I Love Touring Paris - the Third Arrondissement

by : Levi Reiss

The 3rd arrondissement which is located on the right bank of the Seine River is second smallest of Paris's twenty districts. This arrondissement contains the northern, relatively quiet part of the medieval district of Le Marais (The Marsh) while the 4th contains the livelier southern part. Paris's oldest surviving private house that dates back to 1407 is located at 51 rue de Montmorency. One of its owners claimed to have made a Philosopher's stone transforming lead into gold as well as having achieved immortality along with his wife (I hope that they get along well) but neither claim has been verified. What has been verified is that this district occupies less than one half a square mile (about 1.2 square kilometers) making it the second smallest arrondissement in the city. Its population is about 35 thousand and the district is home to about 30 thousand jobs.

The Marais was marshland that was cleared in the Twelfth Century. In the Sixteenth Century the aristocracy built beautiful residences including the Place Royale, subsequently named la Place des Vosges built for Henri IV in 1605. The Marais took a hit when the court moved to Versailles. On the other hand this area was not highly affected by Baron Haussmann's urban redevelopment. In 1969, France's first Minister of Culture Andre Malraux made the Marais the first protected sector making it harder to redevelop buildings.

The Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) is a government supported school devoted to scientific and industrial education and research. Founded during the French Revolution, CNAM's original mission was collecting scientific instruments and inventions. Its mission has changed but the conservatory includes a sizeable inventions museum Musee des Arts et Metiers (Arts and Trades Museum) open to the general public. CNAM's many night-school offerings include a very respectable night-school engineering program.

The Hotel de Soubise is a city mansion located at 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois built for a prince during the early Eighteenth Century on the site of a Fourteenth Century manor house. Napoleon turned this mansion into a state property that now includes the Musee de l'Histoire de France (Museum of French History) and part of the French National Archives.

The Temple, located in the third and forth arrondissements, is a fortress whose construction started in the mid-Thirteenth Century. During the French Revolution the Temple was transformed into a prison hosting the French royal family including King Louis XVI, the child Louis XVII, and Marie Antoinette. Because of royalist pilgrimages, the Temple was destroyed in several stages during the Nineteenth Century. Now only the name remains, in a subway station, a major city street, and the name of the district itself.

The Carnavalet Museum, devoted to the Paris's history, is composed of two buildings. The main building, the Hotel Carnavalet, was built as a town house in the mid-Sixteenth Century and was the home of the writer Madame de Sevigne. The second building, the Seventeenth Century Hotel le Peletier, was added to the museum about twenty years ago. In addition to Madame de Sevigne's Gallery you may want to see Robespierre's final letter, and some fancy ballrooms and reception rooms. Paris's oldest square, the Place des Vosges, located in the Marais, is shared by the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Built by Henri IV from 1605 to 1612 as the Place Royale it was the first example of royal city planning. It is a true square about 420 feet (140 meters) on each side. While many aristocrats lived in this beautiful area no royalty ever did. Quel dommage (what a shame). Perhaps they shied away because all the houses fronting on this beautiful square had the same design. In 1799 the square was given its present name to honor the Vosges department in northeastern France, the first French department to pay taxes supporting the French Revolutionary army. Its famous residents include Madame de Sevigne who was born there, the writer Victor Hugo, and Cardinal Richelieu who not only graced the square with its presence, but also had the clout to erect an equestrian bronze statue of Louis XIII in the center of the square. Do you think that he had to worry about zoning laws?

Of course you don't want to be in Paris without sampling fine French wine and food. In my article I Love French Wine and Food - An Alsace Pinot Gris I reviewed such a wine and suggested a sample menu: Start with Tarte Flambee (Onion Tart). For your second course savor Chouchroute Garnie (Sauerkraut with various Pork dishes, perhaps cooked in Champagne). And as dessert indulge yourself with Kugelhopf (Almond and Raisin Cake). Your Parisian sommelier (wine steward) will be happy to suggest appropriate wines to accompany each course. By the way, it's merely a coincidence that Alsace is home to the Vosges mountains.