Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Place des Vosges, Marais, Paris

Aerial View of Place des Vosges in the Marais District of Paris

If old architecture and life-styles of the rich & famous interest you...
this is the place.
A MUST SEE...plan on 1/2 day at least...
and try to read about this magical part of Paris before you visit.
 Located in the Marais, way off the beaten path...
not a "tourist spot" in any way.

It is so beautifully awesome
 one doesn't want to leave...
knowing that carriages entered through the arcade facades...
each one leading into an open courtyard...
and inside, one of the most beautiful homes you can imagine.
A perfect "square" containing 36 private residences...
each one the ultimate in design for the period...
and even until today.
Oh, to find such a place in today's world.

This fashion illustration will give you an idea of the style at the time
this beautiful square was constructed.

What truly amazes me is that in the 17th century
the craftsmen didn't have any of the modern
tools, electricity, water, equipment, etc.
so everything had to be done by hand.
It also amazes
me the architects to the court could be so forward-thinking
in their design of
townhouses with a common design for the exterior. 
All the designers will know about the arcade arches, the windows,
the dormers...imagine having a home with this amount
of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows
being constructed in the 1600's. 

 Architectural Rendition, see link below:
Place des Vosges measures exactly 144 meters on each side,
which is 472.44 feet (say more than 1 1/2 football fields),
 with a beautiful,  perfectly symmetrical, square inside.

Today, as you are driving to PDV you come upon it unexpectedly, as it is now
completely surrounded by metropolitan Paris. Originally is was well outside the city in
what was called "swamp land."  There are only 2 entrances, one on each side, as shown
in the above photo.  Remember, horses were the carriers of the day, so they would enter
into this giant courtyard which was enclosed by the elegant townhomes, and the
1st level, now the arcade with shops and cafes, was the livery & service people's quarters.

the arcade

 Place des Vosges is my absolute favorite important monument 
in all of Paris.  It is a huge elegant square with symmetrically
perfect buildings from the 17th century.
In the center is a park with neatly clipped grass, gravel paths,
 wrought iron park benches and gas lanterns.
Madame de Sevigne, the famous letter writer of the
court of the Sun King, once lived in Place des Vosges. 

 There is a great brasserie located on the northeast corner of the Place.
We sat at a cozy table, eating roasted chicken, au gratin potatoes, and sipping wine.

In Place des Vosges, one can sit on a park bench,
wiggle their feet in the sandbox, munch on a croissant,
 and forget that they are in a bustling, cosmopolitan city.
They can walk the square and easily imagine what life

would have been like during earlier centuries,
when carriages and not cars traveled
the cobblestone streets,
 when Victor Hugo toiled away creating his classic novels  .

 I should have been an archeologist or a detective because I love investigating all the details,
 once I discovered Place des Vosges
I couldn't get enough information. 

Some of it I'm passing on to you today.

It is elegant with a classically French style,
and is a pure and unique example of early 17th century architecture.
Inside the square, the splendid fountains still have the name of King Louis XIII
who was in power when the square was completed in the 1600s.

boutiques, cafes, art galleries, book stores abound in the arcade.
this is so much fun, just walk around, stop for an espresso, walk
& shop again, then stop for wine & cheese...
nearly bored my husband to death except for the cafes

concert in the arcade

flower boxes in bloom.
there are many individual apartments within PDV today which are occupied.
there is even a time-share apartment which is being offered for about $250,000
for a 1-week period if you're interested

doorway to occupied apartment
cafe's put tables outside in the arcade where you are protected from
the elements.  one of Paris's finest restaurants is located within PDV

a beautiful leaf-framed photo of the architectural wonder

in this photograph the individual townhomes are clearly seen

sunrise, when all is quiet

Brasserie just outside the entrance to PDV, which you can see
in the background, on a busy little street

evening time, looking up at the Pavillon of the King
The Place des Vosges has two major houses.
In the middle of the north side is the Queen Pavillon,
dedicated to the former queen of France.
On the south side is the King Pavillon, Le Pavillon du Roi.
These houses are not open to visitors.

Place des Vosges, evening, when the lights in the apartments are on for us...and all is serene.

Place des Vosges, located in the 4th arrondissement,
was originally known as Place Royale.
This changed after the French Revolution when the region of Vosges,
 in the northeast of France on the border of Luxembourg and
Germany was the first to pay taxes to the new French government.
To honor them, the most beautiful square in Paris was named after this region.

A stroll through Le Marais without visiting Place des Vosges
would be like going to the Champs Elysées
without seeing the Arc de Triomphe!

In total there are 36 houses, nine on each side, build in red brick,
with large symmetrical windows and steep roofs with those large chimneys
that I like so much, for me the total effect of it all was what took my breath away.
actual staircase in PDV

 You can visit the home of Victor Hugo,
the famous author of “Les Miserables.”
It is now a city run museum, fully furnished with period pieces.

“Vue de La Place des Vosges” by Jean-François Janinet, 1810, Châteaux de Versailles et Trianon.
Retrieved from on 04/21/09

Made during the First Empire and before the sporadic name changes, this depiction showcases both the enormity of the plaza and the beauty of the buildings.

The artist has created a union of Napoleonic Empire France
and the France of the past.
Printed prior to the Restoration, this image notes that the magnificent square,
now honoring the Revolution, was created by royalty.

  The wealth and enormity of the city are obvious;
the imposing yet spectacular image of the square affirms that Napoleon
Bonaparte’s post-Revolutionary government has lost none of the
prestige of the Ancien Regime.

A point of particular importance to me, as an Art History student (which also
means "history" student),  is that the actual French royals were responsible
for conceiving and then constructing these magnificient edifaces; their government
was overthrown by a "people's revolution" because of their "extravagance of wealth,"  
but had it not been for the royals none of these
elegant treasures would exist today.

et telle est la vie


Dustjacket Attic said...

Oh how truly amazing. I SO enjoyed the post, the photo's and the wonderful information. Thank you....I feel like jumping on a plane and having a look for myself.

re comment Oh they are, but she found peace in the end. Anja is so good at conveying emotion.

Deanna said...

This post was so much fun to read and enjoy.

You've done a super job!

What an awesome and beautiful place to visit.

I hope to go back to Paris one day but I want to be able to speak French when I go back.

Sending warm wishes your way,

Deanna said...

This is a wonderful and enjoyable post you have created for your blog.
What an awesome place to see and visit.
Next time I go to France I hope to be able to speak French. Workin' on it.

Stephanie Savors the Moment said...

I was an Art History major as well! Your photos are just gorgeous - thanks for sharing. I feel like I was actually there ***sigh***

Kristin said...

I'm so happy for this information! Soo interesting! I must visit these places once...have to! Beautiful photos! Really beautiful!!

xo, Kristin

Simone said...

This is an extraordinary post Marsha......well done!

Amazing photos and so well told.....I have been to Paris many times but am pretty sure I was totally unaware of the existence of this fabulous square with its beautiful is incredible....incroyable!!!

I loved reading this :)


I loved doing this post for you to enjoy; it took me longer than any other, but was so worth it. Merci

Jacqueline said...

Marsha, you make me want to live for several years in Paris! There is way to much to see for a short visit. Lovely post!

I agree, the beauty of Paris is because of the well thought out design, and the incredible wealth available to produce such a lovely city. It truly is a jewel.
Jacqueline (I told my grandchildren yesterday to pronounce it like the French!)