Le Marais

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I have hardly explored this part of Paris at all; definitely the goal of my next visit.
UN MARAIS is a marsh. This particular marsh was drained in the 15th century, but that doesn’t change the name. It was built over during the next hundred years, and the buildings that went up then set the pattern for Paris housing for centuries to come. Instead o the poor people living at one end of the town and the rich at the other, here the social structure was vertical. The ground floor was for stables, storerooms and the CONCIERGE – the caretaker, usually an old lady with a cat, who cleans the entrance and staircase, distributes the mail, and opens the door to residents and visitors by means of a lever in her private room. If you arrive during the night, she can look through a peep-hole to make sure you’re not a burglar, and pull the lever – or nowadays press a button – to let you in, all without getting out of bed.

The first floor – out of the muck of the street, but only one flight of stairs to climb – had high ceilings, vast rooms and balconies, and was where the rich people lived. From there upwards the more stairs you climbed, the less rent you paid. Cheapest of all was the MANSARDE, a space in the roof, boiling in summer and freezing in winter. Above that was the hayloft, with a crane to raise and lower the hay according to the needs of the horses. This would overlook the inner courtyard, and nowadays it’s much used for shopping baskets, because people still live in those garrets.

Some of the larger houses have been restored and are museums. The MUSÉE CARNAVALET is a Museum of the History of Paris. Others house the National Library, the National Archives and so on. Especially worth seeing are Hôtel de Sens, Hôtel d’Aumont and Hôtel Sully. Among the most recently restored is the Hôtel Salé, built in 1656 for the man then responsible for collecting the salt tax.
This is now the Picasso Museum, and well worth a visit for its building, its exhibits and its contrasts.



Marché d'Aligre


Hôtel de Sens



Hôtel Soubise


Saint Gilles Saint Leu

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