Fortresses, graves, hot chocolate, and a toothache.
- In short, “Day II” was a walk-a-thon around some of the older parts of Paris or less renovated by Baron Haussmann´s 19th century reconstruction. We started by taking the metro from Montmartre to Place de la République. From there, we walked down the Boulevard du Temple. In the late 18th century and up until the revolution, it was the place to be and be seen.
Historic note: The Boulevard du Temple follows the path of the city wall constructed by Charles V (between 1356 and 1383) and demolished under Louis XIV. The boulevard, lined with trees, was built between 1656 and 1705. From the time of Louis XVI (1774–1792) until the July Monarchy in 1830, the Boulevard du Temple was home to a popular fashion: it became a place for walking and recreation. Cafés and theatres previously at the Saint-Laurent and Saint-Germain fairs moved here. After a time, it was nicknamed the Boulevard du Crime after the crime melodramas that were so popular in its many theaters. In 1782, Philippe Curtius, Madame Tussaud’s tutor in wax modeling, opened his second exhibition on this Boulevard. – From Jefferson´s Paris, Howard C. Rice.
- We stopped at this landmark which is all that´s really left of the Paris Temple. A medieval fortress built in the 12th century by knights impassioned by their crusade mission. Over the years the fortress expanded and evolved into a prison. The same prison where Louis XVI and his family were held captive. This stone ode outlines the demolished building in the left corner.
- From Place du Temple, we walked to the Hôtel de Ville. This grand edifice has been the seat of the Paris Municipality since the early 14th century. It was also the stronghold of the French Revolution in 1789. More on this building in the next book.
- It was hard to imagine men like Robespierre and Danton professing their manifestos in square that was being used as an ice rink and with the smell of warm crepes wafting through the chilly air.
- From this political powerhouse, we took a side trip to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Although it has only been around since the beginning of the 19th century, I was still interested in walking through this city of sleeping souls. France has moved many famous persons to this cemetery including the famous lovers Abelard and Heloise.
Fun fact: My holiday read, Forbidden Fruit: From the Letters of Abelard and Heloise, was leant to my by a friend of mine, Heather. While she was studying in Paris, she purchased the book at the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. The lovers and their words deserve an entire blog post but for now, I suggest readers pick up a copy.
- After our nostalgic walk, we traveled back to the Marais district and stopping by the Place des Vosges. This beautiful plaza is the oldest planned square in Paris and was once a literary hub for writers and dreamers alike. The author Victor Hugo once lived in one the tall buildings with iron balconies that overlook the pleasant park. Today, the square is lined with contemporary art galleries and cafés.
Travel woe: Jorge had a seriously bad toothache, so my concern and his pain slowed us down a bit. HE was a terrific sport about it. It was lucky that it did not happen to me because I´m a real baby about that sort of thing.
- Place de la Bastille was our next stop. Unfortunately, the Bastille, a fortress built in the 14th century, no longer stands. It was destroyed by Louis XVI after the famous Bastille Day, (July 14, 1789) when hundreds of people stormed the fortress in search of arms and prisoners. Even though History has enveloped it completely, I still wanted to visit its sacred foundations. I cannot see it but Viola and all those that read her upcoming adventure will.
- Clearly the best way to end the day was with a steamy cup of chococat chaud. Jorge and I swung by the Louvre to catch a glimpse of the lit pyramid before shuffling down Rue Rivoli to reach Angelina´s. This particular tea room boasts the best hot chocolate in Paris. Jorge is a chocolate aficionado and was willing to make the hour-long line. I was skeptical but eventually enticed by the romantic setting glowing from beyond the glass doors. I have to admit that after the chilly wait, it was well worth it. The room was dressed in holiday attire with wreaths and strings of light. The divine chocolate flowed like syrup but was not overly sweet. A heavenly way to complete the day.
To be continued…