Travel To Paris Guide

Hotel Fieubet

Splendid nonsense: a big sobersides designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1680 which was converted in the mid nineteenth century into a sculptural riot. Nymphs, lions, fruit, and funny things cover the plain facade with an elan that Gaudi would have been proud of. The comic-opera style, including a lion who’s seen it all ten times over, can be seen at close range in the annexe on the corner of the rue du Petit Muse. It looks overwhelmingly natural, as though the building had been waiting for its party dress all the time. (On the quai des Celestins, opposite the Ile Saint-Louis.)

Place des Vosges

A formal effect stranded like a whale in the bustling Marais. Melancholy and at odds, the Place des \bsges remains a monument to inspect rather than part of the life of the city. Begun in 1605, the constricted entrances from north and south emphasize its alien nature. It should be a teeming square like Salamanca: instead there are trees which blot out the view of the other side, a public park, children playing – the right thing in the wrong place. The elevations, by themselves, are ordinary, and life subsists in the long arcades, ready-made for a murder or a hanging, the body lazily swinging in and out of the view. The Place des Vosges swings lazily into the history blogs – as one of the first formal squares in northern Europe with the facades conforming to an overall design -and out again.

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Impasse de la Poissonnerie Paris Travel Tips

The quintessence of the Marais: past affluence and a present squalor which has its own elegance too. The impasse is an alley a few yards long, running off the rue de Jarente. At the end is a classical fountain, strictly detailed, with delicate fishy reminiscence. And above that there are four or five storeys of piecemeal addition ending in a room that might be a double of Jacques Tati’s in Mon Oncle – the ancient, shabby, eccentric appartement that turns out to be calculated to a hair’s-breadth of convenience. It is the contrast which is so appealing: and the danger in the impending clean-up of the Marais is that the architecture will be saved at the expense of true character.

Musee Carnavalet Visit France

A gentle, friendly place, good for a hangover on a Sunday morning, which is how I saw it. It is really the museum of Paris: whole facades brought in during the last century and re-set, trompe l’oeil paintings by Brunetti from a hotel in the boulevard Saint-Germain set around a new staircase, and a good collection of Parisian paintings and objects arranged quietly and comfortably. To get the best out of it it would be wisest to go towards the end of a Parisian visit when the paintings will bring back memories of what you have already seen.

The original hotel is the courtyard facing the rue de Sevigne and its interest is in the wall sculptures. Standing under the entrance arch those on the left and right are seventeenth-century, graceful and empty, but the Four Seasons at the end are by Goujon, full of disturbing Mannerist personality – Bronzino paintings taken out of their frames and put into relief. This applies even more to Goujon’s pair of cherubs above a door in the left-hand corner – playful, but about as far from innocence as the children in The Turn of the Screw.

Hotel Lamoignon

Baptiste du Cerceau, 1584

A great rarity in French classical architecture: really dependent only on its own qualities, not on the worldly shrug of the guide and the taste of your last meal. It is the first giant order in Paris; the pilasters stretch themselves equally remote from picturesqueness and Italian prototype. Above, the entablature alternates in a close mesh with dormers: a grave and noble dialogue. (Corner of rue Pavee and rue des Francs-Bourgeois.)

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