THE FRANCE TRIPTYCH
SECTION III: 8 HOURS IN THE MARAIS, PARIS
There are some megalopolises that are so big they invariably develop a schizophrenic-esque character that becomes more manageable if its districts were taken as mini-cities in their own rights. Paris is one of those cities and with the above approach in mind, Bespokcracy takes you on an eight-hour saunter around its favourite district or arrondisement in Paris, the third (combined with parts of the fourth), which houses the eclectic and the very famous area called Le Marais. Eight hours is arbitrary of course so feel free to stay longer if you are charmed by it over the course of our saunter- we are confident you will be.
After your morning pick-me-up at a nearby Paul's, it's time to set off on your expedition of the hippest arrondisement there is to offer in the French capital. We thought it may be good to start off in the heart of the Marais with a true Parisian fine arts institution, the Centre Georges Pompidou, or the Beaubourg as it is more colloquially known. Named after the President who commissioned it and in the chronological third of the trilogy of the Parisian museum giants (after the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay), it houses the largest museum for modern art in Europe. The architects behind this icon is the trio of Piano, Rogers and Franchini and if the looming Calder sculpture at the entrance is anything to go by, you know you are in for a modern and contemporary art treat. Views of Paris from atop it ain't shabby either as evidenced here. Its modern art collection (1905-1980) recently reopened so do check in again even if you frequent this lofty institution.
Place Georges-Pompidou | +33 1 44 78 12 33 | 1100 - 2300 (except Tues) | website
Marianne is the national emblem of France, an allegory for liberty and reason, and images of her are sprinkled all over the restaurant. Apart from that, the association with its Republican namesake stops there. It serves Jewish and Middle Eastern cuisine and its takeout window dishes out falafel sandwiches for those who don't have the patience to wait for a table, which are taken up rather quickly on weekends. If you do get a table (preferably outside to do some people watching on the sly), you choose from a great assortment of dips and salads like delicious eggplant caviar, tarama, sesame cream, hummus, chopped liver, artichoke salad and falafel. Platters range from 4 to 10 different meze depending on the size of your company or appetite.
2 Rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais | +33 1 42 72 18 86
Place des Vosges
What better way to soak in the best of the 3rd and the 4th arrondisements than to enjoy some green time in one of Paris's oldest and prettiest squares that straddles the dividing line between the 2 arrondisements. The unity of the architecture of the houses surrounding the place makes for some great photographic moments and the gallery also houses some unique shops and galleries that may distract your picnic time on the nicely-pedicured green.
If you lived over the course of its lifetime from 1612, you would have some pretty famous neighbours too, including Cardinal Richelieu (no wonder he gave the first mass at St Paul-St. Louis down the rue when it was inaugurated) and Victor Hugo of Les Miserables fame. The latter also has a museum dedicated to him in the house where he used to live at number 6.
The weather may not be so conducive in late fall and in the winter for sitting around the green so enjoying the heating in these fabulous retail spots nearby may sound like a cosier idea:
Cire Trudon (the oldest candle manufacturer in the world). 11 rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie.
Fleux (European innovative homeware). 39 & 52 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie | website
Ami (forward Parisian chic menswear). 109 Blvd Beaumarchais | website
Christophe Lemaire (Hèrmes's creative director branching out). 28 rue de Poitou | website
Olivier Desforges (Parisian chic in the bedroom- linens to be exact). 94 rue St-Antoine | website
Housed in the Hôtel Salé and restored to its 17th century splendour, it reopened to the public last fall on Picasso's 133rd birthday and houses the largest collection of Picasso works in France. The meticulous curation and the ensuring of a good chronological and/or conceptual flow of this great master's works reveals why it took 5 years to put all of this together. The top floor houses Picasso's private collection, bought over the years from his brothers from different mothers, and just so coincidentally happens to be (namedropping alert) Renoir, Cézanne, Braque, Matisse and Modigliani. There's even a Degas in the mix that he bought off the market. All in all, for Picasso fans, thank God he was a notorious serial overproducer that led to this fine museum.
5 Rue de Thorigny | +33 1 85 56 00 36 | 0930/1130-1800 (except on Mondays) | website
After all the walking on hard flooring and eyes bulging from scrutinising Picassos after Picassos, it's time for that well-deserved pitstop and it's back to a French basic for this leg- crêpes. We are always partial towards a crêpe and can possibly eat it all day if the fillings are as imaginative, varied and well-executed by this joint. We liked the duck breast one if forced to pick a favourite. Its 2-floor occupancy means that you get a good chance of parking your weary feet here over a delectable snack paired with an aromatic coffee or simply an orangina.
24 Rue des Francs Bourgeois | +33 1 42 72 46 16
St. Paul- St. Louis
Before this 8-hour saunter draws to a close, we thought it appropriate to have some serenity and at the same time marvel at some truly divine Jesuit architecture before you are let loose to the Marais's brand of debauchery later in the evening. This arguably finest looking religious building of the Marais has a chock-full of history crammed into its quarters too- it was commissioned by Louis XIII and when completed in 1641, its first mass was given by the famous Cardinal Richelieu. The famous Delacroix right by the entrace is also rather gawk-worthy. And this rounds up nicely this walk around one of the most exciting, diverse and interesting districts of Paris, and we are sure that walking around, you will gather some serendipitous finds of your own. Au revoir!
99 Rue Saint-Antoine | + 33 1 42 72 30 32
For an itinerary similar to this or for more information on how to plan a trip to Paris, please use our enquiry form.