The Marais is a favorite of visitors to Paris. The cobbled streets are narrow and winding, with some of them being off limits to automobiles. I will write more about the Marais in the future, but today I'll focus on the Place des Vosges which, as you can see from the first photo above, greatly contrasts the Marais in which is sits. Whether you enter through the large carousel entry, or come in through the gardens of the Hotel Sully, you are drawn into the arcades that surround the inner courtyard. It seems a bit of a folly to call it a courtyard because it is quite large. It seems more appropriate to call it a square park. Nevertheless, there is grand, open space for anyone wishing to sit on a bench under the linden trees and read or have a picnic. The park is enclosed by the identically designed buildings which are fronted with those brick arcades, which house shops, art galleries and restaurants. There is a real sense of having completely left Paris when you are in the confines of the Place des Vosges. It's a haven in the middle of the extremely popular and ever-busy Marais.
When rounding one of the corners beneath the arcades, you will see the entry to a museum. For almost 20 years, beginning in the early 1830's, this was the home of the famous writer, Victor Hugo (think Quasimodo of Notre Dame and little Cosette of Les Miserables). Beyond his herculean talent as a writer and poet, Hugo was also a very good artist and was incredibly influential in the politics of France and of several other countries. He was even exiled at one time because of his public views supporting a free press, social justice and the abolition of the death penalty. His apartment in the Place des Vosges, and his burial crypt in the Pantheon are both popular historic museums. He is buried alongside the two other literary greats: Alexandre Dumas and Emile Zola. A visit to his apartment is a worthwhile stop when spending an afternoon in Place des Vosges.
The art galleries along the arcades of the Place des Vosges are filled with exciting and beautiful paintings and sculptural pieces, all ranging in genre from traditional to modern. As with most art galleries in Paris, you can have your purchases shipped to the USA should you find something that you just can't live without. If you're lucky, you'll experience an orchestral group or a singer performing for the tourists beneath the arcades. Not a bad addition to a window shopping excursion among the art galleries.
If a picnic under the linden trees is not your cup of espresso, then there are some fine restaurants beneath the arcades or throughout the Marais. Remember, it only seems as if you've left Paris and gone to the suburbs; the city is just beyond the gates and you'll have no trouble finding food and drink galore. Notice how I always find a way to return to the matter of eating and drinking. It almost makes you forget what I was writing about.
Well, it is France afterall...