Afternoon at the Marais
As the Eurostar slowly paraded through the banlieue, I thought of the previous four times I’ve been in Paris. Every time, from when I was 11 to the most recent visit a couple of years ago, something bad happened: lost luggage, missed trains, heat exhaustion, sleep deprivation and numbing back ache.
I stepped out of the train with an unbiased smile: it doesn’t have to go that way again.
And then, I only had to spend 8 hours in Paris.
Following my recently discovered passion for bike sharing I picked up a Velib and hit the road. Paris is not the best city I’ve ever cycled in, but roads are flat and wide thus making cycling a great way to explore it. I had some time to spare before the walking tour which I invested eating a scrumptious baguette and going for a coffee. Usually drinking coffee in Paris is the sour price to pay for a spot on the sidewalk but this time I found a place where they make an excellent flat white: it’s a hole in the wall called Boot (19 rue du pont aux choux), they import beans from the Five Elephant café in Berlin and they definitely know what they’re doing.
My first Walking Tour
Astrid, the enthusiastic guide from Discover Walks, led me and other 4 people through the streets of the Marais, a historic yet trendy district conveniently located between Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou, Bastille and Republique. We walked past glorious mansions and modern design shops, quiet hidden gardens and busy cafes. The roots of this district go deep back in time, and its consistent hospitality towards new communities has given it an artsy, carefree atmosphere. Astrid took us to places I could have never found by myself, providing the appropriate historical context.
Art Galleries overdose
Before letting us loose with a final “voilà” she points me towards a few art galleries of which Marais is a real gold mine. On the process of looking for Galerie Perrotin I found a great deal of other galleries: from the impressive Galerie Particulière to the small Galerie Cinema (visit the room at the back to find out why the name). Most of them can be found between Rue Vieille du Temple and Rue du Turenne, and streets like Rue Saint Claude are lined by galleries and studios back to back. A fantastic way to feel the pulse of the world of contemporary art and have an art fix without having to queue and share a museum room with those heartless selfie-stick wielding tourists.
Hopping from a gallery to the next I almost didn’t realize that it was time to go to the station. I was leaving without the so badly craved glass or two of wine – you know, pretending to be a proper Parisien – but I was leaving satisfied. I can’t say I fell in love with Paris but at least I had a good time. Getting lost on my bike I appreciated a more human face of the city, I met nice people and had good coffee, which is all I usually ask to any place I visit. I finally put a stop to the disastrous thread that linked my previous visits, and I left Paris with a firm, friendly handshake.
The final confession
I wrote those last few lines as soon as I boarded on the night train heading towards Milan. I slept on the bottom bunk bed, which is basically where passengers usually sit. And woke up in Milan bitten to death by some alien bug. Left arm and right foot were covered in bites and horribly disfigured by red bumps, to the point I had to take antibiotics. Thanks Paris, nice way to stabbing me in the back!
Galleries and Ateliers in Paris Marais
Here are some of the art galleries I enjoyed the most
do you know some other ateliers worth adding to the map? Let us know in the comments below!
Places and Contacts in Paris Marais
I took part of a free tour organised by Discover Walk (www.discoverwalks.com/paris-walking-tours/). An offer at the end of the tour is appreciated.
Breizh Café (Website, 109 rue Vieille du Temple) is great for the traditional Breton crepe.
Rue des Rosiers is the place to be if you’re into falafel
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