paris apartments rental for vacation in paris

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map of le marais

Rue du Bourg-Tibourg
The oldest house of paris : Auberge Nicolas Flamel
Musee Carnavalet
La Place des Vosges
Les Archives nationales
Le Musee Cognacq-Jay
Village saint-paul
Musee picasso
The chez mariage freres
Centre Georges Pompidou
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
The Jewish Quarter

Le Marais : Un village au bord de la Seine

Sidney Morning Herald. The Age. Jane Peach reports.

The pre-revolutionary Marais quarter is a microcosm of the treasures that make Paris, well, Paris.
Sunday afternoon in the Marais. I'm sipping jasmine tea at Mariage Freres, an elegant salon de the where Parisian chic meets colonial ambience. Waiters in cool, white linen waft by with steaming pots, glistening tarts and plump, golden madeleines.
Amid a cloud of tea dust, the boutique next door is thronged with customers sniffing deeply into cavernous black caddies. Vendeurs scoop exotic flavours into stylish packets. Up the creaky stairs is the quirky Musee du The.
The Mariage family, France's oldest importers of tea, have lured tea lovers with their heady brews on a quiet back street in Paris since 1854. The choice is startling, with around 500 varieties from 22 countries. "Which is your favourite?" I ask the waiter. "Ca depend," he pouts, tweaking his white bow tie, "On the hour, the season, the mood "
Like Mariage Freres, the historic Marais quarter on Paris' Right Bank offers an exhilarating bouquet of aromas and flavours. Laced with enough tang and zest to make it irresistible, the neighbourhood - just minutes from the Pompidou Centre and across the river from Notre-Dame Cathedral - has something for every time and taste.
Life, art and culture pour from the Marais' overflowing cup in a rich stream that splashes the cobbled streets with colour. The area is swamped with boutiques, lively bars, bistros and galleries. 
et blending into modern life are the remnants of a vivid past that transport the senses. Follow the ancient street signs engraved in stone. Explore mediaeval alleyways. Push open doors leading to romantic courtyards. Add a fairytale dusting of lavish "hotels particuliers" (private town mansions) with gilded gates and graceful gardens, and the Marais is the best of Paris distilled into a strong, seductive brew that will leave you thirsty for more.
The area claims most of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, bordering Les Halles and extending to Place de la Bastille. Lying just outside the original 1180 city wall, the district began as marshland (Marais meaning marsh), scattered with kitchen gardens. Gradually growing in popularity, the area reached its peak in the 17th century when Henry IV built Place des Vosges, and it became "a la mode" with country gentry desiring a hotel particulier in Paris.
But then came the Revolution - the aristocrats lost their beautiful mansions, along with their heads, and the Marais fell into ruin. By the Industrial Revolution, artisans and the working class moved in, mansions were partitioned into workshops and many were destroyed.
Only in the past 20 years has the Marais been back on the boil, thanks to a preservation order. While a clutch of mansions remain privately owned, many have been estored to their original grandeur and converted into small, intriguing museums that offer a refreshing alternative to long lines at Le Louvre. Today, the ancient village is perhaps the best example of pre-revolutionary Paris where the savvy traveller with rationed time can effortlessly combine culture with commerce, while drinking in the essence of the city.
This inspiring neighbourhood draws a creative crowd and an eclectic bunch of young professionals who dally on the cafe terraces and live in the small, crooked apartments above.
It is also home to gay Paris. By the nature of its residents, the Marais is not an early riser. Weekend mornings are particularly quiet, with no more activity than a reluctant trek to the boulangerie or visit to the nearest cafe for a petit noir. But by Saturday afternoon, footpaths throb as locals emerge to meet friends for a drink, slip into a museum or two and scan their favourite stores. Sunday, too, the streets are alive, the Marais being one of the few quarters open for Sunday trading.
Comprising a rich ethnic mix, this unique pocket also houses the remains of the old Jewish quarter, wrapped tightly in the Marais' core.
Jews first settled here in the 1300s, with a large influx from eastern and central Europe around the turn of the 20th century. Sephardic Jews from North Africa moved in more recently.
The community's main thoroughfare is the lively rue des Rosiers, a jumble of kosher butchers, Jewish bakeries, fascinating groceries and bookshops. Orthodox Jews yarn on the street and slip into Hamman St Paul for a steam bath. Crooked stairways lead up to hidden synagogues. Along the length of the narrow street, falafels dripping with hummus are constructed at lightning speed and poked through takeaway windows to waiting hands.
Stop at Sacha Finkelsztajn's for a dreamy square of cheesecake or slice of strudel. Pass by Jo Goldenberg's legendary delicatessen. Peer into restaurants and you'll see plates laden with Middle Eastern delicacies and menus offering corned-beef and chopped liver. Come for Sunday lunch to really soak up the atmosphere.
Squeezed between the kosher butchers are a handful of original fashion boutiques, making rue des Rosiers as much a fashion zone as home to the Jewish community. Among the boutiques is "Martin Grant" - Paris' first Australian couture outlet.
Stray on to the rue des Francs-Bourgeois and you'll tumble into a world far removed from freshly baked bagels. Footpaths buzz with locals juggling shopping bags. It is one of the major streets slicing through the area and is crammed with chic boutiques and stylish home decoration and gift stores. Goblets and candlesticks sit among whimsical bouquets of flowers at Les 2 Mille Feuilles. Collectors pour over old postcards, flick through vintage posters and antique French photographs at A l'Image du Grenier sur l'Eau. Don't miss 2 Mille & 1 Nuits, gleaming with Moroccan and Arabian treasures, and Villa Marais doused with French flair. While you could spend all day shopping on rue des Francs-Bourgeois, be sure to explore the swag of skinny side streets for tiny hole-in-the-wall boutiques and dusty curiosity shops.
A good spot to plonk down your packages and enjoy a casual lunch is Camille. This authentic bistro with friendly waiters offers regional wines by the pichet, a traditional plat du jour and classic dishes like salade de chevre chaud and magret de canard. Try the creme brulee for dessert or a bowl of Berthillon, the most celebrated icecream in Paris. Just around the corner is the intimate Musee Cognacq-Jay. Enjoyed in the space of an hour, a visit can be compared to sneaking around an aristocratic French home in the 18th century.
History buffs with time to spare can lose themselves in the maze of exquisitely decorated rooms at the Carnavalet. Built as a private mansion in 1545, it now houses the Museum of the City of Paris. Among its astonishing collection of treasures are a reproduction of Marcel Proust's bedroom and the original Fouquet jewellery shop.
East of the bustle is Place des Vosges, the oldest public square in Paris and the jewel of the Marais. Once the site of society weddings and public duels, the central garden is today a tranquil setting of chirping birds and trickling fountains. Children play under cool, clipped lime trees, boules clink and locals laze on benches reading Le Monde and Liberation.
Beneath its band of breezy arcades, wares overflow from upmarket restaurants, boutiques, antique shops and art galleries. Classical music drifts from string quartets. Victor Hugo lived in the largest townhouse on la place, from where he wrote a good part of Les Miserables. La Maison de Victor Hugo is open to the public and features reconstructions of his rooms, books and drawings.
Through a doorway on the south-west corner, slip into the garden of Hotel de Sully. This sumptuous mansion, complete with whimsical statues of the four seasons, was built for a notorious gambler who later lost it in the single roll of a dice. Inside, there are regular photo exhibitions.
On the northern side of la place, is the deluxe hotel Pavillon de la Reine - festooned with ivy. The romantic 17th-century rooms with wood-burning fires offer 21st-century guests the perfect Paris pied-a-terre where "gentils chiens ont acceptes" (nice dogs are accepted). For more luxury in a romantic setting, reserve a table for dinner at the discreetly hidden three-star restaurant, l'Ambroisie.
The Marais also offers a profusion of more affordable bistros for dinner. At Georget, resembling a rustic country kitchen, diners can watch their cote de boeuf taken to by a cleaver and thrown on to the wood-fire griddle while potatoes sizzle on the stove. Away from the crowds, the tiny, informal La Fontaine Gourmande serves hefty portions of seasonal homemade fare.
Another (more formal) gem, Le Dome Du Marais, is hidden in a quiet courtyard. Formerly the auction room for the pawnbrokers during the 1920s, the recently restored octagonal restaurant, crowned with a glass-domed ceiling, is a good address for a classic French diner.
The maze of streets surrounding Place des Vosges is full of pleasant surprises. Step into Warene Creations, strewn with gorgeous hats, and Argenterie, twinkling from floor to ceiling with antique silver. Much has been rescued from old hotels and cruise ships.
Shaded by leafy trees, the sleepy Place du Marche St Catherine with its timeworn grey cobbles and nest of cafes is ideal for a petite pause and quiet aperitif. But if you still have a thirst, head to the base of rue Veille du Temple, sprinkled with lively cafes and bars. On balmy evenings, terraces are packed with an arty crowd. The hip Cafe du Tresor's menu reassures customers that staff are dressed by Agnes b, while across the cobbles, La Belle Hortense, a winebar/bookshop with jazz, has occasional poetry readings and art exhibitions. Motos jam the narrow footpath outside Au Petit Fer a Cheval, the quintessential Parisian cafe.
A stone's throw away, sitting precariously on the busy crossroad of the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, is Hotel Herouet, a renaissance-style fortress with an overhanging gothic turret where Bridget Bardot lived in the 1960s. Further up rue Veille du Temple, there's a handful of small, interesting art galleries and, nearby, one of the Marais' grandest hotels particuliers, where the flamboyant French writer, Balzac, went to school. Hotel Sale (salty mansion), so named because it was built for a salt-tax collector, now houses the remarkable Musee National Picasso, a successful fusion of modern art in a gracious 17th-century mansion. There are also works by Renoir, Matisse and Cezanne.
If the Marais' bewitching blend leaves you craving just one more sip, head south toward the Seine. There's French wine by the glass at the charming wine bar Le Rouge Gorge on rue St Paul, pretty rue des Barres and a jumble of bric-a-brac shops in the courtyards of Village St-Paul. Or explore the developing northern fringe filled with edgy bars, craft workshops, inventive fashion designers, innovative galleries - and a special brew all of its own.

Metro: St Paul or Hotel de Ville, line 1 Bus: 96, 75 & 29. The 29 bus offers an excellent sightseeing route. Hop on at Opera Garnier and off again at Opera de Paris Bastille, riding past the Pompidou Centre and through the heart of the Marais.
Mariage Freres, 30-32 rue du Bourg-Tibourg, tel: 01 4272 2811. Tea salon: daily noon-7pm. Boutique & Musee du The: daily 10.30am-7.30pm. (May vary in August).
Camille, 24 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, tel: 01 4272 2050, daily noon-midnight.
Georget, 64 rue Vielle-du-Temple, tel: 01 4278 5589, Monday-Friday 12-2pm, 7.30-10pm. Saturday 7.30-10pm. (No credit cards).
La Fontaine Gourmande, 11 rue Charlot, tel: 01 4278 7240, Tuesday-Friday 12-2.30pm, 7.30-10.30pm. Saturday 7-10.30pm.
Le Dome du Marais, 53 bis rue des Francs-Bourgeois, tel: 01 4274 5417, Tuesday-Saturday 12-2.30pm, 7.30-11pm.
(closed some public holidays)
Musee Cognacq-Jay, Hotel de Donon, 8 rue Elzvir, tel: 01 4027 0721, Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.40pm (last admission 4.30pm).
Musee Carnavalet, 23, rue de Sevigne, tel: 01 4272 2113. Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.40pm.
La Maison de Victor Hugo, 6 Place des Vosges, tel: 01 4272 1016, Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.40pm.
Hotel de Sully, 62 rue St Antoine, tel: 01 4461 2000, Monday-Thursday 9am-noon, 2-6pm; Friday 9am-noon, 2-5pm.
Musee National Picasso, Hotel Sale, 5 rue de Thorigny, tel: 01 4271 2521, Wednesday-Monday 9.30am-6.30pm from April to September and 9.30am-5.30pm October to March.
Martin Grant, 32 rue des Rosiers, Tuesday- Saturday 1-7pm.
Les 2 Mille Feuilles, 59 rue Francs Bourgeois, Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7.30pm.
A l'Image du Grenier sur l'Eau, 45 rue des Francs Bourgeois, Monday-Saturday 10.30am- 7pm; Sunday 2-7pm.
Villa Marais, 40 rue Francs Bourgeois, tel: 01 4278 4240.
2 Mille & 1 Nuits, 13 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, daily 11am-7.30pm.

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