Dispatch from Paris: Return to the Marais

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Dispatch from Paris: Return to the Marais

After a year and a half we finally made it back to Paris, and it was like we opened a positive new chapter during this pandemic. Paris was alive with flâneurs in the parks and plenty of café tables outside. Given that Paris is approaching a 90% vaccination level, we could sense the optimism among our neighbors and friends.

Restaurants in Paris (C) Bill O’Such

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Before leaving the U.S., we were able to obtain the passe sanitaire (health pass) that made it easier to get into museums, stores and restaurants, though when we checked with a number of places, they said they would have accepted the CDC card from the U.S. If you’d prefer to obtain the passe sanitaire before traveling, you can submit your info to this website.

Health pass requirement (C) Bill O’Such

All stores, museums and other indoor spaces require you to show your health pass/CDC card and wear a mask. From our observations, everyone was very mask-compliant in these places, on the metros and in the buses. Once you are seated in a restaurant, the waiters wear masks but the patrons do not. We only ate indoors at one location that had good ventilation (Malro). Everywhere else we managed to eat outdoors.

For restaurants, we revisited our Marais neighborhood favorites including Chez Julien, Le Petit Place, Le Petit Italian, Le Petit Marché, Des Gars dans la Cuisine and early in our trip Au Top, which is on the rooftop of the building diagonal from La Perle (3rd arrondissement). The entrance is tricky to find as you need to walk through a common area courtyard, take the elevator to the 5th floor then stairs to the rooftop. A bit pricey but definitely great ambiance, good food and fantastic view.

Des Gars dans la Cuisine, Au Top (C) Bill O’Such

Wandering around the neighborhood, we discovered the Anne Franck garden via the Impasse Berthaud. For over 20 years we didn’t know about it as it is quite hidden, but we saw it on one of the various walking tour videos during the pandemic. Closer to a friend’s apartment in Cour Damoye, we saw the makeover of the Bastille with one side completely pedestrianized along with elaborate bike lanes, much like Amsterdam. Nearer to home, many places were refreshed, including a new awning and décor at Camille, with the children of the owners having taken over the place. They also bought Le Sevigné around the corner and are currently redoing it.

(C) Bill O’Such

One major change in Paris was the dramatic increase in bike lanes all across the city. We already mentioned those at the Bastille, but the biggest change was rue de Rivoli, which is now largely bike lanes with just one lane for delivery trucks, buses and taxis. An impressive number of Parisians are now biking everywhere. Like in Amsterdam, you now need to pay attention to the bike traffic as you cross the road.

 

Biking in Paris (C) Bill O’Such

Museum-wise, we visited the newly renovated Musée Carnavalet in our neighborhood, which was gorgeous and now includes a lovely café in the beautifully designed courtyard garden. It’s the museum to visit to learn about the history of Paris.

The Carnavalet Museum (C) Bill O’Such

Also, we visited the new Pinault Museum with a wide range of modern art in a very light, open and dramatic setting. Our favorite work of art was the mouse who broke through a wall and talks, followed by an ethereal smoke installation that reacts to motion and voices in the room. In the center of the museum’s atrium was a very dramatic, very slowly, melting wax statue that has lost various parts to the floor over the previous months.

The Bourse de Commerce- Pinault Collection (C) Bill O’Such

We checked out the newly renovated Samaritaine, which is finally finished after at least five years of renovations. The bar and restaurant on the roof now belong to the Cheval Blanc hotel at the front of the building overlooking the Seine. Their grand opening party was just the day before we left, so a fancy drink at the hotel bar will have to wait until our next visit. La Samaritaine was celebrating its 151st birthday when we were there, and we stumbled across a fun little song-and-dance parade that was winding its way through the store.

Samaritaine (C) Bill O’Such

Parade in La Samaritaine (C) Bill O’Such

I had a chance to take a Paris Greeters tour in Batignolles, a neighborhood we’ve never before visited. (This experience was documented here for Bonjour Paris.) There are definitely no tourists, with all locals and some cool restaurants. I only had a morning there but we plan to return to Batignolles in the future for lunch or dinner. During the walk, the guide pointed out a high-end culinary school where lunch is prepared and served by the students.

Café life in Batignolles & Martin Luther King Park in Batignolles (C) Bill O’Such

In the latest travel requirements, you need to be vaccinated to enter France from the U.S., and otherwise you would need to quarantine. To return to the U.S., you just need to take an easy and fast antigen test (PCR test not required) which is readily available at kiosks in every neighborhood in Paris, though we did the eMed home test that uses a video meeting to supervise the test. The latest information can be found here.

We felt as Covid-safe in Paris as we do in San Francisco, and plan to head back again around December 20th. It was an uplifting visit, and we want more!

To see more of my photos of Paris, click here: http://myviewsofparis.shutterfly.com

Chez Camille at Night (C) Bill O’Such

Marais courtyard (C) Bill O’Such

Lead photo credit : Paris (C) Bill O'Such

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William was introduced to silver halide photography by his father, Chester J. O’Such, via the family’s Ansco reflex camera and home darkroom. After college, William worked as a photographic engineer at Eastman Kodak, where he began to learn the art of photography. With his first SLR, a Canon AE-1, he photographed his inaugural voyage to Paris in 1982. This early spark turned into full passion when William became a Kodak expatriate in Paris from 1995-99. Before returning to the USA, William and his future wife Ineke bought an apartment in the Marais district. William continues to visit Paris at least twice a year to wander the streets, camera in hand, looking for the next vignette. His photos are available for sale by contacting him at [email protected]

Comments

  • Theresa Lapin
    2021-10-14 07:40:43
    Theresa Lapin
    I'm sad now that I didn't go this month. Do you think some restaurants will still have outdoor dining in winter (December) with maybe heaters, as they are doing in NYC?

    REPLY