Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Cité Quarter

   2045    5
Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Cité Quarter
This is the first in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. One sunny morning, with a couple of hours to spare, I got off the metro at Cité and went for a wander around the eastern half of the Île de la Cité, anticipating glimpses of history from the Romans to the 21st century and some of the loveliest views anywhere in Paris. The Cité metro construction at Marché aux fleurs, 1907, Agence Rol. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Coming up the metro steps, I dived straight into the Marché aux Fleurs, to explore the little passageways crammed with plants and independent shops, such as Au Jardin d’Edgar, and La Maison de l’Orchide, offering greenery for “terraces, balconies and patios.” Flowers and shrubs spilled out abundantly, and I heard a shopkeeper advising on plants for a north-facing, fifth-floor balcony. Signs offering free delivery mean you wouldn’t have to battle over the metro with your delicate new plants. It’s not just for tourists; it’s also a garden center for the city of Paris. The marché aux fleurs. © Marian Jones Rue de la Cité led me down towards Notre-Dame, past a little plaque commemorating the day in February 886 when 14 Franks died defending a footbridge onto the island against invading Vikings. The names of these brave men resonate down the centuries, recalling how they threw hot pitch and wax against the catapults and battering rams of their enemy: Eudes, Comte de Paris, Gozlin Eveque, Ermenfroi… Victory wasn’t immediate; in fact Charles le Gros (Emperor Charles the Fat!) eventually paid the Vikings “700 pounds of silver” to sail away. But the sacrifice of these courageous early Parisians is not forgotten. Count Odo defends Paris against the Norsemen, romantic painting by Jean-Victor Schnetz (1837), Galerie des Batailles, Versailles. Public domain Next, I went towards the Parvis de Notre-Dame, the square in front of the cathedral, and popped down into the Crypte Archéologique to see parts left of the city known in Roman times as Lutetia. There I saw the remains of ancient streets, of the harbor the Romans built, and of the bathhouse where the citizens of Lutetia worked out how to pump in hot water so they could bathe, relax and socialize. The guide who welcomed me, however, was very 21st century. Yes, he said, he’s pleased to say tourists are slowly returning after Covid, “even” (as he put it) the Americans who are certainly “les bienvenus” (welcome) but whose ex -president he finds “catastrophique.” I never heard his opinion of President Trump’s successor because he had moved on to using his very colloquial English to tell the people behind me that the best solution, should they need a toilet, is to go to a café, buy a drink and “pee there.”
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Lead photo credit : The marché aux fleurs. © Marian Jones

More in history, Ile de la Cite, marche, walks in Paris

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.

Comments

  • André Tabone
    2022-01-12 05:48:41
    André Tabone
    France’s involvement in the identification, round up and deportation of so many French Jewish children and families by French police and sent to their deaths on France’s trains during the summer of 1944 of what we now call the Holocaust is so deeply troubling to me. Memorials and compensation however moving in tribute cannot remove this dark stain. The Resistance, however, is to be lauded for their heroism.

    REPLY

    • Marian Jones
      2022-02-03 07:37:10
      Marian Jones
      Thank you for your comment on this very difficult subject. I spent quite a while talking to a member of staff at the memorial. Her focus seemed to me to be very much about keeping the memory of what happened alive, about not allowing it to be forgotten. I think she would agree that, as you put it, 'this dark stain' can and should never be removed.

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