Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Paris Travel Guide: Exploring Le Marais

Bonjour Bloggy Friends,

Today we thought it would be nice to spend the afternoon in our neighborhood to get a better feel for what immediately surrounds us. What we found is that Le Marais, located in Paris' 3rd and 4th arrondissements, is a vibrant area full of crowded cafes, sweet smelling patisseries and a horde of funky boutiques. It possesses the arty grit of New York's East Village, while retaining a sense of trendiness that you'd find in Chelsea or SoHo. My favorite part about it, however, is that there are few tourists. Besides visiting some of the major sites, we've been doing our best to avoid tourist traps. While this makes overcoming the language barrier more difficult, it's the only way to sufficiently absorb the local culture.

Before coming to Paris we were warned that Parisians would be snooty, but we've found that to be a myth. The people we have come into contact with have been jovial, helpful and extremely patient with our spotty French. To exude friendliness, we approach every interaction with "Bonjour" in the afternoon or "Bon soir" in the evening. Then we ask if they speak English: "Parlez-vous Anglais?" The answer has typically been, "very little," but we've been managing our way through most situations very well. The French seem to be extremely proud of their culture, but they are also willing to extend a hand to awkward outsiders like us.

Continuing through the Marais we spent time strolling through the Jewish Quarter and popping into a few colorful boutiques. Some of our favorite spots have been the ones selling home goods. We picked up a few things to take home before heading a little further west to gander at the modern art collection in the magnificent Centre Pompidou (pictured to the left and at the bottom).

You can't visit Paris without carousing some of the art museums. While I have admiration for classic pieces like the Mona Lisa, it's the minimal, geometric modern art that gives my heart that extra thumpity thump. Within Centre Pompidou, which is a piece of art in itself, we drooled over Pablo Picasso's masterful cubism, imaginative paintings by Joan Mirὸ and slick sculptures by Constantin Brâncuşi. We also became new fans of artists we weren't as familiar with, such as Fernand Lѐger, Vilmos Huszár and Richard Mortenson (pictured right). Besides paintings and sculptures there were also installations of film, photography, fashion and furniture. We must have spent four hours browsing around. We loved it.

The rest of our evening was relaxing. We had a late lunch and lounged under a statue of Louis XIII in Place des Vosges before retiring to our apartment for the night.

Have a great night. I hope all is very well.

Au Revoir, Josh


Morrie said...

Hi, I bet you find the French appreciate you taking the effort to speak to them in French. Keep at it, they love it.

Bill Fogle said...

I'll give you Joan Miro, but ... dearest, we differ. I'll take a Mona Lisa sandwich. That spacey-looking building with those ... those ... like, ship things sticking out. Give me masonry and concrete and classicism. I know. I'm just a fart.

Aren't you glad you didn't take me along?!

No, seriously, you sound like did in fact do your reading up front, and you are enjoying the visit in a very methodical and intelligent way. You've personalized your trip. It's perfect!