Walking the Side Streeets of Paris

Oct 25th, 2009, 11:27 AM
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Walking the Side Streeets of Paris

Three years ago when my husband and I visited Paris we saw most of the "major sites" we had time for - and that was a lot. However, this visit we hoped to have more time for some additional sites, to re-visit favorite sites and to explore the streets of Paris.

We decided to use the company "Paris Walks" for three of their walks. We would have gone on a fourth walk, but got held up in the Orsay Museum. Oh well, the Orsay is a great place to get waylaid. Paris Walks is a tour group that guides you on two hour walks through various themed areas. Their guides are English speaking, very knowledgeable, and quite interesting. You do not have to make prior reservations (except for a couple special tours); you just have to show up at the appointed time and place. We printed off a September schedule from their website before we left home and then fit in what we wanted, when we had time. Here's a quick review of the tours we availed ourselves of.

Hemingway's Paris takes you on a tour past his first home, where he worked and where he drank. Other authors' haunts were also pointed out. A fragment of the medieval city wall, the Pantheon, and St. Etienne-du-Mont Church were also included. We ended up in the Mouffetard market area and decided to have lunch at a recommended local restaurant (not included in the tour). Many references were made to Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast."

The French Revolution Tour explored the areas where the Cordeliers' Club held their debates, we saw where Thomas Paine lived after leaving America (he was also an important player in the French Revolution), and saw an old guillotine - it's not as big as in the movies, just big enough for a neck. Many other buildings important to the Revolution were also pointed out.

The third tour we took was of the two islands, Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite. This tour really pointed out the very beginnings of the city of Paris. One interesting story revolved around the apartment/studio of Rodin pupil, model and lover, Camile Claudel. It was were she lived and worked after she left Rodin and before her mother committed her to an insane asylum for the rest of her life. This story prompted my return visit to the Orsay to see her sculpture, L'Age Mur.

We also went exploring on our own. This is no small feat as we find more and more we have become directionally challenged. We seemed to be able to navigate the metro system with no difficulty, but once we emerged to street level at the end stop and were presented with a choice of going left or right, we inevitably chose the wrong direction, even though we had maps in hand. After walking a couple blocks we would decide we were going the wrong way and had to turn around to retrace our steps.

One place I wanted to search out was an address that figured prominently in a book I had recently read for my book club. "Sarah's Key" is a fiction book that is based on the true event known as La Grande Rafle, the name given to the roundup of over 10,000 Jewish men, women and children on July 16, 1942. They were arrested by the French police on order of the Nazis. The adults without children were sent directly to a camp at Drancy, while parents with children were taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver, a huge stadium where they were held for several days before also being shipped off to the camps. The book interweaves the stories of Sarah, beginning in 1942, with Julia's present day quest to discover Sarah's story, all beginning with the address at 26 Rue de Saintange. We found the apartment address and also the memorial to the victims of this roundup. This memorial is located at the former site of the Velodrome, was dedicated on July 17, 1994, and is located just across from the Bir Hakim metro. It informs people to "never forget."

On a lighter note, we also tracked down the store E. Dehillerin, where Julia Child bought much of her cooking equipment. It was an interesting store in several ways and I enjoyed overhearing an exchange between an American customer and a store employee. She asked him if the copper pot she was holding was a 2 quart or a 3 quart pan and he replied with a very haughty tone, "Madame, I do not deal in quarts, only liters."

In addition, we found or way to Place des Vosges where we ate lunch on a park bench, enjoyed the people watching, and fed the pigeons. Located on this square, we also visited Victor Hugo's home.

Of course, we also visited some more traditional sites of Paris such as Napoleon's Tomb, Marmottan Museum, Montmartre Museum, Jacquemart-Andre Museum, Opera Garnier, an organ concert at St. Sulpice Church, Giverny and Fontainebleau. We made return visits to the Louvre, Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Deportation Memorial, Champs-Elysees, and the L'Orangerie Museum. These are all wonderful places, but our walking explorations will be stand-outs of our trip. However, we didn't get around to walking the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Ahh, it is but one more reason to return.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  
Oct 25th, 2009, 11:57 AM
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Nice report. Paris really is a walking city, isn't it?
Last trip I took several Paris Walks. I quite like them and see it as a nice break from me touring myself, and letting someone else do the work.

I've really wanted to do the Revolutionary tour, but it is not a weekly tour, so it did not intersect with my days there.

I'm thinking of using Thirza Valois' books on the differrent arrondissements as a walking guide. Since I speak French I've also done some of the tours listed in the Officiel Spectacles. Those really take you places that are not in the tour guides.

Did you walk in the Marais. I know when I did PW's tour they pointed out some of the plaques listing the buildings with Jewish residents taken by the Germans. I appreciate how much history/indications of history that Paris has preserved.

Places des Vosges...what a nice place to loiter.

Souinds like you need anotehr trip to continue your walks.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Oct 25th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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I've been on a few of their walks and really enjoyed them. Especially the Hemingway walk and the chocolate tour with Iris. Great guides, lots of information, and I even met a great group of people on one walk that have become life-long friends.
slangevar is offline  
Oct 25th, 2009, 12:33 PM
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We didn't take the PW tour in the Maris, but it sounds interesting. "Sarah's apartment" that we sought out was in the Maris so we were walking there on our own. We also stayed in the Maris 3 years ago. It's a nice area.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  
Oct 25th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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slangevar, when I was in Paris with my daughter last Aug/Sept., I contacted Paris Walks in advance about the chocolate tour and got no response to my email. It's the only tour that is not listed on their schedule online. How did you determine time/place?
I'm returning to Paris with my son soon & would like to fit in one of these tours...Thanks for your help.
GraceCO is offline  
Oct 25th, 2009, 01:40 PM
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The webisite tells the times and the meeting spot for each tour. We did the Marias tour for example and met and paid the guide at Metro St. Paul. It was very enjoyable and we will use them again.
Suzanne2 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 08:49 AM
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You have to reserve and pay the day before the chocolate tour (One of only a few you have to reserve and pre-pay). I'm surprised they didn't answer your email because they seem to be so professional. However, they do list their phone number and I would suggest calling it when you are in Paris or I suppose you could even call it from home. The number listed on my brochure is (33) 01 48 09 21 40. You might try email again first ([email protected]).

Good luck. I'm sure you'll be pleased.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 10:32 AM
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I haven't done any of the tours, and was pleased to see this trip report. I always try to do something "old" and something "new" on each Paris trip and figure there will always be something new to come back to!

You mention the Hemingway Tour, and ironically, this last trip in September, I created for myself two self-guided tours: (1) the Caillebotte adventure tour (he was the artist who painted the "Floor Scrapers" prominently displayed in the Musee d'Orsay); and (2)the Writers in the 5th tour, which included two Hemingway homes, the place where James Joyce completed "Ulysees", and a few other choice writers that I love (I was never able to locate Rimbaud's residence), all of which are within blocks of one another.

I actually started at the Arenes de Lutece, a place an old French friend took me to on my first trip to Paris, and from there starting the Writers tour. Had a drink in the Place de la Contrescarpe around the corner from one of Hemingway's residences, then walked down the rue Mouffetard -- one of those "crowded worlds" as described by Hemingway, that evoke the essence of what one believes the whole of Paris to have been.
Surfergirl is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 11:12 AM
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I always plan one picnic lunch in the Arenes as it is serene and lovely and just so old. Easy to imagine you are not in 21st century Paris.
cynthia_booker is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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I like Paris Walks too.

By the way, where did you see the guillotin? was it at the Conciegerie?
TPaxe is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 12:45 PM
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Very nice report. I've done about a dozen Paris Walks over the years and have loved all of them.

Thanks for the info on the book Sarah's Key. I recently read Suite Francaise for my book group so this book would be good for a future book group read.

Surfergirl - do you share your self made walks? If so, could you send me a copy for my Paris trip next spring? My email address is in my profile. Thanks!
adrienne is offline  
Oct 26th, 2009, 01:08 PM
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The guillotine was actually in a bar. It was pointed out on our PW French Revolution tour. The bar wasn't open yet for business so we had to look through the window. Our tour guide said they have "happy hour" there too. She explained that the French used the guillotine until not to long ago when they got rid of their death penalty. She said that at that time the government destroyed most of the guillotines, but a few survived and somehow this bar got ahold of one of them. Go figure.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  
Oct 29th, 2009, 10:45 PM
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Great report OP! Sounds like we could have been separated at birth in terms of interests. Had just read Sarah's Key myself and seeing the locations was a top item on my to do list for next June. Phenomenol book! You have saved me alot of labor by providing this guide.
SuzChicago is offline  
Oct 30th, 2009, 12:37 AM
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Michel_Paris & Adrienne: You cannot do much better than the three wonderful books by Thirza Valois! Her books, divided up into groupings of the different arrondisements, are extremely detailed and very enlightning especially about the historical aspects of buildings, streets and place names.

Every walk has a little map for quick refferal, and if you want the most out of the information, read them ahead of your trip and highlight the words and sentences which grab your interest.
I never ever go to Paris without all three! This gives me the joy of deciding the next days wanderings over a quiet dinner or just jumping out of bed in the morning and making a decision over a freshly baked croissant & Coffee!
tod is offline  
Oct 30th, 2009, 03:57 AM
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Hi tod - thanks for the recommendation. I've seen her books recommended here before and my library has copies which I will request. I'm looking forward to reading them.

BTW - I have to correct your spelling of the author's name, not to be petty but to help others find her works - it's Vallois. I couldn't find her books at my library or on amazon so double checked under the book titles and realized the last name has a double "l".
adrienne is offline  
Oct 30th, 2009, 04:15 AM
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Some Fodorite mentioned having a small compass for getting the correct direction after being underground. DH and I get turned around also so have bought one. Now need to go on a trip but will enjoy your vicariously in the meantime.
TDudette is offline  
Oct 30th, 2009, 04:41 AM
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Oops! I just copied Michel_Paris.......it definitely is VALLOIS.
tod is offline  
Oct 30th, 2009, 07:55 AM
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I like the idea of a small compass. I think I'll get one for DH for Christmas.
Ifnotnow_when is offline  

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