Paris Visit

We went into Paris for a couple days last week. After watching the weather for a few days we realized we had a choice: Paris cool and with a chance of rain, or Paris hot. The forecast was right: this week in Paris (and here in Bois-le-Rois) has been hot, hot, hot – in the mid-90s. Now Paris in the rain isn’t great, but Paris in the mid-90s is undoable for us. So off we went Friday.

As a follow-up to my “La France est Compliquée” posts, here’s another example. We have Navigo passes which can be recharged for a week ($23) and which provide unlimited use of the trains (which we ride to and from Paris), metros, buses (which we much prefer) and trams for that week. On Friday we arrived at the train station and I asked to recharge our Navigo passes for this week. Nope, can’t do it. After Thursday, I can only recharge them for next week, which means that we can’t use them for our trip, which starts on Friday. Now, if someone has a good explanation as to why we can’t recharge a weekly pass after Thursday, I’d love to hear it. Anyway, we bought train tickets and when we arrived in Paris, metro tickets (also good on buses and trams). Compliquée…

Cité de la Architecture et Patrimoine.

This is likely our favorite museum in Paris. We returned – the fifth time we’ve been there – and still didn’t see all we wanted to see. One floor of the museum is dedicated to models of buildings, with explanations showing the history of French architecture (in French, of course; between Laurie and I we can muddle through and understand. Mostly). Here is part of this floor:


The museum has a fair amount about le Corbusier, about whom I’ve posted (le Corbusier). Here there is a unit from an apartment building in Marseille that he designed. We spent probably half an hour in it, and Laurie’s favorite thing was:


The view is not bad from this museum…


This museum is worth a visit, for sure. In fact, we decided that when we return to France, we’ll just buy a couple annual passes to it. I’ve posted about Cité in past years; if I can find the posts I’ll add a link here.

Canal St. Martin

This is probably our favorite walk in Paris, rain or shine (and it ended with rain this time). Canal St. Martin was build by Emperor Napoleon to bring water to Paris, to ease transportation by boats of goods into the city and, maybe most importantly, to put a physical barrier between Paris and the Saint Antoine quarter, a powerful working class area from which revolutions arose. In the 1960s, as the need for the canal declined, there was talk of filling it and doing something with this most valuable land. Wiser heads prevailed, and the canal has remained, a beautiful path through the city.



Boats still travel on Canal St. Martin, but they are tour boats or tourist barges; it’s been a long time since we saw a commercial boat on Canal St. Martin.

Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine

For years I’ve gotten a big kick out of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. This is a big, crazy, busy, noisy, working street, and it fascinates me; I love to walk it. A couple trips ago I learned that there are many courtyards and passages off Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, so I went looking for them, and I found a bunch. On this, our last trip to Paris this year, Laurie wanted to see these, and so off we went. I’ll just post pictures of them with captions where appropriate.

First, a couple pictures of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. Actually, it seems a little calm here, on a Saturday morning, but you can see that it’s a busy street.

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Now for a look at the passages and courtyards that are connected to Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. None of these are visible from the street; you have to just walk down the street and when you see a big double door, see if it’s open. I have no qualms about going into the ones with closed doors. In fact, several of these were behind a closed locked door, in which case we stood outside until someone with the passcode to the door came in or left, and then we entered before the door could close. No one ever said a word to us about why were were there.


An old sign in one of the courtyards. We love seeing these vestiges of an older Paris.


Cour Bel Air, probably the prettiest courtyard on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. Here there’s a big sign blocking entry, so we asked the concierge if we could go in and look around. Pas de problème. She was as nice as could be.


Cour Bel Air


Cour Bel Air


Cour Bel Air


Many of the courtyards and passages have connections to housing and decoration trades, a vestige of when this quartier was the home for those trades. This is a place that restores and repairs chairs. We looked in the windows, and it was amazing.

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One last detour, to Passage l’Homme, around the corner from Rue du Fauborg-Saint-Antoine. This is also a beautiful place, pretty much unknown.

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It rained off and on during this walk, and finally it started to rain enough that we called it quits. I know that few tourists will ever have the time or inclination to search out the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine passages, especially after seeing the rue itself, with its noise and traffic and craziness. So I hope this post gives you a sense of a different Paris, the seldom-seen-by-tourists Paris. I still think this is one of the coolest streets in Paris.


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