Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rue des Barres: Marais

The Rue des Barres is a cobblestone pedestrian street that leads from the rear of St-Gervais church down to the Seine, on the right bank in the Marais area, just east of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). It is a vestige of medieval Paris that has survived modernization, and is the best spot from which to admire the gothic roofs and gargoyles of St-Gervais, which stand in stark contrast to its neo-classical façade on the opposite end. Across from the church on this lane is L’Artisanat Monastique, which sells products from monasteries all over France; the salespeople are the monks and nuns from St-Gervais.

There is also a popular, inexpensive café, L’Ebouillanté, that offers salads, pastries and light meals, specializing in hot Tunisian crèpes called bricks, as well as traditional French fare; the outdoor tables are in high demand (pictured above with blue façade at center right).

At the end of the street toward the Seine, at the corner of rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, is the atmospheric bistro Chez Julien (photos below). Its romantic, circa 1900 period interior is a delight, and the restaurant’s outdoor tables afford views of both St-Gervais and the romantic Île Saint Louis across the Seine. Traditional French cuisine. Reserve for dinner: 01 42 78 31 64; open noon to 3:00p and 7:00p to 11:00p.

Métro: Pont Marie

Chez Julien, left & below

Upper floors of medieval buildings typically overhung the ground floor, creating a natural hazard for the spread of fire. That's why so few medieval buildings have survived to modern times. This one, at the corner of Rue des Barres and Rue Grenier sur l'Eau (hayloft on the water), is an exceptional relic of medieval Paris.

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