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“How different was my first sight of Paris from what I had expected . I had imagined a town as beautiful as it was large. I saw only dirty stinking alleys, ugly black houses, a stench of filth and poverty. My distaste still lingers.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
As it happens, it is not only Rousseau’s distaste for Paris that lingered, but also his views of the city, that remain almost as valid today as they were in the 1700s. Indeed, most of the houses look simply gorgeous now, yet the alleys are just as dirty, and the streets are filled with prostitutes, pick-pockets, and homeless men. Yet, at the same time every cliché that is said about Paris ceases to be such, and becomes bewitching reality. It truly is one of the most romantic cities in the world, the food is one of the best, and the sky seems to have been painted by Degas. And, I believe, it is in the tension between these two faces of the city that Paris’ true heart lies.
It is, of course, the same for one of the city’s most famous quartiers, Marais. La Place des Vosges, for example, one of Marais’ most popular attractions, has been ever since it was built in the 1600s both “a pick-up spot for whores, and a fashionable promenade in the city. Nowadays it continues to be just as fashionable, as it is touristy.
Still, all things considered, it remains one of the city’s most charming places. A site that is best explored on foot with no map and no plan, for it best unveils himself to the curious ones. Walk along the Place des Vosges to discover Victor Hugo’s house tucked away between douzens of little art galleries. If any building catches your attention, and believe me it will, do check and see if you can go in. You will not only, most likely, be able to do so, but will also be pleasantly surprised by a beautiful courtyard. Marais is one of the greenest places in Paris, yet all the gardens, that are by the way public, are hidden behind building walls (Hôtel Carnavalet, Hôtel de Sully, and Hôtel de Soubise just to name a few).
See if you can find the designer outlet store, La Piscine, and if you do, bargain for a further discount, you’ll probably get it, but expect no more than the additional 10-15%. Wander away from the fashion boutiques on Franc Bourgeois only to find the tiny Rue des Rosiers the heart of a historic Jewish quarter , but also the place to get the “best falafel in the world.” You could find most of these in the guides and ‘insider’ tips, but, as with most places, they much more charming when uncovered accidentally by yourself.
So wander aimlessly and see what ‘secret places’ catch your heart. That’s what I did, and remained enamoured.
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Sandro Leather Collar Dress
Juicy Couture Trench
Miu Miu Pumps
Sandro Belt
Wolfort Tights
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