Posts Tagged ‘Sorbonne’

Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Gauche – the 5th and 6th

January 28, 2012

Saint-Médard in the rue Mouffetard market in the 5th

The Experienced Travelers cross the Seine to the Left Bank to continue our exploration of Paris neighborhoods.  (Click to read our post about the Right bank.)

Two arrondissements stand out as Left Bank favourites.  The justly popular 5th and 6th arrondissements between Place Maubert and Place St-Germain are perfect bases for first-time visitors or returning fans.

The RER from Charles de Gaulle airport stops at the Place St-Michel, which is convenient for both the 5th and 6th.  Emerge from the RER into the Paris morning light and settle at one of the cafes along the Seine for your first café -au-lait.

Browse the bouquinistes along the quai, just like Audrey Hepburn!

Oh, dear Readership, my friend Marylynn and I took our first trip to Paris when we were impressionable girls in our 20s.  Our one unforgettable Audrey Hepburn evening unfolded in these quartiers, thanks to a charming (and well-behaved) Irish literature student.  Arms in arms, we three splashed along the foggy Boulevard Saint-Michel in teeming rain. With our spirits soaring (and coiffures stylishly soaked) we wandered into the wee hours until our Gallic poet gallantly led us to a café table across from Notre Dame, floodlit in the mist.  Ah, youth.  Let me collect myself and return to our tour.

Among it’s many delights, the 5th arrondissement has your picture-perfect view of Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the rue Mouffetard market and the Sorbonne.

Notre Dame seen from the 5th. The ETs gaze upon her over their morning coffee for spiritual renewal and to pray for found money.

The ETs like to explore streets near the river,  like the rues Galande and Maître-Albert where medieval Sorbonne students attended open-air classrooms.  Today you can shop the small boutiques and health food stores in the neighborhood and feel justified because you’re learning history.  How easy it is for the ETs to find continuous self-improvement from our mercantile inclinations.

The Pantheon crowns the hill. Contribute 7 euros to the patrimony of France and visit Hugo, Voltaire, Zola and Foucault's Pendulum.

Walk away from the busy quai and make the gentle climb up the rue Saint-Jacques hill, past the church of St-Séverin to the rue Soufflot.  Stop at the Pantheon where you can visit Foucault’s Pendulum and several French immortels including Victor Hugo.

If you stay here, there are many hotels and restaurants and you won’t be disappointed.  It gets quiet at night unless you’re near the Seine or on the Blvd.  Saint-Michel.  The 5th is centrally located with good transportation, especially along the Blvds. Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel.

  • What’s nearby: rue Mouffetard and Maubert markets, 13th century St Julien le Pauvre and it’s lovely square,  Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the Pantheon, college life at the Sorbonne, the Roman arena, Jardin des Plantes and the Paris Mosque and yummy couscous.

The 6th arrondissement - food, sights and plenty of shopping. A great location!

Just across the Blvd. Saint-Michel from the 5th,  the 6th arrondissement has the most expensive real estate in town with an average cost of €11,631 per square meter. (oodles of Found Money needed.)  It runs from the incomparable Jardin du Luxembourg to the Seine and over to Melinda’s  favourite table at the Café de Flore in the Place Saint-Germain.  After all, it’s not  just for existentialists anymore.

This convenient quartier has it all, and it’s busy from morning till night.  Ambiance, gastronomy, antiques and antiquarian books, Sorbonne student hangouts, upscale boutiques and excellent transportation by bus, metro or RER.  It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular areas for visitors.

You can stay in the 6th and eat all day without leaving the quartier

You’ll find loads of hotels between the Place Saint-Michel and the rue de Bucci market.  No matter where you stay, it’s easy to get a languorous glass of wine on a made-for-watching café terrace, or a quick picnic lunch.  If you have just one trip to Paris in you, stay in the 6th and we can recommend the Hotel du Lys.

Jardin du Luxembourg - Marie de Medici's backyard can be yours too.

What’s nearby: Left-bank quais on the Seine, Luxembourg gardens, Louvre, Orsay and Cluny museums, Sorbonne, Place St-Germain, rue de Bucci market, rue de Seine antiques, many, many restaurants and cafes that teem with busy cutlery, and much more.

Nurse, in dashing earrings, eyes the Velibes bicycles - what *can* she be thinking..

And so, dear Readership, your choices for a Paris base continue to expand. But there’s more – watch for our overview of the 7th and 15th arrondissements in a later post.  Happy travels!


Enlightenment at the Sorbonne

February 2, 2011

The mysteries of medieval Paris and higher learning take the ETs to the Sorbonne

The Experienced Travelers seek enlightenment.  And when the path to knowledge is paved with eclectic food and shopping, they undertake the journey with rigor. So the ETs donned their academic regalia, and set out for the Latin Quarter on the left bank, one of the oldest areas of Paris.

Nurse was in a relaxed frame of mind, so I had to promise more than narrow medieval passages to get her on board. Fortunately, the area is filled with artisan jewelry studios, bookshops, small specialty stores and ethnic restaurants.  The deal was struck:  I admired moldy old stone in ancient streets while Nurse investigated uses for “found money”.

The Sorbonne, where the ETs could be lecturers in Economics on Found Money. Photo by Maggie Durbano

This colorful quartier has long been a center of learning.  During the 13th century, Parisian academics decamped from the Ile de la Cité for the left bank and established the Sorbonne as part of the University of Paris. Their freewheeling students followed, and vigorously upheld the medieval tradition of the endless frat party.  Certain young relatives of the ETs could have written this student’s plea from the Balades of Eustache Deschamps:

“Well-beloved father, I have not a penny, nor can I get any save through you, for all things at the University are so dear:…Moreover, I owe ten crowns in dues to the Provost, and can find no man to lend them to me;…I owe in every street, and am hard bested to free myself from such snares.”

Streets around the Sorbonne like the Rue Galande mix higher learning and inspired shopping. Photo by mbzt

Chief among notable students of the Sorbonne was Dante, who mentions the rue Fouarre in the Divine Comedy.  Rue Fouarre or “street of straw” was named for the straw market that was located here.  Lectures were held outdoors and students sat on the straw balancing writing implements on their knees.  The great scholars of Europe gathered to debate where to go for a beer after class.  The ETs, who require basic creature comforts, would not have embraced higher education in the 13th century. 

Today students still barhop through the Latin Quarter.  We regret that we are not the target demographic for the Caveau des Oubliettes on the rue Galande.  Formerly a 12th century prison, the club décor features oubliettes – dank one-man holes in the ground.  Oublier means “to forget”, which is exactly what happened to the unfortunate occupants. We expect customers of the Caveau still forget — after rounds of shots and a convivial evening in the old dungeons.

In search of chocolat chaud. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

By now it was time to distract Nurse from thoughts of wet straw and medieval torture.  The Café Panis on the Quai Montebello makes a perfect chocolat chaud, which bolstered Nurse’s spirits.  The thick melted chocolate and hot milk restored her fine color. Café Panis isn’t the most affordable stop, but the view of Notre Dame enchants the ETs every time.

Madness at Shakespere and Company

Nearby the Café Panis is Shakespeare and Company, a Latin Quarter institution that sells English-language books and serves as a hangout for fledgling American writers. This eccentric establishment is an acquired taste, but certain ETs like the buildings wonderful old bones.

The atmosphere is chaotic, with books piled everywhere.  It’s impossible to find anything, too crowded to browse, and the youthful staff is uninterested in middle-aged ETs when engaging young students need assistance.  On our last visit, we learned that S&C didn’t carry Georges Simenon’s Maigret books. I was outraged.  Thank goodness for Nurse’s Kindle.  In fairness, S&C has legions of fans and it’s worth a visit, if only to explore the interior of a very old building.   

The ETs retreated to Square Viviani after the tumultuous S&C, Photo by tangopaso

Nurse clearly needed fresh air, so we relaxed in the Place Viviani under the oldest tree in Paris. Adjacent to the square, the 13th-century church of St. Julien le Pauvre is as old as Notre Dame and hosts a series of excellent chamber concerts. 

Our Sorbonne adventure was worthwhile.  The ETs found that within a few blocks, you can browse artisan jewelry and used bookstores, meet a vegetarian friend for lunch, relax over a chocolat chaud, light a candle in one of the oldest churches in Paris, investigate fusion cuisine, then admire a spectacular view of Notre Dame.  

A delignted Nurse knows she can parlay her participation into another visit to the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Miss Joanne Felzer

Feet on the street – Part 1

October 11, 2010

 
 
 

Cheese ladies chatting with passing neighbors

Nurse was resting her back today, so I revisited some neighborhoods that I know and love. 

 

Experienced Travellers always devise routes ahead of time that balance historical sights with local interest – and of course, food.  A walk  from the Latin Quarter to St.-Germain, through Embassy Row, past Les Invalides and back to the Ecole Militaire sounded just right.  Part I will focus on the Latin Quarter to  Place St. Michel. 

Reliable #82 dropped me near the Rue St. Jacques to begin my trek. I will never fear Parisian busses again.  It’s far superior to taking the metro, unless you’re in a hurry.

Riding the #82 bus through Montparnasse

The Latin Quarter has teemed with students, tourists, nightclubs and fast-food since the Collège de Sorbonne was established in 1253.  Would Abelard and Heloise be surprised by the Greek take-away and post-card vendors?  Perhaps our friendly Medievalist can weigh in on 13th century student life?  

The 5th is where you go when you need a gyro in Paris

Gyros on the Rue de la Huchette

For years, I’ve heard about an eccentric Latin Quarter hotel with a devoted clientel,  that has cheap rooms and unparallelled views of Notre Dame. (J-P A. may know of it)  Well here I was on the doorstep, so I asked to see a room.  Now, bear in mind this is 75 euros with no view – about the price of a Holiday Inn Express – and the maid was cleaning it.

A little too “La Boheme” for the ETs

I suppose it works if you’re young, tormented and writing quatrains about man’s inhumanity to man.  I didn’t inquire about availability.

But if you’re past the prime of youth, don’t despair.  Enjoy this memorable view of Notre Dame from the Place St Julien le Pauvre.  
This view doesn’t cost anything – found money!

Lovely old streets surround the church of St. Julien le Pauvre

Pondering medieval fast-food and tormented poetics gave me an appetite.  Much to my delight, I enjoyed the perfect omlette.  Lightly crusted on the outside, slightly runny on the inside, and filled with ham and cheese.   The new gold standard. 

The best omlette I have ever eaten. Thank you, La Fontaine St. Michel

Rested and restored, I set out to explore the 6th between Place St Michel and the Place St. Germain.  And an eerie experience on the Rue Grenelle in Embassy Row.  Watch for Part 2!

There’s going to be a transport strike here on Tuesday to protest the Government’s move to raise the retirement age to 62.  Limited train, metro and bus service will be fun to negotiate!

Ladies who Lunch at the Fontaine St. Michel


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