Thursday, June 07, 2012

Place des Vosges with David Downie

 I could neither spell nor find my way in la Place des Vosges at night till I took a turn round the square with author David Downie of Paris, Paris Journey into the City of Light.
 'Thirty-six identical pavilions...shifting light of the Paris sky....In the square's center...children oblivious to the backdrop play in sandboxes while au pairs chat on double-sided benches.'

 'Architects and art historians will assure you that Place des Vosges offers France's best example of early 17th century urbanism. Essentiallyit's a cross between Italianate Mannerism and late-Renaissance Dutch styles, neatly combining a gracious piazza and 4 sets of row houses.'
 'Unlike the bustling, coldly beautiful Place Vendome or Place de la Concorde...Place des Vosges has always been animated and lived in and ultimately that is what makes it a likeable spot.'
 You enter the square on rue pas du Mule coming in from rue de Turenne and turn right at cafe Ma Bourgogne.
 And so the arcades begin.
 David Downie easily points out vrais/faux restoration of the bricks overhead - I would never have noticed.
 We pass elegant Damman Freres tea shop.
 Further on peering through the window of another arcade shop David points out the courtyard leading to DSK's residence.
'If you wander aimlessly along the park's grilles of an evening you can catch tantalizing glimpses of painted ceilings, of rare and valuable pictures hanging high upon a wall.'
 The gates are always open to posh Hotel Pavillon du Reine (formerly a garage David tells me).'Some pavilions were split long ago into cheap, rent-controlled apartments.
Others are occupied to this day by descendants of once-rich dynasties now living in genteel penury, their cluttered apartments lifted from a Zola novel...'

 Other gates in the square are shut tight but that doesn't deter David from entering and leading me inside for a quick look. 'Many imporverished heirs have sold off apartments piecemeal over the past 40 years. Properties worth peanuts a few decades ago not fetch staggering sums. Etage noble flats ar the most valuable at up to $7,000,000'.
 Many of these courtyards once had factories of specialized artisans. 'Other pavilions have been 'nationalized' and taken the Victor Hugo museum (one of my fav museums in Paris)'.

 'Framing its northern end is the Pavilion du Roi, built by Henri IV for his own use and therefore considerably larger than the square's other pavilions'.
 'Overnight, the Marais mushroomed with townhouses, a vogue that lasted until the end of the 17th century (when the Saint-Germain and Saint-Honore neighborhoods became the rage)'.
 'Given its age and the number of cataclysmic social events that have occurred around it - storming the Bastille, the Glorious revolution of July 1830, the Industrial Revolution, 2 world wars and rampant real estate speculartion - it's a miracle the Place survived at all'.
 You can take a tour with David Downie or read Paris, Paris Journey into the City of Light full of insightful, informative indepth essays on Paris. A good choice for the dad who loves architecture and history.

 If you want to know where to get the best macarons at la Place follow me to Carette salon de the.


  1. Really enjoy your tours !! Specially adore the architecture and Damman Fresres looks exquisite !

  2. A verty tasteful place indeed with Gerard Mulot and Carette!

  3. Oh, my, that's beautiful! I want to go there. Now!! Instead, I'm going out to do my grocery shopping. Not the same, somehow, is it?!

    1. Aren't we all faced with that unhappy choice Jill..

  4. One of my favourite places in Paris - I would love to do this tour. Lucky sod is DSK to have an apartment there.

  5. Elizabeth4:20 PM

    Who is DKS??
    All I can think of is Dominique Strauss-Kahn (inverted initials).
    I stay near the Pl. des Vosges when I'm in Paris.
    I'm looking forward to checking out Damman Freres when I return to Paris soon.
    Tea in Paris is the best!


    1. inverted initials from either my dyslexia or my abhorrence of this man

      I should post on Damman Freres...

  6. I adore the Place des Vosge and, indeed, the entire Marais. I've eaten at Carette (fabulous desserts, by the way) but will definitely have to check out Damman Freres the next time I'm in Paris.

  7. I enjoy your tours too..I've never been so the visuals ..are lovely for me.

  8. It looks like a great little slice of Paris.
    The $7,000,000 price tag is a bit steep :)

  9. Another place for my list. Though DSK's residence holds no interest... Downie's book, was very interesting. You actually went on a tour with Downie, yes?? I would love to take a John Baxter Paris walk On the list...

    Thank you, again.

  10. In April, I saw Anne Sinclair (Mrs. DSK) on "C a vous" while in Paris. She is the head of the Paris bureau of the Huffington Post! One of the richest women in France...and a family friend of Picasso in her childhood! She is totally unflappable

    Please post on Damman Freres.

  11. Thanks for featuring Place Des Vosges today! That is one of my favorite areas to explore in Paris. I should look through my notes and let you know which hotel I discovered there that was so reasonably priced and friendly staff.
    I also love the Victor Hugo Museum!
    Thanks again!

  12. I loved his book and would love to tour it with him. Thanks for the macaron tip

  13. I must take one of Daniel's tours!

  14. I only stumbled onto the Place once in 18 months of living in Paris. I definitely want to duck into all those courtyards next time I make it there!

  15. la Place de Place de l'adore.

    1. HA!
      You spell it the way I like to spell it-leaving out the 1st S

  16. THANKS! For the many pictures every week. Beautiful :) *Hanne*

  17. Agreed, Carol. Carette great for macarons, especially the chocolate ones. I love Vosges. If only they could replace the cars with carriages!

  18. What a lovely stroll for a Friday a.m.!

  19. I visited the beautiful Place des Vosges in 2010 as I was very keen to visit the Victor Hugo Museum. It was fascinating to visit, and the English audio guide was fabulous.

  20. Ah some of my favourite places in Paris, lovely to see them again. X

  21. I'm a little out of love with Paris but that's because I need to do a tour with 'real' people.

    Of course, now I want to rung to Place des Vosges and have tea in DF.

    We must meet in Paris:)


Love hearing from you