Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paris, The Marais

We arrived in Paris Friday afternoon and got ourselves settled into the apartment then walked around the Marais for a while.

The Marais is unique in that it is home to many sub-cultures all of whom co-exist peacefully in this quarter. There is a large gay population in The Marais, a large punk/goth population, a large artist and musician population and a large population of Jews from the secular to orthodox and everything in between. The area is also a lively spot at night for the late twenties crowd.

The district is one of the older sections of Paris outside of Ile de la Cite. It has gone through several waves of being in and out of fashion over the centuries. The Marais was established as a home for the wealthy and aristocracy of Paris in the 16th and early 17th century as is demonstrated by the grandeur of of the homes and other buildings from those years. The area gradually fell out of fashion and thus into disarray as Versailles went from hunting lodge to Royal Residence in the late 1600's and the elite of The Marias went out to settle themselves around The Chateau Versailles. The opulence of The Marais faded as mansions and small estates were broken up into small apartments and one room flats with shared cooking and washing facilities for whole buildings or even neighborhoods. The area saw some revitalization over the years but really this new wave of popularity started in the 60's when the French government set about to restore some of the significant buildings of The Marais.

Here we are leaving our apartment building (picture taken by Edsel). I include this picture because of the door behind us. Our apartment building was long ago a single family residence. The blue door was the door the horses and carriages would enter to access the courtyard in the center of the building. Paris is full of these courtyards that you don't see from the street, places that were once the carriage park are now beautiful courtyards and gardens shared by those who live in the apartments and condos of the building .

The history and culture of Jews in France and Paris is long and fascinating. There are many pockets of Jews throughout the city of Paris but The Marais is know as the center of Jewish life in Paris. The street Rue de Rosier and the immediate surrounding areas are full of both kosher and non-kosher Jewish eateries, bakeries and other shops. There are many schuls, kloyz and besmedresh in The Marais. There are mikvehs or ritual bath houses where orthodox women go to wash after their menstrual cycle. There are many opportunities to learn of Jewish history in the area from Jewish-centric museums and bookstores as well as from reading the many wall plaques scattered throughout the area that speak of the loss of Jews from the Marais who were sent to concentration camps under Hitler's puppet Vichy government.

The Marias is a lively, vibrant district of Paris both for the diversity of its residents and visitors as well as the culture the area offers. I feel very at home in The Marais and am glad it has become my neighborhood of Paris. I can walk to Ile de la Cite, Centre Pompidou, The Picasso Museum, The European Photograhy Museum, The Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, The Latin Quarter, St. Eustache, St. Paul, Place Republique, Opera Garnier Centre Pompidou, Rue de Rosier and on and on. I enjoy being in an area where I am not bound by the metro but can walk to so much of what I like to do.

One of the bakeries in the Jewish section of The Marais on Rue de Rosier. Obviously this is not a kosher bakery as they were open Friday evening-

I started this post as "Paris, The Rest Of Our Visit With Friends" but got lost in talking about the Marais! I will have to start again with my summary of our Paris visit with our friends.

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