulevard Saint Germain des Prés turning corners until we found the Cour du Rohan. The Chef and I had ventured here in the summer of 2011, only to find it locked. Luck was on our side this day.
The significance of the Cour du Rohan besides the fact it’s a comprised of 3 inner courtyards all nicely hidden between rue du Jardinet and Cour du Commerce Saint-Andre (my favorite street in Paris), is that it dates to the 14th century. Inside courtyard #2 was the residence of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henri II (1550). It’s also the courtyard directly behind what was once the 13th century wall of Philip II Augustus. A tower is still visible inside Un Dimanche a Paris chocolate shop. This was also the residence of the Bishops of Rouen when they visited Paris. It’s also where the last pas de mule or step for mounting a horse can be found. Interesting stuff.
From there we ventured down my favorite street and on to Place Saint-Michel
From here we crossed Blvd Saint-Michel and headed over to the oldest tree in Paris.
Across the street is this rather imposing door. Any time you see an entry such as this, there’s always a pretty good story behind it.
Crossing the street and the Pont au Double we literally had to do a double take. We spotted this enchanting sistah as she made her way to Notre Dame. I couldn’t help but follow a little close to snap a few shots.
My new interest in medieval France has led me to discover (among many things) the various areas around Paris that the formidable wall, built during the reign of Philippe Augustus II, could still be seen. Madeleine was eager to see it too.
What I find so interesting is that this wall, which took 20 years to build, was 3 meters thick at ground level, 10 meters high, was to have 33 towers north of the Seine and 34 to the south —can actually still be seen some 800 years later!!! That’s mind blowing to me, no? Do the teenagers who play soccer beneath it understand the importance? Without this wall Paris might not have been…It kept the invading barbarians out but also established an absolute monarchy. The city itself was free to build peacefully for centuries to come, all nicely protected by these walls.
As we left Medieval Paris and the wall of Philippe Augustus and headed for the 18th century, I suddenly remembered where to find the last remaining pieces of the once beautiful Palais des Tuileries that was built by Catherine de Medicis, wife of Henri II, whose mistress’s residence we visited in the Cour du Rohan earlier. Catherine fled the Marais where she and Henri had their residence after he was accidentally killed in a jousting event in 1559. She moved to the Louvre, but then decided to build her own residence nearby in 1564. It was actually built on the outside of another wall that surrounded Paris–known as the Charles V wall…built after Philippe’s between the years 1356-1383. Catherine never lived at the Tuileries and actually left it unfinished. She was frightened by a prediction that she would die near Saint Germain and well…the Tuileries was in the vicinity of the Saint Germain parish across the river. She actually ended up dying in the Loire valley while visiting Blois, and was attended to by a priest named Julien de Saint-Germain…go figure! She could have completed the Tuileries after all! Silly woman.
And so it was fitting that once we left the Tuileries remains we find the site of where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her confinement at the Conciergerie. It was after all where she and Louis XVI, their children and Madame Elisabeth were sent after the Tuileries was stormed in August of 1792.
The Temple was actually a Medieval fortress of none other than the Knights Templar who built it during the 12th century as their European headquarters. It was just one part of their compound that also included a church, garden, and various other structures. Louis XVI brother,the Comte d’Artois had his Paris residence there…however, not in the menacing and foreboding Grand Tower known to history, but in a 17th century palace also on the property. None of which survives today. It was from the Grand Tower on September 3, 1792 that Marie Antoinette watched her friend’s head, that of the Princess Lamballe, be paraded around on pike. During the Napoleon years, it was used yet again as a prison. In 1808 however, Napoleon finally had it razed because it had become a place of pilgrimage for royalists.
It was by this point in the day that my feet were quickly turning to ice and Madeleine was exhausted so we parted ways. The Chef and I heading for Galeries Lafayette in search of fur lined boots and warmth. He couldn’t help but snap this as we passed by. The beautiful Opéra Garnier.
Day 2 of the Paris chase where our Maine friends join in, will continue in the next blog post…