Aujord'hui, we will begin a new series: Paris Walks.What better place to begin this series than where Paris originated: l'Île-de-la-Cité? Appropriately enough, l'Île-de-la-Cité is in le premier arrondissement. We have already visted many of the stops on this tour, but we will make a few new stops and Louis will try to incorporate points about places we've already visited that we didn't see in our original visits.
So, grab your plan de Paris, map of Paris, and allons-y - let's go!
Today's walk will begin on the rive gauche, the storied Left Bank. We've taken le Métro Ligne 10 to Maubert-Mutualité on le boulevard Saint-Germain in the V ème arrondissement. Maubert-Mutualité is named for la Place Maubert and la Maison de la Mutualité. Le boulevard Saint-Germain is one of the most famous streets in Paris, and is home to many swank shops. American retailer Nordstrom operates one of their Façonable boutiques on this street. (The Façonable label originated in Paris. Nordstrom became the exclusive U.S. retailer for the line and later bought the company.) Upscale boulevard Saint-Germain aside, we are in le quartier Latin near la Sorbonne, thus le quartier has many students. It is called "the Latin quarter" because from its founding until quite some time later, Latin was the language spoken and taught at la Sorbonne.
La Sorbonne was founded in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon as a college for theology students without money. La Sorbonne later became the University of Paris.
Part of the charm of the rive gauche is that Haussmann didn't rebuild much of le quartier Latin and it retains the feel of un temps perdu, a forgotten time, with its narrow streets and many curb-side market stalls.
Leaving the Métro station, we walk east on le boulevard Saint-Germain, resisting the temptation of the shops, until we come to rue de Bièvre, where we turn left. We will continue up this picturesque street to Quai de la Tournelle alongside la Seine.
At le quai de la Tournelle, we come to le pont de l'Archevêché, one of the 32 bridges that cross la Seine as it winds through Paris. This bridge was built in record time:avril à novembre 1828. The name comes from the building adjacent to la cathédrale-de-Nôtre-Dame that housed the archbishopric. The archbishopric was demolished quite some time ago.
Le pont de l'Archevêché is a small bridge: only 67 metres (220 feet) long and 11 metres (36 feet) wide. Despite its short length, it was constructed with 3 masonry arches each 15 metres (49 feet) wide. Due to its design, this bridge has a history of accidents. With a height of only 7.86 metres (26 feet) to the top of the low water level, it is the lowest bridge of this arm of la Seine, and poses serious problems for the boats and barges when the river rises. In 1910 plans were made to replace this three-arched bridge with a single span to ease navigation, but the plans never bore fruit.
We will cross the bridge onto l'Île-de-la-Cité, the island found by the Romans in the III ème siecle BC to be inhabited by a small Celtic tribe, the Parisii. Now we will take the steps on our right to the serene and eerily quiet Mémorial des Martyrs et de la Déportation, dedicated to those who were deported by the Nazis and the Vichy government during la deuxième guerre mondial.
Leaving le Mémorial des Martyrs et de la Déportation, we will turn east and take le quai de l'Archevêché , which faces l'Île-Saint-Louis, then turn north, facing le rive droit, the right bank, and walk westerly along le quai aux Fleurs. Now we will go down the steps to la rue des Ursins. At la rue de la Colombe we turn left, then right again, now left onto la rue d'Arcole. Although Baron Haussmann had most of the city's dense streets razed when he altered the layout of Paris in le XIX ème siecle, like much of le quartier Latin, this area was spared and shows what the entire island was once like.
La rue d'Arcole leads to la cathédrale-de-Nôtre-Dame-de-Paris. Because we've already visited la cathédrale, we won't go in today, unless some of you want to climb the 300 steps of the north tower for a fine view of the city.
Now we will head away from Nôtre-Dame on le quai des Orfèvres, then right onto la rue-de-la-Cité, now left onto la rue-de-Lutèce, past the marché aux fleurs. Lutèce was the Roman name for Paris. That splendid gothic gem, La Sainte-Chapelle, is visible just ahead. La Sainte-Chapelle is one of Louis la Vache's favorite places to visit in Paris, and because of that, we are going to go in again today despite having previously visited it.
We will go in through the wrought iron gates of le Palais de Justice to get into la Sainte-Chapelle. Built in le XIII ème siecle, the upper chapel, with its intricate stained glass window walls sparkles like a jewel on sunny days. (For those of you who weren't along for our first visit, there is an upper and a lower chapel.) La Sainte-Chapelle is a popular venue for concerts of baroque music.
Leaving la Sainte-Chapelle, we walk north past le palais de Justice to la Conciergerie, a former prison brimming with revolutionary history. La Conciergerie is a sobering contrast to the dazzling beauty of la Sainte-Chapelle.
Now we'll round the corner in front of la Conciergerie and head west alongside la Seine on le quai de l'Horloge. Once past la Conciergerie, we'll turn left onto rue de Harlay at the western end of l'Île-de-la-Cité to Place Dauphine, which dates to the XVII ème siecle.
Commissioned by Henri IV in 1607 as part of the city’s redevelopment, Place Dauphine was dedicated to his son and heir apparent, the future Louis XIII. In common with Place des Vosges (also one of Henri IV’s creations), it is symmetrical in design and surrounded by stone-built, red-brick buildings. Tucked away to the east of Pont-Neuf bridge, it’s a delightful and very peaceful spot. In good weather, we could watch people playing pétanque here or sit down on a bench and bury ourselves in a good book, something Louis la Vache loves to do.
Now we'll wander out to the very western tip of l'Île-de-la-Cité and view the statue of le vert galant, "the green gallant," as Henri IV was sometimes called.
Now, having toured l'Île-de-la-Cité from side to side and tip to tip, we exit onto le rive droit by walking across le pont Neuf, Henri IV's "new bridge," now the oldest pont in Paris! After crossing le pont Neuf, we board ligne 7 du Métro for our trip home at the Pont Neuf station.
Louis la Vache hopes that you enjoyed this Paris walk as much as he enjoyed having you come along!
More walking in Paris:
Rick Steves' Paris 2006