The Île Saint-Louis: An Island Gem in the Heart of Paris

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The Île Saint-Louis: An Island Gem in the Heart of Paris
You might think the Île Saint-Louis is all about Berthillon ice cream. And you would be partially—and deliciously—right. The famous brand has been one of the island’s claims to fame for more than 65 years.  But . . . there are many other treasures to discover. A Quick Quiz Let’s see how much you already know about the island (sans Google). The island is connected to the left bank, right bank, and Île de la Cité. How many bridges are there, and which is the oldest? What famous poet created a hashish club at the Hôtel de Lauzun on Quai d’Anjou? Name three iconic Paris landmarks that you can see from the Île Saint-Louis. Who is the island named after? (And, no, it’s not as easy as who is buried in Grant’s tomb. Be specific about the numeral.) What French sculptor had a studio on the island (Quai de Bourbon)? You’ll find the answers in this article, so read on (but try the questions first). Discovering the Île Saint-Louis While the Île Saint-Louis gets hype as an upscale island, providing a home to millionaires and celebrities seeking privacy, it is really a relatively quiet village with friendly merchants who know your name and cherish your friendship. The less-than-one-square kilometer area seems to defy Einstein and offer an expanded universe of history and storytelling. The island was once called Île aux Vaches (Cow Island), because it was an island dedicated to grazing cows for the more inhabited Île de la Cité next door.
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Lead photo credit : Photo © Meredith Mullins

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at www.meredithmullins.artspan.com or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.

Comments

  • Michael James
    2020-08-23 02:02:36
    Michael James
    As others have noted, you've gone and done it now. Still, most Paris tourists remain obsessed with the Marais, or that structure which the Pont St Louis leads to, and with the pandemic you may have got away with it without getting blamed for tourismicide! I lived there for many years, spanning the 80s to early 90s. In a tiny studio in a fifth floor walk-up. It really is a fantastic location being within easy walking distance to so much of either left bank or right bank, or of course that other island. As you say, many of the street-level retail and restos change over the years but some seem to go on forever. My apartment building's street entrance was between the restaurants Le Sergent Recruteur and Nos Ancetres Les Gaulois and they are still there, though the former has different owners who won a Michelin star. It does seem to retain a certain timelessness, part due to it having hardly changed since it was developed in the early 17th century and in part being an island of calm within the busy city. I just found an ancient clipping--exactly 38 years ago to the day which was also a Sunday--that quite possibly influenced my choice to live there: "It's summer in the city" by John Peter, The Sunday Times (London), 22 August, 1982. "In the heart of Paris, minutes from the big tourist attractions like the Louvre, the Ile St Louis offers easy access to its larger neighbour, the Il de la Cité and the cathedral of Notre Dame, yet retains an unexpected peacefulness. The two islands are linked by the short Passerelle St Louis. As you cross over, arriving at the top of the rue St Louis-en-l'Ile, you might be arriving on another planet. The island is always quieter than Paris itself, but at this time of year, with half of the shops closed for the annual holiday and a lot of the inhabitants away too, the place is sunk in almost complete tranquillity. In the morning you hear birdsong, and the clip-clop of solitary passersby on the pavement, Sometimes as much as half-an-hour passes without a single car driving by, something must be unique in the hear of any metropolis this side of Kathmandu." Amongst my cache of things about the island I found something that may especially interest you, if you haven't got a copy, the impressionistic photo-essay: Au large de Paris, l'île Saint Louis by Frédéric Vitoux and Jean-Claude Ponchel | Jan 1, 1987 ISBN 2-86511-002-8 It is published by ACD Productions at 7, rue Jean du Bellay 75004, which of course is on the island.

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